Meet the Team: Stella Power - Managing Director
It's hard to nab Stella's time as she is so busy running the business, volunteering her time at Drupal events, and overseeing client accounts, but just recently I managed to sit her down to tell me all about her role at Annertech and the journey so far.
Mark: Hi Stella, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today about your role at Annertech. Let’s get straight to it. If you could describe your role in one or two sentences, what would it be?
Stella: Well as Managing Director and Founder, I am responsible for a lot of different things, but I guess I see my primary role as ensuring that the company is doing well and thriving, that the staff are happy and are enabled to carry out their roles, and we are delivering solutions that delight our clients.
Mark: What excites you about this role?
Stella: I think it’s the multi-faceted nature of the role. I regularly get to meet (even if only virtually) and talk to clients, and to learn more about their businesses. Occasionally I still manage to get my hands dirty in the tech writing code, but I guess the most enjoyable part is the strategizing and planning aspect.
Mark: Is there anything about your role that you find particularly challenging, or even that you dislike?
Stella: I don’t think there’s any particular aspect I dislike. There can be situations that are a bit more stressful, such as when there’s an important deadline to be met, but at the same time I enjoy the challenge.
Mark: Is this what you have always done professionally? Or did you evolve into this position?
Stella: Funnily enough my background is physics, that’s what I studied when in college. I initially wanted to be an astrophysicist and even did a stint working as an intern in Space Telescope Science Institute with the Hubble Telescope. However, it was really the problem solving and logic aspect that brought me into tech and that’s when I went into IT.
Mark: What do you think are qualities needed to be a successful managing director?
Stella: Hmmm good question. I think in any leadership role, it’s important to listen, to listen to other people and others’ views. It's far too easy to go off and say we're going to do X, but by listening to others you may uncover better solutions. In addition, it empowers the team to know that they will be listened to, and their input is valued.
Mark: When hiring new staff, what qualities or skills do you look for in a person?
Stella: There’s two main things that are critical - the ability to communicate and work well as part of a team, and a willingness to learn. If you have both of those qualities, then it doesn’t matter that you have no formal education in IT. I’d much rather hire a team player who is willing to give it a go, than a rock star who thinks they know everything.
Mark: Everyone is very busy at the moment, in all walks of life. How do you structure your work time to ensure you get things done?
Stella: Todo lists! Or rather Trello lists! At the start of the week I set up a todo list for things I have to achieve that week. Sometimes it’s lots of small things, others it might be one really big thing with a handful of smaller tasks - it depends on the week. I then separate out what I need to do today, and ignore the rest. Every day I update it so I only have to concentrate on one set of achievable tasks each day.
Of course, other things arise during the week such as emails and calls that I need to action, so I make sure to allow time for those too in my weekly planning.
Mark: You are very well known internationally for your contributions to Drupal, in terms of code but also in terms of community contributions. Can I ask this question in two phases: firstly, what drives you to contribute so much; and, secondly, do you see any benefit to the business from these contributions?
Stella: I started contributing first because I enjoyed writing code. It gave me great pleasure to see my contributions being used on thousands of sites.
These days my contributions are more community based, most often in event organising. I would say now that I contribute because I want to give back. The Drupal community has given me so much, even a career. I want to ensure others can benefit from it like I have.
[Stella's session on "Successfully Managing Distributed Teams" at DrupalCon Europe 2020 - first 23 minutes]
Mark: What has been your most proud moment in Annertech so far?
Stella: Now that’s a really hard question. I have to say winning agency of the year at the last Web Awards was certainly a highlight. However, to be honest when the whole company comes together from far and wide to meet in Dublin for Annertech Days, and I see how big we’ve grown, and I see the team bouncing ideas off each other, and laughing and enjoying each other’s company - that, that is a pretty proud moment.
Mark: Annertech is very well known, and highly respected, as a Drupal agency. But not quite so well known for the work we do in other areas, such as digital strategy, content strategy, UX, etc. Can you talk a little bit about some of those?
Stella: Traditionally we focussed on Drupal and making technically challenging things look easy, but over the past 5 years we have invested heavily in hiring UX designers, digital and content strategists, digital marketing experts, and various ancillary specialists.
It was a challenge expanding the business, but the results speak for themselves. We now have a full service digital team; actually, an award-winning one at that.
Mark: What inspires you? What keeps you passionate about your work?
Stella: When I founded Annertech, I was inspired by everyone I met at a Drupal conference in Szeged. Here were people working with Drupal as part of their job, helping clients achieve their goals, doing what they loved and creating fabulous websites. It got me to thinking, “Why can’t I do that too?” And so I founded Annertech. Today, it’s pretty much the same — I love what I do and when you love your job, it’s very easy to stay passionate about your work. I also have the added bonus of working with a fantastic team that helps keep me inspired and motivated.
Mark: So we know you're passionate about Annertech and helping clients, but what else are you passionate about? What would you do if you couldn't do that any more?
Stella: Tough question. Hmmmm well it'd probably be something else in technology, or perhaps if money was no object I guess maybe I would set up a pottery studio.
Mark: A pottery studio?
Stella: Well yes, I guess I've always been a bit on the creative side. Before I took up open source development as a hobby and then started Annertech, I used to spend a lot of my evenings and weekends at a pottery studio and even tried my hand at silversmithing and amateur photography.
I won't say I was very good though! I never fully mastered the pottery wheel, but I did enjoy it. That's why it's a "if money was no object" thing. I'd set up a pottery studio, probably by the sea, and just make pots and mould sculptures all day.
Mark: Wow, ok. So and then finally, what advice would you give your younger self or someone who is just starting out?
Stella: Be confident. Lots of people are talking about imposter syndrome now, and that’s great. It’s an easy trap to fall into. So my advice would be to trust yourself, be confident in your abilities and keep working toward your goals.
Mark Conroy Director of Development
When not promoting sustainable front-end practices at conferences across Europe, Mark leads our development team to create ambitious digital experiences for clients, so they, in turn, can have success with their clients.