Every month our Senior Appointments team will be interviewing a technology leader from Crimson's network of talented senior IT executives. Find out what drives these individuals as we delve into their career, their most exciting projects, and their tech predictions for 2021 and beyond. Be inspired by their stories and connect with your IT peers.
Marie Harrison | Digital Delivery Director One Complete Solution (OCS)
Tell us about your role and the company you work for?
“I work for OCS, an international facility management company. I have been with them since 2017. We have approximately 20,000 customers globally, mainly in the UK, Ireland, Australasia, and Asia. We employ around 72,000 employees. In the UK we mainly provide soft services such as cleaning, catering, and security.
I started my current role in July, which focuses on the Government sector. We would classify this sector as a start-up even though it’s a multi-million-pound business. OCS has a strong growth plan, particularly for this sector.
I report to the Global CTO, mapping the business strategy and technical strategy for the sector. I provide strategic roadmaps: support solution designs for potential bids and mobilise contracts when we win them. There has been a lot of innovation, too, leveraging Office 365 applications, Kaizala has taken off within the sector instead of WhatsApp. We are also looking progressing with productivity and IoT.
I also support IT operational issues, anything from end-user services to application problems and data management; we use Power BI. For example, one of the major projects I’m working on now is expanding our social value capability. We have set some three-year road map targets, we’ve implemented a toolset, and we have an improved social and economic score.
OCS has a charitable arm called the Foundation, which is dedicated to helping people into work from disadvantaged backgrounds. Part of the social value work we are doing is building on expanding this across our contracts."
How did you get to where you are today?
"I didn't plan it! However, I've been careful not to stagnate and keen to challenge myself. One of the things I have learnt is it’s all about reputation and results.
I always make sure I have two or three mentors: a couple within the organisation I am working in, because sometimes, in big organisations, I think it’s easy to lose your voice: one female, one male, completely different people. I mentor two to three people myself, it does take a lot of time, but I make time to help others.
You also have to network. I’m an introvert, so I don’t like it, but I push myself to do it, not just meeting new contacts, but keeping a trusted network is essential. Also, having some go-to people if you get stuck is helpful.”
Interviewer Chris O’Brien: Head of Customer Engagement, Crimson: “At the start of my career, I went on a networking course, something that has stuck with me is ‘the currency of networking’, which is about investing time in your network to see a return. Put double into your network, and the trust only breaks if you stop making an effort.”
Marie: “Absolutely, if you go to someone and ask for feedback nine times out of ten, they will.
Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. You will have the sink and swim moments; everyone does. Just keep learning and reflecting; failing is the most significant learning curve.
When applying for a new job, you might think I have only done 20 percent of what they're asking for, but you might be what they’re looking for.”
Chris O’Brien: "I've heard of failing fast... Give it a go; it might not be right the first time around, but you get closer to your goal."
Marie: "I agree with that; stretch yourself and keep trying new things. Of course, the risks you take need to be proportional, but you have to try."
What's been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
“Looking back 20 years, I had to develop skills to manage teams in a slightly different way because I was always the youngest, most senior person in the room and a female. So, for me, it was about finding one or two things that demonstrate you know what you’re talking about, and that you want to support people.
Another key challenge for me, I’ve completed a lot of project and programme recovery. I’ve had a few contracts or mobilisations start where I’ve thought I might not be able to recover them! Then you dig deep and pull through it as a team. I have been blessed with excellent teams. When your delivering change – nobody goes to work to do a lousy job.”
What motivates you to get up and go to work?
“One of the things that I love is helping people grow and establishing a team. You can't deliver anything without a good team. So, I have taken chances on people for example when someone has had their confidence knocked, and you're able to get them to where they should be.
Suppose I'm delivering a programme or a mobilisation, the bigger, the messier, the better! I like keeping the project pace and fixing operational issues. I have never asked my team to do anything I wouldn't do myself. I will be on call if my team are working overnight. If it's a Go Live, I will be in the office with them, even if I'm just ordering a takeaway. That's one of my principles; you must be yourself and show empathy to lead people.”
How do you balance career and family life?
“It’s tough to get the work-life balance right, especially when you’re building a career. In the past, it’s been a luxury; I’ve travelled as a contractor. My children say I work five to nine. However, I always talk to my family about the role and the implications. If it doesn’t work for us, I will change it. Regardless of driving, I always come home; I never stay away five days a week. I try to protect my weekends as much as I can. I think presentism has been an issue in the past, but with hybrid working, you get more thinking time, and we’re working smarter. I’m in a place now where my work-life balance is the best it’s ever been, but my productivity is still the same.”
How do you stay up to date with tech trends / connect with peers?
“I have peer network for trends. I like picking people’s brains to introduce me to other people who can build solutions. We have a corporate membership to Gartner and I have also started going to more forums.”
Do you have any tips for people looking to secure a role like yours?
“I never change myself for a job, I’ve been asked to, but I never have; I am true to myself. I know my strengths and weaknesses. I have walked away from jobs when I have been asked to change myself as a person or do something that goes against my principals.
I look at specifications for roles and think if I wanted to do this job would I be successful? Don’t stagnate or get too comfortable. Try getting some regular feedback from your peer group. Most importantly, do something that makes you happy. For example, if you want to move into a different area, find people and ask them to help you”
What are your tech predictions for 2022 or beyond?
“I'll talk about FM. In FM, there is a lot of focus on productivity, particularly the Internet of Things, such as sensors. The biggest thing I'm seeing right now is Data Analytics. Sometimes FM can be a bit behind implementing some of these things, but it's not just talk anymore. There is more innovation, and that's potentially come from looking at how other markets are doing it.”
Contact Christine Dineen Christine.Dineen@crimson.co.uk for the latest market info, salary guidance, and help with your senior executive appointments.