2018 ICCC Caring Citizen of the Humanities Award:
Gail Jones, Joint Managing Director, UKFast
Gail Jones is the co-founder and managing director of cloud hosting and infrastructure provider UKFast. The UK-based technology brand provides hosting and colocation solutions for both the private and public sector - keeping some of the UK’s busiest airport check-in desks running, ensuring NHS paramedics have access to the training they need on the go, and keeping some of the world’s biggest brands online.
Since 1999, Gail has been at the helm of the firm, along with husband Lawrence, driving its journey from a two-man team, through 18 years of organic growth to the £47 million turnover firm it is today. Whilst the business prides itself on being UK-based, Gail’s focus on helping businesses to grow has seen organisations from all over the world thrive.
Gail’s focus is centred on innovation and efficiency, spearheading the operations side of running UKFast. Working closely with UKFast’s research and development team, Gail steers the businesses in-house innovation. The RnD team build all internal software and databases, enabling UKFast to react to market shifts and client demand quickly and efficiently, without the need for third parties. This level of innovation has enabled the creation of UKFast’s signature eCloud cloud hosting portfolio, which now accounts for 43% of the firm’s total revenue.
In UKFast, Gail has created an inherently inclusive environment in UKFast. The business recruits based upon personality and attitude, rather than background, academic success or experience level. This opens opportunities to a significantly broader range of people. However, you can’t manage what you don’t measure which is why UKFast has introduced a series of metrics to track inclusivity and diversity within the business and recruitment process.
As part of this, UKFast strives to open up the technology industry as a viable career for people of all backgrounds and genders. The firm works with more than 60,000 young people, across 60 schools and universities in Greater Manchester to improve tech education and promote careers in technology. This drive has seen the creation of UKFast’s apprenticeship scheme - apprentices now account for 75 members of the businesses’ team. UKFast has also been approved by the government to open a new high school in partnership with The Dean Trust. The school will combine digital skills learning with traditional education and is set to open within the next two years. Bridging the skills gap and gender gap in technology is of particular interest to Gail.
As well as designing, funding and installing Raspberry Pi café tech suites in schools and youth centres in Greater Manchester, UKFast has also sponsored these suites in South Africa and Malawi. Not only do these tech suites act as community centres, they also provide upskilling opportunities for the community and a much-needed internet connection. Members of the UKFast team have been actively involved in these projects, including travelling out to Malawi to offer training and help set up the centres.
Gail has driven measures across UKFast to improve the lives of the business’ team, including introducing an exemplary maternity package
This year, Gail launched the UKFast Community and Education Awards to recognise the work that young people across Greater Manchester who help those around them. Awards celebrated young carers, volunteers, fundraisers and entrepreneurship, as well as rewarding the schools and outstanding teachers driving exemplary standards.
UKFast is consistently recognised for its commitment to creating a healthy workplace for its team. In 2017, UKFast was named the 5th Best Workplace in the UK, the top in Manchester, by both The Sunday Times Best Companies and Great Place to Work’s Best Workplaces. The listings consistently recognise UKFast as a ‘fun and friendly’ workplace and a family-friendly workplace.
UKFast has also been recognised as one of the Financial Times 1000 Fastest Growing Businesses in Europe as well as winning a UK Cloud Award and recognition for its apprenticeships scheme. Gail was this year nominated as one of Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Women in UK Tech.