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What I’ve Learnt: Tom Rowland, Head of Customer.

Prolific North

Tom Rowland works at Lokulus, a tech company based out of Alderley Park in Macclesfield.

He’s recently been promoted to head of customer but has been with the business 15 years, which was previously known as Numero until an MBO in 2019.

Rowland started out in the support team, rising through the ranks over the years.

Lokulus offers a range of products and solutions to transform customer interactions through a series of AI and machine learning powered bots. Working with the likes of Serco, Capita, Volkswagen and Matalan, Lokulus helps businesses to free up customer service agents by focusing on important customer interactions while the AI automates repetitive or basic decision-making tasks.

He shares all the lessons he’s learnt.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

So I have two kids, so I can’t just roll straight out of bed and sit down at my desk like I once may have done and things can be rather chaotic. But before I get up in the morning, I always spend ten to fifteen minutes browsing emails, diary appointments, relevant news etc. so I have a plan for the day and I can prioritise after a night’s sleep. It kickstarts me thinking about what I need to do with the day, so by the time I sit down to actually work, I’m already on it.

What’s been your luckiest break?

15 years ago when I accepted my job with Lokulus (Numero as we were back then). I actually had a second job offer on the table and I just couldn’t decide between them after writing a pros and cons list so I let fate take control; tossed a coin and it came down to Lokulus. This could be considered a lucky break from a number of perspectives, obviously 15 years later I’m still with Lokulus and have done some amazing things during my time here. But also, the other company I turned down went bust nine months later!

What’s your best failure?

Staying at Lokulus, like everyone over the years I’ve thought about looking elsewhere for a new challenge. I’ve read the advice that you should move employers every two years to move your career forward, or I’ve had calls from recruiters telling me that whoever they are recruiting for is literally the greatest employer on the face of the earth.

However, Lokulus has really grown with me. Whenever I’ve been looking for a new challenge, I’ve always found that an opportunity to move with Lokulus has presented itself. Just recently I’ve been promoted from the Innovation Team to head of customer, allowing me to work in a different department and really focus on our clients and make sure our teams are servicing them to the very best of our ability.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

So this is a personal one but it’s absolutely joining the Scouts. I have my parents to thank for my lifelong association with the Scouts, I have been a Beaver, a Cub, a Scout, an Explorer Scout, an assistant Scout leader and now I’m Group Scout Leader at 3rd Offerton Scout Group. It sounds a bit twee but the scout’s slogan “Skills for life” really is true. I’ve done all sorts of amazing things in the Scouts, developed the confidence, organisation and leadership skills I rely on every day and it’s enabled me to travel the world (I have attended two world scout jamborees in Thailand and Sweden). I’ve also made lifelong friends, as well as my lovely wife Rachael with whom I now have two beautiful girls (Emily who is three and Sophie who is 11 months).

I also think it helped me get my job at Lokulus as the person who interviewed me when I joined Lokulus was a Scout leader and that’s essentially all we talked about in the interview. So yes, definitely joining the Scouts.

Which book would you recommend others to read and why?

_‘The Five Dysfunctions of a Team’ _by Patrick Lencioni. I’ve actually only recently read it (well, listened to, I’m not a great reader, but I do love a good audio book). The first four to five chapters of this particular book (audio book) take the form of a story which chronicles a fictitious company working through the pain of fixing its dysfunctional leadership team. I find this format, a practical story, much more accessible. I also found it much easier to take what the author was trying to convey and mapping it onto the people I see around me in day-to-day life. I highly recommend it!

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

“Don’t try to get promoted, try to do the job you want to end up with and you’ll be surprised how quickly it becomes reality”. That was a piece of wisdom shared by a former colleague fairly early on in my career and it has served me well ever since.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

I’ve been very fortunate throughout my career to have worked with lots of people who have been positive influences on me. But the more I’ve worked, the more I think that being part of a close-knit team all working towards the same goal in a company that focuses on the culture and well-being of its people is the biggest influence on how people behave at work.

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I once had to explain to a very senior member of the UK government whilst sitting in a rather grand meeting room at Number 11 Downing Street what a “Matalan” was. To give some context, I was presenting a piece of work I’d been leading on for Lokulus alongside a fairly senior civil servant to the politician in question, when the subject of our credentials as an organisation came up. So when I mentioned some of the businesses we’d worked with, he interrupted me and said “What’s a Matalan…?” Slightly confused, I was left to explain that it was a large UK retailer with stores across the country.

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

Of course the whole agile working piece has really accelerated, but I think the various experiments which are currently taking place around allowing organisations to work a condensed week are a direct result of covid restrictions. As a business it has presented Lokulus with lots of opportunity to service clients as our customer experience technology supports disparate teams and allows the quality of service to remain high, regardless of where teams are working.

What does success look like to you?

A well laid plan. Despite coming from an IT and Software Engineering background I have a strong project management streak in me. I like a good plan and I like to see it being stuck to. You can ask anyone who has worked with / for me over the years what’s guaranteed to annoy me above anything else and they’ll tell you if there is unplanned deviation from whatever we’ve agreed to do.