At Rise we are truly lucky to be immersed within a community of experts. Each individual has their own talent, opinion and knowledge. We decided that instead of writing what we thought of the world and the industries we all work in, why don’t we ask them?

This has part of our series of Q&A style articles that we hope will inspire you, educate you, and or empower you.

We spoke with James Spinks the Sales Director at Grapevine about the incoming 5G technology, and how you get into the industry at hand.


RISE: How has telecoms advanced over the last 5-10 years with such a huge boom in the technology industry?

James: 10 years ago, IT and telecommunications were fundamentally separate.  As telecoms technology evolved, IT did the same and there was no doubt about the coming merger of the two. We now have lots of new integrated computer / phone / internet of things (IOT) solutions changing business and consumer landscapes, driven by the IT and telecoms convergence and the decreasing margins on traditional single product solutions

RISE: With the promise of 5G on the horizon, have you had any insight as to how this will change your business and the world of telecoms?

James: From a user’s perspective, 5G will fundamentally change how connectivity, applications and content are consumed, whilst from a provider’s perspective, 5G presents enormous opportunities for network efficiency to deliver innovative services.

RISE: Have you found that you have had to instil more security features as data breaches become more and more apparent it would seem?

James: Whilst we have always been security focused in our core specialities, the GDPR mandate has driven us to streamline the data we use and store, find more efficient ways to communicate with our clients, and help our client base with their own security challenges, through the proactive offering of cost-efficient subscription based security software and innovative hardware solutions.

RISE: Regarding the above have you seen a decline in trust with your clients and how have you mitigated this?

James: As a provider of solutions to our client base for over 25 years trust has never been an issue and we have used this platform to reassure our clients wariness through the provision of appropriate solutions for their requirements, rather than profiteering from the scaremongering in the wider press.

RISE: Do you find marketing campaigns useful in managing and retaining this trust and also to engage and inform your clients?

James: Marketing communications has been key through the transformation of our business, from a reseller of mobile contracts to a fully integrated IT and telecoms service provider. The focus of our marketing communications has been to educate. This has allowed us to both reassure our clients that we are ahead of emerging trends in technology and showcase the benefits of new solutions available to their business.

RISE: Within the world of telecoms, is there ever an easier route in, for example having specific qualifications or is it a case of working your way up?

James: Because the majority of our solutions are bespoke, experience and qualifications are never mandatory.  However, achieving good qualifications is proof of a commitment to a target. Application of both intelligence and hard work and will always be a yardstick by which to compare candidates.  Honesty, integrity and common sense are more valuable commodities in employees than ever before and the challenge is for an individual to convey these strengths in a CV or interview environment.

RISE: Is there any new technologies that we should be aware of that is going to ‘change the game’ like the Cloud did?

James: Given the superior specification of the forthcoming 5G platform, this new technology will change the game for both mobile and fixed communications.  The promise of faster, more agile and secure wireless technology provides the opportunity to bring scalability, security and universal mobility across the telecommunications industry, with expected benefits to all industries from improved broadcasting to automation through IOT.

At Rise we are truly lucky to be immersed within a community of experts. Each individual has their own talent, opinion and knowledge. We decided that instead of writing what we thought of the world and the industries we all work in, why don’t we ask them?

This has part of our series of Q&A style articles that we hope will inspire you, educate you, and or empower you.




Angela caught up with Fran Collins, CEO of the Red Funnel Group, to talk a little about what her days consist of, how she got to where she is and how it all works in the marine industry.



Rise: What is your current position and what does your day to day look like?

Fran: I’m the CEO at Red Funnel Group, so my day-to-day role is very varied! I’m responsible for ensuring the strategic direction of the company, and making sure it delivers on the expectations of our shareholders, customers and employees. My role means there are a lot of meetings! Some of these are with other local businesses or organisations, particularly as Red Funnel has a strong sense of social responsibility and we like to be very active in the communities in which we work. Other days, I try to get out in our business and visit staff across the network – we have multiple ships, offices and operations on the Isle of Wight and in Southampton and I never seem to have enough time to get around them all! I also spend quite a bit of time working with our shareholders, and of course with my Leadership Team, who are the Directors responsible for the day-to-day operation.


Rise: Has it taken you a long time to get to the position you are in today?

Fran: Within the industry, I guess it’s been quite a quick journey for me to this role, but I’ve been lucky in that opportunities came up when I was in a position to take them, and I’ve had some great advice from people who had already made similar journeys in their careers.

I joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 16 and went away to sea as an Officer Cadet. After I qualified with a dual licence (so I could sail as a navigational officer or an engineer) I spent the next 11 years sailing in various ranks all around the world and was promoted to Captain in 2006. In 2008, I was offered a 6-month secondment as Operations Manager, and that 6 months turned into 10 years and 4 roles! There were lots of opportunities in shore management, and I realised that I had aspirations to progress upwards, so I made a conscious decision to ensure that my CV had certain attributes needed for a CEO role. This meant taking some roles that I wouldn’t have initially considered; for me, with an operational background, I had to make sure that my commercial understanding and financial skills were really up to scratch. I also took advantage of any and every piece of training and development I was offered, and in 2014 I became Executive Director – Operations at Condor Ferries. Then in January 2018, I was invited to apply for the CEO role at Red Funnel Group, and the rest is history!


Rise: What have been the positives along your journey and what have been the roadblocks?

Fran: The positives have been many, but a couple of things really stand out; one has been the support of others, in all aspects. I’ve been really lucky that, throughout my career, individuals have taken the time to guide me and encourage me to take the opportunities that came up, even if they felt like a risk at the time. Another huge positive is the fun I’ve had, and am still having! I think I’m quite lucky in that there haven’t been overt road blocks – sure, there’s been the odd negative person, but they’re in the minority and learning to deal with that is another skill set that helps me in the roles I do now!


Rise: Has it changed since you started out in the marine industry?

Fran: The Merchant Marine industry is one in which change happens slowly, and this is both good and bad. Something that has changed enormously, though, is the connectivity available to the crews on the ships – when I first went to sea there was no internet and the only way to contact home was by satellite phone at £7/minute. Now ships are much better connected, and this is a great improvement on quality of life. In terms of the gender balance however, women make up c.4% of the global seafaring workforce, and that hasn’t really changed in 20 years. Notwithstanding that, it’s a great industry and I would wholly recommend it to anyone considering something a bit different, especially as the qualification route has changed, and graduates also get a degree in addition to the industry-specific qualifications. There is plenty of travel, lots of experience to gain and a set of transferable life skills that I don’t believe you can get from many other industries.


Rise: What key skills and experience have you used primarily along the way?

Fran: The biggest skill that I’ve used has been the inclination to ‘have a go’. This helped me assess opportunities that came up and take the ones that looked helpful or fun (pretty much all of them were both, as it turned out!). Another, and one which I think is really important, is understanding the value of teamwork – you don’t have to actively like your colleagues (it helps though!) but you do have to find a way to work together for the greater good, and understanding their challenges and opportunities builds a really solid foundation to build on. Being able to admit, then learn from your mistakes and move on is also essential.


Rise: What is the plan from here?

Fran: Well, I’ve been in this role for 6 months now, and I’m loving it! It’s my first CEO role, so I’m learning plenty and enjoying the opportunity to use my previous experiences. The normal term for a CEO in this sort of company is 2-5 years, so I’ve got a bit of time to decide what comes next!


Rise: What would be your main solid bit of advice to someone starting out?

Fran: Be brave and have a go – others will offer you plenty of advice, but it will nearly always be based on their situation and not yours. You have the power to make your own assessments and decisions, and you have the power to make whatever you do a success. It’s not always easy but it will be fun!