Jenna Griffin is a policy programme manager for BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT. Jenna studied business management at university, before going on to work in IT, sales and policy. Jenna has been in her current post since 2019, which focuses on influencing governments and industry around IT policy.
Make mistakes to understand what you want
As a school leaver, my understanding of what I wanted for my future wasn’t clear, and I went to college still with no idea, but taking A-Levels in subjects I enjoyed which led to a subsidiary diploma in business studies. This course made my decision of going to university easy, where I studied business management at the University of Winchester, achieving a BA Hons Business Management 2:1 degree.
After leaving university I secured a role at the British Computer Society (BCS), The Chartered Institute for IT, as an operational support officer, followed by a standards assessment role working in digital IT apprenticeships.
I thrived in both roles at BCS. However, I wanted a change of scenery and for a short while worked in sales for a major fast-moving consumer goods company. I soon figured that sales was not the role for me and returned to BCS in my now role of policy programme manager, which is not an area I had considered working in previously.
Nonetheless, I would encourage everybody to make a ‘mistake’ with your career choices as you are then able to really identify what it is you want out of your role and future career.
Working in policy
My current role Nowadays, at BCS, is a Policy Programme Manager, where I predominantly influence government and industry around BCS’ IT policies. On a daily basis, I would be responding to government consultations, engaging in a number of projects looking at things such as diversity and inclusion in the industry, or planning for a new award that BCS will be launching later this year.
BCS has a strict governance structure and I work closely with one of the boards in that structure where we produce position papers to feed into government on various topics, but most recently the contact tracing app. The policy team engages with our membership community continuously as well as internal stakeholders so their work can have the most impact externally, and that is just the tip of the iceberg!
BCS is the professional body for IT and its purpose is to promote and advance the education and practice of computing for the benefit of society as a whole. It brings together industry, academics, practitioners, and government to share knowledge, promote new thinking, inform the design of new curricula, shape public policy and inform the public.
As the professional membership and accreditation body for IT, we serve over 60,000 members, in the United Kingdom and internationally. We also accredit the computing degree courses in universities across the UK and offer a range of widely recognised professional and end-user qualifications.
The importance of IT professionals
Throughout COVID-19, we have identified the UK’s ‘key workers’ and as a nation we have continued to raise support and morale for them.
However, IT professionals are involved in this system, but have often been forgotten about. Just Regarding healthcare, for instance, how IT professionals are dealing with the pressures of increased data, changing the way doctors are able to do consultations to video call and the creation of the pop-up hospitals across the UK.
IT workers have changed the way the nation works almost overnight, ensuring organisations have the correct infrastructure to allow employees to work normally from home, but also adapting products to allow companies to keep business up and running during lockdown. Consequently, this has created a new expectation of ‘normal’ for the future workforce.
What this group of professionals have achieved has highlighted to the world, and especially the UK, the need for digital skills and how Britain’s future is bound by digital technologies and capabilities, so COVID-19 is just the tip of the iceberg for IT workers and the future IT workforce.
These are just a few highlights but least we do not we mustn’t forget the reliance the world has had on technology to remain connected throughout the lockdown.
How coronavirus impacted my work and digital skills
I am lucky that because prior to COVID-19 my team at BCS was very flexible, so we were able to work fully remotely relatively easily, so in terms of actual work it has not changed that much.
However, by working remotely, we have changed as a team, we have much more regular catch ups and we have achieved so much as a team during lockdown. I’m really proud of the way we have all adapted.
Of course, we couldn’t have done that without technology and our fantastic IT team at BCS. Personally, I feel like I have been productive and organised with working from home. However, I believe it does take a lot of discipline to keep it this way!
COVID-19 has highlighted the urgency for the UK to increase its digital skills, not necessarily for jobs but just to go about our daily lives. COVID-19 has distinguished the fact that we live in a two-tier digital society, where those who do not have sufficient digital skills are being left behind in society.
This may include elderly people right through to children at school, where there could be a number of reasons why they don’t have relevant digital skills, maybe due to lack of interest or due to their socio-economic background, for example.
COVID-19 has confirmed this with children from disadvantaged backgrounds falling behind because they do not have access or the skills to complete work set online. As a nation we need to do more to ensure we give our children, regardless of background, access to digital devices to ensure they possess suitable digital skills.
It’s time for significant changes
We know that because of COVID-19 our way of life will be changing to include more digitally accessed services, therefore I believe that the UK Government alongside organisations more broadly should make significant adjustments and investments to upskill people for their return to work or to help them gain employment. Digital skills are vital as we progress into a more digitally reliant country.
As we have established, tech skills will be essential for the future of the UK and the economy. It is important for government and organisations to invest in training such as apprenticeships as they are flexible and have the potential to encourage increased diversity in IT, especially if an individual is looking to change careers or upskill.
Diversity is essential in digital IT
BCS has a number of digital IT apprenticeships, but also professional certifications that can develop an individual’s portfolio of skills. Digital skills are also essential for the future generations and we need to see an increase in young people, especially women embarking on an IT career, whether that’s a degree in computer science or a digital IT apprenticeship.
As we emerge out of lockdown, I will be working on a number of different projects around diversity and inclusion, influencing government through consultations and BCS position papers and beginning new ventures with our membership community.