So our Head of Production Michaela caught up with one of our panelists at #WinTec16 David Andrade, Head of Technology at William Hill to discuss leadership, mentorship and company culture.
Here's their conversation:
Q: What is your professional background?
A: All my professional career has been in Technology, more specifically in software development. After starting my career as a software developer, I moved on to more leadership focused roles and really enjoyed it, taking me to Head of Technology at William Hill today.
Q: What skills do you need to possess as a leader?
A: As a leader in any field you need to have a wide variety of skills, technical skills like domain and business knowledge are always helpful as it puts you in a position where you can be part of most conversations that your teams have.
The leaders I tend to admire though, are the ones with vision and relentless drive to do more, not for themselves but for the people around them and the business a whole. Leadership is about people, if your teams are inspired and motivated, business success is around the corner.
Q: What sets apart a good leader from a great leader?
A: Great leaders care and they care deeply. They put the group ahead of the individuals and they put others ahead of themselves. You can have managers that are decent at their job even if they aren’t passionate about it because it is about organising and assessing risks. Great leaders however, inspire the ones around them showing passion and drive everyday.
Q: Did you have a mentor or seek advice from like minded individuals when pursuing your career?
A: I have a lot of people to thank for being where I am today and I try to remind them of that often. From an early age I have had different people mentor me or help me to improve. A great part of the drive that I have today comes from examples during my youth, people that pushed me to go further. I would say “I’m lucky because people around me expect nothing but excellence from me”.
Now, I’m lucky to work and have worked with people that advise me in different ways and get me wondering wether I’m doing the right thing or not. Having someone that will tell you things like they are regardless of you liking it or not is important. At different stages in your life and career you need different advice and maybe different mentors, the trick is to know who to listen and look up to at a given time.
Q: What is your idea of a great culture for a company to have?
A: There are a few things that I believe should be part of any company’s culture and I try to foster those in every company I work for. All the classics like productivity, excellence, fun and care. Although the main point for each company is to understand what their own culture is or should be. A few years ago, many tech companies tried to copy Google’s culture and failed miserably, exactly because company culture is unique to the environment, the business and the people in each place.
Q: What environment do you think people excel in?
A: People excel when they are challenged, empowered and supported. Everyone has different strengths, getting people to excel is about helping them to understand what those are and helping them grow. If your people are growing and working towards excellence, then your business is too. At the end of the day, excellence is a mindset and once individuals, teams or organisations have it, they flourish naturally.
Q: How do you develop a successful team in tech?
A: The first thing to do is to define success itself. Success is a broad word and can have different meanings for different teams, businesses and environments. Once you define what success looks like for you, your team or company, look for continuous improvement in as many areas as possible to get there. One of my favourite challenges is to transform underperforming teams into high performing teams, in most cases these teams don’t know what their “why” really is. They know what tasks they have to do but not exactly why they get together to do it, the bigger picture. Make sure you find the “why”, then work relentless until your team gets it and it’s shared by everyone. Once the message gets across and is part of the day to day, the team will naturally drive success.
Q: What advice would you have for retaining your best people?
A:Treat people as people, never as “resources”. Everyone wants to grow, improve and work in a happy and challenging environment. If people see that their leaders work towards creating a great environment and care about everyone’s development as much as their own, they will go the extra mile and want to stay to improve. It is a lot about getting people to enjoy the process and the path to success, always looking ahead to what’s next.
We all like to belong in a group, it is human nature, a great retention plan is to create a good environment and great teams.
Q: What resources do you use for your own personal development?
A: I’m always looking to step up my own level, this includes working on different roles, with different people and a lot of effort to learn on my own time. I like reading books about business and leadership, attending courses like a recent executive course I’ve completed and any other activities that might give me new ideas or make me better in any way.
It is important to have a plan with dates. Many people go through their career doing okay and not great because they go with the flow instead of chasing and designing the path they want to follow. I like setting myself goals, when I achieve those goals, I set new ones and I’m never fully satisfied with myself.
Q: What is your opinion on the gender pay gap?
A: It is a sad reality. I hope we will soon live in a world where regardless of your gender, culture, religion or any other, you get paid on merit. Hopefully the younger generations think this way and with more women in leadership positions, the gender gap will actually disappear.
Q: How can companies encourage the next generation, especially girls, to choose a career in tech?
A: Tech is a really trendy career these days, due to all successful entrepreneurs, the huge rise of tech companies and the fact that technology is a great part of our lives. As in many other things in life, stereotypes were created that tech is for men or that it is a “geeky” career.
There are many companies now starting diversity programs to get more girls to pursue technology careers, we should keep pushing for all these initiatives like Women in Tech until all of this becomes a non-subject and the number of men and women is levelled in tech.
It is important that companies understand that there is a need to work with schools at an early age to encourage this though, as our interactions at an early age influence what choices we make later on.
Thank you so much David for taking the time to chat with us, we look forward to seeing you on the 27th October for the panel on Mentorship & Business Education, Women of Silicon Roundabout #2.