Tech entrepreneurship is a fast-paced world – with something new, exciting, and challenging around every corner.
My journey from a childhood fascination with devices to leading a team of nearly 50 (and growing!) industry experts has been nothing short of a whirlwind.
My initial foray into the tech space began when I was in double digits, with the Commodore VIC-20. One of the first computers available, it sold millions of units worldwide and inspired a whole new generation of techies – including me.
Of course, playing games on it was a huge part of the appeal. What truly fascinated me though, was understanding the inner workings of the machine. Much to my parents’ dismay, I’d often take apart my devices to learn more about them. Little did I know this curiosity would lay the foundation for my future in tech.
As I progressed through school, personal computers became more commonplace, and my interests grew in tandem. Eventually, I even took it upon myself to buy individual computer components and assemble my own.
I used to eagerly read computer magazines to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies too. I’d copy out the code in those publications, and modify it to create my own programmes. These early experiences set the stage for my journey.
During my teenage years, I started a small business printing personalised Christmas cards, working with my family to design and print them. It wasn’t much of a success, but it was my first taste of entrepreneurship. It also struck a chord with my dad, who continued the tradition for loved ones for years to come.
Technical drawing also fascinated me. A career in architecture seemed like a very plausible line of work at one point, combining my love for computers and design. But after completing a stint of work experience in an architecture firm, I soon realised it wasn’t the right fit for me. It didn’t get my creative juices flowing enough.
I opted for a college route after school, completing a General National Vocational Qualification (GNVQ) in Information Technology. This exposed me to a wide range of skills – ones that I still use today – before venturing into the world of work.
Starting with a day release apprenticeship at a prestigious accountancy firm, I was able to further my academic career while gaining hands-on, practical experience. My expertise soon expanded in areas spanning Microsoft, Novell, Cisco and Lotus technologies, to name a few.
I ventured to London and worked for an outsourced IT provider, eventually returning to Leeds to work for a Managed Service Provider (MSP) in York.
During this time, I witnessed the dawn of the internet, complete with dial-up modems and the emerging domain name market. Looking back, I wish I had registered more domain names with foresight, as it could have led to a lucrative business opportunity. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!
In a period of self-discovery and adventure, my early 20s were dominated by travelling in Australia and Thailand. Upon my return, Ramsdens, a local law firm, was looking for a head of IT. While I initially joined planning for a short-term role to help improve their IT infrastructure, I ended up staying for the long haul. It was here that Ramsdens IT Services was born.
Starting small, with just myself and another member of staff, it grew over the years. Around 13 years ago, we welcomed Gary Colclough, who headed up the development side of the business – now known as Expedite Law, assuming its own, separate brand identity.
Across both companies, we boast a team of almost 50 employees. Looking back on my journey, there are several key lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
The first? Not everyone should be a replica of myself. It sounds simple, but it took me a long time to understand that nurturing talent isn’t about creating clones. Instead, it’s about finding individuals with diverse skills, and empowering them to flourish.
I’ve come to appreciate the importance of building a team with the right mix of aptitude and attitude, as opposed to trying to make everyone mirror my own approach.
I’ve become more empathetic towards my team over the years too. I’ve learnt that mistakes often happen due to misunderstandings, not malicious intent. Instead of immediately expressing disappointment, I’ve become more patient and understanding, fostering a healthier work environment.
Looking back, if I could tell my 21-year-old-self one thing, it would be to adopt this mindset sooner – embracing challenges and viewing mistakes as opportunities for growth.
After all, success is not just about innovation. Above all else, it’s about understanding and supporting the people who make it happen.