Sophie AlukoSophia Aluko is Head of CIO Office, Group Technology and COO D&I Ethnicity Co-Lead.

As Head of CIO Office, she provides support to the Group CIO to develop, communicate and deliver the Group Technology priorities and agenda. Alongside this, she is passionate about diversity and inclusion (D&I), and is currently the COO D&I Co-Lead for Ethnicity Inclusion.

Prior to her current role she was the Head of Service Management for the Transitions Management Office, where she stood up the service management framework, as well as managed the Transitions Services Agreement of the services that Barclays provided to divested banks in Europe and Africa.

Outside of work, Sophia supports gender equality initiatives and she is a Trustee at Global Fund for Women UK. An organisation that advocates for equality in the most disadvantaged communities. Sophia has a passion for helping people, and does this through coaching and mentoring. When her schedule permits, she gives talks at Career conferences to those looking to progress in their careers. She also founded a non-profit, The Steer Network, that provides career coaching and mentoring for professionals from diverse backgrounds.

She has about 20 years’ experience in different sectors including FMCG, Technology, Telecoms and Banking.

Sophia joined Barclays in 2008 and had held a number of senior roles in Finance and COO where she has played an instrumental role on major transformation change programmes such as Mergers and Acquisitions, Divestments and Digital transformation.

Sophia is a qualified chartered accountant and has an MBA from Imperial College, London.

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

My name is Sophia Aluko and I’m the Head of Group CIO Office at Barclays and the role is responsible for enabling the delivery of the Group CIO agenda.

I have come from a varied background with 20 years’ experience having worked in FMCG, Technology and Telecoms. Throughout my career, I found myself drawn to roles that involve transformation and change and as a result I have been involved in designing and implementing enterprise level transformation initiatives such as Cost Transformation, Digital transformation, Mergers & Acquisitions and Divestments & Transitions.

I started my career in the Technology sector, in data and networks and wanted to gain more business and commercial experience and moved to Diageo for a few years and then joined Barclays in 2008 after completing an MBA at Imperial College London.

In addition to my day job, I am a Board Trustee and Treasurer for Global Fund for Women UK and Founder of the Steer Network, a career mentoring and development non-profit.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the early stage of my career, I would say no, as my focus was doing work that I find challenging, which aligned with my strengths where I could learn, grow and make an impact. Looking back, I will say that working in different sectors and roles gave me a more rounded skillset and experience.

As time went on, I was more deliberate about where I wanted to deploy my skills, and the opportunities that will get me closer to achieving my career goals. My career so far has been a succession of interesting jobs, with each assignment building on the last and bringing a new learning experience at the same time.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I have faced my fair share of challenge, but I have learnt to be true to who I am, guided by my beliefs and values to navigate the challenges. I once took on a role which was a promising role and aligned with my career goals, but after a few months in the role, it wasn’t quite what I had envisaged and had to be really thoughtful about how to approach this thorny issue. I had a number of conversations with trusted colleagues and mentors to gain insights and advice, and eventually I was able to agree a solution with my boss at the time which helped me to land in the right place. My advice is not to be afraid of taking risks and having conversations that could be considered ‘difficult’ as that could be a game changer in your career.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Moving to a new country for work where I had no family ties and social network. The city was exciting but not considered one of the safest places in the world! I went to implement major transformation projects which was very challenging as it had to do with digital transformation and I was responsible for designing, implementing the change including the people change aspect of the programme. I led a multi-disciplinary team across 3 continents and 15 locations to deliver an award winning digital on-boarding platform for millions of customers enabling us to dramatically improve quality of service and created opportunities for our colleagues to upskill / reskill in an environment that is becoming increasingly digitised.

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

I would say determination and persistence. You have to find what truly motivates you, what drives you and be willing to go after it with energy and do your very best.

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How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I am a huge believer in mentoring. I don’t believe you can be successful in any endeavour without good mentors. I mentor people in and outside Barclays and I believe it is the role of a leader to inspire and mentor their team, to bring out the best in everyone. When mentoring is done correctly, both mentees and mentors can benefit immensely from the experience.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

A good number of companies are making good progress to enable a more gender balanced working environment. I think the Pandemic is contributing to accelerating gender parity with more companies offering remote working /flexible working enabling carers to integrate work around their caring responsibilities. But there’s still more that can be done, in particular in Technology which has a challenge attracting and retaining women. As the world becomes more digitised, we need the other half to actively contribute in this space so we can have solutions that is inclusive, that leaves no one behind. I would encourage more women that are sitting on the fence about careers in Tech to know that their skills are needed and there are lots of female role models who they can look up to as they start out in their career.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

It’s okay not to have everything figured out as you start out in your career, look for work that you find interesting, where you can learn and grow. Have a mind-set of an adventurer and trust that as you do the right thing and build your expertise, that it will all come together.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I think it’s important to set goals and continually challenge oneself to hit those goals. I’m lucky enough to work in a global organisation with a myriad of opportunities to take on more interesting and challenging leadership roles.

I am committed to empowering others to unlock their career and leadership potential. That’s what led me to create The Steer Network, a non-profit career development initiative helping career-oriented individuals to be successful and thrive through personalised mentoring, coaching and leadership development.

We have a number of exciting initiatives in the pipeline.