TJ interviews: Simul8's Laura Reid
TJ spoke to Simul8 CEO Laura Reid to demystify what it takes to make it in the software industry.
Is there a typical career path for someone that wants to work in the software industry?
Our recruitment model is to bring people into entry level positions from any background and then encourage them to learn about all the different areas of the business. By doing this, people develop interests in areas that they didn’t even know existed before they joined. It means then that it's easier to recruit from within the organisation, allowing people to move around the business.
I encourage learning in three ways: The first is that employees take formal secondments to every other team; The second is the natural exposure; and the third is to formalise this exposure by encouraging multi-team working.
This cross-pollination has worked really well and people have taken some interesting journeys through the business. Our CTO, for example, started in consulting, moved into marketing and then into development.
Do you think the pandemic has placed a greater emphasis on the need for digital skills and how will this impact upskilling staff in the future?
COVID-19 has certainly accelerated the digital transformation that we were already planning to implement, and I doubt we are unique in that.
We have seen people reskill from diverse backgrounds like midwifery, the arts and theatre and make a success of a new career in digital.
The great thing about digital platforms is that they are designed for high user accessibility, with no advanced digital or tech skills required. While there has been a learning curve, digital upskilling has not been as extensive as expected. The biggest shift has been around mindset and culture.
Moving to a truly digital workplace means that your team should look to digital options first whenever they need a solution, and really embrace the rate of change that comes with digital. This can be hard because people naturally do not like change, so training is needed to give everyone the tools that they will need to anticipate and deal with constant change.
How do you see the pandemic affecting the way the business operates in the future?
Something good that has come out of the pandemic is that now that your employees don’t have to be on your doorstep; they can be located anywhere in the world, as long as they fit with your company culture and values.
We are constantly updating our ideas of what we need from our office space and have kept our team involved in the conversation. The feedback shows that people would like to go back to the office, but on their own terms.
A lot of big tech companies like Twitter have already committed to the homeworking model for the foreseeable future. I think in the UK we will certainly see a shift now that proximity to the workplace is no longer the top priority.
How challenging has it been to encourage/continue training and development initiatives while the majority of employees are based remotely?
I don’t think it has been any different. If the pandemic has done anything it has been to kickstart a revolution in training and development, and we can say this as an organisation that not only has employees going through training but also delivers some training and development as well.
Training from home rather than in a formal classroom environment has really opened up the options. By removing the travel and the 9-5 commitment, teams can learn at their own pace, in their own time and in their own environment, which matches a flexible, autonomous culture.
What advice would you give to someone looking to pursue a role in the digital sector?
You want to find people who are passionate and display a curiosity that will help them keep up with the changes in the industry. My advice would be that someone looking to pursue a career in the sector needs to be able to show passion for what they will be doing.
Tech and digital covers a huge range of jobs, going from the incredibly creative roles like digital design all the way through to very technical roles like software engineers, with a huge number of options in between. They should find the one that sparks that passion for them, and this will drive them to find out everything they can about the technology and the users and keep their interest in their role alive.
Through CodeClan we have seen people reskill from diverse backgrounds like midwifery, the arts and theatre and make a success of a new career in digital. So often it is how they do something that is more important than what they can do.
About the interviewee
Laura Reid is CEO of Simul8.
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