Meet the team is back, and today is a special one! We’ve got our Senior Business Development Manager, Gillian Jones. Hello Gillian! For those who don’t know about the GJ, tell us a bit about yourself.
Where to start? I have been with Condatis for a year, my work anniversary will be in November actually… feel free to send cards and flowers my way! I have spent the last 10 years working in start-ups and within the software service environment. So, lots of experiencing growing and upscaling companies. I really enjoy working with Condatis because despite it being a rock-solid platform with a goodcustomer base it still has that entrepreneurial feel. It’s full of talented, smart people which makes my day job a lot easier and enjoyable.
Aside from work I have a young daughter who I spend all my spare time with, having fun watching her develop, cuddling her, and attempting to make her listen to what I’m telling her to do! I also thought it was a great idea to sell and move house during the pandemic and buy a house that still isn’t built! As soon as it’s finished, we’ll move into our new Kinross home! I must say I’m very excited to get out running in my new surroundings. During lockdown, it seemed like running was the only thing to do, and if I ran on that same street one more time I would’ve screamed!
We hear you’re an expert across many industries, and one in particular – hospitality. Tell us about your background and experience?
Hospitality, technology, and I have a reasonably long-standing history. I used to work for a company that specialised in mobile ordering and payment solutions. I was able to build some great relationships and understand the market and the complexities that come with it. I was the 5th or 6th employee there, from day one I was lucky that I got to immerse myself in all things hospitality tech. I understood the industry pain points early on and could see what solutions the technology could offer.
I then moved into higher education technology, which was also very interesting, but I must admit there is something about the hospitality sector that just really interests me. There are a lot of fantastic global brands, and some of the biggest companies in the world fall under hospitality – such as McDonald’s and Marriott Hotels. Hospitality as an industry is vast and all-encompassing, with a big focus on brand and customer engagement – I love it all. It’s fascinating. I’ve had an amazing time working in hospitality and I’m grateful for the experience and opportunities, I even got to live in America for a year. I’ve spent a lot of time traveling and getting to know the industry and the people running it.
Decentralized tech is a natural fit with hospitality, particularly loyalty, consumer engagement, and how you can create that one-to-one relationship with a specific brand to get personalised offers, incentives, and improve your consumer engagement.
At Condatis, we’ve been lucky to have a lot of engagement and discussion in the Decentralized Identity Foundation’s (DIF) Special Interest Group (SIG). Now as one of the group leaders I feel like we are in a fantastic position to offer this to the market and focus on loyalty, consumer engagement, super excited to bring that to market.
What do you see coming up over the horizon for hospitality and the other industries, for that matter? What trends do you see lately?
I see identity and the management of identity becoming more and more prevalent and just how pervasive it is across organisations. Some organisations that have been a little bit slower to recognize it are still looking at improving their identity journey and making transactions more secure. Both customers and organisations are starting to realise that personal identities are being kept in these centralised repositories and are now starting to see how this can be transitioned into decentralised identity to help customers take ownership of their data. They are also looking to make identity journeys not only safer but better by speaking to people at every stage of the journey and using cutting-edge technology like self-sovereign and decentralised identity to manage that journey.
What is also around the corner is a change in consumer behaviour. People are prioritising ownership of their own online identities. For too long we’ve been signing into applications using social logins such as Facebook, essentially having our identity linked in with payments and brands. People are unaware that they’re sharing their data with the likes of Facebook and being added to various lists due to this. Going forward, the people that are on lists want to be there, as they know exactly what they’re directly logging into – everything becomes tidier and more specific.
Another trend we’re seeing span across healthcare and engineering is the need to improve management of staff movement across locations and facilities. We’ve seen this becoming more prevalent. As an example, the work we’ve done with our colleagues at Sitekit and the NHS during the height of the pandemic was to explore how we can move doctors and nurses quickly using decentralized technology. The NHS is a very complex organisation, made up of hundreds of separate NHS trusts across regions and functioning as an independent employer. We developed a decentralized digital staff passport solution where all credentials are held on a device and staff can present their credential to each trust and be in the door in 5 mins, instead of going through a week’s worth of manual processing and onboarding when temporarily moving to another NHS Trust.
With our client Sellafield, we’ve developed a similar decentralized staff passport to optimise their internal processes for checking employees have the right specialist qualifications and clearance. It’s really to prove you hold the right accreditations, proving you’re ID matches who you say you are, and that you have the right clearance to carry out specialist work.
You’ve invested a lot of time and energy with the Decentralized Identity Foundation special interest groups, especially the hospitality one. They seem to be a great source of information and development. Can you give us some insights on what you’re working on currently?
Yeah, absolutely. So, the SIG is split into four subgroups. Within those, you have a verified credentials and offers team, a profiles and KYC group, a travel team and then you have a government-issued credentials team, which is the team that I head up.
The teams are there to work up use cases and link the technology to actual real-world examples of how decentralized technology could be used to solve certain challenges within the hospitality industry. I think that currently four or five are out there and they can be found on the DIF website. Feel free to have a look there.
Touching more on the group that I head up, the Government Sanctioned Credentials group, we’re slightly different in that focus on trying to work out what is going on with government-sanctioned credentials and how they could impact hospitality downstream. A lot of the work that we do is trying to piece together what government-issued credentials are available. If they’re not available, how could we get passport information, driver’s license information and how could that be used to verify credentials in the decentralized identity world?
We have spent a lot of time talking about things such as vaccine passports and vaccine credentials, purely because I think that the COVID crisis has been such an accelerator for those conversations. Focusing on travel, we’ve been exploring getting people back to traveling safely, back to flying! We’ve looked at the direct impact on the hospitality industry, as travelers arrive at their destination and then you go on to a hotel, or a restaurant.
Networking is a big part of your role, and we want some insight! What are the hot topics in the world of tech right now?
That is a great question! Not the most glamourous of examples, but I do think that generally people are conscious of data privacy and security right now, we hear so much about data breaches, data hacks and the impact this can have on a business and their customers. Specifically, from the conversations that I have with our clients in higher education, hospitality, and a few others, I think it’s about really maximizing consumer engagement and customer journeys. The pandemic has forced certain companies that were more traditional business-to-business companies to become business-to-consumer companies. How do they offer that good guest experience? So that’s the way that we’re working on at the minute and working with companies to build up a better front door to their digital business, make things more secure but nice and easy to use and also give that good guest experience.
It’s an area of identity I never really thought about before, but it’s so important, it’s all about consumer behaviour and consumer experience. In the previous roles that I’ve had, and now, the conversation hasn’t really changed. We’re living in this kind of Uber generation, people expect to engage digitally, have a great guest experience, and get what they want when they want it.
Gillian, as a sales professional – there’s a question I must ask you… Dragon’s Den or The Apprentice?
Interesting question! For me, I’d have to choose Dragons Den because it’s all about going on and presenting something that you’ve created. Throughout my career I’ve struggled in selling something I’m not passionate about, so for me, having a platform where I can talk about why I genuinely believe in something represents me as a person, I’m heavily invested emotionally and passionately in everything I do.
We’d love to know what your most significant career achievement has been so far and what you’d like to achieve in the future?
I think because I’ve been involved in start-up companies, the significant career achievements have been very much around landing big logo clients or contracts of significant value, not necessarily monetary, but more the position that they put the company in at the time and being part of that process. So, I think that’s been probably my greatest career achievement today. I also think that the fact I was able to go and live in Washington DC for the best part of a year and experience a completely different kind of sales culture, working with a much smaller team out in the US and really establishing company brand out there – it was a really great experience and my husband and I had a ball through the year. It was brilliant fun, so I feel very lucky that we’ve had that opportunity.
My career aspirations now are much more focused. I think I’ve been really, really lucky. As I say, because I’ve been in small companies to be able to experience a mixture of sales, but also marketing, product, and understanding the commercial side of it.
We’re happy to see more companies working to diversify their teams, and this is fantastic, but we can always do more and do better! What are your thoughts on diversity, and what approach would you recommend continuing the fight for inclusive and diverse teams?
As a woman in tech, there have been times where I’ve been stereotyped or received derogatory comments. I feel it’s so important to talk about it and educate people on why things aren’t acceptable. I think that we all have a role in terms of educating everybody as to how we feel about certain circumstances. There is an onus on ourselves to explain when something makes us feel bad, why it does, because I think otherwise how are people supposed to know? I feel there’s a wider education piece especially when it comes to the technology industry. Tech offers a great career for women full stop! I’ve been fortunate enough to have the most amazing conversations with people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, academics, and intellects.
In terms of how we improve – people need to be better. We need to understand why the perceptions of things are the way we are. We need to be happy to approach this with an open heart and ears, that’s the best approach for me.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever received?
Easy! I am a dweller on stuff! I love to emotionally torture myself if I make a mistake or feel like I haven’t done my best. I was having a conversation with my former boss at the time, talking about people that I felt were not pulling their weight or were difficult to work with. At the time, I was really struggling with it and didn’t really know what to do and he said, “people will always reveal themselves, so you don’t have to”. It’s the best piece of advice I have ever been given because it’s so true. So, when you’re feeling like there’s injustice in the workplace, or someone is being really difficult, it’s my responsibility to remind myself that the person will always reveal themselves, I don’t have to.
Finally, Gillian, the burning question I’ve been waiting to ask you. What is the most played song in your music playlist right now?
I’ve been trying hard to exercise a bit more, so my playlist is pretty much upbeat movement tracks. I think the one that I like to run to the most to is ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd – I can’t move past it! It’s such a good beat and gets you going. I must clarify though… I don’t like it because of TikTok! I don’t stand in my living room and dance; I just like it for running!