I’ve recently been appointed the role of Chief Information Officer (CIO). In this role, I lead the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Division at Imperial and I am responsible for all aspects of Imperial’s Technology Strategy which will support the organisation to realise its digital ambitions.
“My passion is in bringing product management practices to IT departments, with the goal of delivering business value through technology.”
How did I get here?
My passion is in bringing product management practices to IT departments, with the goal of delivering business value through technology, and that is why I joined Imperial in January 2022 in my first role in Higher Education (HE) as the Director of Digital Products.
Prior to this, I spent a large part of my career in the telecoms industry working for Vodafone, BT and OneWeb in a variety of product management and business transformation roles. I have fifteen years’ experience in product management and business transformation, and have worked for FTSE companies in senior positions, but I also have experience working in the start-up world, which has given me a greater understanding of differing organisational structures, values and their customers’ needs.
“Spend time understanding the organisation you are in and how it operates, this will help you to change the role of IT in the organisation and build relationships in teams outside of your own.”
I studied a Business and Operations Management degree at Oxford Brookes and have an MBA in Business Administration from Henley Business School – this gave me the knowledge to put into practice in my career, but I am always continuing to learn.
My future aspirations
I want to create amazing experiences for our Imperial students and staff, delivering this through cross-functional empowered teams who are all working towards the same vision.
You should focus on outcomes rather than output. Technology isn’t a standalone activity; it can transform an organisation when it is used to achieve an outcome.
Spend time understanding the organisation you are in and how it operates, this will help you to change the role of IT in the organisation and build relationships in teams outside of your own.
I lead the Information Insight team and we are responsible for managing the universities business intelligence product – Power BI.
I joined Imperial’s ICT division shortly after Power BI was released, and since then, I have seen significant change in the analytics space, moving away from a small central team of programmers to an ‘analytics for all’ approach. This has empowered Imperial staff to produce the analytics they need, when they need it. The key focus for our team is to enbable people, who may have a varied range of analytics experience, to make the best use of the tools we offer.
“Don’t be afraid to give something a go. Even if you fail, you will learn from it. Often, we learn more from breaking things (in a safe development environment of course!) than from getting them right.”
How did I get here?
For someone who holds degrees in cultural studies I came to analytics through an unusual career route! A summer job in a space planning role at a major supermarket taught me a range of skills with spreadsheets that I put into good, and enthusiastic use, when I set out on my career in higher education. My passion for this type of work soon turned into colleagues saying, ‘Gemma likes spreadsheets, let’s give her this data task’, and this became my primary role. From there on I worked with various datasets including; university data, surveys, and longitudinal studies. I started combining data and project management work, and then progressed to enjoy working in business analysis.
My future aspirations
I believe strongly that the right technologies can enable people to achieve their goals, and this is a key focus for me. Data is key to making informed decisions at every level of the business, and this scale of need will lead to more people wanting to do even more with data. I want to provide an analytics product that will help people achieve that, while also putting in place structures and guidelines that will help keep that data, and the people analysing it safe.
“Find a working environment that respects and enables you.”
Follow your passions. The more you enjoy your work, the better you will be at it.
Find a working environment that respects and enables you.
Don’t be afraid to give something a go. Even if you fail, you will learn from it. Often, we learn more from breaking things (in a safe development environment of course!) than from getting them right.
Instead of fearing change, make it an opportunity for you to get where you want to go.
In an increasingly digital world ensuring accessibility for all is paramount. Throughout my career I have been dedicated to championing accessibility, digital or otherwise, and fostering an inclusive environment. As the Digital Accessibility Officer, in ICT here at Imperial, it is my job to coordinate efforts to ensure accessibility compliance and promote inclusivity in both digital and physical spaces.
“You don’t need to be perfect, or excellent to be able to improve someone’s experience. You just need to care.”
Since February 2020, I have been entrusted with the responsibility of coordinating our digital accessibility compliance efforts. Reporting to the Head of Governance in ICT, my role involves policy and risk management, raising accessibility awareness, digital accessibility compliance approvals, stakeholder engagement, and providing advice and support on accessibility compliance.
By engaging with high-level decision-makers, including; Digital Teams across the university, ICT product line teams, student support services and teaching technology staff, I have been able to work towards embedding the best practices in inclusive digital design throughout the institution.
How did I get here?
I have lived and worked in four different countries, in a variety of roles from account management to leading high-octane sales teams. I have also worked in project management and mid to top management roles for non-governmental organisations and campaigning.
My future aspirations
There is nothing more motivating and fulfilling for me than my current role as Digital Accessibility Officer. I truly wake up every day with a huge drive to continue working towards creating a more accessible environment for all.
You don’t need to be perfect, or excellent to be able to improve someone’s experience. You just need to care. Smallest improvements may help users immensely.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite you to join me in our efforts of making Imperial’s digital presence accessible for all needs. Not because we have to, but because we care.
You can contact Bouquette to discuss digital accessibility or find out what support is available at Imperial:
This session was a great way of busting the myth that a career in tech is just about fixing laptops or coding. The panel showcased the variety of roles available when starting out in tech as an apprentice all the way through to becoming a tech leader at the top of a division or organisation.
Caroline’s AV role is particularly varied and not one you would think of as a traditional career in technology, but the Installation Manager is instrumental to understanding how students engage with technology and Caroline leads a team with a modest budget to ensure the whole AV ecosystem at Imperial works together for the best experience.
Caroline told us that technology can also have its glamourous side. Caroline has met the late Queen when the Business School opened new lecture theatres and even supported the filming of The Kingsman in one of our Royal School of Mines rooms. But there is the more unglamourous side too, including once when Caroline had to deal with burst pipes and raw sewage spoiling equipment!
Getting into tech careers
Our audience was very interested in the career pathways to get into tech roles, and the kind of skills needed to get into a digital career.
Gemma, Information Insight Analyst, let us know that she had no educational background in analytics at all! Gemma studied American Studies at Uni and her tech journey started with a summer job space planning in Tesco’s head office. This was her first taster of analytics and using data to make decisions. Gemma did a role in the NHS doing clinical audits and then went onto some higher education roles where, due to her love of spreadsheets, she was given more and more analytical responsibilities.
Joyce, who is at the very start of her career journey shared her pathway to a Software Developer Apprenticeship.
“At 17, I was finishing my A-Levels and I was quite burnt out doing it through Covid and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to pursue. I applied to do a Law degree at Warwick University, but with no real passion for the subject. I wasn’t sure what to do, so I took a gap year instead to think about my passions. I wanted to see in what industry my interests lay; I started to lean into media, but kept going back to coding, developing and building platforms. Although coding is not in the creative arts, which I love, it allowed me to let out my creative urges.
Last year I decided to go into tech – I landed on software engineering after much research and speaking to people for advice. I came across Imperial’s ICT Software Developer Apprenticeship programme and initially I didn’t think I was smart enough, so I sat on my application for 3 weeks, only to apply to the day of deadline. I always told myself…
“You should never be the one to tell yourself no!.” Joyce Kadibu
I hated that I was going back on my word, so I applied and now I am really grateful that Imperial has given me the building blocks for a big career ahread!”
A special set of skills
Gemma describes herself as having a ‘Trifecta of skills’ which are:
Data skills – Spreadsheets, PowerBi and Insights (data driven decisions, identifying trends)
Business analysis – understanding customer needs and model design
Gemma also has an A-Level in maths that gave her an understanding of statistical analysis. Her work in clinical auditing did require stats analysis courses to be completed. However, Gemma suggests that many of the skills required for analytical jobs can be learnt online and are easily accessed.
Tanya, who has worked in tech for 10 years and is a career changer – moving from creative media production to software engineering – has an MSc in Software Engineering, and experience in games development, backend engineering, fronted engineering and fullstack engineering.
Tanya suggests upskilling yourself in a variety of ways andnot just through traditional education routes. Tanya runs voluntary workshops including games development and building apps for non-profit organisations. These kinds of activities can help with your own development, but also supports others in their learning – so can be very rewarding.
Soft skills are just as important
Tanya suggests Software Engineering skills can be taught but employers are looking for other soft skills.
“I got my first software engineering role not because I had the education or could code – it was because of my soft skills. I had previously run a team, I was considered a team player, I had project management experience – the employer said they can teach me software engineering skills.”
Gemma suggested gathering examples of anything you have done outside of work. Get good examples of non-work-related projects that you have done. You may find courses and apprenticeships can be done as personal development through your employer.
“ Enthusiasm for what you want to do is the driving force that will get you to where you want to go”. Gemma Seabrook
Supporting a digital career for all
Caroline is doing a lot to support women into AV roles. She is one of WAVE’s first cohort of mentors. WAVE is a six-month UK based programme where experienced leaders guide and mentor women with expertise, knowledge, and support. She also sits on the AVIXA Women’s Council Forum to encourage women into AV tech equipment roles and judges the AV awards (The Sport Personality of the Year for AV).
Tanya is now co-Chief Technical Officer of Coding Black Females which started out as a meet up in a pub for black female developers and has grown to over 12,000 members worldwide. This network offers support for women to get into tech roles at all levels with mentorship and networking events.
Tanya says the best thing to do is go out and meet people and find out wat they like and don’t like about their job; this will help you decide what is right for you.
“Take a gamble on yourself, once your foot is in the door you don’t know where that will take you!” Tanya Powell