by | Oct 12, 2023

Ep. 9 | Michele Proctor, NatWest PLC & Alison Bailey, Lloyds Banking Group


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In this episode of Cyber Glass Ceiling, my guests are Michelle Proctor, lead of the Security Cryptography team at NatWest PLC, and Alison Bailey, Programme Manager – Information Management at Lloyds Banking Group.

Michelle has worked in technology for over 30 years, from COBOL programming to Platform Manager. Growing up in an army family and living abroad for much of her early life has opened her up to the diversities of people and cultures. Michele currently lead the Security Cryptography team at Natwest plc, helping keep the Bank and their Customers information secure.

Alison was born in South Africa where she completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree before starting work as a mainframe assembler programmer and then moving into more of a project management, readiness and delivery focus. She continued with this upon arriving in the UK in 2000, working as both a consultant and a contractor over the years before becoming a permanent employee of Lloyds Banking Group. Her career at Lloyds has covered projects involving the integration of HBoS’s, and subsequent split out of TSB’s, customer systems and data and more recently being part of the Cyber team. This has included working with our Private Cloud provider on cyber security matters and setting up, onboarding and supporting a cohort to the Cyber Academy. Alison is currently the Product Owner for DigiCerts.

Our conversation delves deep into the evolving role of women in IT sectors and the strides that have been made over the years. Michelle and Alison highlight the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives that have been made by their respective companies. We also discuss the challenges that neurodivergent people face in the IT industry and how embracing neurodiversity with innovative solutions can lead to improved team dynamics.

Tune in to Cyber Glass Ceiling and be part of the conversation as we explore the journeys and powerful insights of these inspiring industry leaders.

Show Notes

Our Guest:

Michele Proctor | LinkedIn

Alison Bailey | LinkedIn

Our Sponsors:

C-Vision International

Salt Group

Audio Transcription

Charles James: Welcome to my podcast, Cyber Glass Ceiling. I’m going to have a lighthearted fireside chat with some people who are leaders in the industry of cybersecurity. Prominent for the fact that they are women, people of color, LGBTQ or just different. The term glass ceiling refers to sometimes invisible barriers to success that many come up against in their careers.

A management consultant called Marilyn Lowden coined the phrase almost 40 years ago regarding women rising to senior positions and says it’s still as relevant as ever today. So I’ve taken it a little step further, not just women, but people of color and bias that may exist in the workplace and how they overcame this to become leaders in the industry.

I promise not too much swearing, no politics or religion, just a cuppa and whatever takes your fancy.

Hello and welcome to my next episode of Cyberglass Ceiling. Today I’ve got a duo with me Michele Proctor and Alison Bailey. Welcome ladies.

Michele: Welcome. Thank you.

Alison: Thank you.

Charles James: And it’s the first time we’ve had a duo and we’re in not so sunny Manchester today, where when I left my house it was 21 degrees and sunny and nice and warm and up here it’s now raining and, I don’t know, it’s mild but still a bit rainy. And I’ve got these two ladies, wonderful ladies here today to have a discussion about them. And who they are and where they work. So I’m going to start with Michele. Michele, introduce yourself. Say hello.

Michele: Hiya. So I’m Michele Proctor. I’m 58 years old. I don’t know if that’s important.

Charles James: You don’t look it.

Michele: It’s not a dating app.

Charles James: I stopped using them by the way.

Michele: Okay. Okay. I was born in Aldershot. So you can tell I’m an army brat. My dad was in the army. And I spent most of my life either in Germany or down south and when my dad retired after 22 years in the army, which I think was normal, then we went back to his hometown, which was just outside of Manchester.

For the last 20 years, I’ve lived in just outside of Edinburgh, working for RBS, but now NetWest. But my, my career kind of started back from being straight out when I was actually in Manchester, straight out of school.

Charles James: Thank you. And Alison. Welcome.

Alison: Thank you. Good to be here. So slightly, slightly different background.

I was further South than you. I was at South Africa. So really South. Basically did a university degree there in business. It was, it was quite a funny story. I wanted to be a psychologist. I thought this is, I love people. I like trying to understand what makes them tick. I’m going to go and do psychology.

So off I went for my first day of registration. And psychology clashed with computers. So it was like, Oh, I’m going to have to pick one or the other. And psychology was six years. If you want it to be a serious one, as in you had to do your honors, your master’s and doctorate and computers was three. So I chose computers.

So it really was a toss up between psychology and, and computers. And then basically went as an in house developer. So one of the large South African insurance companies, they were struggling to get mainframe programmers. So they basically said you could come on a course for three months.

They would teach you. And if you passed, then, then they’d give you a job. If you didn’t, then, you know, good luck. And yes. So what they also didn’t tell you was the course was an offer cards. And whilst I come from South Africa. My parents are British, so I’m a English South African person. So I could write the tests in English, but yeah, the course wasn’t Afrikaans, which is, is quite a challenge, but obviously I passed.

So I had a job and, and did that in South Africa. I got a bit bored programming. Cause you sort of sit in a dark room when you’re doing mainframe programming, doing hexadecimal dumps and it all sounds very technical. So I moved into the people side cause that is where I really do find find satisfaction.

So was then looking at doing program management and moved into a different company doing disaster recovery. And that was, we, we first had a very male orientated and gentlemen of a certain age cause they were all consultants and most of them were expats. So that was an interesting one doing, doing that.

Charles James: Okay.

Alison: And then decided when, when I had a breakup on a personal level, if I was going to start over, I may as well start over. Okay. So moved to the UK.

Charles James: Wonderful. And we’ll touch on that in a minute because you’ve been Lloyd’s banking group for a long time.

Alison: Thank Yeah, started off as a contractor and then went perm.

Charles James: So, so like I said, how it works we’re going to run for a few questions and it’s, it’s going to be good to sort of bounce off each other type thing. And Michele. You’ve been at NatWest, RBS, and even Barclays for a touch.

Michele: It was seven years at Barclays, yeah.

Charles James: In the early days. So you’ve been, you’ve both been in sort of banking and for, for, for forever. Because it’s again, you’re 14 years at Lloyds Banking Group. But, ah, but before that you’re at Monster.

Alison: I was at Monster yes.

Charles James: And that was the monsters the recruiting…

Alison: The online recruitment.

Charles James: Yeah, that’s it. That’s it

Michele I’m gonna start with you. What was your first job?

Michele: It was a work experience for British Gas and this was working in like a Telephony bureau for customers like ringing up about their meter readings or they’ve got a gas leak or something and it was very much on a on a inquiry center. So it was headset Picking up the phone and yeah in a call center In very early call center.

Charles James: Okay.

Michele: Yeah

Charles James: Ah and was that straight from school?

Michele: So I finished school in Germany. It was forces school, British forces school. Just at the same time, my dad came out of the army and when I came back to the UK, I enrolled in, in college just to see like what kind of things I wanted to do. And I was in, and we’ll talk about capriciousness and, and being being in a state of flux and not knowing what I want to do because it was like.

There was something going on in my head at the time but I did everything. I, I learned how to weld. I learned how to make jewelry. I learned how to there was a bit of computing going on. And so I was, I was into everything because I didn’t know where I was and what, you know, what I was in.

Charles James: As I would say because we’re, believe it or not, we’re sort of a similar age a couple of years younger, but it’s like understanding which way is up and what you want to do.

And I’ve come across this with a whole bunch of people I’ve interviewed is that, you know, there is no map laid out. This is what I’m going to do, and that’s how I’m going to do it for the rest of my life. It’s it’s about. You know, actually I might try that and if it doesn’t work, I’m going to do something else and if that doesn’t work, I’ll try something else and we’ve all been there and I’ll let you into a wee secret what I, what I did for my first job. I’ve not revealed it yet.

Michele: Yeah. So, so a little bit of like not knowing where what I’m doing where my headers are, massive turmoil in personal life thinking. You know, I’ve no longer got the, the sanctuary or the comfort of an army life straight into East Manchester. Going to college, people of all sorts of shape, sizes and everything.

And it was just my identity was, was gone. I didn’t understand why I was so flighty why I couldn’t focus, why I couldn’t concentrate and this sort of stuff. But it’ll all, like, fit into place later.

Charles James: Okay. And Alison, you, you did the whole education thing and three years.

Alison: I did the whole education thing for three years.

Charles James: And…

Alison: And got the piece of paper.

Charles James: And got the piece of paper.

Alison: Yes, although people now ask, did you just get it at the vending machine? Because I don’t think the South African pieces of paper count as much as as they used to.

Charles James: Really?

Alison: Yeah.

Charles James: Oh, I don’t know. And, and for the first job, what, what did you end up starting to do?

Alison: Well, you, you come out of university thinking, Oh, everyone’s going to want me, right? I’ve got my qualification. So there’s going to be a massive demand and you send off your, your CV to everybody saying, I’ve not done anything, but here’s my degree. And, and you get radio silence from, from a lot of people cause they want experience, but I think perseverance and continuing to just send that out.

So my first job whilst I was sort of trying to figure out again, where I’m going to go permanently was actually doing data entry and account reconciliation. So it was getting all the invoices for a company and then putting them in and trying to reconcile the payments with, with the receipts and all of those things.

And the books were a bit of a mess. So it was a big challenge to try and get them sorted. Fortunately, that was only a couple of months. And then one of my requests out to companies came back and said, yes, would you like to do this this in house assembler course? So it was a short lived data entry job.

Charles James: Fantastic, I know a little bit about. Accounting stroke data entry double entry bookkeeping.

Alison: Yes.

Charles James: I had to do that when I was tempting trying to get my find my way in the world and it’s something I got it was alright It was easy for me to do it, but it was still manual rather than on a computer It was literally double entry bookkeeping.

I was like, yeah, I can do this but again, it’s just something, as I said, you sort of find your feet in what you want to do. So, talking of finding your feet, and I’m going to start with you again Alison. The cybersecurity. Now, as we said earlier, you’ve been doing the program management and change management thing.

And I’m, I’m, I’m assuming or guessing that that also involves a lot of the security stuff as well.

Alison: The cybersecurity bit came later. So I don’t have any formal qualifications in cyber security. And I think that’s quite a, a key thing is you can learn on the job. You can apply, don’t, don’t be put off by thinking you have to tick all the boxes and have, have learned everything.

So I’d been with the bank for a while and was looking for an interesting job change within the bank. And the sort of cyber security came up and, and applied for that and was successful in doing that. And that was sort of 2017 odd. And then I’ve been doing various roles for, for cybersecurity.

So I looked at doing some private cloud. Working with our private cloud vendor doing a little bit on engagement. So how we can engage the, well, how people engage with us within cyber security, because a lot of people sort of see you as a, a dark art and I don’t quite know how I talk to you or, you know, I don’t understand your language.

So it did a bit around that. And I’m now doing a digital search, so digital certificates.

Charles James: Absolutely. And well, and, you coming from 100 years, 20 years, I’m only kidding, Michele you know, what was the, the, the trigger for you? Because as you said earlier, it was like, Oh, what do I do? You know, what’s gonna satisfy your, those, you know, Processes about how do you get to get to where you are now?

Michele: Yeah. So I think I matured very slowly. So still flighty at around 25 and then went to, and then decided that I actually should do something. So I went to further education in Bolton. I think it was called Bolton Institute of Higher Education at the time. It’s now a university, but it was there. And I got an HNC in computing, which started me on the, on the right road.

But that was when I was working with British Gas, so I went from that telephane bureau and very slowly matured. Because at the time you are surrounded by people who, who don’t necessarily have much of a career path and just it’s just a job to them. There’s no, there’s no passion and no career.

And I just knew that I was something different. This was not for me. So I went into the IT side of things at British gas and they supported the the day release Bolton came out of that and then was very much like you as a COBOL programmer. Yeah, it was and then I realized actually I’m not a massive, really good code board programmer, but what I can do is the COBOL programmers around me that that kind of need a bit more.

Support or don’t really fit in with a corporate organization. I was really good at helping them and supporting them at a very early age. So when I went to Barclays, I went it was, it was my first managerial job in in a design assurance type of role. And then moved to. NatWest, RBS NatWest.

And in 2015, there was an opportunity in IT security, as it wasn’t in. And I just thought, that’s one of the things I haven’t tried.

Charles James: So, it sort of leads me on. And this is about the interviewing, and the interview stage. And, you know, you’re both lovely ladies, and… We all know that the world of I. T. is dominated by middle aged men and I’ve said it a hundred times already with potbellies, bad t shirts and, you know, ponytails.

And, you know, you guys have broken through the glass ceiling to become leaders in what you do. Alison, can you recall that time when it was like, well, why is she applying for this job type thing? Did it happen? And, and, and how did you combat that?

Alison: I think it’s interesting because the first job that I sort of applied for other than, you know, the assembler job was actually.

As I said, that the disaster recovery business continuity firm, and that was very much male orientated. But interestingly, we had the South Africans who are very much, if they’re an Afrikaans South African, they can tend to be quite sexist and going, well, yes, you are, get me the cup of tea and, you know, have you done the diary kind of thing, but expats who’d come over who were very much open to, if you’ve got the skills and you’ve got the enthusiasm, then that’s what we want.

So they were really keen to hire me. But it did ruffle a few feathers amongst the older, more traditional South Africans.

Charles James: That’s interesting. So culturally with the expats, it wasn’t too bad. But you know, within the South African. Community. It was like, was it really, you know, woman know your place type thing.

I, I, again, I’m just,

Alison: Yeah, we, we hadn’t, I mean, I’m, I’m 52. So not a little bit behind you, but not, not ahead of the apartheid, but so we were still going through apartheid where we had very much, you know Girls only school, generally whites only where I was going through. So university was my first sort of experience of, wow, there’s a whole lot of new people out here, you know, there’s, there’s opposite genders and there’s different, you know, colors and accents and all sorts of things.

Cause we were very insular in our school. So there was. There wasn’t quite that positive, affirmative action or whatever, I can’t remember what the exact words are, where actually it was, well, we do want to embrace diversity. It was very much a traditional point at that time. So it was, it was later as you sort of moved on your career and Nelson Mandela got released that then there was black economic empowerment and people were actively trying to create more diversity in the workplace.

So it was a really interesting time to be, to be going through.

Charles James: Yeah, and you know, when I was interviewing Warren Small, I think in the last, last episode he, I, I, I said to him that because of the change that was going on in South Africa at the time with Nelson Mandela being released, he goes, was it easier for him as a, as a black guy to, you know, come up through the ranks? And his answer was no.

Alison: Really?

Charles James: Yeah. Because unless you knew somebody you know, it was still a bit of a struggle and you know, if, if your parents worked at a certain place, that was okay. If if you didn’t know anybody within a certain business, it was still very difficult to get in. But again, I, I, I also remember a part, I remember the whole thing and I just thought.

Okay, that that’s interesting. And, you know, I look at South Africa now and it’s just like everywhere else. I’ve never visited, but my sister has and she said it’s an amazing place. It’s a beautiful place. I’m like, yeah, great, fantastic. And it’s interesting that what you’ve just said about sort of opportunity for a female coming up.

As well as what Warren was saying, it, it, it makes, makes a bit more sense. Okay, moving on. The exciting thing is you guys are now sort of leaders in your workplaces. Michele, you’re at NatWest, Alison, you’re at Lloyds Banking Group. And you’ve been there for quite some time the barriers so you’ve seen have you seen that change in that diverse change and What it’s meant for more women coming through people of color People of whether LGBTQ+ and we’re going to touch on neurodiverse in a second.

So, you know, Michele start with you but has there what have you seen and how do you as a leader sort of make sure that that diversity continues.

Michele: Yeah, so the whole industry from from actually I think it was 1991 when I did the HNC so we are talking 32 years, 32 years that I’ve been in IT and

Charles James: 1991 I was drunk. So I think the whole of nineties I was drunk.

Michele: That was your cloudy era but yeah, so I would say the whole industry from that point to now has just grown and evolved and become a really diverse workplace and it is such a positive. Industry to be in because of that, I remember the old dinosaurs that we worked for, that the, the amount of unconscious bias that was there and maybe a little bit of conscious bias, you know, you never really know was just prevalent and the, it was a combination of lads clubs.

It was the the sexism or the misogynism and things like that was there in the whole industry and probably not, not solely with it either. But. There has been a kind of revolution in the last, I would say eight, 10 years where it’s really important to educate diversity and inclusion and actually talk about big, because if you talk about the corporate numbers and the commercial element of things, there’s, there’s even that thing about the opportunities that you’re missing if you are not including these type of people, whether it’s as customers, whether it’s actually as vendors, suppliers, staff, people you’re just, you know, you’re missing out on so much.

Charles James: Indeed, and Alison?

Alison: Yeah, I would agree with that. Because if you look, we’re both in service, it’s banking.

So your customer is, is basically, you know, Be all and end all, you need to make sure you, you don’t lose your customers or you don’t have a company and our customers are very diverse. So I think by bringing in a whole lot of diverse people into your workforce, you are getting to understand what do your customers need?

How do they react? You get such a different insight into things. And just bringing in that fresh approach, even if they don’t have IT skills, you know, we can train the skills if you’ve got the right, the right attitude and the right behaviors. We can teach you the skills and so I think in the past it’s always been well, have you passed this this this?

What are your computer, you know degrees and skills? What certifications have you got now? It’s more. How do you approach things? Do you like problem solving? Are you able to collaborate work together that that is very much It’s more about your values and behaviors in your culture then what did you get?

And can you analyze a hexadecimal dump?

Charles James: No, understood. And I mean, I interviewed a lady called Elizabeth Huffman, who’s a director of cybersecurity for KPMG. And on the services side, and KPMG have gone out their way to hire, if you like, those those people have those diverse people to make it what’s the word I would use?

Not a plan per se, but to make it, make sure they as an institution do exactly that have the mixture of people because and I said it in a few episodes that when you, in our industry, when you sit in a room and you’re the only female or person of color and you’ve got, again, it’s no slight, it’s not in a bitch fest again, you know, you see all these guys sitting around the table and they’re all the same and they have the same ideas and you think to yourself, do y’know what if someone else was in or someone and it’s like you’re right.

It’s starting to happen ten years Yeah, I’d probably probably say I don’t know what we in now from about 2017 onwards. I believe it started to change and you know, I saw it in sports You saw it in this or me to movement. When was that? That was probably 17 18 2017 2018 and it was a wake up call and and you see it on tv you see it in sport Especially now that women’s say women’s football.

The world cup’s just about to start in australia And you know, i’m going to put my hands up and I used to giggle at ladies football because it was like well, it’s not the same but it doesn’t matter It’s not the same because they’re doing the same thing And a dinosaur like myself had to rethink how he changed because I’ve got three daughters and they go, dad, you can’t say that.

And I was like, well, it is the same, but it’s not the same. And you try and put up an argument the, you know, women’s football is different to men’s football. Yes, it is. But they’re doing the same thing and sustained the same sort of skill set. And you sort of think to yourself, well, actually, I still can’t do that as a, as a male.

But these women can do

Alison: and that’s interesting because I don’t do football. I mean South African we do rugby and cricket, right? However, I watched the women’s football.

Charles James: Hang on South Africa still world champions, right? Yeah, four years ago, yeah, they beat England. Yeah.

Alison: Well, I’ve Brit dual citizenship, right? So I can choose which, which side I’m presenting. But seriously, the women’s football, I watched that and it was incredibly moving. Whereas the men’s football, I still think they can be a little bit prima donna-y and it doesn’t seem as collaborative.

The lionesses went out there and it was enough to bring tears to your eyes because they honestly work together as a team. And I think that was, that was the amazing thing for me is it felt different to what they might be doing the same thing and kicking a ball but it felt different and it felt more inclusive.

Charles James: And do you know what? They actually won something.

Alison: We did.

Charles James: You know, we won the European Cup and it’s something that’s no English men’s team has achieved. Anything we did was 1966. I wasn’t born. Sorry, Michele

Okay, we’re gonna take a quick break and we’ll be back after these words.

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Charles James: And welcome back to my next episode of Cyberglass ceiling and with me. I have Michele Proctor who works at Natwest Bank and I have Allison Bailey who’s at Lloyds Banking Group and we’re here today to have a good gas about how they’ve come up through the ranks to be leaders in their in their fields for their companies and Banking is what we’re all in.

So we should carry on but, now we’re going to touch on something called neurodiversity and neuroscience in my opening statements, I talk about people who are different and you know, growing up, we all know those people or that, that person that was slightly different from everybody else. And I remember me growing up thinking, leave them alone. I went to a, I went to a boy, all boys school and it was a bit like Borstal.

And if you were different, you know, it was like a light was shone upon you like that. And so I was never bullied and I was never a bully. And when I saw things like that happening, I’d absolutely put a stop to it because I could. And some people couldn’t. So I know Michele that there’s something that’s close to your heart about around neurodiversity and in more episodes, I will do, I want to touch on it, you know, more and more because to do the job we do. You’ve got to have something about you, but also the people we work with have something about them and we’re not talking hyper intelligence, but you’ve got to have some sort of intelligence to do what we do. So, you know, talk to me about not just yourself, but what you did were recognized for that made you one of the leaders in your organization.

Michele: Yeah, and I think we mentioned it on the very first time we ever, we spoke that one of my very first interviews for a managerial position, I was I was brought into the room afterwards and told by my boss at the time that I had been successful in it, but not down to normal merit. They had selected me because the particular team was very broken.

They had a lot of analysts and, and people, technology people that were struggling working in a big corporation. And they felt that I had a very softly, softly approach and high empathy. And that was the thing that got me the job. And I remember thinking that that wasn’t really much of a compliment to me.

Although, you know, that I you know, I really get the people and I, I am very high empathy for, for people of differences. But it was not getting it through normal merit. That really stuck in with me for years, thinking that I wasn’t, I still wasn’t good enough to be a manager, but I was only, I slipped through the net somehow.

And I think you, you talked, you said something instantly saying like, it’s still, you know, this might be not what they’ve recognized, but you still have. Something, something behaviorally that actually nailed that job. And I’ve nailed that job ever since. And I’ve always been my most recent one, so seven years ago, I was pulled into the cryptography team at the time because they were another quite broken team with no collaboration, no, no real team gelling customer service was absolutely down the pan and I was, I was promoted into that role to wrap my arms around it and, and and it, and fix it. And, and it came naturally to me being a people person, being a high empathy understanding that especially in our industry, there are an awful lot of people that are neurodiverse. I can manage them empathetically and support them through some of the more difficult bits of corporate.

At working in a corporate organization.

Charles James: So, Alison

Alison: Well, what I find fascinating about what I find fascinating about that is you took it as a negative when they said well, you didn’t get it on merit, but actually they were singling out for for what is a really strong and really unique…

trait that you’ve got

Charles James: That’s what I said.

Michele: Yeah, you did.

Alison: You know, you won it on that. How many people can compete on that? Many can compete on merit, but very few will have that high level empathy.

Michele: You both say that, but it was the way it was delivered from a male. Middle aged white male in that organization that had probably had it really easy being in the boys club and going up through the ranks themselves of ticking all the boxes of being popular, of, of cracking the whip, being the high paced delivery managers, which was what was expected not realizing that that’s not the way that all teams can be managed.

But yeah, so it was the way it was delivered that well, if it had been my, I’m paraphrasing obviously, but if it had been my choice, you wouldn’t have got it. But it seems that we need somebody with high empathy to deliver that. So, yeah.

Charles James: And then you built the success on that, haven’t you? And, and, you know, doing this podcast and One of the things I’ve always wanted to try and recognize is that no matter who you are, a female, person of color, neurodiverse, LGBTQ, you can still rise up and, and, and achieve something.

And it’s just giving that someone a pathway to understand that goes, actually, yeah, I’ve recognized that I’ve got a certain condition, but I can still have a, a decent job to, to, you know, Go up through the ranks if need be. And if there’s more businesses, whether they be high corporates, whether it be banking, insurance or whatever, recognize the fact that you’ve gotten neurodiverse people in your organization and you can do stuff about it.

And again, Alison, you probably come across those, those individuals that you can recognize that actually they’ve got a mass, fantastic brain but they’re not going to be part of the boys club because it’s not the way they’re built. That’s not where they’re recognized.

Alison: Yeah. And that’s the key thing.

We’ve actually got training that we can, you know, sign up for at Lloyd’s to actually say, how, how can we help neurodiverse people? It was amazing. I actually went on some of this training and a lot of the people were going, “oh, we were told we were stupid. We were told, you know, we were thick”. And now that we’ve actually grown up and we’re, we’re you know, finding out a bit more about ourselves. We’re finding out we do have, you know, something on the spectrum and that we’re not stupid, we’re not thick. We just need to have a different way of communicating. And so we, we’ve got colleagues who, who struggle reading because they’re dyslexic, but they’re brilliant.

So don’t make them read, give them a speech thing that will read it for them so they can hear because they’re perfectly good at hearing, you know, find out what works for that person to give them the support. Because if you keep doing the same thing over and over, you’re going to get the same results. By embracing all of these things that, that other people have got, that your traditional boys club or whatever you want to call it don’t have, that’s where you get the opportunities.

But we do need to look at how we can help and how we can make them feel included because the normal stuff that we’ve been used to doing for many years doesn’t work.

Charles James: Indeed, and it’s inclusion. And I don’t know, Michele, I might put you on the spot a little bit here as an example of As I’m going to say Natwest on how they’ve sort of embraced that neurodiversity within the business. Can you is there a…

Michele: Yeah, definitely. We everybody in our industry, we have regular regulatory reading and viewing. This is the stuff that every, every quarter you have to complete all your learnings. And learnings historically has all have been about maybe fraud or health and safety. But you see more and more of these modules coming out that are about recognizing the differencing in people and choose, choosing to challenge.

So this is about in an environment. We’re in a very safe environment, but I’m talking about in a normal working environment, if we… If we saw something that didn’t feel right didn’t, was just micro behaviors, negative micro behaviors, and I thought that we are being encouraged to choose a challenge.

You know, whether you do it there direct and confrontational, or whether you take ’em to one side, whether you delegate to a manager or whatever like that. It’s, it’s, it’s the, it’s a much more recent way of actually recognizing. Micro behaviors and giving people the empowerment to actually do something about it without feeling that, you know…

Charles James: Totally understand. And, you know, I’ve, I said, I’ve, I’ve been in cyber security for about, 13 years, but I’ve been in I. T., you know, in I. T. sales because I’m a sales guy, believe it or not, but I’ve been in I. T. sales for about 20 odd years. And I remember when I started off, you had these. Excuse my French, these Bobby bullshitters that come along and they’d be going rah, rah, rah, I’m this, I’m that, I’m great.

And you look at them and you think, I used to look at them and think they were an absolute tool. Excuse my French, but they were an absolute tool because to, to run a successful business, to be in a successful team, it’s not about you as an individual, it’s about how you collaborate with the rest of the people around you.

And it’s funny because I’ve seen these. Ah, these people, let’s just call ’em that. Think they’re, call ’em Charlie, big Bulls, or whatever you wanna call it, fail because all they’re concerned about is them. And then when they’ve, you know, there’s someone in the organization that may be slightly neurodiverse, you know, they’ve get absolutely crucified by these individuals.

And it’s like, no, not having it. And again, it could be a boss, it could be a manager, it could be a the, the person that originally gave you the job. And now he’s like absolutely coming down on you like a ton of bricks and you think yourself that’s not right and so culture has changed. I hope it’s changed anyway, where we as in we as individuals and we as people?

Recognize that people are different and that this is one of the whole reasons I do what I do, to make sure that people are aware that yes people are different and they bring different skill sets because if they don’t you know, the world would be a really sad place.

Michele: But it’s been a long time coming. So I, there are probably statistics to say that in our industry, in computing industry, there is probably the highest level numbers of people that actually are somewhere on the, on the, on the spectrum.

Charles James: Absolutely.

Alison: The geek streak.

Michele: Is that what they call it?

Alison: Yeah. Geek streak.

Michele: Yeah, because so it, it kind of feels like we’re a bit late because we’ve recognized that there have been people with neurodiversities for years and more recently, I think the, the understanding around some of them, especially, so something very close to my heart is ADHD in women.

We’ve got it in the family. My niece has recently been diagnosed and she’s quite severe but there’s, there’s moderate with a lot of us and and she’s quite very hyper focused. And she, the coping mechanisms that she’s had to put in over the years means that she’s not been really identified as anything, whereas in, I think historically it was easy to identify in in boys because of the completely different things that they exhibited with ADHD.

Charles James: ADHD, autism is harder to identify. Well, not harder. It’s just boys would get recognized for it like that. And then girls.

Michele: Bizarre coping mechanism that we put in because we think at a very early age, you think I’m, I’m different than everybody else and I need to sort of mask it by putting the layers of onions or whatever they call it on just to hide things.

And it’s not until you meet hit middle age that you actually start thinking or reading an awful lot and thinking “oh, for God’s sake”. This is just if not labeling, but if I didn’t understand more about this, I would not have felt so isolated or felt that I was somehow deficient or whatever in something because I was not as normal as everybody else.

So, and I think we’re going to see more of this. I think we are actually going to be seeing more because it’s, it’s, there’s another revolution of you know, of the, the gender revolution and the neurodiversity revolution is coming. And it’s a good thing because it goes back to what we’ve said about the opportunities that we’re missing with The perspective from different people is is, is not to be underestimated.

Charles James: No. Again, I understand.

We move on now. We, we live in a world where you guys are leaders in what you do and we’re gonna touch on cyber cyber security and one of the. Questions I’d like to ask is that in banking you, you can’t get more scary when you’re, you know, in charge of millions, if not trillions going through your systems in, in regards to people transact every day and with all the threats out there and the threat landscape.

Couple of things that sort of stand out that keep you awake at night. What would that be? I’m going to start with Alison.

Alison: Well, surprisingly, cyber security doesn’t keep me awake at night. I think… In, in Lloyds, we’re, we’re very good at what we do so it doesn’t really keep me awake. The, the things that I would be concerned about when I am awake, rather than keeping me awake, I think the quantum computing, that’s, we, we haven’t seen anywhere near where it’s going to end up going.

Charles James: Huh.

Alison: All the, sort of, Bards and chat GPT, where you’re going to sit there and go, you know, we’ve already seen hackers have made a dark web copy of it and they’re using that to improve phishing emails. So you’re no longer going to have your bad spelling mistakes and grammar saying, you know, well done.

You’ve got some great uncle who’s died and left you some load of money back and wherever.

Charles James: Please click this link.

Alison: Exactly. So I think the not knowing what we don’t know is, is that’s the bit to worry about because. I think your, your threat actors are moving very quickly.

Charles James: So you think AI has got a lot to still in its infancy is it may come up and be a bit more challenging?

Alison: I think personally, I think we’re sitting looking at them and there’s a meeting going on, I think, in America, isn’t there, where they’re talking about how they’re going to regulate it and all of you know, the countries are getting together whilst we’re sitting, talking about it your threat actors and your hackers are getting on with it.

So, yeah, it’s a slight concern. When you start looking at how we can use it for good, or we can use it for bad. And the people using it for bad are generally a bit faster off the mark than the people using it for good.

Charles James: So it’s always trying to play and catch up?

Alison: Play and catch up, yeah.

Charles James: Indeed. Just before I ask you, Michele, I went to see Mission Impossible at the weekend.

Michele: Oh yeah?

Charles James: And it’s all about AI. Believe it or not.

Alison: Interesting.

Charles James: I was like, okay, car chases, car chases, hang on 60 year old Tom running like 500 meters without taking a break. And I’m like, I can’t even do that. And yeah, more car chases, motorbikes train. And-

Michele: Honestly, do we not need to go and see it now?

Charles James: No, because it’s only part one. There’s two parts to it. The second part is probably in a couple of years. Do you think I would have gotten the first part and I have to go re see it again and you know, double the income of mission impossible. Sorry, I- get back to it. Sorry. What keeps you awake at night, Michele?

Michele: So AI definitely is in there, but I think that you’ve already covered that. So the other thing is is around about protecting customers identities. And, and and that includes authenticating, you know, our customers out there, the, the, the, the, the eye watering number of of fraud that the banks actually pay back every year, because I think we all know that the industry does give back to the customers when they’ve been they’ve been, had their money stolen through fraudulent means it’s billions and billions, billions.

In fact. Didn’t when we had the presentation from salt group, you came up with our team members. Maybe you can insert them there. But that it, it, it doesn’t keep me up at night. I am able to switch off very easily and it doesn’t need a pina colada either. But it is the thing that you, you, you, you mentioned it earlier that they are our bread and butter.

Customers are our bread and butter. We need to protect them. Customer identity management is the next big thing we need to.

Charles James: I know a bit of software that can deal with that.

Michele: Oh yeah, do you really? It’s like a lovely segue into a sales pitch for you.

Charles James: No, this is about Cyber Glass Ceiling, not about salt group. Anyway no, and I understand that. And it leads me on to my next question, which is, is around practical cyber security advice you would give to friends or family.

I’m going to go to Michele. And yeah, practical advice. We’re at home and we’ve got our own laptops and we’ve got our phones and whatever what not to, I know we touched on it about don’t click that link, but, you know.

Michele: Bloody just stolen me thunder. So it was, yeah, it’s like, don’t click on anything. But I would say, and it is, and it’s something not just for this, it’s a fact checking. I think you’re going to talk about our branding in a bit, but I’m a fact checking. Twit. So, and I, and I can annoy everybody by, when you see something being posted on social media, instantly I’ll be going, is that actually true?

And annoying people by saying, like, I don’t think, and, and, and putting the reference link there to, to it. And so that’s, so my thing to all my, my friends and, and, and family is like, just check the facts before you fence, send it on, or you click on something, or you use, you use that as now your own fact. That’s me.

Charles James: Okay, Alison?.

Alison: So I’ve got two that, that I think are pretty key. Passwords. So the number of people who go, Oh, well, I can’t remember passwords, I’ll just use the same one everywhere. I mean, you know, and write it down. Yeah. Or put it in their phone and then, you know, not, not put a password on the phone so that everybody can just access it.

So yeah, maybe a password manager is a good thing. And then one that, a number of people don’t like doing it. It’s around currency. So make sure you’ve got the latest versions, because the number of vulnerabilities that, you know, you haven’t patched if you, you’re sort of living on really old software.

It’s very easy for people to come in and hack you through that. So I think those apply both personally as well as professionally. Currency is a big one.

Charles James: Okay, that’s a new one. As well, but no, totally understood. Yeah, don’t, yeah. So don’t click on links, verify everything.

Michele: Fake news.

Charles James: Yeah. Like I said, even with AI and, and, and stuff like that, I think who’s the, the guy I, this will just, I can’t remember. Martin Lewis. There was a fake. AI was it or I can’t remember what it was. It was a fake him.

Alison: A deepfake.

Charles James: Deepfake. There you go. Thank you a deepfake Martin lewis talking about do this do that and do the other.

Alison: Didn’t have a deepfake putin as well that Someone took over russian broadcasting or was that fake news?

Charles James: I don’t know don’t know but these are Again, these are all the challenges we’re facing. It’s about okay. Hang on a minute. No, what’s well what’s not real and simple everyday things. You get an email. I mean, at the moment, my sister has been, her email address has been hacked. And you’ve got some guy called Abdul. I’m coming for your Abdul when I find you. Case I’ll check out these photos, check out these photos.

And I’m like. Hang on a minute. And I know, I know it’s fake and I have to tell my sister, sis, this is going out. Tell your friends, do not click on anything, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And when I find this Abdul character, I’m going to kick his ass. But that’s another story for another time.

Now this is quite an important one because we’re going to go back in time. We’re going to go back in time. I’m looking at you, Alison, for a second.

Alison: I’m thinking back to the future, but okay.

Charles James: So your 20 year old self.

Alison: Mm hmm.

Charles James: What advice would you give your 20 year old self who, someone who wanted to come into the industry we’re in now in regards to what they should do, what they could need to learn, or if you go back to when you were 20 years old. And the career you’ve had now what would you say to yourself?

Alison: That’s a slightly difficult one. Cause when I was 20, I actually was really fortunate. I had a family that went, you can do anything. I mean, I grew up with four brothers being the only girl and it was never, I, Oh, well, you need to do the cooking.

You need to sew the buttons on. It was always a, you know, you’re one of five, get on with it. So I never had it in my head that I couldn’t do anything. And that’s why, even when I went for interviews in a predominantly male orientated environment and never occurred to me, I couldn’t do it because that’s.

What I grew up with is, is a whole lot of, you know, males in the house. And so I think what do something you’re passionate about, so don’t do something because you want to earn money because you’ll, you’ll end up. Potentially earning money and then going I’m bored. What do you want to do? So your example was really interesting where you tried a whole lot of different things, you know, try different things be brave. Don’t sit there and think well just because i’ve gone and learned this I have to do this for the rest of my life. I think that’s really different where we are In the sort of 2023s versus back to the traditional, you know, you you joined up You stayed with the company, they gave you the watch when you left and that was it.

People are changing careers multiple times. I don’t even know how many times. And not just changing jobs, but changing careers. So be brave and just go out there and try it. Find what you’re passionate about.

Charles James: Even though you’ve been with the bank for a number of years, you’ve had different…

Alison: Different roles, different, different areas. Yep. And I’ve done that even from my assembler programming, going into business continuity and disaster recovery. And then, you know, doing, I did Lotus notes, not, not COBOL, but yeah, assembler and then Lotus notes and then coming and doing, doing Siebel consultancy and, you know, working for Monster. It’s, it’s try different things and, and believe in yourself, you know, don’t, don’t sit there.

And I think a challenge we have as women is we’re very much. And this is a buzzword at the moment, the imposter syndrome. So we all sit there and think, Oh, I can’t do that. I can’t apply for that job because I’ll, I’ll be an imposter. I can’t do a hundred percent of the job. And it was interesting cause when I worked at Monster, I was looking after the the customer, the CRM system Siebel at the time, and they wanted me to go and hit up their business information.

So go and do the data warehouse and all of that. I said, I can’t do that. I know nothing about that. And they went, you can, you’ve got the skills, you have transferable skills that you can use. We can teach you how to do business, you know, data warehouse, all those things that I then had SMEs who did, I didn’t need to do it, but you’ve got transferable skills and believe in yourself when others.

Yeah, you can do it you can.

So you use the posh word if it’s imposter thing. I say fake it until you make it

20 year old Michele

20 year old Michele.

Outside of the airbase not looking at the squadies

Michele: No, my dad was out the army by then. So I was very much in Manchester and I would so I would definitely talk to me, have a serious word about feeling guilty for not being ready, not being mature and not being already at university, because it wasn’t until I was 25 that I decided to go for not being mature enough to have that, that perfect career that everybody was having, because, you know, it’s, there’s just no rush.

I know that life is too short and you should not put off your camper van you know, for another, until you retire. But I’m talking about actually when you are 20, but yeah, it is about like at 20, you’ve, you should be exploring everything. You should be finding out more about yourself and not into a rush of anything. And if you are young and irrelevant and. Immature and silly and let just get out of your system because one day you will and but but if you don’t Recognize that it’s actually okay to do that.

You will end up being have just innate guilt your entire life and.

Charles James: So go out there explore, indulge, try different things. Sounds like drugs.

Michele: I didn’t do drugs, no.

Charles James: I’m kidding. Back to the 90s. But yeah, no, totally understand that. I’m going to have to cut some of this out because it’s terrible. Drugs.

Never took a drug in my life. So, fun. Now we’ve come out of the series. Get out of the serious stuff out of the way. We’re fun. The jobs we do aren’t simple jobs and it takes a lot of, a lot of effort and a lot of our energy. So, wind down, downtime. Alison, I’m looking at you. What do we do?

Alison: I have two horses in the family.

Charles James: Nice.

Alison: Very nice. And they don’t suffer fools gladly. If you turn up there and you’re in a bad mood, they just walk off and leave you. So it’s incredibly grounding that you can just go there, you’re out in nature, you switch off, and you basically have to be in the moment and work with what you’ve got in front of you.

You can’t sit there and say, Oh, I should have done this, and I should have done this, because the horses are like, you know, speak to the hoof. I’m not, I’m not hanging around here. I’m off to the grass unless you make it worth my while. So they’re incredibly rewarding because they mirror back and I can tell if I’m stressed or something because they’re all on edge going, Ooh, what, why, why is she not, why is she not comfortable?

Where’s the tiger? You know, it’s going to come and eat us. So yeah, horses and just being out in nature are incredibly rebalancing and reenergizing.

So you’re an outdoorsy type person. Wellies.

I have wellies, yes you get, you get wet, you look like a drowned rat, but it’s wonderful.

Charles James: Okay, Michele.

Michele: So I took up about… Gosh, it’s gonna be a long time ago now probably 15 years ago. I took up pottery and there is something about art therapy that I think is very very important to people and We’ve got a little bit of an artistic streak in the family, but make being working class family There was never any encouragement to to go down the arts route.

It was always like, go out and find yourself a bloody job. So you contribute to, to put money in pots, put money in pot, like what was that? Bread. It was, wasn’t it? Yeah, so it, there was the encouragement was to just go out and, and do your schooling, go to go to work. So I never did art. But I do do it in my spare time.

So about, it’s going to be about 15 years ago. I started going to a ninth class for pottery and I love it. I’ve got some horrendous pieces cause I’m not a very good thrower. You know, like throwing it on a wheel. Rubbish, I haven’t got the patience to do a whole load of balls and work, you know, and work through them all one by one and then just throw them because they don’t look like a vase.

But I am a sculptor and I do a lot of slab parts, you know, when you roll things together and cut them and things like that. The ones that are awful are all in the garden. They’re all in the garden and I’m just going to let the weather just decide whether they live or not. But the big better pieces are in the house and some of them I’ve actually given away as gifts and then regretted it instantly because I’m thinking they were brilliant. But yeah,

Charles James: so there’s no disco parties and Is it? Tequila


Michele: The ladies, the ladies that do pottery they’re, they are a lovely bunch and there’s some wild swimmers in there. Because I live in North Berwick, which is just outside of Edinburgh and it’s a seaside community and, and without the Kiss Me Quick hats and the arcades.

But we’ve got access to some beautiful bays and. Even though it is the fourth and dead close to the North Sea the wild swimming there is brilliant.

Charles James: Yeah, well, I’ll be coming up soon. I think October, when we do that round table.

Michele: Hop on a train and I’ll show you.

Charles James: Yeah, yeah, get a plane.

Michele: Oh, from, from Edinburgh to North Berwick, it’s about 35 minutes on a train.

Charles James: Oh, is it? Oh, even better. That’s, that’s, that’s a doable one.

Alison: That’s interesting, you call it wild swimming. In South Africa, it’s just swimming. I was like, what is wild swimming? Yeah, you go along the beach and there’s, you know, watch out for the crocodiles, and you’re like, oh, okay, that’s, that’s wild swimming.

Michele: Hairy.

Alison: It was a new term I had to learn here.

Charles James: Okay, so, we’re, we’re coming up to the last question believe it or not, and it’s about the USP, unique selling point. So this, like I said, this whole podcast I’ve done God knows how many episodes now, I think I couldn’t tell you 12, 13 going on and this is about you guys, it’s not about where you work, whether it’s Lloyd’s or Nat West Bank, it’s about you guys.

And you know, if I said, or I’m going to say to you. Alison, what is your unique selling point? What makes you you and what makes what made you that leader within what you do now in the banking world for Lloyds?

Alison: So I couldn’t actually think of anything unique to me because I am because we are all unique.

So it’s like, okay, well, what is my unique selling point? So I went and I asked my boss, I said, right, what’s my unique selling point? And he said, you get things done with empathy. You take people with you and I think that’s the key thing is, yes, I’m, I’m very driven. Yes, I like results and I like making things, you know, work and getting to where we want them to go.

But I take people with me and it’s interesting because I’ve been looked back and I’ve had a number of people in a team, if I’ve changed roles, they’ve said, can we come with you? Can we come and work in your new team? And it is, it’s that empathy, it’s that understanding, it’s that collaboration. And bringing the people with you, but still getting things done.

Charles James: Very good.

Michele: Yeah.

Charles James: Michele?

Michele: I was thinking about Life of Brian when they were saying you’re all didn’t he say, like, you’re all individual, I’m not, and I’m not. We are all unique, but I think I’ve also got that high empathy thing, but a data driven, high empathy person that I have, my confidence comes with facts and figures.

And I use that in my arguments, and my influencing, and things like that, but also, yeah, definitely on the high empathy.

Charles James: Okay. Well we come to the end of this series of the podcast podcast. It’s a lot longer than my usual podcast, so I’m going to stretch it out a little bit and thank you both for joining me.

For Alison and for Michele it’s been great. But we’re going to carry on after this. So sorry, guys, you’re going to miss out on the fun. Anyone who’s listening and no, I really do appreciate it. And thank you for joining me on cyber glass ceiling.

Michele: Thank you.

Alison: Thank you for the opportunity.

Charles James: Thank you.

Salt Group: This episode was brought to you by Salt Cybersecurity, part of Salt Group, who specialise in providing trust across digital channels by helping major financial institutions verify the identity of their users and authenticating high value transactions in the UK and globally.


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