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Spotlight on TECwomen: Chloe Rickard, Digital Future Academy Lead

What is your Name? Chloe Rickard

What do you do?

I am the Digital Future Academy Lead at Cornwall Council, based in Truro.

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself.

I grew up in Cornwall and live in Truro with my husband and two young children. I am a passionate advocate for where I live, and spend as much time as possible on the beaches, in the woods, and in pubs eating delicious food. My background is in marketing and fundraising in the arts and charity sector, and I have always been drawn to ways that digital can help reach more audiences, for example by developing a story walk app with writer Anna Murphy for Kneehigh.

Two years ago I started working for Cornwall Council, leading the Digital Skills Partnership which aims to bring together industry, education and local government to create the digital skills ecosystem that our future in Cornwall needs. It's been an enormous learning curve and I have met the most incredible people. I feel very lucky indeed.

What was your favourite subject at school?

I loved English all the way through school, but opted to study Philosophy at University, which actually has been super useful in my career as it taught me to move from ten page, rambling English essays to short, persuasive pieces summarising a philosophical position or arguing against it. Being able to argue well is also a great life skill :)

I loved sciences too and if I had my time again I'd go back and study physics, I am obsessed by the weirdness and beauty of quantum mechanics.

What do you do in your role at the moment? What does your day to day work look like?

A month ago I took on a secondment to lead the development of skills and capabilities as part of the council's digital future programme. The aim of the programme of a whole is to provide better experiences for the community we serve in the most efficient way possible in an increasingly digital world. The piece I'm looking at it is building a sustainable and inclusive academy to power our digital future. We want this academy to deliver innovation, skills, and capability for the information age, by building on the culture of collaboration and unique expertise within the Cornish tech ecosystem. It'll build on the brilliant stuff already happening in Cornwall, produce a talent pipeline, and create spaces where people can solve real problems together.

At the moment we are right at the beginning of the project which is an exciting time but can feel chaotic. What I am doing day to day is very varied. This week I've been talking to colleagues at the council about their skills needs and ideas, meeting stakeholders in education and industry, attending events, developing ideas for pilot activity, and supporting the rest of the digital future team in driving the programme.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

The tech industry in Cornwall is very special. Almost everyone I have met in the sector is not only super smart but also genuinely interested in how their work can make life better for people. There is a collective sense of purpose that is humbling and heart warming.

I feel tremendously privileged to learn from and connect with such excellent people. I'm also enjoying exploring the way tech and digital intersects so beautifully with the creative sector - my first love.

How did you get into the job your are doing now? What did you do to get started?

I was thinking of retraining as a facilitator because I get the most joy out of bringing people together and helping them work together to solve challenges or define innovative strategies. I saw this job advertised - which at its heart involved facilitating conversations and action between the tech sector, education, and the local authority - and though it could be an interesting way in. I had had a fair bit of experience writing digital strategies, in digital marketing, and working on digital projects like website and CRM builds, so I felt I had enough knowledge to get started. It turned out it was the tip of an iceburg and there was SO much going on in Cornwall that I had no idea about!

Have you faced any challenges along the way and how did you overcome them?

Having been used to working in very small teams that were agile by necessity, I found getting to grips with the enormity and structure of the council quite daunting. Finding my way in a (huge) new organisation (when everyone was remote) was tricky but I am getting there, mostly by asking a lot of stupid questions.

What advice would you give to young girls?

This is to my daughter, really. You are growing up in extraordinary times. And though the selfishness of our generation and those before have made your future uncertain (for which I am so, so sorry), if you carry on being as brave and resourceful and kind as you are now you will overcome anything. Above all, be curious. Always.


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