Our May Leadership Academy advocate

LeadershipAdvocate-May-BlogTop Talent – Give it a go, pause the working day, and focus on yourself. You get as much out of it as you put in!

I got offered a place on a pilot of the Socitm Top Talent course, to help refine and develop the course. The opportunity took me by surprise when Nadira Hussain made the offer at the West Midlands Socitm regional meetings. Especially, as being 30, I feel relatively young for leadership, despite 15 years’ experience in the industry.

Today, I am Lead Architect at Coventry City Council, responsible for Technology and Innovation for the Internal IT Service and the City Public Realm. This includes everything from Office 365, modernising internal IT systems to getting Driverless Cars, 5G, IoT and Superfast Broadband into the city in the run up to City of Culture 2021 and beyond.

Anyway, on to the Top-Talent programme, I’ll be honest in that I didn’t really know what to expect and often these courses feel like sitting in a room always learning ‘theories’ and rehashing stuff you’ve heard before. As an example, having attended traditional training, they always offer a good foundation and opportunity to network but, they have often reassured me my approach to leadership is modern, rather than picking up new skills. The Top Talent programme was different.

There are two things about the Top-Talent programme that really made a difference for me. Firstly, was being part of a group with wide-ranging backgrounds. From project managers, techie’s, experienced leaders, new leaders and some who are completely new to the industry, it’s a diverse group. It was a wonderful opportunity to share ideas and connections. Over the programme the group builds a level of trust, becoming a safe space to share challenges you face at work (or personally) and work out solutions. You don’t get this much perspective, diversity of approaches and feeling of a safe space from ‘traditional training’ courses.

Secondly, one part of the programme focuses entirely on you, it’s probably the most tiring day but really starting to question what your beliefs and values are, what inspires you, what you enjoy about your life / job. It’s amazing how much self-confidence you get when you know what makes you tick and the one to one mentoring session is cathartic, being able to unload a load of thoughts to an impartial sounding board and have the space to ‘pause the working day, and focus on yourself’. Knowing what my beliefs and values makes building trust with colleagues more natural and makes it easier to have a shared vision. Work now feels like a group of people working together for a common goal rather than following or giving orders.

Socitim’s Top Talent course reassures me that the IT Industry is finally helping future leaders to develop personal skills based around collaboration, innovation and be person-centric rather than models, hierarchies and fixed ways of doing things. It was a pleasure to be involved with its development.

The programme never really felt like work, a drag, or training – it was light-hearted, fun and engaging throughout – We discovered that someone fears Owls, that they have tiny bodies underneath all the feathers and a rather odd discussion about ‘do fish have eye lids?’ Yes, sort of!

By Adam Simmonds

Lead Architect @ Coventry City Council

Our May Leadership Academy advocate

Six reasons to train public sector leaders

We understand our members. We know they’re constrained by multiple factors including austerity, the drive to deliver ever better services and the need to push against resistant organisational cultures where people are often reluctant to change the way they do things.

Innovative, passionate and dedicated to improving outcomes for service users, the senior IT professionals who make up our network put their all into the tireless transformation of local, regional and national public services. Many of them think they simply don’t have the time to train.

However, our Leadership Academy alumni are adamant that lifelong learning is vital. Here are six reasons they say public sector leaders not only gain from training but need it.

1 Increased productivity

The right, consistent leadership can increase the productivity of your people. Fundamentally, leadership is about understanding your people emotionally. Emotional intelligence is critical to the success of a leader and that means using empathy effectively to empower and engage employees. Leadership training that encompasses emotional intelligence can hone these emotional skills in your people managers and leaders.

2 Retain your people

75% of people voluntarily resigning from jobs don’t leave their roles, they leave their managers. Ineffective leaders are exceptionally hard to work for. By investing in leadership training, you can retain your people and cut down on the drawbacks of a lengthy recruitment process.

3 Nurture future leaders

Developing and nurturing future leaders is vital. All too often, leadership roles are given to the most forward candidates with dominant personalities rather than those with the greatest potential. Identifying those who have what it takes and providing them with targeted leadership training is a skill. One that can be honed by leadership training.

4 Increase employee engagement

Feedback and encouragement are a vital facet of leadership. Giving feedback is a skill of successful leaders. Through leadership training, you can teach effective ways to give feedback to motivate and increase the skill level of your team.

5 Communicate for culture train

There are several leadership styles, all with their own advantages and disadvantages. In the public sector, particularly, leaders need to be able to communicate effectively with people at all levels. Changing an organisation’s culture to one where digital transformation becomes an objective for everyone (from the top down) requires distinct skills. Leadership training can help you develop these.

6 Make better decisions

Leadership training can result in better decision-making. Leaders functioning at a high level of emotional intelligence have the perspective to make informed, intelligent business decisions. For that reason alone, you can consider your leadership training an investment returned.

Leadership academy

Our Senior Leader workshops last one day and offer an opportunity to discuss and explore the challenges faced by senior ICT leaders. Collaborative and hands-on, the Senior Leader workshop provides you with the practical tools required to communicate effectively at all levels, maximising influence and effecting positive and lasting organisational change.

With corporate members having one free place, the Socitm Senior Leader workshop is a worthy time-investment in elevating effective communication and wider digital engagement throughout the public sector. It also opens-up networking opportunities and allows you to collaborate and share excellence and best practice with your peers. Find out more.

Six reasons to train public sector leaders

Why won’t girls study Computer Science?

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Following our recent Share Cambridge event, incorporating our Women in IT meeting, we asked for our members’ feedback. Gathered by means of an anonymous survey, we were delighted that the responses included the following topical opinion piece. Socitm is all about conversation and we’d love to hear your views as to how we as a community can inspire more girls to build careers in technology and become digital leaders.

“In an increasingly digitalised world, we need more people to study computing than ever before. We also need an increasingly diverse and inclusive workforce in order to bridge a looming digital skills gap. As we stand on the threshold of the fourth industrial revolution, it’s imperative we attract and retain interest and engagement in computing early and we need to start in schools.

Alarmingly, however, research by the University of Roehampton and the Royal Society recently found that only 20% of candidates for GCSE Computer Science, and 10% for A level Computer Science, are girls.

While it’s encouraging to hear that the Department for Education has granted £2.4 million of funding to ‘Gender Balance in Computing’, a research project established to trial new initiatives designed to boost girls’ participation in computing, we need to ask some big questions. If we are going to remedy the situation, we need to understand the entrenched and complex reasons behind girls’ reluctance to study STEM subjects.

In 2018, despite the overall number of A level entries across all subjects falling, there was a 4% increase in girls taking STEM subjects on the previous year.  While – in real terms – this equates to 5,000 more girls taking STEM A levels than in 2017, actual numbers are considerably lower than for boys.  Consequently, 2018 research by PWC revealed only 15% of employees working in STEM roles in the UK are female. Distressingly, only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women.

One of the most often aired explanations for this staggering gender imbalance is that girls simply aren’t interested in STEM subjects, particularly post 16. However, anyone who has ever spent time around young children and tablet devices, knows this is absurdly untrue. While a degree of disinterest is inevitable in either sex, research shows that where girls are given practical technological tasks to complete and enjoy as frequently as their male counterparts, their interest is piqued and retained at a corresponding level. Disengagement typically occurs when peers, parents and teaching staff, wittingly or otherwise, begin to suggest or promote segregation in the way girls and boys evaluate and solve technical problems. Where there is equality between the sexes in terms of practical digital experiences, girls show more than enough aptitude, understanding and enthusiasm.

The truth is that in Western society, girls are constantly subject to an influx of subliminal messaging pushing them towards so-called ‘soft subjects’. While boys are encouraged to get their hands dirty and be assertive, girls are told, emphatically, that their role is to mediate, negotiate and people please. Arguably, what the today’s emergence of technology does (as well as being an operational game changer) is to elevate those self-same ‘soft skills’ from a position of perceived inferiority to the vanguard of a sector revolution. In placing collaboration and communication at the fore, digital transformation is dependent on professionals who have a broad understanding of its value as a philosophy rather than viewing it merely as ‘tech’. With this in mind, after years of being dissuaded from technology roles, girls are now ideally placed to lead the industry as it transitions and blossoms?

Unfortunately, with so few women visible in the sector, the challenge of bridging the technology gender divide all too often falls almost exclusively to teachers and the lack of practical opportunities available in a classroom setting all too often fail to inspire. Furthermore, non-specialist educationalists – outside of further and higher education – are unlikely to have the digital skills to teach computer science at the required level.

Without Digital Leaders stepping in to make-up the classroom shortfall, it seems unlikely that the UK’s digital skills shortage will be fully addressed and that’s a huge blow to everyone. Perhaps what is required is a targeted and meaningful campaign whereby we – as public sector professionals – step in and offer girls (and boys) the chance to understand the potential and importance of careers in technology. If not, the future of the industry is set to suffer worldwide as the skills shortage spreads and grows.”

Share your views on Twitter @socitm or by email: hello@socitm.net

Why won’t girls study Computer Science?