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For the people: A Q&A with Alice Hopkinson, Davanti's Practice Manager - Salesforce Growth & Capability, Auckland

20th May 2021

Author Alice Hopkinson

Meet the awesome Alice! In her role, Alice is tasked with bringing new junior Salesforce talent into our business and working with them through the first few years with Davanti in their IT career, helping them to grow into well-rounded consultants. 

We catch up with Alice to find out all about her and the role she plays in helping to grow our team of super talented, innovative and creative problem solvers. (And as an aside, if this sounds like your kind of career – talk to Alice!)

 

Tell us about your role. What does it entail, and how does it help Davanti’s customers get closer to their customers?

I’m the Practice Manager for Salesforce Growth and Capability in Auckland, and have been in the role for a year. I’ve been at Davanti for nearly two years.

In my role, my main responsibility is to bring new junior Salesforce talent into our business and work with them through the first few years with Davanti in their IT career, helping them to grow into well-rounded consultants. Being able to really engage and interact with our customers is just as important as growing someone’s Salesforce skills and knowledge. So that’s what I do!

One of the things that I think makes Davanti stand out is that we bring together teams of super talented, innovative, creative problem solvers.

My role is a little atypical in the respect that I’m not exclusively focused on one customer. I think a lot of what makes our relationships very powerful with our customers is that we tend not to divide our people up and spread them across multiple projects, multiple customers and multiple engagements, so our customers get a real depth of engagement and our people become part of our customers’ businesses.

I consider myself to be quite a generalist, and I excel in a lot of what some people call the “softer” skills that are essential to helping a good consultant to become a great consultant. I love being able to grow our people to help them to have challenging and inspiring conversations within their teams and with their customers, and to be able to give and receive great feedback.

I feel very lucky to have a broad remit in my role. A big part of the reason I decided to join Davanti was that I was looking for a role that had depth, uncertainty, opportunities for leadership and learning and a bunch of different stretch areas that continually shift and challenge me. And I absolutely get all of these things from my job – it’s different every day. It’s been a very cool couple of years!

Outside of leading my team and working with customers, I am also in the process of formalising Davanti’s Diversity & Inclusion approach which is something I’m loving getting to learn about and bring others along on the journey.

 

Tell us more about the role you play in helping to bring interns and grads into Davanti’s business every year, and Davanti’s graduate recruitment and intern programmes.

In my role, I get to sit across a lot of different things, not only my team in terms of their growth and capability, but also with the wider Davanti business. I also have customer relationships and relationships with education partners, such as University of Auckland and TupuToa. I get to spend time thinking about our not-for-profit work and the contribution we make to the community.

In my role, I’m focused on how we can attract a really diverse and interesting group of young people to join our business every year. We do that through a number of partnerships. For example, we offer an annual summer internship, in partnership with the University of Auckland’s ICT Grad School Master’s program and also with TupuToa, who do amazing work. We really love working with them!

Our summer 2020/21 interns. From left to right: Shakeel Khan, Aditio Agung Nugroho, Alice Hopkinson, Shriya Sadhu, Doris Lee and Alexia Slaven (NB Leonardo di Caprio doesn’t work here.)

 

Outside of that, we also run a grad recruitment programme every year. (Here’s me and some of the team talking about the grad programme last year.) The annual process starts in March, when we go out and talk to students, to start to raise awareness and talk to people about what consulting is and what Davanti and Salesforce do, and why Davanti is a great place to be. Around August or September, we run our grad recruitment process where we bring people in and give them a day in the life of Davanti. It’s always a great day and we love hosting it. It’s definitely something a lot of people at Davanti love to be able to participate in.

Every year, one of the things I look forward to and love most of all is bringing together a group of bright-eyed and really excited young people as a cohort and giving them a great graduate programme, guiding them through what is often the first six months of their professional lives.

It’s a really important time to feel safe and to feel like you’re challenged with interesting work and by interesting people, and have an opportunity to make connections.

 

Looking to the year ahead, what’s the one thing you’re thinking about and focusing on that will help Davanti’s customers?

Where I’m really focused at the moment is on growing Davanti, finding talented and amazing people to come in and grow our business so that we can support our customers. As I mentioned, we don’t split the focus of our people because we want them to be able to get as close to our customers as possible to deliver the best outcomes, and that means we need more amazing people dedicated to our customers.

It’s a challenging marketplace – so consider this a shout-out to anybody reading this… If you or a friend is passionate about technology and customer experience transformation, please hit me up – I’d love to hear from you!

 

Tell us a bit about your background.

After uni, I joined the family business – publishing – and learned the ropes by doing odd jobs (like writing rejection letters – I’m sorry aspiring authors of NZ!). After a couple of years of that I joined Telecom, working in a call centre where a few of my friends had landed after they finished studying. I was lured by the decent pay and cool staff parties. Soon I was trying out roles in back-office teams, training and content writing and ended up moving into process improvement, technology change management and customer experience design over the years.

I feel privileged to have worked on Spark’s five-year technology transformation project as a change manager, delivering and managing change out to over a million customers and 2,000 frontline staff at a time. Another fantastic experience was being part of Spark’s agile transformation – feeling the growing pains and amazing rewards of being part of a business that flips a team of 5,000 from old ways of working to scaled agile in under a year. It was incredible!

There is a lot to be said for working in a big company like Spark – there are a lot of jobs you can do and I feel hugely grateful to the leaders I had in that business who pushed me to challenge myself in the roles I sought out.

I stayed at Telecom/Spark for over a decade and found myself ready for a new challenge when I got a chance to meet some Davantians and apply for a role in the Salesforce team here.

 

What’s your mission in life, and what do you love most about what you do?

My mission in life is still under refinement! Right now, the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning and the thing that I want to do most in my work – no matter what the work is – is to personally help people to create a shared understanding and help them be active and think critically as they go through that process so they have the skill and drive to do it themselves

As humans we’re all fallible; we have all of these biases and preconceived notions; we think that other people think like us and we think that people think differently to us and, and we make assumptions based on our lived experiences and the influences in our lives. I think when people don’t take time to really get to a point of shared understanding within a team, or to be open to being challenged on their points of view and their ideas, and to collaborate and to think critically about their points of view and those of others, you can’t get to a point where you can really optimise effectiveness. In anything that you seek to do, whether it’s project delivery, creating a strategy or planning a wedding – whatever it is you want to undertake – I think this a really great skill to have. And I work on this every day, doing as much as I can to facilitate conversations and development for individuals so that they can get to that place of shared understanding with those around them.

I’m really lucky in my role in that I get to learn a lot and I get to help others learn, too!

 

When you’re not busy helping our customers get close to the customers, how do you spend your time?

I’m from Christchurch in the mighty south and I moved to Tāmaki Makaurau with my husband five years ago. I come from a beautiful family, and family is super important to me.

My husband and I have still got so much of the city to explore, and every weekend we try and make a plan to try a new restaurant, go to a new suburb or see a show or do something different. I like doing the little things in life. I try to live a pretty relaxed life and stay connected with my family out of town, spending time with my friends and on various hobbies.

I love travelling and I’m a big reader. (Again, hit me up on LinkedIn if you want to talk book recommendations!)

 

What are you reading at the moment?

Cliff Kurniawan and I have been talking about, recommending and swapping books a lot in the last six months. (Props to Cliff – you can find out more about him here. If you have a business problem, he’s the person you want to talk to). All his recommendations are great. He’s just given me my first Haruki Murikami, A Wild Sheep Chase.

 

Any other sources of inspiration?

I’m really into the podcast, You’re wrong about which re-examines cultural phenomena from the late 20th century and early 21st century. I’ve learned a lot about different things that I didn’t know a lot about before and It’s definitely helped my critical thinking process and helped me examine why I think the way I think certain things and some of the things we could be doing differently to make change.

 

What’s on your mind right now…?

For me and my team, I think a lot about the importance of confidence and not letting Imposter Syndrome get to you. I think that’s a big one for a lot of people – junior humans, female humans, marginalised community humans… It’s something that I’m working on personally, and I try and encourage others to as well.