Melissa HendryMelissa Hendry is Co-founder and Managing Director of digital transformation specialists, ddroidd.

With more than 15 years’ experience in senior leadership roles within the IT, telecommunications and digital sectors, Melissa has played a significant role in driving key strategic growth, operational direction as well as the implementation and monitoring of core processes, policies and partner relationships with some of the UK’s biggest names.

Passionate about the quality, security and scalability of business operations and service delivery through the adoption of best practice frameworks, Melissa has held NPPV and Government SC clearances, and is a BSI certified ISO 27001 Internal Auditor, ITIL v3 Practitioner and appointed Chief Information Officer.

After graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University with a degree in Business & Event Management, Melissa joined aql, a UK telecommunications operator and enabler of smart cities, as Operations Manager, later Operations Director. During her 10 years at aql, Melissa built, managed and ran high-security IL5-rated data centres, wholesale SMS aggregator services, MVNE infrastructure for M2M services and Ofcom-regulated telecoms services. Live services were in operation for over 30,000 active customers and 300 channel partners, for clients including Virgin, Akamai, Fujitsu, BT, EMIS-Healthcare, Serco and government clients, including the Metropolitan Police and the Home Office. Melissa was a key member of the team who helped to grow aql from a headcount of two to 55 and increase turnover from £650k to £10.6m in seven years.

Melissa then spent several years working in start-up digital SaaS companies, helping them to create a solid operational structure on which to scale. In 2019, Melissa joined Delete Agency, as Head of Managed Services & Security and later as Operations Director.

ddroidd was formed in November 2020 following the acquisition of a two-year joint venture partnership with Delete agency. With Offices in Leeds, UK and Cluj-Napoca, Romania, ddroidd employs almost 80 staff, delivering projects for clients and agency partners.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m co-founder and managing director of ddroidd, a technical and digital transformation agency, specialising in the build, enhancement, and technical support of enterprise level web applications.

We were formed in November 2020 and now have 79 team members across our offices in Leeds, UK and Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

I started my career studying Events & Business Management at Leeds Metropolitan University and accidentally stumbled into the world of tech after being offered my first role in a telecommunications company called aql. I spent five years there as operations manager and a further five years as operations director where I oversaw the formation and growth of the internal teams, processes, security accreditations and compliance and operational structure, whilst expanding the service offerings and our physical network and infrastructure. I was exposed to, responsible for, and learned a great deal whilst in these roles.

I later spent three years in operations director roles in SaaS businesses, looking at the operational processes and technical platforms required to scale, before moving agency side as operations director for Delete Agency. It is here where I met and worked alongside Catalin, Nicu and Oana who I later went on to set-up ddroidd with.

In my current role at ddroidd, I work alongside the leadership team and ddroidd co-founders (Catalin, Nicu and Oana) to drive our sales and marketing initiatives, legal and regulatory compliance as well as supporting our strategic partnerships and relationships.

We’re currently working on our A+++ framework, which recently won the Prolific North Environmental Champion Award, and focuses on ensuring large scale web applications are more energy efficient by cutting needless reprocessing by up to 90%. As a company we are passionate about sustainability and have been able to save clients up to £12k a month on hosting bills with our A+++ efficiency approach. We’re hoping this framework will eventually become industry standard as businesses realise the cost and environment benefits of effective application management.  https://www.ddroidd.com/a-plus-plus-plus

We’re now approaching our first year-end and are on-track to exceed our £3m turnover target. We have ambitious targets for year two that will see us double in size and a £5m turnover target.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never. I studied business and event management and happily fell into the world of tech. As I have a holistic understanding of how business divisions interlink and support each other, operations management was a natural starting point. I also love a good process – not to be rigid, but to provide a common understanding of what to follow and what to expect, where to pivot and what to report on.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Knowing when to move on, as spending 10 years in one role had its benefits and challenges. You become so familiar with one company, the team, and the processes you’ve implemented that it’s hard to know when the right time to leave is. I got to a stage where I knew I was ready for a new challenge. I wanted to apply my skills and experiences in new environments and to grow from new experiences and teams, and in turn it was time for others to implement new ways of working and bring fresh ideas. It was a difficult decision, but I’ve learned to be open to situations and to follow what you know is right for you.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without a doubt co-founding and helping to build ddroidd with the team. It’s true what they say about the people you surround yourself with, and they inspire me in some way every day. We have a great shared vision and I feel extremely fortunate to call these guys my teammates and my friends.

Melissa Hendry

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Asking questions. It sounds strange but asking ‘why’ or ‘how’ (at the right time) enables you to better your understanding and learn something new, but it can also create an opportunity to become involved in projects, conversations or meetings that you might not otherwise have been involved in. By showing an interest in the context and the application of something, you’ll at the very least learn something new that you can apply at a later date, and at best create an opportunity to be involved in something new and meet new people.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Build your personal network and attend events if you can. The tech sector is such an open and collaborative community, which is what I love about it. There are so many events where people share their experiences and knowledge that there’s always something new to learn and someone new to meet. And you never know where those connections or that knowledge will lead you.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes. I think it’s improving but barriers still exist. The awareness raised on this topic over the last 10 years has played a huge part in inspiring women to undertake STEM related courses and to start or move into roles within tech companies. There’s also an incredible number of tech start-ups, with increasing demand for talent and many that are advocates and champions of diversity in their teams, which is fantastic to see.

However, barriers and lack of representation still exists for women in senior leadership and board positions within the tech sector. Studies show that those companies with women in senior positions perform better financially and have higher levels of overall innovation; so the business case for wider representation is there.

We need to normalise it by celebrating and showcasing the successes and achievements of those women working within IT. Offer a platform and a voice, and insist that you have a mixed representation of speakers.

Encourage those within our networks, businesses, and circles to aim as high as they want. Start the business. Apply for the role, the funding, the training budget. Seek a mentor and where time permits, become a mentor, and share your experiences.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Don’t make diversity a check-box exercise – really understand the importance and the benefits that having a diverse team brings to the business and the people working within it. The saying ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ is very valid in this case. Having women in management and leadership positions, in all areas of business, is key to inspiring others to join and to elevate within their roles.

Invest in their growth and future in their role-based skills, soft skills, and their wellness. Offer women the opportunities to be internal and external speakers – hear their journeys, their challenges, their suggestions, and ideas. And pay them equally.

Flexible working is also a huge consideration for people with dependents or different productivity patterns. Businesses should utilise the multitude of tools and apps created to facilitate remote, hybrid and flexible working. The studies show the benefits in time, cost, productivity, and work/life balance that flexible working offers, and businesses will be left behind if they don’t start to embrace it.

And to women looking to advance – apply for the role! Don’t wait until you tick every box on the ‘requirements’ list – few do, so throw your hat in the ring. Companies – stop creating unnecessary lists of long role requirements. Hire for competency but also for passion, aptitude, diversity, drive and hunger – these are the people that will grow your business.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Start earlier with education and expand people’s understanding of what the tech sector is and all it encompasses – both the businesses within it and the roles required to support it. If we look at schools and those students starting to think about their careers. How many young kids understand how to use mobile apps? Many. But how many understand how those apps are built – the roles required to build and support it and the careers they offer? Many perhaps wont. And if you don’t know what a project manager, software engineer, business analyst, automation engineer, or user experience designer does, let alone if those roles exist, how can you aspire to be one?

There is a definite skills shortage in the UK tech industry, so wider access to training and skills development and awareness of the associated career paths, is key to inspiring people to join. And It’s such a fantastic, collaborative, and inspiring community – there are so many amazing businesses pushing the boundaries of innovation and utilising the application of technology for the greater good. Who wouldn’t want to join!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Websites / online networking

https://www.northernpowerwomen.com

https://www.forwardladies.com/

Books:

Dare to Lead – Brene Brown

The Chimp Paradox – Steve Peters

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F* – Mark Manson

Never Split the Difference – Chris Voss