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Why nothing is obvious for Jude Cook

Jude Cook is the CEO of Edinburgh-based ShareIn, the market leading experts in crowdfunding software and regulatory compliance. ShareIn operate some of the largest impact investing and property crowdfunding platforms in the UK.

Describe your typical weekday…

Jude Cook
I walk to work, dropping my youngest son at school and my husband at his work (his office is sort of on the way – he doesn’t need help!). When I get to the office I make my plan for the day, then we have a team stand up and then project focused progress meetings. On a good day I achieve approximately 10% of what I planned!

Sum up your career so far

I studied General Engineering at Durham University (specialising in Fluid Mechanics), and had lots and lots of awful holiday jobs. After graduation, I trained as an accountant with Deloitte in London and qualified in 1998. I then made the move to Group Finance at BT plc before taking a career break to raise my family. As the children got older I eased back into work on a very part-time basis, by helping SMEs with their business plans.

In 2011, Andrew Pickett and I co-founded ShareIn – back then it was a crowd-funding platform (we’re now a white-label provider) and I was responsible for Finance, Compliance and Sales.

Which role has taught you the most valuable lesson?

Oh my goodness! Well, being the co-founder of a start up teaches me a lot every single day. Most of my roles before starting ShareIn were in gigantic organisations, this is so different; a start up is a living, growing, ever evolving thing. I’d say that there are a lot of parallels with parenthood; you simply don’t get it until you have one.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Don’t be afraid to ask the “obvious” question. You often find that the questions that you think as obvious, really aren’t and haven’t necessarily been asked before. Asking questions also signals to people that you are interested and, in my experience, people respond positively to that. It does help that I am genuinely interested in people’s ideas for business, of course! People love to share their knowledge and listening to them and asking them to tell you more will endear them to you.

Also, we all start out as pretenders. Self-doubt, and imposter syndrome are commonplace even in the greatest amongst us. So, persevere; it will see you through. This is true in business as well as on a personal level. If you can stick at the game long enough, you can be the last one standing.

What’s your proudest achievement?

Starting a business is not easy and building a profitable self-sustaining, diverse fintech business has its own challenges. The tech industry in the UK, in recent times, hasn’t been good at promoting diversity (something it was once great at) and I’m proud that I’ve been able to recruit a diverse team of talented employees going against the industry norm. Today our team is 25 strong, and more than half of our software development team are women. We continue to hire the best candidates and we’re blessed with a pool of high calibre international talent based in Edinburgh.

What book are you reading at the moment?

“Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Start-up” by John Carreyrou. It’s about Elizabeth Holmes, who was the CEO of the famed and failed medical devices company, Theranos. It’s a gripping read and a real eye-opener.

At ShareIn, I think a lot of our success is down to our willingness to challenge accepted practices and ask if there’s another way. Going back to first principles can result in new better ways of doing things. That said, I think it’s important to be grounded in reality and not to get lost in your own hype, which I think Elizabeth Holmes perhaps fell victim to. It’s a great read and a real reminder that, ultimately, your products and services must deliver on your promises.

What was the last film you saw?

"Whiplash”, which is the story of a talented young jazz musician at University. The central character is set on achieving greatness through mastery of his skills at the expense of all else. It’s a story about finding fulfilment; a kind of happiness that is less visible in today’s social media obsessed world. Our own choices come with opportunity cost; for me it’s important to be mindful of the impact my decisions have for both what is to be gained and what is forfeited. As the drummer progressively realises his dream it comes at a high price. His personal life, physical and mental wellbeing all take a knock; it’s a compelling modern fable about being careful what you wish for.

How do you relax?

Walking with my family in the hills or along the coast in East Lothian. I’m a big believer in letting my subconsciousness solve tricky problems, so stepping away from the office, and the city, gives me space to rejuvenate. I often find that when I get back to work I’ve found a way through the tricky issue that was blocking my progress.

What TV show do you try not to miss?

As it’s on Netflix I can’t miss it, but Black Mirror is brilliant.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Anything (and everything) to do with property renovations – searching for properties, planning better layouts, persuading my friends and family to do renovation projects…

What’s your favourite city and why?

Edinburgh. We escaped from London and now have mountains, beaches and a beautiful city on our doorstep. For work/life balance it is hard to beat.

Find out more...

Jude will be giving the member talk at this year’s AGM. Find out more about ShareIn.

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