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Meet the consultant… Peter Marsden

1. Why and when did you set up Entec Si?

There were three main reasons why I decided to launch Entec Si in 1996. Firstly, I’ve always been of an independent spirit and, after working for several large corporations, I was ready to take things into my own hands. This coincided with my passion and understanding for how change happens and the way it happens.

As a technical consultant at the time, I knew I could help organisations with the change challenges they had encountered so they could move forward. Finally, an opportunity presented itself and I grabbed it with both hands. Sometimes, you only make change when the opportunity emerges, and I knew my experience had led me to that moment. This business opportunity became Entec Si’s first contract but established an approach which is still as relevant today.

2. How has your role evolved over the years?

My role has evolved as the company has evolved and the team developed. When you first start a consultancy business, you’re pretty much responsible for everything from delivering to clients, running the payroll and VAT returns right through to recruitment and even brand management. In addition to this, in the late 90s we won a big contract with Birmingham City Council that led to the Library of Birmingham project engagement in 2008, which continued a five year relationship through to the opening. This was a huge turning point for us and a real moment of learning and reflection.

Following this project, we decided to grow the company – a decision that we didn’t make lightly. This was another significant shift in my role; delegating work and trusting others with a business I had put everything into. After doing so much yourself, it can be quite hard to let go at first but it’s important to trust in your colleagues and look to the future. Having a great team around you is so critical.

Today my role has less of an emphasis on hands-on client delivery and a greater focus on strategic thinking, company development and oversight.

3. What does a day in the life of an executive chair look like?

In short, I see myself as a weathered eye making sure everything is where it should be. Up until recently, most of my time was spent working with clients and supporting the consulting and project delivery. Now, a big part of my role involves supporting Entec Si’s future growth and considering the business’ strategy. I also like to have an oversight of all areas of the business and have regular informal catchups with the team, to maintain a culture where everyone feels supported with any issues or concerns. I still get involved in the new business development and am as passionate about this as I was in the mid-90s.

4. What are the most important skills for growing a business?

Surrounding yourself with brilliant people is the trick for me. Gaining clients’ trust is key in the world of consultancy, which means we need strong relationships, both internally and externally.

You also can’t and shouldn’t be doing everything yourself, so playing to your strengths is key. It’s important to recognise when someone is better placed to help with a task and allow them to support you. Patience and foresight are also important, as they provide you with the ability to react and adapt quickly.

5. Where do you see Entec Si in five years?

The business is currently the strongest it’s ever been, but I think we’re going to see Entec Si accelerate its growth as we continue to invest in our consulting team and further develop the leadership across the company. As a business, we want to stay true to our investment in our people. With this in mind, we’re committed to keeping sight of our values and maintaining our family feel. Of course, as the business grows, we’ll also see an expansion of the team’s capabilities across new areas.

6. What has been your favourite Entec Si moment?

One moment that stands out in my mind was a turning point for Entec Si. Following the successful delivery of the Library of Birmingham project, Eman Al-Hillawi (our Chief Executive Officer and co-founder) and I had met with a business coach to help us decide on our next steps. It was a moment to take a breath and look back on everything we had achieved – how did we feel about the future and did we want the same things. After talking everything through, we made the decision to grow the business. We knew we’d created something special and wanted to share what we had with others; it was an exciting time for us both.

7. What’s the next step for you professionally?

Entec Si is always going to be an important part of what I have achieved, so continuing to develop myself in my new role will also mean helping to develop the business. I will start to reduce my involvement with a greater focus at an executive level which creates opportunities for others. Eman and I have recently set ourselves the challenge of writing a book together, to share our knowledge and experiences as leaders in our field.

8. A fact about you that might surprise people?

Just before launching Entec Si, I had separated from my wife of 16 years and was looking after my three young sons. A lot of people would ask why I chose that moment to start a business, however, the situation made me realise that I wanted to do something different with my working life and this was a catalyst for to me take a leap of faith. I think it goes to show that with perseverance, amazing colleagues and a great support network, you can succeed in the face of adversity.

If you were to be in any other profession, what would it be?

I’d like to say that I’d see myself as a golf professional, but maybe that would be a stretch given my handicap!

Before starting Entec Si, I had studied for an engineering degree and my first role was in an engineering company. I really loved the design aspect of the job but was unfortunately made redundant, however, I’ve never lost interest in the industry. In a way, a lot of what we do at Entec Si involves designing effective solutions for an organisation’s problems.

10. What is the best thing about becoming a grandparent?

When you have your own children, you’re caught up in the mess and it can sometimes be hard to appreciate how fortunate you are. As a grandparent, you get to see all the joy and pleasure your children are getting from their children. It’s an amazing and an emotional experience in a completely different way from what I have experienced before.

We promote a third of our team in our ‘thrive’ year

We have demonstrated our passion for people development by announcing an impressive ten promotions.

Four people – Jack Sixsmith, David Walker, Charlotte Stanyer and Eilis Garton-Marrows – have been promoted to junior consultant. Meanwhile Devesh Punjani and Megan Evans have become consultants from junior consultants.

Senior level promotions include Peter Britten, Janet Smith and Tamara Pleasant, who have been promoted to senior consultant, managing consultant and principal consultant respectively. Finally, Alix Cruxton is now a marketing communications executive.

Putting people at the heart of our strategy

Representing a third of our team, the wave of promotions shows the dedication of the business’ people at all levels. In particular it illustrates that everyone is given the opportunity to build on their talents and strengthen their skills.

Our belief that a business’ success is largely down to its people has been cemented over the last two years. We have committed even more to developing our team’s skills, supporting them to excel in their careers. From investing in professional qualifications to leadership and personal development training, we continue to put upskilling our employees at the heart of our strategy.

Dubbing 2022 as our ‘thrive’ year, we believe that the enthusiasm and care shown by our team will take the business on a new trajectory, helping us to achieve our goals, while fulfilling our people’s own aspirations.

Eman Al-Hillawi, CEO, said:

“We take pride in the fact that our strength is our people. Being able to promote a third of the team is an incredible feeling. Each and every one has shown a huge amount of commitment to Entec Si, embracing the development opportunities given to them, and supporting our clients with excellent service. I look forward to seeing how they will grow in their new roles, both personally and professionally.”

Meet the consultant… Sarah Towers

1. What does a consulting director do?

A little bit of everything, which keeps the role interesting! There are three core parts to the role. The first centres around delivery and supporting our clients on their change and transformation programmes providing leadership and strategic direction to ensure, together, we deliver changes that stand the test of time.

The second role is leading in the day-to-day operations of the Entec Si business. This ranges from ensuring our commissions are all progressing to plan and to the high quality we expect through to managing the team of consultants and ensuring everyone is fit and well and working on rewarding assignments. The third is collaborating with existing and potential customers, understanding their strategic goals and challenges, and agreeing how Entec Si could support them on their journey.

2. What traits make a consulting director?

Leadership is the number one skill, guiding both the client and our team of consultants, keeping commissions on track and ensuring all stakeholders are engaged and motivated. The ability to organise, multi-task and be versatile along with great communication skills and enthusiasm for the role are also vital. We all have passion and enthusiasm for helping clients find their way through business change challenges, and at the end of the day, that’s why we’re here.

3. What’s one of your career highlights?

I’m going back a few years, but I led a programme to implement a system to produce and store invoices electronically. This was revolutionary at the time and delivered significant improvements and benefit for the client. The use snowballed through the organisation and for me was the start of a career focussed on driving continual tangible improvement through process and organisational change.

More recently I had the privilege of leading a 12 month, multi-million pound, transition and transformation programme. This was all encompassing, driving change in the operating model and associated processes and in programme and project delivery, all underpinned by a people and cultural change workstream. It required collaboration, commitment and energy, blood, sweat and tears, but resulted in a hugely successful business transformation which I’ll always be proud to have been a part of.

4. How would you describe Entec Si in a few words?

We’re ‘Agents of change.’ Not only is it accurate, but it sounds great too!

5. What skills would you like to develop during 2022?

I’m turning 50 this year, and as part of the celebrations I have written myself a list of very different challenges I want to complete over the course of the year. I’m looking to complete a 50 mile ultra-marathon but also want to learn how to dry stone a wall! One unusual activity I’ve already completed is an archaeological dig. It was fascinating and I ended up taking part in a second because I enjoyed the first one so much.

6. What song would we find at the top of your ‘work motivation’ playlist?

I’m a big fan of Friends (who isn’t?), so it would be the theme tune, ‘I’ll Be There for You’, by The Rembrandts. Not sure its motivational but it’s how I’d like myself and Entec Si to be perceived.

7. If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be and why?

I love being in the outdoors and have trekked to Everest Base Camp so I’d love to meet Nirmal Purja, also known as Nimsdai. He had a dream to be the fastest man to climb the 14 highest mountains in the world, and he didn’t let anything stop him from doing so. The film and book of his journey are fantastic, highlighting not only his personal achievements but the number of people whose lives he saved on the mountains along the way! Being Nepalese, he also wanted to highlight the unsung role the Nepalese people play in helping others climbing. Nims is a real inspiration to me, embodying the spirit of true resilience.

Welcoming two new additions to the Entec Si team

When it comes to new hires, two is always better than one. We’re delighted to welcome Justine Howl, marketing, PR and communications manager, and Sushila Vadukul, managing consultant, to our team.

Flying high

Following a career spanning over 20 years at Birmingham Airport, most recently as head of communications, Justine is bringing bags (or suitcases) of experience to Entec Si. She will be responsible for shaping the business’ strategic marketing activity, leading on both external and internal communications.

Justine will focus on building Entec Si’s brand and positioning within its core markets, while strengthening employee engagement. Justine said:

“Having previously been a client of Entec Si, I knew that their core values fit with my own and I’ve also experienced their passion for people firsthand, which has been the magic ingredient in the business’ success so far. I’m excited to help them elevate this and am delighted to join them on their growth journey.”

Bolstering our consultancy offering

Sushila has joined us as a managing consultant, specialising in the local government and healthcare sectors. Her previous role was at Capita, where she worked as a senior business analyst and requirements manager. Here she developed valuable skills in stakeholder management, systems implementation and the delivery of business transformation programmes. Sushila said:

“I’m looking forward to building on my experience of working with blue chip clients to make a real positive impact at Entec Si. The business has a real family feel and everyone is committed to achieving exceptional outcomes for clients, while helping each other to maintain a healthy work-life balance.”

Eman Al-Hillawi, our CEO commented:

“Justine and Sushila are extremely welcome additions to our team and their appointment marks an exciting new chapter for Entec Si. With a number of important projects and programmes underway in the local government and healthcare sectors, Sushila’s support and expertise will be invaluable, and I can think of nobody better than Justine to take our marketing and communications activities to the next level.”

Eman Al-Hillawi on five steps to a more diverse consulting industry

Gender bias is something that many women, including myself, experience throughout their consulting careers. While this problem won’t be addressed overnight, focusing on the five areas below will help women to overcome common obstacles and rise to the top of the consulting industry:

1. Create a supportive network of female advocates

As it can already be more challenging for women to achieve success in the consultancy world, they need to work together and support each other. Having access to experienced female mentors, for example, through schemes such as the Santander Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring Programme, is also vital.

2. Encourage women to share negative experiences

Speaking out about experiences of gender bias and similar challenges promotes solidarity and enables women to receive advice from those who have been in their shoes. This would have been hugely valuable to me at the start of my career, when I often felt overlooked when in the company of my male co-founder (through no fault of his own!).

3. Tackle ‘imposter syndrome’

Building confidence is crucial to overcoming ‘imposter syndrome’, a common problem experienced by women in business. To do this, they need to focus on pushing themselves out of their comfort zone, while learning to trust their professional voice and talent.

4. Leverage the benefits of flexible working

Flexible working has already had a positive impact on people’s work-life balance but it’s important to keep building on these changes for the benefit of women’s careers. It’s now easier for women and men to manage family responsibilities alongside work commitments and through a focus on outputs rather than hours at our laptops, we can all get more out of our day and a healthier work-life balance.

5. Break taboos around medical issues

Breaking taboos around challenges posed by medical issues, such as the menopause, is vital to break biases in business. In order to build a strong culture of empathy and solidarity, we need to educate all areas of the industry about the challenges involved in health-related issues.

To help accelerate the progression of rising female consulting stars, we need to encourage close collaboration, while focusing on women’s capabilities and experience. By encouraging them to discuss their experiences, promoting the importance of mentoring and leveraging the benefits of flexible working, we can achieve a more diverse and rewarding consulting industry for everyone.

To learn more about how to kickstart your consultancy career at Entec Si, visit here.

Meet the consultant… Sarah Frost

1. What does an average day look like for a senior resource manager?

There’s no such thing as an average day! I am lucky to be involved in all areas of the business, from people development and operation planning to delivery, recruitment and, of course, resource management. My primary purpose is to ensure we have the right resource, in the right place, at the right time. This gives me lots of variety to get my teeth into and means every day brings a different focus and challenge.

2. What are the three most important skills for a senior resource manager to have?

Communication is key. The ability to converse with people at all levels, including managing stakeholders and key customers, and to listen effectively, is instrumental in my role. You also need to be a people person. I live and breathe our culture and values and genuinely want the best for our team and the company. Last is the ability to multi-task. Working across all aspects of the business means daily reprioritisation and lots of lists!

3. How have you grown professionally since joining Entec Si?

I joined Entec Si two years ago as a resource manager; within six weeks we entered our first lockdown. It was a challenge getting to know the team and the business in a virtual world, but one I welcomed and have thrived in. Mine was a new role to the company, and during this time I have shaped and grown it into my own. I am also fortunate to be part of our Operational Board, where I can support the strategic and operational growth of the company.

4. What are your goals for 2022?

My personal goal is to re-start running after time away with an injury; being able to run 10 miles without pain again would be the dream. I will also continue to provide my boys with enriching life experiences – this year we are taking them to their first ever music festival, as well as regularly attending matches at Aston Villa Football Club!

Professionally, my goal is to keep developing my knowledge, skills, and experience as Entec Si continues to grow, as well as supporting our team to achieve their personal goals and meet our business targets.

5. What’s your favourite thing about working at Entec Si?

Without hesitation, it is our people. Everyone lives by our culture and values, and this really comes through in how we work together and with our customers. It really is the foundation of Entec Si, and I know that even on a difficult day, I have someone I can reach out and talk to.

6. How do you unwind?

Like many people, I read and listen to music, but my absolute favourite way to unwind is Hot Pod yoga. The warmth and peacefulness are guaranteed to give me a good night’s sleep. I’ve even been known to drift off during savasana…

7. If Entec Si had a yearbook, what would you be voted most likely to do?

I’ve already done the stereotypical yearbook activities, like sky diving and running a marathon, so I’d have to say travelling the world with my boys. Everyone knows I’m a people person and being able to learn first-hand about other cultures with them would be amazing.

Let's start a conversation!

Contact us at info@entecsi.com