Jackson Hull, CTO, GoCompare, Newport

Tell us a bit about GoCompare

GoCompare helps people to save time and money on boring things – like insurance, energy bills and other household outgoings – so that they have more to spend on interesting, fun things.

We are a tech business, but tech without people is meaningless, so we invest in our people as well as ensuring that they have the tech infrastructure and tools they need to make a real difference.

In 2016 GoCompare listed on the London Stock Exchange as Gocompare.com Group plc (GOCO), and we are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

What affect has being a Newport based company had on your business?

The company has been Newport-based since launch. In that time it’s been on a journey from a disruptive start-up, to a nationally recognised brand, to a plc listed on the London Stock Exchange. Being based in Newport has allowed the business to benefit from good transport links, sound infrastructure and lower operating costs than you might get in a bigger city, and certainly than in London.

The talent pool is fit for purpose too. Our location and reputation has attracted some of the best minds from on our doorstep onto our payroll, and has also pulled in people from Bristol, Cardiff, Swansea, London and other areas throughout south Wales, south west England and the whole UK.

What has your experience been of sourcing talent locally? Do you think there is a digital skills shortage?

There’s lots of potential, and plenty of talent, and this is something I want to tap into. My goal is to make GoCompare the employer of choice for tech careers in the region.

Tech – and talented people – will continue to be vital to us and I’m confident that our location in Newport will be an asset.

Businesses like ours thrive where there is a strong academic presence, governmental support – for tech business but also entrepreneurialism in general – and good infrastructure. From what I’ve seen during my time here the area has much of this already, but close inter-agency relationships, and in particular between universities, colleges and businesses, should continue to be encouraged. As long as we continue to do amazing things – in product, engineering, and data sciences – we will attract from a wider pool, while encouraging more people into digital careers.

However, I’d like to see academia and government continue to invest in the area of applied data science in south Wales. That would provide another source of talent outside of the usual regions for these skills, like London and Cambridge. There is the potential to create a UK and eventually world-leading data science hub here.

How do you make sure you get the best out of your staff?

It starts at the recruitment stage. If you spend time attracting the right people in the first place you can save yourself a lot of wasted time (and money) and headaches. We only hire the best, and really focus on screening candidates.

It’s also important to keep people motivated and focused. ‘Managing’ them is a sure-fire way to demotivate. We find that by empowering people to make decisions, ensuring they are accountable, and that they focus on pace, maintains consistently high levels of output, quality and morale.

How do you hire the best people in a competitive market?

We benefit from being a well-known and well-regarded brand, but competition for talent is fierce.

We use many different recruitment techniques to attract the best people, and we approach things in a novel way when we can.

For example, we recently ran a graduate challenge looking for the sharpest minds in data science. We received lots of high-calibre entries, who took part in a series of tasks to secure a place on an intensive 18-week applied data science course and the chance of a full-time data science position at GoCompare. Given the type of people we were targeting, this approach worked really well – it set interesting challenges and allowed the candidates to demonstrate their problem-solving skills, while raising our employment brand locally.

The key is to make sure the recruitment experience attracts the right people, rather than forcing bright and talented people to adhere to rigid processes.

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