One of our highlights of 2020 was being able to host the annual Leeds Digital Festival Awards, albeit under very different circumstances. Live streamed for the first time to adhere to the public health guidelines of the time, it was an honour to again shine a light on Leeds’ best and brightest in Tech – even if that was virtually, rather than in person!
With one of the strongest fields of nominees and winners we’ve ever had, the strength of the Tech scene in Leeds has been one rare positive throughout this pandemic. Named the 2020 Tech Employer of the Year, we took some time to catch up with James Locker - Service Delivery Lead at AND Digital - to see how 2020/21 has been going, and what it was like becoming a Leeds Digital Festival Awards winner.
James, thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Was it a highlight of 2020 to win the Leeds Digital Festival Award?
Absolutely. I think with all awards you’re entered in to, it’s great to be recognised and a brilliant accolade. It’s great to have people within the business feel valued and have their effort rewarded, which underlines everything we’re about as a company too. That’s the most pleasing thing, to have people’s daily efforts highlighted and not taken for granted.
For those who aren’t familiar with AND, could you let us know what you’re about beyond being a consultancy?
So we are a consultancy as you say, but we work in what is called a Club model. So each Club sits between 80-100 people, so that we can retain a family feel and an almost small business, SME type mentality within each group. The idea is that the Club model is repeatable, so as demand grew, we could open new Club’s to cope with demand, which is exactly what has happened.
As our business spread across the UK, so did our Club’s. and that’s now venturing in to Europe as well. We’re sat at around 9-10 Club’s right now, but the plan is to grow to closer to 50. Massive ambition to take us there, but we’re the 24th fastest growing company in Europe, top 10 employers in the UK and third in Yorkshire, so we just want to retain that culture as we continue to grow.
What was is liked to be named the Tech Employer of the Year?
As a growing company with such a scale of ambition, you need to be able to attract the right kind of talent. Through winning awards like this, it does draw people in and underlines our commitment to not only new employees, but existing ones, too.
It’s one thing to attract people with a nice brand and healthy salary, but that doesn’t keep them bought in and committed long term, or make coming to work every day worthwhile, enjoyable and keep people pushed in the right way to be the very best version of themselves they can be. It also says a lot about the work we take on, because we take on the kind of engineering challenges that engage our team and Club’s to the level that helps us win awards.
You were in an extremely strong category. What makes AND sit apart and be singled out for praise?
It’s difficult to put in to words, because you talk about culture and being people first, but its hard to define that because everyone speaks about that. It’s only once you’ve been inside the business do you realise what that means for And, because we don’t ever speak about our people in terms of resource.
For example, people don’t just have their job title, but they also have their And title, because their job doesn’t define who they are – it’s little things like that which allows people to be an individual rather than feeling like a cog in a wider machine.
Hopefully a question we’ll never have to ask again, but: how has it been maintaining your company ethos and what makes you an award winning employer whilst everyone is working remotely during the pandemic?
We’ve had to make a real effort to ensure that our people are still enjoying what they do, and are still able to have regular touch points. Twice a day we have coffee meet-ups to have a chat away from work, to replace those casual discussions you’ll have in the office. Friday afternoons has a social element, which is about getting people together and sharing some time together.
In the height of the pandemic we were hosting weekly Q&A sessions to ensure everyone could have their thoughts heard and any questions they have answered, which has since become monthly. Now we’re trying to insure we’re having as many conversations as possible with as many people as possible about how the company looks once the pandemic has ended.
Thank you to James for his time, and congratulations again on the Award win!
If you’re at an organisation who’re looking to grow and want help attracting the best tech talent possible to build your teams and scale your business, we can help – just get in touch to find out how.