Meet the people who help our clients design and build innovative technology solutions to benefit their businesses as well as their customers: our subject matter experts aka SMEs. In this series, we’ll discover how they came to work in the industry and the changing role of technology in our lives. We’ll also get a glimpse into what makes them tick as people outside of work.
In this round of Meet the SME, we are joined by our People Director for EMEA, Leane Collins. Leane joined Endava recently and brings in a fresh and thoughtful view on how we can be and do the best for the people we engage with – and she has a track record of being adaptable in both the personal and professional space.
It’s great to have you here, Leane. What has brought you into the tech industry and the people space?
Without a doubt, it has always been about the people. I have worked in the tech industry for most of my career in the People function and feel very lucky indeed to have been able to work for and with so many talented people. I love the pace of the industry and the learning opportunities that the constant evolution brings, and I feel most at home in this environment.
What has been the biggest innovation since you have been working in the industry?
I have always been passionate about doing things simply and using technology to automate and digitise many of our processes. I have been interested in RPA (Robotic Process Automation), and I think that there are many ways in which we shift from manual high-touch, yet lower-value activities to a more agile, low-touch digital journey for the processes that impact people operations. This ultimately helps us to free up time and create a better people experience for everyone. I see opportunities to do things better, smarter, faster, and there are so many great options available to help enhance our engagement with the people that we serve.
What makes you proud of your work and why?
I enjoy seeing my team be successful in their work and relationships, and it is my role to ensure that we operate effectively and create a climate where people thrive, learn and can do their best work. I enjoy seeing people develop personally and professionally, and occasionally, we can hope that something we’ve done has been a catalyst for that development.
The People function is a key interface between the business orientation of the employer and the personal orientation of the employees. Could you give an example of how we can balance the different needs and ensure that the company is providing a good work-life experience?
I think first and foremost, we are all here to help make the business in which we work successful as that brings benefits and opportunities to our teams, our customers and the communities in which we live. Our role in the People function is to keep the people lens alive and create a culture where people can do their best work. That can mean different things to different people, and in valuing and sustaining a healthy culture, our role is to influence others through discussions, programmes and the occasional policy to hold everyone to a high standard when it comes to ‘setting the tone’ and championing the environment we want to be part of.
One example might be that if someone struggles with social anxiety, perhaps scheduling meetings slightly later in the day to enable them to travel outside of peak hours may be beneficial for that person. Individual needs may not always be obvious, but if we keep an open mind about how we deliver work outcomes, then it is a win-win situation for both the business and the individual.
Working with people in IT, where did you experience a challenge? And even more importantly, what did you learn from it?
I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work in a multicultural environment, and navigating cultures has always been a positive challenge – trying to decipher what someone really means is something that takes work. For example, I learned very early on that the directness of a Dutch team is normal. Perhaps in the early days, I might have been offended, whereas now I just chuckle and think, “Well, I might not have put it quite like that, but...” I also had a wonderful business partner in Sweden, and I learned over the years to check back in a couple of days after we thought we had decided something. Once the idea had been digested, what he really thought was often a bit different from what I took away from the initial discussion!
In working with IT people specifically (those people mentioned were in IT too), I have also learned that engineers usually want a lot more detail than I might otherwise include in my communications. So, there are differences to be cognisant about and embraced in every situation.
Now, we’d like to ask a few more personal questions… If you were not working as People Director at Endava, what would you be doing instead?
There are many things that I think I would probably enjoy – I possibly would have loved to do something with property development as I relish the feeling of getting something done and making an overall improvement. I also might have liked to have studied architecture or economics. I enjoy the field I’m in though (most of the time)!
What topic could you give a 20-minute presentation on without any preparation?
I’m a parent to three girls, two of which came along at once, and I could talk extensively about what it’s like to bring home two babies and try to juggle everything. It was a major life change for myself and my husband, and hopefully, we learned a thing or two along the way that might be useful to others in a similar situation.
What was something you thought would be easy until you tried it?
I decided that I might try to “upcycle” a piece of furniture, and I was super enthusiastic about how it was going to turn out and spent a small fortune on chalk paints, wax, brushes etc. It took a lot longer than I thought it would, my enthusiasm waned very quickly, and when I had finished, I sheepishly asked for help to move that piece of furniture into the garage where it has sat ever since.
If you could go back in time and visit any historic period, where – or rather when – would you go?
If I could travel in time, I would love to go back 100 years, just to get to know my grandparents better and understand their character and temperament when they were young. I’m sure I might learn a thing or two.
Finally, would you share a favourite quote with us to send our readers off with some inspiration?
Treat others as you would wish to be treated.
Big thanks to Leane for joining us, it’s been great. Stay tuned for more insights into the work and life of Endavans in the next parts of our Meet the SME series.
PEOPLE DIRECTOR, EMEALeane has been working in the tech sector as a people leader for 20+ years, and her mission has been to have a strategic impact, champion the people agenda to foster engagement, great people practices and, in turn, create long-term business value in a culture where people thrive. As People Director at Endava, she is responsible for our People strategy, leading a team across Europe that drives and delivers on our talent acquisition plans, total rewards, mergers and acquisitions and HR operational effectiveness. As a mum to a competitive swimmer, Leane’s evenings and weekends are usually spent next to a swimming pool. When not there, she enjoys sampling the culinary talents of her other daughters who have a passion for cooking.
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