Hello everyone! I hope you are all staying well and healthy in the challenging time. Good news here’s the latest #LifeAtVeritas Interview, where I recently caught up with our Backup Exec General Manager and Vice President; Simon Jelley. Simon has had an incredible IT career spanning over two decades in this interview you can find out how he has built a successful global product team and how he motivates remote teams. He also shares his leadership style and tips for leading diverse teams internationally. Read more below.
Zoe: Hi Simon, thank you for agreeing to participate in the #LifeAtVeritas blog series. Let’s kick off with my first question… What made you choose a career in IT?
Simon: Wow – that choice was a LONG time ago now. J Essentially it was driven by two key things. Firstly, what I was interested in and good at, at school and secondly, my experience visiting potential universities when I was deciding what to do, and where to go, after finishing my A-levels in the UK.
On the first part of influencing my choice towards IT, I had really loved maths throughout my early education and as I went into secondary education, I found my college offering economics which gave maths an even more practical, and interesting, use. I was also lucky that throughout my early years of maths education my schools were embracing the introduction of IT in lessons.
These formative experiences led me to choose Economics and Computer Science (alongside English Literature – because we had to pick three A-level subjects!) for my A-levels and from this, when I was looking at what to study at University I picked a 50-50 split of Banking and IT Degrees on my UCAS application form.
What finally made me choose studying IT was when I visited the prospective universities I had chosen to apply to. I was really impressed with how the University of Portsmouth had such a strong links with the IT industry – IT giants like DEC and IBM – and that they offered the opportunity to spend a whole year in industry working at these IT giants.
Zoe: What career advice would you give to those trying to secure their first IT role?
Simon: Look for intern or placement schemes that offer you opportunity to sample not just one role but ideally many. I was very lucky that I got to spend a whole year in industry during my degree with DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) and I got to try my hand at a number of roles within their software engineering teams – software development, quality assurance and engineering support.
Not all higher education courses offer such long term placements but many offer help getting shorter placements during school breaks. I would advise taking advantage of these as much as possible to help you get experience of what IT role best fits you and your interests, and to build experience on your CV/resume.
Zoe: What leadership traits make a good leader? And what’s your leadership style?
Simon: Most importantly good leaders listen – I mean truly listen - and listen with empathy and humility. Trust is the key element in my opinion to what great leaders build with their teams/organizations and to deserve trust you have to be willing, and brave, to listen to many perspectives – good or bad.
Second, but related, you have to actively work to make sure you don’t build teams of people who look and act like you. This is hard as naturally we prefer work with people we like and that won’t challenge our viewpoints.
Third, good leaders empower people but give them bumper lanes. You have to trust your teams to innovate and solve problems for themselves but give them clear guidance on what boundaries they can operate in. For example, if certain parameters or decisions are set in stone, and cannot be changed or debated, make that clear. After this, you have to trust your team to deliver. Make sure you leave an open door for them to come back to you for help and advice, brainstorming support or simply to vent, but let them define the solution and show you how they will measure it’s success.
Fourth and final – be a clear decision maker and show results.
My style – I try to embody all of the above. I start each week with a staff meeting reflecting on what happened last week and then what the priorities are for the week ahead. I always include in my staff meetings not just my direct reports but also the cross functional team members we rely on every day. We finish staff by making sure everyone gets to express any critical updates and most importantly, where they need help.
Zoe: Who are your role models and influencers?
Simon: My earliest role model was my uncle – he always used to challenge me with logic problems, and I loved playing chess with him as a kid. He was also an IT nerd, influenced heavily my music taste and had a very successful career managing IT for a very large financial institution.
As I grew older, I fell in love with rugby, standing on the Crumbie at Welford Rd, watching the Leicester Tigers play – best Saturday afternoon ever! I was lucky to grow up watching Martin Johnson grow as a player and he became not only captain of Leicester Tigers but also went on to captain England to their first Rugby World Cup win in 2003. He is a great role model not only because of his clear passion and intensity on the field but because he leads by example. He does not say a lot, but because of what he does you want to be on his team.
Finally, I am heavily influenced by Stephen Covey and his 7 habits teachings. Go watch his video seminars. Big rocks (put the first things first) is still very relevant today. What is most important to you in life and are you truly making time for it and putting it first?
Zoe: How do you define success? And how do you build successful teams globally?
Simon: Happiness and a sense of purpose. Happiness expands to and is heavily influenced by the happiness of my family at both home and work. A sense of purpose is do I feel what I, and my team, are doing has a meaningful impact for our customers, partners and the world – does it make a difference for them. For example, I know we are making an impact when I hear of organizations like Habitat for Humanity and United Way of Pierce County rely on us to ensure they can deliver their critical services like food, water, shelter and affordable housing.
With regards to building successful global teams, you have to have a clear culture with clearly defined norms and opportunity for team members to bond and get to know each other. I strongly believe in the perspective that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. You have set a clear purpose, set norms of how the team will operate and then work hard to drive open communication and address negative conflict within the team. It is all about trust in the end so the leadership styles we discussed earlier are critical.
Zoe: What motivates you? And how do you motivate remote teams?
Simon: Seeing people grow and succeed. It is the greatest compliment you can get as a leader to know you have helped someone reach the next level or grow in some way, especially when the growth comes with struggle along the way that you can help them get through.
In terms of motivating remote teams – set them challenges, trust them to deliver, communicate the what and why, not the how, be available and connect often, show them their results and ensure they get recognition in front of a global audience.
Zoe: Why should people choose to work at Veritas?
Simon: 3 reasons:
Zoe: What’s your favourite Veritas solution or product?
Simon: Easy – Backup Exec (BE)! Don’t worry, BE happy – whatever and wherever your data is BE has it protected – simple, safe, unified – Just BE!
Zoe: Simon, what do you like to do in your free time?
Simon: Family time, music and rugby. These three all overlap with each other. I sing in the church choir with my family, I play tuba with my sons in the school band and I am qualified rugby coach and referee, and all my kids play rugby.
Zoe: Finally, what technology can’t you live without?
Simon: Dishwasher – best invention ever!
I agree dishwashers are the best time saving device invention, I couldn’t live without one now. My key takeaway from Simon’s interview are his thoughts and leadership practice, which are so handy and useful, thank you Simon for sharing your experiences and thoughts, it had been a pleasure working with you on this interview.
If you enjoyed this Life at Veritas blog post with Simon Jelley, then do stay tuned as there will be more interview-style posts from other people at Veritas. And if this has inspired you to join our team, then check out our job vacancies on LinkedIn and apply here.
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