In 2008, just before the financial crisis hit, Sarah Pawson decided to set up her own recruitment agency specialising in technology roles. Fast forward 12 years and once again, against a backdrop of adversity, she was launching another business. “I don’t think it has ever been planned that way but it’s just the way that it has worked out,” said the founder of Fruition IT.
Having successfully established itself as a trusted recruiter for Yorkshire’s tech sector, the Leeds-based business last year moved into the technology consulting space.
“It was a natural progression for us,” said Ms Pawson. “We’ve partnered with a number of big brands, providing them with staffing solutions over the years.
“We understand our clients’ needs. We’ve got a really strong reputation in the technology sector as being a resourcing partner.”
Clients have been looking to the firm to add more value and Fruition Consulting, which will sit alongside the recruitment business, allows the company to do just that. It will help clients looking to outsource some work or secure a team for a particular project.
While the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy, it has changed the way businesses operate.
Ms Pawson said: “The market has changed and how the workforce looks in organisations, particularly post-Covid, is going to change significantly over the coming years. Companies are looking for much more flexible solutions.
“We hadn’t factored Covid in but that panned out well for us.”
Prior to setting up Fruition IT, Ms Pawson worked for a tech recruitment business called Computer People. She spent over seven years at the business.
“I learnt my trade there. I had a brilliant experience, lots of training, lots of development, lots of progression but I have always been quite entrepreneurial in spirit,” she added.
“I always wanted to do my own thing and an opportunity came about for me to leave that business.”
She believes that her entrepreneurial streak comes from her own upbringing with her parents giving her a great deal of independence.
“Then working for a large organisation, you see how things are done really well but you also see how things could perhaps be done differently or better in my opinion,” she said.
The 43-year-old has always had a passion for technology. It comes from her desire for efficiency in all aspects of life.
“I’m always looking at ways to do things easier and quicker,” Ms Pawson said. “That’s just in my nature as an individual.
“If there’s a problem or there’s an issue in the business for example, I don’t let that problem ride for weeks or months on end, I’ll always try and find a solution to that. That is usually underpinned by technology.”
The entrepreneur admits to making mistakes on the way to turning Fruition IT into what it has become today.
She said: “When you first set up a business, anybody who is really honest will admit to this, there are so many things you don’t know.
“Naivety is a really brilliant thing when you’re starting a business because you’re almost fearless but also it can mean that mistakes can be made along the way. We’ve made plenty of mistakes with lots of different things.”
Fruition IT was left needing a rebrand in its first year after falling foul of a trademark issue with its original name.
The firm also had to weather the 2008 financial crisis in its early days and more recently the global pandemic.
Ms Pawson said: “Getting through all those things has been at times difficult. You’ve got to be resilient. You’ve got to believe in what your ethos is as a business.
“Staying true to that, which we always have done, has enabled us to not only survive but also flourish in difficult times.”
The well-documented skills shortage in the tech sector continues to be a “big problem”, she said.
The issue starts within schools, Ms Pawson added, with technology not being presented as a “cool choice” for young children to engage with. It also leads to under-representation of women in technology.
She said: “Stereotypes are created at a really young age. People have a perception of what a career in tech looks like. That’s one of the starting problems and we’re addressing that too late.
“We don’t profile enough female role models. There are brilliant women out there that are achieving some amazing things.
“Children are easily influenced by role models but actually do we promote these people at a stage when our children are easily influenced?”
One of the avenues that has proven a success to some extent has been apprenticeships but those will have to run at a “much larger scale” to help reduce the skills gap.
The pandemic has already changed the way businesses recruit for talent, Ms Pawson said. Initially businesses were promising the hybrid approach towards flexi-working, with staff in the office on certain days and working from home on others.
“What companies are recognising is that they need to empower their employees to make those decisions themselves,” she said. “That’s what any candidate in the market at the moment wants. They want to make that decision.”
Fruition IT is also increasingly being approached by London-based firms looking to build remote teams out in the region.
Ms Pawson is upbeat about the tech sector in and around Leeds. She said: “It’s always been a really collaborative place to work. Whether you work for the same organisation or not is irrelevant.
“We’ll see greater collaboration across different organisations rather than just internally. That will have to happen. It’s how people learn and develop. Particularly if they are not going into the office every day.”
As for Fruition, which now employs 28 staff, Ms Pawson’s aim is to build and grow the group to be a “prominent solution provider in the Yorkshire tech market”.
“We very much already are, as a technology recruitment business,” she added. “We’d really like to do that in the consulting space.”
Those plans already seem to be coming into fruition for the Leeds-based entrepreneur.
Job title: Managing director of Fruition IT and Fruition Consulting
Date of birth: 21.03.1978
First job: An elf in Santa’s grotto.
Favourite holiday destination: Croatia
Favourite film: Star Wars (the original ones)
Favourite song: You’ve Got the Love by Florence + The Machine
Last book read: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Car driven: Mercedes
Most proud of: My twin boys – watching them grow up, even whilst playing the drums.
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