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Ciara Bosworth, Head of CRM and data, British Heart Foundation

Path to power

 

After completing a degree in International Business many moons ago, I started looking for a way to combine my love for fixing problems with trying to make the world a better place. So back in the early 2000s, I kicked off my career at the National Deaf Children’s Society as a database assistant. Over the next few years, I worked at a few different charities and as a Blackbaud consultant on some fascinating projects, including the merger of ChildLine and the NSPCC. However, I found myself always seeking a new challenge and wanted the chance not just to advise on fixes, but to make them my own. I took on the new role of head of database services at Shelter and relished building up a department from scratch, but once completed, I was then looking for the next step. A few years ago, I moved over to the British Heart Foundation to stabilise a tricky CRM implementation and have, since then, taken the teams from strength-to-strength, expanding our remit, responsibilities and the way in which we support our multitude of users. As we move forward, with a new organisational strategy launching this year, we’re ready to adapt, grow and really harness the challenges and opportunities that the future will bring.

 

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

 

When I arrived at BHF in 2011, the CRM implementation had seriously stalled and the team was under fire from all angles. Having restructured the programme, I then had the privilege to lead the team to successful delivery to both budget and schedule, despite a reluctant user base, outdated hardware and a tricky external environment. Since the re-launch, the system has developed considerably now holding almost 11 million supporter records, managing a myriad of business critical processes and providing data and insight to hundreds of our users - and I have loved practically every minute of it!

 

If you could give your younger self some advice about how to progress in this industry, what would it be?

 

Get to know people from the data industry across all sectors. There are great conferences, forums and groups available and people are happy to share knowledge and encourage new talent. So, I would recommend using that to help you learn and connect - every idea you’re exposed to will help you develop further and stronger.

 

Did 2018 turn out the way you expected? If not, in what ways was it different?

 

In a lot of ways, 2018 was exactly as I envisaged it - lots of panic in the lead up to 25th May then, once the flurry of activity subsided, people moved on to focus on other things and attention was diverted. It’s been really important to try to keep hold of that momentum to help us to continue the vital work we’re undertaking and prepare for further future changes.

 

What do you expect 2019 to be like for the industry?

 

Like so many of us, I’m concerned about the possible implications of Brexit for 2019 and the changes that could impact the way we work and the pressures we face. But I’m hopeful that the year will actually bring some answers and stability - Brexit will be finalised, we should know more about the ePrivacy Regulations, and the ICO’s decisions will likely provide more case law to help us understand the application of GDPR even further. Whatever happens, we’ll at least know where we stand, so I’m looking forward to us all being able to react and adapt accordingly.

 

Talent and skills are always a challenge to find - how are you tackling this in your organisation?

 

The third sector is very fortunate in that, while we might not always be able to pay the highest salaries, we can offer so much more, as each of us gets to play a part in making the world a better place. Obviously, though, that doesn’t resolve all issues, so we’re working hard to attract talent through enhanced recruitment processes, offering greater flexibility to colleagues and seeking new ways to support people developing their careers. For example, I’m really excited to be working with our training and development team to look at launching a new apprenticeship scheme in the coming year which I hope will bring us some shining new stars.

 

What aspect of data, analytics or their use are you most optimistic about and why?

 

Over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion in new technologies and approaches, some of which, until now, seemed somewhat theoretical or out-of-reach. I’m really hopeful that, in the coming year, we’ll start to see those become more accessible, see more organisations take advantage of the amazing progress and outcomes that are just around the corner.
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