Introducing Zoe Kelleher, Club Exec of AND Digital's new London Club
31 March 2022 • 9 min read
Our new London club is due to open its doors in May, enabling us to help even more London-based organisations to develop the tech, digital know-how and data understanding to narrow their skills gaps and drive their growth. Leading it is Club Executive Zoe Kelleher, who recently took time out from her launch preparations to tell us a little about herself, and her plans for the new club.
AND Digital: Tell us about yourself.
Zoe: I would probably refer to myself as a digital generalist, which doesn’t sound that impressive really! I’ve been in digital, mainly agency side, for the best part of 20 years. Throughout this time I’ve worked with some amazing clients across many sectors and have either delivered or managed end-to-end design and build projects covering UX, digital marketing, strategy, training, and tech implementation. I’ve gone wide!
In recent years I was MD of one of the UK’s first UX agencies which I led through a sale in 2018, then through integration with our tech acquirer until 2021. It’s fair to say that with a sale and then Covid in quick succession I have learned a lot in the last three years!
AND Digital: Tell us about your AND title.
Zoe: My AND title is ‘Wannabe Runner’. In my head I really would like to be a runner, I’m just not very good at being one. I mainly run in winter as if it’s anything above 10 degrees my Irish disposition struggles. But watch this space - I’ve signed up for a half marathon in April so if I do it then it may be time for a new title!
AND Digital: Why and how did you get into the tech sector?
Zoe: Many moons ago I travelled around Australia with someone who worked in IT. He got a job on our arrival in Brisbane and held that job the whole way round the country - all because of dial-up connections. I thought (and this shows my age), ‘this internet thing could go somewhere’.
So when I got back from Oz I did an MSc in Internet Technologies for Ecommerce and the rest, as they say, is history. When I finished the MSc I joined a digital agency and worked my way around it, doing everything from delivering training, quantitative research, digital marketing services and UX to writing technical specifications, project management and client services. The only thing I didn’t do there was code!
I love all aspects of tech - the opportunities, the challenges and complexities, the speed at which tech evolves and the art of the possible. It’s never dull, that's for sure. I approach it all in a user-centric way - focusing on outcomes for our clients and putting user needs at the centre of every product we design, build and manage. It’s exciting to be part of a product from its inception to see it go live and beyond.
AND Digital: What do you bring to the table as a new Club Exec? What are your unique strengths and superpowers?
Zoe: I’m human, accessible, and open. I get things done. People trust me to deliver, whether it’s the team or a client I’m working with.
I’m passionate about quality and continuous improvement, and I instil this into everything I do. I strive to create a fun and supportive environment that people love to work in and clients want to work with. And if I don’t get things right, I say so.
AND Digital: As a female tech leader, what advice would you give to young women looking to take up similar roles in the future?
Zoe: Ooh, there’s so much advice I’d give. These are my top 5 - some apply to a wider audience than women in tech but useful, I think!
- Be yourself. Being yourself should be more than enough. If a role or a company isn’t working for you then maybe it’s not the place for you, and this is fine.
- Know your strengths (and weaknesses). Own them. Be proud of your strengths e.g. passion does not mean emotional; showing vulnerability does not mean you’re weak. Caring and being human drives a much stronger sense of team and loyalty in those you work with. These are the qualities that not only help make women great leaders but help make workplaces better places to be. As for your weaknesses – acknowledge them, embrace them, work on them and find people to work around you with skills that complement yours!
- Embrace diversity. It makes for better conversations, workplaces, parties and outcomes.
- Never stop learning. This doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in tech or anywhere else. If you stop learning you’ve stopped living! Or you have at least stopped enjoying your job and you should move on!
- Be confident and proud of your achievements. Us women always do ourselves a disservice in not calling out the great things we’ve done. Celebrate your successes and remind yourself regularly of all the great things you’ve been a part of or led. Use this to strengthen your confidence and this, in turn, will inspire confidence in others.
AND Digital: Why AND Digital? What attracted you to work for the company?
Zoe: Honestly, there are a lot of reasons I joined AND. Just a few weeks in and the list is growing!
I’ve known and admired AND for about six years now, having set up a partnership with them in one of my former roles as MD of a UX agency. Aside from loving AND’s people-first ethos and the culture it offers, I love the vision and ambitions that AND has as a company. It’s exciting to be part of it and I’m hoping that my background in UX strategy, user research and Experience Design can really add value to our clients and contribute to the company’s success and growth.
I also love AND’s dedication to closing the digital skills gap. I’ve always worked in organisations where training and sharing knowledge with clients and communities was a key part of how we worked. The more people know, the better we can all work together today, and the more equipped they are for success in the future.
AND Digital: What excites you most about this role?
Zoe: I will be leading a new club and it’s super-exciting to be part of building this, shaping and growing it over the next few years. I feel that this role will require me to bring together everything I’ve done before and then some. I am motivated by having the autonomy to create something fantastic and AND is providing that opportunity.
AND Digital: What do you see as your main challenge? What would you like to accomplish at AND?
Zoe: Although AND is well versed in launching new clubs, this is a first for me so getting the club up and running, with steady growth and a stable and happy team, is my first main challenge.
In terms of what I’d like to accomplish, I’d like to further build on AND’s experience design (XD) capability and really embed this way of working into my club. I’m so passionate about creating user-centric products, XD has to be an integral part of how we work. It involves:
- Conducting user research to understand real customer needs, and combining this with business needs and outcomes to design and build products in the right way using the right technologies.
- Innovating around what we’ve learned from users.
- Running engagements in iterative build and testing cycles throughout the process to deliver truly customer-centric products, and then
- Using data to evaluate and evolve the product over time.
In a nutshell, I’d like to ensure we have the skills to create highly effective, multi-disciplinary product teams that deliver products that achieve on business outcomes and are truly designed and built around user needs.
AND Digital: What kind of culture do you want to create at the new club? How will you do it?
Zoe: Friendly, supportive, collaborative, open, fun, aligned, inclusive and innovative are all words I’d use to describe the type of culture I want to create. This is all very much aligned to AND’s overall culture.
For me it’s important that everyone understands their role in client success and that for every engagement we have a happy client, a motivated and engaged team and that we are commercially successful.
How we achieve this will evolve over time. It will involve lots of collaboration from day one, creating our vision and how we want to achieve that. We’ll hold regular reviews of how we’re doing and how we can improve how we work and we’ll build an open environment where feedback is encouraged and welcomed. And there will definitely be socials!
AND Digital: How would you characterise the tech scene in London?
Zoe: The tech scene in London spans such a wide range of opportunities. You have those legacy organisations for whom digital transformation is a slow process that has to be managed carefully but where there is huge opportunity for innovation. Then there are the start-ups where disruption is integral to how they work which means they have a real need to make digital work fast.
AND Digital: What strengths and weaknesses does the London market have?
Zoe: Strengths are the diversity of talent, the access to a large number of quality graduates and extensive knowledge sharing across the city at all levels. I’d say the weaknesses are the competition for clients and talent and people moving out of the city and working remotely. I do worry about the effect this has on relationships and losing out on the benefits of face to face interactions.
AND Digital: What excites you about the tech sector at the moment?
Zoe: It’s all exciting! Digital projects are here to stay and they, like any other product, need to be managed and developed to remain relevant, competitive or leading edge. For us this means all of our skills are relevant - product, strategy, XD, tech implementation and data. It’s all exciting because we are in a space that is constantly evolving.
We are on the cusp of so many things becoming mainstream: machine learning and AI, AR & VR. It will be amazing to see what products and experiences emerge over the next couple of years through these technologies.
AND Digital: What makes a great client- the sort of client you want to work with?
Zoe: A great client…
- Understands the value of the services we deliver - from having a strategy that stakeholders are aligned on to customer experience to product development, management, evaluation and ownership.
- Wants to work collaboratively and as a partner to achieve mutual success.
- Is brave and innovative in what they want to do.
- Wants to be challenged (in a good way) and is open to discussion and doing new things.
- Is human and invests in the relationship as much as I do.
- Is curious and wants to learn.
As long as any client meets the above (or most of the above) criteria, I’d love to work with them.
AND Digital: What would you say to prospective clients to convince them to come and work with you and the AND team?
Zoe: I’d say that we are passionate about what we do - and it shows in our work. You’ll learn from us (and we’d hope to learn from you). We work as a team with you and we do it in a fun way. We all want to succeed in our jobs and the best way of doing this is to do it together as one team.
Most of all, I’d say we are outcomes focussed and we genuinely focus on the value we deliver to our clients. Otherwise, they won’t stay!