Category News
Publication date
10 May 2024

Meet the Team: Account Manager Karen Leech

Time to read 11 minutes read

Karen Leech lives in a remote village in Normandy, France, in a gorgeous old house surrounded by hills, farms and animals. She’s been Drupalling since 2009, is a qualified shiatsu practitioner, and tries to live as sustainably as possible.

Alison: What do you do at Annertech? 

Karen: I’ve worked with Annertech since 2016. I have many job titles and they’ve never really matched what I actually do. 

I’m currently an account manager. I also do a bit of training for clients, and help out with team admin, like helping with the organisation for events. For the last two years I’ve helped with organisation around DrupalCon, the annual Drupal conference. There is a lot to organise for an event like this, such as finding accommodation for the Annertech team, places to eat, and entertainment. 

And I’ve had other roles over the years. I’ve been a site builder, quality assurance engineer, and project management for small projects. 

We all know the first part of this Shakespeare quote "A jack of all trades is a master of none..." but recently I have learnt the full quote is "A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."

I use to say I'm a “jack of all trades“ shyly, as if that is a bad thing - in reality I'm very inquisitive and love connecting the dots to often-misunderstood things. When the above quote is read fully, it actually speaks better to me and my life experiences.

Alison: How did you come to work at Annertech? 

Karen: When I started doing some work for Annertech I was studying shiatsu, which is a Japanese massage technique, and was doing the course over three years, part time. I was commissioned to do a bit of content for Annertech, and then did a few other bits and bobs for them while I was studying. 

Then I qualified and set up my own shiatsu business, and kept doing some work for Annertech while the business was taking off. But the problem was that I qualified in December 2019, and then 2020 became a bit tricky for a business that was based on contact (thanks Covid-19). 

So the business was put on hold for while, but I continued to do some work with Annertech. Now I have a couple of small clients that I work with alongside Annertech. 

Alison: It sounds like you juggle many balls. 

Karen: It helps that every job I do is very flexible and I try to make sure that I keep an open line with everyone. It’s always been like this with my jobs - I used to be in teaching, and I would lecture across different colleges. At one point I was working in four different colleges.

Alison: That was a bit of a change, career wise. 

Karen: Not really. I have an arts degree in visual studies – a multidisciplinary degree. Then I did a master’s degree in computer arts. So that’s where my interest in computers and websites really started. I spent 10 years in the education industry – and 14-odd years in the web industry.

Karen Leech is outside on a chilly winter’s day, dressed in a woolly hat and scarf.

Not all of these were spent teaching though. I did five actual years of teaching. 

Prior to that I worked as a technician for a few years, supporting the “Craft Design and Technology“ department. I was the person with a white coat, in the workshops cutting materials, ordering supplies, making handouts for classes. It was great. I got to play with different materials and techniques, make robots, play with tools, try my hand at welding – that's the sort of job that a multidisciplinary art degree led me to. 

But I realised I quite enjoyed working with the students, so I ran weekend photography darkroom workshops with the school exchange craft camps programme. 

I also worked in adult education, working with groups of adults from different backgrounds, teaching photography at evening classes. Some students were doing access courses to go to university, so there were lots of age groups. 

I also did supply teaching for about 10 months. That was an interesting challenge!

Alison: How did you go from teaching to Drupalling?

Karen: Teaching’s very stressful. I loved doing it and I loved the subjects but didn’t like the bureaucracy. I was looking for something else. When I did my master’s degree I built a basic website. And then a contact at the college asked me if I knew anything about Drupal regarding a job role coming up. This was in 2009. I didn’t. But I downloaded it and played around with it and built a rudimentary website before I went for the job interview.

I got a job in the team (of two people) creating a multitude of Drupal websites for the college and their partners. Anyway, I came to realise there was more to Drupal than the software, and I didn't know enough so I started to network.

I plucked up the courage and went to DrupalCon in Copenhagen in 2010. It was my first one. And I met lots of people, really lovely people. Many are now firm friends. At that point everyone was on IRC (Internet Relay Chat). And Drupal UK was the place to be.

I went to a lot of conferences, camps, and meetups, and met loads of people – including my partner Tom – and I was involved with Frontend United London.

Karen Leech lives in a gorgeous old stone house in Normandy

Karen Leech and Tom Bamford live in Normandy, France. They're slowly renovating this beautiful stone house.

Alison: So where do you live now? 

Karen: We live in a 300-year-old house in rural Normandy. In August, we will have lived here for nine years. 

We live in a small hamlet of about 16 houses. It’s fairly agricultural, with lots of green, rolling hills. The area is known as Suisse Normande (Norman Switzerland). The nearest village is about an eight-minute drive. 

Karen Leech lives in a stone house surrounded by beautiful trees.

Karen and Tom's house, as seen from the back garden.

We have quite a few animals: our Staffie/boxer cross Ruby, who is 11 years old; Maggie the cat; two chickens – Jynnie and Mabel; and two pigs, Bertha and Sophie. They are all rescues and we enjoy their company and characters!

We also have lots of fruit trees. I have the desire to have a veggie garden, but have never quite managed to get it going. Our neighbours have bees and we get jars of honey from them - it’s lovely knowing the flowers in our garden have fed the bees.

The animals in the Leech/Bamford household: pigs Bertha and Sophie; chickens Jynnie and Mabel; Staffie/boxer cross Ruby; and Maggie the cat.

The other members of the Leech/Bamford family are the two pigs, Bertha and Sophie, chickens Jynnie and Mabel, Staffie/boxer cross Ruby and Maggie the cat.

Alison: What’s life like in France? Can you speak French? 

Karen: I am still learning French. We don’t have a raging social life, so that limits my progress. I go to a yoga class every week with a group of French retirees. The teacher is very good and makes sure I understand what she’s saying, especially if I look confused. 

I try to go swimming but not in winter months because that’s insane. I enjoy going to aqua gym classes, which are fun. I go with a friend and we always end up giggling; trying to listen to and understand the French instructions while waving pool noodles around. 

Tom and I try to live as sustainably as possible. We have done a lot of work on our house that reflects our values – insulating the house with eco-friendly products, and ditching the oil tank for a heat pump. 

We’ve also invested in some e-bikes and an electric van, which I’m really excited about. We’re going to go on holidays in it. It’s proving to be lovely. We even picked up straw in it the other day for the pigs’ bedding. We fitted 12 bales in it!

The new, black electric van.

Their new electric van (in front), is proving to be incredibly versatile, morphing effortlessly from comfortable camper to farm vehicle.

But yeh, we’re learning how to look after animals. We do lots of herding, from taking the pigs for a walk to the neighbour’s garden – we thought we had it sorted with buckets of food, but pigs can run … fast … I hadn’t anticipated how fast they could run – dealing with cows that have broken through the fence, or the neighbour’s escaping goats … all the excitement of rural life.

Sophie the pig and a chicken feeding in the back field as the sun sets.

Sophie the pig enjoys her breakfast in the rear field while the sun rises.

Alison: What are your interests outside of work? 

Karen: We like to be as active as we can. We are going to buy a canoe this year. We’ve hired one for the last few years but now we’re looking to buy an inflatable one so we can do more kayaking and hopefully get a bit more active. 

Plus we have the e-bikes now, with a trailer for our old girl Ruby so she can enjoy it too. She can’t really jog alongside the bikes – she’s a bit old and arthritic. But she’s gone camping before, and she’s really good.

I started a Yoga Teacher Training course after the first wave of the pandemic, which means I'm still doing it! However, I am in no rush. My inquisitive nature means I am thorough enjoying the opportunity to dive deeply into the research; there is a lot of self enquiry too. It slots in nicely with my shiatsu knowledge, gaining a better understanding of anatomy, physiology and pathologies and, of course, the philosophy of yoga.

Ruby having a little run during a sunrise walk.

Ruby, the 11-year-old Staffie/boxer cross, enjoys a walk in the neighbouring countryside.

Alison: When you’re not out and about what does a typical work day look like? 

Karen: It really depends on the weather! I can’t do the animal chores if it’s raining, mostly because they hate it. You end up having to hose yourself down. If it’s too hot I have to go out earlier. It all depends on the time of the year and the amount of daylight.

Alison: What do you love most about your job? 

Karen: I enjoy working with people. I enjoy solving problems. I like to help people – that’s why I got into teaching. I loathed school, this was no doubt impacted by my undiagnosed Neurodiversity (that is a whole other blog post!). At college I realised learning could be different if teaching is adapted to the individual. I like to support people, to help them find solutions to their blockers. If I can help someone understand something it makes me feel like I’ve done a good day's work; invariably I will have learned something new too!

Oh, and I will be speaking at DrupalCon Barcelona, which I’m quite excited about. My presentation is about movement and exercise – wellbeing at your desk. It's a topic that's right up my alley and I'm thrilled that it's been selected.

Does your project need a multifaceted account manager?

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Alison Visser Head of Content

After more than two decades in journalism, Alison now collaborates with Annertech's clients to ensure that their content is the best it possibly can be.