October 2015 – what an exciting time I was having kicking off the University of Sussex’s new venture, an extension to their already successful Innovation Centre in a new geographical area.
Sussex Innovation Croydon was opened by the Minister for Small Business, Industry and Enterprise, Anna Soubry, and the excitement across the local business ecosystem was palpable.
We had partnered with the grassroots movement Croydon Tech City and were hosting an events programme in collaboration with them, which was attracting new businesses to our hub on a weekly basis. Boxpark felt like a real investment for Croydon and the Westfield story continued to keep us engaged and driven in attracting new clients and talent.
Five years later, having had four different directors and experienced more professional development than I had ever anticipated, I now move on to my next challenge.
Sussex Innovation has been such a huge part of my journey and as it has been for so many local entrepreneurs. Partnerships have been born, acquisitions brokered and many, many jobs created. We’ve been a beacon for tech companies in South London. A home for like-minded, ambitious local tech entrepreneurs and now we have developed an investment arm Suss Ventures to financially support new enterprise.
Unfortunately, March 2020 brought about lockdown which has affected the centre and life for all dramatically. The buzz and passion felt through growing businesses has all but disappeared and as we are all encouraged to stay at home, no face to face meetings, visitors or colleagues from campus, it has left a very empty space. No different to any other hospitality venue at this time!
As a social animal, seeing most of the first cohort leave, it’s been traumatic but knowing many of our businesses are not only surviving but thriving gives me great hope that all will return in time. The digital transformation that many of our members were already adopting has happened, and our tech business are closing new deals and flourishing with remote working. Everyone is desperate to get back to some level of normality, so flexible office space still very much has a place, post pandemic.
I have experienced my own level of transformation after five years of immersive experience. I was recruited five years ago as a sales rep bringing local knowledge and community to Sussex Innovation, I leave with experience in leadership as part of the Senior Management Team, influencing strategic decisions and as a feminist! Our work to influence and encourage female leaders has become part of my DNA.
Sussex Innovation attracts tech leaders and my language has been augmented with tech acronyms, knowledge and experience that gets me recognised by non tech professionals as a tech expert. My knowledge of busines had all been holistic learning but in the past five years I’ve been honed as an expert through the privilege of being part of such a prestigious organization and meeting and supporting so many small businesses.
The moral of this story is learn about technology, share your knowledge with non tech people – that’s where the growth is and that’s where jobs will be in the future.
Whatever your profession, you must become your own sales person and you must embrace technology.