For Black History Month this year, TechSPARK has teamed up with B in Bath to shine a light on some of the established and emerging Black tech and digital leaders in our community. This time we’re talking to MD & Founder Glyn Blaize.
What is your job?
MD & Founder of NORTHSTAR Innovation Group.
Responsible for running an innovative data analysis tech business. Main responsibilities currently are running NorthStar, sales and investor management.
Your path into the sector?
I did sports science at Loughborough University and had a professional sports career until injury hit when I broke my leg twice in one go. Following rehab, I fell into recruitment and did pretty well rising to director of a number of businesses. When I realised, I wanted to be a board member I approached Rene Carayol MBE to mentor me. He did a fantastic job and basically helped me to see that often in a senior position you already have all the skills, all you need are big balls to go out and take risks. Back in 2015 I decided to take a risk to set up a consultancy to work with business scaleups in the recruitment industry – along the way I met a guy who would become my mentor – we hit it off had a shared vision and he became the angel investor to what has become Northstar – René once told me “opportunity seldom comes knocking… make sure when it does your bags are packed and you are ready to go “ – I was
What interests you about tech/digital? What do you like about working in the sector?
My favourite thing is the people firstly – I have an incredibly talented team who are all better than me in what they do, I love their creativity and passion. When it comes to the tech, I love the fact that there are literally limitless opportunities to solve problems and with data, creativity and vision you literally can be both a game changer and life changer. Tech is moving at the speed of light and it’s so crazy to see what people and companies can achieve and how so much of it is transferable, industry to industry.
I loved an Ops director role I had in London – I wrote the JD and it was a kind of mix of happiness officer, operations, and vision communicator it was supposed to be an 18th month gig which turned into 5 years of real fun. In future I’m interested in getting back in a people-centric role but using tech to make big organisational gains in leadership, culture, talent development and strategy. I feel like if you can get the blend of technology and the human factor right, well-structured organisations can be unstoppable.
Do you have any thoughts on diversity in the tech/digital industries?
I think diversity is a jewel in any organisation when you have a diverse team collaborating and problem solving the width and breadth of solutions are both exciting and groundbreaking. Grassroots innovations are seen when people experiencing the actual problem find solutions, rather than execs at the top trying to engineer solutions, but what is so good about grassroots innovation is that our cultures, environment, ability and orientation affect how we perceive and look at problems and that’s where the rich mix comes from.
I think I’ve had some really good opportunities thrown my way, but my parents knew as a person of colour I would start on the back foot so they made a lot of decisions to put me in the strongest position possible. When I have been teaching communications to young afro Caribbean boys in Easton one of the things that I reiterate is how ‘we’ have to often ‘adjust’ some of the ways we communicate to the majority culture because of perception and understanding (I can elaborate on this)
I think the way job adverts and job roles are written needs to change significantly – there is a growing body of evidence that shows that the way in which ads are written will ‘inadvertently’ repel women or people who are not cisgender. just undertaking more thought into how an organisation can attract, retain and develop a diverse workforce could seriously change the tech talent landscape.
To be honest, the tech industry is ripe to get this right as already there are so many clearly marked avenues setting the foundation, #femtech, #poctech, #cleantech, and the list goes on.
I think role models and mentoring in all areas of diversity is key to the next generation of digital and tech stars being both diverse but also coming from unexpected backgrounds – I saw a POC (rené) interviewing Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Madeleine Albright and a host of others on an international stage and it made me think “it can be done, I can be whoever I want’. As a result, I approached him to mentor me and subsequently, he empowered me to just go for it … imagine if this happens for more people in the various diverse groups – seeing people they identify with who have broken through norms and traditions etc encouraging them to go, to be and to do what they never dreamed of.
Renée Jacobs is a Project Manager at Actual Experience and the Founder of B in Bath. She is passionate about empowering and supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds in the workplace, and she recognises the importance of ensuring diversity of thought and experience in those people who create the technology that permeates all of our lives. Through B in Bath she hopes to enable employers and employees to cultivate a sense of belonging in the workplace; creating an environment where everyone, from all backgrounds, can grow, thrive and belong.