leeds.tech / features

In Contact With James Locker of AND Digital

James is from Bradford and is one of AND Digital’s Service Delivery Leads, based in their Leeds office for the last 22 months.  He spent almost five years with BJSS and really enjoyed his time there, but felt he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join the AND journey.  

He studied Business Studies and Management at Leeds Beckett University and following graduation, found himself in delivery based roles in finance and utilities, prior to joining the tech industry 7 years ago.   

Tell us about the history of AND Digital and how the company got to where it is today.

In 2014, AND set out to close the world’s skills gap by helping companies accelerate the development of their digital capabilities. AND Digital is now one of Europe’s fastest-growing tech companies, employing over 600 people and generating an annual turnover of £42m. We’ve opened offices across the UK, including London, Manchester, Leeds, Halifax, Reading and Edinburgh. Our rapidly-growing client base includes British Airways, Gousto, NBrown Group, The Stars Group and MKM.

In this year’s The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list, AND ranked 10th overall and 3rd in Yorkshire and The Humber, demonstrating its people first focus for tech talent. I noticed the focus on a people-first approach as soon as I started. Our Club model, where each office has no more than 100 ANDis and each ANDi is part of a small, tight-knit, cross-functional team, means we’ve got a fantastic culture and way of life. Together with our other Clubs, you also feel like part of something bigger with a wider support network.

What are your plans for the future?

Our Leeds Club, named after local pioneer Matthew Murray, is halfway towards our growth goals. Over the next 12 months, we are continuing to grow to a full-size Club. 

By 2025, we want to build tech with clients that make life better for hundreds of millions of people, all while staying firmly people-first. We want to introduce our unique operating model across the world and achieve ten-fold growth – that’s around £500m-plus in revenue globally.

Why has AND Digital decided to get involved with Leeds Digital Festival?

We’re a growing Leeds company, and want to support and connect with others in the local community. It’s also a great opportunity to share some of the great work we’ve been doing at AND. We have a wide breadth of skills in our teams, so it’s exciting for us to be able to show how we use these to build a range of solutions at the Festival. It’s also a great way to connect with potential new partners and clients.

Leeds Digital Festival prides itself on collaboration. Why do you think this is so important to Leeds and the wider region within the sector?

I suspect my answer around collaboration has changed significantly over the last few weeks! One thing we’ve all realised through the crisis is the importance and critical need for collaboration – both with clients, as well as within an organisation. We all talk about collaboration and the benefits but, when the COVID-19 situation started, it became clear where there were gaps. To help other organisations fill their gaps, we’ve created an open library here of different assets we already use at AND. This includes other tools and processes that have helped us adapt quickly and successfully to remote working, while keeping our team spirit alive. The ability to work remotely while still collaborating effectively makes digital skills key for helping us out of the crisis.

How do you think Leeds Digital Festival will benefit Leeds and what do you think the future digital landscape looks like in Leeds?

I think there’s a huge opportunity we’re missing at the moment to share knowledge and best practice across multiple markets. Some of our ANDis recently went over to San Francisco to visit Google, Facebook, Uber, some of the huge multi-tech organisations, and one of the key learnings they returned with was the need to share. And this isn’t about promotional sharing, but sharing ideas and new ways of looking at things. In the past, there may have been a trend to maintain secrecy, but we need to break down this stigma around sharing. AND prides itself on thinking about the art of the impossible and making sure we have time to step back to give thought and consideration. The great thing about the Leeds Digital Festival is that they’ve created a shared space to learn and consider new things together and to get those new ideas talked about.

If these new ideas never leave the bubble of someone’s head, or an organisation doesn’t have the capability to fully realise the vision, then ultimately the wider community in Leeds misses out.

One of the positives of when we come out of self-isolation is the realisation that we can all work differently. The very nature of that will mean there will be much more collaboration. This makes digital one of the key factors to drive us forward, and the 2020 Leeds Digital Festival is a great start to getting back on track.