Welcome to the Tough Cookies series where we interview and celebrate the strong and determined individuals who are making waves in the tech industry.
This week we are checking in with Paul, Community Manager of SETsquared Bristol and overall legend. Paul has been working hard joining the dots between businesses in the Bristol community (amongst many other things!) and is the go-to person for many technical startups. With no more introduction needed, read further to learn more about this tough cookie…
So tell me a little bit about SetSquared and your role there?
SETsquared Bristol is part of the SETsquared Partnership (Bristol, Bath, Surrey, Southampton and Exeter Unis) and is the Global #1 University Business Accelerator, which focuses on the exponential growth of technology-focused SMEs through world-class business support.
As Community Manager our member businesses are my top priority, ensuring I understand their backgrounds, skills, business roadmaps etc in order to signpost to significant parts of our programme or introduce to an individual or business that can help support them. Working with the wider Bristol business ecosystem is also key to my role, I thrive on forging relationships with other business support organisations, local community partners, University innovation centres or professional services stakeholders.
Finally, my work as Inclusion Champion is something very important to me. The tech/start-up world is notoriously male, pale and stale, which thanks to unconscious bias is limiting to innovation and diversity of thought. Breaking down the barriers so that more women and BAME people can be inspired to run their own businesses and supporting them in their decisions is something we need to all work together for long term success.
Having a full-time role, which is very heavy on networking and directing a business that also focuses on community cohesion and curation means the physical and emotional commitment can take its toll.
You are also involved in some other projects, can you tell me more about them?
I co-direct For Books’ Sake, a volunteer-run, not-for-profit community organisation that champions and supports writing by women and non-binary people as publishers and advocates. For Books’ Sake’s popular spoken word night, That’s What She Said, runs monthly in London, Manchester and Bristol has just returned from Edinburgh Fringe and did 3 nights at the Royal Albert hall in 2018. Our collaboration with the Write Like Grrrl workshops now has a global reach, taking place in UK, Russia and the USA. Plus this year we’ve branched out to deliver writing retreats for our more committed community members.
What brought you to work with SetSquared?
I’m quite fatalistic. I was done with London and moved to Bristol in April 2017 with no job but having applied to my current role at SETsquared just before leaving London. This came as a great advantage as much of my first week in Bristol involved me preparing for my interview. Prior to my role at SETsquared I was Programmes manager at TecHub, the global community for tech entrepreneurs, where I designed and rolled out their support programme, which prepared me for the immersion into the start-up ecosystem in Bristol.
What excites you most about the tech industry at the moment?
That we’re standing at the top of a precipice constantly, technology isn’t benevolent or malevolent but the way it is used or wielded is, which means the responsibility and integrity of CEOs, regardless of the company size, is pivotal to the future of our civilization. The closer we get to a dystopian society, the more important this is.
I’m an intersectional-queer-feminist and a republican so would prefer not to be called “King” of anything.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career so far and how did you overcome it?
Not burning out. Having a full-time role, which is very heavy on networking and directing a business that also focuses on community cohesion and curation means the physical and emotional commitment can take its toll. I do believe I’ve come close but have a defined self-care routine that consists of reading for pleasure, cooking regularly, taking lots of holidays and connecting with friends outside of work.
You are the king of networking! What would be your top tip?
I’m an intersectional-queer-feminist and a republican so would prefer not to be called “King” of anything. My top tip? You can’t fake empathy, understanding or interest but you can find something about a person, business, idea or project that interests you. If you listen, learn and ask questions about what you’re attracted to you can build real relationships with people and expand your network of credibility.
Is there a particular app that we should be downloading at the moment?
I’m a very functional person, so the apps I interact with reflect that. LifeSum for health/fitness tracking. TrainSplit for discounted travel. Luminary for behind paywall podcasts and local legend Wriggle, for cheap food and drink deals (and more).
Finally, if you could invent a flavour crisp what would it be?
This reminds me of a question my late friend always asked (If you were a sandwich what would you be?). Sandwiches are much better than crisps, and you can be more investing – I mean, they’ve invented all the flavours of crisps now. So… if I was a sandwich I would be a crisp sandwich (buttered, cheese and onion Walkers).