Name: Dana Denis-Smith
Job Title: CEO and Entrepreneur
Organisation: Obelisk Support
Number of years in current position: 12
Qualifications: Lawyer, Journalist
Briefly Describe the Company You Founded
Obelisk Support is a platform business that supports organisations to get their legal work done in a flexible and affordable way.
Explain What You Do on an Average Day at Work
I spend part of my day supporting and guiding my central team with their work. I set the strategy and vision for the business and coach them towards achieving the goals we’ve set.
Another big part of my day is to meet clients (either in person or virtually). I also spend time understanding market trends and any new developments which might impact the way we operate.
Outside of work, I often do charitable work for Next 100 Years, which is a charity which is dedicated to achieving equality for women in law. I might be asked to write articles or to attend or contribute to industry events.
What Do You Like Most About Your Job?
I love it that I can innovate but also that I can see how we put the building blocks in place to create sustainable structures. Every day is different and I enjoy meeting so many different people and helping find solutions to their problems.
What Stimulated Your Interest in Maths, and When?
My father loved throwing arithmetic questions my way from an early age and I have a strong recollection of learning the multiplication tables early on when I was about five or so.
At secondary school, one of my maths teachers told me that whatever I do I should keep up my interest in the subject as he felt it would provide choices for me later in my career. He said with maths I could always pursue a humanities subject but without maths I would have a much narrower set of choices. That was very valuable early career advice as I kept studying maths all the way up to A-Level.
What Influenced Your Career Choice?
I have changed between a few careers and every time I felt that I was adding another layer towards my development. I decided to study law after I met my future husband and found the subject interesting. I realised that it was possible to start again and train as a lawyer after so many years as a journalist. I became an entrepreneur because I enjoy seeing ideas take shape and love the variety of the responsibilities. I am an accidental entrepreneur as it was not something that I had experience in and I learnt on the job. It is an iterative process and it’s very rewarding to see how you can expand and grow.
Tell us about your previous career – what prompted you to change direction? What advice would you give to people who are considering changing careers?
I changed career twice – from Journalism to Law and then again from Law to Business. It’s important to be adaptable, to continue to learn and to recognise that the way we work has changed a lot. For me, changing is always an opportunity to grow even when I step into the unknown, like starting a business.
I found that a lot of the knowledge around how to successfully run a business can be gained once you start, so don’t be afraid of the unknown or to ask for help.
Which Skills Do You Consider To Be Essential for Your Job?
I think enjoying people and numbers are both critical skills. No business can operate without great people but equally you cannot assess the success of a business without understanding numbers.
Any Advice You May Have for Other Individuals Considering Your Career Path?
Don’t underestimate the importance of good foundations for success. Having good writing and maths skills are the basics you need to build on. If you have a business idea, just start by testing it in the market. Also, it is ok to find out that running a business is not for you – I changed direction a few times and every time I felt I gained more and more experience that will serve me well in the future.
Your Future Career Plans?
I am focused on building Obelisk Support into a £25m business at the moment, so there’s a lot of work involved in that! I’m also continuing to volunteer to advance women in the workplace including by sitting on the Law Society Council.