If we really care about our users, then we need diverse teams building our technology. When Apple Health launched, you couldn’t input data on periods. Why not? Because there were no women on the team designing the product. We need to correct that and fast."
Inspired by the notion, "You cannot aspire to be what you cannot see," our #RealLifeRoleModel blog series features the visible 'Emmeline Pankhursts' of our time, those that lead the way to inspire, challenge and shape our world and to empower the way to become better leaders, individuals and work towards an equitable society. Today we speak to digital leader Emer Coleman about creating an equitable society and her thoughts on diversity, success and what drives her.
Emer has worked on the strategy for The Federation from the outset building an open community of digital innovators based on The Co-operative principles and values with the ambition of building an ethical technology community. She has a background in the public and private sector and is Non-Executive Director of TransportAPI, a data platform SME. Emer is ex-Government Digital Service and former Digital Projects Director with City Hall London where she established The London Data Store.
Emer is an expert in the field of open data and the chair of the Open Data Governance Board Ireland on their open data initiative and a non-executive director of Transport API, the digital platform for Public Transport.
Thanks for joining us Emer!
Why is diversity so important?
If we really care about our users, then we need diverse teams building our technology. When Apple Health launched, you couldn’t input data on periods. Why not? Because there were no women on the team designing the product. We need to correct that and fast.
What is the best advice you have been given?
It’s not personal. Retaining your objectivity is really important in business so I’ve always tried not to take things personally.
What drives you?
Change. Most of the jobs I’ve had in my career have been around changing something and introducing new concepts or ideas into a business or organisation. I particularly like working to achieve some social or public good.
What has been your biggest challenge/ learning so far?
Working with 150 developers when I worked in Government Digital Service. They have little understanding of or place little value on hierarchy. I had to change my approach to communicating with a whole new generation of young, sassy tech experts.
Who or what has been your biggest inspiration?
When I was a teenager, I spent one of my summers learning how to type (back when God was a boy). The school was owned and run by an amazing woman who was quite young herself. She was so ambitious and hard working; she really inspired me with a strong work ethic.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
Have more fun. I’ve always been quite serious about things even when I was young. If I could go back I’d definitely recommend more fun.
Have more fun. I’ve always been quite serious about things even when I was young. If I could go back I’d definitely recommend more fun."
Have you ever failed? And what got you through?
I’ve sometimes found myself disillusioned over the years when an organisation I’ve worked for has not turned out as I expected. But I’ve learned you can’t get an organisation to bend to you and when that happens it's better to walk away then fight it.
What is your favourite quote?
Never suspect a conspiracy when a cock-up is staring you in the face. People sometimes look for answers in the wrong place. Mostly it is just human error plain and simple.
My soundtrack to my life is...
‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Is 'success' a destination or a journey?
Definitely a journey.
How do you measure 'success'?
If in someway something I’ve contributed to in my work life lifts up someone else or improves someone's life in some way that feels like success to me.
Emer Coleman is a regular Keynote speaker on Technoethics and why we need to build a more sustainable and equitable digital economy. Follow and connect with Emer Coleman here or on Twitter.