Our brand new feature for 2020. Here is a write up of a quickfire interview with Abby Hannah, International Business Development Manager at Stedfast Inc. This interview touches on valuable advice , young people in the fire industry and the importance of the FIA.

29 April 2020 by Adam Richardson, General Manager


Fireside Chat with Abby Hannah

Fireside Chat hosted at Informa London HQ

My name is Abby Hannah and I am the International Business Development Manager for Stedfast Inc. My job provides me with opportunities to travel the world and also meet many new and interesting people. I am passionate and focused on providing the best technology to the fire industry.

How have you been affected by COVID-19?

  • The ongoing crisis of COVID-19 has created many limitations on my usual business running. As a company, we have re-introduced our medical range for isolation gowns and drapes amongst others in order to support our customers who are now making medical equipment rather than fire equipment. Many of our products protect from viruses and blood borne pathogens and therefore are crucial in the fight against coronavirus. We are lucky in the fact we are seen as essential due to supplying the fire service, military and now medical sector. Our customers/end-users are vital during this time and therefore their personal protective equipment must continue to be supplied.

Personal Questions

  • Do you have any pets?

Yes my family have a Lhasa apso whose name is Oscar and he is about 14 years old and still going strong – he has been my childhood dog.

  • What’s your favourite movie of all time?

The Holiday with Jude Law and Cameron Diaz. It's a winter Christmas love story and is my favourite only because it came out when I was about 12. If I had to choose a more meaningful one it would be Schindler's List.

  • Describe yourself as a teenager in 3 words?

Confident, mature and probably annoying

  • What is your biggest pet peeve/hate?

Slow walkers – definitely the reason I couldn’t live in London

  •  If you could be from any other decade (or era), which would it be and why?

It would probably be the 20s as I like jazz music, and would love to go to Gatsby-esque parties and drive those kinds of cars.

  • If you weren’t in the fire industry – what would you be doing and why?

After university I had no idea, I was thinking do I want to be a teacher or accountant or do I want to be an astronaut. I would probably be working for a pharmaceutical company in a similar sales role. I feel like they are similar jobs in a few ways as you're working in-directly to help people for the better.

  • What’s on your Spotify or iTunes?

I'm not a massive music person, I tend to listen to new music and an acoustic version of songs. I mainly listen to music when I'm travelling with my job or in the gym so  I need something that's quite relaxing or with heavy beats. I'm a pretty big fan of Radio 1 Live Lounge.

  • If you could have any three people (dead or alive) over for dinner – who would they be?

First and foremost, would be the Queen because I've recently watched the Crown on Netflix and I'm intrigued by the monarchy. Also, in school, I was taught pre-1940s history and not a lot after World War II which is basically her reign. Secondly, Dale Carnegie, he has a whole series of great books that are really relevant for me in my job. These books were really helpful for me when I started in the industry as a young female. They helped me to take things a bit slower and also to not take things too personally. The final person to attend would be Hitler due to my fascination with World War II, which was springboarded by time spent working Camp America where I met Jewish families of people who fled to America from Europe during the war.

  • What two things would you take to a Desert Island?

On this question, I don’t know whether to think intelligently and do my company proud and say I would take a bottle that filters water and a book - alternatively I could easily just say two bottles of Gin.

  • Name a book, movie or tv show that has positively shaped you and why?

I've taken the most from Dale Carnegie series of books and actually tried out what they suggest in the book and see how it affects my work. I'm currently reading a book called “So you have been publicly shamed” by Jon Ronson and it talks about the notion of shame and how it motivates and drives us and the role it plays in society

  •  If you had a spirit animal, what would it be and why?

I actually had to ask my boyfriend about this question and he replied saying I would be a Meerkat because I am on edge all the time and over-attentive. Although I would have chosen a Penguin.

  • What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

This is a tough question I didn't know whether to say my gift of my baby brother – which definitely wasn't the best gift I have ever had.  The best gift I have received would be a Mont Blanc pen. – not because of what it is or how much it cost because it was a gift for gaining more responsibility. Although I don't like to travel with it because it stresses me out in case I'd lose it.

  • What's your favourite thing in your closet right now?

Probably my Christmas jumper as I just love Christmas.  It is always a welcome break from a busy year of working but also it's the highlight of winter.

  •   If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Teleportation in a second because in my life I spend so much time on a plane or train.

Professional Questions

  •   What's the best piece of advice you've received?

I was told at school that you should always trust your instinct and gut. In the past, whether that be friends or work I always had a feeling if things would be good or bad and I've always tended to be right. For instance, I took a risk when I was first invited to go to the USA to meet the team from Stedfast. I did not know much about the industry or the company at this time but I knew it was the right decision and a great opportunity despite people advising me against it. It has worked out really well and I am so glad I trusted my instinct.

  • What time did you get to work this morning?

Well, today I got into London at around 10am but I started travelling by 7am where I worked on the train so we'll go with I started work at 7. I work slightly different times due to the International regions that I work with.

  • What does your usual day look like?

If I'm in the UK, I work in a co-working office in Manchester because I struggled with the loneliness of working from home. The co-working office has fixed hours which gives me a better work-life balance. Our office in Canada is open for another 5 hours after 6pm so it can be hard to switch off. My day usually starts at 8:30 and I have one or two meetings per day which may be in the office or out of the office. Outside of meetings a lot of my time is doing admin, in the form of emails, sending sales follow-ups or organising samples and liaising with test houses to see how the testing of products is going. I also do some accounting. I have a lot of receipts and expenses that need to be sorted as a consequence of how much I travel. Finally arranging and booking future trips. Whereas, if I'm abroad it would be meetings, tradeshows, conferences, networking and speaking to customers.

  • What makes you excited about the future of this industry?

I think there's a lot of interesting technology that will come into the industry or is already coming into the industry over the next 20 years. There will be a lot of change which could be in the form of the use of robots or automation. It's also interesting to see how the demographics of the fire industry will change in line with society, I'm excited that I've been given an opportunity as a young female in a managerial role within the fire industry and I hope I can make some really positive changes.

  • What do you like about the fire industry?

I like the fact that everyone's much older than me and much more experienced than me because every time I go into a room as a young person I get more experience and learn a lot more. Another thing I like about the Fire Industry (as a graduate) is that I'm not dealing with only other graduates like many other graduate schemes around the country. Instead I can be dealing with CEO’s, directors and head of departments, which is a great opportunity allowing me to see how they work, how they run their business and how they are treating people.

  • How does your work and family life come together?

I think right now I have more work than family life, although I do have a lot of flexibility to manage my schedule at a young age and I don’t always see work as “work”. I don’t have a traditional work balance because I'm away a lot and sometimes work weekends but it does allow me to fit everything in around life throughout. Once again, the co-working office has been a massive help in providing more of a balance between work and life. At the moment both my boyfriend and I are working long hours so there's not a real conflict at this moment in time as we’re both really motivated and enjoy what we do.

  •   What matters most to you?

Focusing on a purpose, so if we lose a tender at work, I'm constantly thinking about what we can do to win more in the future or we what could have done better.

  •  What would you tell yourself at the age of 21?

 Go with the flow and don't stress so much. For me, I needed to trust in myself a bit more because I have a good degree and I will get a good job whether that's my dream job or not it doesn't matter.

  •  What motivates you?

My alarm. In general, I'm pretty well motivated although it can be sporadic - so I'll be really motivated by one thing for a couple of weeks. Due to travelling it's a bit different I don't have the standard Monday morning let's get up and go because I could have been working on the weekend or travelling over the weekend for work.  Other people within the industry motivate me a lot and I have a huge support network of people who really want me to do well and have helped me,  if I'm not doing it for me I will do it for them.  Being part of our generation and being quite young I really want to prove people wrong.  If people think negatively of me I look forward to trying to prove them wrong in the right ways or if they are supported to me I will try my best to make them proud

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?

I really don't know I would like to have won more contracts than I have now, I'd like to have a dog and still be based in Manchester or in the North. I'd like to travel more and see more countries on a personal holiday as opposed to work. - travelling with work gives me the bug for travelling but doesn't give you enough time always to enjoy everything there is. At work, I would like to have a team that I can train and mentor.

  •  Why is the FIA important to you and the industry?

The FIA allowed me to sit on the FIRESA council which gave me access to information and to be able to see the bigger picture of the fire industry. It allows me to keep connected through events and conferences and improves my knowledge within the industry. It also lets me get involved with other great opportunities, such as this interview, or doing other things that are important to me like getting more women in the industry.

Personally, I see the FIA as a huge mentor system for me when I'm in the meetings I'm scribbling everything down and trying to learn. I used to think that everyone in the industry was so clever on their own, then I joined the FIA and I realised that this is where they are sharing and getting their knowledge through conversations, meetings or bulletins provided by the FIA. When I am there I'm not in a sales role, I can speak to really experienced people on a personal level. The FIA has also helped UK fire businesses with their global outreach into the international arena, but equally helped an international source like myself into the UK.

  • To finish what do you want to say to the readers?

From my standpoint, it would be a message to the industry to keep on supporting young people, keep being kind and keep pushing the boundaries of technologies. British companies and their representatives in this industry are amongst the best in the world and I am honoured to be part of it.

The next edition of Fireside Chat will be with William Makant, Chief Executive Officer of Plumis.

If you would like to get involved with Fireside Chats please contact [email protected].

*All answers given are not reflective of the FIA views and thoughts and are that of the individual who was interviewed.