Get to Know... Ali Small - Head of Central Operations
In insight / By Charlotte Tobulevicius / 22 November 2019
“After studying Accounting & Finance at university, I joined Siemens VAI on a finance graduate scheme which paved the path for my future career. After 3 years with Siemens, the company closed the Bournemouth office in favour of a relocation to Sheffield and so this is when I joined IT company, Modrus, as a finance assistant.
When I joined Modrus in 2010, it was a fairly small company with only a couple of us in the finance department, but this soon grew to a bigger team under the wing of a Commercial Director. In 2014 I was asked to run the finance team as Financial Controller which was an opportunity I grabbed with both hands; the chance to manage the team effectively and implement some of the ideas I had was too good an opportunity to pass up.
My journey with Nasstar started via the acquisition of Modrus in 2016 where I helped my MD gather everything ready for the sale of the business and ensured that everything was as it should be before the takeover. This was a huge learning curve for me as the sale uncovered several questions that we’d never really thought about as a business before! In September 2016, Nasstar finally completed the purchase of Modrus and this is when I joined the ranks at Nasstar, still in my Financial Controller position.
Working at Nasstar
As the Nasstar HQ was in Telford and I was in Bournemouth, I spent much of my time as Financial Controller gradually handing over financial information and processes to the Telford team so that the company could eventually operate as one business. Once the majority of this had been handed over, I was struggling to see where I could go next within Nasstar and that’s when the opportunity to join the Management Operating Board (MOB) came up. I joined the MOB officially as Head of Central Operations in the summer of 2018 and I’ve not looked back since!
My role varies from day-to-day; I could be doing anything from feeding back the results of our client heartbeat questionnaire to preparing presentations for the team or analysing data. As a non-technical person, I tend to take on a more ‘behind-the-scenes' role and pick up any tasks that come my way, perhaps something that a member of the MOB is running out of time to do or helping HR.
One of the biggest challenges in my role so far has been the planning of the FY20 budgets with the rest of the MOB. With a financial background, I know budgets like the back of my hand, but working with heads of departments across a spectrum of experience levels has been interesting. Some have understood it straight away or have had prior experience in budget planning, but others have had a bit more of a learning curve!
It’s been a great way for me to test my people management skills and learn how to work with different personalities and skill sets, as well as adapting my teaching style to suit. Although it’s been challenging, I’ve really enjoyed the process and I think we’ll all continue learning together as we go on to implement the budget and wider strategy.
The things I love the most about working at Nasstar are the people and the environment. One of the reasons Modrus was sold to Nasstar was because it had a very similar culture and valued people as a success factor, second to skillset. I think it’s important to get the ‘right fit’ when it comes to employment and this is something that is also a top priority for Nasstar.
I also like that there have been opportunities for me to grow within the business. Loyalty is important to me and I've never been a fan of job-hopping; if I’m happy in my workplace and still have room to develop my career, then I see no reason for me to move on and this has been the case with my career at Nasstar thus far.
If I were to think about what could be improved at Nasstar, I think we could still build on communication across the offices. We’ve put a lot of work into integrating the teams across locations, but I think there is still a bit of work to be done. However, I do think this is to be expected when merging businesses across geographical locations, especially when the drive from Bournemouth to Telford isn’t a short one!
Away from work I enjoy going to the gym and I’m also a keen badminton player. I got into badminton about five years ago when I started playing casually, but this year I joined my local mixed doubles league which I’m really enjoying. It’s a friendly league but I’m very competitive and find that the challenging nature of it is a good way to push me to play better.
Sport is a big part of my life and I enjoy going to watch my team, Southampton FC, where I am a season ticket holder. When I’m not watching or playing sport, I enjoy spending quality time with my niece and nephew.
If money wasn’t an object, my ideal job would be working closely with my local children’s hospice, Julia’s House. I have close links to the hospice as it was a friend of mine’s mother who was the namesake of the charity. Julia was a district paediatric nurse whose dream was to develop a support network for families struggling to care for a life-limited child without any help or respite. Julia sadly died of cancer and so the hospice was set up in her memory.
If my friends were to describe me in three words, I think they would say I’m caring, loyal and funny. I’m a positive person and always try to see the best in every situation or circumstance so I think this reflects in my personality.
My Future at Nasstar
It’s difficult to think of where I’ll be in terms of my role because there is no room for me to move up, but there is still so much for me to do in my current role that I think this will keep me busy enough for the next five years! As long as I am challenged and happy in my role, then there is no reason for me to move on. In an ideal world, I’d love to have others in a similar role to me or as part of my team so that we can work on helping the MOB in terms of support and taking the non-technical items off their to-do lists.
Starting a New Job: Advice
If I were to give advice to someone new joining the MOB, it would be to be prepared to be busy and don’t be afraid to challenge the team. It’s always good to have a fresh pair of eyes and I think as long as points can be backed up, then challenging the team to think differently is a great thing. It’s easy for us to get stuck in our ways of doing things but I definitely think that challenging the status quo is the way to go, especially if something can be done quicker!”