Nicky HoylandNicky Hoyland is CEO at My Clever Group (MCG) which includes DBLX and Huler.

A Manchester girl, raised by her inspirational single mum, Nicky Hoyland was working as a trainer at EE, saw a problem and came up with a solution. In a male-dominated industry she’s built a 6-figure business from scratch with a client list to be envious of. Her company exists to arm people with the technology to make positive and lasting change in their business.

Nicky is dedicated to revolutionising how we learn and shaping the future of the learning industry using the latest tech. Leading an award-winning team of now 50 brilliant people, she invests her time generously in each and every project, I guess some would say “walking the walk, as well as talking the talk”.

As a gay woman, now working with some of the world biggest brands she wants to use her platform to inspire young women around the world.

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

Hey, Im Nicky Hoyland, CEO at My Clever Group (MCG) which includes DBLX and Huler. Im a Manchester girl, raised by my inspirational single mum. My story starts whilst working as a trainer at EE, put simply I saw a problem and came up with a solution; and so DBLX was born. We create bespoke software solution for some of the worlds most forward thinking brands. In a male-dominated industry I’m so proud to have built a 6-figure business from scratch with a global client list and thousands of users of our platforms around the world. My company exists to arm people with the technology to make positive and lasting change in their business, something I have always been so passionate about. Im dedicated to revolutionizing how we learn and shaping the future of the learning industry using the latest tech. Leading an award-winning team of now 50 brilliant people, I invest my time generously in each and every project. I could talk all day about the amazing things our #CleverCrowd are up to. Right now we are working on the launch of a world changing SaaS product that launches in Jan 2021. Im so humbled at the overwhelming response we have had, we are hand picking some lucky people for Beta testing and you can register your interest here:

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I am ‘a planner’ and I journal every morning, setting myself mini goals for the day. But with my career I can honestly say there was no plan. I guess I never really had time to stop and plan. From a young age I worked 2 jobs and 60 hour weeks. My mum got ill and I had to learn very quickly to be independent and work hard for everything I wanted and needed. I never really planned to become a director or CEO. I simply had audaciously big dreams, nothing to lose and a burning desire to make a difference. All of my career decisions have been around following my passions and where I can make an impact. If you love what your doing, it wont feel like work and your output is so much greater, I tell everyone to find something they love.

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

The one thing I found challenging in my previous roles, was that sometimes I had to go against my views of what I thought was right for a user or solution. Often I wasn’t alone in my thinking but there were certain projects that simply had to go ahead – what  sometimes felt like a tick box or political exercise.

That was a challenge because when you are newer in to an organisation or career, there is an element of hierarchy and when someone says it’s the right thing to do, you can ofcourse share and state your opinions but theres only so many times you can suggest an alternative if someone keeps saying no. Sometimes HR and L&D projects can be seen as a tick box to the wider organisation rather than the right approach.

How did I overcome these challenges? I think in any job that you do, if you love what you do and truly believe in what you do – work doesn’t feel like work.  I would say if your feeling like your continually working on something that goes against what you believe in, it comes down to having to have a chat with yourself and making a decision to find something that supports your passions and values.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I feel so humbled and grateful for the many incredible milestones I have achieved throughout my career to date. This year DBLX turnover is over a million pounds. I employ over 50 brilliant people and help pay their rents and support their families. Throughout Covid we have financially supported local foodbanks and children with home schooling tech kits. I have over 500K users globally of a product I have built. But despite all of that… without any doubt, I am most proud of the day I made the decision to believe in myself and have the courage to leave the safety of a corporate job and co-found Digital Balance (now DBLX). Because it all goes back to that belief that I am worthy enough to make a difference and have a voice and drive change in a male dominated industry. I didn’t know it would work. I had no financial backing. I was raised by a single mum and had to provide for myself from an early age. Iv had to work for everything I have and starting my business was a huge risk. But I knew inside I had so much to give, my head was bursting with ideas and I wanted to drive change in the industry which it so desperately needed. So the only thing I feared more than leaving my job was not leaving.

All seven billion of us have a unique set of skills, talents, and personality traits. We’re all different, and that’s the beauty. The world needs more women to listen to their gut. Imagine the change we would see in the world! I had a nagging feeling inside of me for years before I acted on it. My only regret now is that I didn’t start sooner. Im incredibly proud I found the courage to start because it has already made such a huge impact on the industry, my life and others.  I’ve also found myself applying my leadership and company values in my personal life; having integrity and humility and not being afraid to try new things.  I have even taken to rock climbing – which I have found great for my mind and ‘switching off’.

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

Damn hard work. And a vision of what you want to get to and what you want to achieve. There is nothing that can get in the way of you achieving that if you have got your belief and  eye on the prize. Break it down in to steps and stick at it. I love a recent quote  I saw from @StevenBartlett “you wouldn’t plant a seed and then dig it up every few minutes to see if it has grown. Have patience, stop overthinking and keep watering your seeds.

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

The first think I would say is “Your doing great!” Women need to lift each other up.  My second tip is learn from other industrys. Digest as much information as you can – whether that’s podcacts, social media, newsletters, network, apps, books. There is so much free information out there just waiting for you, try to look at things differently from your own unique perspective, you have so much to offer the world.

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

Its changing. But yes. To be in a business that is predominately male or a meeting that is predominately male  is something we need to push through and overcome. Even at education level there are certain courses that are very male led, this view that ‘its not for me’ starts very young. As with anything, with diversity and inclusion, I don’t think its solely about women – its about everyone having a voice around a table regardless of gender, religion, education, sexuality, race, its about diversity across everything.

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

Other women have got to pull up a seat for other women.  Its not just about the seat that you have got around the table. You have a voice for others. Its about actively supporting people not just saying it, showcase the way. Companies need to be diverse in their outward appearance as a company and sharing their success.. Leaders need to be walking the walk. I take time out regularly dedicated to a meeting with just the women in my company to support and guide them. We have Q and As, learnings and lots of important conversations about raising their voices within the business.

There is 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?

Its is not a magic wand. The magic wand is accepting that it isn’t one thing. Its continual. Its got to be a push from Every. Single. Person. Every job. Every employee in your business. Every single person that looks at a job advert, is onboarding, leaves the business. The push for equality has got to span all the way through.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

  • Networking channels on linked in and dedicated time to supporting the connections you make there and their projects.
  • Must read books: How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Work like A Woman by Mary Portas
  • My favourite Expos:
    • Learning Technologies – We are actually exhibiting there in Feb –  come and say hello!
    • Unleash – we are exhibiting at the one in Vegas but they have some great events around the world.
  • I love a good podcasts: HR Social Hour, Inspiring Women by Media Zoo, HBR Ideas, I shouldn’t say this but… by Social Chain and Punk Rock HR

Discover more about Nicky here:

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