As a CEO and owner scaling up my business, working in the technology sector is an exciting place to be.
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My current focus is on transforming education and training using gamification and Virtual Reality. This has required a mix of problem-solving skills, creativity, the ability to demonstrate a clear vision and a value proposition.

Many entrepreneurs lose out because they do not articulate a compelling value proposition. Yet establishing a substantive proposition is critical if you want to start the journey from your “idea” to building a successful company.

Michael Skok, who writes for Forbes magazine on both entrepreneurship and innovation, describes how you can test a breakthrough idea through the 3Ds. Does it fit with one or more of the following:

Discontinuous innovation – offers transformative benefits over the status quo by looking at a problem differently;

Defensible technology – offers intellectual property that can be protected to create a barrier to entry and an unfair competitive advantage; and/or a

Disruptive business model – yields value and cost rewards that help catalyze the growth of a business.

It is a good sense check to use. It is important if you want to engage investors and the most sceptical of potential customers; something that I have learned from building two businesses. It has been critical recently as I look to reach out to angel investors for SEED funding for my new venture.

My new business, PurpleSmartie, was born from a deep dive into the simple fact that the future of work and the future of learning are strongly connected. A unique personalised training platform powered by ongoing skills data with a global perspective; it is an EdTech solutions business.

Put simply EdTech (education technology) is the study and practice of designing effective instruction using technology, media, and learning theory. While #edtech solutions open up a whole range of possibilities, to be fit for purpose they need both a software/platform delivery model, and content. The quality of the content determines the quality of the learning and development experience.

We have been successfully using Gamification Skills Analysis programmes with a range of clients, including those in the tech sector. We have developed a 30-minute, mobile ready leadership game. It uses typical gaming elements, such as point scoring, competition with others, rules of play, to engage and challenge users to solve problems.

It enables 100% skills gap analysis, business-wide; provides an unbiased skills analysis across departments and can assist with succession planning. With it you can obtain accurate skills data analysis, before and after training. We use it in this way so the client training we provide is focused on a high ROI. It is scalable, cross-generational and cultural, exciting and innovative.

Cloud and mobile computing, artificial intelligence, and increasing automation have created the potential to transform nearly every aspect of a business; learning and development included.

The industry analyst group Gartner produced a paper last year which cited nearly 40 per cent of Chief Information Officers report they are leaders of digital transformation in their enterprise.

What is more these CIOs are being given the opportunity to lead not only in managing delivery, but managing talent and executing effective leadership.

Interestingly, the importance of having both ‘soft’ skills and leadership capabilities as well as expert knowledge is something that I built my first business around. Skills4Stem Ltd is now a mature and successful corporate training business, working within the UK, UAE and further afield. Sister company, Skills4Stem Ireland Ltd, is building on the continued success of Skills4Stem in a growth territory that offers further opportunity and possibility for innovation.

Innovation and talent are closely linked. To encourage new talent into the tech sector we need to get better demonstrating at its practical benefits and multiple points of entry. I did not study Computer Science or Games Development, my first qualification was a BA (Hons) in lighting design.

My career has developed from there because I have an appetite to learn, evolve and am passionate about making a change. Government and educational initiatives are in place to help address the skills shortage in STEM sectors, but I wanted to bring some commercial perspectives to this issue.

Three key points of practical advice to pass on to others:

  • I had the benefit of a senior sponsor who helped me earlier in my career. Mentoring and sponsorship internally within an organisation is something I support as a beneficiary of this approach myself.
  • Networks and the ability to network are also important; and I value the input and feedback I get from these opportunities.
  • Career development and leading your own business requires some risk-taking and advocating for oneself; to paraphrase Sheryl Sandberg in Lean In, traits that girls are sometimes discouraged from exhibiting. But we can make a change – person by person.

About the author:

Sarah Davis FCIOB MCIoD, CEO, Skills4Stem Ltd sarah davis

With many years’ experience in the built environment sector, Sarah Davis founded Skills4Stem Ltd in 2014 with the objective of helping to address the current shortage of skills within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) with a focus within the Built Environment.

As a graduate herself in the engineering field of Lighting Design, she is well placed to understand the issues that are currently being faced within industry.

Sarah is an FCIOB Chartered Construction Manager. Sarah was instrumental in setting up the CIBSE group: Women in Building Services Engineering (WiBSE). She was a member of the Royal Institute of Architecture (RIBA) Barriers to Women in Architecture Task Force in 2014 and is a current member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Built Environment Executive.

She was also a key member of the Government Task Force on Gender Diversity within the Built Environment with Meg Munn MP, which produced its Building the Future – Women in Construction report in March 2014. Today Sarah has an active role in the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) Women in Enterprise.

Sarah was a finalist for the 2015 Women of Achievement in Construction Awards and she was on the judging panel for the European Women in Construction and Engineering Awards 2015. In February 2017 Sarah won Bedfordshire Business Woman of the Year 2017.