What A Year...
This time last year I’d just nicely returned to work full time after my second son started school. Not an unusual situation, but to make matters more interesting, I was joining my own company full time, for the first time. Ed and I set up The Data Shed when I was 8 months pregnant with Son#2 – a bit crazy you might say. Over the next 4 years Ed very much led the business to its current success, building the team and winning new clients.
I helped, first from home and then, as the kids got older, either contracting to get some cash in or, when we became more established, setting up and leading the project management team. Becoming a full-time Shedder was quite a turning point for us. Ed needed to focus on the ever-growing tech team and needed me to take over the day to day management of the business. In the midst of all this, we were also experiencing our first round of funding which was gruelling. Frankly, I was totally out of my depth. We were also chatting about job titles and CEO was suddenly being used in conjunction with my name. Terrifying. Queue paralysing imposter syndrome…
Leeds Digital Festival 2018 came along in the midst of all this and completely turned my world upside down. It’s a juggernaught that takes the Leeds Tech scene by total storm every year and last year was the first time I dipped my toe in. I signed up for the Women in Leeds’ mentoring sessions set up and run by Emma Cheshire at KPMG. That afternoon was the most eye opening in recent memory. I met some amazing women who gave me advice on all things investment (and made me feel substantially less stupid) and I met a lady who was to make a huge contribution to my journey to today: Claire Ackers, Leadership coach extraordinaire. I bounced straight into the Female Voices in Leeds Digital dinner, which a member of my team scored me a ticket for from her work with Ladies of Code (thanks Lauren!). There I met a huge bunch of massively supportive women who have since formed my very own #cheerleadingsquad (I HATE the term network).
From there I’ve not looked back. This year has seen me do a whole load of firsts. Speaking at events, recording podcasts and filming interviews. I’ve been on the steering committee for both this year’s Festival and Women In Leeds Digital (WiLD), and met some seriously amazing and supportive people along the way. Leeds is such a positive city – collaboration has been the word of the Festival and we as a business are seeing some amazing benefits of opening up channels of communication with tech businesses around the city. Long may that continue.
The last month in particular has been fantastic. We went along to the Leeds Digital Festival awards, and there, surrounded by 20 Shedders, my partner in crime, and a huge number of my cheerleading squad, I won my first ever award. Entrepreneur of the Year. They raised the roof. I can’t believe it’s only been a year since the dark days of uncertainty. We also had a great day at WiLD – Debs Hetherington and Sarah Tulip knocked it out of the park, bringing together some amazing speakers and experiences for the women of the city.
Finally, at Tech Show North we launched the product we’ve been working towards for the last 5 years. The Data Refinery is a self service data integration product that helps business large and small build their own Single View of a Customer. The idea is that we make data and the resulting insight accessible to all regardless of technical capability. I’m so so proud of everything we’ve achieved this year – I can’t wait to see what the next 12 months holds!