Kristen Shannon: Highliner Is a Consultancy That Partners With Startup Founders To Help Their Companies and Teams Work More Effectively

August 7, 2022

Highliner is a consultancy that partners with startup founders to help their companies and teams work more effectively, efficiently and cross-functionally. We help isolate organisations’ highest leverage pain points and growth opportunities and put in pragmatic and lasting operational solutions.

Some of our values include leading with purpose driven ambition. As a high performing team, we are working towards ambitious goals for our clients (our clients’ success is our success), our company and ourselves as individuals. We do what we do, to be the best that we can be – with purpose.

We balance this value with respecting that we are a team of human beings, not human doings.

Whilst we have a strong drive for ambition, it’s also important to recognise that we are real people with real lives outside of our work. We take the time to look out for each other and ourselves and set realistic expectations.

Tell us about yourself?

I am a results-driven executive with over 10 years of experience in strategy development, operational execution, and organisational scaling. My career focus has been working in high-pressure companies going through periods of significant and fast-paced growth or change.

I have worked for ambitious organisations that have more than doubled in size year on year, leading both recruitment of over 800 FTE a year as well as leading and scaling operations teams.

Before consulting for both high growth start-ups and multinational tech companies I was COO of a deep tech company where I led operations and strategy up to and through their series A process.

If you could go back in time a year or two, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

One piece of advice I would give myself is a reminder that no one ever feels truly comfortable in a role. If they do then it is likely they are too far in their comfort zone.

We live in a world fuelled by growth. If a plant doesn’t grow, it dies. In our careers if we don’t learn new skills then we are also unlikely to succeed.

Often growth comes from being uncomfortable. Making mistakes and failing may feel outside of our comfort zone but it is how we learn and pivot. I would tell myself (and anyone else) to be accepting of not feeling entirely comfortable in a role.

What problem does your business solve?

In fast-paced, high growth companies there is always more to do than time to do it. Highliner works directly with the founders and senior leadership team of global startups and scaleups that are working towards or through significant periods of growth. We have experience in developing strategies, supporting operational execution and directing organisational scaling, and much more.

What is the inspiration behind your business?

Starting my own company was an opportunity for me to work with leading tech startups while building a team focused on developing future leaders, advocating for women in senior leadership positions and increasing access to women in tech. Inclusion in tech is something that I care deeply about.

What is your magic sauce?

I have a unique blend of operational thinking and willingness to get sh*t done, which enables me to operationalise and execute the client’s vision. My experience of seeing multiple startups grow means I know how to rapidly identify the highest leverage problems to work on (knowing which fires to prioritise and which to let burn).

What is the plan for the next 5 years? What do you want to achieve?

I want to get the best outcome for our clients so they can grow and be successful. Ultimately I want Highliner Technology to be the go-to trusted advisor for all things operations and scaling.

I also want to increase inclusion and access across the ecosystem as well as help my team grow and develop their careers.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced so far?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced is gender bias in tech. At my previous company I was the only woman on the executive team, at board meetings and paid only 60% of what the male executives were paid. I fought hard for my pay to be made equal and after two years of fighting it was.

More important than negotiating my own fair pay, I ensured measures were put in place to create long lasting change: I implemented systems and processes such as pay scales and reporting to ensure pay was evaluated across the board so that underrepresented groups would have fair pay in the future.

Now I actively use my voice, not just within my company but on public platforms. I have been focused on the Women in Tech podcast and sat on innovation panels and used my time to speak up about being more inclusive in the tech sector.

How do people get involved/buy into your vision?

We want to connect with startup/scaleup founders who have a great product and vision and are looking for support in scaling. We know that as companies scale, the demand on founders’ time increases.

We help founders balance what has made them successful to date with innovation that enables them to remain ahead of the market. We work using 3 different models: project specific support, embedded roles and/or thought partner. Head to our website to find out more.

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