Dee Lyons Talks Determination and Adaptation
21st November 2022
This week we hear from Dee Lyons, Founder and CEO of Examfly. Earlier this year Dee lifted the Sodexo WMB Female Newcomer Award. In this piece, Dee talks about how she moved from a corporate to an entrepreneurial environment and how she had to adapt to ‘being the voice of the company’.
Q: Can you tell our readers a bit about Examfly and your role?
I’m the founder and CEO of Examfly.
At Examfly, we’re building the future of professional learning.
During my career in tax consultancy and wealth management, I saw first-hand how graduate trainees were forced to adopt an archaic learning model to help them to pass professional exams and advance in their careers.
Examfly is solving this problem. We’ve built a Platform which mirrors some of the interactive, personalised and dopamine rich experiences our learners are used to. In this way, we provide a quicker, more effective, and more enjoyable learning experience.
Q: Who is your primary audience and how do you see your market expand?
Our primary audience is the likes of the Big 4 professional services firms, medium and large tax and accountancy firms, along with other organisations where ACA/CTA qualifications are required. This is a global market, although for practical reasons, we’ve started out in Ireland and the UK.
Q: How did you feel when your name was called out as this year’s recipient of the Sodexo WMB Female Newcomer Award?
I was not expecting it at all. It is such an honour to be nominated, let alone to win the award. It gave myself and the team a big boost in the days and weeks that followed.
Q: Mentorship from Sodexo forms part of your ‘win’ – how important is this aspect for you?
I think this will be one of the most valuable aspects of the win. My mentor has experience in our customer industry and can offer valuable insights into how we win new customers and expand our market.
Q: As a start-up, what are the main challenges you face?
Apart from convincing my father that I made the right choice in leaving my safe corporate job…
It was probably having to adapt to being the voice of the company, involving lots of pitching to both investors and customers, and trying to get various stakeholders to believe in our vision.
I’m naturally quite introverted so lots of this felt very “out-of-comfort-zone” but I think I’ve adapted reasonably well now, mainly through practice.
Q: What is your unique selling point?
Talking about Examfly, I would say a mixture of creative and technical skills that has allowed us to create a fun learning experience in and industry that’s not really known for its ability to engage people.
Talking about me personally, I think I have a good combination of more left brain (analytical and strategic) and right brain (creative and visual) attributes. This helps in being a start-up founder where you’re constantly engaged in creative problem-solving. I’m also very, very determined – again this helps when you’re doing something that is, by definition, an attempt to beat the odds.
Q: Did you always want to work in EdTech?
I’ve always had a strong interest in education psychology, which I think propelled me to seeking out a solution to problems experienced by those sitting professional exams. During my career in tax consultancy and wealth management, I saw first-hand how graduates were forced to adopt an archaic learning model to help them pass professional exams, often after long and unsociable working hours. So, this all really culminated in the idea for Examfly.
Q: Who is your EdTech Hero?
To be honest, I find inspiration in many different start-up fields, so I wouldn’t necessarily limit it to Ed Tech. I think the Collison brothers (Stripe) approach what they do with a lot of thoughtfulness and intellectual rigor, I also enjoy the blog of Mathilde Collin, CEO and co-founder of Front.
Q: You’ve raised considerable funding for Examfly. What advice would you offer other entrepreneurs when sourcing finance?
Take advantage of all the supports and programmes Ireland has to offer for those in the start-up world.
There is such a hub and support network available in Ireland, where entrepreneurship is really supported and encouraged.
We wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today without the support of Enterprise Ireland, organisations like Furthr and NDRC, and various mentors and advisors. Try to listen to their advice in a non-defensive and open-minded way, and take on board the bits that make sense for your company.
be confident in your narrative! Know what it is you want to raise and be able to explain why and how investments will be used, and what the hoped for payback for them is.
Q: How would you describe your leadership style?
It’s hard to be objective about this and I’m learning as I go: I would say I have very high expectations about what we deliver for our customers, but I’m relaxed enough about most other things. I love to see the team learn and grow, so hopefully they feel that Examfly is a place where they can reach their full potential.
Q: Who supports you in your career and life ambitions?
My partner, friends and family.
Q: What advice would you offer your younger self when starting out?
If you want to achieve something big, then start reaching out to and meeting those who have done it before as soon as you can. There’s often a loose blueprint that you can follow.
A little bit about You
Alternative career choice, no limits?
The person who has influenced you the most?
I watched a lot of Oprah in my formative years and I think her messages around self-determination, our ability to improve our circumstances and to overcome adversity, really resonated with me.
Name three things that you’re passionate about.
Examfly, running and reading.