Interview with Valerie Thorn

I have always believed that Project Managers given their interest in running a business can do it really well.

Today’s interview is with Valerie Thorn BSc, FRSA- CEO and founder of AND Technology Research Ltd (UK) who personally has a 30 year practical experience in software and embedded engineering runs a company successfully. 

That’s not all, she started her business when she was only 25! 

Keep reading for inspiration, lessons learnt and what you should know if you are planning your own business.

Hi Valerie, please tell us something about your organization and how you started it.
We are AND Technology Research Ltd, a small private company – currently 10 staff situated in a small village between London and Cambridge in the UK. I started the company in 1980 when I was 25. I saw great potential in the use of distributed computing power within businesses, for communications and control. I began with some funding of my own and practical support of my parents and sister.

Since you have been managing a company and also running projects, which do you think is more challenging and why?
Running the company is in some ways just the same as running a project so both are challenging; however there are some differences Projects have an intensity and significant time pressures. For instance if you don’t start a project on time, then you shouldn’t be surprised if you don’t finish on time; running a company in which you have a long term interest does not normally suffer from this sort of intensity. However overall I would say that the number of variables and the effects that your decisions have on people’s lives makes running a company more challenging.

How important are mistakes in trying to run a company?
If you don’t make mistakes then you don’t learn, what’s most important is how you deal them. The main thing to remember is that mistakes have to be managed or corrected for the best interest of the company, not for the best interest of the manager/owner. Personal conflict can inevitably occur but handling the conflict should add to the learning. So mistakes are important, you have to learn to recognise when mistakes occur, accept them, deal with them and not get hung up on them.

Do you think a good project manager can also be successful business person?
Yes I do, in fact they can make excellent business people, but they have to be able to cope with uncertainty. Project managers have to engage with a variety of project stakeholders and manipulate resources and time to make to project work. A good business person needs to be able to do this; however business people also need generally to cope with uncertain situations where either the resources or the time are just not as they would like them to be. They have to be a little more creative and inventive and be prepared to take the responsibility for risk.

Three important qualities that both project managers and entrepreneurs should have?
  • Vision and focus for what is to be achieved.
  • Organisational skills which allow them to stay focused but include enough flexibility to accommodate change
  • Ability to inspire others and to carry the message of the vision forward.
One thing you wish you knew when you started out.
The importance of the supply chain to a business. By this I mean, not just where your market is but how to navigate supply chains within the market in order to maximise business potential.

So, when organizations like you hire newbies- what are you looking for?
People who, given a necessary skill level, then demonstrate the potential to learn and to adapt to change, plus an ability to laugh.

Valerie is also an active participant in a number of creative and electronic industry organisations. Her career has involved creating digital and electronics based solutions for consumer, industrial and telecommunications products. AND has received numerous awards for innovation over its 30 year life-span and Valerie’s achievements in small business management have also been recognised. Valerie’s expertise lies in embedded software and the role played by software as Intellectual Property. She is engaged in research into technology management and innovation. 

To know more about AND visit their website here.

(Pic Courtesy: Valerie Thorn)