RPS Insight caught up with our Operations Manager Katy Reeves to find out more about her experience and views on the current challenges and developments in our market place.
What is your background and how did you come to work at Reed Professional Services?
I started off at University initially studying theatre and stage management. So completely different! I only did about six months there and then realised that everything we’d covered at college, I’d already taught myself. I just didn’t really find it appealing any more. So I thought, ‘Maybe I’ll just get a job instead.’ I obviously didn’t really have any experience. I started off just as an office junior.
It just went from there. I then ended up being a PA, like the team secretary, and then went to work for a really tiny management consultancy as a PA/Office Manager. Then the girl who did all of the finance side went on Mat Leave, so I ended up picking up like some of that work and started to understand that side of things. From there a friend I used to work with previously called me and said, ‘I’ve just started this new business, would you fancy coming over for an interview? It’s not a PA role and it’s not an admin role it’s PMO. They don’t have a PMO currently, they want to establish one. How do you feel about coming in and starting to be part of that?’
Initially it was very much looking after things in-house, sorting out how they were tracking their projects. I think having been a PA and having seen a lot of how businesses work, understanding organisations and how everything fits together, kind of gave me a good standing, plus having done some finance stuff, it all fitted really, really quickly. That grew from being two of us to then hiring more people and I ended up running the team which eventually grew into an Ops role. This involved supporting our finance team and helping them to apply their financial planning in a more like business-forward, operational way, in terms of what the clients and our projects needed and bridging that gap between what the business was doing, and what our projects and the project managers were doing. I think quite a few people felt it disconnected, so my role became being that person who was knitting everything together.
What is it about PMO and Operations in particular that you’re drawn to?
I really like finance, but I find that actual like accounting finance is a little bit… I don’t know, there’s no practical application, whereas with PMO you can physically see in the practical side of it, and transactions taking place in the form of people. You’re delivering something, and the PMO is helping to make the very best of what the business is delivering in order to provide a great service. I think it’s about servicing the internal customers so that they can go out and provide a great service, then, to their customers. I find that perfecting that process is really interesting as well.
What would you say has been the most satisfying part of your career to date?
Well that’s kind of tricky. Probably when I was at the company that I worked for previously. They didn’t follow a process for doing all of their financial forecasting, everything was being done in Excel. It was all very time-consuming. We had a system that was already in place, but no one was using it, because no one trusted it. For me it was about managing to take the business on a journey, both from the practice leads, as well as the project managers, as well as finance, to actually moving everyone away from their spreadsheets and actually plugging that into a system. From there I then convinced the business to then move that process away from my team to a team offshore, so that my team could then go and pick up more customer-focussed stuff. It was satisfying in the sense that it wasn’t something that I was initially asked to do, but when it happened enabled the business to progress into the next stage.
And what would you say are the biggest challenges that are currently affecting our marketplace?
I think GDPR’s going to have a massive impact. It’s one of those things, again, that at the moment is not really clear in how it will fully impact businesses. I think the focus has been very much on Brexit. Brexit’s taken over everyone’s major thought processes in thinking ‘how do we work as a business under Brexit’? I think, as a result, GDPR has kind of been side-lined, and all of a sudden, it’s, ‘Oh well, it’s May, that’s only four months away.’
I think that’s going to have a huge impact because we work with people and it’s about people and people’s personal data. You can’t help source candidates and support clients in that way, if you can’t hold their personal data in the way you have done previously. So I think that’s going to be a real issue across this market place, if it’s not managed correctly. Luckily both Reed and Reed Professional Services are already doing a lot of work to manage this change. It’ll be interesting to see how organisations, for instance sites like LinkedIn, deal with the changes because at the moment there’s a huge amount of people’s personal data on LinkedIn and a lot of people are using that as their source to search for people. How LinkedIn’s going to deal with that will be really interesting to see.
Following on from that, how do you think this whole marketplace is going to change over the next decade?
I think a lot more people will go towards, I mean we’ve already seen it, LinkedIn in terms of searching for jobs and I guess less going to agencies. I think a lot more probably being approached by agencies as people put their stuff out there on the internet. But then at the same time, it’s really hard to tell whether GDPR could change that, it would then become more restrictive on what they put out now.
It will be really interesting to see which way it goes in the sense that Millennials and the next generations are now coming through on their phones and the internet and are less likely to want to talk to a person.
It will be interesting to see how things are affected as well in terms of how much people will be required to actually physically be in a location. So where we’re selecting people to be based on projects in Manchester or Peterborough, in the future will that be a thing? Will it matter? Can you be on a beach in Bali and you can still do a great job as a developer and the rest of your team who you never meet in person but you’ll have a stand-up every day, still? I don’t know, it’ll be really interesting to see.
Lastly, can you tell us what individual has inspired you most in your career and why?
Yes, there’s a guy called Ben Hunt-Davis, who is an Olympic rower, I think the Men’s Eights, and they won Gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and it was going to be the very, very last time they were going to row as the team. Up until then they’d never won Gold although they’d come really close, I think in the previous Olympics the other boat had beaten them by just millimetres. They knew that when they went to Sydney, that was going to be it. They worked really closely with sports psychologists and all sorts of different people and Davis has since written a book which is called, Will it Make the Boat Go Faster? Basically in the period of time leading up to training, the whole way through training and then up to the Olympics, if it didn’t make the boat go faster, he didn’t do it. Obviously, it was really extreme. So things like his children’s birthday parties, he didn’t go to it because when he sat down and said, ‘Will it make the boat go faster?’ It didn’t, so he wasn’t going to go.
So yes this was really, really extreme but, I think, within Operations and within PMO, it’s always really easy to get distracted or absorbed by something else and then the attention gets turned away from what you should actually be trying to achieve as a team. I think it’s quite a good metaphor as well, will it make the boat go faster? Will we, as a team, get to where we need to get to if we do get distracted by suddenly looking at that? If that is going to help, then absolutely we should go and do it. If it doesn’t, there’s no harm in saying, ‘No, I’m sorry, that doesn’t help me, or my team meet its objectives.’ I’ve found that really, really helpful over the last couple of years.