New job, new challenge!

By Grethe Brown CEO of DiffusionData.

  • 1 year ago Posted in

I have recently taken on a new role as CEO of DiffusionData Ltd (formerly known as Push Technology) and overseen a complete strategic realignment of the company’s go-to-market strategy. The company is a pioneer and leader in real-time data streaming and messaging solutions and serves a broad range of industries including financial services, transportation, energy, retail, healthcare, and eGaming. The strategic realignment was necessary to meet the digital transformation needs of the markets we support. As you can imagine this was quite a challenge. 

My business philosophy is to believe in people and enable them to succeed. To do this you need to listen to what people say and then give them the framework to allow them to achieve their objectives. For the company to succeed, I believe the best and most efficient way is to capitalise on the knowledge we already have and use it inside the organisation to develop the business for everyone’s benefit (employees, shareholders, all stakeholders).

Leading from the front

It is critical to clarify strategy and goals, and help people understand why what they’re doing is needed and how it fits in the broader corporate strategy of the company. When everything flows, my job becomes easier. At DiffusionData we had a couple of strategy days very early on after I started and worked through our growth plans, thrashed out the messaging and I identified where we needed to focus in the marketplace. I set up a strategic matrix plan with each department, with key month on month goals. 

As part of the market realignment I have made sure that marketing, SDR’s, sales, tech sales and support all clearly know what they are responsible for and how their efforts support the success of others and the business.  This may all sound straightforward, obvious even, but the key is that every individual knows their part and that their role is a critical part of the wider picture. People can do amazing things when they work together and enjoy what they do.  

We are also working hard to make DiffusionData a great place to work by looking carefully at the best hybrid work environments, opening new offices which provide capabilities which are not possible from the home office (like sitting round a table and thrashing out a problem!). If I listen attentively to my colleagues, they tell me what’s needed, so I just need to provide that. It’s all about opening doors for people and letting them breathe. This is what I do wherever I go. Not so hard when you think about it.

Prioritising and compromising

I have to say the team really rose to the challenge, which was amazing bearing in mind that we have an interesting mix of very experienced people who have been there since the company was founded, coupled with a significant amount of new talent. The challenges come in the shape of priorities, and this was resolved by jointly communicating and compromising. It is really quite easy when everybody wants the same thing. 

DiffusionData is full of people who are very excited and proud about their product, and want to help grow the company. Everybody agreed that, for example, designing a new website that better represented what we do and changing the name of the company was something that had to happen, and everybody had to put in extra effort and compromise on one or two other things to get it done in time. This is the first time the company has come together with everybody involved.

How did in get into technology?

After graduating (in Maths) I went to work at Ericsson in Sweden as a software developer on their mobile telecoms products. After a couple of years Ericsson gave me the opportunity to move to the UK at a time when there was explosive growth in mobile networks. In Sweden,  there had been a drive to get more females into technology, and Ericsson was part of this, so when I started there were 30% females in the company in Linkoping, which created a very balanced working environment. After moving to England it wasn't quite like that and I have often been the only female in a meeting, but female leaders were actually fairly common already then.

Being a mom and juggling work commitments

Technology has changed, and enabled so much expansion, but also attitudes have changed. In the UK, things like legislated maternity and paternity leave and access to childcare has improved. Before my oldest child started school, I set up an after school’s club (and breakfast and holiday club) with a committee of working mums who all wanted to be able to continue working - which was very unusual back then, but the take up was good, and we also got National Lottery funding (£21,000 - thank you National Lottery!) and the clubs are still there today. The mom’s I worked with to make this happen were amazing. In fact, the school made the clubs into a selling point. After that I had people ringing me up, asking me whether I could set up something similar at their school! I had to tell them I had a full time job and this was done out of necessity. Crucially, that kind of initiative really helps enable a more mixed and balanced workplace.

Have you seen women play more of an influential role in technology?

Yes and no, my first big boss in Sweden was female and there were plenty of others, but in the UK it has been more unusual. The tradition to give up work or go part time when you have children is stronger here and hence it is important that we try our best to enable flexible working so that life isn't so stressful for parents. Influential positions still tend to be expected to be full time, but I think that is also changing and Covid has accelerated this trend.

What advice would you give somebody looking to enter the industry now?

Be brave, do something you love and work with people who are supportive, get a good boss who understands who you are and what your goals are – then put in some hard work and you will be happy and probably go far!  

What achievements have you been really proud of?

In the late 90’s Ericsson set up an organisation to start groundbreaking work on "Apps On Your Phone" using a development organisation who had previously worked on 1st generation mobile systems, and we managed to become known inside the whole global Ericsson ecosystem - that was fantastic fun, and a great display of the application of new technology inside Ericsson.

I have always tried to look at the broader situation, whichever position I've held and facilitate growth and remove blockages whenever possible. This has resulted in me growing professional services organisations, running large software and hardware programs, enabling improved relations with customers and staff and I hope, increasing people's quality of life at work.

What does the future hold?

What has happened after the lockdowns is very interesting with the speedy technology evolution and enablement of working from home. This is requiring a much more flexible approach to engage with people and get a sense of belonging which does not solely rely on an individual’s presence in an office. 

Where possible we need to have offices that are nice to go to and where people want to be, the interesting thing is how much people actually enjoy being together and a day in the office can almost turn into a treat! A balance here is very important. We are back to engaging, communicating, trying hard to make people see their important contribution to the whole and being excited by it. If people enjoy each other's company and are excited by what they do, you do not need to force them into an office to ensure strong output. Future technology management will be much more about people wanting to be on the team and part of the journey, than control and micromanagement.

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