Did you enjoy school?
A tricky one as school was so long ago! The thing I enjoyed the most was the sixth year common room. I was at a rural school (Jedburgh Grammar) with only 12 of us in sixth year and I remember this being great fun (more chat less work!). I remember Biology and French as being my favourite two subjects.
What qualifications do you have?
I have an HND in Business Studies and a Postgraduate in Software Technology. I’m still not 100 percent sure how I managed to be accepted for a post grad with no degree. Just shows you should always ask.
Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or a combination of both?
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be when I left school and when I applied for a graduate sales job, I thought I’ll give this a go for a while. Here I am 30 years later still working in the problem-solving IT industry!
My career path has sometimes been smooth with speed bumps and other times a roller coaster! I was made redundant twice which taught me so much about resilience. The rockiest period was when I had three jobs in five years which was unsettling – especially when I had 2 pre-school children at the time.
My move into a leadership role wasn’t a conscious one, it was something that evolved during my last 10 years in Sopra Steria.
Throughout my career I have built a great network across the industry and the public sector, one which has supported me when I needed to seek advice about a career move or a change in role. This network has really helped to smooth out the rocks in the road.
What is the best career advice you can give to others?
I was brought up on a farm and my dad always said, “work hard, use your initiative, and manners maketh a man”. Best career and life advice ever given, I think. The other is to be your authentic self and find a company to work in that fits your values and where you feel valued.
If you had to pick one mentor, that had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?
There have been many people across the last 30 years that have influenced me, and it is impossible to pick just one! The biggest influence of all has to be my dad. He was a farm manager and had an amazing work ethic. He was a planner – from what was happening tomorrow to a vision of what things would be like in 5 and 10-years. He took pride in doing the best job he could do. Even on the most miserable of days when things were going wrong, he found the positives. Most of all he had some fun on the way.
From where do you draw inspiration?
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I think inspiration is everywhere if you chose to look for it. I love to hear a story and draw the most inspiration from people who solve problems that make a real impact to lives. For example, the project I am most proud of is working with Social Security Scotland to help make disability benefits easier to apply for.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?
Being able to juggle my roles as mother, wife and business leader has been hugely challenging at times. My children are now 15 and 17 and their Dad also works full time. Over the course of their lives, I’d say I’ve become an ‘expert juggler’. I’m not sure I’ve always struck the perfect balance but perhaps this isn’t what we should be striving for at all. I now find it healthier and more achievable to think of life more like a seesaw that balances out overall.
What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?
So, four qualities stand out for me: authenticity, respect, curiosity and purpose.
- I feel the most important quality is being your authentic self and finding a way to lead which is true to your personality and values.
- I believe a good leader respects everyone around them and must care for their well-being.
- Being curious about everything is a great quality, especially if you can flip to being curious rather than being critical.
- Finally, a good leader has to articulate a purpose that people believe in and want to be part of.
And let’s not forget about having some fun too!
From a work viewpoint what has 2021 been like for you so far?
2021 so far has been a continuation of the intensity of 2020 – working from home and endless Teams calls! Added to the mix are two teenagers in the house doing remote schooling and preparing for exams.
Our business is thriving, and I am proud that the physical and mental wellbeing of our staff has been the top priority. The resilience of my colleagues and our customers has been fantastic.
2021 is also hopeful as we see an end to lock down and I am really looking forward the new future of work – one which will be flexible and collaborative.
What would you say are the biggest tech-based challenges we face today?
Ethics for sure. What impact is all this digital stuff having on people? In the drive for digital transformation we have to remember the impact on people. Making everything digital is not the right answer we have to consider the holistic view of a public service and make sure it is inclusive.
Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know.
I love the Marvel movies. Lockdown has been a great reason to watch them all again (and again). Another one is that distant relative is Jesse James, the wild west outlaw.