women in tech, soft skills featured

New year, new you? Try sharpening the tools you already have

women in tech, soft skills

The New Year often carries with it promises to make vast changes in our professional and personal lives, with January heralding calls of ‘this will be my year!’.

But, rather than trying to completely reinvent yourself, it’s often better to work with the skills you’ve already got within your midst.

Take Q2Q IT as an example. Managing director, Lorna Stellakis, is a strong advocate for optimising the infrastructure you already have at your disposal – be it tech or talent – and here, she explains how you can too.

Resolutions and rituals are often set with the best of intentions but can often be broken should the implementation not be ‘easy’. While making a change will always cause some disruption to the norm, in many cases a grand shift isn’t the answer.

Often, simply exploring the capabilities of something you already have – or pay for – can revolutionise your life. And, in terms of tech, this could be extracting every ounce of value from a product or service, by understanding all of its respective ‘bells and whistles’.

When purchasing, you might plump for an ‘add on’ service – a relatively small extra investment which could result in considerably more value to the system or equipment.

And, as a very people-focused business leader, I believe this also applies to colleagues.

With the exception of our admin staff, the team at Q2Q are all highly skilled techies, and the main purpose of their day-to-day role is creating solutions for clients, as well as solving any IT-related issues which crop up.

However, if we stuck to the stereotypical techie role profile, you could stop there and generalise their work as simply ‘doing technical stuff’. And I am sure the company owners reading this will identify with such a sentiment.

When I took over the reins of the Q2Q ship in 2018, I made it my mission to delve further into each one of my colleagues – their skillsets, motivations for coming to work, and what they see as ‘a job well done’.

By understanding what makes them tick – their preferred ways of working, and what they’re passionate about – I could quickly see they were each capable of adding additional value to the business, that wasn’t already being utilised.

In fact, we all have skills beyond those required in our basic job description.

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Talent within the team

Take our technical consultant Damien Gelder as an example. He is a whiz at coming up with analogies that perfectly explain a complex issue in an easy-to-understand way. He uses this talent in all sorts of situations too, and we see it called upon on a daily basis – particularly when trying to introduce a new product to a client that we believe will make their lives easier, or giving a non-technical demonstrations of a service to a prospect.

On the other hand, Ash Williams, our technical support engineer, has an obsessive attention to detail and is extremely methodical in the way he works. So, if we need a complex project scoping out, we call on his expertise to ensure all the steps are ticked off and there are no stages missed.

Phil Irwin, another of our technical support engineers, has strong people skills and is great at seeing a variety of perspectives in any given situation, which translates perfectly into relating to our clients. That’s why he’s our ‘customer excellence champion’ and, if we’re looking to alter any of our processes, he’s our ‘go to’ when it comes to sense-checking changes.

Then, regarding seeing themes in IT-related situations, technical support engineer Harrison Burke comes into his own during our team meetings! We rely on him to highlight where there is a recurring pattern and offer solutions to nip this in the bud, by rolling out new internal processes to all customers.

In fact, all the of the team now have a specialism that is predominantly non-technical!

Not only does this add something extra to the firm’s dynamic – by playing to everyone’s strengths – but it adds value to the service we offer and gives everyone a sense of purpose beyond just doing their job.

So, while I’m not sure that I could get away with describing the Q2Q crew as: “tools that previously needed sharpening,”, that’s essentially what we’ve done!

Making the most of what you have is not only a cost-effective and time-efficient way of making sure you’re getting the maximum out of existing investments, but also identifying where you may need to plug any gaps.

That’s why, it’s worth having an IT reassessment, or audit, every year – or six months if you’re growing rapidly – to make sure it’s continuing to do what you need it to.

If you’d like to chat to us about any of the additional services mentioned above – or you have any other questions about what’s possible from your IT setup – give us a call on 01524 581690, or drop us a direct message!

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


Give people what they need to perform at their best in 2022

Happy New Year, wooden blocks, 2021, 2022

December is usually the time of year when HR departments across the country send the annual ‘employee satisfaction survey’. And, while this attempt to establish staff’s likes and dislikes from the past 12 months is bound to uncover much more than usual this time around – it always leaves business owners with something to think about.

But for Lorna Stellakis, managing director of managed IT support firm, Q2Q, she regularly asks her clients and their colleagues: “Does your company give you the tools and technologies you need to do your job well? Because try as you might, without those, performance will only ever be lacklustre.”

Although business owners might be fearful of the barrage – or complete lack of – feedback when employees are asked to evaluate the suitability of their tech stack, the question is so much more pertinent as we head into a new year – and one where many workspaces morph from a traditional office environment to either a home set-up, or a combination of the two.

As the owner of a technical business, I would use HR departments, company owners, and technical leads to expand that question even further to ask: “Does your team have the necessary equipment and environment that are conducive to providing both a suitable workspace and the tools they need, in order to work smarter and at maximum efficiency?”

From my experience, it can often be a culmination of lots of little things that cause the most frustrations – ultimately leading to disengagement and low morale.

Once such example would be access to the relevant IT systems. It shouldn’t seem like too much to ask, but from a technical perspective, something as simple as having an old laptop that is a little slow to load files and webpages can have a massive impact on productivity.

Team members who begin each day with the frustration of having to wait for a slow machine to fire up – pressing the ‘power’ button and having enough time to make tea and toast – can be compounded by missing deadlines because they didn’t plan the extra ‘loading’ time, or the added stress that a slow machine brings, when being pressed for information quickly.

Meanwhile, from a working environment perspective, consideration should extend far beyond whether a chair, monitor and desk are at optimal working height – but also consider other contributing factors such as space, light, noise, and temperature.

As a business leader, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your team and ask whether they’re likely to feel motivated if they are constantly frustrated with their equipment and/or environment?

Like many of our peers, a shift to hybrid working has meant we needed to conduct a complete inventory of all the technical infrastructure we have available in the office to establish a hot desking set-up. While this concept is nothing new, for our techies – who have a lot of hardware – they have previously kept all their work-related collateral in one place. So, lugging it between home and HQ was not an option.

But, by investing in additional items, such as desk phones and monitors, staff can ‘borrow’ whatever they need when working from the office, and leave it behind for their colleagues, the following day.

This small investment means that the team’s day to day isn’t littered with distractions from not being able to function as seamlessly as they would normally. And the return on investment when it comes to our staff satisfaction levels makes it totally worth the cost – I am sure this will pay dividends in the long-run.

While returning to a shared space following eight months of relative isolation can be unnerving, removing the disruption of not having the right kit can make a significant difference. Colleagues feel valued, listened to, and cared for, and this pays back in droves in terms of their dedication and work ethic, and of course, efficiency.

As we all transition to whatever the new version of the working day looks like, a new year is the ideal time to identify where there are any gaps, ask – and answer – the question: “is there something missing that you can easily resolve and would it make a major change to team morale?”

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube


2021, career advice, New Year

Give people what they need to perform at their best in 2021

2021, career advice, New Year

December is usually the time of year when HR departments across the country send the annual ‘employee satisfaction survey’. And, while this attempt to establish staff’s likes and dislikes from the past 12 months is bound to uncover much more than usual this time around – it always leaves business owners with something to think about.

But for Lorna Stellakis, managing director of managed IT support firm, Q2Q, she regularly asks her clients and their colleagues: “Does your company give you the tools and technologies you need to do your job well? Because try as you might, without those, performance will only ever be lacklustre.”

Although business owners might be fearful of the barrage – or complete lack of – feedback when employees are asked to evaluate the suitability of their tech stack, the question is so much more pertinent as we head into a new year – and one where many workspaces morph from a traditional office environment to either a home set-up, or a combination of the two.

As the owner of a technical business, I would use HR departments, company owners, and technical leads to expand that question even further to ask: “Does your team have the necessary equipment and environment that are conducive to providing both a suitable workspace and the tools they need, in order to work smarter and at maximum efficiency?”

From my experience, it can often be a culmination of lots of little things that cause the most frustrations – ultimately leading to disengagement and low morale.

Once such example would be access to the relevant IT systems. It shouldn’t seem like too much to ask, but from a technical perspective, something as simple as having an old laptop that is a little slow to load files and webpages can have a massive impact on productivity.

Team members who begin each day with the frustration of having to wait for a slow machine to fire up – pressing the ‘power’ button and having enough time to make tea and toast – can be compounded by missing deadlines because they didn’t plan the extra ‘loading’ time, or the added stress that a slow machine brings, when being pressed for information quickly.

Meanwhile, from a working environment perspective, consideration should extend far beyond whether a chair, monitor and desk are at optimal working height – but also consider other contributing factors such as space, light, noise, and temperature.

As a business leader, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your team and ask whether they’re likely to feel motivated if they are constantly frustrated with their equipment and/or environment?

Like many of our peers, a shift to hybrid working has meant we needed to conduct a complete inventory of all the technical infrastructure we have available in the office to establish a hot desking set-up. While this concept is nothing new, for our techies – who have a lot of hardware – they have previously kept all their work-related collateral in one place. So, lugging it between home and HQ was not an option.

But, by investing in additional items, such as desk phones and monitors, staff can ‘borrow’ whatever they need when working from the office, and leave it behind for their colleagues, the following day.

This small investment means that the team’s day to day isn’t littered with distractions from not being able to function as seamlessly as they would normally. And the return on investment when it comes to our staff satisfaction levels makes it totally worth the cost – I am sure this will pay dividends in the long-run.

While returning to a shared space following eight months of relative isolation can be unnerving, removing the disruption of not having the right kit can make a significant difference. Colleagues feel valued, listened to, and cared for, and this pays back in droves in terms of their dedication and work ethic, and of course, efficiency.

As we all transition to whatever the new version of the working day looks like, a new year is the ideal time to identify where there are any gaps, ask – and answer – the question: “is there something missing that you can easily resolve and would it make a major change to team morale?”

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube


Pair of women's shoes featured

If you do one thing in 2021… try walking in someone else’s shoes

Pair of women's shoesWe’re all familiar with the sentiment, ‘you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes,’ and there’s merit in bringing this notion into the workplace too – by physically sitting in the seat of a colleague, and spending a day in their life.

Lorna Stellakis, managing director of tech support firm, Q2Q IT, believes that an ability to see things from someone else’s point of view is a key skill in understanding people. Here, she explains how it can be put into practice in the work environment.

Under normal circumstances, workplaces would be buzzing with excitement this month, as colleagues prepare for weeks of festive fun – both in and outside of the office. But with that, can come heightened pressure to ‘box off’ certain tasks before the end of the year.

While 2021 is going to be very different for us all, it’s still important to make sure we communicate effectively with colleagues and empathise with their own challenges – whether that be in a personal or professional capacity.

Being in a service business, I constantly talk to the team about clients’ perceptions being their reality. Even if they don’t have all the right information at the time – and their belief is factually inaccurate – it’s still their reality, and is therefore important to understand, and respect.

Think how a subtle change in camera angle or filter can make someone look totally different in a selfie. It’s a similar principle here, as the ‘improved’ version looks entirely real – even though in fact – it isn’t.

Often things which might seem obvious to one person – given their standpoint and personal experience – might not always be the case with someone sat in a different position. This can make it difficult to appreciate the other person’s point of view.

Going back to the photograph analogy, a trained and experienced photographer will spot traces of image editing at once, while a casual observer will interpret the shot as genuine. In both cases though, one may struggle to see the image through the eyes of the other.

At Q2Q, we always strive to understand a situation from a client’s perspective. It goes beyond just seeing their outlook though. To really comprehend their viewpoint, it helps to ‘walk in their shoes’ and experience how they’re feeling.

During one of our regular team development meetings, we had some fun with a powerful Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) tool I love using, called ‘Perceptual Positions’. This method teaches the skill of adopting more points of view than your own, in an experiential way, rather than talking it through.

Used in the traditional NLP method, a coach would invite a person to take on various ‘positions’ to view the issue they wanted to explore or improve. For example, they would tackle the problem as their younger or older self, before reviewing it again as an impartial observer and providing feedback from their new viewpoint.

Our creative version of this was to create a scene where each team member adopted a different role, as if they were in a play. We walked through an imaginary scenario where a client was getting frustrated with their machines not behaving in the way they thought they should be, and their subsequent belief that there should be an easy fix – which there definitely wasn’t.

Out of the seven team members involved in the training, two of them played members of the client’s team, while two were Q2Q employees – but not themselves. One was cast as me – or, the boss – and another as a journalist, watching the events and reporting back from their perspective.  The last member of the Q2Q family acted as the scene’s director, getting everyone to act what was happening.

While you can imagine this was a fun session – with lots of hilarious impressions of each other – the underlying message was very powerful. Each of us was able to get into the mindset of someone else, and experience how the situation had felt for them.

Upon reflection, the team understood how they could have prevented any frustration occurring in the first place, by anticipating any problems in advance, and clearly communicating the options and probable outcomes beforehand.

The purpose of the exercise was to highlight that our clients aren’t technical experts, and we shouldn’t expect them to be – that’s what we are here for! But, as in the case of the photographer, when you’re a trained professional in a particular field, it can sometimes be difficult to appreciate what it felt like before you had that knowledge.

Personally, I believe that taking the time out to run exercises like this is an essential part of delivering great customer service.

In addition, this is also a great tool for conflict resolution, or when negotiations are at a stalemate.  Finding the common ground by walking in someone else’s shoes, can often make it easier to bring them around to your way of thinking. Persuade them to walk in yours too, before discussing the uncommon ground!

At Q2Q we use quick-fire versions of this approach for many situations, and we believe that it’s key to ensuring we give the best service to our clients. We strive not only to see things from their perspective, but to understand what’s important to them and what they value – keeping the balance right between, technology, economics and psychology.

Whether you’re looking to understand what your IT company should be providing in terms of a holistic approach, or would simply like to understand how to shift the cultural attitude of your own organisation, the kettle is always on at Q2Q HQ, so get in touch with us here.

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube


What do first time buyers have in common with the modern SME?

House keys on desk, first time buyersAs any business owner knows all too well, there’s never a one-size-fits all approach when it comes to managing a team. But, once mastered, such ‘people management’ skills can come into play in all manner of scenarios.

The beauty of this transferable ‘know-how’ is that you never stop honing the perfect approach – and with every new encounter, you become a better manager, colleague, friend and family member. Lorna Stellakis, MD of IT support firm Q2Q, takes a look at this concept in practice.

To set the scene, it’s been an interesting time in the Stellakis household recently. All three of our ‘young adults’ are in various stages of buying their first homes, which is incredibly exciting, a little challenging, and incredibly humbling – in equal measure!

As a blended family, there is quite a broad range of personalities at play, thus making for some very interesting, middle-of-a-pandemic, first-time-buyer experiences across the board – or dining room table, truth be told. And, while you might wonder what this has to do with a leadership blog, I ask you to humour me a little…

The eldest is buying with his girlfriend, a long way from home and – touch wood – it’s been straightforward so far. They’ve managed most of the process independently, with just the occasional phone call for some advice, to gain an understanding of the terminology, or gentle reassurance they are making the right decisions.

Our middle child, meanwhile, is buying with her boyfriend, but has encountered some additional complications that have been challenging – and at times very stressful. However, she has always been extremely resourceful and during this time she’s demonstrated the tenacity to find a way around every problem.

Finally, the youngest is buying on her own and has asked for a lot more ‘hands-on’ support throughout her journey. She’s still in the early stages but is asking a lot of questions and wanting clarification on all terminology and processes already – keen to be thorough in every aspect.

She has spent days pondering the pros and cons of every decision and sought reassurance at various stages of the process. I’ve sat on calls with the mortgage advisor, emailed her solicitor, and translated almost every communication she’s had thus far.

Now, you would be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that the youngest is maybe not as confident or ‘clued-up’ as the elder two, but I’d argue quite the opposite. In truth, she’s simply more hesitant when it comes to risk-taking, and wants to ensure she understands everything fully – prior to committing.

As a parent, adjusting my advisory approach to each child – albeit while explaining the same thing three times – has been an interesting challenge, and one which felt akin to adapting my leadership style back at Q2Q HQ.

When it comes to acting as a mentor, advisor, or simply a parent, it’s important to invest time into understanding how individuals prefer to be managed or helped, and find the right balance of managing vs empowering in order to elicit the best performance from each person.

Some will prefer a structured framework with clear guidelines and continuous support, others will need the overview and a couple of gentle nudges along the way, while a handful might find any kind of direction restricting and prefer a top-level outline of the desired outcome before being left to work out the details for themselves. Much like our three children.

By understanding what approach works best, and for whom, as leaders, we’re then in the strongest position to elicit the very best performance from those around us. And that’s something I’ve always been keen to impress upon the Q2Q family.

That approach is something we like to call ‘technical empathy’.

Rather than looking for a company-wide IT support approach, the Q2Q team is always striving to provide a personalised service for each of our clients’ employees. Naturally, some will be more tech savvy than others, meaning we can include technical data when presenting solutions to an issue, while others simply want the problem to go away – and only need to know that it’s fixed.

It’s our job to find the right balance, get to know the nuances of the teams we work with, and deliver a service which addresses all the factors at play – and for support-led firms like ours, that concept should always be front-and-centre.

In all cases, we make it our mission not only to ‘fix’ problems, but also to educate whenever possible, in order to empower teams to recognise any recurring issues and work with us to deliver basic ‘how to’ guides for common, user-related problems.

Of course, this approach must be sensitive to the individuals because, for many, the world of tech is something they don’t want – or need – to understand in order to do their job. It simply needs to work.

That’s exactly why we work hard behind the scenes to hone those technical empathy skills – using yours truly as the ‘test dummy’ for all communications and guides. As the resident technophobe, my input ensures users are given exactly the right level of support to fix their problem – and makes them feel as though they’ve learned something too!

While the ‘nuts and bolts’ of IT might not be my strong point, leadership and team motivation is something I know and love. So, if you’re a leader wondering if your communication style could do with a shake-up, or considering how to get the most out of your teams post-lockdown, I’d be more than happy to jump on a video call to share ideas and inspiration. Get in touch to set up a time!

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.

 


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube


cards leaning on a wire rack, invested in something thats not working

Are you too invested to let go of something that’s simply not working?

cards leaning on a wire rack, invested in something thats not working

Whether it be personal or professional, we all know the feeling of clinging on to something that we just need to let go of. Often though, it feels like so much time or money has been spent on said investment, that it’s too tough to simply pull the plug. Here, managing director of Q2Q IT, Lorna Stellakis, explores why it’s important to make a clean break.

While Coronavirus has left many business owners reassessing investments across their entire firm, the team at Q2Q HQ – from our own virtual workspaces – has been discussing the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ recently.

And specifically in relation to how much time we spend when it comes to fixing a piece of hardware – and whether it’s truly worth the hassle.

Generally, there is a misconception that you make rational decisions based on the future value of objects, assets, and experiences. However, the truth is that your choices can be tainted by emotional outlays you accumulate over time – and the more you invest in something, the harder it becomes to abandon it.

Humans are subconsciously programmed to avoid failures of any kind, and the prospect of loss can be a more powerful motivator on your behaviour than the promise of gains. In fact, several studies claim that the possible pay-off needs to be double the potential loss for many people to make a change.

As an example, have you ever been to the cinema and realised, 15 minutes into a film, that you’re just not going to enjoy it, yet you stay to the end because you’ve paid for the tickets? Or, you’ve bought a sandwich that tasted pretty bland but have still eaten the whole thing because you were hungry and didn’t want to waste the money or food?

While minor, these are great examples of the ‘sunk cost fallacy’ – almost like payments or investments that can never be recovered or enjoyed. A computer program with logical process would never ‘make a decision’ based on what’s already been invested, but as an emotional human we usually do.

Perhaps a more relatable – but less talked about – example is of a long-term relationship, whether that be a business one or a personal one. If we focus on the corporate relationship, it may be a service provider you’ve had a contract with for a while. You’ve spent months, or even years, devoting time and money to the partnership – but, it’s not quite living up to expectations.

Things might be okay – but is this really, well, okay? It might have all started well, but you’re having some concerns and the third-party doesn’t seem as invested in the alliance as much as you are, or even worse, the service has deteriorated yet you’re not privy to any explanation why.

At the same time, the thought of moving to a new provider might not really seem like an option. You’ve invested into the partnership, understand how each other works, and they know your business well. All this can make the fears associated with the potential upheaval of moving to a new supplier simply too ‘unknown’ to contemplate changing.

However, if we look at it from a different angle; time has passed, the money and energy has been spent and you’ll never get any of it back. If you can accept this, you’ll be able to make peace with what’s gone before and move on to something that will serve you better in the future.

This attitude and awareness will inevitably help you to make better decisions moving forward, and it’s something we embrace at Q2Q – both internally across our own practices, and when advising customers on the right hardware too.

The ‘sunk cost fallacy’ manifests itself in many ways amongst our customers – old and new – but we regularly receive feedback that they wished they had changed IT support provider months, or even years ago.

If you feel like you’re harbouring a love for some outdated IT infrastructure, and want to explore what the grass might look like on the other side of the hill, find out more about Q2Q IT, here: https://www.q2q-it.com/

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


Investing minutes - Q2Q IT 1

Are you spending time or investing minutes?

Investing minutes - Q2Q IT

While technology is ideal for helping our daily lives run smoothly, there is often nothing better than grabbing a notepad, handful of stationery and finding a quiet corner in which to reflect on what you spend your time working on each month.

And, for boss of Q2Q IT, Lorna Stellakis, it helps to view working minutes as a currency – divvying up each hour as you would a monthly allowance – and ensuring it’s used wisely. However you choose to splash the proverbial ‘cash’ though, it’s important to highlight the difference between spending vs. investing when it comes to time. Here, she explains why.

Put simply, the notion of spending time on a task implies simply ‘getting it done’, whereas seeing your days invested in a project conjures up feelings of futureproofing or a quality output.

And it’s understandably worth approaching each task with the mindset of the latter.

Self-discipline strategist Rory Vaden summed the approach to ‘spending vs investing’ perfectly during a TED Talk, where he challenged us to ask ourselves, ‘What can I do today that will make the future better?’ He refers to people adopting this approach as ‘multipliers’ – meaning that time invested into doing something properly now will pay dividends in the future.

The real-life account

Put into practice, at Q2Q we use this question in our weekly internal customer review meetings – where the team discuss any recurring customer issues and look for patterns and clues to help unearth any underlying problems. From there, we decide on internal actions which might address the root cause of the difficulties.

In the world of IT support, fixing problems for customers is a huge part of what we do – but it’s how we do things differently that really counts.

We actively look to prevent problems – adding value to the customer proposition as well as saving us time in the long-run. We look to identify a permanent fix, as opposed to the sticking plaster approach which won’t prevent the issue from reappearing.

The team is always so busy, that even when we’re making small talk on the phone – before and after getting to the crux of the dilemma – it could be seen as detracting from time which could be spent fixing the problem.

However, five minutes of chit-chat is actually investing time into the customer relationship and getting to know our clients. Something which pays us back several times over as the connection develops and trust is built.

How does it work away from the office?

I frequently translate this principle into my personal life too. For example, I gave up horse riding over a year ago following a scary incident that caused me to lose my confidence. Being very busy with family and running Q2Q, I delayed getting back into the saddle as I felt it was a frivolous use of my time – especially if I was going to spend the whole time worrying about a similar incident happening again.

However, I was really missing the horses – and the exercise – so I decided to approach it from a different perspective. I now view it as investing the time doing something that takes me out of my comfort zone and giving my brain a much-needed break from thinking about a million other things.

As such, the couple of hours a week I spend on the horse have massively benefited my confidence and given me the courage to try things I perhaps wouldn’t have otherwise done. Not only that, but it’s a good CTRL+ALT+DEL for the mind, as it’s really hard to think about anything else when you’re communicating with such an intelligent beast. I therefore view it as investing my time for a greater purpose.

So, during your next team meeting, consider if you’re going to be spending time discussing issues, or investing time in brainstorming how to solve, improve, or better still, eradicate the procrastination. Are you using words that suggest you’re heading for a solution, or simply thrashing out a problem and acknowledging that it exists?

Can you rethink how you spend some of your day, and view the time as an investment? What would you do differently if you approached it from this alternative lens? While our bread and butter is IT support, if you’d like to chat about the unique approach we take to tech services at Q2Q, or simply invest some time in making connections with a SME owner, give us a shout!


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME advice

Why focusing on habits is better than the end-goal

habits, Q2Q IT - tech support - SME advice

At the turn of 2020, no business owner could have imagined the challenges facing them in the months ahead.

But, as the UK looks to drag itself headlong into ‘the new normal’, owner of Q2Q IT, Lorna Stellakis, believes it’s important not to get too caught up in ‘the end goal’ – instead focus on the driving force behind your SME’s corporate ambition.

Here, she explains why the key to success in business – and at home – is a willingness to learn.

I try to read a book every couple of weeks, and one that had a huge impact on me earlier this year was, ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear.

Dubbed ‘a comprehensive guide on how to change your behavioural patterns and get one per cent better every day’, the novel has got me thinking about how business owners the world over are making hard-and-fast plans for the next six months.

It resonates on a personal level too, and it felt as if James was talking to me directly with every turn of the page. So much so, that I’ve already implemented some of the publication’s key principles at Q2Q HQ in recent months.

How do I know what business targets to set?

Like every company, we gave ourselves some pretty ambitious goals at the start of our financial year – and you might be forgiven for thinking that most of those had gone completely out of the window as a result of COVID-19. But you would be wrong.

The majority of targets were focused on customer satisfaction and improving how we operate as a team, in terms of all-things IT support.

To ensure we have a constant reminder of what we’re trying to achieve whenever we’re in the office, our objectives have been translated into wall graphics for the entire workforce to see – as well as taking pride of place as my desktop background.

Although, those aspirations aren’t solely what drive our 9-5.

Where ‘Atomic Habits’ resonated with me, was by highlighting that although the end-goal will always be important, once you’ve identified a focus, the most important thing is to create the right daily, weekly or monthly lifestyles that offer the opportunity to translate ‘the dream’ into a reality.

An easily relatable scenario is when you have a fitness goal. Let’s imagine you’re new to jogging and want to complete a 5km Parkrun. However, at present, you can only sprint for a minute before needing to revert to a steady walk.

Completing the entire 3.1 miles at full power might seem like a stretch on week one. Plus, if you were to think about it every single day, you’d probably end up feeling overwhelmed or disheartened with what might seem like an unattainable result.

Therefore, a simple but effective strategy is to establish what behaviours would help you become your own answer to Usain Bolt – and focus solely on those. For example:

  1. Train for 30 minutes, three days a week – even if this is simply a fast walk for most of it
  2. Gradually increase your sprints by 30 seconds each time – so run for 60 seconds on day one, 90s on day two and 120s day three.

In reality, all you’re doing is adding half a minute of running each day, but by breaking down the components of your goal – while bolstering your own resilience – it makes your initial aim much more achievable, and realistic.

But how can I deliver on my SME’s plans?

From a business perspective, one of my own intentions for 2019 was to become a trustee for a local charitable organisation. It was important for me to do something positive for the community in Lancaster.

Prior to lockdown, it was clear the best way to accomplish this was by networking as much as possible locally and within the wider North West – which also proved to help Q2Q. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I set myself a minimum number of networking events to attend, researched all the options out there, and booked on to those most suitable, trusting this would help me realise the overall goal.

When it came to each gathering, I didn’t focus on the overarching driver behind my attendance, instead it was about turning up with an open mind and a desire to meet new friends, make connections and enjoy a spot of socialising.

Nine months in and the face-to-face meet-ups came to an abrupt halt as a result of lockdown. Yet, thanks to all the amazing people I have met, I’ve not only been invited to many more events – during and post-lockdown – but I am proud to confirm that I am now officially a trustee for the Lancashire Association of Boys and Girls Clubs, which is an absolute honour.

Although it was never part of the original ‘plan’, a presence at events led to us landing two new customers and a couple more in the pipeline – with three further prospects currently undergoing an initial IT audit. All of which are a great by-product of the original goal!

A solution which works

We applied this ‘habits strategy’ to all our aspirations this year – before, during and hopefully following the pandemic – and I believe it’s made a huge difference. It took the pressure off the end-objective and allowed us to implement some really simple, easy-to-maintain approaches that have benefitted us in more ways than one – and haven’t felt like a chore!

So, if you’re an SME owner wondering how best to tackle the coming months, perhaps this could be a great approach? As we enter this phase of relative uncertainty, many of us will be thinking about how we can do things differently, and maybe several habitual routines will ensure you stay on track beyond the first few weeks!


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


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Focusing on your strengths can help to eradicate your weaknesses

woman watching a webinar, virtualAs humans we can’t help but focus on our limitations – and how me might overcome or compensate for them – rather than developing our strengths.

The lockdown imposed by COVID-19 has put self-criticism firmly in the spotlight, particularly for those who are working from home – or colleagues who are being furloughed. Here, Lorna Stellakis, boss of tech support firm Q2Q IT, considers why focussing on the positives can be the most effective form of motivation.

All too often, businesses look to ‘fix’ what they perceive as employee weakness. Firms analyse performance, people, and processes in order to identify areas where results aren’t being delivered – wrongly assuming that areas of strong performance are okay, and therefore don’t need any consideration.

However, by focusing on the negatives, over time a lengthy list of ‘business improvements needed’ can emerge, and the resulting projects which seek to tackle this deficit often cause problems within an organisation.

A widely-used tool to measure strengths and weaknesses is often referred to as the ‘current reality chart’. This method lists areas which are key to success, and rates them out of five – zero for not happening at all, and full-marks if they’re totally fabulous.

Traditionally, the next step would be to examine areas which need to be improved and work out what action is required in order to get the scores higher. However, if a business functions in this way, the impact on a team culture can become very negative over a prolonged period.

The “what isn’t working?” approach can lead to questions around, “what went wrong?” and “who is to blame?”. This attitude can foster a serious blame culture, which soon spirals into employees becoming defensive and silos being created. In time, this can destroy even the most financially successful business.

At Q2Q, we do things a little differently.

We channel our efforts into looking at the areas that are going well – and analyse why they are flourishing. For example, when we win a new client, part of the onboarding process is to identify any synergies with an existing customer. Then, during our weekly customer review meeting, we’ll ask questions such as:

1)         What strengths are we displaying when dealing with this customer’s issues? 

2)         What processes do we have in place that work well?

3)         What key business problems have we resolved using better IT solutions? 

4)         Who is involved – internally and from the client-side? 

5)         What’s great about how we interact and communicate? 

6)         How have we demonstrated value to this organisation? 

7)         What information have we provided to enable them to better understand their equipment?

By using this approach, we determine the key ingredients of what success looks like, so that we can replicate as much of it as possible for the new customer.

Once the new project is up-and-running, we reflect on everything that went well during the set-up phase. Firstly, we consider what we did well in order to ensure the team dynamic is positive and collaborative from the outset. We then move on to discuss what might have gone better, but by bearing in mind the things which were a resounding success, we are able to use those strengths to unlock how we might improve.

Once areas for potential development are identified, we again look for similar examples on other projects. These identify the vital ingredients needed to optimise our current offering, and apply them to our new customer.

A positive approach – through focusing on strengths – completely alters the dynamics of a discussion. The team will be far more open to find improvement, as they already feel they have the strengths and methods needed, rather than feeling they are being examined for weaknesses and flaws – or at worst being blamed for problems and having to defend themselves.

I use this method when coaching on a one-to-one basis. By encouraging people to identify and appreciate their strengths – and question how they could apply them in a seemingly unrelated area of perceived weakness – can make a significant difference to their success.

Put simply, use the tools you have at your disposal, and adapt them to fix a problem. By not wasting time worrying about any tools you don’t have, you might find that you don’t even need them in order to get the results you’re looking for.

Whether you’re striving to understand what your IT company should be providing in terms of a holistic approach – or would simply like to understand how to shift the cultural attitude of your own organisation – the kettle is always on a Q2Q HQ, so get in touch with us here.

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.


woman-on-computer

Why not knowing anything about IT, makes you good at IT...

woman-on-computer

When it comes to success in business, they say that knowledge is power – but knowledge of what, exactly? Often, that is never truly clarified. Can you really run a successful IT support company without knowing the intricacies of the cyber world and the threats orbiting it?

This notion is one that particularly rings true for the managing director of Lancashire-based IT support provider Q2Q, Lorna Stellakis, who is convinced that her minimal knowledge of the complex IT world is not only contributing to making her business highly successful, but is what sets it aside from the raging wave of competition. Here, Lorna explains why in greater depth…

At this point in the Digital Age, IT has been evolving at a rapid rate.

And with all modern-day businesses relying upon the power of the internet and computer-driven systems to efficiently carry out their day-to-day operations, it’s crucial that the expert teams behind the scenes are able to deliver solutions that keep everything in working order. But the truth is, there’s so much more to the successful IT equation than just the technical industry knowledge. Understanding people and business objectives plays a huge part in solving the puzzle, and this how the management team at Q2Q identified an opportunity to take IT support to the next level.

Looking at the headlines from the past twelve months, we can clearly see a pattern – the focus on IT and GDPR-related news has augmented, and the tempest of data breach stories shows no sign of relenting. With household brands such as British Airways, Google and Marriott International all falling victim to cyber-criminals’ attempts to access and compromise data, for smaller companies it can sometimes feel like they don’t stand a chance, when it comes to implementing effective and impenetrable digital defense measures. But how wrong this mentality is.

For many SME’s, dealing with IT can be daunting – it’s not their area of expertise, and they are often concerned that they could be persuaded to pay for solutions that aren’t needed. We find that a surprising amount of the time, employees who have no IT-related qualification – or indeed any prior dealings with this side of operations – are tasked with championing the internal strategy and expected to know how to fix issues when they arise. But the shocking element is not the fact that these people have no experience in this field, it is that they haven’t been asked the necessary questions from neither their internal IT staff members nor their outsourced support team – and that’s a recipe for digital disaster.

Q2Q was created in 2004 by a small team, armed with years of specialist experience, who had grown increasingly frustrated by the lack of plain-speaking, honest and affordable support services available to small and medium sized organisations. This then acted as a stimulus, as they set out to change the way IT assistance was offered to SMEs – omitting the baffling jargon and making it about what companies need. And that’s where my knowledge deficiency renders an advantage.

Two years ago when I first became involved with Q2Q, it was predominantly to look at some of the internal processes and the people-development side of the business. One could argue that because I didn’t possess the background knowledge of the sector, I wouldn’t be able to deliver on the outcomes, but having started my career working for a clothing retailer – where I was a small cog in the wheel that planned, designed, sourced, manufactured and delivered clothing – I knew this to be different. I was officially responsible for only a small portion of the process, but because I felt compelled to understand how everyone else’s role contributed to the lifecycle of the garments, I could make more informed decisions in my own area, that consequently benefitted the company. This broadening-your-view type of approach is therefore how you can skip the technical knowledge part and get under the skin of the system, or business, at hand.

Businesses tend to focus on weak-points and try to find a quick-win solution.

How we work is to look at the strengths and try to work out how they can be applied to an area of weakness, as this can often render the weakness irrelevant. Of course, our technical experts are there to deal with complex issues as well as constantly on the lookout for emerging technologies or solutions that will help organisations reduce costs, work smarter and grow, but what use is a team of cyber professionals that cannot effectively communicate with our customers? That’s why our recruitment is not centered around technical ability alone – attitude and experience are also key.

So, how is this relevant to IT support? Well, it’s all about getting to know a business – including broader challenges not within the systems and IT category. By understanding what companies’ challenges are, unearthing their preferred ways of working, and most notably what’s important to them, our tech team can then work on what solutions will help achieve their overall business goals.  Now, I may not have the IT knowledge, but that is certainly not to say that Q2Q is run by non-techies, on the contrary – we have a team of dedicated digital-savvy professionals.

The harmony of technology, economics and psychology is not only what makes our approach to IT very different to the norm, but it’s what makes my not-knowing-anything-about-IT statement justified.

In reality, the fact that I know nothing, or very little, about IT is actually an added strength for our business and our clients, by asking questions that a typical techie wouldn’t necessarily think of, we can deliver far better technical solutions and services.

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITAbout the author

Lorna Stellakis

OWNER / MANAGING DIRECTOR 

My role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.