Conversations with the Crew: Meet Heidi Anderson
Thus far, our three-strong Client Partner Team was made up of people who’s names begin with a ‘J’. While always a fan of alliteration, it was time to mix it up and add the inimitable Heidi Anderson to the mix.
A London native, Heidi and her family packed their bags four years ago, made for the picturesque Sussex coast and never looked back.
It’s been a whirlwind three weeks for her at 101 Ways HQ, but I grabbed some time with the new yogi and keen baker to find out what makes her tick. While she was welcome to do the interview standing on her head (you’ll find out soon enough), she chose not to. Fortunately for everyone, she wasn’t asked to sing her answers…
Hi Heidi, welcome to 101 Ways. Tell us about your role as UK client partner?
I’ve joined the team as the fourth Client Partner, focusing on customers based in London and UK South. My role is a mixture of supporting existing customers, together with building relationships with new and prospective clients.
I’m often the first point of contact for those initial conversations with customers who are looking for a specialist consultancy to help define their digital strategy, optimise their digital products or find better ways of working in terms of delivery and agile practices.
You’re joining Julian as one of the UK south client partners. How do see yourself capitalising on the great projects we’ve been helping clients with?
The leadership team already has a really strong, impressive network. My initial approach will be to focus on developing deeper relationships with those people who already know and trust us to show how partnering with us can help them with digital transformation, future-proofing their organisation / product and advising on strategy. I also plan to build on the partnerships we currently have with existing clients to see how we can help in other, new areas within the business.
So, what drew you to 101 Ways in the first place?
I’ve known Kelly for a few years now – we co-hosted an Agile thought-leadership and learning event about five years ago. I’ve always been impressed with what he’s achieved in his own career and now with 101 Ways. I’d been following the company’s journey and when the timing was right for me to career move, Kelly happened to be looking to expand so I jumped onboard. It all happened very naturally.
You’ve held some fantastic leadership roles over the years including Head of Digital Media & Development, Business Manager and now Client Partner. What’s your leadership style and how do you ensure the teams you’re managing have grown and developed?
My leadership style is much more focused on training and coaching. I was really fortunate to have exceptional leadership training at my last company, La Fosse Associates. I believe the key to having a great performing team is to truly understand them as individuals – what motivates them, what they find challenging etc. It’s then my job to support them where needed (until they have the skills and knowledge to go it alone), and give them the freedom and empowerment to do more of what their good at!
What quote resonates with you most?
I’m not really a quote person actually! Saying that, I did read one the other day that seemed to stick:
“The harder you work for something, the greater you’ll feel when you achieve it.”
It’s so true!
How do you see your part in pushing 101 Ways forward and becoming the most sought-after tech consultancy in Europe?
I’d like to get more involved in our events strategy – I really enjoy hosting events, plus they play an integral role in brand awareness and offer our customers a great opportunity for learning, sharing ideas and increasing their networks.
You’ve founded some great communities over the years like Agile Addicts, what would you say is the ‘secret’ to your success with building such groups within the tech community?
There’s a few, actually; quality of the content and speakers is key, plus ensuring you’ve invited a quality audience that can learn from each other. The third part actually comes down to being really well organised: making sure that attendees know where they’re going, have nice food to eat, a good venue etc. The logistical basics – sounds simple but it is very important.
Tell us a fun fact that no-one knows about you?
I can do a headstand – it’s my party trick. [I tell Heidi that now we’ve found out, someone will undoubtedly ask her to do it at the forthcoming social]
Also I’m a terrible singer – some might say tone-deaf, but unfortunately for everyone else, I absolutely love karaoke.
What keeps you motivated?
It’s changed actually, since I became a mum; I want to create a nice life for my kids where they get to travel and enjoy things. Everything I do is for them, but I do also love learning and bettering myself. Seeing myself grow and develop is a huge motivator.
Pre-kids I’ve always been quite driven, The one thing that always keeps me going is having a goal to work towards. Initially the focus was to buy a car and learn to drive, then it was to save for a deposit and buy a flat. Focusing on one key thing at a time made them achievable.
What do you like to do in your spare time to forget about work?
I recently got into yoga and pilates; I’m very all or nothing so I’m really into it and push myself quite hard in each session to be better than the last. I go three times a week, but would do it more if I could.
I’m also a big foodie and love cooking. I don’t really have any signature dishes but there’s flourless chocolate torte that I can make with my eyes closed and it’s always a winner with those who eat it! – There’s not a lot that I won’t eat and my husband is the same, so we’re always up for trying new things at home.
What do you think the challenges are going to be, both in your role and the wider industry?
At the moment, the biggest challenge for clients is the skill shortage versus demand in the engineering sector. Every business is competing with each other to transform digitally or have better digital products than their rivals and there are not enough quality people in the market to meet that demand. I believe that will be a huge challenge until school leavers coming through in the next five-to-10 years start to fill the gaps.
Having said that, it might go full circle, my eldest son is only eight-years-old, but he and his classmates are learning to code so it is becoming the norm. In 10-to-15 years time when they move into the working space, there will be an influx of people that can code, but by then it’ll probably be a different set of digital skills that are sought after. Schools should probably be teaching AI and Machine Learning!
The attrition rate of women in tech is unfortunately increasing rather than decreasing. Outside of communities like 101 Ways’ Women’s Tech Focus (WTF) – what do you think can be done to encourage more women to not only enter tech, but to stay?
There are two big factors – it can be daunting for women because it’s so heavily male-dominated. I’ve been in such environments early on in my career where you had to be quite thick-skinned and that is not for everyone.So it’s really important to raise awareness that not everywhere or every tech company is like that; 101 Ways certainly isn’t and we have a great balance in terms of gender diversity in the management and crew.
I also think the industry needs more affordable coding academies and apprenticeship schemes, not just for school leavers but for career changers too. They play an essential role in addressing the skills shortage and can also help with the diversity gap.
Second – regardless of whether it’s the tech industry or any other, there is a lot of work to be done to make it easier for women to move up the career ladder and into leadership roles – especially those with children.
There are a number of companies saying they want women leaders, but it’s nothing more than lip service as they aren’t adapting the way they operate, and offering extra support for working mums, so as to make it possible. While we are seeing a small increase in female executives, sadly the majority of those I’ve met don’t have young children. Women shouldn’t have to put their careers on hold when they become mothers. Businesses just need to be more innovative and open minded to how they’re going to support them at being successful at both!
In three words, tell me why you’re a good fit for 101 Ways?
Collaborative, value-led and passionate.
If you could invent any app, what would it be?
I’d quite like to have invented Spotify. But if I could invent one myself, maybe one that helps businesses to be better at achieving diversity and inclusion, and offers tips and advice on providing parental support not just to working mums, but to working dads too.
Finally, what is the one piece of advice that you wish you’d been told / would pass on to those considering a career in tech?
That there’s never a dull moment, the industry is filled with some truly inspirational people and the opportunities are endless. So never stop learning and go out there and embrace it.
If you’d like to know more about how partnering with you can help your business grow and thrive, get in touch with Heidi here.