1. Tell me a bit about yourself
My name is Charlotte and I joined Online Electronics in February as Sales Director. I grew up in a country village in England between Yorkshire and Derbyshire before moving to the Middle East. Whilst my parents were still in the Middle East I went to boarding school in Lincolnshire, during that time 9/11 happened at which point it became unsafe for British and American expats so my family moved back to the UK. My family have always had farms, with lots of different animals. Outside of work, I’m a bit of a country bumpkin at heart. To this day, my best friend is a highland cow called Freddy who was raised in our garden with the dogs. Though a bit of a nomad between work and personal life, Yorkshire will always feel the most like home to me.
I like watching true crime documentaries and I also love history – Egyptian, Roman, Greek – so I enjoy travelling to places to learn more and physically see it. I also really like listening to (mainly modern) country music and like the fact that big stars in America will come to the UK and play in smaller venues here. I also really like driving, that’s my switch off time, and I enjoy driving south of the border to visit friends and family whilst listening to an audiobook or some country music that my husband won’t want to listen to!
2. Tell me about your background and career so far
Although I had always wanted to do Medicine, a lot of my Dad’s family are doctors, I ended up studying Accountancy with Management Information Systems. When I was at university, I joined the PR team for the student union, and I got more involved in the behind-the-scenes finances and sitting on the board meetings and was told by a senior staff member that I had business acumen so this inspired me a little more to get into a business role. During all the university holidays whilst my friends were all busy enjoying the time off, I worked at RBG, now Stork, and was lucky to be taken under the wing of the Project Controls Director.
During my final year of university, I saw an advert in the Metro newspaper for finance positions at Sparrows, applied and started there after I graduated. Initially, the work was similar to what I had been doing at RBG and not very fulfilling. I applied for an internal vacancy to move into the more commercial side of things and continued to progress internally into more senior roles. I then joined the Africa Team and did a couple of years on rotation in Angola. As the only rotational expat woman, it was tough, and I lived in a different facility to all the guys who were sharing flats in gated areas. Some of those guys are still my best friends to this day. It was a tough time, but I paid my dues and learnt a lot. In 2018, the Africa team returned to Aberdeen where I continued to work and over time sales just kind of came into my role and I ended up responsible for doing the business development for the Africa team.
I like working with people, I like listening and I like numbers. I love meeting new people and getting the best out of them. I really like the breadth of the team at Online and the global aspect to the business – there is a lot of potential.
3. What does your role entail – what does a typical day look like?
First thing in the morning at home I check my emails to see what has come in overnight and I will try and get out for a 15 minute walk to set myself up for the day. My mornings are then normally spent in catch up calls with the Asia, Middle East, and Europe teams. I then go through whatever tasks I have for the day and then in the afternoon I’ll catch up with the American team once they are online. I’m quite a stickler for setting myself reminders and tasks so throughout the day different things will ping up on my screen to remind me of things to get after.
I always like to have a mix between short-term and long-term goals to work on. There’s the immediate tasks you need to do but I’m also always working on long-term strategy – if you can get through a little bit of it each day it sets you up for success.
There will also be a lot of travelling with this role too. I’m just back from going around Asia and I have a trip to America and Canada coming up. That will be my first chance to meet the team there in person. Teams is great but I’m old school and I like seeing people face to face. We are also heading to the Pipeline Technology Conference in Berlin in May.
It can be long days when travelling but it is productive. During my recent trip to Asia, we discovered there is so much potential work that we just didn’t know about until we got in front of people. It is easier to build excitement with clients when meeting in person.
4. What are the main problems our customers are facing and how are we helping them solve these problems?
Clients will always tell you that their biggest problem is cost so we are trying to work with our clients to plan workflow and look at projects that are coming up so we can look to give them the best price with bulk discounts.
We are also finding that some customers just don’t have the necessary decision making authority. In those instances, we need to find the correct people to speak to or we can work collaboratively with those individuals to take new technologies or products to the senior decision makers.
Another problem a lot of our customers are having is meeting net zero targets and they are implementing things but not really seeing the value in it. Our non-intrusive pig signalers are a good example – we are taking the time to explain to the client that it is not only an environmental benefit to use non-intrusive but a cheaper option in the long-term. They are only looking at the cost of purchase, not considering the whole process and the downtime and cost of maintaining intrusive signalers.
5. What are the company’s short-term and long-term growth goals?
Short-term there are some countries that we would like to see growth in such as Indonesia and onshore USA and Australia. We have some products in development that will help us grow further in those areas.
We are looking at the hydrogen market, the European hydrogen backbone is something that we’re particularly looking into but there have been delays with that so short-term is making sure that we are ready for it, which we already are by having hydrogen-certified products.
We have invested a lot in Research & Development so our short-term goal is to get our research and development team out in front of customers to see what their needs are and long-term actually reacting to these needs and developing innovative products that keep us ahead of the competition.
6. What are the top challenges facing our industry right now?
For me it is employment and having suitable candidates. When you look at the job market, there are a lot of jobs but not a lot of qualified candidates. I don’t necessarily mean paper qualifications, but life experience. During the pandemic, people working from home meant they could move to areas where they wanted to live and now that a lot of companies in the oil and gas industry are asking people to come back into the office, they are losing people from the industry. A lot of people are also re-training and going more into the renewable side of things as they foresee that as the way to go. Also the younger generation want different things. They are a lot more focused on work-life balance and other non-monetary benefits like access to gyms and more flexibility with working times and not all companies in the industry are ready to be that flexible.