Our fourth interview for International Women’s Day is with Katherine Lyon, customer experience director, Capita Local Public Services.

Kathering links her digital expertise and knowledge of local government services to support the volunteer work she does with young people in her community.

Who inspired you to take your career path in IT and digital customer experience?

There were two women in my life who really inspired me to take the path I have. Firstly, my grandmother, who had left school at 14 in 1918; she wanted me to have a much better education, to have choices and to be independent. Secondly, my head of sixth form, who steered me away from geography to a science degree as she was passionate about girls doing STEM subjects at A level. 

As a result, I later got onto the British Gas graduate programme in their corporate IT function. I’ve now been working in the IT industry for over 25 years – and the last 17 of those within local government focussing on customer experience and innovation in technology to drive better service delivery.

Now my role is with Capita’s Local Public Services product development team, supporting the development of our digital specialists, innovation, applying new technologies to service design to drive better customer experiences for people and the communities they live in.

One of the areas I look at is digital exclusion, and for one of our clients we introduced digital tea parties. These were held in libraries and were open to anyone to ask questions about getting online.  We also worked with other businesses who wanted to be involved at a local level to bring technical skills to increase digital participation. People came from different demographics with a whole range of digital questions – such as how to access their emails on their iPad, or twitter tips and tricks to grow their new business.

Why did you start volunteering? 

My dad, when I was growing up, was very involved in campaigning for social justice and equalities, so I guess he inspired me to do the same.

I’ve been volunteering in in Camberwell and Peckham with children and young people since I was at university. Wherever I have worked I have been involved in initiatives to support disadvantaged students who need more support through example primary school reading schemes, secondary school work placements and mentoring.

An ongoing volunteering project is with the Kings College London Mathematics School, based in Lambeth. The school is for students aged 16-18 with an aptitude and enthusiasm for mathematics and aims to widen participation in mathematical degrees and careers at the very best universities and institutions. I am on the Friends committee and the school was looking for companies to work with students to develop business skills by working on a project that is relevant to business. This will support their university applications and increase their awareness of business.

As a result, Capita is now sponsoring four students to work on a data analytics project to support the work we are doing on looking at the business case for open data platforms for local government.  The students are using data that is freely available in the public domain and are undertaking comparative analysis, using programming languages they are building a model to test the value data sets to address social and health issues in London.

We’re hopefully inspiring and giving young people the opportunity to combine their love of maths with analytics and to grow their skills working on a real business opportunity.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

It’s been 100 years since we won the right vote. I feel very indebted to the women who came before us. We’re able to take chances they couldn’t, standing on the shoulder of giants.

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