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Over the past week, thousands of organisations have shut their offices and rolled out mandatory work-from-home policies in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thousands of workers already work remotely, but for many of us this will be the first time we’ve experienced working from home. We thought we’d put together a list of our top tips for anyone working from home. • Get ready for the day ahead - don’t stay in your pyjamas! Get dressed and ready for the day as if you were going to work – it makes a big difference psychologically and sets you up for the day ahead. If you’re not self-isolating, get some air and go for a walk before you start your day to wake yourself up and get some exercise in. • Create a dedicated workspace Try to create a space that serves as your ‘office’ – if possible try to avoid working in your bedroom so that you can clearly separate your work area from the space where you relax and sleep. Set up a comfortable workstation with a supportive chair. If you’re working on a laptop, elevating your laptop and using an external keyboard and mouse will prevent neck and arm or shoulder pain. Take a look at this helpful article  and the NHS website for more information. • Look after your mental health and take regular breaks It’s already a stressful time for all us and being at home for long periods can exacerbate this. People who work from home tend to work longer hours and suffer from burnout. Make sure you take regular breaks throughout the day – frequent screen breaks and spending time away from your desk will also make you more refreshed and productive. We all need to stay informed on the latest news updates but it’s important to take a breather from the news and social media. Try to focus on other things when you take a break – pick up a book or do some exercise to take your mind off things. • Establish boundaries It’s very easy to overwork and let your work overlap with your personal life when you’re working from home. Simple measures like making sure you take a proper lunch break away from your desk can make a big difference. It can be challenging to set healthy boundaries but try to keep to your standard working hours and have a clear cut-off point when you ‘unplug’ from work. • Plan your day In an office environment, your day is more structured so keeping a schedule and planning your day ahead is even more important when working from home. Set yourself designated time slots throughout the day for focusing on general admin, projects and answering emails. Unless you have other people around, chances are you’ll have less distractions at home so you could take this opportunity to try ‘batching’ your workload. Blocking time out to solidly focus on one task at a time will enable you to complete your tasks quicker and more efficiently. If you'd like to share your housing sector experience, suggestions or tips please get in touch at  
We interviewed women involved in housing IT from Adra, Civica, Community Housing, Northgate Public Services, PIMSS Data Systems, Prodo Digital and Rochdale Boroughwide Housing about their various roles in IT, any challenges they’ve faced as women in a traditionally male-dominated sector and how more women can be encouraged to consider a career in housing IT. What attracted you to a career in housing IT? PIMSS Data Systems’ head of asset management, Ruth Dent, said, “Like a lot of people, I didn’t set out to have a career in housing IT – it just kind of happened! It’s a fascinating and fast-moving sector and I love the fact that it’s problem-based – what’s your issue, where are your difficulties, and how can we help you to fix them? We do some amazing work and I love being part of a team that works collaboratively to shape the way housing may look in the future.” Civica’s director of social housing, Michelle Tyler, said, “I’ve always worked in IT but in a different field to housing. It was a real opportunity when I moved into housing, allowing me to further my career in a more complex sector, providing digital solutions for our customers and their tenants. It has definitely met my expectations, giving me the knowledge and experience to take my career further in this field while working in a fast-paced environment, both internally and externally.” Adra Housing’s technical lead of its new core business system implementation, Sarah Louise Griffith, said, “My role in IT at Adra is attractive because it’s an opportunity to work in a field that’s continuously developing. There’s a misconception that housing is very traditional but the reality is very different; there are always interesting technologies emerging and new skills to learn.” What gender-specific challenges have you had to overcome? PIMSS’s Dent said, “I’ve gone to some meetings where I have to spend the first 20 minutes just proving that I know what I’m talking about before we even get onto the purpose of the meeting itself. I often conduct meetings alongside a business development manager (who is male) and on numerous occasions, despite me answering the client’s questions, the next question will still be directed to my colleague.  “Being younger also means that I’ve had to deal with questions over how I’ve ended up in my role and whether I got here through my skills, knowledge or even sexual favours! These comments have been made ‘off the cuff’ but nevertheless, they were still said. “For less experienced women, there is a strong need to ‘fit in’ – when I was younger, I would even look up the football results on a Sunday night so I could join in conversations at the office the next morning. I was grateful of the praise of my colleagues for ‘making the best tea’ – I now realise how stupid I was and, though those experiences have made me stronger, it wasn’t a path I should have gone down. “The challenges go beyond the workplace. I have a three-year old daughter and I’m the main breadwinner in the family – I was recently asked by a neighbour when trying to arrange a play date if “I worked full time as well?” As well as what, please?” Community Housing’s transformation team comprises a group of women from across the business brought together to implement new housing and asset management systems for the group and to drive business-wide transformation. Community Housing’s transformation team said, “Things have moved on from the male-dominated world of IT. The previous experience of the more technical members of our team has been that due to other people’s perceptions, they’ve felt that they’ve had to prove their abilities more than their male counterparts in order to progress. However, there has been a behavioural shift over the past few years as more women progress in IT, bringing with them broader perspectives to the roles.” Northgate Public Services’ housing software development manager, Karen Scott, said, “From the very start of my career, I’ve been surrounded by strong female managers and directors – this has really helped me to see that I can move up the ladder. Women are represented at top levels within Northgate and their visibility in key positions engenders a real ‘I believe I can do it’ attitude. “While IT does tend to be male dominated, within my own team we are all very much equals. Northgate’s philosophy is, whoever is right for the job gets the job regardless of gender and I haven’t experienced any barriers to moving on and upwards. Flexible, part-time and home working options are available to everyone which has meant that I’ve retained the skills and expertise of two of my female developers who needed that flexibility.” Prodo Digital’s CEO, Pippa Adams, said, “When it comes to gender-specific challenges, one of the best things I’ve found about housing is that it is incredibly inclusive. In particular, IT departments in housing tend to be very diverse, inclusive and positive environments. “Through working with hundreds of housing organisations of all shapes and sizes over the years, we’ve seen at first-hand how many women are in pivotal roles. I’ve watched the sector evolve to the point where I don’t believe gender is an issue to female success and that by talking about gender, we’re actually creating a barrier that doesn’t exist.” Rochdale Boroughwide Housing’s head of transformation, Jan Heath, said, “In terms of gender-specific challenges, I have only ever found the sector to be supportive and empowering for women and I’ve never seen gender as an issue. There are more women than men in our IT department and I’m surrounded by a strong female-led team, with plenty of opportunities to learn and develop. Our gender pay gap figures show that women at Rochdale Housing are paid on average five per cent more than men across the society.” Which aspects of your role are more suited to women? Civica’s Tyler said, “As a senior leader, I don’t believe there are aspects of the role that are better suited to women, although the way in which I approach an issue might be different. Encouraging conversation allows me to make the most of my team’s combined knowledge and skills. The ability to multi-task, empathise, value relationships and, vitally, listen and make your team feel they are valued and making a contribution are all crucial.” Community Housing’s transformation team said, “To successfully deliver a project of this size and complexity, there are some key skills the team demonstrate every day, such as patience, sensitivity, innovation and communication. Because our project is as much about transformation as it is about IT implementation, the team needs to constantly challenge the status quo – this requires excellent listening skills, tact, diplomacy and a huge amount of emotional intelligence to reassure colleagues about the changes and giving them the confidence to be accountable for the design and testing of the new systems.” Northgate’s Scott said, “I don’t know if you can necessarily attribute this as a ‘female skill’, but I love to draw out who people are and match them to the best project for them. I’m a big believer in looking at personality types – are they are talker or not, do they think outside the box or take a literal view? I must be doing something right because we have a very strong development team here at Northgate that has worked together for a number of years, so we all know our individual strengths and weaknesses.”  Are there enough opportunities for women in housing IT? Adra’s Griffith said, “I think the term ‘IT’ puts people off, particularly women. It’s not about the techy nuts and bolts, it’s about understanding the business, being analytical, approachable and developing solutions to the problems. We need a huge variety of skills, such as data analysis, and there are opportunities for a much wider skillset than women realise. “From a wider perspective, we’re very lucky in Wales because there are a number of women in prominent IT roles and this can only be good to encourage more women to become involved.” Community Housing’s transformation team said, “At a practical level, the housing sector is moving to a much more flexible and agile approach to service delivery which enables both men and women to achieve a positive work-life balance. “In addition, the generational change to non-gender specific education and the growing use of technology in our daily lives means that the mysteries and technicalities surrounding IT are less of a challenge and women have more confidence to contribute and make an impact.” Northgate’s Scott said, “Flexible working has been a game changer for women, who in my experience, tend to be the ones juggling home and work responsibilities. The key is to find a company that recognises the need to invest in and retain their staff. “A member of my team recently considered leaving because she was finding it hard to combine full-time work with caring for a young family and an elderly relative. I was able to offer her part-time working, which meant she could continue to work and we didn’t lose her skills and experience. “For women to pursue opportunities in IT, it’s crucial for them to see other women in senior leadership roles that they can aspire to and which show a clear career path. At Northgate, we’ve women represented at every level, which is hugely encouraging to other women. Across housing IT as a whole, I think the opportunities are there but visibility is a key issue.” Rochdale Housing’s Heath said, “Gender diversity is essential in any organisation, and an inclusive workplace helps us to make sure that we recruit the right people with the right values. If you have the technical knowledge and skills combined with empathy and insight, there are plenty of opportunities within housing IT and you can make a real difference. At Rochdale Housing, we make sure that we put our values around equality, diversity and inclusion into practice, from internal workshops on dealing with the menopause to supporting ‘Rochdale in Rainbows’. What are the most important factors in recruiting more women into housing IT? Community Housing’s transformation team said, “Make it pink? Clichés aside, as with any role in housing, to encourage more female employees there are some basics that an employer should offer – flexible working, equal pay, assurance of equalities and offering ‘learn as you earn’ opportunities. “We do a lot to encourage women to take up roles in areas of the business that are historically male-dominated, offering apprentice opportunities, working closely with the local schools and an increase in female role models in senior positions. Over the past two years, we have recruited our first two female IT specialists, created the transformation team to design and build our new business systems and recently become members of ‘Women into Construction’ to reduce the skills gap and create a more gender-equal work force.” Adra’s Griffith said, “I strongly believe that flexible working is the way forward! Companies should offer flexible working where you can choose when and where to work. I’m lucky that Adra offers exactly that – working hours that suit my family life, helping me to find the right work-life balance. Flexible working results in happier staff and greater productivity, and it would help to attract more women into housing IT and, equally importantly, retain them.” Civica’s Tyler said, “Employers now realise that mixed gender teams improve communication, collaboration and innovation so it’s important to attract the best talent. Any woman pursuing a job in IT should actively seek out employers who encourage and promote diversity such as Civica (a Financial Times Diversity Leader). Additionally, customers appreciate partnering with organisations whose employees represent a workforce as diverse and inclusive as their own.” PIMSS’s Dent said, “Awareness of the size and scope of IT in the housing sector and making opportunities accessible are both vital. If more women were aware of the possibility of roles, then more would do the necessary training to get the right skills. I have been lucky, but the sector is almost hidden and still seen as a male career.” What are the benefits of gender diversity in housing IT? Northgate’s Scott said, “Gender diversity in technology is a hot topic right now, and rightly so. For me, the difference between a good product development team and an excellent one is how closely it reflects its varied customer base. It’s important for the team to be able to represent a range of viewpoints and perspectives. “I lead a team of seven men and five women and for me, it’s the mix of personality types which fosters the creativity we need to make successful products. We have strong female product leads who work very closely with the customers to understand and translate their needs and then input them into the development of the design. Working as a team, we balance out each other’s views to create products that are both functionally strong and pleasing to the eye.” PIMSS’s Dent said, “All diversity brings about new ideas. A group of white ‘gen-X’ men are likely to have the same ideals, training and backgrounds, so bring in people from a different path and new ideas can spark. It prevents organisations getting stuck in a rut and creates innovation in a way that might not be possible otherwise.” Should more to be done to encourage girls to study STEM subjects? Civica’s Tyler said, “Absolutely – more women in STEM would provide a larger pool of resources. With the resulting different views and wider perspectives, we would see increased creativity, innovation and a positive impact on all organisations. For example, that’s why Civica partners with schools via our Coding for Schools programme, runs hackathons and supports Young Enterprise and the Tech Talent Charter.” Northgate’s Scott said, “I would love more girls to study STEM subjects and to consider jobs in technology and engineering. I see some of my friends’ children in primary school writing computer programmes and I am blown away – it’s really encouraging to see this starting from an early age. In my day, the emphasis was on home economics and childcare!” Adra’s Griffith said, “Introducing more STEM subjects through workshops and practical learning in primary education would ignite a spark in more young girls and show them that STEM subjects aren’t boring! STEM learning such as coding workshops will help to nurture talent at a young age and set them on a STEM-related career path.” PIMSS’s Dent said, “For me, this is all about understanding where STEM subjects can lead you. If girls don’t know about the careers available, they probably won’t understand why they could study those subjects in the first place. I went back to university at 30 to do a degree in a subject related to what I then knew I wanted my career to be. I’d also like to see more apprenticeships and hands-on learning opportunities in STEM subject areas.” How can women mentor and support other women to encourage them to pursue housing IT careers? Civica’s Tyler said, “As a woman in technology, I’ve enjoyed many different experiences and opportunities. It’s really important for me to share those experiences to allow other women to grow and further their careers as I have. I always aim to lead by example and mentor those through real-life examples and providing opportunities to grow in a role.” Community Housing’s transformation team said, “As a business, we encourage positive female role models, both young and old, with women who can dispel any myths of working in a particular area or at a particular level through sharing their experiences, such as progressing with their career after having children or taking on caring responsibilities, and providing buddying opportunities and raising awareness of some of the issues women experience. “For example, Community Housing has just had a menopause awareness campaign, not only offering direct support for women but also raising awareness for managers and our male colleagues on how they can support female co-workers – the campaign was a really positive step in encouraging an equal and diverse workforce.” Prodo’s Adams said, “To promote and encourage new female talent to join the sector, I think it’s all about actively showcasing just how many women are in great roles across IT already. I’m a firm believer in role models and the phrase ‘if you can see it, then you can be it’ – there are plenty of opportunities out there and raising the profile of those in IT is a great way to encourage others. “Here at Prodo, we have plenty of women applying for roles across the business, from software engineers to web developers and digital consultants, and women comprise most of our leadership team. This visible presence of women just reinforces the fact that gender isn’t holding anyone back.” Housing Technology would like to thank Sarah Louise Griffith (Adra Housing), Michelle Tyler (Civica), The Transformation Team (Community Housing Group), Karen Scott (Northgate Public Services), Ruth Dent (PIMSS Data Systems), Pippa Adams (Prodo Digital) and Jan Heath (Rochdale Boroughwide Housing) for their editorial contributions to this article. If you'd like to share your housing sector experience, all you need to do is get in touch at
Rhian Waygood, IT Business Partner Team Leader, takes us through a typical day at Coastal Housing. I’ve worked at Coastal Housing for over seven years and over six of them I’ve spent in the IT department. Back in July this year, I was promoted to be team leader of our business partner team which had just been expanded to include two others – the ‘team’ had been just me for a while. I contacted Housing Technology to see if they’d be interested in an article about a newly-appointed female manager in IT and I’ll also be doing a talk at the Housing Technology 2020 conference with my colleague Amy Kelly, our lead IT support analyst so if you enjoy this article, please come and have a listen, although our presentation will be slightly different to this as I’ll explain later.  The idea for this article arose after I read an article on about how only 16 per cent of IT professionals are female and how the number of female IT technicians has decreased from 19 per cent in 2017 to 17 per cent in 2018. I’m happy to say that I love my job, the work I do really excites me and the team I work with is brilliant. I know that I’m lucky to work in a team which has a 50/50 gender split and we have a female director, but I just don’t like that I have to feel I’m lucky. I’m hoping from this article that my passion for this role will shine through and it’ll encourage the few females within the IT part of the housing sector to stay to further their careers and encourage others to join. So, what do I actually do each day as a newly-appointed IT business partner team leader? When I arrive in the office each morning, the first thing I do is make a cup of tea, search for a space to sit and retrieve my laptop from my locker. Last year we had an office refurbishment so instead of each having our own desk in our own department, we now work in the area most suited to our needs at that time – project, team, quiet or drop-in. I tend to start my day in the project area because we have stand-up desks there which I love, and it also allows my team and the rest of the organisation know that they can approach me – which they all do rather often. I have three meetings arranged today, one is a phone call with a consultant checking in on a project they are developing, the second is with our maintenance team about a new piece of software they’ve seen and the third is with Amy to finalise what we need to do for the Housing Technology 2020 conference and its looming presentation deadline. After finishing my tea, I take a wander to find my team and check if they need anything from me and to discuss what their plans for the day are, normally answering questions from other staff as I make my way over to them. It’s also usually around this time of day that I start to get hungry and consider eating my lunch even though I know I’ll regret it later in the day. As an IT team, we use the Asana project management tool to keep track of where we are with everything; it’s great for a quick overview of what’s happening in the other areas of IT and significantly cuts down on emails which can only be a good thing. It also frees up our team meetings from too many work updates and more about discussions around new ideas or problems that we need to sort out. So after a quick look through Asana and answering a few questions, it’s time for a phone call with a consultant. Happily everything is going to plan on this latest exciting development and it’s on course to be finished by the deadline. I’m keeping it under wraps at the moment because I don’t want to jinx it but I’ll definitely talk about it in a future Housing Technology article. I update Asana with the latest conversations and inform the relevant people who need to know. Amy and I get together to take a look at our talk for Housing Technology 2020 which will be about how the technology sector is starting to change with the increase of females taking up roles and how a stronger workplace can be gained from this. Before we can agree on a title, we come up with three questions: What do we want the audience to learn from our presentation? What do we want to make sure we say? What do we want to make sure we don’t say? From these three questions, we come up with our title – “Can I speak to someone in IT please?” We’re hoping we’ll be able to entice as many of you as possible along to see us – we promise to keep our talk as entertaining and witty as we can! The last item on my list is to have a chat with our maintenance team about a new piece of software that they’ve come across which checks and stores CP12s and electrical certificates. We use PanConnect to do our CP12s and are currently developing an electrical certificate task with them. This new piece of software would enhance what we already do and allow the gas and electrical team leaders more time to concentrate on the great work that they do. It’s agreed that we’ll write a business case and make a few enquires. So that’s it, I’ve had some lunch and a few more cups of tea in the middle of it all. A chat about holidays because it’s my favourite topic to talk about and answered many questions in between what I’ve talked about here, from the simple, “Can Wrapp [our HMS] do this?” (most probably, yes), to the more complicated, “Can you tell me how many of my UC claimants have co-habitants under the age of 16? Rhian Waygood is the IT Business Partner Team Leader at Coastal Housing. If you'd like to share your housing sector experience, all you need to do is get in touch at
Holly Rafique, Head of Digital at #techmums, discusses the importance of encouraging mums to embrace digital skills and get involved in digital inclusion programmes. There are countless organisations and initiatives aimed at achieving this, ranging from addressing the gender imbalance when selecting further education, through to making it easier for women to return to work after a career break. These are all commendable activities, and yet the figures don’t seem to be changing. In a recent report by PwC, only 27 per cent of young women said that they would consider a career in technology and only three per cent said that technology was their first choice of career. The reality is that women fill only 17 per cent of all the jobs in technology. Some of that is just a matter of time, so we should have patience to see the results of better inclusivity and awareness in school children, but in part it seems that society is treating the symptoms rather than addressing the underlying problem; women and girls do not see where they fit into the technology sector. There remains the perception of a white male playing computer games; even when we know the stereotype isn’t the truth, it is still hard to dispel it. At #techmums, we want to change this; we want to rewrite the narrative to ask “how can we bring technology into more women’s lives?” By reframing the problem this way, we can immediately widen our audience to include all women and all households. We are not insisting that women abandon other industries and passions but, instead, we are encouraging them to think about how they can use new technologies creatively to enhance what they are already passionate about. Embracing digital literacy For many of us, the internet is an integral and pervasive part of our lives in modern society. We rely on it to support and enhance our lives in an increasing number of subtle ways. It allows us to work remotely and flexibly, promoting a better work-life balance and making a career a more feasible possibility. We stay in touch with family, friends and colleagues who might be abroad or outside our immediate locale. For those of us with communication difficulties, it gives us an alternative to the dreaded phone call. We can monitor our expenditure and are not restricted to the products and prices in our local neighbourhoods. Digital literacy is now as important a skill for this generation of children as the ability to read and write. They don’t even recognise these devices as computers any more; internet connectivity is as natural to their generation as free-flowing water and electricity is to ours. When we turn on the tap, we expect there to be water, when we turn on a light switch we expect there to be light, when our children turn on a device they expect it to connect to the internet. The internet has opened up our worlds and, with the amount of time we spend using technology, you would expect everyone’s trust and confidence in it to be pretty high, not to mention it leading to equal opportunities for everyone. Except it’s not. It is a sad truth that far too many households are still struggling to engage with technology. Recent data privacy scandals, hoaxes and media hype have lead to fear rather than enthusiasm. Furthermore, most people see their role in technology as being consumers, not creators, subsequently feeling at the mercy of technology. At #techmums, we believe there is one person in the household who can change all this but who is too-often overlooked: mum. Our mission at #techmums is to empower women, their families and communities through technology. The average mum usually puts her children first and is only engaged by technology initiatives in terms of getting her children engaged. We work to change that and show every mum that technology is also for her and that she can benefit so much from having an understanding of technology. The confidence conundrum Many mums suffer from a loss of confidence after having children; no matter how many books you have read or classes you have attended, there is nothing that can quite destroy your confidence like your own tiny little baby who will not stop crying no matter what you do. Then as they grow and you hit new parental challenges, you increasingly feel that you have no idea what you’re doing; you are constantly bombarded with conflicting advice on the ‘right’ parenting approach so it’s not surprising that a large proportion of mums feel powerless. For those mums who were working before having children, they are likely to have missed the introduction of all-pervasive technology in the workplace and now feel that they can’t catch up. These days children pick up digital skills very quickly, with a large number of mums already feeling that their children know far more about technology than they do. Parents want to protect their family from online dangers but they lack the skills to do so and they know it; they become so terrified that a knee-jerk reaction of restricting access to technology seems to be the only option. Challenging the patronising rhetoric Patronised by a world that uses phrases such as ‘mumpreneur’, ‘mom jeans’ and “it’s so easy even your mum could do it”, the whole image of a mum is not dynamic, exciting or intelligent. Hard-working and frazzled certainly, but mums are rarely portrayed as capable and connected. We’ve seen at first hand how a woman’s whole attitude and posture changes when she discovers that she is far more knowledgeable and capable than she originally thought. When you take all these issues together, it’s easy to see why many women have a negative attitude to technology and don’t embrace digital solutions in their home. Digital parenting The beauty of upskilling mothers is that you touch at least two people’s lives – the mum and the child. Children increasingly need access to technology for their homework; they can quickly be left behind if their home is negative towards the use of technology. In addition, parents hold a lot of weight around children’s aspirations and attitudes. Children need their parents to act as their digital guides; someone whom they can trust to teach them to navigate the online world. A child needs to know that their concerns will be met with an understanding attitude and an informed response. Despite family dynamics moving towards a better balance, in many families the mother is still the parent that children interact with the most. Mums tend to organise extra-curricular activities, playdates and camps, and if they don’t understand the benefits of technology then it’s far less likely that they will arrange technology-based activities for their children. Future jobs will almost all require an element of digital awareness, so when parents engage with technology they are furthering their children’s social mobility and career aspirations. Spreading the knowledge Empowering women in technology clearly has a positive impact on the community through increased diversity in the workforce. Not only are diverse teams generally more successful but they are necessary to tackle any unconscious bias in solutions (particularly in artificial intelligence) and to ensure products meet the needs of all members of society. Many products are designed by all-male teams so that the different needs of women are unconsciously missed. Beyond the obvious benefits to communities, educating mothers will also lead to a more sensible community response to potential threats. A lack of understanding leads to fear and hysteria, particularly when the sensationalised news headlines are the main source of information. Incidents such as the recent ‘Momo hoax’, supposedly challenging children to self-harm, and fears over computer game addiction can be far better handled when the women in the community have confidence in their own understanding of technology and its associated risks. #techmums are connecting with mums through a number of digital outreach programmes. In 2018 we launched #techmumsTV in partnership with Home-Start UK and Facebook as a live-streamed chat show to demystify and normalise discussion of technology. The key concept of #techmumsTV was to celebrate young mothers, how they are using technology in their everyday lives, how they are running businesses from their phones and to positively tell their stories, with the other aspect of #techmumsTV being to upskill viewers about online safety, financial technology and increasing knowledge around the technology sector. By using social media and Home-Start centres, we were able to reach demographics of mums who are particularly hard to engage with through other methods. Our new initiative for 2019 is the #techmumsclub, an informal gathering of 20 mums where they are introduced to a wide range of topics from blogging and web design to app design and coding. We currently have five clubs running at various host partner’s across the country and have two more launching after Easter. We work with the 20 mums across a 10-week period, with sessions lasting two hours, usually within the school day. We support partners with facilitator training and provide all course materials and online support throughout the programme. #techmums is also working with the University of Leeds, FutureLearn and Black Tech UK to produce a series of online courses to bring 21st-century workplace digital skills to those who don’t usually engage in online working. By giving mums the foundation digital skills that they are missing, we can help them to pursue their passions and become the positive role models that their children will need as they venture into their digital future. We are confident that these three programmes will bring technology to more women and in turn get more women into technology. Holly Rafique is Head of Digital at #techmums. If you'd like to share your housing sector experience, all you need to do is get in touch at
Sarah Johnstone has been a neighbourhood coordinator at Thirteen Group for over eight years. Here she gives a snapshot of her day and describes how the lone working device she uses helps her to feel safe when working on her own in Middlesbrough. To try and describe a typical day is difficult because one of the things I like about my job is that no two days are the same. One day I’ll be out inspecting properties, another I’ll be interviewing families who’ve applied for a new home and another day I could be responding to ASB complaints. Although my job is very rewarding, there’s no denying that it can sometimes be tough, and on occasions I find myself faced with challenging behaviour where I need to be reactive and think quickly on my feet. Thankfully, these instances are rare, but it’s on days like those I’m reassured that I go out on every visit with a range of specialised security products. We use a key fob-style device with built-in GPS from Orbis Protect. This is attached to our staff lanyards and slots into a moulded ID badge. We activate the ‘amber’ function on this device every time we visit a customer and this information can be used to identify our location. In the rare event we need to activate the SOS function, the call is monitored and recorded, and this information will be passed to the emergency services if necessary. Thankfully, I don’t need to use it often, but it does give me peace of mind. Early morning A typical day will start at 8am. I arrive in the office, grab a coffee and catch up on emails and paperwork. I’ll then head out to visit customers in some of the 350 properties I look after in Middlesbrough. Before I leave, I’ll familiarise myself with whom I’m visiting, check their details on the system and see if there are any reasons why they shouldn’t be visited alone, in which case I’ll ask a colleague to come along with me. Even if we go out in pairs, we both make sure we use our devices. While I’m visiting customers it’s also a good opportunity for me keep an eye open for any neighbourhood issues such as fly-tipping, minor damage to properties and graffiti. Mid-morning We get 100s of applications for our properties. I get so much satisfaction from helping people who really need a home, find one. I enjoy showing prospective customers around our properties, but for my own safety I always have my device with me and switched on. I’ll normally go back to the office at noon for a spot of lunch which also gives me the chance to catch up with some of my colleagues. Early afternoon One part of the job we thankfully don’t have to do often is carry out evictions; we will only seek legal action as a last resort. We provide a wide range of tailored tenancy support services for customers and only if all attempts to help have been exhausted will we take this action. If it is necessary, I work alongside a fantastic team of professionals including the local police, partners and other colleagues to help make sure this goes as smoothly as possible. Once again, my device is essential, and I will have already alerted Orbis before I arrive, activating the SOS function so I can speak to the call handler and inform them of what I am doing and ask them to keep the line open. They will monitor the call, and if anything escalates where my safety is compromised, they are ready to help and, again, will contact the emergency services and provide them with all the required information. Late afternoon and the end of the day Towards the end of the day, I might have an interview with a customer to discuss a tenancy issue, in one of our office meeting rooms. Where I am, all our rooms have CCTV and panic alarms, plus I can use my device during interviews too. It’s also useful for walking to and from my car and I like the fact I can activate it if I feel vulnerable, speak to someone and tell them when I am safely inside my vehicle. Peace of mind Over my eight-year career as a neighbourhood co-ordinator, I do think that being a lone worker has become safer than ever. Orbis’s discrete alarms really offer peace of mind and the alarm-receiving centre is so valuable. Knowing there’s someone at the end of the device to listen, able to locate me using GPS and can get the emergency services to me if needed, feels very comforting as a lone worker. I’m passionate about safety, and I regularly attend training sessions for colleagues, sharing my experience and showing them how to use these safety products.  Being a lone worker has the potential to be challenging, but it’s encouraging to know that Thirteen ensures there are support systems in place for my safety and wellbeing. Sarah Johnstone is a neighbourhood coordinator at Thirteen Group. If you'd like to share your housing sector experience, all you need to do is get in touch at
Welcome to the Insights blog from Housing Technology Recruitment. From time to time we will be sharing our insights into the latest job trends and skills based on our experience in the recruiting process. To kick things off we’ve listed the top five increasingly popular job roles in technology. The tech industry is one of the fastest moving and most dynamic sectors in the UK. The emergence of newer technologies including artificial intelligence (AI) and self-service business intelligence (BI) means that tech specialists are in high demand and this is especially true in the housing sector. It's safe to say that there has never been a better time to get a job in tech but what are the most sought-after specialisms in the tech sector? At Housing Technology Recruitment we see first-hand what tech experience recruiters are increasingly looking for and we have narrowed them down to these five: 1. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning Housing providers are increasingly looking at artificial intelligence to streamline processes and reduce costs, a prime example being chat-bots. The need for professionals to design and develop these applications is growing as housing providers are already transforming their systems to meet the demands of the digital future. 2. Cyber security Almost all organisations have a presence on the internet, including housing providers, which means they are all at constant risk of cyber attacks and data breaches. Ransomware has rapidly emerged as one of the most serious threats facing housing providers making cyber security specialists a top priority when recruiting. 3. Project management Housing providers are increasingly embracing digital transformation which is increasing the number of projects being worked on in IT departments and therefore project managers are crucial to manage these rapid changes. 4. Business intelligence (BI) and data management Technology departments are also in need of business intelligence teams which are key for analysing data and using the results to improve services. Again, this is vital when an organisation is delivering a digital transformation programme. 5. Cloud computing Cloud-computing adoption has been increasing rapidly with many industries opting for cloud migration in order to reduce any issues with their technology platforms. A huge number of housing providers are adopting cloud-based systems and cloud skills are currently in high demand. What other job specialisms do you think are in high demand? Feel free to share this post and let us know @housingtechjobs .
It may come as no surprise that women are still significantly underrepresented in the technology workforce. According to a recent study by PwC, only 15% of people working in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) roles in the UK are female and only 5% of leadership positions in the technology industry are held by women. Why is there still such a gender imbalance and what can we do to address it? During last month’s Housing Technology 2019 conference, we sat down for a discussion about women in tech chaired by Holly Rafique (Head of Digital at #techmums) with Kathryn Downs (Director of Technology & Transformation at Midland Heart) and Joanna Sedley-Burke (Managing Director at Sovereign Business Integration Group) in the first in our new series of Housing Technology in Focus videos. We posed important questions including: How is the sector is doing in terms of numbers of women within IT teams? What initiatives do you think employers could implement to get more women into tech teams? Encouragement is really important for women to get into technology, but is there a right and a wrong way to encourage more women? Do you have any tips or advice for women who want to get into tech? You can watch the full video below. Please like, share and subscribe for more videos in the Housing Technology in Focus series.
David Walker, Head of Property at Hyperoptic, takes us through a typical day at work. I wake up in ‘the project,’ which is the pet name for my flat in Notting Hill, currently being subjected to extension and refurbishment. The first priority is a strong black coffee and I am quickly on my regular walking commute to my company headquarters, which are close to Hammersmith station. Hyperoptic is the UK’s largest gigabit broadband provider and delivers the country’s fastest broadband speeds, of up to 1Gbps (1,000 megabits per second), which is at least 20 times faster than the UK average. We work with property owners, developers and professionals, designing and installing our dedicated fibre infrastructure to new buildings and existing developments. We work with 150+ developers and are a trusted partner of many housing providers, including A2Dominion, Hyde Group, Catalyst, Genesis Housing and Notting Hill Housing Trust. We’re also working with 50 councils across the UK to supply connectivity to their social housing stock. During my 25-minute walk, I always keep an eye out for new hoardings and cranes along the way. It’s always good to get in early so spotting a new development can become a good opportunity for my sales colleagues. I am in the office by 9am and I head straight to the coffee counter at the local WeWork office, which is next to my company headquarters. The sales and marketing team have recently relocated here as we’ve outgrown the office space next door. Once I have had my second caffeine fix, I plug in my laptop at one of the hot-desks and quickly scan my emails, being sure to highlight any urgent enquiries or client/team support that needs addressing. My first meeting is with our new chief technology and information officer, Pascal Koster. He is part of a new executive team, which our CEO appointed to ensure that we are all well supported as the company grows. The meeting went well – Pascal was particularly impressed with the smart home projects we’re working on and the future-proofing that we can enable for clients in the 5G arena for new builds and regeneration areas. I then head out for a light lunch with a key developer client of mine. We’ve been working together for over three years and have built an excellent relationship. He offers some insights into both the UK and Spanish markets where he is active. The conversation is on a wide range of topics from Led Zeppelin and schooling through to an Openreach deployment of new ducting infrastructure and the opportunities arising from Brexit. He is genuinely excited by the dampening of market sentiment and the prospect of securing more sites to feed his business. The penny has finally dropped for developers; they simply can’t build units without day-one connectivity and still maintain customer satisfaction. Developers want to protect their five-star ratings for customer satisfaction, and if a customer has broadband straight away they’re less likely to go around looking at any scuff marks on ceilings or squeaky hinges. We’re the only broadband provider in the country that measures itself on day-one connectivity; we have achieved over 96 per cent success over the last three years. After my meeting with Pascal, I head to a new client meeting in the City. It looks good – there are three new projects which, although relatively small, can offer Hyperoptic an opportunity to work with a new AV consultant and a world-class architect, in particular because we thrive on expanding our knowledge of the day-two systems (i.e. what gets connected onto our infrastructure). The ‘proptech’ market has changed hugely since we started in 2011 – most people now understand the language of ‘smart buildings’ and ‘smart homes’. The pace of technology continues unabated and at the heart is our new infrastructure, which will serve it in its many future guises. I am seeing developers, owners and managers to find some new and cutting-edge integrated systems and apps that have the power to revolutionise lives, such as remote monitoring for dementia patients. I head back to the office for the regular weekly sales and marketing meeting. There is exciting news for the planning of the next financial year with more team members, more marketing and the hybrid vigour that three new board members are already bringing to the Hyperoptic brand. 2018 was a very busy year and we grew massively. We now power over half a million homes and businesses across the UK with our full-fibre service, and we are on track to pass two million homes by 2021. Over 160,000 social housing properties have access, or are about to be connected, to our full-fibre network. David Walker is Head of Property at Hyperoptic. If you'd like to share your housing sector experience, all you need to do is get in touch at 
Phil Moss, Chief Technology Officer, takes us through a typical day at Procurement for Housing. I’m more of an early morning person, so my day starts around 6am when I make a quick coffee and leave my home in Lancashire. Depending on my schedule, I’ll either turn left and drive to our office in Manchester where our software development team is based – they are the ‘techies’ working on the software behind our procurement frameworks. But if I’m meeting the people who use our technology – PfH’s sales team and account managers – then I turn right and head to our main office in Warrington. Where ever I am, everything stops at 10.30am. The technology team (that’s six of us) takes part in a daily ‘scrum’ call where everyone across all of our sites answers three questions: we want to know what they did yesterday; what their plans are for today; and what blockers they’re facing. Today’s scrum focused on automating categorisation and how we can ensure that lowest-level transactional data is routinely classified to detect if a member is spending too much on a certain product. As the largest spend aggregator in the UK social housing sector, PfH collects a lot of this transactional data. We manage over a million invoices a year – that’s £250 million of spending. Our aim is to use this unique position to provide housing-specific insights to landlords. Technology, in particular machine learning, is a key part of achieving this. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence. AI uses computer programmes to think and learn like humans and machine learning is one of those programmes. It’s all about identifying patterns in historical data – algorithms learn those patterns and then forecast future trends. Historically, the housing sector hasn’t been great at managing data or categorising products – and this has led to a delay in the adoption of AI and smart analytics. There is very little granular detail in the sector, so it’s been hard to introduce machine learning for predictive analysis, or to compare spending data with public data sets to see if a housing provider is paying too much for, for example, kitchen refurbishments. The scrum meeting today focused on tackling this problem. Since I began at PfH around a year ago, I’ve used technology to put data at the heart of everything we do. Every single line of pricing, transactional and CRM information goes into our data warehouse where it is used for analysis and reporting. On a monthly basis, this data warehouse examines 300,000 lines of spending data from more than 900 housing providers. For the last six months, our team has been refining the quality of this data and developing technologies, bespoke to the social housing sector, which we can use to categorise information and provide members with intuition around their procurement spending. This data analysis was taken to a new level when PfH bought Valueworks. The system was specially designed for the social housing sector and it provides a collaborative, real-time view across all spending data so that housing providers can more effectively track prices, control costs and improve quality. The software enables us to group our members’ transactional data into specific programmes of work and then identify whether they are spending too much on certain products compared with their peers, whether they are purchasing several types of one product unnecessarily or whether there are better value alternatives available. After today’s scrum meeting, I meet with PfH’s six-strong account management team who liaise directly with our members on a day-to-day basis. One of the digital initiatives we’ve introduced recently is VFM reporting. This analytics service gives members insight into their spending over a particular period, highlighting saving opportunities. Reports are created using data dissected by our Microsoft PowerBI software and account managers present the reports to members. I’m meeting the team to take them through the latest capabilities of the system. Today, we talk about how the reports can tackle ‘product drift’, when an organisation spends less on the core products that PfH has negotiated reduced rates for, leading to larger bills. I also explained that VfM reports can pinpoint patterns such as a member that is spending more on a particular product compared with its expenditure last year. After lunch at my desk, I rush across the M62 to a meeting at Liverpool University’s School of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Computer Science. PfH runs a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) with the university to explore how machine learning can help housing providers’ procurement activities and I’m meeting our KTP associate, Dr David Hamilton. KTPs help businesses like PfH to innovate by linking them with research organisations like Liverpool University. They enable companies to bring in the latest skills (David has a PhD in distributed algorithms and machine learning is his specialist area) to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project. For us, that innovation project is showing housing providers the potential of their data and helping them to manage and use it in the right way. Our KTP is coming to an end and today I’m speaking to David about the next steps, particularly around using predictive analysis to learn from asset management invoice data and how we can link this data to price indices to show housing providers the best time to buy certain products. Back in Warrington, I meet Steve Malone, PfH’s managing director. We are discussing the latest smart procurement technologies to use with our members. Data from technologies such as IoT thermostats, window sensors or smart boiler parts is already recognising ‘failure in advance’ and this could help housing providers switch from reactive repairs to planned maintenance. Machine learning could be used to recommend comparison products, such as a boiler that is cheaper, has a longer warranty and a smaller carbon footprint. Housing providers could also use ‘emotional AI’ to analyse social media mentions about suppliers and combine this with data on contract performance, legal disputes or redundancies to build risk profiles. My day finishes around 5.30pm when I head home. If there is enough daylight remaining, I might jump on the bike and enjoy the Lancashire countryside before an early night. In reality, I probably spend much of the evening negotiating with my two children to convince them it’s bedtime! Phil Moss is the chief technology officer for Procurement for Housing. If you'd like to share your housing sector experience, all you need to do is get in touch at
George Schaar, Head of Research & Development at Stratis Security, talks to us about his 20 year career in security. I’ve worked in security for more than 20 years, protecting the homes of celebrities and the rich as well as developing technology to secure homes and housing estates from Ipswich to Ireland. For the past three years, I’ve been working with our specialist team from our technology innovation base in Suffolk. There really is a melting pot of the latest smart homes and internet of things solutions here, with other companies such as Facebook, Cisco and Nokia also on the same site. My current focus is progressing the development of a secure app which allows clients to monitor camera surveillance in their properties remotely. Clients can also get alarms alerting them on their phones if windows or doors have been broken or tampered with. Fingerprint and facial recognition Our solutions include fingerprint identification technology, which is nonintrusive, fast and efficient and can secure large areas over many levels. For example, entrances and exit points to lifts and stairwells, through to individual rooms, cupboards and flats. Stratis has also developed facial recognition for entry systems, with our cameras scanning the iris and matching faces from a prestored database of images. Used in conjunction with video surveillance, we have significantly tightened security and improved accountability at a major residential block in Ipswich, where residents now show their faces at the front entrance to gain entry. I never thought I’d be implementing technology that first inspired me from Blade Runner in the early 80s!   We have also helped combat a range of issues at two blocks of flats in Ipswich, including rats in ground floor bin-stores as a result of fly-tipping, as well as graffiti and non-residents, who would gather outside and in reception areas, gaining access to the blocks and moving freely around the building. In one of the blocks, we installed facial recognition cameras and key fobs, with card access to lifts and stairwells, making it possible to prohibit access as well as track individuals and only allow access to designated areas.   Social housing applications For social housing providers, our technologies have many applications, such as if a tenant has lost or forgotten their key, or for vulnerable residents in extra-care schemes or sheltered accommodation, allowing their relatives, friends or carers to gain access. We were at the CIH conference in Manchester earlier this year and are now talking with a range of housing providers about how to deploy our solutions as part of their business transformation programmes and their wider smart home and internet of things strategies.   Lasers No longer being the exclusive province of science fiction, long-range lasers are an effective and flexible way to monitor and protect your property. Lasers can be set up as an invisible fence around an office, for example, or in areas that are targeted for high-value materials, such as a church roof or to protect copper piping. Any tampering to the laser triggers an alert, which is sent back as a high-quality audio file that can be monitored remotely.   Destruction day My team and I are currently working towards ISO accreditations. With the impact of the Grenfell tragedy, we have also developed fire safety and reinforced doors. At the time of writing, we are arranging a ‘destruction day’ on September 26 at our base in Martlesham Heath in Suffolk where we have challenged the 4,000 staff at Adastral Park (home also of BT’s innovation centre) and invited them to break through our reinforced doors with sledge hammers, angle grinders and cordless drills. So confident are we of the resilience of our reinforced doors, we have also invited Britain’s strongest man, Eddie Hall, along to pit his strength against our doors. George Schaar is the head of research and development at Stratis Security  
Work is certainly varied for Jenny Shorter, a senior consultant at IT services firm Sovereign Business Integration Group, who revisits a typical week at work. I’ve seen a great deal of change in the housing sector. Mostly, it now requires a far more commercially-minded approach than it did when I first joined the sector in the 1990s. I know that I have to be far more timely in my pitches to clients and in responding to their requests for support and always mindful of the return to be gained and how quickly this will be realised. Overseeing two main housing client accounts as well as a range of other business-critical implementations means that much of my time is spent client-side or working with suppliers on the client’s behalf, and while mobile working can mean being on the go a lot of the time, I really like the opportunity to be hands-on. Tower Hamlets Community Housing and East End Homes, two of my on-going client accounts, are both well-established London-based housing providers that have longstanding relationships with Sovereign, where we manage their IT provision including support for their housing management systems. I recently visited Orchard’s offices in Newcastle, immersing myself in their products and meeting new and existing contacts to deepen my understanding of their products and who to go to in order to troubleshoot or fact-find for my clients. Managing suppliers for housing clients It makes sense to have a close relationship with the suppliers to our market in order to broaden my understanding of their vision, product pipeline and so on; it’s a great way for us to help our clients to get the very most out of the relationship with the supplier as well as benchmark their products against the competition. It can also help with any troubleshooting issues, playing the role of the ‘honest broker’ to help to move things along and keep lines of communication open on both sides. My job is to step in with technology suppliers wherever I’m needed, either on behalf of our client or the Sovereign implementation team (some of whom are wholly client-side), either negotiating the sale, arranging product demonstrations or project managing the implementation itself (for example, just last week I was working on a new Promaster asset management software implementation for a client). The project management role is full on and typically involves setting up meetings to agree the way forward or fine-tune the client roadmap, procuring the product, booking implementation resources, training staff who will use the product, and then chasing any issues that need to be escalated. I’ve just finished a four-hour session with Golding Homes after running a requirements gathering exercise with the customer services team there. The switch from an inner London housing provider to a Kent-based one resulted in very different requirements, no doubt due to the different demographic groups each serves, but they each had interesting suggestions about things that they currently do manually that could be automated. It’s great to work with an organisation that recognises that there is work to do with the culture within the organisation as part of a digital transformation project. Any organisation can buy new software and implement it, but if your people don’t have the right mindset or aren’t supported to have the right mindset, the service won’t improve and no return on investment will be achieved. Consultant with a housing background Working with housing providers, in common with any other industry, it’s a great help to have directly relevant industry experience. Some people will embrace change, while for others, there’s a vested interest in being wary. I’m not a standard IT consultant but instead someone who has worked in the housing sector for more than 14 years. It puts me in a strong position because clients are assured that I know their world, their challenges and speak their language. It can really help to get over some of the hurdles that are often faced when implementing change. As well as keeping an eye on our clients’ progress, I am also keen to ensure that Sovereign is hitting the mark. I’ve been working on a project recently that involves reviewing a client’s IT lifecycle. It has provided me with enormous insight into our processes and procedures and how we can continue to improve these. Working in the housing sector As I look back over 20 years of working in the housing sector, there are two key ‘takeaways’ for me: Firstly, the social housing sector is so much more budget-driven than it ever was, but I always make sure my clients are aware that cheap can be more expensive in the long run. It’s great that we’ve moved away from a ‘cost-focused’ decision model, but I always like to make sure my clients make the right decision considering the whole of their organisational needs and plan for future investment. What you think looks good on paper today could turn out to be more expensive to implement in the long run. If for some reason, it doesn’t go according to plan, you are likely to spend a great deal more putting it right. Secondly, the upside is that customers are really driving the impetus for so much change in the housing sector, especially when it comes to technology. If you can’t communicate with your customers effectively, or be responsive when they need repairs, maintenance and so on, this just costs the organisation, in the long run. Housing providers have woken up to the fact that there is more choice for tenants and so, if there’s a better service to be had, some tenants could potentially go elsewhere. They don’t always have to take what’s on their doorstep. Jenny Shorter is a senior consultant for housing IT services at Sovereign Business Integration Group.
Mark Elias, IT Infrastructure Manager, takes us through a typical day at Coastal Housing. If I’m feeling lazy, my day will start around 8am with black coffee and a mailbox of backup and maintenance notifications. If I’m not feeling lazy, I’ll slope in around 9am after being good and going to the gym, by which time the notifications will have been attended to by our lead support analyst, Mat Giles, who will also have changed the tapes in our LTO rack. Yes, tapes. Mercifully, we are in the process of moving to cloud backup as part of our transition to becoming fully-hosted with a managed service provider (which if you came to my talk at the Housing Technology 2018, you will have heard all about…). Once we’re both happy with the overnight tasks, Mat and I usually discuss any interesting Freshservice support tickets. Although this helpdesk application is ITIL-aligned, Coastal is a ‘systems thinking’ organisation, therefore we have a duty to look at the demand on our service through Vanguard’s revealing spectacles, and this drives us to handle tickets in a specific way (if you want to hear more about this, please get in touch). By now, the rest of the team will be in, and what a team it is. I feel very lucky to share my day with such dedicated and talented people (cringe-worthy but true). Amy Kelly works with Mat as a support analyst, Kathryn Banfield as an infrastructure analyst and Rhian Waygood as a business analyst, and joining her in the business analysts’ circle are Kevin Hedges and Pete Warren, and then Shane Griffiths works alongside us all as the head of IT; note the absence of hierarchical phrasing: we do genuinely work alongside one another. Being a pretentious sort, I love to write aphorisms and when I coined ‘a team ascends to excellence through democratic influence’, I felt truly moved to think of our team and how we evidence democratic influence every day: listening to each other in gatherings, allowing everyone to suggest, to feedback, to question and to challenge in safety. It really works. With my review of Freshservice over and until any tickets come my way, I’ll chat with whoever might need a conversation before starting their day proper, and then move on to Asana, the application in which we manage and collaborate on all IT strategy projects and tasks, picking up on where I left things the day before. Asana helps us achieve complete visibility of all aspects of strategic delivery, from current progress on known work, through to future potential evolutions and (how to phrase it?) diversions! It’s key for an IT team to have both oversight and evidence of existing workloads at their fingertips. Everything must be visible and reportable. We strive to pour as much data and thinking as we can into the application: pipeline work, knowledge sharing, live-meeting captures, conference blogging, professional development reflections, interesting technology articles and so on. Both Freshservice and Asana have transformed how we work, and how the business engages with us, especially as demand on our ‘ability to implement’ increases. More and more, we are seeing the potential for decisions on products to be made outside the IT team, often with a quick meeting and a credit card, only then for the real work of integration to fall to IT afterwards. By being transparent about our availability, we help the business achieve what matters in a realistic and timely manner. If I haven’t emailed or spoken to our MSP project manager yet, it’s very likely I will have a question or update to provide by now. We have a conference call every Monday morning and while this sets us up nicely for the week’s tasks, other things will often happen or priorities rotate, so keeping on top of fluctuating obstacles and objectives is both important and fun. By the time this article is in print, we should have migrated our Hyper-V server estate to VMware using Zerto and have a substantial number of staff using Horizon View on laptops full-time, which coincides nicely with Coastal’s ambitious office re-design project, enabling staff to work anywhere while disruptive works are carried out. Several coffees later (I’m trying to cut down, again), I’ll dip into HipChat, an instant-messaging app implemented by Rhian. We try hard not to email each other, so IM allows us to waffle, gossip, ask and help without saturating Exchange. When we aren’t having private conversations, we’ll chat in specific shared rooms, keeping subjects tightly organised. At this point, readers might be thinking ‘Why not use Teams or Skype?’. We don’t have Office 365 on our horizon just yet because it’s very attractive to us to look beyond the behemoths to help us achieve our objectives, and HipChat fits perfectly with that philosophy. Maybe it’s something to do with having Techhub on our doorstep; the prospect of working with start-ups and off-radar innovators to help realise Coastal-tailored aims, versus settling for generic, cookie-cutter platforms, has great appeal. I met with Techhub’s manager for lunch recently and we discussed the importance of looking to blockchain as an enabler of trustless transactions and of individuals owning their own data – very exciting areas to consider. By now it’ll be lunchtime and if I haven’t been pulled into or arranged a gathering myself in the morning (which is rare), I’ll probably be in one at some point during the afternoon, so as I walk around Swansea city centre I’ll be thinking in advance of what clever things I can say. Or if I don’t go out, I’ll hop onto one of the kitchen benches and browse LinkedIn or post poems to Twitter while munching on something unhealthy. If I have time, I’ll reread passages from the excellent and highly-recommended book ‘What Poetry Brings to Business’. When I have time I arrange one-to-one meetings with colleagues across the business, especially those I either don’t know very well or perform some esoteric housing role I should know more about. If I have one arranged, I’ll revisit my hoard of coaching materials and pick out an exercise or conversation strategy to explore in the session. It’s extremely important for IT people to have healthy interpersonal skills; being able to communicate, listen, process and perceive without being dependent on prompt closure, or unambiguous apprehension of a situation, can allow, in time, for a true unearthing of what is really going on. Simply having conversations, while being alert to what is happening beyond the exchange of words, helps develop that capability. I will most likely have had technical conversations with team members throughout the day, as I pull in their expertise and they pull in mine. Everyone has their own projects and it’s great to get involved a little in each. Kathryn, to pick one project for example, is busy deploying Aerohive wi-fi across our schemes and drop-ins; Mat and Amy are busy deploying 2FA-protected VDI desktops across a range of mobile devices while simultaneously managing Freshservice; Rhian is busy implementing PanConnect and maintaining QlikView, and has recently completed another phenomenally successful rent increases/ year-end procedure; Kevin is busy embedding systems thinking; Pete is busy interrogating and reporting on our data; and Shane is busy managing budgets, strategies, contracts and us. Being part of all this great work is brilliant. Towards the end of the day, I’ll re-read any important emails I’ve sent and updates I’ve made to any projects, drink more coffee and think about what’s happening tomorrow. Mark Elias is the IT infrastructure manager at Coastal Housing
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