Five minutes with…Jo Drake, CIO at THG

Five minutes with…Jo Drake, CIO at THG
Published: 20 April 2022

In our latest ‘Five minutes with...’ interview, Berwick Partners Fran Grant talks to Jo Drake, CIO at The Hut Group (THG). THG is a British e-commerce retailer company that operates over 100 international websites, including well-known brands such as Look Fantastic, My Protein and Glossybox. Jo is a vastly experienced CIO and technology evangelist with a demonstrable background in shaping, driving and delivering global transformations. Jo is incredibly passionate about supporting and empowering women in the technology space.

What do you think are the most noticeable barriers to females entering the tech industry?

Women in tech is a topic I’m incredibly passionate about, and when I think about women in tech, or anyone in tech, I think about two main things – attraction and retention. When I speak to women in the industry, they generally tell me they ‘fell into it’ or it was an unintentional move. So, for me, it’s all about putting technology back in the spotlight, and this starts at school.

There’s such a wide variety of roles in this space, and it’s such an exciting industry, but we tend to focus only on certain roles, for example software developers. We really need to raise awareness and remind females that there are so many things they are naturally good at, so many skills, that can be applied to technology roles. There’s such a gap that needs plugging with different personalities and skills. Interestingly, the majority of technology professionals are INTJ -Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, and Judging, yet this is the rarest personality type for women. We need more women. We need more storytelling, more personalities, more varied abilities.

Girls at school need to be aware of what opportunities are out there, and need to want a career in tech, and need to plan a career in tech.  We need to make them aware of the wide range of roles in tech that women will naturally excel in, and they’re not all techy, some are incredibly creative. There’s also a breadth of industries you can work in, as all businesses utilise tech now. We don’t celebrate female superheroes as much as we should, and I want to help change that. 

And finally, once we attract females into our industry, we need to retain them.  Many women leave a career in Technology and start one in a different industry.  We need to understand and address the reasons for that.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given that’s shaped you professionally, or as a person?

Interestingly, the best advice I’ve been given has usually been something I don’t agree with. For example, I’ve been advised I should change to ‘fit in’. I’ve also been told I’m too friendly. I don’t agree with the notion of being ‘too friendly’, I want to be approachable. It’s important that people feel comfortable approaching me, talking to me, asking for my help, sharing their views with me - both positive and negative. One of the biggest things for me in my career was when I truly became my own authentic self. We need more people to be their true selves.

What advice would you give to females wanting to enter the tech industry, or progress in this space?

Build your network. Reach out to people who inspire you. Get active in the community. Get a mentor – even if you don’t have an official mentor scheme in your workplace, identify someone who inspires you and reach out! We’re a supportive industry. Don’t underestimate your non-technical skills. Identify those softer skills, whether that’s organisational skills, being process-driven, communication, empathy, your drive, negotiation skills – identify these skills or characteristics and use them. They’re highly lacking in the industry. Think about what organisations you might want to work for. I’ve always been passionate about working for businesses where I am a customer of theirs, as I have to connect with their brand or product. You can have a tech career anywhere, so think about what you like, what brands you like, what you buy or use, what you are passionate about. It could be connected with sport, fashion, beauty, food, travel, literally anything! Actively pursue those businesses! Finally, be authentically you. We need more of that.

What does the future of tech look like?

I think there’s a general thread.... making difficult things easy for people.  It's very difficult to make the hard seem easy. Low code/no code or citizen developer platforms are enabling people with little to no coding skills, to build solutions quickly and easily for a business.  Computing power and faster networks are increasing at such a fast rate. we will be able to do so much more with less compute, but then we need to understand how we power and cool that in a sustainable way.  I also think it's going to be super interesting to see where and how far we go with 3D printing - especially with the global supply issues the world has experienced lately.

Fran Grant is a Consultant in our IT & Digital Leadership Practice specialising in recruiting Senior Technology and Digital professionals in Retail, Retail FS, Leisure and Hospitality, with a UK wide remit.

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