From Cambridge to West London
This month’s postcard is from West London, United Kingdom, where a charismatic Oliver Lee-Stevens does business development, account management and support for small and large-scale clients through their IT transformation. Sales isn’t for everyone, so where does he find his greatest motivators? In self-expression, music, running and coffee. Read on to learn more.
Where are you from and where do you live?
I was born not too far from here in Cambridge and grew up in a small village called Barley. As a kid, I played football and was obsessed with singing and dancing, especially to Michael Jackson and Elvis. Later, I went to university in Southampton to study business management and moved to London five years ago. I’ve moved around, but I’ve remained in Putney Fulham in the last three years.
West London has a nice combination of green spaces, family homes and shops. It’s a great place for running and also for my daily morning routine. On weekday mornings, I go to Pret around 8 a.m. for an oat flat-white/caramel shot, review my tasks for the day and set my mind for success.
What was your path to Pythian?
After school, I worked at Ted Baker’s head office and was chosen to be part of the first round of graduates’ scheme. I spent days with directors, the CEO and others across the organization, so I got a taste for presenting to C-level executives and being part of the larger corporate business world. I was still very young, so it was a meaningful experience to have early in my career.
From there, I moved into software and technology and did cloud and data recruitment for a niche organization for about three years. I worked with similar clients that I do now and recruited across the globe. Then, I moved into ERP and cloud recruitment for another two years. After getting my feet wet in data, I needed a different challenge and to apply my expertise to something different and step out of my comfort zone.
About 10 months ago, I started to re-evaluate what I wanted in my career. I knew I wanted to stay in the cloud space but needed a new challenge and outlook that could motivate me afresh. After having recruited for managers and senior DBAs who’ve now progressed into management and director-level positions, as well as having worked in the tech space and built a wide network, sales and account management at Pythian was a natural move.
My current focus is retail, travel and fintech organizations looking to migrate to a cloud platform. I regularly consult with them and help them evaluate vendors to help them transform their IT. I’m very happy to have made this move.
What’s a typical day like for you now?
Normally, it’s a mixture of prospecting—looking for new opportunities that Pythian can support, whether it’s an upgrade, migration or managing a client’s data—and pitching or preparing a pitch. Prospecting requires a high level of self-motivation and I do this for about three hours in the morning, so it’s become a routine. Coming from a recruiting background, I was already familiar with the business development aspect of the role.
Depending on the day, I may have to attend an industry event, like the recent Big Data Analytics online event. Or because of the time differences we Pythians work across, I may have to stay logged on longer or log back in for a bit that evening since I’m five hours ahead of the Atlantic east coast. So, I appreciate the flexibility we have: If I need to be on a call with colleagues or prospects in another time zone, I can easily adjust my schedule. But there’s also a certain amount of routine required for all the upfront legwork, which is vital if you want to succeed in sales. After 10 months, I’m happy to say I’m starting to see the payoff for my efforts—you get what you put in.
What has been the biggest challenge in this role so far?
The legal side of things has been a learning curve. Also, when you’re in sales, you need to constantly follow up and push through; have regular touch points; and make sure your NDAs, MSAs and statements of work are in order. It can take three weeks to three or four months to secure everything between Pythian teams and the client, so those aspects were new to me in the beginning. But working with enterprise-level companies, as well as some that are now experiencing hyper-growth, and supporting them through their journey is exciting, and I’ve been able to use my network and build strong relationships within the retail space.
Tell us about your workspace.
Pythian provided a work-from-home desk where I can stand or sit, which works great for me because I’m very active and can be impatient, so having these options is perfect.
We do have an office in the U.K., but with the option to work remotely, I have a dedicated space that works well. Whether I’m pitching virtually or face-to-face (probably three to four new proposals per week), it’s great to have the flexibility to work from a different location if need be.
How do you spend your time off?
I love to run and did a 100 km charity marathon last year to honor my late grandmother. It required three solid months of training where I ran 10 to 40 km at a time, then 50 km, then I averaged 100 to 120 km per week and then tapered off, back to 30 to 40 km.
I started at The Shard and finished in my grandmother’s care home in Cambridge, raising £5,000 for Alzheimer’s research. I drank about 10 coffees that day and finished in 14 hours. My family was waiting at the finish line, so it was very emotional and rewarding, but not something I’d do again. (Meanwhile, two of my buddies went on bikes and ate throughout the day.) It was too late to eat after the marathon, plus I was physically shattered. But the next day, I ate a 400 g Philly steak with truffle chips, mac and cheese, broccoli and a cold beer. This challenge really tested my character and forced me to leave my comfort zone, but that’s OK since it’s where I feel most alive. So, this marathon is probably my biggest personal achievement to date.
I also play tennis and love good food, especially Thai and Nepalese. The Bank Restaurant in Norfolk is probably the best Nepalese takeout I’ve ever had.
I still dance and sing—it’s a creative outlet, but these days I’m more into James Arthur and old school like Chaka Khan and U2, maybe because I’m half Irish? :)
What’s one type of food you could eat every day?
Bone Daddies. It’s a Japanese Ramen spot in Putney where the Bao Buns are sensational!
Describe Pythian in one word.
Follow Oliver on LinkedIn.