Ellen Ward

Project Manager - ELC

is. Improvement Services

is. are the ‘go to’ organisation for local government improvement in Scotland.

People often underestimate me - whether that's because I'm a woman, or because I didn't study at university until much later in life. The work I have done makes an impact. I speak at conferences as an expert and I'm listened to because I have firsthand experience of delivering systems that demonstrate real-world value. And I get to coach, mentor, and support other people who are underrepresented to make the world of tech a more inclusive and diverse place.

I am in involved in a lot of projects. I tend to lead rather than directly manage the projects, as we have project managers on hand to keep everything organised and risks managed.

When I finished my A Levels, I wasn't able to go to university as I'd planned due to personal circumstances. I started work as a temp in a payroll company and through my attention to detail, diligence and ability to pick new things up quickly, I was made permanent and started work on a technology project which involved migrating millions of transactions to a new system as well as introducing new technology to read timesheets automatically. I learnt first hand the importance of good change management and project methodologies, and although my day to day role involved the actual payroll I soon became the 'go to' person for any tech issues within the team. I progressed and moved companies a few times before deciding I really wanted to retrain as a project manager. With the support of my boyfriend (now husband) and dad, I qualified using PRINCE2 and this gave me the opportunity to start a new career as a project support and database administrator. I worked hard, and was recommended for a key project for the organisation - with a supportive mentor in a senior position, and learnt a huge amount about digital transformation and more about ICT processes. My employer paid for me to do two more key qualifications: Agile Practitioner (another project management qualification more suited to IT) and a Google marketing course which introduced me to artificial intelligence. Through my own innovation and persuasiveness, I created a basic business case to start an AI project that I thought could benefit the organisation. I gained budget sign off, time to work on the project, and hired a developer to help me develop a prototype AI-powered chatbot to demonstrate the capabilities - which then led to the organisation creating an AI strategy of its own, and me leading more AI projects! Throughout my years working on AI projects, I saw very few women working in the field. It became my mission to encourage more women into tech and into AI, and support them however I could.

I'm looking forward to being a mum and bringing my child into a more inclusive world - one that respects women in technical roles and roles which support technology. I will continue to mentor women, support start-ups, consult for businesses that need AI advice, and speak at conferences as both a female role model and an expert in delivering advanced AI systems.

I love painting, and it's helped me maintain good mental health, as it's relaxing, creative, and a bit of me-time. I really enjoy making luxury chocolates, although it's not something I indulge in often, as I tend to eat a lot of them! I also have THE BEST brownie recipe in the world! 😋

'Those who can imagine anything - can create the impossible' - Alan Turing. This is such a powerful statement, and so relevant to everything I do.