Jane Lockwood is Chief Operating Officer at Daemon a technology consultancy that puts people first.

Daemon (Dae.mn) offers solutions that help people across organisations embrace digital tools, such as data, AI/ML, cloud and design engineering. Founded in 2007, they are a technology consultancy with a mission to make the world a better place through digital movements that drive true transformation.

What does being a COO mean to you?

Being a Chief Operating Officer can mean many different things to different people. It is invariably a hugely diverse role that means you are involved in most aspects of the running of a company, so let me lift the lid on what it means for me working in the role at end-to-end IT consultancy, Daemon.

To me being a COO means two things; 1) my amazing operational colleagues and I are responsible for running the organisation as efficiently, legally compliant, and as cost effectively as we possibly can.

2) Giving everyone who works at or with Daemon a first-class experience every day.

For our people, this means they really enjoy working at Daemon and it gives them so much opportunity to grow as individuals. For our suppliers, this means they want to continually engage with us as we treat them well and with respect. For our clients, we strive to deliver excellence not just with our consulting services but with our end-to-end process of engagement with them.

What does a typical day of a COO look like to you?

With such a diverse portfolio, there is no such thing as a typical day. This is one of the reasons why I love my job, there is so much variation and it never feels monotonous!

However, for the purposes of this question, here is today as an example – as you can see, I’m working across and with many different departments, so being able to join the dots across the business is a must for a COO;

  • I start my working day before I get to the office. Just before 7 am, I left the house to go for a walk. This today and every day for me, is my thinking time. I am a huge advocate of ensuring you carve time out in your day to do this.
  • Admin and setting myself up for the day is first on my list when I get in at 8.30 am, things like checking and replying to emails and messaging and signing documents.
  • The meetings start! At 9.30 am I have a meeting with the Head of People and Head of Operations to discuss role grades and career progression within Daemon.
  • At 10.30, I join a meeting with the Societal Impact team meeting to discuss our progress on achieving net zero carbon emission status.
  • By 11.00, I am working with the Ops, Finance and Compliance teams to progress a questionnaire we have been given from a potential new client.
  • At midday I have a meeting with the marketing team.
  • After lunch, I have a packed afternoon. At 14.00 – International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) retro – which is when a team reflects on the past to improve the future. We have recently again achieved both ISO 9001 & 27001 accreditation. We always undertake a retro after audits like this to ensure we capture all learnings.
  • The Exec team meeting starts at 15.00, which is where I report on what is happening in our operational area and raise escalations or topics to be discussed.
  • Then it’s time to close off any outstanding meetings and check my diary for tomorrow!

What skills and qualifications do you need to become a COO?

This is an interesting question for me. In this role, I would say you need three kinds of skills. To be pragmatic, detail-oriented and have the ability to motivate. Pragmatic because there are many routes from A to B but the most sensible and realistic way of getting there is usually the best one operationally. Detail-oriented because one small point missed can expose a business to unnecessary risk. Motivate because by having a vast portfolio of areas to oversee, I am very reliant on our SMEs, and it is these people that truly run the business. I just (hopefully) motivate them to do this.

But getting those skills doesn’t have to be linear. I have a degree in food science and nutrition and started my career in a graduate program for a very famous retailer’s food division (which sells very cute little pigs and certain caterpillars) as a ‘merchandiser in training.’ In this role at the time, I was working with both suppliers and stores and involved in the whole end-to-end process on quite a large scale!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. It set me up with so many working life skills that I feel a huge emotional connection to this company and always will.

Fast forward many, many years, as I took a 10-year career break to raise my children, I joined Daemon. When I joined, there were just a handful of us. I was very grateful to our founders who let me be part of this team, but also maintain my ‘mum’ status whenever it was needed. This is now 8 or so years ago, so this was pretty ground-breaking!

I have grown professionally and in capability as the company has. I have taken on more responsibility as and when we have needed it and, because of this journey, I find myself as COO now.

In terms of what qualifications you may need, for me, my role, and my ability to undertake it has been carved out by experience rather than qualifications. I have always taken on opportunities as they have come my way and with a breadth of experience doing this has given me, it has only ever stood me in good stead for an operational role like this.

What more can be done to inspire women into not only STEM topics but also being represented at the C-suite level?

This is a real passion of mine. I feel we, as a generation, need to do all we can to inspire and support females to get into STEM topics. At Daemon, we are involved in computer science education programs in South Africa, where we have one of our offices, and here in the UK, we have worked with organisations that actively encourage females into the IT industry after taking career breaks invariably to raise children, as two good examples.

We play a small but very genuine role in trying to inspire females to get involved in STEM careers. And genuineness is really key here. This is not about throwing high salaries and big, unfulfillable promises – this is not sustainable nor a good long-term strategic approach. We need all organisations to get involved to build long-term career paths for women in the STEM sector and only then will we start to break down the stats. This is a multi-generational programme that we as a STEM sector need to adopt if we are ever going to see parity in this industry.

While female representation at the C-suite level has increased, we still remain in the minority. Data shows that over 40% of FTSE 350 company board directors in 2022 are women, hitting the target three years early. However, women CEOs remain low in certain fields. The manufacturing industry has no women CEOs, while the technology and power & utilities industries also have the lowest percentage of women CEOs, with 2% and 5% respectively.

I believe so many are underrepresented has a lot to do with how we are wired versus our male counterparts. It is well known that a male will look at 10 points in a job description and identify 4-5 he can do and apply for the job whereas the female will only see 9 out of 10 so won’t apply. This coupled with the fact that there are fewer of us in the tech space overall means the females in C-suite positions in our industry are few and far between.

By undertaking programmes to inspire women into STEM, as I mentioned earlier, will, of course, reap rewards as these females will be the ones who will progress through their careers and find themselves well-placed to move into c-suite roles.

My experience of a c-suite role has been personally very fulfilling and wherever possible I share my own experience to hopefully break down any preconceived barriers that my fellow females may have.

How do you help and inspire young women into a life of tech?

A very simple answer to this question. Tech is the future! We see our news headlines dominated by environmental challenges, the use of data and the dominance of AI, for example, all of which demonstrate that tech plays a very significant role in the present day and ultimately the future.