Women in Digital: Louella Fernandes

Director of Quocirca, Louella Fernandes, talks building one of the leading analysts firms in the print industry

Posted 18 July 2022 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

Yes, I did enjoy school, and was quite academic and conscientious. I always enjoyed creative writing, analysis and technology, and have been fortunate to be able to combine the two throughout my career.

What qualifications do you have?

I went to Aston University and have a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science. It was a leap of faith, as the subject was relatively new and I hadn’t studied it before, like many of the other students. I was one of six females in a cohort of 120 students. My placement year at IBM gave me great insight into working for a large company, and also enabled me to hone my SQL skills. My final-year project was an artificial intelligence program that used Markov chain theory to predict staff attrition rates in an organisation. My degree has given me a great foundation for understanding the application of technology, whether it’s AI/ML or blockchain, which is what I am most passionate about.

Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or a combination of both?

Looking back, I have been fortunate to have a pretty smooth career journey. I started out as a data analyst for a geospatial mapping software company (which was later acquired by MapInfo), where my job involved digitising map data and selling that to customers, along with demographic data products. I then joined a market research company called Romtec, which was my first introduction to the print industry. At the time we included daisy wheel and dot matrix printers in our market reports!

My longest corporate job was at Canon Europe, where I stayed for 10 years. I loved the Japanese ethos and culture, and gained invaluable experience across the business. I managed independent software vendor (ISV) relations, working with companies such as Microsoft and IBM, and launched the first developers programme for Canon, providing SDKs to software developers. Part of my role there involved being a market research buyer and presenting market trends to the Canon executive team in Japan.

After having my children, I went freelance, which led to Canon becoming my first client. I joined Quocirca in 2006 as an Associate Analyst, where I built up the print industry research practice. I took the company over in 2018 when the original founders retired.

What is the best career advice you can give to others?

I would say that there is no straight-line career path. Be open to different roles to gain experience, even if they do not seem to be the ideal role, and be prepared to move outside of your comfort zone. I personally love the tech industry, as there is always so much to learn, and I thrive on learning and demystifying technology trends. Most importantly, stay true to yourself and follow your passions.

If you had to pick one mentor that had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?

I have not had a specific mentor in my career. I have gained mentoring advice from a mix of family, friends, managers and clients. In terms of support, my manager at Canon, Malcolm Sharratt, stands out – not only in giving me autonomy to start the developer relations programme at Canon, but also during my two maternity leaves. Clive Longbottom, the original founder of Quocirca, has been a great mentor over the years as I built out the print research practice at Quocirca.

Overall, I have had great support throughout my career. I have not found it challenging to be heard in what is considered a male-dominated industry.

From where do you draw inspiration?

My parents instilled a strong work ethic and have been a huge inspiration, and also my children, who both have my entrepreneurial spirit. My son encouraged me to start the “In the Spotlight” podcast and YouTube channel. It’s like having my own digital marketing advisors, as they are both very creative.

In terms of female role models, I met Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK in the early 2000s in her role of sales at Business Objects. I find her a particularly inspiring thought leader.

I always find inspiration by the sea – my favourite place is Portugal, where I have a lot of family.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?

As for most people, it is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. As a business owner I have to work hard to maintain strong boundaries, as it is very difficult to switch off when you run your own business. I am extremely proud of how I have built the Quocirca brand and reputation as one of the leading analysts in the print industry, and grateful to all our customers who have supported Quocirca’s print market insights and research over the past 16 years.

What qualities do you feel make a good leader?

Quocirca’s position as a leading analyst was born out of my approach of not following my traditional competitors. If you look inside your industry for inspiration, you are a follower, but if you look outside your industry, you are a leader. My reputation as a thought leader has been built on this approach, combined with a genuine passion for the industry I am serving.

From a work viewpoint what has the last 12-24 months been like?

I have been working from home for almost 20 years, so that was not a huge adjustment for me. By virtue of its size, Quocirca was able to adapt very quickly, and we have increased the level and depth of insights over the past two years. I have a great team, which was able to adjust to the new demands for insight and launch a new podcast series that is still going strong.

Consequently, Quocirca has grown, as there is better understanding of the need for strong primary research and analysis to inform strategic decision-making within the industry.

What would you say are the biggest tech-based challenges we face today?

The print industry is facing a number of disruptive forces that have been accelerated by the pandemic. The biggest challenge for traditional legacy companies such as print manufacturers is to think like software companies, and reimagine their business models and become data-driven businesses. This will help them better understand customers, deliver on business outcomes, and ultimately differentiate beyond traditional hardware-centric sales models. There’s a significant customer education challenge to overcome, too. For example, multifunction printers remain enormously underestimated in terms of their security risk, despite being complex and potentially vulnerable endpoints on the corporate network.

Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know

I am a football fan and was brought up watching football regularly with my dad and on the side-lines watching both my sons play throughout school. With my Portuguese heritage, Ronaldo is obviously my favourite player!