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Case Study: Amanda Follitt, Th_nk Live

As the chair of young talent for BIMA, a member of the LEP’s creative and digital board, and founder of Th_nk Live, Amanda Follit wears many hats.

Her passion for the digital sector has taken her on a journey from homelessness at 18, to teaching herself HTML and now bringing some of the world’s biggest brands to Liverpool City Region.

Today, in her role with Th_nk Live, Follit has worked with global clients, including ARUP, Adecco, Liverpool Victoria Insurance, Bacardi Global and Knight Frank International to opti-mise their platforms and make sure their websites are operationally efficient and effective. The process ensures that each client is making the most of what they already have – rather than investing in replatforming; she helps people access and understand the best ways to use the technology already at their fingertips.

“In November 2018 – just six months after founding Th_nk Live – we were acquired by 29,000 employee-strong US-based EPAM Systems. They saw something unique in us, that didn’t exist anywhere else in the world,” says Follit. “Especially in the way we measure the effectiveness of operations and take into consideration the maturity of the operation – we’re not matched globally.”

A love of digital has brought Follit to where she is today. “I was always interested in comput-ers,” she says. “I taught myself HTML coding and I was doing little web pages for people. Eu-rostar seconded me from customer services to test systems with the IT team and after that, I joined a company to be a quality assurance manager and project manager with experience of HTML and Javascript.

“We worked on a product aggregation site – which turned out to be Money Supermarket’s Home Insurance – and I became the 40th person to join the company. I was a founding person in terms of delivering the first comparison engine – while I was there we grew from 40 to 300 people.”

Follit moved from the South of England to North Wales to work with Money Supermarket. “As a southerner, the perception of Liverpool was off-putting – industrial and quite frightening,” she says. “But I had the opportunity to work with the region’s digital community and – when I sold my house in North Wales – moving here was a no brainer. There’s nowhere else in the UK that I’d even consider moving to now.

“I’ve worked in the US, Paris, Amsterdam, Germany and across the UK and nowhere has ever given me the sense of community, support and inclusivity that Liverpool provides. Its friendli-ness; its socio-economic diversity and diversity of thought. The city’s common purpose is to support one another and the bigger picture, and that for me is unique.”

Follit is a real ambassador for the City Region. “I’m incredibly proud to bring EPAM to Liverpool City Region; we can stay here and we can grow here. When our clients come they can’t believe what a wonderful city it is – we’ve got staff in London and Newcastle clamouring to come here.”

One of the biggest draws to settling in the area was the city’s overwhelming feeling of friendliness; the ease at which people can have off the cuff conversations in the street, on the bus or in the supermarket is something that doesn’t happen in cities like London. It’s one of the reasons why Follit has been able to expand her network so easily in the city.

Now, Follit is making connections across the north, training her lens on Manchester to collabo-rate. “We shouldn’t be afraid to ask how we can make this a bigger picture,” she says, to bring the best talent to the region.“I do a lot of work around skills and the businesses in Liverpool City Region are really good at bringing in entry-level people and training them for industry,” says Follit.

“Agent Academy does fantastic work with people entering the industry. Innovate Her works at a grassroots school level; BIMA does a lot of work with schools through its Digi-tal Day – Liverpool has one of the biggest take-ups of this nationally. But we still need to at-tract people with more experience to come and live and work here. It has so much to offer.

“We want people to realise that with Liverpool City Region, you can come from anywhere. The people here embrace that difference; as an outsider nobody challenges you – you’ve chosen the city that they love and that really stands for a lot.”