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  • September 10, 2021
  • Admins

In Conversation with Kam Sidhu Chief Information Officer at Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust (TEWV) 


A Nurse for ten years, Kam worked on a respiratory Ward and an emergency assessment unit before taking a step change into a service improvement role after the opportunity presented itself. Looking at service improvement and improving patient flow, Kam was focused on making the experience for patients more efficient and safer.  

When another opportunity presented itself to take on a Clinical Informatics Specialist, Kam stepped into a role that laid the foundation for the modern interpretation of the CCIO role and was a relationship manager between IT and the Clinical Team. 

After a few years in that position, Kam was offered a position elsewhere. When her then Manager caught wind of this, Kam was able to negotiate a new role at her current trust.  

“I wanted to manage the Project Managers and the Change Management Team, as a function” 

Over a number of years, this role merged into a clinical programme management role working with project managers on digital, and clinical solutions. After that, Kam was offered a role as Project Director at an Acute Trust before moving into the private sector. 

Working a number of consultation roles,  project roles and implementation roles, Kam learned a lot and gained plenty of experience. Ultimately, however, the NHS was where Kam’s heart lay. Returning to the NHS as a programme manager, Kam worked through a number of opportunities, expanding her portfolio through the testing team, development and integration team.  

It was here that the real battle started for Kam.  

“I found it more of challenge being a female in IT. I didn’t come up the traditional route of service delivery or technical, so I had to prove myself much, more with my male colleagues. So the senior management team was myself and four men, , and I just felt that I had to work harder to prove myself.” 

Not knowing at the time just how much harder she had to work, Kam can now reflect on that time and realise how far she has come.  

Having worked very closely with a research, development and innovation team during her time in that role, Kam was the conduit between them and the other stakeholders across the business. Then, in February  2020, Kam got married.  

“The Christmas before COVID hit we were discussing where we’d like to go and where we would like to live and we both agreed it would be great to move coastal. So I looked for opportunities in the northeast and moved here to Whitley Bay.” 

It was here that Kam found a role as a Deputy CIO as the country moved into lockdown.  

“It was a stressful time with  all the change, but I’m glad we did it because it was well planned up until the point we got into lockdown. The house was about to be sold, and it all worked out in the end.” 

Working in a Mental Health Organisation, an area that Kam hadn’t experienced before, Kam moved into her current role as Interim CIO . 

It’s More About Your Leadership Skills

One of the amazing parts of doing a series like this is the sheer range of people I get to talk to on a daily basis. Despite the changes in their expertise and experiences, they’re all leading teams at the highest level of the NHS.  

With that in mind, I’m always keen to hear what our contributor’s thoughts are on what skills are needed when it comes to leading technical teams – specifically, how important technical knowledge is to the leading and management of technical professionals 

For Kam, you don’t need to be a technicial to be a technical leader. 

“It’s more about your leadership skills, your listening skills and your direction, in terms of your strategizing and direction of travel. And actually, for the core of it for me, it’s always about the patient. So, you know, I always found that I could ask the obvious questions that maybe somebody else would be too hesitant to ask. So, no. Absolutely not. You don’t need to be technical.” 

Over the years, Kam has gotten a good grasp of the concepts but she’s the first to admit that she wouldn’t know how to reboot a server – but that doesn’t matter. Instead, the skills she’s gathered throughout her clinical and programme management career have allowed her to be the glue between the people who do know how to do those things. 

“Being clinical you learn really good listening skills. You learn to listen and read people really, really well. So, I think that’s really, really helped me  in the career path. 

Encourage and Advocate 

Kam, like many of the professionals I’ve spoken to throughout this series, has met with and benefitted from peers and mentors who have become advocates. 

“I do have self doubt in my own ability. But what I’ve been very fortunate of, is always having someone on my journey who saw something in me and has given me that positive encouragement to move along.”  

Moving into the non-clinical space, Kam was again lucky to find herself surrounded by key individuals who were able to give her the encouragement and advocacy she needed to find her next level.   

“Just having someone to ask questions and to sense check your own thoughts with. Those people really help validate me. So I am grateful for those people, I can think of two of them straight away and they’ve been fantastic for my career.” 

Don’t Be Afraid of Moving Outside Your Job Description 

One of my favorite quotes about life is from the American writer and poet Muriel Strode: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” 

When you step up to lead, you have the chance to create your own path. In doing so, you’re choosing not to head in the safe direction that everyone else is. It does take courage to travel the unexplored path. But it’s a lot more fun, and that route usually leads you to a wealth of valuable experiences that you probably weren’t expecting. 

“Always ask to do more or learn more. Don’t think, Okay, this is my job description, I’m sticking to it. If you have aspirations, you should always be offering to do more. And I certainly think, you know, there’s a lot of value to be had from mentoring and shadowing, especially shadowing within a department because most people are open to it and it’s almost like you’re trying it before you buy it.” 

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