Thoughts on British ICT, energy & environment, cloud computing and security from Memset's MD
It is that time of year again; I have been nominated for “most influential woman in British IT” in Computer Weekly’s annual poll. I humbly ask for your votes.
Why should you vote for me though? I do have very significant influence in British IT – much more than the others I would contend. Some highlights are below. If you want a quick test, try Googling some of the names on the list. My name is unique, by the way, and “Kate Craig-Wood” gets about 2.5m hits. “Dame Wendy Hall” gets about 2.1m. 😉
And why else? Not only do I feel that I am deserving, but also it would be great to see someone who has broken into the system from the outside get the top award. I am not someone thrust into the limelight due to family wealth or connections. I’m certainly not “usual” either, being transgendered, about to marry my girlfriend and a member of London’s alternative community. Also, I’ve not just climbed a corporate ladder; I am a self-made entrepreneur who started her business with just £3,000 and a crazy idea about renting virtual machines on short time frames. All my success has come from hard work, and often pitted against challenging preconceptions.
For many years now I have been one of the very, very few highly visible and successful female IT entrepreneurs. Under my guidance Memset has gone from strength to strength and is increasingly a renowned name. We have won too many awards to list (including PCPro’s Best Web Host award for 7 years running), and I have had my fair share of entrepreneur awards too. I have always strived to be a role model for young women and girls who might be interested in science, technology and entrepreneurship.
I am regularly quoted in the IT press on a range of issues from energy efficiency to security to public sector IT. This is an important way in which I influence the industry since I am one of very few people who is willing to speak her mind on popular issues, unfettered by overprotective PR departments.
In 2009 and 2010 I was instrumental in the formation of G-Cloud and brought a fresh perspective to government IT procurement through my position as technical architecture co-lead of phase 2 of the programme. I was the principal author of that workstrand’s report which laid the technical foundations for G-Cloud – the new way government buys IT.
I have been on the main board of Intellect UK, Britain’s high-tech trade association, since 2007. I was their youngest ever main board member at the time and remain one of the few women on the board, one of the few SME entrepreneurs on the board, and the only one who is both!
I also chair Intellect UK’s climate change group. At last year’s annual dinner I was told by a BIS official that I was one of the two people who were key in bringing about the much needed review of the Carbon Reduction Commitment in relation to data centres and starting us on a path towards a Climate Change Agreement for data centres (the other being Emma Fryer, from Intellect, with whom I work closely). This is the clearest example of me directly influencing government policy, and certainly not the only example!
I have been a member of the ministerial Green Economy Council since its inception. This council consists of about 20 top-level business people as well as a selection of civil servants and no less than 3 secretaries of state (BIS / Vince Cable, DECC / Ed Davey and DEFRA / Owen Patterson). Our goal is to oversee the transition of the UK to a low-carbon economy.
Now that the large systems integrators have fallen out of favour with government, especially the Cabinet Office (CO), the top IT brass in the CO have turned to leaders in the SME IT field, and I am foremost among them. I am now regularly asked to assist central government in their objective to ensure that the market is not only open to SMEs but also that 25% of business goes to us. Memset is regarded as the poster child for this new era of public sector cloud suppliers, and I attribute this to the fact that we have always operated with the highest moral integrity – until I showed the Treasury how I work out our prices back in 2009 they had never had an IT supplier be so open, and not come across one who operated a fixed “cost-plus” pricing model.
Over the years I have also been very engaged with BCS, the chartered institute for IT. I was part of the Data Centre Specialist Group for many years, including during the time when they created the EU Code of Conduct for data centres with the European Commission; I contributed to that in a small way. I was recently awarded Fellowship of BCS in recognition of my expertise in ICT.
I spent some years engaged with Intellect and BCS’s women in IT groups also. Although I have stepped back from championing the women in IT cause in the last two years to focus on my PhD (see below), I am now re-engaging with Intellect with a view to helping them once again work on encouraging more women into IT. In the meantime though I have openly and honestly shared my unique experiences from both sides of the gender divide in relation to business and IT, most notably in the Financial Times articles in which I have been interviewed. Again, this is evidence of the breadth of my influence.
I have this year been appointed to the European Commission’s (EC) European Cloud Partnership steering board. This is undoubtedly my most prestigious and humbling position. I was appointed at the specific request of the Cabinet Office’s minister, and by VP Kroes herself. Until then it was solely a group of mega-corp companies like SAP, Amazon and Accenture, with a requirement of CEOs only (so yes, with Werner Vogels!). The group is chaired by the President of Estonia himself. I shall be the only SME on the steering board and I have a mandate from the CO to represent the interest of all British cloud SMEs at a European level.
I am also something of an educator; I am not just a business woman but also an expert in my fields of cloud computing, information security (especially government) and energy efficiency. I speak or present at a conference at least once a month if not more, and increasingly I am getting requests from other countries. I have given two presentations in Brussels via the EC’s DG CONNECT this year already and have two lined up in the US. I have spoken at a range of prestigious events, from the Lib Dem party’s annual conference to OSCON.
Finally, I am currently in the final year of a part time PhD with Surrey University researching the energy efficiency of cloud computing and attempting to answer the very important question of whether ICT can deliver its promised societal efficiency gains without itself becoming a major emitter. I have secured two conference publications so far and my and my PhD supervisor’s (Professor Krause) latest work is published on the ESP KTN’s web site here. I personally developed the model for this seminal piece of work which proves much of the hype around the energy cost of cloud to be quite wrong. This article in TechWeek Europe on the topic is a nice example of my influence.
I do feel it is important to mention that I would not even be in this list without the support of a number of wonderful people, most notably my brother Nick and my assistants Gosia and Helen, but also my entire staff. They are all superb and we are very much a family business in all senses. If I do get voted the most influential woman in Britain (which is something you might have noticed I want a bit 😉 I shall share the success by taking the whole Memset crew out for a night on the town on me. 🙂