Conversations with a CTO – Kainos (Part 2)

Mar 17, 2023
hackajob Staff

We’ve already seen how Aislinn got started in her journey to becoming Chief Technology Officer of Digital Services at Kainos during a 20+ year-long career, the trends she thinks we’ll see in 2023 and the tech stack you could be working within our first conversation. This time round we’re delving deep into continuous learning, career development and what to do if you fail. Without further ado, let’s hear from Aislinn.

Welcome back Aislinn! There’s a challenge in tech of continuous learning and being aware of new technologies; how do you stay ahead of the curve?

It's a real challenge. There is a constant hose pipe of information that you could get all consumed by, but for me personally, I spent most of my career learning by doing and being unafraid to try new things.  This has only been viable because I’ve been doing this as part of a team, learning together and sharing insights. I bolster this with a mixture of podcasts, blogs and following research organisations, this helps keep me up to date.

At Kainos, in recent years, we started an internal technology newsletter providing an outlet to amplify all the great stories we have. Every month we have contributors from across the whole organisation and we also include any work that the team is publishing externally as well so we can all read and support it. It’s great to build into the culture that things don’t need to be perfect or polished for you to share your opinion. Having this lovely feed of interpreted tech information – to me – is really cool.

What has been your main career highlight and why?

It’s difficult to articulate just one big event or accomplishment as, thankfully, I take pleasure from the daily small positives. One overarching highlight for me is the people and the relationships that have been borne from the work I do. I’ve had plenty of moments in my career where I’ve had impostor syndrome and a lack of confidence. During these times particularly, I’m super appreciative of the network of support around me, people that have taken the time to help me and provided great listening ears. When thoughts of ‘I wish I had done better’/ ‘why didn’t I’/ ‘can I do this’ start to kick in; this is invaluable. You can do more than you ever thought possible, but on any one day, you can only try your best. I really like Simon Sinek's interpretation of this, he talks about discomfort/ imposter syndrome being a good thing, and that we should lean into it, it’s where the learning and growth happen.  That really resonates with me.

Part of this journey has been getting to know myself. Over the years I’ve found that I'm a thinker; if I get pre-reading material, I'll read out, I'll digest it, and I'll come into that meeting stronger as a result. I won’t usually be the noisy person in the room, but my points are usually well considered and I won’t be shy about asking a ‘stupid’ question. I believe everyone needs to find their own way and shape how they work, and what they ask of others around them to allow them to be their best selves.

What lessons have you learned from ‘failing’ and how has Kainos supported you?

Failing is a really interesting topic in technology. Whenever we look across industries like financial services and manufacturing, there are best practices that are well-established ways of doing things that have been known and proven over hundreds of years. Technology, on the other hand, has developed at such an accelerated rate that there are very limited real best practices. What looks good today will look different in three, four or five years. So when we look back at what we're doing today in the future, the best practice will have changed; we only really fail if we don’t learn and adapt.

At a more personal level, I aim to take a similar approach. If things don’t go as planned, the best tool in my kitbag is to be open and share, most of the time, a failure can turn into great learning. I’ve always been supported by this approach at Kainos. It’s important to foster a good environment where everyone feels they can work it out without fear of it being held against them. The more you try and hold it inside yourself, the more you're likely to feel guilty and beat yourself up for it. The reality is, with good people and good intent, we make mostly the right decisions with the knowledge we have. If you only share and focus on the positive outcomes, you risk missing out on learnings, and others miss out on learning from you too. Every failure is part of your growth and makes you stronger

What is the importance of having a network within work and outside of work and how has this helped you over the years?

As I mentioned before, it all boils down to people! Both inside and outside of work, your network is incredibly important. I find it useful to think broadly about who my network are; including seniors, juniors peers, and those in other disciplines; having a wide core network supports and helps me grow.  Take the example of one of our early careers folks, who shared with me recently their story of learning technology, delivering on projects, supporting charities, mentoring externally and more; it blew me away.  It gave me real personal joy to know them as a role model and I’m excited about their future career.  Having individuals like that as part of my network, also helps me strive to create an environment where individuals like this can flourish.

We’ve established that the technology industry is changing at pace; diversity of thought is a key success factor for Kainos in this context. Looking from within is important, but so is understanding the wider industry. We learn from other people, and other business models and collaboration with other organisations make us all stronger. At any level, I believe it’s important to be deliberate about building that network; one example, I took the opportunity to curate and speak at BelTech, a tech conference in Northern Ireland for quite a few years, this was a great opportunity to meet speakers from across Northern Ireland and further afield, providing insights and connections that I wouldn’t otherwise have.  These individuals provide perspectives and ideas that I can bring to the Kainos team, and I hope in some way I help others through the event too.

Awesome impact with technology will mean collaboration, leaning on each other across the industry, and ultimately helping each other be stronger. I would encourage anyone starting on this journey to look to their local networks; and Eventbrite are great sources of local tech events. They're brilliant for getting to know people that live locally, or that have an interest in the same types of technologies as you do and I find that really useful in Northern Ireland. Take any opportunity to keep growing.

And that’s it!

We've loved hearing from Aislinn, and we hope you have too. If you're looking for a career that is both exciting and rewarding, with the chance to write software that makes a real difference in people's lives, then Kainos could be the place you've been looking for. If you're interested in a role with the Kainos, then head on over to our platform where you could be matched with them. It takes just 5 minutes to sign up.

Like what you've read or want more like this? Let us know! Email us here or DM us: Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, we'd love to hear from you.