Chief Information Officer
Kelvyn Hipperson- CIO Interview Series
Can you please provide a little introduction about yourself
What has your journey to your position been like? What path have you taken?
I expect it’s a bit of cliché to say it’s been an interesting and varied path, I started out very much in the hard technology side of our profession, working on real-time vision systems and embedded software. So not sure anyone could have predicted that such a niche beginning, would one day lead to a role in one of our most well-known and treasured national institutions.
My first role was in a very small company, which developed innovative products by working in partnership with the local university. The great thing about a small company is the opportunity for lots of technical responsibility and professional autonomy pretty much from day one. We also exported most of the products across Europe and the US, so plenty of travel and lessons in the importance of supportability. As unless I fixed the problem quickly, jumping on a plane day, night or weekend might be the only option.
For me, the path into more senior positions was through moving into IT project and programme management. Joining the public sector in the early 2000s, was a revelation in terms of the scale of projects and range of opportunities open to you, if you have the skills and willingness to take them on and I’ve never looked back. In the early 2010s I had the opportunity to lead a programme to restructure defence IT & communications services, just as the idea of breaking up very large IT outsourcing deals was coming into prominence. That experience including contributing to a Strategic Defence Review, led to a role in the Senior Civil Service delivering national IT infrastructure services. Much of next seven years was spent re-structuring and transforming those services, including a whole scale shift to flexible working aligned with estates transformation. Although I had no inkling of it at the time, the remote working capabilities we had in place by the time of the floods in the north in 2015 and ‘beast from the east’ in 2018, were just a small insight into what was going to be needed a few years later for Covid!
In 2019 I started my current CIO roles in the NHS, I’d had an idea for a while that my experience could be useful and the opportunity in Cornwall IoS to help join up care and support transformation of services was immensely attractive. I have to say three years on and even with two of those having been dominated by Covid, it has been everything I hoped for and more.
Has it always been your vision to reach the position you’re at? Was your current role part of your vision to become a tech leader?
Have you had a role model or mentor that has helped you on your journey?
Yes, I worked with a volunteer mentor from the IET for a few years prior to moving up to large scale national programmed. I know there are quite varied views on the role of the professional bodies but having worked in smaller organizations which often have limited resources for professional development. I’ve found the different ways you can get involved a valuable way to gain wider experience and knowledge. I also found the self-reflection needed to gain professional qualifications helped with career planning. I genuinely hadn’t appreciated just how much project management I was doing in a technical role and the parallels between professional and management skills until I went through the Chartered Engineer process and looking back it was a key step on my journey.
I also wouldn’t underestimate the importance of the day-to-day conversations with everyone around you. The feedback you receive and how you respond to it, are so important to the perceptions of the service you provide and support for anything you might want to do in the future.
How do you see the role of the technology leader evolving over the next 5 years?
What skills do you think leaders of the future will need in order to thrive?
How do you keep current with new skills, technologies and personal development?
Normally it would be a typical mix of short courses, conferences and talking to suppliers, but I’ve also just completed the Digital Health Leadership PGDip with the NHS Digital Academy and Imperial College. It seemed like such a good idea to apply being new to the NHS and before any of us had heard of Covid. Again, thanks to virtual delivery we got through it though and without all the extra days of travel anything outside the south west usually involves!
We also do quite a lot of board development in both the trusts and even when it’s the same topics it doesn’t feel like a duplication, as each session will focus on different aspects which is great for reinforcing the learning. And we’re well connected as a CIO group across the south west, so there are lots of opportunities for peer learning and sharing of information.
What do you see as the next leap in technology that will impact your business or industry in particular?
AI and automation, which I know have been just over the horizon for many years, but I think they’re really not that far off mass adoption now. Although the pace of technology change is often mentioned, if you look carefully things only move really start to move quickly when the need becomes obvious and the solutions are mature enough to meet that need. We’ve seen that most recently with remote working and virtual consultation and previously with smartphones or the even earlier the switch from pagers to SMS. Demographic change and getting back to sustainable services are what’s likely to drive the need in the NHS and we’re now beginning to see robust solutions which we will be able to adopt quickly.
If you were mentoring a leader of the future, what advice or guidance would you give to help them on their way?
Is there anything in particular that you would still like to achieve in your career or what is the next step on your journey?
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
A big thank you to Kelvyn Hipperson from Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust & Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust for sharing his journey to date.https://www.cornwallft.nhs.uk/ and https://www.royalcornwall.nhs.uk/
If you would like to gain more perspective from Tech Leaders and CIOs you can read some of our other interviews here.
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