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How I Became: Ryan McNamara, Operations Director, 6B Digital

Ryan McNamara

Ryan McNamara is Operations Director at technology and engineering consultancy 6B Digital.

Based in Wakefield, 6B Digital works with clients such as ITV, Public Health England and several NHS Trusts.

Founded in 2014 by CEO Paul Brown, the consultancy now has a team of around 50 staff.

Ryan initially joined the company in 2018, initially joining as creative team lead. 

Here he shared his career journey, tips and advice…


How did you first get into your industry?

Pure fluke! I graduated from uni back in 2008 at the beginning of the last big recession and my friend was finishing his PHD in Website Effectiveness. With a few freelance gigs on the go he asked me if I wanted to learn to code to help him out as I was looking for a job at the time, and the rest is history. We set up a business four months after that, then I sold up to him 10 years later as I moved to 6B. We are still very close friends which is great, and without him getting me involved my life would look very different now.

What do you love about your job?

I love that at 6B we have a real opportunity to do some good in world as our speciality is in health care and health tech. Every efficiency we make, and every time we get a fraction better at what we do, there are patients that will feel a small ripple effect down stream as their data is more secure and easier for them to access, whilst allowing clinicians to make more informed decisions based on that data.

In my role I really love the overall effect you can make on the business in its margins and exposing more information within the team to make better and quicker business decisions to allow us to hit our targets.

Who – or what – has inspired you in your career?

When I was on the creative side I lent into Mike Monteiro, and his book ‘Design is a Job’ a lot. I loved his philosophy on the role and design in general. Since I have switched to an Ops role I am really inspired by the work of Eliyahu M. Goldratt, and latterly Gene Kim, Kevin Behr and George Spafford who have done some great work on exploring the devops/digital operations roles in IT businesses.

What are the biggest challenges about your job?

I am naturally someone who likes to work with teams and ensure they are happy and productive in their role. In a senior ops role who is responsible for the overall company profit margins you have to be bad cop some of the time with the team to ensure we aren’t compromising on our margins and over all delivery quality because otherwise we won’t have a business! That aspect isn’t in my nature but I am having to make sure it is, which I have found more difficult than I expected.

What skills have been the most crucial to you succeeding in your career so far?

Prioritisation, in ops there is a lot you might want to fix and work on but you have a limited amount of time so you have to look at the bigger picture and assess where you will have the biggest impact. This is usually around upping utilisation rates across the team, looking to free up bottlenecks and working with the team to ensure we keep our margins.

What was your first salary and what could someone getting into the industry expect to earn nowadays?

I think I paid my rent off with my first pay check in my first business which was a big deal. Nowadays roles are starting much higher for grads and juniors depending on the skillset. Operations is usually a role in digital agencies that can spin out of an Account or Project Delivery role which means you will likely be starting around £25-35k.

What education or training would be most useful for someone looking to follow your career path?

I have found this bit really tough as I couldn’t find much out there when I started in this role. I would look at organisations like the COO Alliance and Agency Hackers who run events specifically for ops leaders. I also cannot recommend the books, ‘The Phoenix Project’ and ‘The Goal’ enough. They taught me all the building blocks for the role including the fact you will always have to do more with less, you cannot continue to throw money at problems, you have to look for more ways to solve them.

What advice would you have for someone looking to follow your path?

Processes are only the starting point of the role, as having the right process means nothing if the team doesn’t understand it, follow it and ultimately take responsibility for it. You also need to know that the companies profit is your responsibility, and all of the team needs have a commercial understanding because you cannot hit targets purely by enforcing a strict margin, everyone has to look for the efficiencies in their role and how to continually improve them.

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