I am either lucky or thick skinned. I have worked for two large, international, successful and male dominated companies - IBM and Deloitte - and have never been aware of any discrimination against me. In fact I have had lots of support, mainly from men I like and highly respect, to develop my career and achieve my potential.
IBM and Deloitte both have a strong track record in diversity and inclusion and there are networks, support and mentoring available. However, it’s always a two way process and you have to learn how organisations work to make them work for you. This includes making sure you do more than you are expected to and have two or three senior people who rate you and will speak up for you.
I also didn’t have as much ‘choice’ as other women. When my sons were one and three we moved to America and my husband gave up work. What started out as a couple of years out while we were abroad turned into a long term decision and he ended up at home, bringing up our boys. So I was the major wage earner with all the responsibility that brings. I knew my family depended on my income and I worked hard to make sure I maximised that - and IT is a good place to work if you want to earn a good living.
I am also lucky. I have always enjoyed work, the challenge of taking on new things, working out how to solve new problems, working with bright and friendly people, and figuring out how IT can help.
‘IT enabled change’ is the phrase I use to describe what I love to do. All organisations rely on IT, and usually the bigger the organisation, the more complex is its IT. All organisations are continually changing. Some due to changes outside their boundaries. Sometimes because they invent something new. Changes, these days, don’t usually happen without implications for IT.
These days, I work with the NHS - an amazing organisation which is a real asset for the UK. It is huge and complex and not perfect but delivers healthcare to everyone all day every day. They are going through continual and challenging change, and there is little they do which isn’t influenced or impacted in some way by IT.
I have always worked in and around IT, though I didn’t have a conventional IT start. I read English at Oxford and then went to America on a Rotary Foundation Scholarship to do a Master of Science in Broadcasting - and I specialised in cable TV and satellite systems. I wasn’t ever really technical, I was always more interested in the application of IT than how the nuts and bolts worked.
After a few years working in the Cable TV and consulting sectors, I joined IBM and ended up staying there nearly 20 years. I stayed because I got a new role every couple of years, lots of challenges, and international experience in America and Europe. I lead a couple of big IT implementation projects at IBM but spent most of my time there in a variety of sales roles. I had a very good career at IBM. They are a great employer, with a long and strong tradition of diversity and investing in bringing through leaders. I meet a lot of ex-IBMers in senior and influential roles.
However, I didn’t ever want to be a ’30 year IBMer’ and so 7 years ago I moved to Deloitte as a Partner. Now, I run our UK Public Sector Health practice and co-lead our global Health Care strategy. I manage the relationship between Deloitte and the Labour Party. And I am active in the BCS. I Chair the Policy and Public Affairs Board, and am a Vice President and Trustee.
What inspires me about IT? I am endlessly fascinated about how IT can help solve new problems. Right now we are analysing the way that cancer is treated, we run the system which places NHS grads on their work placements, we provide tablets for community nurses to write up their patient notes securely offline and online as they travel around, we help hospitals work out how to implement electronic patient records. We are contributing to the continual improvement of the NHS and ultimately I hope improving patient outcomes.