4it futureELITE
“Development to Digital Leadership”

7th October 2021

4it Recruitment

4it futureELITE webinar
“Development to Digital Leadership”

4it futureELITE – A forum for inspirational leaders in IT to share the story of their career and offer advice and guidance to ambitious professionals in the world of technology.


Debbie Wilson

Group CIO at Survitec

Debbie is the Group CIO for Survitec Group, a global leader in safetyand survival solutions for the Aerospace & Defence, Maritime, and Energy sectors.

As Group CIO, Debbie is responsible for driving the digital transformation journey for the organization, including partnering with the business on digitising the end-to-end customer journey and the internal operations that support the customer experience.

Previous to Survitec, Debbie was Founder and President of DigiDebb, an IT consulting services company focused on helping organizations to become more customer centric enterprises where employees love to work.

Prior to launching DigiDebb, Debbie spent six years in the mining industry with the second largest miner in the world, Rio Tinto as global Vice President of End User Experience and 15 years in thesecurity solutions industry, with her last role being global Vice President and Chief Information Officer at Tyco Security Solutions(ADT).

Debbie received her business technology degree from the Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Louise Elliott

Engagement Manager at Equal Experts

Louise has worked in the software world for 30 years; the first 20 as a hands on developer and solutions architect, the last 10 managing software delivery.

Her last few roles have been as the Deputy Director for Digital Delivery within HMCTS, as a Head of Technology for Sky and as the Head of Software Delivery at Leeds Building Society.

She was an early adopter of agile techniques and has led the transformation to agile and lean ways of working in multiple organisations. She is a huge believer in pragmatic agile approaches and in building true partnership between the business and IT.

Louise is one of the organisers of Agile in Leeds, a free community event for sharing ideas and sparking debates.

She writes a blog at louise-elliott.com and is a regular speaker at agile conferences.


Our speakers have kindly provided written answers to questions raised during the event:

Louise Elliott

How did you get into development in the first place? If women are not making their way into dev enough in 2021, what was lit like 3 decades ago? Did you have to fight or were you welcomed?

Louise: My father was in technology, he implemented the first digital flight simulator for example, replacing one which was based on valve technology. I therefore saw technology as a viable future career. I went to an all girls secondary school and really enjoyed humanities as well as scientific subjects but I found that I was encouraged away from technology as a career choice. I have a strong stubborn streak though and I enjoy going against expectations and so I think the attempts to pursuade me away from technology actually pushed me towards it!

Louise, you said you wanted to reassess your career then did an MBA which was all-embracing and left you little time for reflection – what made you decide to do the MBA?

I was in a career crisis. I was desperately looking for the next challenge and unable to find it. I had been considering doing a part time MBA for quite a while and my husband suggested that I could think about stopping work for a year and doing it full time. It was an excellent suggestion and one I was happy to pursue. I didn’t realise how much work it would be. It was incredibly interesting too and one of the best decisions I ever made.

Would you suggest US or UK educational institutions?

Louise: That’s difficult for me to answer as I have only attended UK ones. As someone who has a wide set of interests I would have loved the opportunity to study a wider set of subjects before specialising with my first degree, which would be more possible in the US than the UK.

As resourcing pressures in many companies mean that team leads also have to continue coding heavily, have you any suggestions for ways that team leads can distance themselves from dev a little so that they can reflect on practices and lead the team effectively?

Louise: You don’t necessarily need to distance yourself from development to be a great leader. Leadership for me is about supporting others, living the values, empowerment, voicing the vision, representing the team to stakeholders, making sure people understand the value of what they are delivering and also what value has been achieved from previous deliveries. Underneath everything is respect for each and every person, irrespective of role or level of experience. Everyone has something they are amazing at. If you lead your team in that way you will stand out as a leader.

If you mean that you need to find the time to do some of those things then it’s a case of prioritisation. I’m a firm believer that you can make your role what you think it should be. If your leadership leads to higher performance from the team then it’s a good investment for the company. What’s stopping you from believing that it’s your decision to make?

What if any hurdles have either of you encountered in what is still a very male dominated environment? and what did you do to break the biases/mould

Louise: When I started in the industry it wasn’t just that I was in the male dominated world of software, but I was also in scientific software within a manufacturing environment, first working on radar systems and later on satellite systems. 30 years ago the workplace was very different, for example smoking was allowed in the office and girly calendars were on most of the desks. Many people would assume I was a secretary. Luckily I was brought up with a high level of confidence and resilience. I actually enjoyed the banter and gave worse than I got. However, I don’t believe that people should have to be super resilient to work in technology and I’m glad to see the massive changes that have happened in the last 30 years. Nowadays I occasionally get some people who feel that they need to explain basic technical concepts to me (although I’m not sure if that’s because I’m a woman or because I’m a manager!) and I normally find that situation highly amusing. I expect to be treated equally and (perhaps because of that) I have found through the vast majority of my career that I have been.

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