Director of IT Global Operations
Gerry Waterfield is Director of IT Global Operations at Save the Children International, the world’s leading charity focused on children. In his role, Waterfield ensures the charity’s vital work is supported by robust IT systems. Having had a long career in the private sector, Waterfield brought a fresh set of eyes to Save the Children when he joined five years ago. “It's honestly the best thing I've done,” he enthuses. “It’s almost like all my other experiences were done to bring me to a greater purpose. We deal with 30 to 50 million children a year, literally saving lives, providing education, all those kinds of things.”
The organisation must also be ready to react 24/7, but the previous method of achieving this had inherent problems. “One of the challenges we had were single points of failure all over the world,” says Waterfield. “We literally had one person responsible for system A, serving 17,000 people, two people in Africa for system B. If one of them went on holiday or fell sick, everyone sweated for two weeks. We had to fix that.” The answer was a follow-the-sun model. “The infrastructure's all in the UK serving globally, but we've got people in Asia, people in Africa, Europe, South America who we started cross training to fill those gaps.”
In line with that, the organisation has set up tech hubs globally. “In my team, there’s only one or two people left in the UK, with about 200 people around the world in different countries. It’s a federated model with about 85 in my wider team and the rest run by country offices.”
In the NGO environment, a strong culture can go a long way, as Waterfield explains. “In our NGO space there's very little resources, it's very underfunded, there's a 1000 things, and 10 people to do them. It has to be about the mission. If you can bring people on that journey, they want to work harder. So it's all about a real team sense of purpose, and feeling rewarded by what you do.” That sense of purpose has had broader ramifications, with the trust the organisation places in people across the globe leading to upskilling programmes and improved retention. “It's allowed us to grow and to promote people from within into higher roles or different roles, and then fill from the bottom. That then builds a sense of empowerment and achievement for people. Whenever we advertise a vacancy now everyone's clamoring to get into these teams.”
The work that Save the Children already had underway stood it in good stead for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We rolled out Teams in four weeks flats at the beginning of lockdown. We were planning to do that anyway in a phased approach - It’s always hard with 70,000 users - but then COVID landed. I managed to get six people from Accenture for four weeks to help us for free, which really helped.” The changes mandated by COVID-19 were not too dissimilar to its existing digital workplace ambitions. “ What it potentially helped us think about is how far we are on our digital workplace journey. We're just about to do some self assessments to see where we are compared to others in the market, and I have a feeling we're quite a way along compared to others.”
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