Managing a number of digitally led cross-organisational projects and acting as the programme lead for the West Midlands shared care record, Katie is working at the very tip of the digital transformation spear.
Katie’s journey with the NHS started with a role as a personal assistant.
“I wasn’t into tech at all. I came into it by accident.”
Working her way through patient safety and focusing on the crossover of digital and clinical outcomes, Katie achieved a master’s in Health Informatics which stands as testament to her tenacity and passion to not just get stuff done, but get it done better.
“Being a personal assistant is all about organisation and efficiency. And that drove me to do things better. And then I moved into a patient safety service improvement role, because I was fascinated by process and how we can do things better. And that has always driven me. And now in the NHS, digital is a massive part of that transformation of being able to do things more efficiently.”
Moving from her personal assistant role at Great Ormond Street, Katie movedinto patient safety and then to Birmingham in 2010 where she became Deputy Head of Governance focusing on how data drives decision making within the trust. After a successful application for Informatics Programme Lead, Katie’s journey towards leading the NHS’ digital transformation was in motion.
At the heart of that motion is a passion for patient care.
“How can x hospital not share information with y hospital? That absolutely drives me because we can really change the outcomes for citizens if we have access to that information. So it is my passion to make sure we’re doing the right thing for our public. I see myself as a public servant. And that that is the way that I come across and I try to be honest and transparent in all that I do particularly working across an integrated care system.”
That passion for delivering value for patients through digital was the driving force for Katie throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Katie, who had a role in supporting the tech for the building of the Nightingale Hospital in Birmingham and the vaccination programme, worked tirelessly to provide the right solutions to patients.
Sacrifice is a word we throw around a lot. Katie, who is the first to admit that her passion for her role had a part to play in the breakdown of her marriage, isn’t losing sleep over it.
“A big part of that was a male attitude around how many hours I should be working. And, you know, that just pushed me even further. This isn’t a job, this is a vocation. It’s not nine-to-five. You’re always thinking, always learning. You have to have that tenacity to affect change at this level.”
Leading digital transformation at the highest level, Katie is no stranger to being the only female in a board room – but it isn’t going to break her stride.
“I’ve had to push through that. You have to work harder and prove yourself in those situations that you do know what you’re talking about. And I’m confident that I do. So, I get through them and relationships change as a result of that. But I can still see it today, if I join a male dominated room, you know, the testosterone is flying sometimes. And, you know, I can be treated differently.”
The key to pushing through, for Katie, is a single-minded focus on yourself, your own confidence and your own expertise. Another important point, for Katie, is that you should always be ready to portray a confidence even if every bone in your body is telling you to retreat and stay quiet.
“Maybe the other people around the table don’t know anything. Maybe they’re just as scared as you. Maybe they’re just good at showing which says they know.”
Imposter syndrome is something that regularly comes up in the discussions I have with the ladies on this series. Out of the nearly 80 ladies I’ve interviewed, 100 percent of them have suffered from imposter syndrome is some way or form.
So, how do you beat it? For Katie, it’s about looking to your female peers.
“I’ll reach out to my female colleagues and whenever I talk about not wanting to go to a meeting, or wanting to leave one, the conversation always comes back to ‘just go in there, a bloke could just go in there.’ I tend to reach out to female colleagues who are peers who work in tech closely with me to say, not sure about this. The support group is incredibly important.”
In earlier roles on her digital transformation career, Katie admits she always felt a bit of anxiety around technical conversation or things she didn’t have a complete and thorough understanding of. Never settling, Katie was determined to change that and so applied for a Health Informatics Masters, which she successfully completed.
“I just felt that it would support me if I wanted to develop in my career, having that additional academic qualification would be helpful. I think sometimes there is a balance between that confidence and also knowing that you don’t know everything. And you know, having that willingness to learn from others, and having that ability to be able to say I don’t know what this is about, I don’t understand what that means. I need somebody to help me to ask those questions.”
Subscribing to the concept of ‘good enough’ has really helped Katie in the later stages of her career.
“There are times where I struggle to understand some real in-depth terminology. And, I’m not afraid to say that anymore, but I used to be, and I’m not sure that I can articulate what changed. But I think it is that concept of good enough. Just because I don’t know something doesn’t mean that I’m not good at my job”
When it comes to advice for those looking for a digital leadership position within the NHS, Katie has this to say:
“If you feel that you have the ability to take the next step, do it and be passionate about it. And it doesn’t matter who you are, whether you’re male, female, just go for it. And if you feel like you’re not getting what you need, reach out. And there’s a few of us that are here that will support you in that journey.”
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