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8 March 2022

International Women’s Day

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Hippo

To celebrate International Women’s Day, Liz Whitefield, a Director here at Hippo, tells us about the successes in her career. Check out the interview below to learn what Liz loves most about her role, how she ended up working in the technology sector and the challenges she faced along the way…..

What does your job entail?

As Business Development Director, I am responsible for identifying and securing delivery opportunities and working with clients to ensure they are satisfied with the outcomes of our solutions. It is about finding clients and work that aligns with our culture and values.

My team and I work with new and existing clients to understand their needs. We then use this information to inform our Hippo delivery colleagues, who will identify and deploy the skilled professionals or teams. I maintain those relationships throughout.

What would you say you love most about your role?

For me, it’s people engagement, and that covers clients, peers and my fellow Hippos. My approach has always been about building relationships. That is how you understand needs or problems to be solved and create a trust that shapes and enables effective delivery.

My relationship with people in Hippo is critical; these are skilled consultants I have so much respect for, I want them to get challenging and rewarding deliveries.

So would you describe yourself as a people person?

Very much so, that is what gives me my energy and enthusiasm; I think a lot of my professional success has been down to the way I manage relationships.

I love working with others to get stuck into issues and challenges and helping people through them.

I can’t ignore a problem when I see it. I will be honest, that has been one of the challenges for me as I have become more senior in organisations as you have to learn to let go a little bit and support others. I still need to be reminded of that, though!

How did you end up in technology?

Before joining Hippo, I had a 30-year career in the public sector. I joined the Civil Service working on front-line operations when I was 19, and my ambition was to work hard, help the customers I was supporting and be financially secure.

My introduction to technology came through project management and business transformation, often working with legacy systems that failed to meet needs. Then Government Digital Services emerged with a new approach to delivery that used agile and user-centred design. This caught my attention and was something that I was quite passionate about because then I had found a solution and approach that meant we could actually make a change quickly.

I moved into digital service and delivery management — including delivery of the first Digital Academy in the Public Sector and loved it. This led to the opportunity to join Adam and Robert, Hippo founders, to start a new journey and help to build something very rewarding.

What have been some of the main challenges you’ve faced as a woman?

I was 19 when I joined the civil service back in the 1980s, and I have always been aware that the environment you’re in is male-dominated. In general, senior roles and those in technology were always seen as being male-dominated.

However, it’s never been a particular frustration for me, just something I’ve been aware of, but I’ve just tried to plan my own path, and I wouldn’t say my career has been held back because I’m a woman.

It’s only as I have gotten more senior and into management level that I have seen that other women may not have had the same opportunities that I have had. I have taken great rewards from mentoring female colleagues and helping them to develop.

Did you have some strong female leaders that helped you?

Yes, I had a lot of really strong female role models throughout my career; right back to my mid to late twenties, these women were breaking barriers, holding senior roles, and were really supportive.

We have got a lot of barriers that can’t be broken down by setting targets and focussing on the numbers. To break the bias, we have to invest and make changes as early as possible, and it is really important to us at Hippo, and across the sector we work in.

In a few weeks, we are attending a Girltech event in Leeds, and it’s these sort of days that are really important. We need to raise awareness of the range of roles that exist, the work we do and what skills people need — we need to demystify them.

I am very proud that we have over 40% female, but that is not enough; we need a diverse workforce across all our disciplines and at all levels.

I am also aware that I am not as relatable to the young women we want to engage with, but the great thing is we have a great team of talented people who love to share what they do — and that’s all genders.

We completed our first Hippo Academy last week, developed and led by some great women in Hippo (and men too, of course!), and we have a diverse group of talent ready to grow their skills and deliver great services.

I want to continue creating an environment for them to thrive and be challenged to do more.

Outside of Hippo, what advice would you give to women thinking of getting into technology?

I would encourage them to find out what that means in practice, get out there, ask questions, and understand the transferable skill sets that can help make the move.

The digital community is very open and active; follow them and find out about events they are running.

You need to be motivated to find out more, which will vary depending on where you are in your education or career.

What would your advice be to women considering going for a big promotion or setting up on their own?

It is very important to understand the context you are working in and how that organisation operates. Your gender should be irrelevant, and I would try and set this aside and focus on your skills and capability why you are the best person for the role. It should be your employer’s duty to operate a fair, open and inclusive process. However, we all know that is not always the case, and that becomes an environment you may need to move away from.

I know I may sound trite, and it is not always easy, but keeping a positive attitude and making choices that take you out of unfair situations where necessary does help.

I am very aware of how fortunate I am, but we cannot be complacent, and I need to keep challenging the status quo and supporting women in breaking the bias.

Hippo 

Hippo is a full-service digital consultancy working in the public and private sectors. We build trusted, effective relationships and combine data, design and engineering to support meaningful transformation.

We always start with the user in mind, and our solutions are personalised, evidence-based, and proven to help organisations build for the future. Our delivery methodology is truly agile and takes an end-to-end approach from Discovery to Delivery, supporting innovation and continuous improvement.

Since our inception in 2016, we have quickly established ourselves as a leading supplier of data analysts, service design teams and delivery expertise.