Anthony Nolan is making training and personal development in its tech function a top priority, according to the charity and research body’s chief digital and information officer, Danny Attias.
Attias was speaking at Tech Monitor Live: Tomorrow’s Tech Leaders alongside Anthony Nolan director of product Margo Urban and Tech Talent Charter CEO Debbie Forster – with the trio discussing the core competencies and capabilities of technology leaders in 2021 and beyond.
“We focus obsessively on training and personal development,” Attias said. “Personal development is the most important thing at your job, other than priority one incidents and your well-being – those are the only two things which take priority over your personal development time.
“We provide people with the tools, we provide apprenticeships, with the group learning opportunities so that they can grow,” he explains. “Absolutely we can be worried that they get too good and they leave, but that’s fine and we can do it again.”
On a mission to promote tech training and personal development
Attias said that Anthony Nolan has been signed up to the Tech Talent Charter, a non-profit organisation helping address the lack of diversity in the UK tech sector, for more than a year – and that a series of initiatives are in place to make sure that the tech function at Anthony Nolan represents the breadth of talent in the digital and IT industry.
“Now we have a group of people obsessive about our mission – they are also obsessive about their learning and their development, and their growth,” he said. “Which means they are more enthusiastic about the work that they do, and we get to use the latest technologies.
“Because the technology is moving, we need to make sure that our learning is moving to keep up with it. Otherwise, we are stuck building systems that are five, ten, 15 years old.”
Margo Urban joined the charity in an operations role before going into the tech function, initially on a secondment. She went on to become a project manager, then business analyst, and ran the BA function before becoming the organisation’s director of product development. She is also now actively recruiting colleagues internally from outside of tech for roles in the digital and IT department.
“As a department, we are taking advantage of apprenticeships, we’re extremely keen on group learning, coaching, knowledge exchange pairing,” she said. “All of that happens on a day-to-day basis, and that helps make a positive experience for every single person in the department.”
Forster, a trustee of the British Council who founded the Tech Talent Charter in 2017, said that the capabilities and competencies of the modern CIO are changing – with problem-solving, resilience, vulnerability and bravery becoming as important as technology expertise.
“The great tech leaders are not the people that come with all the answers,” Forster said. “They are people who are able to get in, analyse problems and find solutions. There is an element of resilience; the old idea that you can’t make a mistake is not really viable for leaders today.
“What we’re seeing from the great leaders is that bravery to have the difficult conversations, to lean into things that are uncomfortable, that have that commitment to see that we need that diverse breadth of experience. To create that inclusive environment creates a certain bravery; a willing to lead but to be taught in that space. And we are seeing more and more of these types of leaders arrive in tech.”