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A Q&A WITH MELISSA HENDRY

Thursday 16th August 2018
Tags: guest blog

In this Q&A we hear from Melissa Hendry. Melissa is Operations Director at two start-ups in the North and has recently been shortlisted at this year's Forward Ladies Awards and Summit in the STEM Rising Star category. Here she tells us more about her career journey, challenges facing start-ups and some of the great Women in STEM initiatives taking place in Leeds...

What has been your career path so far?
I graduated in Events Management from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2004 and took 6 months off to travel. In 2005 I joined aql, a Leeds based, innovative, Telecommunications Operator and Technical Enabler. I was promoted to Operations Manager in 2006 and appointed as Operations Director in 2010.

Joining ZiMovi in 2015, In early 2016 we entered into a Joint Venture with VSTE and I Joined VSTE as Operations Director full-time in January 2017. I currently split my time between Leeds and Manchester.


Your current role see’s you as operations director at VST Enterprises and ZiMovi can you tell us more about these businesses and who they are aimed at?
VST Enterprises are the creators of VCode®, which is the next generation of code scanning technology, utilised to authenticate and deliver bespoke, permission-based content and to protect against fraud in many sectors. From bespoke content, video and secure document delivery, end-to-end supply chain traceability, charitable giving transactions and content delivery, the VCode® is an entirely closed loop, permission-based code which provide full user analytics, managed from the VPlatform and API set. 



ZiMovi is an online video hosting platform that combines video analytics and digital marketing solutions such as enhanced call-to-action overlays on videos and integrated user-generated video questionnaires. These tools allow video owners to interact with their audience and understand who their audience is and not just if they watch or like a video. Our clients range from big brands, digital agencies, Internal comms managers through to video makers & their clients.




 As Operations Director, what does your role entail?

As Operations Director, I’m responsible for the day-to-day operational management of the companies; overseeing a wide range of processes across all departments, including security and risk auditing, policy creation, strategic planning and key project delivery, which play a vital role in securing future business growth.

What do you enjoy most about your role?
I love the versatility and dynamics of the role. I get to wear many hats. Being involved in the day to day operations to ensure everything is running smoothly, whilst forward planning processes, technical development and the implementation of our strategic aims, strikes a great balance. I love problem solving and working in innovate and fast paced environments.

What would you say the biggest challenges affecting start-up growth are at the moment?
There are always challenges and risks when starting a business, however there is a wealth of information and support available to take advantage of; 

 Funding – Cashflow is key when starting and growing a company. Developing a primary MVP and supporting a live operational model requires cashflow. Whilst the traditional methods of funding are still available there are a vast array of other sources now such as crowd funding, private funding via high Net Worth individuals, venture capitalists, grants and innovation loans. 

Workforce Growth – One of the biggest decisions for any start-up is whether to outsource skills. Both have their benefits but ultimately finding and retaining talent is required and can be a challenge in itself, especially when recruiting for roles you may not be experienced in hiring for. Initiatives such as apprenticeships, training plans, flexible working and job sharing all attract and support the people needed to grow with your company. Finding companies that understand your sector and what talent you need to start to bring resource back in house, will be of great benefit.

Diversity & inclusion – Often overlooked in the early years of starting up a business but having a truly diverse and inclusive workplace allows for diverse exchange of opinions and knowledge and will ultimately enrich your company culture and staff engagement. 

Company Structure – Just as lack of funding can be an issue, growing too quickly, taking on too many sales / contracts without the correct operational support can equally stunt a company. Taking the time to integrate core project management, development, sales and support processes that can scale with and underpin growth demands are vital for long term success. Without the correct internal processes and structure, businesses can find themselves stuck in a loop of gaining new sales but not retaining repeat business, which are the most profitable. 


You have recently been shortlisted in The STEM Rising Star category at the Forward Ladies Awards and Summit. Congratulations! Can you tell us more about this and what contributed to your shortlisting?

Thank you. In honesty, I’m not entirely sure however it’s a privilege to be shortlisted alongside such inspiring women! Building a career of over 12 years in the Tech/Digital sector has been a fantastic experience and I love it! There have been challenges but I have been fortunate enough to work for and with people that saw and nurtured my passion, skills and potential.

There are some great initiatives in Leeds empowering Women in STEM. Are there any that particularly stand out for you?
There are lots. There are many inspiring and supportive groups aimed at building networks and skills and championing women in the STEM sector. To name a few;

Empowering women with Tech – Passionate pioneers of women in science and tech. They have a regular meetups.

Hey! Stac – I love the hey! stac format and they always deliver a brilliant and diverse line-up of speakers and topics. Their ‘She does hey!’ event is always a fantastic day and always an early ticket sellout!

Forward ladies –
whilst a national organisation, their regional networking events, training and showcasing of women in business is inspirational 

Technation – A great resource aimed to help people scale up their startup. Tech Nation offer training, tech specific events, resources and access to funding.  

 The fantastic Kane Fulton, from Technation, pulled together a brilliant list of women powering up the Leeds tech / start up scene for international Womens day, which Is a great showcase. Catch it here.

What would your advice be to someone looking to follow a similar career path as yourself?
Connect with people in any way you can. Attend the event, strike up the conversation, listen to a wide range of talks and topics and never turn down an opportunity to learn something new; you never know where those connections, inspirations, conversations and knowledge may lead you. 

What do you think differentiates the Leeds tech scene from other tech hubs in the UK?
Leeds has an incredibly thriving tech scene and most importantly community. There is an amazing number of inspiring and educational, free events held each week in the city, which is incredible. Assisting people to widen their connections, learn from their peers and trailblazing companies and offer environments to forge collaborations is vital. 

You only need to look at the incredible work of the Leeds Digital Festival, where the city came together for two weeks to put on over 150 events covering a multitude of topics, demonstrations of ground-breaking technology and showcasing diversity!

Leeds also have some brilliant initiatives in promoting and nurturing STEM subjects and courses at primary, secondary and higher education; from summer schools, placements, gap-years, workplace outreach and apprenticeships.
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