My Working Day – Martin Pownall – Director, Software Development and Systems Integration Specialist of IDS Group

Martin Pownall IDS Group

Martin Pownall

As the leader of a company, you are there to set an example, to lead and inspire a team of individuals to achieve a series of business goals. But how do these business leaders go about their daily routine? Business Leader spoke to Martin Pownall, Director, Software Development and Systems Integration Specialist of IDS Group about his working day.

What time do you usually wake up?

06:00 – so I’ve time to get ready before my little people wake up.

What do you typically have for breakfast?

Breakfast is usually quite straightforward, certainly during the week. I’ll usually have cereal or scrambled egg on toast, and almost always have to share it!

What’s the rest of your morning routine?

I’ll try and quickly check my emails before the frenzy of getting ready for the school run and taking our youngest to the childminder, to ensure I know what I’m coming back to. We’re out the door for 08:20, then depending on where I’m working from that day, I’ll either head to the office or back home. I’ve always mixed up my week, even before the pandemic.

What is the first thing you do at the start of your working day?

Make another coffee then dial in for a ‘stand up’ with the team to check in on the agenda for the day. It’s quickfire, no-nonsense, but keeps us connected and on track.

I’ll view my own work boards for the day, to see what’s active, completed and still to do, and I’ll also view any urgent requests, for IDS or clients. I’ll typically have a call with our CEO Nick too, for a general update and to check in on anything he needs support with, then I’m straight into whatever I’ve planned in.

How do you prioritise your day’s work?

I’ve always been extremely organised, which helps me prioritise. My workload is usually driven by client deadlines, so imminent milestones for larger projects are naturally a focal point, but smaller interim tasks matter too. At least 30% of my working week is spent in client meetings, which keeps comms transparent and progress flowing.

There’s also a lot of internal stuff happening for IDS at the moment, following our company rebrand last year – I’m a designer, by trade, so I’m driving forward our marketing efforts. As our company evolves and we win increasingly complex work, I’m also exploring the redesign and evolution of some of our processes, including how we collaborate with colleagues overseas. This is important from both a staff engagement and project delivery perspective. We’re ISO accredited and constantly pushing for better, which keeps standards high but means there’s always work to be done.

Interestingly, IDS developed an agile collaboration tool, Timbo, during lockdown, because we found existing tools simply weren’t good enough – certainly in our industry. It’s great for remote daily stand-ups, online retrospectives and sprint planning.

Do you plan meetings or are they a waste of time?

I plan them otherwise they are a waste of time!

I hate meetings about meetings. However, I see the value in sharp, focused, daily briefings. Some people would consider this excessive – a real grind – but when you come from a tech background, it’s all you know.

Do you have a working lunch or is it good to take a break?

It varies from day to day. If I’m in the office, I try and incorporate some exercise. I am encouraged by my colleague Kat who aims for us to do 5k over lunch, so I’ll try and get the distance in, even if it’s on Zwift if I’m working from home.

When does your working day finish?

I try and switch off at 17:30 so I have some ‘proper’ time with the children and I’m quite protective of some evening to myself too. I cycled over 3,500 miles last year – mostly on my turbo trainer because of lockdown – which keeps me fit and offers a little escapism.

However, we’ve got clients globally, in different industries, so there’s no such thing as a 9-5. I’ll willingly check my emails out of hours because I genuinely feel invested in what they and we are trying to achieve, together. I’ve worked in companies before where this was expected – it’s different when it’s on your own terms.

How do you prepare for the next day’s work?

I tend to prepare a lot in advance, not just day by day – that’s my organisational streak again! I plan for the week and leave space for reactive requests – the stuff you just can’t plan for. It’s how I was coached in the early agency days, but it suits my personality too. I like to know what I’m doing, and how much flexibility I have to accommodate the unexpected.

What’s your favourite piece of technology?

It’s not work related, but I’d have to say either my turbo trainer, as it meant I could keep cycling last year, or Zwift, which connected me to an active community when face-to-face contact was taken away from us. This has been crucial to both my physical and mental wellbeing over the last 12 months.

How do you switch off?

I’m big into fitness, so I’ll either get on my bike – ideally out in the Yorkshire countryside to clear my head – or spend time with the family.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Stay true to your morals – it’s easy to be swayed into thinking you have to behave like others or do as they say, especially to progress in your career. But you should aspire to your own goals, not others’.