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Conversations with the Crew: Meet Sophie Branfield

by Rachel Murray, 05 December 2019

As we head into the New Year three mince pies at a time, our HQ team – as well as our stomachs – is growing. It’s an exciting time focusing on future goals as well as festive cheer.

This month we welcome Sophie Branfield as our new Head of Talent. She has galloped into HQ from the home counties, so I sat down with her to find out her vision for 2020, what motivates her and that why despite appearances, she is not a big fan of footballers-turned-mafia actors.

Hi Sophie, welcome to 101 Ways. Tell us about your role as Head of Talent?

Hi! Essentially I’m here to help and expand the 101 Ways network and scale the business across the UK and Europe. 

You’re joining the team during a period of growth, how do you see yourself driving things forward and shaping the team?

It’s a really exciting time to be joining – the growth allows us to take stock of what has been working well and build on that and look at what can be tweaked to make things even better. 

I’m a real hands-on person and like to lead by example. I’m looking forward to speaking to our consultants directly, finding out their motivations and what they like about working with 101 so we can iterate on that. I like to look at processes and strategy on a more holistic level and reshape the entire journey. I’m also really big on working practices that impact inclusivity and diversity and what more we can do on that front. 

It sounds cheesy, but I really do feel like: new year, new beginning. 

So, what drew you to 101 Ways in the first place? 

Years ago, I met Kelly (Founder and Chief Strategy Officer) and Emma (Director and Chief of Staff) at the Agile Awards, we got on really well and I just thought they were great people. 

I’ve always been involved in the hiring and talent management of development teams, whether that be in an agency or in-house, but I recognised that there is a different way for consultancies to operate. I  wanted to be part of a consultancy that also felt like that and work for someone that is in a really exciting stage of growth as well. So here we are!

Like many people, you studied a completely different subject area to the career you’re in. How did that come about and what made you choose to follow the route you did?

[Sophie read history and economics at the University of Exeter] I love history because I’m a geek. Growing up and throughout studying, the world of tech wasn’t familiar to me – both parents are teachers! 

When I graduated, my partner at the time was in IT sales. He said he thought I’d be good at tech sales too and put me in touch with someone; it went from there. I love gadgets and cool things like that so I really enjoy what I do, especially talking to people about the projects they’re working on and what they’ve enjoyed. Plus, I still get to read all my history books at home. 

What quote resonates with you most?

My school motto still resonates to this day – ‘Carpe Diem‘ (Seize the Day).

How do you see your part in pushing 101 Ways forward and becoming the most sought-after tech consultancy in Europe? 

I want to work closely with the client partners and leadership team to make sure we’re pipelining future talent in line with the growth strategy and adopt more of a proactive approach. Going out, meeting potential consultants and driving higher levels of engagement is my bag. 

Our consultants are regarded as the best and experts in their field and I want the same for the Talent Team. 

We’re big on communities here, what’s your experience of them? How do you see them as integral to not only business growth, but also diversity and talent within the tech industry?

It’s been really interesting how much brand building and creating communities has played an integral part of growth of companies over the last few years. Although it may be simple, not everyone realises that you have to talk about something interesting that captures people’s attention for an event to be both attractive and a success. It’s then a snowball effect and is a great way of engaging with people in new areas.

We don’t view our communities as a recruitment tool – it’s about networking and connecting, and talking about some really valid issues in the tech industry. 

Tell us a fun fact that no-one knows about you?

I’ve started (accidentally) breeding fish. [I have to stop typing for a moment through laughing as Sophie shows me pictures of many, many carp]

I had 12 and somehow now have 80. My exit strategy needs some refinement, as  I think you’re supposed to sell them before you end up with an ocean full!

I’m a big animal lover, I also have a dog called ‘Vinnie Jones’ (he was named by his breeder who was Welsh, not me!) and a cat called ‘Cat’ (both pictured below).

What keeps drives you and keeps you motivated? 

I’m very competitive, but hopefully in a good way. It’s important to me that I’m doing a good job. I want to be part of a team that outshines the competition. 

What do you like to do in your spare time to forget about work? 

I have horses so I get up early to feed and turn them out before becoming ‘London Sophie’ where I remove the hay from my face and put on the lippy!

I’ve had horses since I was three-years-old. I’m originally from Somerset, but now I live in Hampshire. It’s a long commute to London, but by living where I do, I get to be in the fresh air and drink lots of (real!) cider. My friend has a pony and trap, so occasionally we’ll go on a drive to the country pub, tie the pony up outside and go and get our drinks!

What do you think the challenges are going to be, both in your role and the wider industry?

Scaling a business is always a challenge – it’s about making sure the processes in place are robust enough to roll out. 

Also IR35 might seem like an issue within the private sector, but it’s actually an opportunity. We are perfectly placed as a consultancy to help clients overcome this issue and avoid any risk. 

In terms of the wider industry, the market is very competitive for talent. We have to consistently ensure that the people we’re engaging with are aligned to our values and principles. Saying that, we shouldn’t compromise on our bar ever. 101 Ways has got this far because we have high standards and so we just need to keep building on that.

It’s been really great to see that even two days into the job I’ve had people reach out to me to say that 101 Ways is on their radar and sounds like a great place to work – I can confirm it is!

While it is by no means a women’s problem, 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 the tech industry, but to stay?

Flexible working for definite and also job sharing. There is a huge dropout of women at management level because of the lack of availability of working practices that allow them to stay and progress. 

In three words, tell me why you’re a good fit for 101 Ways?

Experience, humility and a fun character.

If you could invent any app, what would it be?

It’s actually already invented, but I wish I’d made Trackener! I’m getting it for Christmas. It’s an app that allows you to monitor the activity levels, sleep levels and location of your horse(s). 

One of my horses is (ironically) called Grace and is partial to jumping out of the field, so it will allow me to find her again when she goes walkabout!

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? 

Probably that I should have paid more attention to the computer science teacher at school! But no, it’s: You’re never too old to learn something new. 

If you’d like to know more about our latest vacancies get in touch with Sophie here

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