Q&A with British Cycling’s Head of IT and Digital, Cazz Ward: Part 2

Q&A with British Cycling’s Head of IT: Part 2

Following on from yesterday’s blog post, here’s the second part of our Q&A with Cazz Ward, Head of IT and Digital at our partner, British Cycling.

How did your organisation respond to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Cazz: We were well prepared for it, as we’d already made sure everyone had a laptop, and we’d previously moved to Microsoft 365. Most staff have a decent mobile phone and we have a cloud-based telephony system for those teams that take customer calls. We have around 70 staff who aren’t office-based, and who are spread around the country, so we already needed to be able to communicate with remote workers.

In fact, from my perspective, it was a catalyst to get people to use the tools we’d given them. Our users have really pushed the collaboration tools to the max, to make best use of them, and we've guided them through that.

Overall, the pandemic absolutely accelerated the adoption of new tools, and people became efficient in using them much more easily than I’d expected. We have champions within the organisation to get people sharing tips and working together.

Where do you see the organisation going now, as we hopefully move beyond the pandemic?

Cazz: Like most organisations, we’re now moving to hybrid ways of working. We’re reconfiguring the office on the basis that staff won’t be in the workplace full-time. I see it as a really exciting opportunity – we can totally change the way people work, with loads more collaboration spaces, and more opportunities for people to come together to solve common problems.

We’re aware of the need to keep all our people involved, wherever they are, and we look for the best tools to do that. Microsoft Teams underpins everything, but then we’ll explore other add-ons or tools, such as making our chief executive’s staff briefings interactive rather than just a broadcast.

I think it’s a really interesting time. I’m looking forward to working with Total on this, and we’ve had some good conversations already to discuss new products that could help us. One area I want to look at with Total is exploring opportunities around how we maximise access to our huge volume of data, using tools like Power BI.

What can you tell us about your approach to security?

Cazz: We decided to go for the Cyber Essentials Plus certification, to show that we take security seriously. The main thing is that we can demonstrate that we've been through a rigorous process, and that we have policies, procedures, and technical controls in place to manage and mitigate risks.

We always try to be flexible – if you make compliance too difficult, people will find a way round it. We’ve recently rolled out MDM across all staff laptops, for example, but also added policies for staff to use their own non-work devices in a safe way. It’s all about managing risk.

How did you get into IT originally?

Cazz: I started off as a Linux systems administrator, but I quickly realized that where I placed myself best is how you use technology for transforming an organisation, and how you bridge that gap between the business and the technology. And that's where I've moved to now.

What advice would you give anyone wanting to get into IT as a career?

Cazz: IT now encompasses so many different things, with such a broad spectrum of roles that can suit so many different personalities. It's no longer just an engineering job, it can be anything from a user experience designer, to a front-end developer, to an operations or security person. There's something for everyone, so don’t be put off by any preconceptions or stereotypes.

I know that diversity and increasing inclusion are important to British Cycling. For you personally, have you experienced barriers as a woman working in IT? What could help overcome them?

Cazz: Throughout my career, I've often been the only female in the team. When you get women in roles that are more traditionally male, they tend to be better at the job, because they've had to be better, just to get where they are.

I'm particularly interested in getting more young women going into IT. A woman applying for an IT job will expect that they've got to meet at least 90% of the criteria before they even think they're good enough to apply – whereas a man will apply when they know they only meet 40%. So, I'd say, as a woman in IT, don't think that you are any less capable than the men, even though they may be more confident.

IT is still predominately full of white males. We’ve got to make women more visible, as well as being more representative from a wider diversity perspective. We have to be mindful of how we recruit people, and how we make the jobs more attractive for everyone, and we work closely with our HR team to put those things into practice.

Mentoring is also important – as well as going into schools and explaining what a job is really like, and that people like you can do it.

How do you spend your time away from work?

Cazz: I’m part of a couple of voluntary projects, to encourage people to drive less, and to make streets safer for walking and cycling. I’ve worked with a few schools in my local area trying to help them get parents to drive less to school.

Tell us a little-known fact about yourself?

Cazz: Before I started my IT career, I worked as a mechanic, and I'm a trained MOT tester.

Finally, what inspires you most in your job?

Cazz: For me, it’s all about democratising data and enabling collaboration – that’s what technology is for, changing the way we do things, solving problems and helping people to do their jobs better.