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Voice of Experience: Jo Hannaford, Global Co-Head of Enterprise Platforms Team, Global Co-Head of Compliance Technology, Head of EMEA Federation Technology, Goldman Sachs

Welcome to The Glass Hammer’s “Women in Tech” month! We will be celebrating successful women in technology all month long!

Jo Hannaford has been in Technology for 24 years, and thinks of herself as fortunate for having the opportunity to pursue a career which she enjoys.

“Technology is a fast-changing environment,” she explained, “I have learned to act positively when faced with uncertainty. Embrace new opportunities and look forward to the new experiences.”

Career in Technology

Hannaford was always drawn toward technology, and when she earned a First Class Honours degree in Computer Science, she validated her interest in the field with her talent and skill. She had an ‘apprentice’ attitude to her early career – looking for opportunities to learn new technical disciplines and gain knowledge.

Her career in technology began when she was selected for an internship at Merrill Lynch, where she continued to work as a Stratus system administrator for about year after graduating from university. “Due to the costs of hardware twenty years ago, the role of a systems engineer concentrated on optimization rather than expansion – I learned how to fine-tune and balance processing.”

After a restructuring within Hannaford’s department at Merrill Lynch, she found herself displaced and in need of a new job. “At the time, I felt as though the rug had been pulled from beneath my feet,” Hannaford remarked, “but I picked myself up and within a few weeks, I was given another break (by a female colleague who had been at Stratus) into a completely new discipline as a C programmer at UBS.”

According to Hannaford, her time at UBS was another big learning curve. She had the opportunity to develop her skills, learn about front office trading systems, and establish a network of colleagues. All of these things, she said, would open doors to more career opportunities in the future. In fact, when a few senior executives left UBS to reengineer trading platforms at NatWest Markets, Hannaford joined NatWest shortly thereafter, where she ultimately became lead technical architect of the Global Volume Trading Technology department.

When NatWest was acquired by RBS in early 1997, Hannaford was reluctant to experience another restructuring. “It was perfect timing when Goldman Sachs approached me about a position, I was looking for a stable organization where I could pursue a long-term career,” said Hannaford, who joined the Investment Research Division of Goldman Sachs London in June 1997, automating statistical research products. “When I joined Goldman Sachs I went from providing technical direction to a large team to being a lone programmer on research products – not in a technology division but directly for the head of research. I relished the opportunity to learn how to analyze financial institutions and learn another new programming language.”

In 2001, Hannaford returned to the Technology division and assumed responsibility for EMEA Compliance Technology, and in 2006 she was asked to relocate to New York City to lead Global Compliance Technology.

“After considering the move for some time, my husband and I decided to take the opportunity and subsequently this new position led to me being named managing director in 2008. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to architect the entire software stack for a division like Compliance,” said Hannaford. In 2010, Hannaford returned to the UK where she broadened her role to include back-office technology and most recently became the global co-head of the Enterprise Platforms group.

In this role, Hannaford is responsible for shaping the future of all functions related to data architecture, software engineering, workflow, runtime management, software change, and development practices across the entire organization. “I am particularly excited about the development of an enterprise data platform that will be used by all of Goldman Sachs s across the globe. This new role is so technically diverse, I would not have been able to do it without the range of technical skills I acquired in my early career,” Hannaford stated.

Women in Technology

According to Hannaford, one of the biggest obstacles impeding the pipeline of women in technology is that there are not enough females coming out of school with a software engineering background. She explained that the stigma attached to technology careers still haunts the industry and might negatively influence women at the critical point where long-term career decisions are made.

“In many respects, Technology is a great career for women, as there are many roles which can be undertaken flexibly with technical skills being very portable,” Hannaford said.

Communication, Hannaford emphasized, is key when it comes to having a rewarding professional career in any field. She encourages women to value information sharing and learn how to utilize communication as a beneficial career advancement tool. “Information is an asset,” she noted. “I appreciate when someone shares information with me, and I always go a step further and think about how this information can be applied in my own work.”

For Hannaford, helping others progress in their careers has been such a rewarding part of her own career. She explained, “My own career started with someone willing to take a gamble and offer me that first opportunity; I hope I have managed to instill some of that ‘pay it forward’ mentality in those that follow closely behind me.”

Putting her own pay it forward philosophy into action, Hannaford is active as a co-sponsor of the European arm of Goldman Sachs’ Women in Technology network. “EWIT is a grass roots group where we provide an environment for women to meet others in the organization learn from and educate their colleagues and craft a network across the division,” said Hannaford, who mentioned the group’s new Mentoring Circles initiative where junior women are partnered with senior female leaders in small groups.

“These groups meet on a regular basis and discuss topics ranging from career development to leadership skills. We’ve received very positive feedback from both the mentors and mentees,” she added.

In addition to her role in EWIT, Hannaford supports IT awareness in her community through her involvement with the group Girls in IT. “The program supports female IT professionals in visiting schools to present an interactive presentation to share their career experiences with girls aged 11 to14, which is designed to raise awareness of technology opportunities with a view to influencing the gender imbalance in the sector,” she explained.

Outside the Office

Last year, Hannaford became involved with the Big Issue charity, helping them address the IT challenges –such as resource and budgets constraints –preventing the group’s growth.

In order to relax and clear her mind, Hannaford and her husband enjoy power boating. As qualified day skippers, they sail out of Poole whenever time and weather permit, she said. “We first got the idea when we lived in New York and saw folks sailing up and down the Hudson during the summer,” Hannaford added. “Although,” she continued, “UK summer weather isn’t quite as reliable, and the Solent is no river in terms of how rough the water can get when the wind picks up!”

As a resident of East London, Hannaford is an enthusiastic fan of her local team, West Ham United.

By Michelle Hendelman