Social Value Manager at Version 1 and winner of 'Returner of the Year' at the Women in Tech Awards 2022, Jude McVittyshares her unique journey breaking into the tech industry
How did you get into your current role as a Social Value Manager at Version 1?
I worked in the creative industries, both in communities and professionally, for about 15 years prior to joining tech but during the first lockdown I found myself in the terrifying position of being literally stuck in a house with a child and completely dependent on my husband’s ‘day-job’ income (a nuance of freelance and statutory maternity).
It was around this time I saw the advertisement for the Women’s Returner Programme Press Refresh by Women in Business. I completed an aptitude test and was thrilled to have been selected for one of 21 spaces out of almost 300 women who applied for the course!
Press Refresh was conceived and coordinated to empower a cohort of women to change career and bring their transferrable skills into the technology industry. Supported by Advance Coaching and Belfast Met, we completed a typical SMART Academy programme, part time, completing four technical and project management certifications in 3 months. We also were offered careers coaching and opportunities to develop key collaborative and presentation skills to ease our transition into tech.
As part of the programme, I also got matched with a mentor from the industry, who brought me to the attention of the ESG Lead at Version 1 and my manager Lorna McAdoo. It was good timing that they had a new role that suited my diverse skillset, including my new understanding of data analysis from the Press Refresh programme.
You recently won Returner of the Year at the Women in Tech Awards 2022 – what was your reaction to this and how did that make you feel?
Winning the Returner of the Year award at the Women in Tech awards gave me a lot of confidence. Coming from outside the industry, and working in such a niche practice, being recognised by women in the tech community for my work with communities provided a lot of reassurance that I was moving in the right direction for my career and for Version 1.
What else did you do before working in the technology industry?
I have had so many jobs and I really struggle to close doors! I’ve done a lot of coordination and delivery in a community arts context, which has allowed me to work in really diverse and complex environments and form a strong skillset in communication and stakeholder management that I lean on in my role as a Social Value Manager.
I devised a few musicals with teenagers, sold some paintings, had a show at a small arts venue and a music festival, modelled for drawing classes, released an album, was a vocal consultant/arranger then a music producer before becoming an operations lead for a small recording studio with my husband for a while - getting a crash course on branding and social media manipulation with 0 budget!
I also did a lot of hospitality and customer-facing roles, where I developed some key emotional intelligence and resilience skills and the ability curse in 6 different languages! During the Press Refresh programme by Women in Business, I developed the ability to understand what I was learning in each environment and how to bring that expertise into Social Value for IT Services.
Can you explain a bit about your work at Version 1 and what a typical day is like in your role?
Social Value has been around for about 15/20 years for construction, but it has become more important for IT Services and business consultancy in general since England, Wales and Northern Ireland have made it a mandatory part of public procurement over the last couple of years. It means as part of bidding for any substantial piece of public sector work in the UK, we are asked to submit a proposal to deliver Social Value as part of the contract work for our customer. This can focus on the environment, employment opportunities for those isolated from opportunity, creating an equal and healthy place to work for the contract team or encourage bidders to share their skills with communities.
I draft these proposals then I work with the team at Version 1 to deliver them when we win. I’m building a department from the ground up (currently recruiting my first team members) and manage commitments for 16 customers across the UK. I work with the ESG team to understand and report on our wellbeing, environment and diversity progress and currently manage the data set for our community work through our Community First and Education Collaboration initiatives. I also do a fair amount of internal and external marketing. I interview students for placements on behalf of 6 of our English and Central government customers. Tomorrow I am massaging my Power Bi dashboard to help the ESG lead report to our board. It’s both exciting and challenging - no two days are ever the same!
Version 1 has several early career initiatives. Can you tell us a bit about these?
Version 1 has academy programmes across the UK, Ireland and now in Spain. These programmes are open to anyone from any degree (or equivalent) background to train and transition into technology. The alumni from the Version 1 programme include a lighting technician, a warehouse operative and a bartender. I also provide employability training and short placement opportunities through Social Value, to reach people through community organisations that might be interested in starting their academic journey to join our industry.
We have a long placement scheme for college/level 3 students (A-Level equivalent) and I am working to open up that scheme as a next step for people outside of formal education who complete our short placements programme. We are working on apprenticeships, I think they are going to become increasingly important in the next decade to retain any kind of social mobility in our industry.
What advice would you give to women in tech or those who want to explore a career in the industry?
Technology is a very competitive job market to recruit in and people are valued here. It means, at a baseline, there’s decent pay, good benefits, and good opportunities for progression. It’s a great place to work for anyone. My advice to anyone considering a change or starting out in the industry is to find a company whose values you can really stand behind, and then be fearless! It’s an industry that welcomes innovation and even failure to learn, so it’s an opportunity to go for it in a way that is definitely challenging in the community sector.
Do you need a technology background to work in a role like yours?
You don’t need a technology background for social value, in fact more people from the third sector should join the practice. However, I think that a tech driven mindset will help deliver innovation in social value in my sector. I try to keep pushing my knowledge and understanding and take opportunities to advance - be it using DAX to build my slides instead of doing the sum or competing in the company hackathon - it all contributes to building a well rounded and relevant social value portfolio for our customers.
Check out our previous expert Q&A with Liam Fegan from Options IT on Why 2023 Is The Year You'll Enter The Cloud
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