Lindsay Lucas – Software Solved
When I hear phrases like ‘big data’ or artificial intelligence, I can’t help but think of the many sci-fi flicks that I’ve enjoyed over the years. From the brutal and brooding Ex Machina to the surprisingly moving Chappie, there has been a fascination in pop culture during recent years with what the future holds for mankind amidst the technological developments and advancements of our age. Lindsay Lucas (MD of Exeter-based tech firm Software Solved) knows a thing or two about such things but, I’m glad to tell you, carries a humanity and passion for what she does that a machine never could.
An Exeter girl through and through, Lindsay knew from a young age that she was technically minded. Growing up in a household that loved and restored classic cars, she showed an affinity and skill for engineering which went far beyond simply a hobby and, so, upon leaving school opted to stay locally and study a Bachelorette of Engineering at the University of Exeter. She then went on to be sponsored onto a Masters course there too.
Lindsay told me,
“After achieving my Masters, I entered the world of work as a very employable engineer. However, very early on in my search for work, I was told by one particular company that I would ‘be a distraction in the workplace’ due to being a female and so they wouldn’t take me on! This sort of reception from prospective employers meant that, initially, I had to start off my career by temping.”
I was shocked to hear that this sort of treatment had been given to a woman, in Exeter, in the not so distant past. I suppose, in a weird way, it was good to feel so outraged as that probably goes to show how alien and outdated this archaic sort of behaviour has become in the majority of modern businesses.
“I took on a very short-term temping role as a receptionist at Eclipse Internet and they liked me so much that I was offered a permanent role, working in Customer Services, Sales and, eventually working as a PA to three of the Directors and becoming Technical Project Manager within the KCOM Group”
UNDERSTANDING THE INDUSTRY
With a taste for success and the bit between her teeth, Lindsay decided that she wanted to immerse herself further in the industry and gain experience in multiple disciplines, so she decided to join a smaller company (as working for such a large corporate wasn’t affording her that flexibility and range in her role). So, ten years ago, she joined Management Systems Modelling (re-branded to Software Solved in 2015) and has since gone about getting to know every nook and cranny of the company, performing many front-line roles before becoming Operations Director and, earlier this year, stepping into the role of Managing Director.
With a forty-five-strong team, Software Solved have carved out a particularly strong niche for themselves in their market. Since their establishment over twenty-one years ago, they have dealt with some of the largest insurance companies in the country, including RSA, AXA XL, Aviva and QBE). For a relatively small local company to be working closely with most of the top-ten insurers in the UK is highly impressive to say the least.
I asked Lindsay to give me the ‘elevator pitch’ about what Software Solved do. She explained,
“We build market-leading software, primarily for the insurance, retail and logistics industries. This software is bespoke for each customer and covers every possible need from Data Visualisation and Risk Management to Artificial Intelligence (A.I) and Machine Learning. Basically, we bring data to life for businesses and provide insight into what that data is showing. Looking into the future, A.I, machine learning and data analytics are the big growth areas in our industry. They all present real opportunities for companies to understand their data in new and more detailed ways than ever before – in turn, enabling them to have a more accurate foundation from which to make decisions, strategise and grow.”
Software Solved have clearly leaned into these growth areas, winning a knowledge transfer partnership and Innovate UK bid with Plymouth University. This partnership particularly looks at the insurance industry and how machine learning and A.I can be applied to risk management so that insurers can assess risk more accurately and, therefore, offer truer premiums that are based on good quality and up-to-date data.
“You can’t overestimate how important A.I is for the future of our industry, as well as many others. In fact, for some years now, insurers have been acquiring other companies purely for their A.I capabilities. It is definitely the way forwards.”
OPPORTUNITY FINDING MINDSET
This opened up an interesting and tangential conversation about sci-fi movies and the depiction of A.I in modern culture – often as something to be feared or, at the very least, not to be trusted. This brought Lindsay to an interesting and relevant point which was that her industry is only as valuable as the quality of the data that it uses. For example, any data modelling algorithm can tell you what you want to hear, if the data it is using is biased or skewed. After all, as with many things in life, you get out what you put in.
“One of the pillars of our business is enriching and properly cleansing data and making sure that we get that initial and vital part of the process right before moving any further. This approach means that, whether data analysis is being done by humans or machines, they are working with pure data and, therefore, able to have clarity and certainty about the deductions that they make.”
She went on,
“Being able to interrogate data properly requires a certain way of thinking. In actual fact, I’ve found, it requires an entrepreneurial and opportunity-finding mindset. The ability to look at a data set and see the genuine trends, gaps, opportunities etc is a real skill – one that my team have in abundance. This means that Software Solved is an amazing place to work. I really do love my team!”
That team, as it turns out, sounds particularly impressive. With twenty Full-Stack Developers, Client Service Managers, Project Managers, Business Analysts, a Test Team and then the usual business functions such as Finance, HR and Admin (often the unsung heroes), the Software Solved family really are a talented bunch!
“I absolutely LOVE my new role. Our clients are amazing. My team are second to none and it really feels like a family. Of course, making money is important, but seeing people develop, build relationships and progress in their careers is such a joy! Of course, no job is perfect and it has certainly been a very busy time acclimatising to my new role. In fact, I was doing both the Operations Director and MD roles side by side for three months, until we found a permanent successor as Operations Director. Now that he is in-role I’m looking forward to having a little more head space!”
VALUE, RECOGNITION AND MERIT
Outside of her very busy work life, Lindsay lives near Okehampton and is Mum to her two-year-old son Daniel. She is also a hobby Silversmith (with a hallmark registered with the London Assay Office) and has a keen interest in vintage cars. A frequent spectator and occasional Marshall at Wiscombe Park Hill Climb and a member of the Vintage Sports Car Club, Lindsay’s current restoration project is a Triumph GT6 which has been sat in her garage for some years now. She hopes to start renovating it in earnest in the near future, perhaps even with a helping hand from her two-year-old apprentice mechanic.
Clicking back into work-mode, Lindsay stated,
“In terms of our leadership team, I am passionate about encouraging and seeking diversity. I think there is so much to be gained by actively seeking different mindsets and worldviews, rather than simply employing clones of yourself. What good is it to hire people who tell you what you already know!?”
“I’m also incredibly passionate about encouraging young people and women into studying or working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). There is a huge amount of STEM opportunity here in the South West. I’m not a raging feminist or anything – I truly believe that women should be valued and recognised on merit rather than a token gesture of fake equality. That said, I care deeply about encouraging women to pursue a future in STEM if that is their passion. Surely, any business would simply want the best person for the job, regardless of gender or any other factor?”
With a finger on the digital pulse of our economy and a data-driven eye on the horizon, it struck me coming away from my chat with Lindsay that she and the Software Solved team are probably one of the best kept secrets in the South West. Their harnessing of the raw potential that data and A.I offer is truly exciting and provides them, their industry, their clients and the wider business community with a tantalising opportunity for growth, insight and development.
Maybe humans and machines can live in harmony after all…
To keep up with their cutting edge developments, follow @softwaresolved on Twitter
Written by Joff Alexander-Frye
Photos by Grow, Matt Austin (supplied by Software Solved) and Unsplash