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Meet the team

Sheffield IT Branch - Part of the FluidOne Group

Introducing the Team

We believe in our people. They are a highly skilled, motivated, and forward-thinking group of individuals that really care about making a difference. When they say they’ll do something, it’s seen through with professionalism, dedication, respect, and trust – the steadfast values that our company is built on. Importantly, we love what we do. Many of us have been in the IT industry all our lives, and over that time have gained significant, real-world experience that has enabled us to become experts in our respective fields. We’re a friendly bunch, too, and true to our Yorkshire roots – all driven by dogged determination and a passion for doing the right thing for our customers; qualities we reward and nurture.

We’re different to other IT teams. At Highlander, we’re proud to be a collective. That means everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do within the business, has a say in how it is run. Our flat hierarchy sees that we are entirely team-led, so there are always opportunities for our team members to genuinely contribute to the decision-making process, and our open door policy ensures there are plenty of forums to provide honest feedback and ideas that help shape our future. While we do have a management team, we’ve also developed internal Social, Office, and Training teams that have just as much of an impact over all of the critical decisions we make. We understand the value of equality.

Management team

Steve Brown

Managing Director

As Managing Director, you could say that I’m responsible for Highlander as a whole. It’s a job that I take immense pride in, helped largely by the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by inspirational, hard-working people that I want to help succeed, no matter what their goal is.

Career-wise, I pursued my childhood passion of football into my early 20s, captaining England Schoolboys and spending two years as a professional at Sheffield Wednesday. When injury put paid to that, I quickly jumped back into education and graduated with a BSc in Business from Sheffield Hallam University. I started to take a very different career path with a graduate management role in Financial Management for Marks & Spencer plc. Shortly after this, I found my first IT-based role at a little-known shop that sold PCs to students; that shop became the Highlander we know and love today after we decided to go ‘business to business’ back in 2001. It’s been a rollercoaster of a journey, but I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to see the business grow, mature, develop, and improve over the 17 years that I’ve worked here.

Outside of work, I try to cram in as much ‘fun’ as I can; spending lots of valuable time with my family and two very active young children, as well as seeing friends for food, drinks, and plenty of football matches.

I love the business that we have built and take great satisfaction in the fact that we provide great services for our clients, while at the same time enriching the lives of everyone in the ‘Highlander family’.

Russell Horton

Chairman and CEO of FluidOne

In my position as Chairman, I offer strategic advice and guidance to the Highlander board to support their own ambitious growth plans, while also identifying and pursuing opportunities for wider collaboration with other members of the FluidOne Group.

Having started my career as an accountant over 30 years ago, I have been involved in IT and Telecoms since 1994. Over that time, a large part of my career has focused on the integration of service-rich technology businesses to deliver joined-up solutions for our customers. I’ve been involved in over 20 acquisitions, ensuring the successful onboarding of organisations to build a strong employee culture that’s the bedrock of world-class customer service.

I joined FluidOne in 2018 and led an MBO that acquired the business in February 2019 with a vision to build the best quality provider of Connected Cloud Solutions. I am very proud of what we have achieved to date, trebling in size in the first 5 years, earning a market-leading Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 88 from our customers, and being voted by our staff in the top 50 technology companies to work for in the UK. Highlander is a great fit within the group, delivering excellent service to customers, with a loyal and skilled team built on a foundation of strong values.

I am married with 4 children, so my family keeps me fairly occupied outside of work! I also enjoy England rugby and like to keep fit with weightlifting, running and karate (I’m a black belt in the Seiki-Juku style).

John Akings

Systems Development Director

I’ve devoted nearly 20 years of hard work and time into the growth of Highlander as a business, which has ultimately led to my role as the company’s Systems Development Director. I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of the internal Highlander ERP and associated business systems, tasked with developing and refining current business processes through workflows and automation.

During my time at Highlander, I have helped build the technical department up from just 3 engineers supporting 20 customers to a full internal helpdesk and field service team supporting almost 200 customers. As per our company values, I care strongly about the effort and expertise that goes into every implementation and system we develop, as well as for the team around me. It’s exciting to see the business, and our team, continue to improve and the people within it prosper.

A family man at heart, I’ve been married for 30 years. Whilst serving in the Royal Air Force, I met my wife through the prequel to Internet dating (the Internet didn’t exist) known as Pen Friends. 30 years later we have 2 children and 2 grandchildren and hope for more of the latter. Like many of my colleagues, I have a huge passion for football, and am a season ticket-holder at my chosen club.

Ryan Connolly

Client Services Director

Working with both the commercial and technical teams as Highlander’s Client Services Director, it is my responsibility to ensure that our customers are receiving the best possible service. I joined Highlander as a Commercial Account Manager in August 2007, and since then have progressed to the position of Sales Manager and was finally appointed a Director in November 2015.

After leaving college, I lived in Florida having taken up a Football Scholarship, spending most of my time playing and then coaching at the local High Schools. Following this, I returned to Sheffield to study Business and Finance at Sheffield Hallam University, and eventually found myself a part of the Highlander team.

Integrity, honesty, and empathy, along with good old fashioned hard work, are the values I try to live by. I like to motivate and get the best out of people, which in turn ensures that our customers are getting the best out of Highlander.

Outside of work I enjoy keeping fit, so will often pay a visit to the gym, and play football whenever I can in-between caring for my young family, which now takes up the majority of my free time.

Dr Rich D Field (OBE, DBA, MPhil, FInstM, MMC)

Board Advisor

I have gladly spent the entirety of my working life devoted to all aspects of business; chairing, coaching, and learning at a board level within Government, commerce, community, and business organisations. I’m also a fully qualified Chartered Accountant, Chartered Director, and Chartered Marketer.

My prime purpose within a working context is to learn and to share, bringing as much joy as possible into the world of work. In practical terms, this means through sharing the understanding and skills of how the use of collaborative, as well as business processes can enhance the long-term performance and enjoyment for both organisations and individuals.

It is a privilege to work with Highlander, which consists of a team of highly skilled and truly committed individuals.

Owen Hanley

Sales Director

As Sales Director, my role involves working with our team of Account Managers to simplify the latest IT innovations for our customers, identifying solutions that overcome common challenges and help them to achieve their goals. It’s all about building great partnerships – working together to solve problems and deliver exceptional service.

When I first joined Highlander as an Account Manager in 2011, moving into the world of IT was a steep learning curve. However, the challenge of understanding new technologies and working with a group of fantastic customers has made my time with the business hugely enjoyable.

Working in IT can sometimes mean that the typical 9:00 - 5:30 routine goes out the window, but it’s the determination to support our customers at all times that gives reassurance that they can trust us to get the job done. That said, I still manage to spend plenty of time with my wife, our two young boys and the family dog.

Outside of family life I’m also a keen sports fan, and you’ll often find me out on the golf course, even though I still can’t get round in under 8 hours no matter how hard I try!

Chris McQueen

Technical Director

In my role as Technical Director, I feel fortunate to have found a position that not only helps me channel my own passion and love for technology, but affords me the opportunity to work with a fantastic and highly-skilled team.

Having joined Highlander over 16 years ago as a Workshop Technician, I’m proud to have played a part in growing the business. Everything from developments within the technical department, to the expansion of a broad technology portfolio that is at the heart of everything we deliver for our customers today.

My enthusiasm for IT and technology remains as strong as ever, and one of the most exciting parts of my role is helping the business identify and onboard the latest innovations.

Away from work, I enjoy spending as much time as possible with my young family, and when I can find the time, I’m also a keen mountain biker, although admittedly I have all the gear and no idea.

Peter Cadman

Operations Director

In my role as Operations Director, I oversee our operations team. We’re responsible for orchestrating service delivery through our technical teams and providing our engineers with a platform to work to the best of their abilities.

I also have responsibility for achieving both ISO 9001 & 14001 quality and environmental standards something which aligns strongly with my own key value of continuous improvement, a desire that is shared across both our department and the wider business.

After completing a Business & Management degree at Sheffield Hallam, my first role was at Dunlop Slazenger co-ordinating the distribution of branded golf equipment to professionals and major events. A subsequent move to a small IT reseller gave me the opportunity to move on to Highlander. Having started in a commercial capacity, I moved into the technical team as Operations Manager, before stepping into my current role.

A frequent 5 am riser for gym sessions each day before work, I see myself as an active person. I’m a big animal lover and love to give back to various charities where I can. I’m also an avid reader and love spending time outdoors. Being lucky enough to live in a semi-rural area, I take any opportunity to get out into the fresh air, so don’t be surprised to see me when you’re out and about enjoying the countryside.

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