#MyJourneyToSoftcat – David Francis, Head of Vendor Alliance
Head of Vendor Alliance
Tell us about yourself
I’m David Francis, Head of Vendor Alliances at Softcat. I’ve been with the business since September 2008, starting in sales I then moved into Alliances in 2016 to manage our HPE business, before commencing my current role as Head of Vendor Alliances in 2019.
I left school after completing my A-Levels with a view of having a gap year before taking up a position at Manchester University to study Economics and Politics – needless to say that never happened as during my gap year I fell into work and loved the independence it brought. I joined a foreign currency (forex) trading company in 2006 and for the subsequent two and a half years learned how to trade currency before deciding it wasn’t the best place to be during an economic crash. I stumbled across Softcat and was privileged to get the opportunity to work at the company.
What is your role?
As Head of Vendor Alliances, I am responsible for the strategic alignment and engagement we have with our Alliance partners. I have a team of 45 individuals who manage the relationships across 16 vendors, ensuring we are the #1 partner of choice for them. Every day for me is different; I am involved in strategic discussions with our vendors – how do we refine the boat to make it go faster, where do we challenge one another to further the partnership and how are we measuring against our mutually aligned goals. My role also extends into supporting new vendors who are looking to work with Softcat and equally those that do work with us but don’t have direct Alliance alignment. Pre-COVID I was travelling all over the country working with our partners and their teams to ensure we established the highest quality experience. I am excited that this part of the role is starting to come back now as we get into hybrid working because to be honest, I love it.
What drew you to apply for Softcat?
I’d never heard of Softcat prior to joining. At that time, it was a £100m organisation with a single office in Marlow. I loved IT at school and always enjoying the technical side of things; I built computers and was intrigued at how far reaching it was. I took a chance on a recruitment ad I saw, went to the assessment centre and managed to thankfully get through an interesting interview process with the founder Peter Kelly. I have loved the whole experience from the moment I walked through the door.
Tell us about your candidate experience during the recruitment process?
The process was great, it was typically Softcat. I attended the assessment centre and was lucky enough to secure a place through that. I was then invited back to interview with Stefan Gyoker and Adam Fraser which I enjoyed; they were both incredibly supportive. My next stage was with Peter Kelly whom I had a great conversation with, of which I remember a lot of it fondly to this day (I’ll save the stories for myself though). The whole process was managed incredibly well, and I felt fully informed at all points.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give yourself at the start of the recruitment process?
I wish I’d done some more research. I think I was a bit naive thinking the knowledge I had accumulated from my limited IT interactions would be enough. I definitely didn’t know anywhere near as much as I could have done with respect to the industry and how big and fast paced it is. Thankfully it didn’t hinder me, however more research is never a bad thing!
How has your Softcat experience been so far? How do you feel Softcat has supported you in your career?
Softcat have been amazing in supporting my career. I’ve felt challenged and pushed when I’ve needed it, but also when I’ve identified open doors myself, I have been given the opportunity to walk through them and go for it. The culture is so encouraging– everyone is here to help and wants you to be successful. I think my career has developed just at the right pace. I spent 8 successful years in sales, before moving into a world I love in Alliances. Having some sales experience behind me has been a blessing, but it didn’t come overnight and going through the ups and downs of a sales career certainly gave me some broader shoulders (if I needed them). Patience is a virtue, you need to be ready with the right experience for the next move, sometimes I think people can get into a state of over-engineering, but you just need to be confident in your abilities.
What would be your ‘Top Tip’ for success within Softcat?
I mentioned this before, but patience is a virtue. We’re often too quick to want the next thing. Take your time, enjoy the experience you’re going through, embrace it and really live it. Whilst the future and the opportunities available are exciting, enjoy the moment – really enjoy it.
What advice would you give someone thinking about joining Softcat?
Do your research and see if this is an industry that gives you the motivation you need to be successful. It’s not about just joining Softcat; you’re joining a community – make sure its one you want to be a part of.