This month we continued our Made Tech team interview series with our Delivery Principal Catherine Whibley to better understand her role and to feature the great work she has been doing.
Our Delivery Principals help public sector organisations accelerate digital delivery, drive efficiency and ultimately improve society. They do this by leading large-scale teams (accounts), building and managing strategic relationships, finding new opportunities and advising as senior delivery leaders.
If you would like to watch the full interview, it is available here.
Q: How did you become interested in the tech industry?
A: It’s quite an interesting story. I started out in clinical research so I did a PhD in Medical Biochemistry and then gradually moved into more research management. I was running research studies and ended up working at an organisation called the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). After I’d worked with them for a few years overseeing research across the NHS there was an opportunity to fill a role as the Product Manager for their new system that was replacing three legacy systems. That was my first official role in tech.
I’d always been quite tech and data-literate working with BI teams but that was my first experience working with an agile delivery team and I absolutely loved it. I found that combination of project work and something a bit more technical really engaging. Every single day was different and I thought that this is what I really love doing.
Q: Outside of work, what hobbies do you have?
A: I think all of us have embraced cooking and baking a bit more over the last couple of years with lockdown. I’ve always loved baking. I think it fulfils that skill set that I left behind in the lab – needing to be very precise and measure things. Outside of the kitchen, I do quite a bit of running. I’m doing the Leeds Half Marathon next week and my partner’s doing the Yorkshire Marathon in a month’s time. So lots of running training which is needed when you’re doing all that cooking and baking.
Q: Before you joined Made Tech, had you worked in the public sector at all?
A: I had, yes. So I mentioned I’d worked for the NIHR alongside the NHS. I’d also done quite a bit of work prior to joining them with the NHS. After the NIHR, I worked with NHS England and Improvement and also with the Health Services Executive over in Ireland. So quite a bit of public sector work with a bit of private sector sprinkled in there as well.
Q: How do you find working in the public sector?
A: I really enjoy it. I’ve done a bit of work in the private sector just to see how it felt and how different it was, but I’m definitely far more comfortable and more at home in the public sector. I love the fact that everything that we do is aimed towards making a difference and making people’s lives better. You can really see that impact in the public sector – that direct line between the product that you’re building and how it’s going to impact people’s lives.
Q: How long have you been at Made Tech?
A: I’ve been here for four months now. I joined in May this year.
Q: How did you find out about the company?
A: Made Tech approached me. Someone from the recruitment team had noticed my CV and the skills and experience that I had in health particularly and approached me.
Q: What attracted you to Made Tech?
A: I got that email from a recruiter that was actually from Made Tech, it wasn’t from a recruitment company, so that grabbed my attention. Then I did a bit of research about Made Tech and there were a number of things that really sort of stood out to me:
1: It’s a fairly small company. The previous place that I worked was quite large and I like the idea of being part of a smaller organisation where you get to know everybody.
2: The purpose and values of Made Tech and the fact that we work almost entirely with the public sector. The couple of private sector organisations we work with service the public sector, so it’s just one step removed.
3: The openness and the transparency. It really struck me that the handbook is openly available and that this is a company that really embodied quite a lot of those agile principles that I feel are really important and are the sort of things that I want to live by. In the first week of onboarding, we spent a lot of time talking about the feedback culture, how we give feedback, and how we try to build that into our teams. That really just affirmed to me that I’ve made the right choice.
Q: What was the interview process like for you?
A: It was fairly straightforward. I had an initial chat with the recruiter who had contacted me initially which was a phone call to talk through what Made Tech was like, what my CV looked like, and just a general getting to know you chat. Then I had a phone interview with a couple of people from the delivery community within Made Tech. It was an initial screening to see if I know what I’m talking about and do I actually have the delivery experience that I say I do.
Then that was followed up with a virtual face-to-face interview with a couple of people from the delivery community. Because I was joining to have a focus on health, I had a conversation with Hazel Jones, our Head of Health and Market Principal for Manchester, just to make sure that this was the right place for me and that it was going to offer the sorts of challenges I needed in my career. That was over and above what the usual interview process was but it really helped settle my mind that I was making the right move.
Q: What does your role here involve?
A: Quite a few different things. As a Delivery Principal, I look after a number of different deliveries. I’m focused mostly on health but I do take on other deliveries if I need to. I provide an assurance role to those deliveries and also ensure that the team is fully supported, that the Delivery Managers have a slightly more independent and potentially slightly challenging viewpoint that they can go to to talk through problems. They can say, ‘I’m thinking about doing X. What are the potential problems that we might face if I take X approach as opposed to Y approach.’ I check in on team health as well. It’s really important to make sure that our delivery teams are happy and if they’re not that we’re addressing any concerns they have.
As a Delivery Principal, I also support our regional team. I’m in the Manchester office and take part in our Manchester leadership sessions. Quite a lot of that revolves around deliveries but we’re also looking at the recruitment pipeline and if we have the right people joining the team to help grow in the right direction. We’ve also just moved offices in Manchester so there’s been quite a lot of talk about our office move.
Because I joined with a focus on health as a subject matter expert, I’m also quite involved in helping out the Sales team if there are any potential opportunities in the health space. I talk through some of the intricacies of that, help with bids, and have conversations with potential clients. It’s a really varied role.
Q: What do you like most about being a Delivery Principal?
A: No two days are the same. There’s a bit of me that really enjoys repetitive tasks but I can only do that for so long and then I need to do something different. I like knowing that every day I’ve got something different on the cards.
Q: What are some of the most challenging things you find about the role?
A: Part of it is working with the public sector. There is a lot of bureaucracy sometimes and there are often conversations with our clients as a blended team where we all know what the right route is and what the right things are to do, but it’s figuring out how we get there working within the constraints. It’s working out how we deliver what we need to deliver for the public through those constraints, whether those are budgetary, governance, or legacy systems.
Quite often with our deliveries, we need to maintain a service and keep something running, particularly in healthcare you need to keep things running because otherwise, people’s lives are at risk, but you also need to introduce a new system or a new service. You really have to carefully manage that. That’s one of the most challenging things but it’s also one of the most rewarding things when you get it right. It’s one of the realities of working in the public sector that’s challenging and rewarding.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone who wants to be a Delivery Principal?
A: This is a really varied role and I think for a lot of my career I’ve done lots of different things and I’ve picked up lots of different skills. I’ve been a Scrum Master, Product Owner, Business Analyst and I’ve been a subject matter expert advising people. I was listening to an interview with Tim Peake a few weeks ago and he described himself as a jack of all trades, master of some.
I think my advice for somebody who’s looking at becoming a Delivery Principal is to get as much experience in as many different elements of delivery as you can. When you get to the point where you are overseeing teams, understanding what all those different roles do, the different perspectives and how they fit together, and how that team comes together to deliver something, the more empathy and understanding you have of the different people fulfilling those roles and the more effective you can be.
Q: What do you like most about working at Made Tech?
A: I think it’s the people. We’ve got some great pieces of work but I think if we didn’t have the people that we do who are turning up every day, open to that feedback culture, open to giving and receiving feedback, really wanting to do the best job they can, and with that public spirit mindset of ‘we’re here to make things better for people’.
Without a team that was made up of people like that, I think it would be a really hard job. But because we’ve got such great people it makes every day really rewarding because you know everybody’s here to deliver and do the best that they can.
Q: Do you have any books or resources you would recommend for someone interested in a role like yours?
A: Not specifically around the Delivery Principal role but something that I found particularly useful for my own personal development is a book called The Daily Stoic. It’s a book of quotes from philosophers with a little bit of analysis. It’s not more than a page a day and this is probably my third year reading it. I don’t read it every day but I keep it on my desk and when I have a spare five minutes it’s great to pick up and see what today’s message is.
When you think that these are philosophers from 2000 years ago, a lot that speaks to the agile mindset. For example, everybody’s turning up to do the best job that they can do. Nobody’s intentionally doing a bad job. Today’s one is very much about thinking about the times that you yourself have perhaps not done what you wanted to do or not done the best job you could have done, and use that as empathy to understand that somebody else that has let you down didn’t necessarily mean to. I think that very much feeds into that agile retrospective that nobody’s intentionally doing a bad job so use that understanding. Try to learn and understand what their intentions were and deal with the situation, not judge the person because of it.
If you have any more questions for Catherine about her role here, you can get in touch by reaching out on Linkedin. Additionally, if you are interested in joining our team, you can view our current open positions here. Be sure to stay tuned for our next Made Tech Team Interview coming next month.