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Spotlight Series: Aima Owen, Chapter Lead, Consumer CIO at Digital, BT Group

Aima Owen, Chapter Lead, Consumer CIO at Digital, BT Group

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Aima joins us to tell us about her route into tech, what an average day looks like and how she overcame challenges and insecurities.

Aima’s transition from British Ex-Forces to the consumer Chief Information Officer (CIO) office at Digital at BT Group is nothing short of remarkable. She was recently recognised as a finalist in the Champion of Women Awards at the 2023 British Ex-Forces in Business Awards.

Aima’s responsibility lies in successfully delivering end-to-end strategic technology projects, showcasing her exceptional skills and determination.

GROWING UP, DID YOU KNOW YOU WANTED TO WORK WITHIN ENGINEERING? WHAT WAS YOUR CAREER JOURNEY LIKE BEFORE JOINING BT GROUP?

I attended boarding school in Nigeria, where I spent much of my childhood. It was here I decided I wanted to become a doctor. Science subjects really appealed to me, and I knew I wanted to pursue a career where I could learn more about them. One day my dad broke the news to me that becoming a doctor would years and years of study, it takes some serious time to become a doctor! Who’d have thought?! This made me rethink my plans, and when I moved to England at the age of 18 to attend college, I started to look at alternative careers.

I chose to apply to the University of Wolverhampton to study Electronics and Communications Engineering. Communications is field build on constant change, and I decided I wanted to part of it. I considered a Master’s degree but I ultimately decided to follow my dream of joining the army, and in 2009, I became a Vehicle Mechanic Engineer in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineer Corps. I served for over five years, during which time I honed my technical engineering skills and met my husband, before deciding it was time to move on to my next career opportunity.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED?

I applied for various engineering roles after I left the army, aware that I lacked some fundamental experience of work other than being a Vehicle Mechanic Engineer. Fortunately, I landed an apprenticeship at Openreach as an Infrastructure Delivery Engineer, which was my first role within BT Group. Despite juggling a busy home life, as I fell pregnant with my first child, I was able to complete all three years of my apprenticeship in just one year.

Within this apprenticeship I enjoyed gaining experience across the business, as it helped me realise that it was time to choose my niche and go down a specialised career path. For me, that path ended up becoming project management. In October 2020, I joined BT Group as a Project Manager, which was a role I was unfamiliar in. I had previous experience managing teams before, however, much of this new role was very new to me. Nevertheless, I fell in love with it, and last year I shifted my focus slightly to become a Chapter Lead in the Digital at BT Consumer CIO office, where I am today.

It has been a varied journey, but I am incredibly proud of how far I have come.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR?

Having the opportunity to do more than my day-to-day role, but engage with my peers, both in and out of BT Group. As the Co-deputy Chair of the Armed Forces Network, I am involved in panel events aimed at supporting veterans in finding employment opportunities after they leave the force. Additionally, I serve as a mentor, offering guidance and sharing my own experiences to support internal colleagues and on occasion externally.

This reinforces my belief that I am in the right role at the right company, as I can make a positive impact beyond my primary responsibilities and general day-to-day.

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORK DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

Whenever people ask me this, I have to admit that no two days are the same for me! Currently, around 70% of my role involves heading up transformation projects, while the remaining time is dedicated to ensuring my team have the tools they need in order to succeed. Some days require my undivided attention on my team, while other times it’s all about managing projects. The nature of my tasks varies depending on what’s happening and who needs my assistance in that moment.

My job involves balancing numerous demands and making quick decisions, deciding at speed what needs my attention the most. I often find myself moving tasks around based on what I consider to be most important at any given moment. Where I work can also vary, sometimes I am working from home, other times it’s at the BT Group offices in London, or other cities across the UK, such as Bristol. I do really value this location flexibility, as it allows me to perform my job effectively while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE?

Throughout my career, I have had exclusively male managers, which may would assume has been a disadvantage. However, I consider myself blessed that these individuals played a crucial role in shaping who I am today. They provided me with the chance to gain experience in various areas and offered me support when I needed it most.

I must admit that balancing work and home life is not always easy. There are days when I come home and find that my children are already asleep, and I didn’t have the chance to see them, which can be tough. Fortunately, I have an amazing support system that helps me maintain a balance between career and family. Without them, I would not have been able to gain the role I am in today.

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

When I was an apprentice, I did face challenges as a female engineer which did cause me to worry a little. The industry is predominately male-dominated, and I often encountered comments suggesting that I would eventually transition to an office job rather than being out in the field with the men.

Luckily my years in the army prepared me for this so I was not unfamiliar with such thoughts.

However, it only fuelled my determination to prove those individuals who doubted me wrong and demonstrate that I was just as capable of performing my job as anyone else.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY?

To women and girls considering a career in engineering, I would say that once you are equipped with your qualifications, the world is your oyster. The applications of engineering are limitless, so you have the freedom to pursue your desired career path and go wherever you want.

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