22 Feb 2019

Polly Purvis OBE to retire as CEO of ScotlandIS

Facebook icon-whiteThe board of ScotlandIS, the membership and cluster management organisation for Scotland’s digital technologies industry, has announced that its CEO, Polly Purvis, is retiring this year. Polly also played an integral part in the formation of Digital Xtra Fund and has sat on the Charity’s Board since its inception in 2017.

Polly has been with ScotlandIS since its inception in 2000, and prior to that with the Scottish Software Federation from 1998. She has been CEO for six years and during that time has led the organisation to some great industry-wide successes. Polly will remain in post until a new CEO is appointed to ensure an orderly transition and will officially hand over to the new CEO at ScotSoft 2019.

The Board has also announced Karen Meechan has been promoted to chief operating officer, providing additional continuity to the membership and focussing on the continued growth of the organisation. Frances Sneddon, chair of ScotlandIS and CTO of SIMUL8 Corporation will work with Karen, Polly and the new CEO to build on the legacy that Polly has left. Between them, Karen and Frances have more than 40 years experience in the technology sector and more than 25 years helping to run ScotlandIS in an operational and board capacity.

Polly leaves both ScotlandIS, and the Scottish digital technology industry, in excellent shape.

Most recently, she helped secure support for ScotlandIS from Scottish Enterprise to develop industry clusters in data and cyber security, evolving ScotlandIS into a combined cluster management organisation and membership body.

Polly lobbied for the creation of the Skills Investment Plan (published in 2014); a strategy developed to create a strong and continuing supply of skills for the tech sector, underlining its crucial importance to the Scottish economy. Through a partnership between industry, SDS, SFC and other skills organisations the investment plan is creating a strong skills infrastructure to support future growth. Initiatives including CodeClan, Digital Xtra Fund, Digital Skills Partnership and the Digital Schools Programme have come out of the Skills Investment Plan and further work is underway addressing subjects as varied as gender balance in the industry and recruiting more computing teachers.

The formation of CodeClan, Scotland’s first and only SQA accredited digital skills academy, was spearheaded by Polly; she recognised an opportunity for career changers and returners to develop technology skills to help fill the increasing number of job vacancies in the sector and established CodeClan to meet this need. CodeClan is now producing over 400 technically skilled graduates a year in Edinburgh, Glasgow and its new Highlands campus in Inverness.

She also championed the formation of the Digital Xtra Fund, a charity dedicated to ensuring all young people across Scotland can benefit from hands on experience of computer science, coding and digital making regardless of geography or economic background. She has also continued to support the charity which has just awarded £100,000 in grants awards to 22 initiatives across Scotland.

Polly was one of the small bid team made up of industry people and academics which developed the proposal for the establishment of The Data Lab, and was also one of the founding team that established the dotScot Registry, Scotland’s top level internet domain.

Polly has represented ScotlandIS on the Scottish Government’s Digital Public Service Advisory Board, the ICT & Digital Technologies Skills Group, the Converge Challenge Advisory Board, the ONE Digital & Entrepreneurship board, the Scotland CAN Do Innovation board, and the Industrial Advisory Board of the University of Dundee’s School of Computing.

Polly also chairs the board of CodeClan, and is a Trustee of the Digital Xtra Fund.

Personally, Polly has been recognised for her impact on the Scottish tech sector, receiving a lifetime achievement award from Cabinet Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham MSP in 2015, an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2017 for services to the Scottish digital technologies industry, and the lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Women in Technology Awards 2018.

Commenting on the announcement, Polly Purvis said:

“I believe ScotlandIS is very well placed for its new phase of growth – we have a great staff team who share with the board an ambition to grow the business. We’re in the process of strengthening and complementing the existing team with new hires in the areas of data and cyber. We have a fabulous membership full of interesting, innovative and growing technology businesses who build and deliver high quality goods and services. So it’s a good time to hand on to someone who can bring fresh passion and a belief that technology can be a real force for good, and who can help develop the potential of the digital technologies industry as a major force in the new economy being built in Scotland.

“I won’t be leaving immediately, but likely following recruitment and handover, in the late summer. Alongside the new CEO, Karen Meechan will continue to support members in her new role as COO. Karen has been part of ScotlandIS for nearly as long as I have and she knows our members really well. She’s been the person who has made the organisation work day-to-day, growing the membership and creating the Digital Technology Awards – and she led ScotlandIS while I was setting up CodeClan. With our chair, Frances, our wider board and the new CEO, our members – and the industry – will be in excellent hands.”

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20 Feb 2019

£100K in funding awarded to help inspire Scotland’s next generation of digital experts

Grants totalling £100,000 have been awarded by Digital Xtra Fund to 22 extracurricular computing initiatives across Scotland in a bid to create the next generation of digital experts.

The 22 extracurricular computing initiatives have been awarded grants of up to £5,000 each as part of the Fund’s fourth round of grant awards. The grants are designed to support some of Scotland’s hardest-to-reach young people and improve digital skills in areas such as coding, data science and computer-based problem-solving.

Pupils from Anderston Primary School take part in 'Tech Heroes'

The main focus of the grant awards is to engage and inspire those traditionally underrepresented in the technology industry, such as girls and young women, young people in rural areas, and those from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.

Grant award recipients for 2019 include Wear-a:bits, which introduces the basics of coding through wearable technology to young people from areas of Glasgow facing multiple deprivation; STEAM Ahead, an initiative to teach coding and digital creativity at libraries in the Outer Hebrides; and Resilient Robotics, an Islay-based initiative designed to develop young people’s perseverance when building robots – a process that can sometimes require a lot of trial and error. Resources for Resilient Robotics will also be made available in Gaelic. Created in 2016, the goal of Digital Xtra Fund is for young people across Scotland to have access to digitally creative activities to increase the number of young people entering highly skilled digital careers, bridging the current skills gap in Scotland.

Kraig Brown, Partnerships and Development Manager for Digital Xtra Fund, said: “Today’s young people are the biggest consumers of technology, but we want to teach them how to create it, improve it, and encourage them to become Scotland’s next generation of tech leaders.

Pupils from Anderston PS speak with Kate Forbes MSP and Kraig Brown“There isn’t always an option for young people to learn advanced digital skills at school, and this is why our funding is so important, as it opens up additional opportunities for young people across a wide range of backgrounds.

“We’re also trying to get the message out there that you don’t have to work for a tech company if you’re into coding or data science. There are career opportunities in finance, hospitality, healthcare, agriculture, even fashion – every industry now relies on technology to some degree.”

Grant recipients were officially announced today at an event held at Anderston Primary School in Glasgow. The School’s Tech Heroes after-school club, supported by Digital Xtra Fund, will give pupils the opportunity to use Spheros, micro:bits, Osmo kits and Snap Circuits, as well as practice on-screen coding while they learn about the role of technology across various subjects.

The event was attended by Kate Forbes, MSP and Minster for Public Finance and Digital Economy, as well as representatives from Digital Xtra Fund, Skyscanner, J.P. Morgan, and the Micro:bit Educational Foundation.

Pupils at Anderston PS speak with Kate Forbes MSP (Digital Xtra Fund)Speaking at today’s announcement of the 22 recipients for 2019, the Minister said, “Technology is fundamental to young people’s lives and having digital skills opens up so many opportunities. We want to build a nation where all young people are comfortable using technology whatever their background. Digital Xtra Fund is a great example of different organisations working together to realise these ambitions. I look forward to seeing the initiatives supported by Digital Xtra Fund develop and I’m certain that they will help inspire the next generation of digital experts.”

Skyscanner is Digital Xtra Fund’s largest private sector contributor for this year’s grant awards. Michael Hall, Senior Engineering Manager at Skyscanner said: “A key goal for Skyscanner’s charity team is to support technology education initiatives for young people and those under-represented in technology. We’ve been so impressed with the impact of the Fund’s work in Scotland and are delighted to have helped increase the total amount of funding awarded this year from £75,000 to £100,000.”

Pupils from Anderston PS show off their micro:bit carsDigital Xtra Fund brings together businesses, organisations, and individuals with a common will to help young people succeed in a digital world through an annual grant awards programme. Key Partners include J.P. Morgan, Skills Development Scotland, Skyscanner, and the Scottish Government, as well as Accenture, Baillie Gifford, BT Scotland, CityFibre, Fujitsu, Incremental Group, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, Microsoft, ScotlandIS, Sky UK, and Zonal.

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