Nana’s New Hip

Yesterday morning, the Digital Women Wales network met at an event in Cardiff to talk about ‘A Woman’s Place is in the Boardroom’.

Sam Hall, Divisional Director of Digital Delivery in ONS presented at the event to approximately 40 people, sharing her journey to becoming a senior civil servant and things she has learnt along the way. After the session, attendees signed up for short mentoring sessions with Sam.

About Sam

Sam started in the Civil Service about 30 years ago.

At school, she didn’t know what she wanted to do, but she wanted to help people.  Sam joined the civil service – at the very bottom – as a filing clerk, in a department in London. She helped by making tea for other civil servants, some even had bowler hats, and they were given towels and bars of soap as standard!

Sam in her current role is responsible for how ONS collects data using online technology and services:  hugely transformational work which directly impacts the whole UK. This data is used across government decision making, informing local and national level decisions.

Sam’s current focus is leading on building the first ever digital-first Census in England and Wales, with the rehearsal in October 2019. This world-leading work will shape the future of data collection across governments worldwide.

But why the hip replacement stuff?

Sam shared that what got her out of bed each morning is getting Nana’s new hips. All 70,000 of them.

Official statistics and data collected on behalf of the Government is invaluable to society. The data collected at ONS plays a small part in painting a picture. They help us understand society. We are able to look at all of these indicators and put this information in the hands of people who will anticipate needs – including how many artificial hips will need to be made.

Sam and her teams are building the systems to collect and analyse this critical data and turn it into useful, usable stories that make a difference.

Knowing the work they do matters helps keep perspective when the pressure is on. It’s great advice.

Three top tips

Sam concluded her talk with the biggest tips that has helped her, in and outside of the boardroom.

These were:

  1. Keep your nerve. When you’re right, and you know you’re right – then don’t feel that compromise is the best route. Sometimes it isn’t – trust yourself, it’s ok to be strong and committed.
  2. Take it on the chin, but never lying down. Embrace challenge – it’s a good thing and it makes you think. It’s never a weakness to reflect on your decisions but it is a weakness to not reflect, and to give up too easily. Especially if you’re only doing it for a quiet life. You will regret it.
  3. Be credible. When you’ve worked out what makes you tick – embrace it and evangelise – it won’t fail you – and your team will know you’re authentic and you walk the walk. Sam said “my team know that I absolutely do believe that we will get Nanas new hips”. You build trust, which is the basis of all empowered and motivated teams.

To find out more about the Digital Women’s Wales network, follow @InnoPoint on Twitter.