In this series of blogs, we meet members of the GRiD team and get to know more about their role and how they contribute to the company’s position as a market-leader in rugged computer technologies. In this blog we speak with one of GRiD’s longest-serving employees Ben Walker, GRiD’s Sales Director.
How did your career begin with GRiD?
I was studying industrial engineering at Brunel University when I was approached by a recruiter to join GRiD.
At that time, GRiD was a small company with less than 10 people but they were looking to expand and bring in some fresh talent. I was fortunate to start with GRiD as a mechanical engineer the day after I graduated.
I was definitely attracted by the innovative products that GRiD was producing in the UK, and defence in particular has always excited me. Also not forgetting GRiD’s prestigious history as the developer of the world’s first laptop computer, which was also fascinating for a new employee.
After six months, I moved into project management which involved taking purchase orders from customers and seeing them through to delivery. I then progressed into a sales role; my dad was in sales all of his career, so it’s always been a part of my life. I remember my first 3 months where I researched every defence company in the UK, made a long list of names, got on the phone and called them all. From there GRiD started getting more meetings, then more deals and turnover began to increase.
What is your role at GRiD?
Now I’m the Sales Director and manage a team of sales and marketing professionals. I’m closely involved in all commercial aspects of the business, including bids and negotiations with global customers. Bids into defence programmes are complex, characterised by long sales cycles and lots of stakeholders to manage, so as you can imagine this is very time and resource intensive.
As I’m responsible for worldwide sales of our rugged laptop and tablet solutions, this also includes managing our network of GRiD representatives across the world.
I also work closely with the owner of GRiD to help run the business, including areas such as business strategy, recruitment and ensuring we continue growing as a company.
What does the typical day look like for you at GRiD?
No two days are the same for this type of role. But many days I will be working closely with the sales managers and reps in a mentoring and advising capacity, particularly when it comes to ensuring our solutions meet the customers’ requirements. I’ll regularly talk with our technical team about new projects and learn about new technologies that are on the horizon.
Our customers face very complex technical challenges, so it’s my role – and the team’s role – to understand those challenges and propose solutions, and these are often bespoke. Being a trusted advisor is key and having a very close relationship with our customers, our technical team, and a deep technical understanding of our solutions and the defence industry certainly helps here!
With customers around the globe, I often travel to various international locations and also visit important trade shows to keep track of the latest industry developments.
How do you support customers?
I have a strategic role here and I am closely involved in the whole customer journey, so having that technical expertise and background is a massive help. I’ll often talk with companies and end users and give them insights not just on technologies, but on qualifications and military standards also.
Because we own the Intellectual Property for all of our products and they are manufactured and tested in the UK, we have a deep understanding of areas such as qualification and legislation including RoHS, WEEE and shipping products with batteries (which gets asked about a lot!).
I also assist customers if there are any support or maintenance issues, and be the liaison with them. We also work closely with customers when it comes to upgrading their products if they wish to extend their overall service life.
Being a small SME means that I can be closely involved in all projects, and we work as a team to solve any challenges.
Which project have you enjoyed the most?
It’s hard to pinpoint just one project I’ve enjoyed the most; I always find it very rewarding to find solutions to customers’ initial requirements and then to see it in service and making a difference to the end user. Many of our products have been used on the frontline and have undoubtedly contributed to mission successes, including saving lives, which is a great feeling.
Being able to travel to see our customers and see some of the amazing platforms that our solutions are installed on is also pretty exciting. One of my highlights is definitely being on a submarine where our computers are installed, not many people get to do that!
It has also been fantastic to work with the US Department of Defense (DoD), a relatively new (direct) customer for us but one with a very promising future. We’ve already successfully delivered GRiDCASE 1590 15” laptops as part of the DoD’s Guided Missile Launcher Test Set (GMLTS) system and there are additional programmes we are now working on.
How has the rugged computer market evolved since you joined GRiD?
The number of options on the market for rugged solutions have decreased over time, and there’s now a bigger gap between commercial rugged and military-standard rugged offerings. Obviously our solutions are extremely rugged and bespoke for specific use cases in the military, and many commercial-off-the-shelf rugged computers just don’t meet the tough military standards that exist.
In terms of technology, ruggedisation itself doesn’t change much, but the interfaces and other components are always getting faster. The need to support legacy as well as more modern interfaces and connectors has become greater. The defence marketplace still uses interfaces that are 40+ years old, but at the same time, they are also introducing new interfaces to work with more modern equipment so it’s very difficult to have one system that supports both. Fortunately, this is something we excel at and we’ve won contracts because of it.
How has GRiD supported your career so far?
GRiD has keenly supported my development in the company, especially into new roles where the responsibilities have increased and the role impacts the company’s performance trajectory more and more. This has included training, as well as mentoring opportunities with the owner of the company. Being an SME means that there are fantastic opportunities to move ahead in the company and make a real difference, which can be difficult in larger corporations.
What do you do when you’re not working?
I am a big believer in constant improvement both physically and mentally so I tend to try and give myself challenges to aim for. Recently I completed my MBA in Business and Technology which I worked on in the evenings and weekends during Covid (whilst balancing looking after the kids!). I have a passion for training and running, occasionally taking part in triathlons. I have to say, swimming in open water in the winter is something I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy!
Want to learn more about what it is like to work at GRiD? Contact us if you require further assistance and our expert team can advise on +44 (0)1628 810 230 or drop an email to email@example.com