Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'The Future of Data: Protecting Data in a Global Economy' with Deborah O'Neill, Oliver Wyman

She Talks Tech podcast - Deborah O'Neill, Oliver Wyman 2

Today we hear from Deborah O’Neill, the Head of Digital for UK and Ireland and a partner at Oliver Wyman.

In this episode of She Talks Tech, Deborah explores how countries across the globe are asking crucial questions that will shape our future, including, whether free flow of data will persist, how to trust information we’re presented online and what we can do to protect our privacy rights.

Alongside the latest Oliver Wyman Forum research, Deborah helps make sense of the complex intersection between data, trust and the access to services we increasingly take for granted.

If you want to find out more about Deborah – you can connect with her on LinkedIn or visit www.oliverwyman.com.

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‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2021.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.

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She Talks Tech podcast

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She Talks Tech podcast episode - Data and Trust Beyond COVID-19 - Deborah O'Neill

Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast episode on 'Data and Trust Beyond COVID-19' with Deborah O'Neill

She Talks Tech podcast episode - Data and Trust Beyond COVID-19 - Deborah O'Neill

Today we hear from Deborah O’Neill – the UK head of Digital and a partner at Oliver Wyman, where she leads complex digital transformations at the world’s largest companies. 

As the UK looks to further contain COVID-19 through app-based contact tracing, we look at the public’s attitudes towards sharing personal data and how it is evolving.

Deborah will dissect what drives trust and explore whether it is possible to increase the degree to which people in the UK will engage with data sharing and contact tracing.

You can find out more about and connect with Deborah on Twitter at @DeborahLabsOW

LISTEN HERE


‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2020.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts – and the first three episodes are now live!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.


Deborah O'Neill featured

Inspirational Woman: Deborah O’Neill | Partner and Head of Digital, Europe, Oliver Wyman

 

deborah-oneil-featuredIn her time at global management consultancy Oliver Wyman, Deborah has supported some of the world’s biggest financial institutions and developed a passion around user centricity for business reporting. She is an alumnus of Imperial College, London, and recently co-authored an article for the Harvard Business Review entitled “Using Data to Strengthen Your Connections to Customers.” Deborah is actively engaged in mentoring the next generation of tech experts and is using her role as a senior team member in Oliver Wyman Digital to help support the female talent pipeline. You can follow her on Twitter: @DeborahLabsOW

You’re very open that you specialised in technology relatively recently. What advice do you give to other people and women in particular – considering a career change into digital and technology sectors?

The first thing is to just believe in yourself and that you can do it. Seriously. It’s that simple. It’s a common anecdote that from a list of ten criteria on a job description, men consider meeting five of them as a reason to apply, whereas similarly skilled women view “just” five out of ten as not being enough to support their application.

In my case, I’d found myself working more and more on data, systems, and tech issues, which I really enjoyed. I decided that would be where I would focus my career, incorporating my other strengths of managing projects and clients and being a fast learner and a team player. The business – Oliver Wyman – recognized my potential and supported my move to our technology arm – Oliver Wyman Digital – because of those skills. So, my advice is to go for the jobs you want and, when you get them (which you will), consider moving away from lists of requirements in the job descriptions you write.

My second recommendation is to ask for help and feedback and proactively seek out a mentor. Many people are great at giving constructive advice on how you can develop but wouldn't think to share their experience unless invited to. If your company doesn’t run a mentoring program, you can encourage them to join the 30% Club who provide mentoring for women in business.

Don’t forget that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. They don’t have to be in the same industry as you, or be female, or even be more senior than you. Sometimes the best advice I received was from peers or junior members of my team who have a different perspective on how I could be more effective in my role. Giving colleagues permission to share their constructive feedback and suggestions builds trust within a team and benefits the business overall.

According to Madeleine Albright, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.” What should senior women be doing more of?

Possibly the best advice I was ever given was “lead from the centre, not the top.” Senior women shouldn’t be afraid of acknowledging the gaps in their experience or skill sets and using this insight to surround themselves with people who fill these gaps and elevate the whole team. This approach is far more effective than leading from the top as a means of control. I’ve seen both styles in practice – and I know which one I’m constantly striving for.

Where possible, I think senior women should offer themselves as mentors for other women and advocate for them. It’s also worth remembering that just because they made it to a leadership position, it may not be as easy for others – for a wide range of circumstances – and senior women could be using their privilege of seniority to champion a fairer playing field.

In recruitment situations, I would ask all interviewers to understand the motivations of each candidate. For example, are they looking for a particular development opportunity, and do you believe the role will provide the appropriate challenge? People who are appropriately challenged and motivated will flourish, which is what you need if you want to create a high-performing team.

Where do you see yourself in ten years’ time?

I’m incredibly lucky with the company I work for and the way they supported me moving from financial services consulting into Oliver Wyman Digital. They’ve taken a conscious decision to enable and encourage employees to work in ways that work best for them. Whether this is reducing hours to start a family or a business, they’ve recognized that the best talent may not want to work a five-day week with standard office hours and they’ve adapted accordingly. This has given me a lot of reassurance about my future and that I don’t have to trade off career success against other personal ambitions.

This means that in ten years’ time, I can see myself doing anything I want to do – whatever that may be.

If you had to tweet your top three career tips, what would they be?

In your #career, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback, & for help if needed. It's a strength not a weakness.

Remember: other people DO want you to succeed. #mentoring #career

Go for it! Bring your uniqueness to the challenges you face. #diversity


WeAreTechWomen Conference Speaker Spotlight: Deborah O'Neill, Oliver Wyman

Deborah O'Neill

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Deborah O'Neill, Head of UK Digital, Partner, Oliver Wyman, about her career.

Deborah is also one of our speakers at our upcoming WeAreTechWomen: The Future World of Work conference on 22 November. Deborah will be discussing how to prevent big data anarchy in the UK.

Deborah O’Neill is UK Head of Digital and a partner at Oliver Wyman, where she leads complex digital transformations at the world’s largest companies. She helps her clients build out their engineering and delivery capability, making them self-sufficient and able to make changes more rapidly.

An expert in untethering businesses from technology systems and approaches no longer fit for purpose, Deborah has recently worked on the build and launch of several Greenfield businesses.

She is widely published on issues relating to how financial services companies can free themselves from legacy IT infrastructure, use data to strengthen connections to customers and better use analytics to prepare for AI.

Deborah’s work as a female leader has been recognised with numerous accolades. She is a committed advocate for gender equality who seeks to create mentoring and sponsorship opportunities for future female technologists both within Oliver Wyman and the industries she operates.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity, is hosting its fourth full-day conference in London, aimed at over 400 women who are wanting to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their tech networks.

Our unique conference will include the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a variety of technical topics and get involved in Q&A’s, hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Our aim is to provide an environment where our delegates can upskill and grow their skills/networks for the future.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

At the beginning of 2019 I was appointed the first Head of Digital for the UK and Ireland at Oliver Wyman, a global management consultancy.

I lead complex digital transformations at some of the world’s largest companies. This means designing and assembling future-proof technology capabilities that make their business processes faster, smarter, and more agile at adapting to change.
Being a practical, no-nonsense northerner helps me tremendously in my role. I cut through jargon, translate complex technology processes into plain English, and bring together diverse teams to solve complicated problems.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I think about career progression, mine has been like a level of Chuckie Egg – there are long ladders, but also places to hop off and sidestep onto another route. In my case, this was moving from working exclusively with financial services companies for six years into helping businesses across all industries deliver technology transformations.

What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?

I started late in technology, but this has not hampered my move into such an exciting and growing sector. I’m now keen to show others – women, non-binary, BAME, LGBTQ+, or any combination of minorities - how they can develop into technology leadership positions.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

In 2018 my team helped start a new digital bank from scratch for RBS. During that year I served as interim Chief Technology Officer responsible for overseeing the design and build of the new technology platform, as well as recruiting a new team of experts to run the platform after the Oliver Wyman team finished.

What I really enjoyed about this temporary role was the opportunity to fully immerse myself in a ground-breaking project and lead a large, diverse team towards a single goal.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

My talk will remind people about the positive impact big data has made in both business and society, and I’ll help the audience appreciate why tackling unethical use of personal data is so difficult, both nationally and globally. As a practical take away, attendees will be shown an ethical baseline for how they process personal data, and I’ll discuss with them what else governments and companies could be doing. In addition, I’ll show how actions by governments and companies will not enough to prevent further unethical data use unless each of us takes a greater responsibility for what we share digitally, from credit cards to birthdays to advertising preferences.

What are your top three tips for success?

  1. When you come to manage others, stay focused on leadership and empathy, not developing your individual skills to an expert level in all areas. Think of your team as a car with many moving parts and you are the driver behind the wheel. In this analogy, you don’t have to be a mechanic to set the direction and speed. It’s useful if you can learn how to change a tyre, but you must trust the experts on your team to corner balance the suspension or change the transmission fluid.
  2. Do everything you can to keep talented people on your team. To keep women in our teams, I make it my business to find out if our policies on issues such as parental leave and flexible working meet the industry standards and there is no stigma attached to taking advantage of them.
  3. Set up mentoring relationships for others – and be available as a mentor yourself – and showcase role models who those in minority groups can identify with. Don’t underestimate the power you have as a leader to act as a sponsor. Use your connections to advance the careers of those on your team through their endorsement and guidance.

What has been your biggest challenge during your career?

Balancing the development of my technical and content skills with getting more exposure to experiences such as presentation and client management skills. I was always very fearful of being “found out” for not knowing everything so I would try to learn everything before putting myself out there but I have found over the years that actually the ability to connect dots and structure the problem were almost more important. My tip would be to try and find safe spaces to practice presenting your ideas – either within internal team meetings or even just to take one segment within a larger presentation.

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

I studied physics at university, a field that has many female innovators hidden from mainstream history. While many will know that Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903, fewer can name the other two women who subsequently won it: Maria Goeppert Mayer in 1963 and Donna Strickland in 2018.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Oliver Wyman research shows that while women begin their careers with ambitions equal to those of men, between the ages of 30–50 they become less willing than men to make sacrifices in their personal lives, and between 40 and 50 the proportion of women with ambitions to reach senior management drops below that for men.

To overcome this, businesses need to set an Executive Committee talent pipeline strategy. They need to develop bolder structural solutions by providing more flexible working options at all levels and finding ways to remove the stigma associated with using them. All genders should be encouraged to take parental leave and companies should have robust return-to-work programmes to support them back into the business. Address the promotion and pay gap, understanding that this is likely to be driven by invisible cultural factors.

Cultural change is also required: offices should endeavour to build an inclusive culture that a) recognises and promotes the value of diversity along all dimensions and b) is free from unconscious bias and therefore supports gender balance. This means putting practice ahead of theory, supporting men to support women and seeking enlightened leadership.

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

We’ve all heard about the statistic showing how competent women are getting bypassed by overconfident men. Men apply for a job when they meet only 60 per cent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 per cent of them. Clearly, this means we need to empower women to apply for more roles. Part of this is establishing and communicating a new approach to recruitment. For example, hiring managers should make it clearer that a job specification is more of a ‘wish list’ than a ‘check list’ and that the individual they want to hire can have a mix of these qualifications plus other valued skills and experiences.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

I would remind myself to say ‘no’ more. So much of the work we deliver for clients has a technology component, and I am frequently being asked to join project calls and steering groups. I now empower people to hold these meetings without me and ask for help when they need a fresh perspective or a second opinion on the way forwards.


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Technology Leadership featured

7 tips on being a technology leader: Bridge the skills gap to create diverse, high performing teams

Technology Leadership

Deborah O'Neill: Head of UK Digital and Partner at Oliver Wyman

This month marks my five-year anniversary of joining Oliver Wyman Digital, the business I now head up in the UK and Ireland.

When I think about career progression, mine has been like a level of Chucky Egg – there are long ladders, but also places to hop off and sidestep onto another route. In my case, this was moving from working exclusively with financial services companies for six years into helping businesses across all industries deliver technology transformations.

I started late in technology, but this has not hampered my move into such an exciting and growing sector. I’m now keen to show others – women, non-binary, BAME, LGBTQ+, or any combination of minorities - how they can develop into technology leadership positions.

Click here to read the full blog


Deborah will be speaking at our WeAreTechWomen Conference in London on 22nd November 2019. Our aim is to inspire attendees by delivering bitesize learning sessions for our audience. With the help of our amazing speakers and panellists, we will provide the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a broad range of technology topics as well as interact through panels, hands-on activities and workshops.

You can buy tickets for this event here.