Sarah Davis, Managing Director, Skills4StemLtd
Skills4Stem Ltd was founded earlier this year and is the outcome of a journey I have been taking. This journey probably all began when I was a teenager helping out with lighting at the local amateur dramatics group as part of my Duke of Edinburgh’s Silver Award programme!
There is shortage of skills within science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). While Government and educational initiatives are in place to help address this in the UK, I wanted to bring some practical, commercial perspectives to this issue. It’s something I am truly passionate about.
I have therefore evolved into becoming an entrepreneur. Skills4Stem Ltd is a skills and succession planning consultancy that aims to enable STEM businesses to uncover, develop and empower their existing and future leaders. Skills4Stem is about making a difference and helping the development of leadership within the industry.
Since setting the company up in March I have encountered a few barriers but more support in my endeavours. I remain determined that the company has an exciting future because we are tackling issues head on in order to bring about change, but that does mean that the path is not always an easy one.
We were successful in obtaining a start-up loan from a start-up loans company for our initial setup costs. This summer we joined the regional Growth Accelerator programme run by Grant Thornton and we are now investigating equity investment opportunities to enable us to gain more rapid business growth.
My vision is to grow the business after a successful Year 1 to embrace and broaden into engineering disciplines and then into the technology sector. Initially though I am focusing on a sector that I know best – construction.
My background is as a graduate with a BA (Hons) in lighting design. I began my career working for some fantastic lighting manufacturers in a business development capacity. I took a career break in 2006 to have my two children, during which I completed an Open University Foundation Law course and studied for a Graduate Diploma in law at the University of Hertfordshire. In 2010 I returned to the workplace as a business development manager at Luxonic Lighting. At Luxonic Lighting I started to have one to one leadership coaching for a couple of hours a month. After Luxonic I moved to Osram and there I had the benefit of a fantastic sponsor.
I realised even further the importance of having both ‘soft’ skills and leadership capabilities as well as expert knowledge. Supporting the development of these through mentoring and sponsorship internally within an organisation is something I support as a beneficiary of this approach myself.
However there is also the opportunity to reach out and establish external links. This is one of the reasons I founded the Group Women in Building Services Engineering (WiBSE) in order to encourage gender diversity and the progression of women in the sector.
Networks and the ability to network are important for your career development. They become even more important when you are an entrepreneur; and I value the input and feedback I get from these opportunities. Setting up your own business can also be a bit lonely so getting out and about to meet people and make contacts is something I relish, although I have to say I am a very social person anyway.