Women in Tech Spotlight – Avril Vera
By way of introduction, can you let everyone know a little about you and your role within Version 1?
Hey! My name is Avril Vera and I’m a Bid Manager in the Commercial Team, working with Sales leads, our delivery teams, Environment Social and Governance leads and other experts from around the business to secure large new customer contracts.
Like many of us in Version 1, you weren’t always pursuing a career in the tech world. Can you tell us a little about your career path and how you’ve ended up in the tech space?
No one chooses the dark arts of bid management – if you ask anyone, they’ll say bid management chooses you! In my case, I used to work for a large energy company, writing and managing bids to Ofgem for fuel poverty initiatives. Wanting a change of topic, I transferred to the company’s research and development team, where I worked almost exclusively on bids to secure funding for innovative low-carbon energy network projects, such as the NINES (Northern Isles New Energy Solutions) project and lean automated distribution networks. I then worked in the water industry, securing some of the largest contracts in the UK for customers such as Marks and Spencer (M&S), Morrisons, Ministry of Defence (MoD), Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Diageo.
I was contacted by a member of the Version 1 team about my current post, and while I had a few(!) anxieties given my complete lack of technical knowledge, here I am. My tech knowledge has increased steadily in the last year, thanks to all of the learning tools, lunch and learns, and the sweet, infinite patience of my colleagues. I’ve just achieved my first AWS certification and I’m studying for Microsoft Azure Fundamentals at the moment too.
Congrats on the certification! What’s the coolest thing you have learned since being thrown into the depths of the Tech world?
No specific technical thing, but the impact that Version 1’s work has on wider society is pretty amazing. Stuff like the AI Labs, Foundations Accelerator supporting National Highways’ NILO solution for faster serious incident reporting on our roads, or our work with SIA to improve security personnel vetting.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I usually wake up at about 5 am and meditate and journal every single day before logging on – the quiet period before colleagues log on is the best time for me to set myself up for the day and get any deep-focus work done.
I can manage a number of bids at various stages. The activities range from setting up and leading scrums, storyboarding (to review the customers’ requirements and plan out our bid) and writing (bid writing is a niche skill and can be tricky depending on the customer’s requirements and questions), to setting up reviews of our content and developing virtual or in-person customer presentations.
Bids can be really demanding – all deadlines are immovable and set by the customer, which means that the bid team I’m managing for any customer deal works under considerable pressure to deliver quality content at pace, while also ensuring our commercial offer is both competitive and profitable. Late nights are a frequent element of bidding, and I have tremendous respect for the people who frequently work on bids and are also in delivery or tech roles with customers.
I’m also asked to help with non-bid projects such as managing this year’s Microsoft Partner of the Year Award submissions – projects like these make every week varied and keep me on my toes!
I’m really introverted, which colleagues are usually surprised to learn! So after ‘peopling’ all day, I like a quiet walk on the coastal path next to my house. I also love to do pointed pen calligraphy and I read a lot – rock and roll times at the Vera house!
You’ve been with Version 1 a little over a year now, what first attracted you to the organisation and what do you love about working here?
What attracted me most was the genuine, down-to-earth people I met during the recruitment process who really represented the Core Values of Version 1. I also wanted to push myself in a new sector and Version 1’s customer retention figures and AI Labs were a particular draw.
I love the collaboration and teamwork at Version 1 – every bid needs a large team of people to be successful and I genuinely appreciate how everyone mucks in to do a great job. I also really value the efforts of our ESG and Employee Experience teams and what they’re striving to achieve. The ability to move around and shape your own career at Version 1 is fantastic too.
Safe to say we are definitely happy to have you as part of Version 1 Avril, you’ve been an incredible asset to the organisation since joining!
Now for some quick-fire questions:
- Tea or Coffee? Tea! Yorkshire or teapigs chamomile.
- Do you keep chocolate in the fridge or in the cupboard? Bold of you to assume any chocolate in my possession ever lasts long enough to need storage. 😊
- Best famous Scot? Greyfriars Bobby of course.
- Dream job when you were a child. Writer – I perhaps didn’t think at that time I’d be writing about energy networks or tech, right enough.
- Do you have an inspirational person you look up to? Honestly, too many to count but quite a few of them work at Version 1 – Jude McVitty, our Social Value Manager, for her complete passion and vocation, James Mayo, Business Development Manager, for his kindness, Ross Hunter, Bid Manager, for his commitment to excellence, and everyone on our fantastic team, who embody the best of our Core Values every day.
- Number one thing on your bucket list? Write a bucket list.
Thank you so much for your time today, and to leave the readers with one last pearl of your wisdom...What one piece of advice that has stuck with you?
I read something a few months ago, that’s really stuck with me:
“You’re not rewarded for your virtues and punished for your vices – you’re rewarded by your virtues and punished by your vices.”
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