Senior Spotlight: September 2020
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.
Mike Heath | Technology Director at Action on Hearing Loss
Tell us about your role and the company you work for?
"Action for Hearing Loss is a charity; we support deaf people and those with hearing loss and tinnitus. We provide information and support, campaign for equality and fund pioneering research into deafness and tinnitus.
I am responsible for the Technology department; I've been taken onboard to devise a new technology strategy and refresh the existing tools. I have a small team, but as part of the new plan, we will be looking to develop the existing team and recruit new people.
I started just over a month ago, following redundancy and knowing I wanted to get back into the charity sector. Thanks to Crimson's support, I started nine days after I was made redundant from my last role."
How did you get to where you are today?
"I left the military in 1999; alongside this, I was involved in some IT projects. Despite being Microsoft certified and experienced in IT platforms such as Cisco and Novel, I knew I might have to apply for a junior role. I started as a 1st line helpdesk engineer. I had a great team and supportive managers who promoted me quickly; I became a Helpdesk Manager and then an IT Manager. To gain more experience and increase my employability, I worked in multiple industries. As well as keeping things interesting, I learnt a lot from working in different sectors. This variety has shaped my thinking and still informs my strategies today.
Training and mentors have also been a huge part of my journey. I'm now fortunate enough to help other people achieve a similar career trajectory to mine and guide them. I keep in touch with people I've mentored in the past. Last week I spoke to someone who used to work with me, as a Junior Architect and he is now an IT Director for another charity. Another individual that used to be part of my team as a Project Manager is currently an IT Director, so I must be doing something right."
What has been your proudest moment?
"I get real joy out of developing others and watching them succeed. On the tech side, I was lucky enough to be Head of Global IT for The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Foundation. I wrote and delivered an IT strategy there that enabled young people, in 144 countries to do their award online, which was a first for the organisation and countries all over the world.
I visited young people completing the award in the UK and underprivileged areas in Thailand, Mauritius, and Africa. It was great to show the young people that tech isn't just for school, it's there to help them develop their skills. We also introduced a digital side to the award where participants could choose tech as a skill and use the platform to tell their story.
I also had the privilege of meeting The Duke of Edinburgh and The Queen. They opened our offices, The Duke authorised a Gold award for a Canadian girl, and I had to explain to The Duke what button to press! The Queen and The Duke we're very interested in our work and friendly people, the Duke even recognised my regimental tie. The platform is still in use today, and it's being launched in new countries. I made some great friends there, and it was a humbling experience."
What has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
"The biggest challenge for anyone in IT is staying current. I like to make sure I'm aware of new technologies and what tools would be suitable for certain businesses/industries. The change is so rapid, it’s hard to keep up! Explaining to stakeholders why IT is not black magic and how it can benefit them / add value is also something that has challenged me throughout my career.”
What motivates you to get up and go to work?
"I always say that I find IT boring but what people do with IT is exciting. From technology that changes lives, to helping people fix their laptop. I'm giving individuals the knowledge and tools that can help them excel. At Action for Hearing Loss, the transformation we're doing will reduce our overheads, and because of this, we may be able to fund more research. I am happiest in the Not-for-Profit sector, making a difference is what motivates me. One of the young people that completed the Duke of Edinburgh award was homeless in Pakistan, and now he is a renowned photographer, he attributes his success to the award. I feel a part of that; it's a great feeling."
How do you balance career and personal life?
"I have two phones, personal and work. I don't carry my work phone at weekends, and only a few people have my personal phone. I don't read emails after 6.00 pm. I enjoy archery, finding activities that help you switch off and exercise is good. I have a responsibility to my team to look after myself and my team. If I'm burnt out, I'm not in the right place to help my team; it's about balance."
Tell us about the most interesting project you have worked on / up and coming projects?
"This transformation at Action for Hearing loss will be my new proudest moment. The organisation is suffering because of its operational focus. There are disparate data sources, different platforms being used to provide the same thing and an ageing technology stack. We will be carrying out a desktop refresh, giving people more mobile devices, moving to the Cloud and using Dynamics 365 to get the 'single version of the truth'. Everyone at Action for Hearing loss is excited about the difference the strategy will make to their day job and the meaningful reports we can produce, that will inform our thinking.”
Do you have any tips for people looking to secure a role like yours?
"Keep up to date with industry changes. You might not have used certain software, but if you can understand it and verbalise the benefits, that's almost as good as having done it. Don't be put off by the number of existing applicants or an endless list of requirements – if you think you can do the job apply for it. Perfect candidates don't exist, and you could be near perfect. Work with Crimson, recruiters hear of roles before they're advertised, and they can sell you into clients. Keep talking to people in your network."
What would be your dream role/plan for the next five years?
"I would like to stay in the charity sector and Action on Hearing Loss.
How do you stay up to date with tech trends / connect with peers?
"I use LinkedIn and Whitepapers. I enjoy Expo's but because of COVID they’re not happening. I have been meeting people for a virtual coffee, which is a great opportunity to learn more specialist subjects."
What are your IT/tech predictions for 2021 or beyond?
"There has been a phenomenal rise in Cloud Computing. Video conferencing is driving the need to have collaboration tools. Cloud Computing will continue to grow, and I think anything we can do to help the environment and work smarter is worth investing in."
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