Helen Spry has been at the company for 5 years and has 20 years of experience within the insurance sector. Helen has progressed within the company and is now our Head of Operations. We asked Helen about her career path and the expertise she demonstrates within her leadership role.
From law graduate to software tester
Helen graduated from the University of South Wales with a law degree and originally wanted to join the Police Force but preferred office hours, rather than shifts: “I literally stumbled into my first job because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do following my law degree. I was keen to do something involving people and enjoyed working with others, so I joined Friends Life UK, now Aviva, as a Technical Advisor.” As Helen started a family, flexible working hours were extremely important and was one of the reasons she moved into Testing. She explained: “I jumped into becoming a Tester for Friends Life UK, back then it was called a Senior Project Consultant. It was by accident, but I liked the flexibility and I stayed within the insurance sector for 20 years.” Helen progressed within the Testing role and won ‘The Friends Life Tester of the Year award’ in 2013, moving to Bray Leino, an award-winning integrated Agency in 2016 and becoming the QA manager, staying for just over a year.
Helen moved to Software Solved in 2017 as the company offered further flexibility and was promoted to Head of Operations in December 2021.
Learning to work well with others is key
Helen goes on to share what she feels has helped her with successes in her career: “I have accidentally done alright, I think. It’s easier to learn technical skills than it is to learn how to manage and work with people, you can’t teach people skills. I would say my success throughout my career has come through learning how to understand and work with a variety of individuals.”
Advice you would give to someone in a leadership role
The key piece of advice Helen shared throughout her career: “Don’t gossip, it never ends well and it will come back to haunt you. It is best to be a sponge, not a filter.”
One thing you are looking to develop and improve as a leader
Helen revealed that she is always looking to develop and improve: “I am quite a tactical thinker, I am currently focusing on improving our long-term strategy. I read, gain inspiration from others around me such as Lindsay (Lindsay Lucas, MD of Software Solved) and I am determined to carry on the good work she has implemented.”
Challenges faced within a leadership role
Helen describes her challenges and said: “The hardest part of being a leader is having difficult conversations with people, but I have a little private strategy of my own. I have taught myself to write it down and tailor it to work with each individual person to get the most out of a discussion. It’s crucial to remain professional and remember it’s your job. Stick to the facts, they don’t lie, deliver in a professional and concise way.”
She goes on to discuss further challenges: “Delegation is harder in leadership as it takes time to trust people to do something for you to achieve the right result. Having like-minded people to assist and support you is crucial. The hardest part is relying on others for the information and making sure you help set realistic deadlines and look for improvements.”
Helen emphasises the importance of respect within the team: “I am respectful to my team, and I try to accommodate any time off. I know I can then rely on them if they do ever need to work a bit longer to solve a problem. I like to promote a healthy and positive team culture. I endorse what we stand for at the company and I help foster an environment I like to work in myself. Core hours help us all to achieve a happy work-life balance. I schedule in time for lunch to go for a run and allow time for breaks in between meetings to improve productivity.”
A friend but also an inspiration
Helen reveals her biggest inspiration is her friend Debbie who is a Senior Test Analyst at another company: “She is so outspoken but does it in such a way that people respond to it. Delivering messages in a harsh but fair way, which I look up to as a skill that is impressive. I also admire Lindsay, as she has a great gift of being able to put messages across in such a professional manner.”
Fostering connections and relationships is key
To create the right culture, Helen tries to team up members who she feels will work best together and she believes this all starts from recruitment and making sure that choices are made for the right cultural fit.
She adds: “I am quite informal, and people think I don’t take things too seriously, but I do. I just try to be nice about things and know how to manage the people I work with. I put people together in teams that I know will find common ground and have regular one-to-ones to check up on the team. This is important to make sure they are happy and comfortable and supported in their roles.”
Helen emphasised how hard it is to manage work that you are not too sure how long it will take and said: “There is no quicker way to alienate a delivery team by asking why things are taking so long. It’s important to look for signs and just phone some up to foster and improve relationships.”
Helen confidently prides herself on how her team is so open with her and would never want them to not be, she ended with: “I feel lucky to work for a company that sees the quality within individuals and looks to reward and promote in-house. Software Solved really is a wonderful company to work for and I thoroughly enjoy managing a dedicated and talented team.”
Find out more about the people at the forefront of what we do on the Meet the Team page.