A Day in the Life of… Sheelagh Hawkins, Head of Client Solutions at Dataconversion
What does a Head of Client Solutions at Dataconversion do?
Dataconversion has been architecting and building complex data & software solutions for clients across both the private and public sectors for over two decades. We are passionate about all aspects of the customer journey and believe that brands should not only seek to meet but exceed customer expectations. I’m essentially a solution specialist who works with the client to ensure their needs and requirements are championed within Dataconversion. As a result, it’s a very dynamic role that sees me interacting with all teams across the business, as well as our clients. This is great for getting a feel for how all parts of a company run. I am an enthusiastic solution-driver who puts our customers at the core of everything we do.
What were your key career moves to get to your current role?
I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked in some amazing organisations, specifically in the IT Software and analytics sector. The complexity of some of the projects I’ve worked on has enabled me to bring that experience into my current role. I started my journey in sales in the UK over 18 years ago and I embraced technology very quickly. I got to work with smart people from diverse industries and backgrounds. I’ve worked with both enterprise CEOs and entrepreneurs in Fintech start-ups. I decided I wanted to work for a solutions company given the endless amount of innovation that happens within the digital spectrum. Dataconversion was the perfect fit as it allowed me to apply the skills I’ve acquired from my previous experience. Similarly, it offered me the tools to work on projects that have an influence on clients and businesses.
What is the biggest challenge you face in your role?
Client acquisition is always a challenge. We live in rapidly changing times, especially for businesses. As technologies change practically at the speed of light, it’s vital for companies to innovate or be left behind. I need to articulate how we offer value. Providing information about price and features won’t cut it. I need a deep understanding of the client’s needs and pain points. I must ask probing questions and listen carefully in order to get to the underlying motivations for purchasing. This is the only way that enables me to adequately provide value and win new customers. Fortunately, we are in a position of high customer retention and with over 45 years in business we have evolved with the constantly changing technological landscape and the ways in which data has transformed business. This unique expertise coupled with the smart integration of data, technology and communications has enabled us to gain the trust of great clients, including BOI, KBC, SKY and AA Ireland.
What key skills do you need to be effective in your role?
As Head of Client Solutions for Dataconversion, having strong interpersonal and client-facing skills are essential. I’m responsible for understanding client needs, serving as a subject matter expert on Dataconversion’s product offerings, and leading successful client engagements. I work directly with the Sales, Marketing, Technology, and Operations teams to ensure flawless execution and superior customer service. I love technology and keeping myself up to date with the current trends in the technology space.
Describe a typical working day.
There’s no such thing as a typical day when it comes to client relationship management – every day is different. I usually take the DART into the office in the morning, giving me time to catch up on emails and plan for the day. As team communication is key, our morning meetings guarantee that we’re all following the same road-map. This establishes where we stand, and it allows us to plan our next steps. If I have client meetings, I always prepare in advance so that I understand their business needs, enabling us to offer a solution that provides them with the best value. I move from meetings into client calls where we catch-up and engage on new initiatives to help solve their various pain points. I am constantly challenged here at Dataconversion, but that is part of the fun.
What do you love most about your role?
I love seeing clients reaching their goals and being part of that story. I love that my job involves understanding how various businesses operate, how they’re struggling and then problem solving. The culture in Dataconversion is motivating in itself. The CEO constantly encourages me to balance my strengths to have the most impact, resulting in finding solutions for the business needs of my clients. I still view sales as the top priority of any company. I get high on the thrill of the deal and I thrive on the puzzle-like challenge of discovering my customers’ needs. I live for the buzz at the close of a successful sale. We have recently been shortlisted for an AIM award that we are very proud of and I’m sure there are many more to come.
Looking ahead, where might your career path lead to next?
I am always looking to upskill and learn new things. In Dataconversion we are encouraged to progress within the business. There are endless opportunities. Although I hold a senior position within the organisation there is always room to grow and that was one of the main reasons that brought me to Dataconversion. We have a high retention of loyal skilled staff that continue to grow and further their careers within the organisation.
To whom do you look for professional inspiration in your role?
I recently finished reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography “Becoming”. Obama has also been honest about finding her own path in life, which is what has fuelled much of her success along the way. I also love Richard Branson as he’s a leader who puts his employees’ interest first. As a team in Dataconversion we are lucky to have a CEO who gives us the autonomy to do our jobs. We are trusted and not micromanaged which is key for staff morale and continued success. She also happens to be one of the growing number of female tech CEOs in Ireland.