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Women in Tech Q&A: Amanda Roche | Just Eat Managing Director

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The Women in Tech Awards is Ireland's first annual celebration of women and diversity in the technology industry. The goal of the Women in Tech Awards is to drive diversity and narrow the gender gap in an industry which offers opportunity and success to anyone with ambition, passion and a strong work ethic.

As strong promoters of gender equality in the workplace, we're delighted to sponsor the Disruptor award which will recognise a leader from a company whose innovation has led her teams and organisation to break traditional ideas and excel. We need more inspirational role models to encourage and inspire future generations to reach their full potential - wherever their interests may lie.

To mark this and showcase some of Ireland's most talented 'disruptors' we've asked the nominees for the Disruptor award about their careers to date, and what it's really like being a woman in tech in Ireland. Our first interview in this series is with Amanda Roche, Managing Director at Just Eat, Ireland's leading online food delivery service.

What is your background? How did you get in the technology sector?

I joined Just Eat in 2012 as Head of Sales and quickly progressed to my current role managing the Irish business across sales, marketing, finance, operations and business insights. Prior to Just Eat I worked with Bewley's, where, as Regional Manager for Dublin and Leinster, was responsible for a team delivering annual sales of over 10m.

Before Bewley's, I worked for 8 years with Pernod Ricard, the world's co-leader in wines and spirits. Having started my years in Pernod Ricard as part of the Dublin sales team, I later made the move to the senior brand manager for wines managing a portfolio of international brands such as Gallo and Jacob's Creek.

The move to Just Eat was an exciting one. Over the last 7 years, it's been exciting to see the transformation of the sector and how technology has been able to disrupt the sector for the consumer benefit.

Can you describe your current role - what are your main responsibilities?

As MD for Just Eat Ireland, I have worked hard to establish the company in Ireland and have driven its growth and expansion since taking over as MD six years ago.

As leader of the company I am always trying to stay ahead of the market by continually driving innovation - as a company, we have grown the number of takeaway restaurants available through Just Eat by 500% in recent times and now have over 2,100 restaurants available online providing a range of over 40 different cuisine types.

Responding to changing consumer tastes the company now has an increased range of healthy options available - including vegan meals, paleo and gluten-free options.

The Just Eat app has been downloaded over 1.5 million times since it was launched, making it easy for consumers to access local eateries for lunchtime and evening options. As Managing Director, I have been directly responsible for driving the company's growth and developing the use of technology to reach our customers in new ways.

What do you attribute your success so far to?

As a company, Just Eat has the ambition to revolutionise the way people order and enjoy food. Technology is central to achieving this and is core to our proposition to both customers and restaurant partners.

As Ireland's leading marketplace for online food delivery technology will continue to be key to how we grow our reach and service in the coming years. Just Eat is continuously working to explore the many ways that technology can shape and transform how we have traditionally interacted with food. For example, Just Eat uses data analytics and business intelligence to help inform restaurant menus, advise them on opening hours, as well as sharing ordering trends and changes in taste.

As an industry leader, 4 years ago Just Eat established the Just Eat National Takeaway Awards recognising all restaurants in the sector, regardless of whether they are a partner of Just Eat. The awards have helped to shine a light on the industry and demonstrate the range and choice available across Ireland.

You've been nominated for the disruptor award - what has been your biggest business risk to date?

Just Eat is a disruptor and has carved out its own path. Not everyone understands or recognises the vision and the goals, so it can be a lonely road at the outset. From a company perspective, the growth has been rapid. This presents a challenge and an opportunity. Recruitment of the right team to bring the company from start-up to growth phase has been critical.

Consumer tastes and trends evolve and change on a frequent basis. Over the past two years, Just Eat has dramatically increased the range of choice and cuisine types available through our app. By adding new restaurant partners and encouraging existing partners to add to their offerings we now have food for everyone, on any day at any time.

From the traditional takeaway restaurant to the healthy lunchtime option we have worked hard to recruit partners that will meet every need.

What trends are you noticing in your industry now? What do you see being the next big disruptor?

The sector really is rapidly evolving, which presents some fantastic opportunities for us as well as challenges in terms of not only meeting the needs of restaurants and customers but also being ahead of the curve to anticipate them for the future.

Our customers taste buds continue to drive the industry and the direction we take our business. As new flavours and trends emerge we're constantly making sure that we're catering for that.

Vegan options are something that's really taken hold this year and we now have a growing offering available for customers. We maintain a constant dialogue with our restaurant partners to help inform their decision making and to give them the benefits of our insights so that they respond to consumer trends.

We also continue to invest in R&D and innovation on the technology side. While this will influence the delivery side, we are also looking at how we can make things easier for our restaurant partners - help them to capture more orders, more efficiently.

For Just Eat it's all about anticipating the customers' needs and working with our restaurant partners to respond to those needs.

In what way is your company leveraging new technologies successfully?

The way people live their life is different now. Just Eat has become more than just a Friday or Saturday night option - people can order breakfast, lunch and dinner to suit their needs and taste buds.

In all markets, we're working to introduce a range of new technologies which will support our customers and partners' efforts to grow and meet customers' needs. It's an exciting time to be working in the industry and with technology developing so quickly, we're able to plan for a lot more and provide a lot more service.

In terms of pitching innovative or new ideas effectively in business, what are your tips?

Tell a story. If you can sell your idea in a way that people will remember you are halfway there. If you think about it, we all remember the nursery rhymes we were told as a child, that's because they were good stories, easy to understand and internalise. This has become key for me when I'm presenting to ensure the idea I have translates to the audience I'm pitching to.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt over the years?

How to lead. I think finding the right leadership style is essential to the success of any business and as a leader, it's not always about making easy decisions but about ensuring you're making the right decisions.

I believe you can learn about the theory of leadership and there are certainly strategies and tools that can support leaders in their role, however, I think that the traits that make someone an effective leader tend to be inherent within a person. These include self-confidence, a belief in your own abilities, being motivated and passionate about what you do as well as having the ability to motivate others.

When I'm filling leadership positions on my team I always look for someone who is focused on the big picture - someone who measures their personal success on the success of the company rather than their own career journey.

I want them to be ambitious, strategic and willing to take a risk. Just Eat is a market disruptor - we are creating a whole new industry sector - I want someone who is excited by that. I can't guarantee them exactly where a role with Just Eat will take them, but I can give them the opportunity to take control of their own destiny by helping to shape the future of the business and our industry.

How do you stay current in a constantly evolving industry?

The sector really is rapidly evolving. We are focused on ensuring we can grow the sector itself, as well as our own share of it, by increasing the breadth of our ordering platforms, many of which use entirely different interfaces, such as voice in the case of Amazon.

More generally the biggest challenge is and always should be focused on ensuring we've enough customers and orders coming through for our restaurant partners and equally, enough restaurant partners to provide our customers with the choice and range they require.

Each month we continue to target new ways to engage consumers through marketing and sponsorship opportunities and similarly engage new restaurants around the country to ensure that we keep our partners and customers happy in equal measure.

It's well reported that women are underrepresented in the technology industry, what has your experience been like? Do you think it's been more challenging for you to succeed as a woman?

This is certainly an issue in the technology sector, but the same can also be said when you look at the senior management teams across almost all sectors in Ireland - and beyond.

On the technology side, we need to look at the messages that are being communicated to young girls at a time when they are making the decisions that will inform their future careers.

We need to ensure that we are painting a picture about the tech sector that represents the breadth and range of opportunities open to people. Technology is in everything we do now, in our personal and professional lives, so selling a career in this sector should be easier than ever.

The option we are giving young girls is to have the chance to change the future. We need to ensure they understand that they don't have to be coders or software engineers to work in tech; there are a range of professional roles within the sector also - finance, law, sales or marketing as well as core ICT jobs.

We need to convey the excitement of being a disrupter and an innovator. I think we need to look at the language we use and the messages we send - we don't need to send them down an alleyway. We need to show them that selecting STEM subjects truly opens up a world of opportunity in the future.

What is the best thing about working in tech in Ireland?

The pace of change. Over the seven years that I've been working in Just Eat the industry has completely transformed. With new emerging technologies like AI and VR anticipating what the next seven years will look like is hard but I'm sure at the heart of it will be Just Eat, providing even more food choices and faster delivery times all powered through technology.

If you were beginning your career now, what would you do differently?

Nothing! I feel very lucky to have thoroughly enjoyed my career to date. I have worked with some incredible people, companies and brands and have learnt so much from all. Not many get the opportunity to experience the journey I have had with Just Eat, the successes and the challenges, and I feel very grateful for that.

Amanda is the Managing Director for Just Eat, the largest provider of online takeaway services in the market and the only nationwide service in Ireland. The winner of the Disruptor award will be announced at The Women in Tech Awards on Thursday, November 22nd - good luck to all those nominated.

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