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Michelle Joosse’s clients know that her technology is an asset, not a cost. As the CEO of Hotline IT, she knows that prevention is far better than the cure.
Hi Michelle, you’re the CEO of Hotline IT. Can you tell us a bit about how you get started in the IT world? Was it something you were always interested in?
I fell into IT really (or married into it), however I have always had an interest in technology and I was raised in a household of technology early adoption. We were the first of our family and friends to have a microwave, beta video recorder, laser disk player and surround sound. I was the first one of my friends to have a mobile phone. I was even retelling the story to my kids the other night. I had a NEC Sport with a big aerial that I used to put in a bum bag to carry it around when at university! While everyone in the neighbourhood had a Commodore 64 PC, my dad bought me an Amstrad. So we always had the latest and greatest.
When I started my first full time job the company had one computer, then they purchased another four computers but no one really knew much about them. So I ended up using Windows NT to network them together. The industry always interested me as I recognised it as one that would play a key role in our workplaces and lives in the future. But I don’t think I even had the vision of what exactly that impact was when I entered it, so many years ago.
Hotline prides itself on being more than just an IT support company. Can you tell us a bit more about your business and some of the services you provide? What is it that makes Hotline so unique?
Hotline definitely is more than just an IT support company. Our clients consider us as a business partner. We work with them on a strategic level to use technology to grow their business. We are not just about fixing the issues you are having on a day-to-day basis, we are about preventing as many as possible from happening in the first place.
We help our clients view technology as an asset for their business, not a cost. We can provide businesses with all the technology they need from their Internet connection, mobile and fixed phones, security, software licensing, hardware rental and purchase, project management, onsite resources and of course our managed IT support. We also work with a number of vendors to support your CRM and Sharepoint solutions and training. For anything technology related, if we don’t manage it we will happily point our clients to someone who can help them.
What are the kinds of businesses you work with? What sort of problems do your team typically find solutions for on a day-to-day basis?
We work with all kinds of businesses from sole traders to enterprise. We have a significant number of customers in the hire/rental industry, associations and accounting sectors. But we also work with manufacturing, wholesale, retail, recruitment and other professional services.
We work with management on a strategic level to develop and implement a wholistic technology solution for their business, from our core offering of managed IT support, to Internet and telephone connectivity, software licensing and hardware procurement and rental. We are increasingly finding interest in document management and collaboration too, so have been working with our customers and partners to provide user-friendly solutions.
There would have been a time when running an IT company, as a female, would have been considered a bit unusual. How do you find it now? Did you face prejudice early in your career? Have things changed?
I guess it is still relatively unusual for women running technology companies. But I can honestly say I do not feel that I have ever faced any prejudice in the IT industry nor at any time in my career. On the contrary, I think the fact that I am a woman only attracts positive responses, not negative. To be honest, I have been the only one holding myself back. Have things changed? Yes, probably, but only in that there is a lot more focus on attracting women to the industry.
How do we get more women into IT? How do we raise the profile of women already working in the field?
We need to address it at the school level. Encourage more young women to consider it as a career. IT has the reputation of being for geeks! We need to change this perception and demonstrate the exciting advances and impact that anyone – male or female – can make in the technology industry.
What are the main challenges faced by IT companies today? Is it a case of constantly playing catch-up to developing technology or do you find that new solutions are only making things easier and also, more interesting?
New solutions are definitely making things more easy. The main challenge is security. With constant advances in the technology we and our vendors are always playing catch up and ensuring our data is secure. The key to overcoming this challenge is constant management and user education, in order to prevent security breaches and to understand the importance of making security a priority.
What excites you about the way technology is heading? Is there anything that scares you? Do you think we are becoming too reliant on devices and machines or do you think we just need to be smarter about how we use them?
The future of document management really excites me. With the emergence of tools like Office 365, the sharing of documents and the accessibility of these documents is really exciting and really opens up the ability of remote and mobile work forces. I do not think we are too reliant, it is just the evolution of doing things. We don’t wash our clothes by hand because there is a better way of doing it, using a machine.
Technology allows us to work smarter not harder, but also focus our attention on more important things.
The emergence of technology has allowed many small businesses to emerge, as they have access to the same technology as the big corporates and it is affordable. Technology has reduced the barrier to businesses entering the market as they do not need to employ as many people and do not need a huge investment to get started. As technology evolves, so do those trying to use it against us. So security always needs to front of mind.