In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare, digital transformation plays a pivotal role in enhancing patient care and overall healthcare systems. Recently, Bernadette Clarke, our Managing Director of Public Sector & NHS, sat down for a discussion with Dawn Greaves, the Digital Program Lead for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership covering health and social care organisations.
Dawn’s journey from an apprentice office admin role to a digital leader is nothing short of inspiring, filled with valuable insights, and motivational quotes. In this article, we’ll dive into their engaging conversation and explore the wisdom Dawn has gained over her incredible career.
Embracing the Unexpected
Dawn’s career began in the NHS as an apprentice office administrator at Dewsbury Hospital, a humble starting point that led her on a remarkable journey. She shared:
“I often wondered where I wanted to be and what I wanted to achieve. I didn’t consider myself very ambitious, but I was pushed in various directions, which led me to where I am now.”
This resulted in a role in which Dawn was asked to support the IT projects team in rolling out discharge letters to all hospital wards. It was a challenging task and a steep learning curve as not long before, the hospital got merged with two other hospitals to become the Mid Yorkshire Trust, spanning three hospital sites in total. This change required new processes and more data collection than before. Transformation has become a constant theme in her career.
In her pursuit of a project management role, Dawn applied for a junior position and found herself unexpectedly leading a maternity system implementation project after the previous manager’s sudden passing.
“It was nerve-wracking, but my prior involvement in the project and background knowledge helped me successfully deliver it. I learned valuable lessons that have guided my future projects. (…) We migrated from two separate IT systems to a single Trustwide maternity system, improving care for pregnant ladies and their new-borns.”
Dawn spent many years working with the A&E service to transform how they used digital to support the flow of patients through their service. In this role, she streamlined digital processes, ensuring efficiency and convenience for clinicians without compromising patient care. Following this achievement, she had the opportunity to lead a project implementation team for a five-year period. Later, she took on a secondment role, overseeing the transformation of digital services across six acute trusts in West Yorkshire. This then merged into working in an integrated way across the Integrated Care System (ICS) where Dawn currently works.
Leadership and Role Models
A recurring theme in Dawn’s journey has been the influence of strong leaders, particularly female leaders. She emphasised the importance of leaders who recognise your value, model what can be achieved, and acknowledge your accomplishments, saying:
“When I started, I never expected to be where I am. I consider myself fortunate, nudged by the right people who saw potential in me that I may not have seen in myself. We often underestimate our own abilities. (…) It’s about leaders who recognise your value, model what can be achieved, and acknowledge your accomplishments. I’ve had the privilege of working with strong female leaders, which made a difference.”
Bernadette echoed this sentiment, highlighting the role of leaders in setting examples for everyone.
“It’s essential to shine a light on women and the unique challenges they face.”
Technical Leadership and Self-Confidence
One intriguing aspect of Dawn’s journey is her transition into IT, a field she had no formal training in. When asked about whether she believes technical expertise is essential for technical leadership.
“In a technical leadership role, you don’t have to be the expert in every area. It’s crucial to surround yourself with experts who can provide their specialised knowledge. Leadership qualities matter more than technical expertise.”
Bernadette reinforced the importance of trust and collaboration, noting that leaders should “have enough technical understanding to discern accuracy but don’t need to be the ultimate technical expert.”
Overcoming Challenges and Self-Doubt
Dawn’s journey was not without its share of challenges, including pursuing a master’s degree as a single parent. She emphasised the significance of breaking down goals into manageable chunks, saying,
“Balancing school runs, homework, and full-time work was challenging, regardless of the degree. I had to find time, including late nights and weekends, to fit in studying without impacting family life. It was a sacrifice but worth it.”
Bernadette applauded Dawn’s dedication, noting that adversity is something everyone faces and that it’s essential to “manage it, keep moving forward, and seek opportunities.”
Imposter Syndrome: A Common Challenge
Imposter syndrome, a phenomenon many women face, was also discussed. Dawn shared,
“Impostor syndrome is a common challenge, even for me. I sometimes doubt my abilities, especially when faced with new tasks or senior colleagues. However, I’ve learned to reflect on my achievements and appreciate my progress over the years. It’s about focusing on the positives and learning from the negatives.”
Bernadette emphasised the importance of recognising when imposter syndrome might strike and having strategies to cope with it, saying,
“Pressure often comes from within, as we aim to excel in our roles.”
Mentoring and Coaching
The conversation also delved into the role of mentors and coaches in one’s career. Dawn shared her initial scepticism about mentoring but described how working with a mentor and later a coach had a profound impact on her. She encouraged others to explore coaching and mentoring opportunities, noting that they can provide valuable perspectives and support.
Bernadette added that mentors and coaches can “boost confidence and help you progress in your career.”
As the conversation came to a close, Dawn offered some powerful advice for her younger self and aspiring leaders:
“Be your natural self and remember that kindness and support go a long way. Embrace learning opportunities, whether big or small, as they all contribute to your growth. Leadership isn’t confined to a title; anyone can be a leader through their behaviour and conduct. If you want it, you can make it happen.”
Dawn Greaves’ career journey is a testament to the power of determination, resilience, and embracing opportunities. Her insights and experiences serve as an inspiration for anyone navigating their own career path, reminding us that with the right mindset and support, remarkable achievements are within reach.