High Flyers: Farming has built a backbone for ubloquity's Ellen

Ellen Mark

In the High Flyers spotlight this week is Ellen Mark, agri tech manager at ubloquity.

What was your first job?

My first real job was at the Bonbon shop in Newcastle. I worked there part-time through school and university and loved it. But I grew up on a farm so helped with the animals from a young age. I now run the family farm alongside my dad and sister.

It’s the one place where it’s acceptable to bring your work home! We’re using data analytics and innovative techniques to help drive efficiencies and operate in a more sustainable way. Both these experiences helped shape who I am today. Dealing with the public helped me to build confidence, and farming has certainly helped me build a backbone!

What qualifications do you have?

I have a first-class honours degree from Queen’s University and CAFRE in agricultural technology. I’m currently studying part-time for a Masters in agri food and rural enterprise. I'm also a qualified ‘Scrum Master’, it’s a leadership and accountability framework that’s incredibly useful to help people and teams solve complex problems.

What do you attribute your success to?

Asking questions and being open to new opportunities. I gained as much practical experience as possible when starting out, including placements with McDonald’s and NSF International.

Working on the NSF Verify platform was completely new to me but it ignited a genuine interest in the agri-supply chain which is based on authenticity and integrity. The platform incorporated DNA sampling at birth, farm geo-fencing, traditional data and smart transport, providing a continuous record that accompanies an animal throughout its entire life cycle.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

Active, driven and chatty! I come from a big family, there was always hustle and bustle, something to do and someone to talk to. It’s taught me the joy of being busy and spending time with others.

It’s stood me in good stead in my role with ubloquity as a lot of my time involves meeting with other businesses, learning how they work and advising them on how blockchain could drive efficiencies across their operation.

Who do you look up to in business?

I took part in the McDonald’s Progressive Young Farmers programme and met so many entrepreneurial and inspiring people including my peer on the programme, Fiona Wilshaw.

She is such an inspirational young women in the agri-food industry and her forward thinking approach and new ideas really sparked a flare in me to try new things and give every experience or opportunity a go. I also really admire Ineke Rentmeesters, our COO at ubloquity. She’s a real advocate for women in tech and in business as a whole.

How do you get the best out of people who work for you?

I’m a stereotypical people person! I love to talk and I really enjoying working and collaborating with others to develop a sense of team. The ethos at ubloquity, and one I very much embrace, is that you don’t bring in smart people and tell them what to do, you give people the freedom to do what they do best, and together we grow.

If you could change one thing about doing business in Northern Ireland, what would it be?

It's a great place to do business. It’s a close-knit community and there is always someone to introduce you to a new contact, so it’s a very positive and supportive environment for start-ups.

There could be greater emphasis placed on nurturing growth in local businesses, particularly if we want to encourage them to remain here.

What website or app could you not do without?

I love a good podcast, so I’d be lost without Spotify for easy listening when I’m on the go.

What was the last book you read / podcast you listened to?

The last book I read was ‘Call Me Red, A shepherd's journey’, by Hannah Jackson. It’s a true story by Hannah – aka the Red Shepherdess - who came to farming late in life but believed in her vision to build her own farm in Cumbria and she hasn’t looked back.

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I’m a chatty person so once you know me, you know everything about me!

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

Agriculture and farming are my two greatest passions. Outside of that and family, I play gaelic football for Ballymartin GAC in Co Down, which is good for both my physical and mental health.