Five years ago, myself and four other people working in the Sheffield tech industry set up Sheffield Digital, the association for the people and businesses that make up the digital industries cluster in the Sheffield City Region. Since then, I’ve played a lead role in establishing Sheffield Digital as the organisation that connects, promotes and represents the local digital scene on the regional and national stage.
Sheffield Digital is a not for profit that does not receive any public sector funding. We have bootstrapped the organisation through sponsorships, partnerships and a membership scheme. Through Sheffield Digital, I work closely with businesses, the public sector and educational organisations and I am a founding partner of the UK Tech Cluster Group.
I also helped to set up the Sheffield Women in Tech group.
I recently completed a research project investigating innovation and entrepreneurship in South Yorkshire. Called the Synergy Project, it aimed to answer the question, “How can we strengthen the region’s innovation ecosystem?”. You can find out more about the project and read our final report and recommendations, on the Synergy Project website.
I’ve been providing marketing and business growth consultancy to businesses ever since I set up my first company in Sheffield back in the 1990s. My focus is on using my marketing and business experience to provide business owners with practical, realistic ways to tackle the issues that are getting in their way. I work mostly with small businesses in the digital sector but I also help businesses from other sectors to explore how they can benefit from using technology. I also work with start-ups, particularly around helping them to define their proposition and communicate that to their customers. I am an Entrepreneur in Residence at Sheffield Hallam University and currently delivering modules and mentoring participants on the Help to Grow Management programme.
My approach is always to focus on practical activity that will make a difference to the business, rather than creating big strategies that are hard to implement. That sums up my approach in general – I like to get things done. Small, achievable steps forward are often the best way to go, especially in times of uncertainty and change.
I’ve been interested in the digital skills agenda ever since I worked at Sero Consulting, who are an education and skills consultancy specialising in digital skills. It’s a very broad agenda, which I think covers four key areas:
- Basic digital skills for life.
- Digital skills for work and business in general.
- Higher level and specialist skills for technology-based businesses and technology departments in large organisations.
- Digital leadership skills for leaders of both private and public sector organisations.
Most of my work has centred around the second and third items on this list, especially helping colleges and universities to understand what skills businesses require and to find the best way to match their provision to those needs.