We sat down with Colette Johnson to chat about being a woman in the world of Engineering, travelling around the world for trade shows and her plans for the future! #iREACTED
What is your role in InspecVision Colette?
My role is quite varied and HR is one of the things that falls with me. It’s important to understand exactly the role you are recruiting for. We normally need somebody who understands that at the heart of it we are a small business and the role is going to stretch a bit further than maybe it would do within a bigger company.
We’ve found that the people that have thrived with us have enjoyed this type of variety and also having more control over their work and what they do day to day. It also means that every day is different which is a benefit.
How would you describe the company culture?
We would consider our hierarchy to be reasonably flat, the managers work alongside the rest of our team. Our Managing Director Jan is very involved in the R&D side of things and drives that but also helps the rest of the team. At the same time we have our Senior Electrical Engineer working right alongside everyone else., including new recruits. This gives all our employees the opportunity to learn and progress as they work with more experienced team members. We feel more in touch with what’s happening and as we grow and continue hiring, like we have done in the past 18 months we will continue to maintain this culture.
We are a family business and have always been cautious in terms of planning our growth, anything the business makes, it goes back into the company to help it thrive.
So, have you noticed most of your growth since moving to Belfast?
We started in Larne in 2005 at the LEDCOM premises and we experienced a period of growth and had outgrown the unit we were in, so we moved up to Belfast and have been here since 2012. About two years ago we changed our distributor in the US and they’ve really driven sales in the states over the past two years for us and the expansion we’ve experienced is really responding that market. Our growth has been slow and steady but that’s because we want to be secure in what we are doing.
What are your future plans and objectives?
We are always keeping an eye on our distribution network and how we sell our products. So, in terms of that we are looking at different ways to get our product to market and are looking at things such as re-branding or joint projects with other companies. These are long term objectives which we hope will drive growth significantly.
How long does it take to assemble one of the products?
Depending on the size of the machine, it takes us about four weeks to get the raw components in and will then take about two weeks of assembly and camera calibration.
Do you get the opportunity to travel often?
Yes, we do, a lot of our trade shows are in different countries. The next exhibition is in May in Germany and later in the year we will go to our American distributor who has an open house. It’s good for brand awareness and to meet distributors. Each exhibition lasts usually from Tuesday to Friday and we must be there for a few days before to be prepared. I really enjoy going to them as you get a great flow of people and it’s great in terms of market research.
What is the thing that motivates you at the start of every working day?
I find it really rewarding to work in a family business, feeling that I can contribute and help it grow. I do something different everyday and I like that variety in a role. I think because there is that family dynamic that my role is more varied than it would be. I like ticking my list of tasks throughout the day and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I’ve completed everything at the end of every day. I have learnt so much and have been given the time and space to do so, for example before starting this job I had never been to a trade show before whereas now I can organise us attending exhibitions.
If you could say anything to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?
I would probably tell myself to a different degree (laughs) I did an arts degree, far off from what I’m doing now.
How did you get into the role you’re in today?
I started off as a pension’s administrator, I was getting married to Jan and we were planning a move out to the suburbs. So, I decided to help Jan start this business and the original intention was to work with him for about a year and help him get it off the ground and here we are 14 years later! I grew up on a family farm, always helping out, so that whole aspect of this business really appealed to me. Although we do have to take work home with us at times, that’s part of owning your own business I suppose and it’s all very rewarding.
How have you found the service at Reactive?
I’ve really enjoyed working with Reactive and found them to be a good partner in terms of helping us grow our workforce. They have always been very responsive because sometimes my needs have changed alongside the job role as I’m looking for someone who is multiskilled. I have always appreciated the type of feedback I have received and look forward to continue working with the Reactive team in the future.