Name: Elaine Maddison
Role: CEO of Scottish AWS partner Brightsolid
Context: Cloud services specialist Brightsolid employs around 50 staff, with datacentres in Aberdeen and Dundee. Maddison has been CEO for two years.
How did you get into the IT sector, and what led you to occupy your current role?
Before joining Brightsolid at the beginning of 2019, I spent 20 years in the UK financial services industry, working across a range of wide range of disciplines including technology and change, operations, risk management and marketing/product development. I spent the last three years prior to joining Brightsolid heavily involved in M&A activities, leading various business teams through transformational change - I'm passionate about getting change right and people are at the centre of that! The CEO role at Brightsolid was a case of perfect timing - I always knew I wanted to move into this type of leadership role, and I had a unique insight into the business as a previous customer, so it felt like the right fit. I've been able to bring my passion into my role at Brightsolid by leading the ongoing transformation of the company's technology and service delivery offerings.
Career highlight so far:
There have been a few along the way, but the highlight for me was my first time leading an acquisition. The acquisition was strategically important to the organisation and I'd been asked by the Chief Executive to lead it - I didn't have much support from the wider executive team who didn't think we could pull it off as we were the underdog, however we built rapport with the sell-side team and used that insight to shape and support our bid. I was standing in London City Airport with a colleague when we got the call to say we were the preferred bidder, and it was one of the proudest moments of my career. It was important for all sorts of reasons, but I'd put my heart and soul into it, and it paid off.
Who is your role model?
I'm not sure I have one specific role model, but I've been lucky enough throughout my career to learn from some of the best and, some of the worst. I'm a great believer that knowing who you're not is just as important as knowing who you are and that all experiences - good and bad - help you figure that out, if only you are prepared to learn from them. I'm surrounded by a smallish circle of family and friends who are grounded, genuine and fun to be with - that's my real inspiration.
What are the key business benefits of having a diverse workforce?
Put simply - diversity drives progress and performance. It allows us to look at our ideas, plans and decisions from all angles so we see things in a clear and balanced way, close down any gaps in our thinking and improve our execution! Gender diversity is a hot topic and rightly so, but it is not the only marker of a diverse workforce. We also need to do better across the board by extending talent recruitment beyond the traditional means to be truly inclusive.
What's your top tip for tech providers that are serious about tackling their gender or diversity deficit?
It's clear that gender equality is good for everyone - not just individuals, but for businesses as well. But looking beyond gender will be vital for the success of our sector in Scotland as we need to consider diversity of background and thought as factors that are just as important factors. Recognising people on the basis of their talent - regardless of gender - will lead to more productive work environments.
What is your advice to women and girls thinking about a career in the channel?
Don't question it. Technology is everywhere and the industry is a fun, dynamic and challenging place to be. There's a myriad of ways to get involved and build a fantastic career in tech - I started off life as an IT programmer then moved into change management, then operational management ….now I'm the CEO of a cloud services business.
Who is your career mentor?
I don't have a career mentor right now, but over the years I've kept in touch with a number of leaders who have inspired and supported me along the way and I often contact them to ask advice or to seek counsel. My last formal mentor was Katherine Garrett-Cox who at the time was the chief executive of Alliance Trust PLC. Katherine is an authentic leader who embraces her whole self and encourages others to do the same - she inspired me to always be myself, but a little bit braver.
Do you think the IT industry's gender diversity deficit - and diversity deficit more widely - warrants highlighting?
Absolutely! Until we're confident that we have it right, we must keep this on the agenda and continue to encourage, inspire and believe in women to make a difference in tech.