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25 April 2024

From Teacher to Digital Champion: Rheanna O’Donaghue


An Unexpected Journey

Rheanna O’Donoghue, Delivery Partner at Hippo Digital, highlights a number of important characteristics of the Hippo Herd. Like many amongst the team, her career path is a fascinating journey that didn’t follow the traditional route that many assume the digital sector to require. With time served as both a teacher and civil servant, Rheanna brings a broad set of skills and lived experience to her role, Hippo and the digital sector as a Delivery Partner.

Finding her passion in unexpected places

The first thing we learn about Rheanna’s career is that it is an unexpected one, as far as digital careers go. She began her working life as an English teacher, a role that instilled an importance in helping others learn and grow. Comparing her role as a teach to that of a Delivery Partner, she highlights to common ground:

“There are some really core skills that are the same. A huge part of teaching is helping people get somewhere on their own, supporting them to do that. It’s not about being the expert and telling them what to think or telling them what to know. It’s about having expertise in a subject and helping them see that and learn that it’s exactly the same.”

This interest in empowering others translated exceptionally well into her next career move: the Civil Service. During her 7 years working for the Department of Education, she was given the opportunity to support a project that involved digital delivery, a completely new area for her.

Thriving by creating order

While unfamiliar territory can be daunting, Rheanna embraced the challenge and discovered a passion that reveals another common characteristic we find in our Delivery Team. A key trait in the digital sector is an ability to operate with agility in the fast-paced world of product development – to have an ability to create order for both the team and Hippo’s clients.

Rheanna describes herself as a “jack of all trades,” a quality that proves invaluable in her role. Delivery partners wear many hats, and Rheanna notes her in the dynamic environment where she tackles everything from project strategy to team support. She enjoys the challenge of sifting through the “chaos” to find the right solutions and bring people together.

“There’s a bit that happens between starting something and then it being done or it happening – a moment where you have to have all of the right things in the right place and you have to bring the right people in and sift through a lot of chaos to get to where you need to be. That’s the bit that I love doing – sifting through the chaos and getting the job done.”

Rheanna, like our other Delivery Partners, tends to thrive in that messy middle, orchestrating solutions and uniting teams to bring order to the opportunity in digital development.

Comfort in the uncomfortable: embracing growth

A third feature of Rheanna’s role is also something we see in a lot of our Hippos. Rheanna acknowledges that her role can be challenging, but she finds that very challenge to be motivating. She thrives in a space that encourages her to step outside her comfort zone and constantly learn.

“I do think there’s a particular type of person who goes into doing this type of job, where you are constantly feeling uncomfortable. I constantly feel uncomfortable and I’m okay with that and I kind of like that.”

Our most successful projects are built on a growth mindset. Working with large organisations of national significance, there will always be challenges. Rhanna’s “can do” attitude,gives her the tools to approach these hurdles as opportunities to learn and improve, individually and collectively.

From big institutions to a big impact

Leaving the familiar structure of the Civil Service for a company like Hippo was a significant change. However, Rheanna found the freedom and agility of the organisation to be liberating. She appreciates the sense of ownership and the ability to truly make a difference.

“I’d spent most of my life in education. I guess it sometimes makes your world small. I felt like that in the civil service; I felt like that in teaching – always on the edge of being able to do something, but it never felt like I had the mechanisms to do it. Whereas at Hippo I can do any of these things. I’m more creative here than I’ve ever been in my life.”

From teacher to digital leader

Rheanna’s story is a lesson for anyone considering a career in digital. The skills that made her a great teacher also make her a great leader in the tech sector. An educator’s ability to understand the complex idea and communicate the simple is a skill that should be celebrated. With these characteristics, the tech sector presents a huge opportunity to make a massive impact and Rheanna is doing just that at Hippo.