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An insight into the Techies with judge Kate Westbrook

Kate Westbrook is a leading technology and contracts lawyer in the South West. Her team at Thrings works with a range of technology businesses, from UK SMEs to multinational listed PLCs. Working with these innovative and fast-paced enterprises, Kate enjoys becoming part of the team and helping these businesses to grow. Based in Swindon herself, she feels that the tech sector in Wiltshire is in need of a spotlight.

Kate was on the Techies judging panel in 2019 and is excited to be continuing her association with the awards in 2020 as a judge and sponsor. We caught up with Kate to get her low-down on the award scheme. 

What were your highlights from the Techies 2019?

A huge highlight for me was the number of great Swindon and Wiltshire-based businesses in the room on awards night – it’s exciting to see how tech has exploded in our region over a relatively short space of time. The awards were a real celebration of these businesses’ achievements.

What do you think of the Swindon & Wiltshire tech scene?

The Swindon and Wiltshire tech scene is varied, which helps keep things interesting… and open to a specific direction evolving over time. We have some ‘deep tech’ businesses like Intel and Appsbroker, large corporates using tech as an enabler, such as Zurich and the National Trust, and everything in-between.   

We’ve always had a healthy number of start-ups and scale–ups, but have seen an increase in recent years thanks to facilities like the Digital Mansion Corsham and the Workshed at the Carriage Works in Swindon which, as a model, provide great support networks.

What aspects of the 2020 awards are you looking forward to?

In 2020, I’m looking forward to finding out what new and wonderful things are being created by the region’s tech-brains. I’ll also be wearing my TechSwindon hat this year. This new Switch on to Swindon initiative, which I’m excited to be helping steer as a board member, will be encouraging an ecosystem of innovative tech-driven businesses to thrive and creating a leading community to attract and retain the best talent. The Techies, by helping to highlight tech successes and bring companies together, will contribute hugely to these ends. 

At Thrings, we’re embracing the world of blockchain and smart contracts, swotting up on this disruptive technology to help our clients seize the opportunities it presents (and mitigate the risks). So I’m looking forward to discussing the driving force behind what’s being coined as the fourth industrial revolution with our region’s techies.

What advice would you give firms looking to enter the Techies?

It’s helpful for entrants to know that the judges sit in a room together, discussing each award entry in turn until a decision is reached using a scoring system. Personally, I’m looking for businesses that don’t just roll out the sales patter. I’d like to see evidence of achievements (I’m a lawyer after all)! 

There is a lot of discussion before we reveal our scores to each other and it’s great to hear the different perspectives around the table. Given the high number of good-quality entries, pizza and chocolate help to keep us going through these tough deliberations.

My top tips for entrants are:

  • Bring your submission to life in some way. One of the best I saw last year included contributions from all of the team in a really engaging way.
  • Provide evidence (where possible).
  • Avoid submitting the same entry for each award. Reading the same thing over and over can get dull (and makes it more likely that we’ll miss the subtle differences). Pay attention to the award title, tailoring the info you provide to match.
  • Short submissions make me wonder if there’s more, but longer submissions may not keep the interest of everyone – this is a tricky one to get right, but think Goldilocks.

Good luck everyone!

The Techies Awards 2020 opens for entries at 9am on Monday 6th January 2020. Enter via the website: www.the-techies-sw.co.uk