Having found amazing challenges in various industries, from financial institutions to technology companies, Old Blue Rachel Dunscombe now is now CEO of the NHS’s Digital Academy. But as you will soon find out that not her only current role.
How would you describe your time at The Blue Coat School?
My time at Blue Coat taught me a lot – it gave me confidence and exposed me to things I had not done or seen before (I was very shy!). It was a good time and our teachers held us to account for performing well while allowing us the freedom to learn in our own way. We had fun too – I spent a lot of time playing pool with fellow students after School. I’m glad I attended Blue Coat, it was a positive experience for me.
How did your experience at the School prepare you for your career?
I loved the fact that the School provided advice on careers and provided seminars from industry. I got the chance to learn more about myself, and I became a Senior Prefect in charge of the computer suite. For me that was a big deal – technology was always going to be part of my career and I had the exposure to computers and the ability to learn independently. I found university learning to be a comfortable step after Blue Coat – we were well prepared for life long learning.
What has been your path since leaving?
I have had a long and wandering path! This includes working for technology companies, financial institutions, travel companies and health care organisations. I’m a certified project manager, a programme manager and a Health Care CIO (Chief Information Officer) amongst other things. I can’t say it was all planned – the one thing with technology is you can’t plan too far ahead as you don’t know what will emerge. I’ve just found amazing challenges in various industries to embrace and solve with people and technology.
What do you do now?
I now wear a lot of hats. I am CEO of the NHS Digital Academy and Visiting Professor at Imperial College – I train all the CIOs, Digital doctors, nurses AHPs and more for the NHS. I am a Director of Digital for Salford Royal, the most Digitally mature organisation in the NHS. I also provide IT leadership for Pennine Acute Trust.
I recently became a member of Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s advisory board – forming policy on Digital Health at government level. I travel a lot – this year I have worked in Australia, Austria, Germany, Qatar, USA and Switzerland. I feel privileged to have friends and colleagues across the world and to work with some of the best healthcare professionals globally.
What would be your advice to students today?
Get to know yourself and what you enjoy. A great career is where something you are good at overlaps with something you are passionate about. If you go down a cul-de-sac with your learning or career down worry, find a new direction and learn from it. I have done this a few times. Don’t listen to generic advice, you are you – surround yourself with people who can help guide you. Have some fun! Look to the future and consider the new types of jobs you can aim at as technology advances – you are not limited by today – we will need data scientists, robotic specialists, algorithm owners and other exciting things in the future.