Sync NI Spotlight: Kainos’ Russell Sloan

  • Russell Sloan is the Digital Services Director at Kainos, a FTSE 250 company employing more than 2,000 people globally.

    Established in 1986 as a joint venture between QUBIS and ICL, Kainos provides digital transformation services for customers across its two specialist business divisions, Digital Services and the Workday Practice. Russell talks about his career and experience. 

    Describe your career pathway?

    I joined Kainos 22 years ago in 1999 as a graduate software engineer, having completed a degree in Electrical Engineering at Queen’s University Belfast. I became a team leader quite quickly and I realised that managing the skills of a diverse team to meet challenging deadlines was something I really enjoyed. As the company scaled in the early 2000s, a new business unit to provide application support was formed and I was given the opportunity to lead this.  

    In 2013, I was challenged with driving forward and growing our fledgling digital business which had started to provide digital transformation services into the UK public sector. Starting with a team of just 35 people, I have grown our Digital Services business to over 1,200 people today, who deliver projects for our commercial, healthcare, and public sector customers throughout the UK, Europe, and North America. 

    What does your work cover today?

    Our work primarily focuses on delivering organisational change through digital transformation, and we work in partnership with clients across commercial, healthcare, and the public sector. 

    For example, as a combined team with HM Passport Office, we transformed the paper-based passport service to a fully digital service, avoiding the need to visit the Passport Office or local Post Office to submit an application and reducing the time to completion from 6 weeks to 6 days. 

    We remain focused on innovation alongside our established business areas and have a range of specialist practices including data and artificial intelligence, cloud services, and intelligent automation.

    What do you believe are the important attributes to leading and building effective teams to deliver growth?  

    I’m fortunate that I work with so many talented and motivated individuals who thrive on big challenges.  Kainos has a very open and collaborative culture and we very much put our people at the heart of what we do. In essence, we have great people who deliver great work with our clients and we recognise and value all that they do.  

    I believe my role is to create the environment and space for our people to flourish.  Good leaders need to provide both support and challenge whilst allowing their teams to have the autonomy and freedom to do their jobs and produce outputs in a way that best works for them. Trust is a key enabler for success and I have found that when people are motivated, their capacity for problem-solving increases and a growth mindset develops. This brings both results for them as individuals and for the business as a whole.

    At Kainos, we like to encourage our people to just have a go as learning comes from both things that go well and things that don’t go so well.  Sometimes the best learning we ever get is from our failures rather than our successes.

    What advice would you give to anyone who would wish to build a career in a technology company in Northern Ireland?

    First, I would say that it’s a thriving sector to work in and there are plenty of opportunities with great companies in Northern Ireland. My advice is be prepared to work hard and embrace opportunities as they come along even though you may feel they are really stretching you. My role has changed considerably over the years whilst remaining with the same organisation because I was open to taking on new challenges as they emerged. Generally, be curious and interested. I would say that applies generally in life rather than just a technology career!

    And finally, believe in what you can do and achieve.  Companies and people from Northern Ireland compete at the highest level on the world stage, and that’s something we should be proud of and confident about. 

    This article first appeared in the Summer 2021 edition of the Sync NI magazine. You can download your FREE copy and sign up to receive future digital editions here.

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