As part of our commitment to developing careers and with the knowledge that we can gain valuable insights from each other, this week, in a series of interviews with top professionals in their fields, Zoe Green was delighted to be joined by Lindsey Daniels, Head of IT Performance and Governance at Places for People.
Lindsey has recently been nominated for three awards at this year’s Women in Tech Excellence Awards. She has been nominated for Digital Leader of the Year, Outstanding Transformation, and Role Model of the Year and most excitingly…this is her first official role in technology. She is not a “techie” by trade but is a key member of the technology leadership team driving digital transformation at Places for People.
Lindsey, tell us about your professional journey so far?
I am not what you would think of as a “techie”! I do love tech at a personal level, but this is my first proper “IT” role. I spent a large part of my career working in a tax advisory business. My role there was centred around developing teams, processes, ways of working and governance to enable the firm to scale quickly and efficiently, and actually, it is technology that enabled all of those things. And all of that culminated in the creation of a piece of software and us transforming our business model around that software as our core product.
Whilst I was there, I also led the rollout of Salesforce. I could see clearly that it would help us grow quickly and adapt constantly which was so necessary for that very customer-driven organisation, so I really got stuck into making it a part of our way of working. I guess I’ve always just found myself involved in and leading technology decisions without even realising it and reflecting on it, what I really love is that blend of people and technology together, as that is where the magic happens!
After going on maternity leave and having twins, I found myself looking for a new challenge and saw a role at Places for People. I had a conversation with the CDO at the time about their digital transformation plans and their journey on the Cloud and some of the people and organisational challenges associated with that. Whilst I had never worked in an enterprise IT environment, I knew that given the chance I could really help drive change within IT, and more widely given the broad experience in my previous roles, and somehow, I convinced the CDO I was right for the role.
Tell me about your current role and responsibilities in your current role
My current role is all about ensuring Places for People gets as much value as possible from its technology spend. The group is investing a lot into technology but what drives me, is asking questions about how that investment turns into business value and impact. Whenever there is an idea for new technology, I have to make sure that this is discussed in a structured way, so we get a very clear scope and a clear understanding of what that is going to deliver for the business.
I work very closely with project managers, programme managers, business analysts and subject matter experts in the business and I try to develop the right processes that can work for this organisation and bring the right people around the table at the right time.
Essentially I run a project office within IT so constantly managing risks and issues is a key part of my role too but it’s about governance that provides real value and doesn’t get too much in the way of delivery so we can continue to innovate at pace and help our business keep driving forwards.
What is the most rewarding and exciting part of your role?
The most exciting part for me is our focus on people and the reward for me personally comes from delivering something that can have a massive impact on all of my colleagues. Our technology strategy is centred on making our customers and colleagues live easier, what is more thrilling than being able to deliver things that help everyone do more with their time? I love helping to solve issues that colleagues find a nightmare and helping them to get the technology out of their way. Sometimes it is just by people knowing small titbits of information or changing the way they work ever so slightly, that can have a big impact or help them get 4 hours back into their week to spend helping our customers.
What do you think we can do to encourage women to get into technology and data?
For me, I think this is all about visibility – and I don’t just mean visibility of other people who look like you, which of course is important for some, but also visibility of roles available and the variety there. What roles exist and what do they involve? When you unpick roles in technology and data, that’s when you can start to understand what you might want to do and what challenges you would enjoy.
I also think business analysis and product/project management, in general, is all about speaking to people and understanding them properly and women can often be such fantastic communicators, they are born for it! It is not enough to know how to code if you can’t solve people’s problems and what drives a successful technology project is the blend of all of those skills and elements working together to achieve the outcome.
At the senior end, how can we help women’s careers in tech and data?
I think we must be actively promoting women coming into this space either at the start of their careers or as movers from other disciplines. Getting as much female talent in at the entry-level to start with and then as women go through their careers in this space it’s about ensuring their confidence levels remain high and increase. That requires all of us as leaders to take a chance on bringing in outliers and not always going for the safest option of looking for someone who has done the exact same role before.
The demand for decent technology candidates is only going to increase, and you’re never going to have a massive pool of candidates with the exact experience you’d like. It’s about going outside of the box and saying what has this person delivered before and how they might they be able to apply their skills to deliver in the world of technology and data. Not every role requires deep technical capability and that can be honed and developed in any case once you get the right person in with the raw skills and passion to succeed in this industry.
Advice to young women looking to get into technology and data?
“Don’t be scared to apply to things just because you haven’t got the exact experience!” and “Get out of your own way.”
If you look at my career history on paper against the role I am now in, many people might not make that connection. I just came to the interview and application phase and said look at my transferable skills and look at what I have done and actually, I do have a lot of value and passion to bring to this role.
The nature of tech and data is no one knows it all and it’s all moving so fast, so we’ve got to get around the fear that we don’t know enough and just step into the unknown. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. I feel that confidence plays more of a role than people realise.
The other thing I will say is that in IT, I think it is fair to say that historically there has been less emphasis on developing and honing those softer, people skills. Women, we can shine here! Empathy and emotional intelligence are hugely important in running all types of teams, but especially in delivering technology that makes our lives easier, which has got to be what it is all about. This is a massive space that women can walk right into if they believe in themselves.
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