Doing it Right by Putting Humans First: Interview with Paul Evans

Putting Humans First

Paul Evans and his friends founded software specialists Mindera with the emphasis on thinking of everyone else – clients, employees, and society – first. Almost 10 years down the line, he reflects on the company’s continuing journey and commitment to its ethos.

Good day, Mr Evans! Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Could we begin with a few words on how you and your friends founded Mindera?

Absolutely. Our story began in March 2014. I distinctly remember wearing a pair of Paul Smith socks at the moment I realised it was the right time to move on from my job at a big corporate company and start something new.

At the time, I was 46 and had just bought a new house with my wife, Hetal, who I now work alongside at Mindera, and our two small children. I’ve never been someone who can switch off. I’m always thinking, “What’s next?” I went to my garden shed, of all places, and tried to figure out what was next for me. I had two options: get another corporate job or start a new company.

Then, over pizza in the summer with some friends (we were working together), we sat down with a simple goal: to work together in a happy place, not driven by cash, but by getting things done right every day and, importantly, where people come first. This is when Mindera was born.

Mindera has grown from its humble start-up roots to a multinational company with locations all over the world. We’re curious about the key strategies you implemented to scale the company while maintaining its core values and objectives.

People and relationships are the foundations to our success. You could say our journey is not your typical one and it may seem unorthodox compared to traditional tech companies, but we are proudly different and this difference is a cornerstone of our success. We’ve grown globally, but we all stay connected together, whilst giving our locations autonomy in their markets.

One thing we can attribute our success to is our people-first approach. This is perhaps our most notable difference and something that really sets us apart. We have no organisational structure, no managers. From day one, we placed our emphasis on our people, prioritising them over financials and creating a hierarchy.

When we are working on projects, we always focus on the human element and think about how humans will interact with the tech.

Another is the way we do our work. We work on partnerships and relationships with a focus on doing things the right way. We don’t refer to companies we work with as “clients”; they are our partners. We work collaboratively with them as an extension of their teams or autonomous teams to deliver success and these partnerships have lasted almost as long as we’ve been in existence and have built further success through our relationships and referrals of the work we’ve delivered. Incidentally, our first client was an old friend of mine I bumped into on a flight. I asked if he wanted to work with us and he said yes.

Being true to our values, allowing our people to thrive, and building relationships are the strategies which have got us to where we are and will take us forward.

Collaboration seems pivotal in the B2B space. How do these collaborations between technology companies and other businesses ultimately benefit end consumers, even if these consumers might not directly interact with the technology itself?

For me, it’s not business to business; it’s human to human. Tech is created for people, and behind every great piece of tech is a person. When we are working on projects, we always focus on the human element and think about how humans will interact with the tech. It’s about getting a deeper understanding of what our partners and their customers need (even if they don’t know that themselves) and that’s how people benefit.

Could you please provide an overview of the Teal organisational model and how it differs from more traditional hierarchical structures? How did you come across this model and decide to implement it at Mindera?

The Teal organisational model is one which is centred on humans. It has no formal organisational structure and instead champions autonomy and collaboration and focuses on relationships.

Why we embraced this again boils down to our founding principle of creating an environment where people come first. I’ve always believed that the team is more important than the individual, and so we wanted to build a company where decisions are made by those impacted most, and where people have the autonomy to try out new things.

We wanted an environment where the lessons learned from failures are seen as part of our growth and success. We give our Minders (how we lovingly refer to our employees) more responsibility and opportunities for personal and professional development.

Naturally, as with all structures, there will be difficulties but, ultimately, it’s about doing your best to ensure that people are central to everything we do.

One distinctive feature of the Teal model is the absence of formal job titles. How has this impacted the way work is assigned, recognised, and celebrated within the company? Are there any challenges you’ve encountered with this approach?

I think, as with anything, nothing is ever perfect and there will be challenges, but we found that this model is ideal for us. For people joining us from corporate jobs, it can be a bit of a culture shock and I suppose it could be argued that this is where challenges with our model do tend to arise. However, once people get settled, it becomes seamless.

We see the traditional way of job titles and corporate structures as a bottleneck to progress. For me, If you have a job title, next comes objectives and, in a split second, you have hired a great person but you’re not fulfilling their potential because you’re effectively “putting them in a box”.

However, at Mindera, everyone is encouraged to make decisions with the support of mentors and collaborators, not commanders. Through our Teal model, we are effectively “self-organised”, as this encourages individual action and shared responsibility. Crucial to this and key to our success are trust, collaboration, and communication. Collectively, everyone takes responsibility and everyone celebrates each other globally.

We’re interested in learning more about the specific courses Mindera offers to various groups like women, people in prison, and young people. How do these courses contribute to improving pathways to technology?

I’ve always been an advocate of giving back to society and this has been something at the heart of Mindera since day one.

Our Education journey started with a dream. It was simply based on the idea that “there should be no labels” on young adults, anything from neurodiversity to a physical disability or indeed an invisible one. The Mindera School is a home for people who previously might have had a label but certainly would never have one at Mindera. The “label” concept came from my own experience of having a childhood stammer.

The Mindera School is a home for people who previously might have had a label but certainly would never have one at Mindera.

We created Mindera Education, which includes the Mindera School, Tech Camps, and Mindera Code Academy, because we love helping people to grow and develop skills. Through Code Academy, we teach the best engineering practices,designed to help people find new opportunities in the job market

We also run Tech Camps, providing young people in institutional environments with a chance to learn about coding and programming in a holiday environment. Personally, seeing young people (12+) attending our camps and seeing them flourish is a truly wonderful sight. One of my proudest moments.

We also have the Mindera Foundation starting, which will enable each location to give back to the local community. The charitable trust will spearhead tech education for those who are underprivileged.

Education is a passion of mine, as I believe tech should be made available to everyone. The most disadvantaged are often the most excluded and, as a tech business, Mindera should have a role to play in democratising tech.

Mindera’s success is undoubtedly tied to the talent within the company. Could you please discuss your approach to attracting, developing, and retaining top talent in a competitive technology landscape? How do you foster continuous learning and growth among your employees?

Talent can be a challenge for businesses of all shapes and sizes. In our industry, it’s been particularly challenging post-COVID, with employee expectations changing and demand for talent ever-increasing.

I’ll again go back to our values and being people-first. We put people at the heart of everything we do and we’ve always been advocates of letting people be themselves and ensuring we have a happy team. Our people become shareholders, so having ownership within the business certainly plays a part in our team.

We want people to be themselves and to have a say in where they want to take their careers. If there are particular passion points or things that interest them, we give them the space and time to do this. We also let people work in a way that best suits them. Giving this autonomy is really important in not only helping people fulfil their potential but also helping our company grow.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and leaders who are looking to start and grow their own technology-focused companies, especially in a way that aligns with social impact and inclusivity?

It all starts with a dream. Our dream was to create a company that would make a positive impact for people. In the end, I followed my heart and Mindera was born. Be brave and don’t be afraid to take the plunge.

Be vulnerable. I have a stammer, so sometimes when I do my weekly updates and I feel low, I stammer and I’m very open about this. Running a business isn’t about being a demigod; it is about sharing stories of what we are doing with all the normal humanness intertwined.

Play to your strengths, find your superpower, but also find people to balance the areas you aren’t as strong in.

Be authentic, stay true to your values, and don’t be afraid of being different. You’ll have some bumps on the way, but have belief in yourself and your team and you’ll overcome these. We all make mistakes. Learning from them can be some of the most important lessons you learn and will be just as important in shaping your success as when things go well.

Think of everyone else first. It’s not about chasing money. Our ethos has been that if we deliver, then more work will come and we can reward everyone. Treat everyone the same. We have an ethos: “We are all the same, just a different skill set.”

Give back to society. You will know when that time is right. Individually, it is hard to change the world but, together, I believe we can make a real difference if we are deliberate about looking after those less fortunate than ourselves.

Always leave the door open for anyone to return. At certain points on the journey, make time to thank those who helped create the company.

No clocks. This isn’t about clock-watching. This is to provide a sense that it is never a better time to do something than now.

Finally, you know when you have something special when you cannot discuss the end of the journey – you just talk about different routes.

Executive Profile

paul evansPaul Evans is a dad, husband, brother, friend, and also the founder of Mindera, a global technology company where people come first. In 2014, Paul wanted to do things differently and build his own company where autonomy is championed with people at its heart and where the focus was getting things done the right way. After some contemplation in his garden shed and over pizza with friends in 2014, Paul created Mindera.


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