By Scott Wright

LINDSAY McGranaghan marvels at the breadth of opportunities available now for young people contemplating careers in Scotland’s technology sector.

In fact, the boss of IT giant CGI in Scotland jokes that she is jealous of today’s undergraduates and apprentices, who perhaps do not have the same need to leave their hometowns for London to fulfil their career goals.

Not that working in the UK capital as a young graduate did her career any harm.  Ms McGranaghan became the youngest president in CGI’s history when she was named as its leader in Scotland in October, aged 36. It capped a rapid rise for the proud Glaswegian who began her career on the Fujitsu graduate scheme in London, switched to CGI while working in England and returned to her native Scotland with the company in 2012.

Ms McGranaghan admits the opportunity to lead the business in Scotland came about a little earlier than she would have planned. But she is clearly relishing the opportunity.

“It’s been great, lots of pressure, but it is really super-exciting,” she said. “And it is really nice to be doing it in Scotland. It makes such a difference.

“In London, I always say everyone is a tourist. [Having] a sense of community and giving back and delivering services in an area you live in, and can actually tell your parents and friends about it, is meaningful. It is quite unique. I have really enjoyed it.”

As the debate continues over how to ensure more senior roles in business are held by women, Ms McGranaghan said she does feel a responsibility to be a role model. However, she feels fortunate to have continually been surrounded by successful women during her time with CGI.

Speaking as the company prepares to move its Glasgow operation to new premises on West George Street, Ms McGranaghan said she hopes up and coming females at CGI will see it as normal for women to hold senior positions at the company.

“A lot of the restrictions that were prevailing then just didn’t even cross my mind,” she said. “I joined when it was Fujitsu originally, and I was working into a female boss. Her boss was the only woman on the board in the UK and she was as feisty as you got, and took absolutely no prisoners.

“I just assumed that was the status quo, so being surrounded by senior woman who take no prisoners, and do superb jobs I think was the foundation for my career. I didn’t realise I was doing anything particularly special until it happened, which is great. And I hope that is a legacy, for that it’s worth, that I can pass it on to the young ones.”

Women, in fact, make up 92 per cent of the management team of CGI in Scotland. “It was absolutely not through design, it is absolutely through merit,” she added.

Ms McGranaghan points out that she has come across many women in senior roles across civic Scotland. She mentions Annemarie O’Donnell, who was her client at Glasgow City Council prior to Ms McGranaghan moving into her current role, and Elinor Mitchell at the Scottish Government. “We are reflecting our client base to a certain extent,” she says.

Asked what CGI is doing to boost equality in the workplace, Ms McGranaghan replied that addressing the gender pay gap is a big area of focus. The company is working to ensure more females are  joining the firm at all levels, she said, from modern apprentices to undergraduates, and highlights CGI’s involvement in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) camps for kids of a younger age.

“Being a female in business, and having a lot of senior females working in our management team, we always feel a responsibility to pay it forward,” Ms McGranaghan said. “We get a lot of support and coaching in our careers, so it is only right that you actually pay it forward.

“That is always my rule when I am coaching and mentoring. I’m totally happy to do it, the only rule is you pay it forward and help someone else move on and get on in their career.”

Moreover, Ms McGranaghan strongly believes that careers in tech are a real possibility for people who do not have “traditional IT” backgrounds, and points out that she moved into the sector after gaining a degree in English from the University of Glasgow.

After completing the graduate programme at Fujitsu, Ms McGranaghan stayed with the company and moved into corporate services, allowing her to get to know the business “from the centre”. She then switched to a delivery role, which gave her experience in areas such as finance, IT and project management. In 2012 she transferred to CGI.

“It is absolutely transferable, it is learnable and also because there is so much emerging tech coming on, we have to re-train our staff all of the time to keep up with the new tech that is coming down the stream,” Ms McGranaghan said. “Retraining to use is just part of how we run business. [We are] looking to extend that reach to bring people in who don’t necessarily have an IT background and have decided on a career change. It is a real opportunity for us and frankly an untapped market within Scotland.”

CGI employs around 400 staff in Scotland, across offices in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen. It works for a number of local authorities, including Glasgow, Edinburgh and Scottish Borders, and serves clients in the oil and gas sector from its base in Aberdeen. The Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland are other clients.

In Glasgow, CGI has been handed task of undertaking a £72 million project to transform IT services across the authority over a seven-year contract. The partnership includes a pledge to give every school child in Glasgow access to an iPad as part of a digital learning drive, and a digital citizens programme, which is designed to reshape the way people access services and interact with the authority.

Ms McGranaghan acknowledges the pressure public sector budgets are under, but said the services provided by CGI can help councils deliver good quality services as efficiently as possible.

“As an IT company, we should be an enabler to that, rather than a hindrance,” she said.

Likewise, while there are fears that the automation of processes will lead to machines taking over tasks currently performed by people, resulting in job losses, Ms McGranaghan believes such technology can also open doors for businesses and organisations.

Automation, Ms McGranaghan said, can free council workforces up to focus on more “high-value activity and deploy them into areas where there are a lack of skills.”

She adds: “The key to automation is to make sure it goes hand to hand with a workforce strategy.

"You need to understand that as you are automating processes and freeing up capacity and bandwith, you have to have a corresponding strategy that plans out what you want to do with those people to make sure they are higher value.

“If you don’t have those two bits of the jigsaw then there is absolutely a risk.”

Listening to Ms McGranaghan, it is clear she is committed, through the work of CGI, to enrich the lives of people of in her homeland. She draws much inspiration from the company’s John Lewis-style model, which allows employees to invest in shares in the business. Nearly 90% of staff in Scotland take part in the scheme (and 77,00 worldwide), which is also used as a carrot to attract staff.

The “metro model” favoured by the business, which means no one lives more than one hour from their place of work, also helps CGI to foster closer links to communities, Ms McGranaghan said.

“I absolutely want to grow our business in Scotland,” she said. “I want to create jobs and meaningful work for people in Scotland through the work we are doing in CGI.

“We serve over 60% of citizens across Scotland in terms of the public services we deliver.

“That is a huge responsibility, and we are transforming a lot of that at the moment. It is a difficult tightrope.”

Six Questions

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

Italy, specifically the Amalfi Coast. It was one of my first “grown up” holidays and I’ve been back many times. The scenery, food and people make it a firm favourite.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

I wanted to run my own business. I was inspired by my amazing mum who ran multiple businesses as I was growing up.

What was your biggest break in business?

My move back from London to Scotland.  I was slightly worried that my career would slow down coming home. But I’m pleased to say the opposite has happened due to the growth in our Scottish business.

What was your worst moment in business?

I have worked on some really difficult and complex projects during my career and when you are in the middle of them they feel impossible.  Now I realise that they are where I have accrued the most experience. There is always a way to deliver if you work hard enough and don’t give up.

Who do you most admire and why?

My first boss, Caroline Swain. She was the only female on the board of the first IT company I joined.  She was fearless, inspiring and made everyone feel like they mattered.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

I am currently reading Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and listening to the new FKA Twigs album, Magdalene.