Alison PainAlison Pain joined Northern Trust in January 2020 as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) in EMEA. She is also a member of Northern Trust’s EMEA management committee. She is based in London.

She also holds a regulatory role as part of the Senior Managers Regime (SMF24) acting as the technology interface into the PRA and FCA. She is based in London.

As CTO she is responsible for helping develop and drive the Technology strategy across EMEA whilst ensuring Business requirements and strategy are understood and delivered. Throughout her career Alison has a proven track record of delivery, driving a material reduction in the technology total of ownership (TCO) in all of her previous organisations. She is passionate about ensuring a premium user experience, flexing technology to allow our Businesses to be responsive to the markets & our clients whilst ensuring a laser focus on reliability, stability and security.

Alison has more than 25 years of experience in senior leadership roles with UK Financial Services organisations across both Infrastructure and Application Development teams. Before joining Northern Trust, Alison spent 4 years at Deutsche Bank where she was a Managing Director. She held multiple senior roles including Global Head of Backup & Storage and Global CIO for End-User Computing. Previously, Alison worked at Goldman Sachs for 11 years where she was an EVP and Senior Engineer. She held multiple senior operational and transformation positions and was the only Global Head of a technology function based outside of the US. Prior to Goldman Sachs she worked at other financial service organisations, including Barclays and RBS.

Alison holds a BA(Hons) from Greenwich University in Humanities and an MBA from Southbank University.

She is an active supporter of diversity and is the technology representative on the EMEA Diversity, Equity & Inclusion council. She is also a keen mentor. In previous organisations, Alison has been an LGBT+ Ally, Diversity Network champion, co-founder of the Working Mothers Network, and a member of the Disability Working Group steering group. Whilst at Goldman Sachs Alison was a member of the ‘Girls in IT’ working group, through which she presented to more than 1,000 school-age girls, encouraging them to choose a career in Technology.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Northern Trust’s Chief Technology Officer for EMEA, a role which requires me to provide leadership and guidance to the planning, organization, direction and control of the Enterprise Technology business unit across Northern Trust’s EMEA region.

Prior to joining Northern Trust, I worked as managing director at Deutsche Bank. Previously, I spent 12 years at Goldman Sachs, leading infrastructure service and application development functions in EMEA and globally. I have additional technology and program management experience at Barclays Private Bank, Land Securities Properties and NatWest group.  I hold a bachelor’s degree in Humanities from Greenwich University, and an MBA from London South Bank University.

I am a generalist and have spent the majority of my career in Infrastructure which is a particularly male dominated environment. I have spent many years being the only woman in the room and often leading teams of men delivering across multiple infrastructure platforms.

I am married with two children who are both teenagers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have always worked in Technology and have always really enjoyed it – it is complicated, challenging and often frustrating!  That’s why I love it.

I was the first person in my family to go to University and I didn’t  study Technology , so I often experienced “imposter syndrome”.

I found myself doing a stereotypically female thing where I believed that if I simply worked hard and delivered excellent outputs, I would get recognised for that.  I let my career grow organically and definitely stayed in jobs too long.  It’s only in more recent years that I have been much more proactive about what I want and not waited around for someone to notice my contributions and suggest a progression or bring me an opportunity.

My career continues to evolve and I think that now that my kids are older I have a bit more brain space to focus on my career.  It would be nice to think women can have it all – kids, career, hobbies but in reality it is very hard to feel excellent and contributing to all those areas equally, and this belief can sometimes add to the pressure.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I once missed out on a job I wanted because I assumed that it would be ‘seen’ I was the best candidate.  I learnt a valuable lesson and made it clear to my employer that I was unhappy with the decision but I wanted to stay. Thankfully, the organisation wanted to keep me, so worked with me and found me a different role. I realised the importance of compromise and also the value in proactively demonstrating and vocalising your ability and aspirations – and not to be afraid to do so.

Having kids was a challenge – I am very glad I did, but, as so many know, balancing parental responsibilities and a challenging job is demanding. I experienced a huge amount of guilt, and often felt like I was never doing anything properly. My advice to any women looking to balance a career with children is to make sure you and your partner are equals – do not try and do everything yourself.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I received a promotion within my first two years of employment when working for a previous employer. At the time, I knew I was performing well and at the level required for promotion, but the ability to make a big enough impact and obtain the support needed was a landmark moment for me in my career and gave me great joy and confidence.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Working hard, remaining interested and having a willingness to “step up”.  I was never scared to challenge processes and the way things had been done when I believed that I could make improvements. I often tried new things, even if they didn’t fit with what I envisaged my career plan to look like.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Work hard, be curious and take responsibility.

Don’t be scared of hard work but don’t allow yourself to be buried because you are helpful.  Build relationships and value your networks – build your influence and above all demonstrate integrity.  If you do, people will listen and trust you – it makes it much easier to get things done and make an impact. Remember, a career is like a jigsaw – there are lots of different bits that help make up the bigger picture.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Women are still underrepresented in technology. I believe having more visible women role models in technology to encourage younger generations to consider a career in technology is important in helping to drive greater representation across the industry.

As an industry, it’s important to consider whether women are being measured differently. For example, I have often seen that a lack of experience is a disadvantage for a woman, compared to an opportunity as it is for a man. Because there are so few female technologists, it’s important that those women appreciate the role they have as creating the perception of all women in the sector and that they are considered in demonstrating behaviours and performance.

We need to keep chipping away this – it shouldn’t be taken personally and I believe it  demonstrates other people’s prejudices and beliefs.  I encourage all women to put their hand up for opportunities – there is no downside.  If you get the opportunity that’s a great result, if you don’t then you have shown you are ambitious and ready to step up.  Always ask for feedback – that gives you something to work on for next time.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Flexibility of location and hours is critical, although I think the effects from the pandemic and shift in working patterns globally will accelerate this change and could support positive moves in this area.

Inclusion must be at the forefront of organisations’ strategy, and ensuring women have visible role models to motivate them to progress and develop. If you look up at the senior leadership within an organisation and cannot see people that are like you it is not encouraging and it feels more like a glass mountain as opposed to a glass ceiling. Finally, organisations needs to understand sponsorship as a proactive intervention, as opposed to mentoring. Leaders needs to actively champion their female talent for new and challenging opportunities  and help make their contributions visible across the organisation.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

The industry needs to work collaboratively to increase accessibility for women and proactively  encourage younger women to make decisions which would enable them to consider a career in technology. We all have a part to play in facilitating a dialogue which normalises the notion of career changes, and educates young women that there are many different routes into a fulfilling and interesting career in technology.

I also think that the way in which opportunities within technology are viewed needs to be considered. Some promising female candidates may be put off by the inevitable male dominance in the profession and so we need to ensure that a career in technology is presented in a positive way and presents an appealing proposition for women to grow their careers.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I don’t endorse any particular outlet and so these selections are based on my own experience and opinion. There are many conferences and events that could resonate with a woman working in technology.

That said, I found the WeAreTechWomen  conference really great last year. This year Northern Trust is a sponsor and I am looking forward to seeing this year’s event unfold.


Alison will be joining us at our One Tech World Conference on 11-13 May 2021. To find out more about the conference, browse the agenda, or view all of our amazing speakers, click here.