Women in Digital: Sarah Hurrell

Sarah Hurrell, managing director of business consultancy Radical Edge on the challenges of navigating the past 12 months.

Posted 18 October 2021 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

Yes, I loved school, except music lessons, although there was a period when I was about eleven years old, that I was in danger of being disruptive due to not being challenged.

What qualifications do you have?

BSc (Hons) degree – Joint honours in Computer Science & Economics with industrial placement.  

Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or a combination of both?

Mainly smooth with a few rocks. 

What is the best career advice you can give to others?

Only report to people you can trust, truly know what you enjoy, are good at and are ‘worth’ – chase these roles as it’s easier to be brilliant when you love what you are doing and are treated fairly.

Life is too short to be mediocre or disenfranchised.

If you had to pick one mentor, that had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?

George Hurlstone who was my direct line manager and mentor when I returned from a two year assignment working in Japan for ICL. He always acted with integrity and was an amazing leader.

From where do you draw inspiration?

Lean.In org, TED talks, successful business leaders and single parents who juggle life and work well.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?

Operating infrastructure services through the COVID pandemic.

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

o Be trustworthy & fair
o Set a good example and treat everyone with respect
o Always give the credit to those who deserve it
o Be honest about performance so the team can grow

o Clearly communicate strategy and objectives, holding people appropriately accountable.
o Be self-aware & humble
o Know your weaknesses & ‘intentionally’ empower people to hold you accountable
o Always remember… “A leader with no followers is a person on a walk!”

Commit & nurture
o Inspire team to grow – expect the best, focus on their needs / support & encourage them to be better
o Empower the team – allow them to fail ‘small & fast’ safely, be willing to assume full responsibility if it goes very wrong,
o Commit to / care about your clients and team.

Be decisive, positive & engaging

From a work viewpoint what has the last 12 months been like?

Few people like change. The pandemic put sudden and extreme change and stress on the nation’s social, family, commuting, health (burnout / mental / physical / financial) and professional lives in an unprecedented way.

As a leader providing critical IT services, I noticed a distinctive spike in the team’s and the client teams’ stress levels, which cascaded to others. Remote working made it more difficult for managers to identify who needed support and when.  

I really care about my team and absolutely prioritised their support, however this was super demanding in time and emotional energy for my management team and for me personally. Add in the increase in cyberattacks globally; unprecedented service disruptions that major providers experienced; knowledge and resourcing challenges caused by furlough or sickness; and the restricted access to buildings and spares – the last 12 months have been brutal.

However, it was also a time of extraordinary dedication by many to support their people and clients’ businesses. I remain hugely impressed, grateful and humbled by how my team reacted to the challenges. 

What would you say are the biggest tech-based challenges we face today?

Cybersecurity, pace of change, user expectation (“I want an app experience using corporate systems – this is slow and clunky”) and securing personal devices seamlessly.

Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021 shared on Gov.uk advises

  • 77 percent of businesses say that cyber security is a high priority for their directors or senior managers (vs. 69 percent in 2016).
  • Phishing is the most commonly identified cyberattack. Among the 39 percent identifying any breaches or attacks, 83 percent had phishing attacks, 27 percent were impersonated and 13 percent had malware (including ransomware).
  • 47 percent have staff using personal devices for work

Ransomware is hugely disruptive, expensive and can be devastating particularly to ill-prepared, manufacturing and smaller businesses.

Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know.

I’ve had a rifle pointed at my head, when I accidentally broke curfew, while living in Sri Lanka.