Welcome to the Tough Cookies series where we interview and celebrate the strong and determined individuals who are making waves in the tech industry.
The light is shined this week on the fantastic Ben, Managing Director of TechSPARK. Based in the Bristol Engine Shed, Ben is a Jack and Master of all trades, from consultancy to business development, to appreciating really good wine. This tech leader is making definite waves in the industry and is the perfect tough cookie for our cookie jar!
What is TechSPARK and what brought you to work there?
TechSPARK is a not-for-profit network whose mission is to help strengthen the digital and tech cluster in the West. We do lots of work shouting about the brilliant things that happen locally, connecting people together, hosting events like the SPARKies and running programmes to help grow the talent pool.
Before TechSPARK I worked at lots of different organisations who worked develop places economically, encouraging international trade and investment. I’ve always been interested in how, by encouraging economic growth, you can have a direct impact on a place and what it’s like to live there – which is why being part of TechSPARK is so ace.
The digital ecosystem in the area has grown exponentially in the last few years creating great jobs, companies and products, it’s fantastic TechSPARK is a part of that.
What does your day to day look like?
No two days are the same! We’re a really small team so everyone gets involved in everything that we do, which may mean in the morning I’m sat in a roundtable with a visiting minister and 3 hours later I’m handing our badges at an event. We work on lots of projects which are in collaboration with other organisations, so a lot of my time is spent working with them to coordinate. Part of the joy of working somewhere like TechSPARK is that you’re never bored!
For me, the scale of growth and impact the tech industry has locally is super exciting.
What part of the tech industry most excites you at the moment?
For me, the scale of growth and impact the tech industry has locally is super exciting. Bristol & Bath has a number of world-leading companies and so of the technology being developed is truly mind-blowing. That, in conjunction with the local attitude of being interested in tech with purpose or ‘paying it forward’ means it’s a really exciting place to be.
What has been the biggest challenge you have had to face in your career and how did you overcome it?
Being a leader in an organisation can be a really lonely and difficult place to be. Building a network of peers who you can talk to and share challenges is something I think which is super important for your career and just general happiness.
What do you look for in a great tech company?
A great idea backed by a team of people who can develop it! We see lots of people with amazing ideas but there’s a real skill in finding the right team with the knowledge, experience, (money!) and resilience to take it to market and grow!
Are you a hunter or a gatherer?
A bit of both I guess, we’re really lucky in that as we’ve been around a while so lots of opportunities come to us. I guess if anything I’m probably a farmer!
Don’t feel like you need to have all the answers.
What’s the best thing that has happened this year for you?
It feels like this year we’ve really been able to start growing our team and scaling our activity. It’s great to see some of the hard work we’ve all put in start to pay dividends.
What’s the best piece of career advice you have received?
Everyone has imposter syndrome, and no one really knows what they’re doing! We all spend lots of time around people who look super-efficient like they’ve planned everything out. In reality, most of us are working things out as we go along, so don’t feel like you need to have all the answers.