We met with Nicki Kay, Managing Director of Zünd UK, for a free-wheeling fire side chat on a wide range of topics – from leadership styles to business transformation and more.
Thank you for joining us today! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what makes Nicki Kay tick?
I have worked for 34 years in electronics – from manufacturing to global distribution. A strong advocate of British industry, I have a passion for quality manufacturing. Harnessing the power of people, delivering strategic change by focusing on building the right culture and environment for people to do their best excites me.
When I first met you, I was struck by your people-engaging style and very collaborative approach – how important has this been in shaping your leadership style?
We cannot be experts in everything so you need to allow people to express themselves so you can understand them, work out what makes them tick, and then use their skill sets to the company’s best advantage. You need to understand your whole team in this way before you can create a joined up approach to change driving the business forward.
The only way to get people to open up is to give them a comfortable environment that engages them and enables them to feel secure in their conversations with you – listen, look and empathise. I learnt many years ago that everyone is different and therefore there is no one size that fits all – I adjust my style to try to accommodate these differences so everyone I engage with feels comfortable with me.
At Vyn we are very passionate about encouraging women in technology roles and returning moms to work. What advice would you give them as a female leader in a technical industry?
I think that women today are in a much better position than any previous generation.
“So first and foremost, we need to teach women, especially returning mums, that they should have confidence about being a woman as it is a positive attribute for reasons such as our natural ability to communicate, persuade and empathise (such a great skill!).”
I firmly believe there is a much fairer playground today, in great part because technology is not gender specific – we all use email, excel etc. and can therefore stand alongside men in terms of the outputs that get generated in our daily work. If we can get women to ‘ignore’ or rise above gender so its not seen as a barrier, then I think we will have more and more women in the workplace doing significant jobs. And the more women that rise to positions of authority, the more the gender issue will be diluted.
I’ve heard a lot of leaders say that digital transformation is much more than technology – what’s your take on this?
Leading on from what I have just said – technology has levelled the playing field and is an entrenched part of all our lives. It has redefined communications – no longer do we have to wake up at 2am to talk to China or wait a few days for a response to a quote. We can buy whatever we need at the press of a button and share our experiences and our views with the whole world should we choose to.
Sometimes I think it would be good if we could slow the world down a little so the solution to that is to take ‘thinking time’ – something I do with most emails and activities I undertake in my working life. Digitalisation has changed our whole lives, not just work which has meant that we need to adjust our mindsets too and allow time for our brains to assimilate and consider our decisions.
I know you are a great advocate of Vyn and how it has helped refocus where your installation engineers’ time and effort is spent – can you elaborate on how you facilitated this?
I think I had been in the business less than a month when a colleague showed me the Vyn App on his iPhone. Instantly I could see the advantages for us as a business and for the customer.
“Once we started using Vyn, the benefits to the customer, our colleagues in the field and our business became obvious.”
Looking back, I think my enthusiasm was a bit of a shock to my Swiss HQ. They were clearly not used to a new person wanting to introduce a significant change to working practises the moment they arrived! And, I wasn’t used to having a very defined process to go through to get something changed.
Regardless, I pushed by making sure the UK team was brought into the idea and Vyn were brilliant in allowing us to do live testing with some customers and engineers. Once we started using Vyn, the benefits to the customer, our colleagues in the field and our business became obvious. We could now save an engineer’s pre-installation visit, yet improve customer experience and have richer visual data related to the installation. We could also re-deploy the engineers’ time on other more value-added activities.
When we presented Vyn at our International Service Meeting held in May, it resulted in other subsidiaries showing interest especially when we could confirm that Vyn was a fully approved SalesForce add-on.
Finally, where do you see the future of digital technology such as vyn in your industry?
Our machines are Digital cutting systems.
They are software driven and each new release of software enhances productivity, data acquisition and ease of operation. This is a trend we do not ignore and in fact 2020 is a focus year for our very latest software offerings. We are trialling the collation, extrapolation and monetisation of the data our software gathers and IoT 4.0 will be a key driver in the coming years.
External digital technology is enabling Zünd to be globally efficient and this will continue – from all our ‘phone systems being Skype and all our computer ERP and CRM systems are being integrated and managed from Switzerland. This unified process approach enables us to support our global customers and as new Apps and technology become available, I know where we can see an advantage, it will be embraced (such as Vyn).
If I consider the UK in isolation, the need to transfer data between our customers and our technical teams will grow, as demands for more complex cutting solutions, faster turnaround and more productivity from our cutters increases. The cost of sending engineers to site to work on projects and discuss issues, is becoming more and more expensive in both time and money so technology enables us to minimise travel time by facilitating remote diagnostics, video conferencing and file sharing, for example.
I can only see us continuing to seek faster more cost effective methods of communication but, of course, it should not and never will replace the need for human to human communication – we know we win if we can get a customer to spend time with us at our demonstration facilities in the UK or discuss their project with us face to face.
Thank you for reading.
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