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Let’s get agile: Bringing together different skills and experiences then challenging preconceptions in order to work better – Gillian Maidens, Head of Portfolio Delivery at EMIS Health

Gillian Maidens is Head of Portfolio Delivery at EMIS Health, where she is based in Leeds. Prior to this Gillian has held a number of other tech roles in the organisation. 

Gillian-Maidens - EMIS Health
Gillian Maidens

“…We all have different skills and experiences to bring to the table. Being able to bring them together means we challenge each other’s preconceptions and thought processes, and we benefit from our collective experience…” 

Gillian, please can you tell us about your career to date and what made you want to work in tech?

I have been lucky to have a number of different roles within tech, ranging from software implementation, Development Lead and project management, now taking on the role of Head of Portfolio Delivery. So, I’d like to think that I’ve built up an understanding of what challenges are faced across those areas when delivering software, which gives me a unique perspective.

I didn’t make a conscious decision to work in tech. I just knew that I loved being involved in solving problems, and fortunately, I had transferable skills that have allowed me to move throughout many different roles within tech.

What does your role at EMIS Health involve on a day to day basis?

As well as my regular role as Head of Portfolio Delivery I’m also covering the role of Head of Project Management Office whilst a colleague is on maternity leave.

My role is varied and no two days are the same, but there’s always a people focus to it. My role was introduced to EMIS Health back in October 2017 and from the outset the driver was to drive our people focus and help shape our delivery strategy within project and programme management, to ensure we had a strong framework in place.

Claire Malone, the director I report into, has given me her full support to really shape that and make it my own, from the ground up. I wanted to start by focusing on reminding the team how much they are valued and helping them to recognise how awesome they are.

Another key component has been focussing on our delivery framework, taking feedback from the business, streamlining it and working with colleagues within development and the wider group to roll out a new framework that better serves us all, and enables us to be truly agile in our approach.

At the moment, my day always involves talking about the EMIS Agile Framework, with help from one of our Pod Leader James Croll, what that means for us and our teams and how we can make it even better.

You’re a certified Professional Scrum Master. For readers without a background in tech, please can you explain what this means?

A few years ago, I’d never heard of agile, then I attended an Introduction to Agile session. I remember sitting there thinking: “Why is this even a thing? Surely this is just the common-sense way to work?!” From then on, my interest grew, and I eventually decided to become a certified Professional Scrum Master.

This is a qualification that acknowledges that I have good understanding of Scrum theory and processes and particularly the role of a Scrum Master. Scrum is one of many agile frameworks but is probably the most referred to. Many of the principals in Scrum form the foundation of for good communication and can be applied in everyday life, in my opinion.

How does working in a sector like healthcare allow you to feel your work is making a difference?

EMIS-Health-staffI know that every decision we make has a direct impact on the health care professional, and ultimately the patient. Whilst this is a huge responsibility that we all share, it also means that we know we are making a real difference with each project we deliver.

We encourage our teams to visit practices, hospitals and clinical commissioning groups to see first-hand what a difference we can make. Last year, I attended the Leeds General Infirmary Accident and Emergency department to better understand how they use our software under pressure of providing urgent care, and in reminded me what a crucial role we play in health care.

Why is diversity of thought so important in tech?

We all have different skills and experiences to bring to the table. Being able to bring them together means we challenge each other’s preconceptions and thought processes, and we benefit from our collective experience.

We ask ‘why?’ a lot, and this allows us to solve problems innovatively. Working in this way for us has helped to move away from the ‘them and us’ culture that has traditionally existed between the project managers and the development teams.

What is your advice for girls and women who are interested in careers in tech but are unsure of where to start?

My advice is focus on your transferable skills, and always be yourself. If you are a good communicator, a strong listener, and like to solve problems, in my opinion, a company that values these traits will be able to train you in whichever area of tech you fancy getting into.

Use other’s who are already in tech to find out about the different types of roles that are out there and don’t be afraid to apply, even if you feel under qualified. I’ve never walked into a job feeling like I knew exactly what I was doing – that’s all part of the fun!

What is coming up next for you?

My focus will continue to be on the team here at EMIS Health. We have done a lot of great work on our people focus and new delivery framework, we’re currently doing a lot of internal talks on this. Next for the team is to look out how we take that out into the Leeds tech scene – we’ve been largely absent, but Claire and I are determined to change that.

 

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