Staff Spotlight: Elaine Middleton

Another month has been ripped off the calendar here at Mobysoft HQ (we really must invest in some kind of digital one), and that can mean only one thing…Yes, it’s time for another instalment of our Staff Spotlight feature, in which we get to know some of the dedicated people that keep the wheels turning at the social housing sector’s most trusted data analytics partner. This month, we get up close and personal with strategic account director, Elaine Middleton – a relative newcomer to Team Mobysoft but one with a wealth of social housing experience behind her…

How did you come to work in social housing?

Entirely accidentally. It’s a bit of cliche to say I fell into housing, but it’s true. I was lucky enough to go to university and after three years of (mostly) hard work, I left with a fashion marketing degree, a load of student debt, some of the funniest stories going, and friends for life. But I soon decided I needed to move home, get a job, and attempt to become a grown up.

Sadly, Dudley wasn’t yet competing with the likes of Milan or Paris in the fashion world…so I focused on the marketing aspects of the degree and applied for a marketing and communications job at Accord Housing Association (now GreenSquare Accord) not knowing a lot about housing at all. That was about 17 years ago, and I’ve never really looked back. 

Describe yourself in 3 words:

Fair, fun, and a bit of a rabble-rouser (that’s one word, right?)

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your past experience within the social housing sector?

I spent 10 years at Accord learning from the best in the business. Being promoted a few times within the organisation allowed me to work with a range of functions, people, and customers. Together, we pushed the boundaries of modern methods of construction before anyone else, championed the links between health and housing, launched community initiatives that used sport, social media, and music to bring people together, and we empowered tenants with a range of co-operative models, and codesign techniques that delivered true customer engagement and involvement. 

I was in the sector when universal credit was launched, when we were squeezed by the rent cut, when the English regulator rebranded / restructured (twice!) and I’m pretty sure that I’ve met most of the housing ministers between 2005-2019 (and I think there were about 12 in that time!) Throughout my time in housing I’ve and continue to learn so much about the sector. Speaking to tenants, hearing their stories first-hand, seeing the impact a good home can have on a person’s life – it makes a difference. And it’s probably why working with organisations that are committed to supporting the sector be at its best is important to me. So, when it was time to move on from Accord, Housemark provided the perfect next step – still in housing, but a slightly different set of experiences. 

At Housemark, I had the opportunity to transform our offering. First as head of marketing and communications, and then moving to director of customer operations. Re-launching our data offer to increase value, launching new services and releasing monthly insights, elevating our brand and events programme, and ultimately moving our membership to one of the strongest positions we’d held in the sector for some time. I am incredibly proud of what we were able to achieve as a team – and it was all a result of listening to the sector, being close to what matters most, and working out ways to help housing teams thrive. But after six and a half years, it was time to start 2023 in a new role here at Mobysoft…

What does your role at Mobysoft entail?

As strategic account director it’s my job to make sure I’m connected to the senior leadership across a number of accounts to ensure our work is aligned to the organisation’s strategic priorities. I meet with my customers, ask questions, listen, and learn about what’s going on for them. I look for ways to improve performance, measure impact, mitigate risk, accelerate digital strategies, and access latest thinking from both the tech and housing industries. I also provide the feedback loop – so I share common themes, issues and ideas internally to make sure our offer reflects the now and next for a sector that is grappling with how they shift from reactive to proactive, from proactive to predictive. I work with rent and repairs customers, and I also dabble in the odd webinar and event too. 

What is the most interesting part of your job?

The people. Hands down the best bit is being out there meeting people. Chatting through everything from the evolving landscape of AI and ethics, through to how the sector is responding to latest regulation, economic challenges, and more. It’s fascinating to work with a variety of landlords across the UK to provide context around their performance position, chatting through the strategic landscape, and offering support, signposting, and everything in between!

What are your biggest challenges at the moment?

Well…if I’m honest my biggest personal challenge is either getting the internal admin done (sorry team) and attempting to stay calm when the train Wi-Fi gives up…That said, I’m not really someone who focuses too much on what can’t be done. Here for the trouble shooting, solution-orientated stuff.

What’s the most meaningful part of your job?

Making a difference to the customer – every time. When you bring the right people together (we have an amazing team of experts here) and you review the insights we have that not only evidence the positive impact on business health, but also employee engagement and tenant sustainability, it’s hard not to get that feel good factor.

How do you measure the success of the outcomes directly influenced via your role?

Customer feedback! If you’re doing a good job, customers stay, they are happy, they get results. I’ve found that the sector is really good at telling you when you’re doing something right – which is just as important as when you’re not!

What would you say are the biggest challenges faced by social landlords in the current climate?

There are so many important areas for the sector to tackle at the moment. Safe and secure homes, positive customer experiences and tenant satisfaction, housing supply, and homelessness. Not to mention the zero carbon targets, skills shortages, and the cost of living crisis affecting both customers and colleagues. Juggling a number of what can feel like competing priorities at times is hard and often when the going gets tough, it’s easy to focus on the size and scale of the challenge and let it paralyse you. But in my experience, it’s times like this that provide an opportunity to build on what’s working and look to new ways to create the capacity to enhance those 2-3 real areas of focus. 

For me, if you have confidence in enough of your data, good people, know your systems and a strong strategy, you’re able to make decisions that feel right, align to where you’re going and how you choose to work. And as long as you recognise what matters to you and your customers most, and you can explain your decisions to customers, colleagues, regulators, investors…you’ve got the foundations that allow you to explore options that will help you get through this particularly challenging time.

Working on anything interesting at the moment?

We’ve got some exciting ideas around how we share best practice and help our customers carve out a bit of valuable time to learn from each other, reveal the art of the possible with tech, and explore what ‘next-level’ sector partnership working could look like! Watch this space, eh? (Or drop me an email and let’s chat! ✉️

How would you describe Mobysoft and what it does to the uninitiated?

We’re an insights business. We use data and information to help you optimise operations and boost productivity across rent collection and repairs. We prioritise who and what you need to do first (so your people are working smarter)..We automate the ordinary (so teams can spend their time with the people who need vital human contact and support – giving teams back the time to make those experiences more meaningful and effective).

We also personalise your approaches based on customer preferences and create campaigns that target the key areas you want to address (so you can enhance customer engagement by selecting the right comms channel for the right customer at the right time). And we analyse all of that to make sure we are helping you to continuously improve and innovate (making sure that if we have the insight, you can access it easily and take action).

We do all of this from a position of unrivalled accuracy. So you can have the confidence that the prioritised actions we present are the ones that truly make the most difference to your customers and your business.

If you could wave a magic wand and change one aspect of the social housing sector overnight, what would it be?

Blimey! What a question. I think for me I’d do more to promote housing as a career choice – rather than the accidental route. We need people who are passionate about people. We need ideas. We need the next generation of good housing people to reflect the needs and preferences of future social housing tenants. Because we’ve got a load of really experienced talented people. But I know we need more, and we don’t want to leave that to chance…

What has been your proudest achievement in housing?

Ah I’m lucky enough to have been involved in some amazing projects and have been able to celebrate an incredible amount of shared success during my career.

But I think my proudest moments have been seeing my team really shine. I’ve always enjoyed leading people and teams, and over the last few years I’ve seen some amazing people absolutely smash it! It’s been a privilege to have been a little part of their journey and I’m so proud when I see how well they are doing. And while they might not be colleagues anymore, they are certainly still friends.

What has been your proudest achievement at Mobysoft?

Ah this is tough! I’ve had to think about this one. Ok, so I’m 6 months in now and I think what I’m most proud of is how I’ve been given the opportunity to shape this role and deliver it with authenticity. I’m here for true partnership working in the sector – and there’s something really exciting about the direction we’re heading in. I know that’s not really an achievement – maybe ask me again in 6 months’ time! Ha!

What are your other passions outside housing?

Bit of a non-league football fan (up the Stour!) and still living my best 90s life with an indie soundtrack on repeat. But other than that, when I get time, I draw, read, bake, and shop! 

How do you unwind after work?

If you follow me on twitter (@elainecmidds) you’ll know it’s a healthy balance of a pint of bitter in the pub, going to the football, and spending time with my favourite people.

What is your ideal holiday?

Road trip. Every time. Probably in Italy. Cute car. Sunshine. Soundtrack. Good food. Good views. People watching. City exploring. General adventuring. Nothing better when the curiosity kicks in and you just go with the flow. Perfect. 

Hopefully, that little lot will have provided you with a bit of insight into what makes another of our key staff members tick. If you enjoyed reading this then head back to these very pages at the same time next month for Staff Spotlight where we’ll be getting to know another Mobysoft staffer a little better.

Dean Quinn