We spoke to Jas Cartwright, Head of Digital Innovation Strategy at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust to discuss technical experience, chairing the BAME Network and advice for future NHS leaders.
Jas’ story is part of a series of articles highlighting the careers of female tech leaders within the NHS. We’ve brought together these stories in an effort to prove that the route to leadership is never a straight line.
With a background in applications, Jas completed a Business Information Systems Degree before working in the industry and finding her place in the NHS. It’s here she started a career that spans 20 years, across a range of different teams in the IT and Technology space. After being Head of IT for a number of years, Jas moved sideways into her Digital Innovation role.
“It’s been really challenging, but interesting, given what’s happening now in the world of digital in the NHS, where we’ve just got to play catch up. And so the opportunities are there for us to grasp, really. It’s a great time to be working in healthcare and leading on digital technology.”
Admittedly, Jas is the first to profess that she isn’t technical – but she’d also tell you that it isn’t necessary to lead technical teams.
“I can’t fix my laptop when it breaks, but I know what questions to ask. I think being a technical leader is about having the ability to step back and ask those questions so that you can get the right information to the right people.”
Those new to leadership roles often feel they need to be the smartest person in the room – the one with all the answers. For Jas, and many of the leaders we’ve spoken to on this series, the opposite might be closer to the truth as recognising your own weaknesses is key to finding the right solutions.
“As long as the leader recognises their own weaknesses, but has the ability to question on a wider basis, then you’ll be fine. My non-technical background hasn’t been a disadvantage at all. In fact, it meant I can bring a new perspective to technicians who are very much wires, boxes and help them think about the impact of their work.”
In addition to her work in transformation, Jas has recently been elected to be the Chair of the BAME Network within her organisation. Here she strives to address conscious and unconscious bias – something many people take for granted.
“We all have biases, but it’s about helping people understand what they mean and helping them leave them at the door when they get into the workplace. Whether the person in front of you at work is male, female, young, old – everyone should be listened to.”
Meeting weekly, Jas and the BAME Network and leading crucial work and by highlighting the inequalities in the organisation, while giving BAME colleagues more support, the BAME Network is improving life for everyone at the organisation. Jas is now turning her focus towards getting that change embedded into the organisation’s culture.
“Even if there’s just one or two BAME colleagues who we can help give a voice to and positively impact their role, I’ll be pleased.”
Now 20 years into her NHS Tech career, Jas is on the bleeding edge of digital transformation in one of the world’s biggest employers. Jas’ journey, which has been filled with learnings and setbacks, has prepared her for the responsibility she now has driving change for the NHS.
For those looking to start a career in the NHS, Jas has this advice:
“It’s about just having that confidence. If you feel that you can do more, go do it. But it’s not without hard work, and some people aren’t prepared to put in that hard work. But for those of us who are, it’s there for the taking. I think it’s just about being confident in your own ability, and be able to go: ‘Actually, I want to move up and this is what I want to become.’ And just having that support network around you that can help you achieve your goals.”
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