Amanda Neylon, Programme Director at NHS Digital, is winner of the 10 Digital Ladies Leader for Good Award 2017. This award celebrates people who have made a significant impact on the third or public sectors.
Amanda’s real passion is helping drive digital cultural transformation across charity and public sector organisations, while also making substantive improvements in the lives of end users. She told us more about her leadership style, the importance of diversity in a digital working environment, and what International Women’s Day means to her.
Please tell us about yourself – what does your current role entail in terms of digital transformation, and what’s the most interesting aspect?
As Head of the new Digital services delivery profession at NHS Digital I’m responsible for looking at all the skills and capabilities, trying to make us more digital – looking at where there are gaps, how we recruit, and how we make the best of the people we’ve got and the most of the people we can get in the future. As Programme director of Widening Digital Participation, my focus is on equipping patients and staff with the tools to enable digital skills and uptake. Those with the poorest health outcomes quite often are the most digital excluded so it’s important that while we are investing in great digital products for the NHS, we ensure everybody can use them.
My previous role was Head of Digital at Macmillan the cancer charity, where I was responsible for all our customer-facing technology, from digital marketing to social media, to developing products and services, as well as how we embed digital culture across the organisation.
Digital transformation is a really interesting topic, because some people think of digital transformation as just digitising a service, whereas others think of it as a really clear organisational challenge – it’s about culture, skills; it’s about how the organisation works.
Most of the roles I have had, however, are about how we make the organisation really think digital; how we make the most of technology and deliver user centred products and services, and how we help patients and customers really use technology to help them in their everyday lives.
Do you feel there are growing opportunities for women in roles like yours at the moment?
I still go to conferences and events and am one of few women, or sit around a table and am the only woman, so I think there’s still quite a lot of work to do around senior digital leadership.
There are a huge number of opportunities for people in digital across different areas, in so many different ways. It’s not all about being a techie; it’s not about being a designer – there’s a huge amount about communication.
I think the lack of diversity has to do with the culture around IT being a very male-dominated industry. But I do think we’re doing a good job at the lower levels to get as many people from diverse backgrounds into the technology area.
I think all industries benefit from a diversity of thoughts, education and understanding – that really makes a difference. An agile team is full of people with multidisciplinary specialist skills who come together to collaborate, iterate and make a really big difference. The workplace generally is no different.
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BeBoldforChange. What does that mean to you?
If you think about digital transformation, one end is putting offline information onto the website, and the other is massive organisational and cultural change. Being brave to facilitate change is something I encourage.
Unless you allow people to be brave, and to fail, change won’t happen. It’s about empowering people within your organisation to enable change.
How do you think the landscape has changed since you started working in digital?
Digital has become much more inclusive. While it used to be about tech skills, now the roles and skills required are far more diverse. This means we can get great communications people, great HR people, and pull in from other professions that are typically more diverse.
Organisations like ours are trying to lead the way on diversity in the public sector, and we’ve got some great networks in NHS Digital – the Women’s network, the LGBT network, and others focused on inclusivity.
What advice would you give to others to help accelerate gender parity in the digital work environment?
It’s about calling out inappropriate behaviours and creating a space that allows for an inclusive working environment. It’s definitely easier not to challenge these behaviours, but if we’re going to Be Bold for Change, we need to confront these behaviours as we see them.
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