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Vicky Sumner works in the Chief Technology Office (CTO) as Portfolio and Strategy Director. She looks after all of CTO’s people-related activities – from operating model to hiring, engagement, and Learning & Development (L&D). She is currently building a strategy roadmap that pivots our architecture function and upskills our teams for the future.

All of which would be impressive by itself. But that’s nothing compared to the journey she’s been on with Barclays. “If someone told me, when I joined Barclays 18 years ago, that I’d be doing a Masters in technology and working in the Chief Technology Office, I’d have fallen off my chair,” says Vicky. ”But that’s the opportunity you get at Barclays. The culture here means that you can try new things without feeling vulnerable. There will always be someone supporting you to succeed.”

Vicky joined Barclays in a Business Banking contact centre, taking up to a 100 calls a day from customers. After 6 months on the phones, Vicky was promoted to Team Leader. Then after a year, she got her first real brush with technology.

I joined a team focused on helping set up business customers on their accountancy software. It meant travelling around the country and working closely with customers, which was an amazing experience. 

A couple of steps later, Vicky moved from training customers to training colleagues. Everything from managing the induction of new cashiers to training MDs in thought leadership.

Then, there was another complete change of scene. “I became Coverage Liaison for a project in Corporate Banking. We were developing a proposition for high-value customers. I was the liaison point between our product teams, our frontline teams and our customers. The co-ordinator, the conduit and sometimes the peacemaker,” laughs Vicky.

Vicky’s next project was the biggest of all. “I was on maternity leave twice over the next four years. Barclays were always very supportive. And when I was ready to return, they really thought about where I could add most value.”

Vicky was asked to create a role bringing together her past experience to help optimise the way that the operations worked within Business Banking.

On day one, there was just me. Within a year, I had a team of forty people, bringing together colleagues from process, change, L&D, engagement and performance management. It was our remit to optimise all the tools, skills and development opportunities that we offered our people.

To top all that off, Vicky was asked to lead a programme aimed at taking the Business Banking Contact Centres through Investors in People (IIP) accreditation. IIP assesses how well a business leads, supports and develops its people. “We received Platinum accreditation. It’s the highest accolade available and is only held by 1% of organisations. We were named the UK employer of the year. And ranked second globally. It was an amazing achievement, with real impact. Our attraction and retention numbers improved. It gave us a real sense of camaraderie and, most importantly, made a difference to our people.”

Vicky was then asked to move into a transformation role, looking at the change programmes needed to roll out new tech tools like AWS and Salesforce across Business Banking. “Together, Cloud and CRM software have the potential to be transformative. They allow us to gain greater insight, understand our customers better and offer more proactive support.”

When Covid-19 hit, Vicky got involved in the technology behind distributing UK Government-backed small business loans to Barclays’ customers. She acted as the liaison between the Chief Information Office and broader Business Banking team.

As the scheme went live, customers rushed to apply. There were 5-hour call queues of people trying to access the loans. We had to act quickly to deploy an online application process. Meanwhile, we were rushing to transfer everything to our Salesforce platform. So, late one Friday night, there were briefly hundreds of thousands of loan requests going into my inbox.

Despite the tight timescales, it was a great experience. “I worked closely with Amy Williams who is a Managing Director in Barclays UK Technology and the CIO for Business Banking. She got me involved in so many aspects of the project. I got to work on the front-end interface, enabling people to apply. And on the back-end technology, releasing funds to customers,” explains Vicky.

Amy’s mentorship was fundamental to the next stage of Vicky’s career development. And led to her eventual move into the Tech teams. But first, there was the small matter of changing the entire relationship model for a key group of Business Banking customers.

Traditionally, this group had a one-to-one relationship with a Relationship Manager. But the model was no longer delivering for the changing needs and behaviours of customers. The new model switched to a one-on-five relationship, servicing customers through our telephony platforms.  

Vicky and her project team deployed the tech that underpinned this massive transformation. “It was a big shift. We went from customers having an individual Relationship Manager’s mobile number to calling a standard contact number. The tech had to work hard to ensure that when customers did need to contact us, our teams had all data and insight they needed to support them.”

The project raised Vicky’s profile across the business. And on Amy’s recommendation, she moved into an ex officio role with a new team. “The Head of Product and Propositions contacted me directly and said he had heard great things. He got me on board and involved me in everything, treating me as part of the leadership team. It was another great learning experience.”

At around the same time, all Vice President-level colleagues were invited to apply for a Barclays-funded master’s degree in Digital Technology and Solutions. Vicky secured one of the places and completed her final dissertation in December 2022. “The master’s taught me so much about digital leadership and IT strategy. Meanwhile, Amy encouraged me to look at the Tech business for my next move.”

Vicky applied for a Programme Director role within CTO and didn’t get it, in the very best way possible. “I met more wonderful mentors in Jason Morgan and Edel Owen, Managing Directors in the Chief Technology Office. They thought I’d be more valuable in a different capacity, so they created my current role for me.”

Suddenly, Vicky found herself at the heart of Barclays’ overall tech strategy, rolling out the five-year capability roadmaps programme for tech teams across the global business.

I was pretty terrified at first. Many of the leaders in CTO are Distinguished Engineers. They are global thought-leaders and manage mind-blowing projects. At first, I wasn’t always sure what people were talking about. But I soon picked things up. And studying for my master’s at the same time really helped me understand best practice around tech strategy.

Clearly, Vicky did more than ’pick things up’. Her dissertation was on the optimal operating model for the Architecture function at Barclays. It contains recommendations on how to transform the working model, update the ways we measure the performance of the function and create more effective collaboration across the Chief Tech Office, Chief Information Office and Business teams. Plans that she’s now helping to put into practice.

"We’re working on how we really embed the roadmaps for our tech teams. It needs to be a living, breathing strategy, not just a piece of paper. In the end, it comes down to simple, practical things. Don’t duplicate effort. Don’t build systems that will be obsolete in three years’ time. Don’t create solutions twice for different parts of the business."

Vicky says that the support of female leaders like Edel and Amy was pivotal to her having the confidence to move from operations to tech. "I’ve been so fortunate. Amy really put herself out there and sponsored me. Edel coached me through the transition. Both of them took such an interest in my career and development. They gave me small tips that made a big difference. They got me to believe in myself."

Now Vicky wants to do the same for others.

There are so many transferrable skills from ops to tech. My past experience gave me a deep understanding of what’s important to the customer. That’s vital when deploying technology. We need more people who’ve worked closely with customers. And we need more women.

The first step is encouraging people to put themselves out there. “Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. Barclays is an environment where you can really go for it. There’s so much opportunity and lots of flexibility to fit with your lifestyle.”

Outstanding women in technology - and customer service, and learning and development, and operations, and leadership, and strategy, and just about everything else. It’s happening here.