Bluepoint’s Managing Director Kathryn Aves was put under the spotlight by Inside Networks for their September issue. The magazine’s editor Rob Shepherd caught up with Kathryn to learn more about her life and career, and gain her insights on the issues affecting the network infrastructure industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself – who are you and what do you do?
Hi, I’m Kathryn Aves and I’m a wife and mum of two teenagers and the Managing Director of Bluepoint Technologies. I have been with Bluepoint since its infancy 14 years ago. I originally joined on a part-time basis, as I had a small child at the time and didn’t want to commit to taking on more pressure! I had previously worked within the data industry with various companies, so had experience to offer – and within 18 months I was working full time.
My role has continually evolved over the years, from working on support alongside the sales team to becoming a key account manager. When the business was sold in 2015, I was asked to become Operations Director by the then Managing Director and, when the MD stepped up to become CEO in 2018, I was appointed as the new Managing Director.
What does my day-to-day involve? First and foremost, looking after the team. Beyond that, my day involves liaising with customers and working on policies and procedures. I also look for new products, services or technologies which could benefit our customers, and at how we can go about ensuring the team are properly skilled and trained. I also manage a few key accounts which I continue to work with closely.
Networking is an important part of my role. Whether it’s meeting new people or connecting with existing contacts, I believe it is so important to nurture these key relationships.
Away from work, I live in the countryside with my husband, two teenagers and Patterdale Terrier Lenny. As a family, we love the outdoors. We enjoy downhill mountain biking and adrenaline holidays – we’ve just recently been climbing, caving and abseiling.
I am a keen runner and have twice completed the London Marathon, raising money for Bobath Centre for Children & Adults with Cerebral Palsy. However, only one was in London! The other was around my local roads when the London Marathon went virtual due to COVID-19 and made me a Guinness World Record holder – one of 37,966 – for the most users to run a remote marathon in 24 hours.
Why did you decide to embark on a career in the IT industry?
I sort of fell into it! Growing up I wanted to be a police officer but the opportunities to pursue this were not easily available at the time, so I left school at 16 and started full-time work doing admin in a solicitor’s office. I then joined Drake & Scull Engineering, and it was here that I found a real enjoyment for mechanical and electrical engineering. This led me back to college to do an HND in Business and Finance and into the data cabling industry, which I understood and enjoyed. It’s always evolving, there is always something new to get to grips with and understand – which is probably why I’ve been in data infrastructure ever since!
A big selling point is the diverse nature of the work – every day has the potential to be different! At Bluepoint, for example, we’ve worked in 65 countries, so the industry has provided the opportunity to travel the world.
What differentiates a good installation company from a not so good one?
For me, these are the biggest characteristics defining a good installer. Other considerations include the specific skills, experience and level of professionalism of the installer.
Customer interaction is an extremely important factor. Liaising with and, where necessary, educating the customer about exactly what is being installed and why underpins not only a successful installation but a strong ongoing relationship.
The capability to offer a high level of ongoing support to the customer is another side of a good installer as far as I’m concerned.
Does winning a contract still come down to who can do the quickest job at the lowest price?
Sometimes, unfortunately, this is still the case! However, I’d like to think we can work with a customer to help them understand the lowest price isn’t always the best solution. If more than one quote is desired, then the customer needs to be sure that the quotes being compared are of the same specification.
For us, we want to win a contract based on our qualifications, our experience, and our reputation for excellence. For example, we won’t drop our price to win a contract. Our initial quote is always the lowest price we can offer to complete the installation to the highest standard. Of course, we don’t win every contract off the back of that. But we know that the lowest price and the quickest timeline might not always be the best installation, or even the cheapest, in the longer term.
Is training and skills development given enough consideration by installers?
Training and qualifications are very much at the forefront right now. We have industry-recognised training organisations and I believe that all good installers are making significant investments to ensure their levels of training and qualifications are up to scratch.
There are still gaps in the industry where that protection is falling by the wayside, but I think things will keep improving. It is vital that we continue to implement the necessary regulations and procedures to ensure appropriately trained installers are undertaking every data installation – with the ultimate aim of protecting the end-user. To this end, the training providers are taking a leading role in driving improvements, such as striving to ensure that necessary qualifications are included in tenders.
Has being a woman in what is traditionally a male dominated sector created any particular challenges for you during your career?
I’ve only ever been met with positivity so from my perspective, I don’t think it has created challenges. In some ways, it has opened doors for me. I think I’ve been more welcomed in certain areas because it’s a breath of fresh air.
I’m sure there have been occasions when I’ve met a customer or supplier who wasn’t expecting to meet a female, but I have relished any opportunity to challenge perceptions and create a positive impression of women in the industry.
Is enough being done to encourage more women to have science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) based careers and, if not, what would you like to see happening?
According to reports from organisations like The Education Hub, a growing number of women and girls are pursuing careers in STEM influenced industries. (The Department for Education’s The Education Hub in 2021 reported a 31% increase in entries from women and girls to STEM A-levels between 2010 and 2019 and a 50.1% increase in the number of women accepted onto full-time STEM undergraduate courses between 2011 and 2020)
With the gender gap closing at the education stage, it is important for us within the industry to build on this progress by ensuring that career opportunities are out there. We currently have a female apprentice engineer who is due to complete her apprenticeship later this year. Having more females as role models in the industry can only be a positive in terms of sustaining an increase. It comes down to personal career choices, but I firmly believe that any woman who has the desire to succeed in the sector will find the opportunities to do so.
How do you predict the network infrastructure industry developing over the next five years?
The industry is only going to grow. Last year data centre capacity was expected to grow by 20 million square feet worldwide thanks to a wide variety of factors, from the demand for IIOT to the ever-increasing amount of data being used globally.
The interesting development will be the changing direction of growth. The first is the evolution in data demands, largely due to the long-term changes to working habits kickstarted by COVID-19. The second, more significant and wide-reaching for our industry, is a bigger swing towards sustainability.
The pandemic forced a dramatic evolution in technology, with homes transformed into workplaces across the world. The WFH boom has meant that homes now require better data infrastructure, leading to growth and variance in connectivity demands.
However, sustainability is the issue that will affect our industry day-to-day. The carbon status, and overall sustainability, are now being factored into every install. As installers, we must incorporate improvements in sustainability throughout every stage of each install – from sourcing products and equipment to installation and aftercare. The growing body of carbon embodiment data allows us to estimate the true carbon cost of each aspect of our delivery, and the quality of CE data is only going to improve. By embracing this, installers can increase their capability to support end-users in their sustainability goals – whether they be residential, private, or commercial. The sustainability conversation is happening globally in every industry, and network infrastructure is in the fortunate position to be able to do our bit to help.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given and how has it helped you during your career?
Always value your team. Looking after your people is such an enormous part of being successful. They are your business, so being there for them is important. Those times when you go the extra mile to show you care about your people are the moments when you create loyalty in your team.
Be confident. If you know for a fact that you are right – if you’ve done your homework, done your research and are totally sure of your figures – you need to be sure of yourself when putting your point across.
Be honest and, finally, always put a smile on your face!
The Education Hub – regarding STEM education: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2021/02/11/women-in-stem-week-2021-how-were-empowering-the-next-generation/
Increase in Data Centre Capacity: https://www.cablinginstall.com/data-center/article/14205141/report-data-center-capacity-to-increase-by-20-million-sq-ft-this-year
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