Our business is made up of 1000+ fantastic people working on stuff you'd never expect, all pushing hard towards a shared goal: driving the global green energy revolution.
In our Spotlight series, we'll introduce you to some of the brilliant people behind the scenes at Octopus.
One of Octopus’ first ever energy specialists, Ruby started way back in August 2016.
Since then, she’s done just about everything there is to do in the company – from spearheading our first ever customer migration into Kraken, working with tech to build crucial ops functions, building our entire credit team, to her current Kraken Technologies role introducing new Kraken convert companies to our software and our unique way of working, as well as being an instrumental part of our internal Black Lives Matter Fund group.
I chat to Ruby for a view of the company through the eyes of a true Octopus original.
Maddie: Hey Ruby, introduce yourself!
Ruby: I’m Ruby, and I’ve worked for Octopus Energy for over four years – now Kraken Technologies, actually! I joined as about the ninth or tenth person in the operations team. I’ve done many different roles but my current one is really different to anything I've ever done (or that’s been done in the company) before.
Ruby talking Octopus with the Prime Minister and Chancellor
I’m working on what we call a 'Build Operate Transfer', or ‘BOT’ migration, of a massive legacy utilities company, to our energy platform Kraken.
We’re moving millions of customers over to be managed on Kraken, which is really cool. But the ‘migration’ is a lot more than that – we're also migrating their operation style and ways of working. We’re helping them move towards the way Octopus has always worked.
That means trying to change their whole business culture – who they are, how they act, how they treat each other. So it's a pretty big task, one I don't really think has been done before.
We're not just moving customers onto our platform – we're also migrating our clients' operation style and ways of getting stuff done – who they are, how they act, how they work together.
Ruby: The magic of Kraken isn't just the tech itself, it's the people and the culture. That's what we're selling as well. It's so easy to think that way of operating is JUST relevant within the actual operational customer service teams. But actually, at Octopus our culture reaches across the board. The tech team, and how they approach problems is also really, really different.
Maddie: What do you think makes the tech team’s way of working different?
Ruby: Our technology and operating model mean we can do stuff ‘live’. We deploy agile changes to our site and platform at speed, usually many times per day (while most traditional companies usually 'deploy' changes at a set time every few weeks – sometimes, months).
The Octopus tech team at work
Rather than going through laborious testing phases that delay customers getting access to great things, we put stuff out into the world. Then, through an obsessively iterative, customer-centric approach, we 'test' in perfect parallel with real-world user feedback from our team and our customers.
There’s this idea that you need to have a plan for a plan for if the plan goes wrong. I HATE the idea of an ‘unhappy path’. Why think about the unhappy path?! Let's just perfect the happy path, and as we go on, if things go wrong, we'll fix them.
I hate the idea of an ‘unhappy path’. Let's just perfect the happy path, and as we go on, if things go wrong, we'll fix them.
Maddie: Has that been a challenge to instil in companies that are joining Kraken?
Ruby: Yeah. We’re working with large organisations that have 20-30 years of experience, and because of that, we cannot just tell people “this is how we think you should be doing things”, processes are built up due to experience and what was best at that time. To change long standing beliefs it's important to highlight WHY.
It might be a slow process, but I'm pretty confident we’ll do it because what’s most key is customer happiness, and employee happiness as well. We are proud to say we have both thanks to our technology and our culture— and it’s an immeasurably great gain for any company to be able to achieve that.
Maddie: How did it feel switching over to the Kraken Technologies team after so many years with Octopus, and how did that come about?
Ruby: In typical Octopus fashion, we put everything into action in a super agile way. To make things extra strange, my change in role actually happened during lockdown!
We started planning in April, then all of a sudden, I was handing over my credit team and getting equipped to manage the 'BOT'.
Ruby with the earliest Octopus Energy credit team, and with the operations leadership team
Maddie: It almost seems like your role now is the perfect culmination of everything you’ve done in four years at Octopus – customer-obsessed energy specialist from the beginning, working with tech to build Kraken for ops, managing huge sales partnerships with corporate partners, then building an entire function of the business from scratch.
Then on top of that, you're perfectly placed to introduce new Kraken adoptees to the Octopus way, because you’ve literally lived through and shaped the entire Octopus experience.
Doing it during lockdown can’t have been easy though!
Ruby: It was an extra challenge meeting all the people that I’d be working closely with for months OVER ZOOM, trying to build a great relationship with our clients virtually. Everyone that I work with and talk to every day, I've not met yet, so that's quite bizarre.
Maddie: What's your Octopus hold music jam?
Poker Face Lady Gaga, Giving my age away…. but a great song.
Maddie: What's your favourite Greg story?
I remember getting into a debate with him about HR after a few drinks. I was 21 and sassing Greg like I had all the life experience. Instead of completely shutting me down like many would have, he listened to all my points, was non-judgemental but of course still ended up winning the argument.
Maddie: Favourite lunch spot around the office?
Hard one! Probably Bread and Honey near the Leicester office.
Maddie: Tell me about yourself in 30 seconds.
My favourite things are being a big sister, melodrama, and cooking big meals for a group of friends. I want to travel the world and I’m doing it bit by bit right now but hope to take six months off one day to do it in bulk. I’m an obsessive googler, make myself (but no one else) laugh out loud sometimes and live for a 22 minute sitcom.
Maddie: In an ideal, non-Covid world, what are the Top 3 places you'd like to travel next?
Japan, Botswana, and a road trip around the USA!
Maddie: How did you join Octopus?
Ruby: I joined Octopus initially because I was an unemployed uni grad. I was so happy to get a job! I’d studied Chemistry at university and my final piece was on methane gas in the atmosphere. From that, I knew I wanted to be involved in something that helped towards combating climate change.
During uni I kind of thought I'd go and sell my soul working for a big bank. Genuinely, that's what I thought I'd do, and now, I could not think of anything worse.
Ruby and the Octopus team at one of our earliest team parties
My plan was actually to do six months at Octopus and then go six months travelling. Obviously, I started and then everyone was really great.
I just loved what I was doing so much I thought — ‘Oh gosh, I don't really want to leave actually. I think there's a lot of potential here.'
I just loved what I was doing so much I thought — ‘Oh gosh, I don't really want to leave actually. I think there's a lot of potential here.' And now it's four years later.
Maddie: You've been here at Octopus such a long time, and worked on about a million different things in the company. Could you tell me a bit about what you've done since joining?
When I joined, I think I was like the ninth or tenth member of the operations team! I came in as an energy specialist with no idea what operations was at all, taking customer calls on our one phone line – a physical, ringing phone in the office.
Because of how tight knit all functions of our business are, I was really lucky to be able to spend quite a lot of quality time with the tech team while they were building the earliest version of Kraken. I fed back to the tech team to help map out all the Kraken functions we'd need to make our lives, and our customers’ lives, easier.
As I had in-depth knowledge of what ops, and customers, needed our software to be able to do, and I really started working out what we needed to automate when I was about to go off for a months' travel around Mexico. While I was off, James [Eddison, CTO] built tonnes of the features that I asked for. I really love that kind of mathematical, scientific way of thinking.
Then, I got involved in our first ever customer migration — moving all our customers off the off-the-shelf legacy system we’d been using before, and onto the brand new, baby version of Kraken, our proprietary tech.
Next, I started managing our partnerships from an operational perspective — ensuring other companies we worked with to get new customers were being looked after, and their customers were getting a great experience with us etc. Everyone from Arsenal FC to ‘Just Move In’ to Monzo. This gave me my first insight into working with different companies outside Octopus — the work I do now, client management, is a partnership in a way, so that experience was incredibly useful.
Then, Jon asked me if I wanted to have a go at building and managing the credit team. So I did! I was pretty young, and had no idea what I was doing.
So when I first joined credit, we had four temporary staff. Nothing was automated – they were all working manually off simple spreadsheets. And then over the years, it's really evolved. The team moved to Leicester, we've involved third parties, and our account health and credit care journeys are fully automated in Kraken. I’m really proud of that. I’ve left it in really great hands as well – with people who truly care about their customers – the team are really fab.
Of course throughout I still step in sometimes to talk to customers as we all do at Octopus, no matter what role we’re in. You’re never in a box when it comes to your role.
I never ever thought when I was at uni that I'd be doing this.
Maddie: What made you stay? Was there something you thought you'd be doing instead?
The Octopus Energy operations leadership team, Christmas 2018
Ruby: I never really had dreams for what I was going to do when I was older or anything like that. Which is pretty standard, I think.
What kept me going and kept my role changing was that everything that I've been asked to do, I always say yes.
That's something really good about where we work – you actually have those options as well.
Everything that I've been asked to do, I always say yes, because I'm just like, why not? It's an opportunity – and other doors open and you get more variety.
Maddie: Recently, you’ve been involved in Octopus’ Black Lives Matter Fund. How’s that going?
(We're a company where you never have to leave who you are at the door when you get to work. At every level of the business we over-index on gender and BAME representation, but there is always more we can do.
In the midst of protests around the world sparked by the killing of George Floyd, the Octopus team had crucial internal conversations about how our company could do more to support black people in our team and in our wider community – and announced a BLM Fund with initial funding of £100,000.)
Ruby: It's going really well.
I’m working with 17 people in a dedicated group to plan how we can best use this money so it’s not just a one-off initiative, but an ongoing fund that we can continue to enrich people's lives with. It's really exciting – and quite daunting – to be a part of. It's such a big topic and there's a lot of emotion around it. It's quite tough to balance how far you go with that emotion in a workplace setting. It's been really great seeing people's involvement.
Maddie: Yeah. I think this approach is so cool – it’s a promise that’ll keep us responsible on this forever – so it could never be lip service or a PR exercise.
Ruby: Yep, not just a tick box, which I know Greg hates.
Ruby at Octopus' Black Science Matters talk for Black History Month
I can really see how it will work in the future. Some of the ideas that the guys are coming up with are just so innovative and I think can make a real difference. So that's really exciting. I think there's more work to do as we move and grow as a company – some work we can do to self-reflect in an ongoing way, which I'm hoping to play a part in as well.
I hope to get Octopus to a point where we're looked up to on how we approach diversity in the workplace.
That's the goal, that people know that we really care.
Diversity is a real problem across our whole industry. The demographic of people in senior roles is just completely not aligned with the demographic in more entry level roles.
Maddie: What do you think you’ve learned seeing Octopus grow up?
Ruby representing Octopus Energy at London Pride in 2017
Ruby: I think I never really appreciated how much comes with just seeing something change and evolve.
I think for my role, it’s great to be able to speak with faith that when I say “this is how we do things” to a new client for Kraken. When they ask “why”, it’s not just “because that’s how it works” – I can tell them with first hand knowledge that it works like that because it’s the right thing to do by customers.
Maddie: What’s really different about working at Octopus?
Ruby: My position means I work closely with Stuart (Jackson, CFO), Jon and James. Even though I didn't know much about credit at all, they were always just so open and serious about me as a person and as someone that's presenting to them. And that’s definitely set me up for moving on in my career and working with different people. I realised that it's super special to be around – that more senior people always take you seriously – it doesn’t matter what your experience is, if you're talking sense, then they're going to be listening.
The most senior people in the business always take you seriously – it doesn’t matter what your experience is, if you're talking sense, then they're going to be listening.
Maddie: What’s the biggest change you can see from the early days?
Ruby celebrating 200,000 customers in our London office
Ruby: Probably our goals. Some of the stuff we’re aiming for now I’m just like WOW, as if we're attempting this, who do we think we are!?
But so far we’ve managed it all, so I think it’s a positive thing.
When Greg would tell us we were going to reach a million customers some day, it felt incredible and almost unimaginable – but the entire team worked like they believed we were going to do it.
Not knowing everyone in the office is a big change. It’s so nuts meeting people for the first time and they’re 3 months in! I miss knowing everyone.
Maddie: What's your most memorable day at Octopus?
Ruby: There’ve been so many great moments. Some of the greatest have been our whole-company email ‘blitzes’ during really busy periods. For example, when Ofgem appointed us to take on all the customers of another supplier who’d gone out of business at the same time as we had just launched the new M&S Energy, naturally calls and emails were through the roof like they’d never been before. Every function of the business pitched it to get the volume down – from ops to tech to marketing, finance, and the senior management team.
But most powerful one for me might be our whole team ‘500,000 customer’ party. It was the first time the whole teams from Leicester, Brighton and London all met. We were all sitting on beanbags, and we filled an enormous room. There were just so many people! And then James Eddison got up and spoke really briefly and eloquently, and I was just really proud. It was a lovely moment to reflect on what we’d achieved.
At Octopus you often take for granted what you're doing as normal – “the service we're giving customers is normal. The way we treat our staff is normal.”
And in normalising it, you never really celebrate it. So that was a great moment to look back and think, actually, everything that we wanted to achieve, we've done and more. Like, that's pretty awesome.