Scaleup Diaries: Melanie Oldham

This week on our Scaleup Diaries podcast, we are excited to be joined by Founder & CEO of Bob’s Business, Melanie Oldham.

Having just been awarded an OBE for her outstanding contributions to cyber security, Melanie strives to bring cyber security to life through animation and storytelling.

A big focus for Melanie is collaborating with schools to inspire the next generation of cyber security professionals- committing to upskilling and strengthening our workforce.

Melanie joined Alan on the latest episode of our Scaleup Diaries podcast to discuss the importance of investing in our future workforce, her experiences with adapting to a remote team and her unusual way of taking her mind off work.

If you want to listen to the podcast in full then click here.

Here are our key takeaways:

Invest in our future workforce

The most important quality a potential hire can have is coachability. If they are eager and passionate about learning, ‘anything is teachable.’
In the past Melanie has had a very hands-on role in the hiring and coaching of apprentices, appreciating the importance of educating young minds about the different career options that are out there.

Many people look for careers in big-name companies without realising the range of opportunities available to them from smaller startups and scaleups. People just don’t realise that these jobs are out there.

The earlier we can educate young people, the better. Contacting the careers or enterprise departments at your local colleges and universities may prove to be a great source of talent for your startup.

Melanie did also want to point out that her intentions aren’t always selfless, sometimes getting her foot in the door at schools and colleges allows her to steal the best talent for herself!

But like many founders, Melanie recognises the importance of hiring a diverse team, with Bob’s Business being proud that 40% of their employees are female

‘You have got to have that diversity of views; we have created some amazing things over the years and that wouldn’t have been possible with just my single vision.’

By approaching young people in the community and committing to upskill talent, you are diversifying your future talent pool. Melanie is confident that although ‘these recruits aren’t ready now, in four- or five-years’ time, they are going to be the life blood of the organisation.’

Adapting to remote working

Like many founders, Melanie has had to adapt to the introduction of remote working.

Having once placed great importance on seeing her team switched on at their desks and measuring time input, she found that small things like tracking lunch times seemed to distract from what really mattered.

Now, with widespread remote working, many founders worry about how to trust a team you can no longer see working. But focusing on output over input will help your business go from strength to strength.

Melanie has built up a level of trust with her team relying on good communication and the knowledge that her team will come to her for help if they need it. But this communication goes both ways. As a leader you need to be able to articulate to your team when something isn’t working.

Not only will this encourage positive change to the workings of your business, but it will also create a better culture where your team are not afraid to voice their concerns.

Having a team that you can trust will make the world of difference to your company.

Take a Leap of faith

In the early days of your startup, it can feel like you are being pulled in so many directions that knowing what to focus on is hard. But it is crucial to the strength of your team.

For Melanie, stepping back from the day-to-day management of her team was daunting.

‘I was worried that my team wouldn’t think I was there for them.’

Melanie is not alone with this worry; many founders find themselves struggling to juggle work with the wellbeing of their team and this can lead to burnout.

In Melanie’s case, she found that trying to manage everything led to sleepless nights and her work became her whole life, with no time for hobbies or downtime.

The key is to find an activity where you can enter a meditative state, empty your mind, and switch off.

After failed attempts at meditation and an unlikely encounter on a plane, Melanie found her outlet in an unusual place: skydiving.

Not only was Melanie taking (quite literally) a leap of faith, but she found that for her, sky diving was her mediation- completing an impressive 248 skydives last year alone.

Of course, not everyone will find they are at their most relaxed when jumping out a plane, but it is important that you find what form of meditation works for you and then commit to make time for it.

Hearing Melanie discuss her struggle to switch off serves as a reminder that we need to walk the line between working hard and working smart.

Allowing yourself to take a step back and find time to disconnect from the stresses of building a business will allow you to be more productive with your time.

So, whether it’s jumping out a plane or finding comfort between the pages of a good book, what will your leap of faith be?

If you want to listen to the podcast in full then click here.

And you can find our previous episodes of the Scaleup Diaries here.

If you are a startup founder and have insight to share, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Director Alan Furley for the chance to be part of our Scaleup Diaries podcast series.

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