Jo HannafordJo is head of Engineering in EMEA at Goldman Sachs and a leading pioneer in financial technology.

Throughout her 30- year career, Jo has always adopted a ‘pay it forward’ mentality, dedicating time and energy to encouraging under privileged communities and diverse groups to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). She leverages her platform as a senior partner and member of the firm’s EMEA Inclusion and Diversity Committee to drive the firm’s agenda on diversity and inclusion. Through empowering fellow women engineers to become more visible, bringing enhanced education to local schools, and driving organisational and industry-wide policy, Jo has had a wide-reaching impact within the global engineering community.

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

I have had a long, exciting career in technology. In title, I am head of Engineering in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) at Goldman Sachs, responsible for building, testing, implementing and supporting technology systems, infrastructure, and solutions for the firm. In practice, I am a software engineer who has spent the past 31 years utilising technology to innovate, solve problems and drive the digital agenda forward in the finance industry. I feel privileged to have witnessed the journey that technology has been on over the past three decades, and, in particular, its impact over the past 12 months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; not only has it accelerated digital transformation for many organisations, it has helped us all to stay connected to our colleagues and families.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Technology has developed exponentially during my career – the computers I used to work on are now in museums! I never had a plan per se, but I always worked to keep up with new trends and applications so that I could better understand how technology could shape and impact the industry I worked in, as well as tried to be open-minded about the opportunities that came my way – my best career moves were those I never expected.

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

No career is ever smooth-sailing, and I have certainly experienced a number of challenges over the years, both in my personal life and at work. Flexibility and resiliency are the two qualities I try to embrace every time I am faced with an obstacle – this past year alone has demanded extraordinary amounts of both from us all.

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

We shouldn’t play down the importance of having people to look up to; I have been fortunate to have a number of role models and mentors throughout my career that have helped me to realise my potential. It’s why I spend time working with organisations like STEM Learning, and promote talent externally through initiatives such as We Are The City’s Rising Star Awards – ensuring that children and women have access to visible, inspirational role models in STEM is critical to the mission of getting more women into STEM careers.

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

It has been encouraging to see the number of women working in STEM industries increase over the past few years; WISE recently announced that there are now more than one million women working in STEM across the UK. However, at around 17%, that number is still far too low, and organisations need to continue to put diversity at the heart of both their recruiting and retention strategies in order to see progress continue. Attracting diverse talent to pursue STEM careers is one part of the mission; ensuring that women already working in STEM are able to excel and become leaders in their careers is the other. More women in leadership positions means greater advocacy for those who cannot speak up for themselves, and more opportunities to send the ladder back down to those women coming up behind.

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

Firstly, stay curious. As a result of the past year’s events, technology is transforming every industry, and its capabilities are endless – we are only just beginning to realise its potential in financial services with regards to artificial intelligence and cloud adoption. Staying up-to-date with current trends and how technology is being leveraged in your industry will help you to spot gaps and opportunities for innovation and growth. Secondly, invest in your network – it is often an excellent source of inspiration, opportunities, and support.

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