Women in Digital: Jaime Reid

Jaime Reid, director, consulting services at Central Government CGI, reveals her best leadership advice, from where she draws inspiration and gives her take on the biggest tech-based challenges we face today.

Posted 16 October 2023 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

Most of the time! I’m more introvert than I seem, so I had a small group of close friends that I hung around with. I loved sport, and working as part of a team, so I spent a lot of time on a pitch or court somewhere (when I wasn’t injured and watching Mr Bean in a hospital A&E!). I also really enjoy writing, and school gave me an outlet to be creative and do that.

What qualifications do you have?

I wasn’t particularly disciplined when it came to homework and revision (especially when I was left to my own devices!), but somehow, I found my way to Lancaster University after my A levels and did a degree in Psychology, Applied Social Science and Criminology. I love to learn new skills, so since then I’ve done a range of professional courses that add to my toolkit, like BCS (British Computing Society) qualifications, Prince2, TOGAF and operating model design. One of my close friends often says, “every day is a school day.” Don’t tell her, but I think she might be right!

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

My career has been an adventure and taken me in lots of different and unexpected directions. I did approximately 23 years in government before moving into the new world of private sector, so I had the opportunity to do lots of operational work like Border Control, forgery detection, Intelligence, arrest teams, surveillance teams, investigating serious and organised crime, advanced driving, conservation projects with the Royal Navy, enforcing marine and wildlife legislation, etc.

I then found my way into project work and strategic transformation, before delving into the complex but exciting world of digital transformation, where I’ve been a business analyst, solution design lead, technical architect, business architect, and latterly, an enterprise design and digital strategist! It’s not been easy, as there were lots of assessments and hoops to jump through over the years, yet somehow it felt very natural and organic… like an exciting journey I was meant to be on!

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

Don’t think you can’t do something before you’ve tried. I did some truly terrifying things that pushed my personal boundaries, but I usually found that I could do it. If I couldn’t, I was pleased that I’d tried. If I could add in a cheeky second piece of advice, it would be to collaborate – we are stronger in partnership with others, and they can help us see things in new and different ways.

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

Wow, what a question! I’m not usually a rule-breaker, but can I pick four inspirational digital leaders please? I’ve learnt different things from each of them, like being authentic, showing colleagues that I care, valuing people across boundaries, making time for others, celebrating successes, creating solutions that are real and relevant on the ground, and being brave, because this is when the magic can happen! My thanks and continued appreciation go to Jack Hanson, Jacqui Leggetter, Cheryl Stevens and Helen Roberts (I’ve diplomatically listed them in the order we met!).

From where do you draw inspiration?

You’ve probably heard that saying about a brain, that is like having hundreds of tabs open at the same time on a computer? That’s me! My brain is always whirring away, so I draw inspiration from lots of different sources all of the time e.g., conferences I go to, people I meet, presentations that are given, things I see, hear or read. I’m a bit like a sponge: I absorb huge amounts and then it stays in my mind until I can join the dots between various ideas to create opportunities. I try to stay open and attract as much insight as possible… that’s how we learn and grow.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?

That question has made me smile! I’ve faced lots of challenges, many of which were incredibly scary and presented physical risks (like fast cars, tackling criminals, being dropped off the side of a Navy ship in a rigid inflatable boat, testing safety equipment by stepping off a very high wind turbine platform, boarding vessels at sea etc…). Overall, I think one of the biggest challenges I faced, was making an internal video with my current company, where I had to try acting, being comedic and remembering a lot of lines, surrounded by a professional film crew! It turns out that this is not my comfort zone! On a serious note, a huge challenge has been moving into the technology world and holding my own in an area where the majority of experts were male when I first started out.

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

I care about people and the work I do, and I believe in collaborating with others to make things happen. I seek out lots of different views because if problems, ideas and concerns aren’t surfaced, the chance of success reduces significantly. I believe in creating teams and a culture that supports, develops, empowers and protects people. Finally, I’m skilled at creating a vision, the path to get there and inspiring others to get involved.

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

It’s been both exciting and absolutely terrifying at the same time! After 23 years in the Civil Service and a career working for six different government organisations, I accepted a job with CGI and have now been there for about five months. Much to my surprise, this huge shift felt very natural. The people are great, we all share the same values, and like my colleagues in government, CGI really care about what they do and want to make a positive difference to citizens. It feels like a home from home!

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

That’s a big question! So, if we take the more obvious ones first… there are very real and serious tech challenges in relation to the potential abuse (or mis-use?) of AI, cyberattacks on our critical infrastructure and dismantling/aligning legacy to open up transformation opportunities. Don’t even get me started on data inter-operability across government! Personally, I’m very passionate about joining-up change activity and I think this tech-related challenge is often overlooked. If we don’t plan and implement change that considers and connects all the different domains simultaneously, then we compromise our business strategy, constrain value, and risk delivering our outcomes. For me, digital transformation is part of business transformation, so I believe we need to understand and manage the impacts to technology, people, process, policy and information domains.

What can be done to encourage more women into the industry?

Lots of great stuff is already happening, with social media, shared learning and events. We need women (and men!) to share their stories and talk about how they work together as one team to get results. We need to educate people around what digital actually is, because it is so much bigger than code-writing and clouds. It would be great if we could broaden the curriculum in schools to consider the diversity of digital and give students a chance to learn and try out the different skills.

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

I’ve written about 20 children’s books, all with positive but fun NLP-type messaging. I just need to work out what to do with them now…