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Sharon McDermott: Female Founder Spotlight

Not just acting at the helm of Trenches Law but a key voice on the UK WISPA advisory board, Sharon McDermott is a true ambassador for women in law and telecoms. It's therefore an honour to see the likes of The Successful Founder feature her in their International Women's Day Female Founder Spotlight — uncovering her route to success, plans for the future, tips for entrepreneurial triumph, and more. Here’s the full interview…

With over 20 years’ experience, Sharon McDermott spent a significant proportion of her early career as head of legal services for Virgin Media — negotiating large deals in sales, wholesale, retail and the public sector, before moving on to manage vast procurement contracts for the chief operating officer.

Now the co-founder and managing director Trenches Law, and a member of the WISPA advisory board, she brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the forefront of the industry. But her route to success wasn’t straightforward.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?

Having skipped the conventional university route, I instead pursued a degree in business and languages at a polytechnic. My career began humbly, handling complaints in a telecoms sales admin role before progressing to become a communications administrator involved in the first round of cable build for Liverpool. It was these initial interactions with solicitors that ignited my interest in law.

Aged 24, I was older than a typical university undergraduate when I truly kickstarted my career. But that didn’t deter me. Despite initial concerns stemming from my working-class upbringing in Liverpool, I pursued my aspirations with determination. Embarking on two part-time courses to strengthen my knowledge — starting with the College of Law in Chester and then DeMontfort University in Leicester — I relocated to London and began my first role as a paralegal at Telewest, before undergoing a further year’s training at Simmons and Simmons.

I made numerous sacrifices, foregoing weekends with friends to focus on studies. This strong work ethic, instilled by my late father, laid the foundation for future endeavours. The inspiration behind the name “Trenches Law” itself pays homage to my father’s heritage and struggles, encapsulating a sense of resilience and familial unity that had unfolded in Ireland in the decades before.

How did the idea come to you for the company?

The genesis of Trenches Law arose from my later experiences at Virgin Media — particularly through involvement in the network expansion initiative known as Project Lightning. It was during this project I identified the overlooked issue of wayleaves and recognised the impending challenges for emerging altnets. Understanding the necessity for specialised legal services, I seized the opportunity to fill a market gap.

How did you achieve awareness?

Unlike many startups, Trenches Law didn’t rely on external funding to fuel its growth. Instead, we’ve prioritised building authentic relationships with clients and addressing industry challenges head-on (more in the next answer).

Trenches Law provides direct feedback and views on positions too. We pride ourselves on open and honest communication — stemming from my experience as in-house legal counsel and proximity to strategic decision-making processes — and won’t leave clients to make complex decisions alone. 

These efforts not only enhance client satisfaction but also contribute to my role as a true ambassador for women in law and telecommunications — something I’m really proud of. In an industry traditionally dominated by males, particularly at senior levels, my position on the WISPA advisory board further highlights my commitment to sharing knowledge and insight for the greater good of the industry.

What are the key successes?

A significant milestone was the development of a wayleave automation tool, which broke ground in 2020, enabling us to automate the investigation, creation, and distribution of wayleaves — handling tens of thousands more agreements per week than previously, and significantly streamlining processes (and headaches!) for clients.

Since then, we’ve also gone on to collaborate on the National Parks Accord — supporting better connectivity in rural locations, while protecting the landscape in these preservation areas — and obtain our own Code powers, to boost digital infrastructure in multi-dwelling units (MDUs) and multi-business units (MBUs), amongst other successes. 

Beyond service-specific highlights, the team has also made significant contributions to industry initiatives. Understanding residents’ issues when an operator is requesting wayleaves and allaying those fears has been a priority. We also work closely with operators’ marketing and PR teams to help them build up their brand, recognising that this can aid in obtaining more wayleaves, and therefore accelerating connectivity progress across the UK as a whole.

What were the challenges and how have you overcome these?

Admittedly, the initial setup didn’t come without its challenges — not least when considering the financial risks associated with hiring employees. It was a ‘scary’ time for us, but we had to believe in ourselves and know that more business would come.

What are your plans for the future?

With visions to expand Trenches Law’s services to the United States — a nation some ten years behind when it comes to connectivity progress — I’m keen to leverage our collective expertise to help strengthen digital infrastructure overseas.

Existing knowledge of the UK’s freeholders and their processes will also see the business undertake electricity wayleave services over the coming year — a feat that will support wider net zero ambitions and bring simplicity to complex regulatory landscapes. 

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success?

Find a niche in the market and take a leap of faith, believe in yourself, be kind to others, cultivate a strong network (and nurture it!), pursue your dreams regardless of age, and maintain a strong work ethic throughout your career.

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?

Beyond my father, a number of influential figures have shaped my outlook: Baroness Karren Brady’s unwavering self-belief in a male-dominated industry, Jurgen Klopp’s leadership qualities, Nelson Mandela’s steadfast resolve during adversity, and Mrs. Pankhurst’s pivotal role in the suffrage movement. 

What are your favourite inspirational quotes?

The dulcet prose of Invictus by William Ernest Henley has maintained pride of place on my office wall for many years.

Connect with Sharon on LinkedIn

Follow Trenches Law on LinkedIn 


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