International Women’s Day:
Q&A with Hayley Roberts
Wednesday 8th March marks International Women’s Day, so we sat down with our founder and CEO, Hayley Roberts, to reflect on the past year at Distology, explore what’s in store for the future and identify how the tech industry is supporting gender equality.
How would you describe the last year at Distology?
On the whole, it’s been an amazing year at Distology. It’s been a year of successes, but we have also encountered numerous opportunities for learning and growth. At times, it’s felt a lot like being on a rollercoaster. There were times when I felt sick (like when I did my TEDx talk!) and times when I wanted it to slow down a little but overall, it’s been brilliant and I’ve enjoyed the ride!
Heading into 2023, following the growth and learning we’ve experienced over the last year, Distology now has the necessary foundations to take on new challenges.
What were your key successes of 2022?
The major successes in the business this year have been centred around our people. Following our most recent round of investment, there was a need to expand our team and so we have brought some excellent people on board. We’ve built a tight-knit executive board filled with highly skilled people which is now working and moving as one unit.
Another highlight for me was Distology being named ‘Distributor of the Year sub £250m’ at the CRN Awards. It is extremely rewarding to receive an award that acknowledges our place in the industry. As a team, we genuinely love and care about what we do and strive to make a difference for all our vendors and partners, rather than having a traditional, solely transactional relationship. So, it’s nice to be recognised for it. I was overwhelmed to receive the CRN Editor’s Choice Award for Industry Achievement. There are so many people working across our industry who are doing amazing things, so for me to be recognised for the work I’m doing was incredible – it was a real ‘pinch me’ moment!
Other highlights include presenting my very own TEDx talk, being selected as a judge for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards and substantially growing my business network.
What were the biggest challenges of 2022 and how have you overcome these?
One of the biggest challenges we faced last year, as a result of the rapid growth we’ve experienced, was ensuring we still had the best people on board. During periods of growth, if staff are not empowered enough, then naturally you’re going to lose people along the way. The real challenge was not only ensuring they remained on the journey with us, but were also working in synergy with one another – which I’m pleased to say we have certainly achieved. An ever-present challenge we face is promoting the added value which we offer the channel market.
Although vendors do understand how channel works, they don’t always necessarily understand what it is that Distology does in comparison to other organisations. It is up to us to make sure we are consistently coming up with ways to grow and promote our value.
Of course, the acquisition of Squareball last year– which was an exciting step for Distology – also posed a number of challenges. Being our first acquisition, we had to learn how to navigate this new terrain, which included merging two teams together in a considerate manner. Thankfully, the transition has been rather smooth, albeit taking a little longer than we initially expected.
What is in the pipeline for 2023 and beyond?
We are expecting to carry on growing throughout 2023, whether that be growing our value element, our range of services or even growing geographically. We would never say never to more acquisitions!
We’re always seeking ways to enhance the value we offer. Right now, we’re exploring ways to help new vendors break into the channel, providing them with the resources they need to succeed. From a personal perspective, I am looking forward to getting out there this year. Doing more things outside of my day-to-day, broadening my network and taking opportunities to give back.
Education is firmly on my agenda for 2023. Having recently become an enterprise advisor for the Laurus Trust, a multi-academy trust operating five schools across Greater Manchester, I will be working with careers advisors there to give young people a better understanding of what tech businesses look like and the career opportunities that are available, as well as exploring apprenticeship and graduate schemes at Distology.
Something a little different for this year is the fact I’ll be involved with the ‘Trek to Petra’ with the EY Foundation. The trek will raise funds to help young people from low-income backgrounds get paid work experience, employability skills training and career guidance. Spending five days trekking through the desert is certainly out of the ordinary for me.
I will also be returning as a judge for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year awards as the sole judge for the North. What’s more, I’ll be sitting on the vendor board for Xchange UK and will be giving a keynote speech on how tech organisations can build flexible and adaptable teams in times of a skills shortage.
2023 is going to be a busy year! I’m really looking forward to beginning to use the platform that I’ve built to start generating action and doing things to better this industry and the wider community.
Do you think there have been any significant strides in the past year in supporting gender equality in tech?
Recent data from the Rose Review reveals that female entrepreneurs in the UK launched a record number of new businesses in 2022. However, the data suggests that men are still three times more likely to start a new business than a woman. Ultimately, there has been progress over the years, but there is still more work to be done. I truly believe that, despite the excellent work being done to combat gender inequality in the tech industry, the situation won’t improve significantly until there is more done to address it at school level. Girls need to be made aware from a younger age of the career options that are available in tech.
Although gender equality in tech needs to be addressed, I believe it is part of a much wider issue. Diversity in general is lacking across the sector and I think the conversation needs to be opened up even further to include diversity that goes beyond what we can see, including neurodiversity and economic diversity to name a couple.
We’ve come a long way but there will always be more that we can do to improve equality in tech.