Susan Cooklin is the group chief information officer for Network Rail, where she heads up the organisation’s IT efforts with a focus on using technology to cut the costs of running the nation’s railways by 21 percent by 2014.
Cooklin joined the organisation after a stint in several other major firms including Barclays, where she worked for seven years. Her educational background in economics and accountancy no doubt helped this role in the financial sector. Since September 2011 she has also held a role at Leeds Metropolitan University as a non-executive director.
Cooklin is also leading a push at Network Rail to try and boost the perception of the IT industry among women, called Could IT be you. This has seen Network Rail launch a competition that wil provide mentoring and financial help for university courses to the winning entries.
Cooklin’s Hot Seat follows on from other leading IT professionals such as Mark Purnell, the IT manager for Waitrose, and David Wilde, chief information officer of Essex County Council.
V3: What does your typical day involve?
Cooklin: Generally a 7.30am to 5pm day either in London, Milton Keynes, Manchester or out on the railway. There aren't many typical days here, but recently I spent time in Machynlleth in Wales looking at the European Rail Traffic Management System.
In my diary this week is a meeting with Oracle and a board meeting of Leeds Metropolitan University, where I am a non-executive director.
What would be your dream job?
Other than my current role, which I love, chair of an educational trust to help those who want to, but who can't afford it, get to university.
Which person do you most admire in the IT industry?
For me it's Dame "Steve" Shirley – a true inspiration.
Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?
My iPad – great for a multitasker like me.
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
Launching the #CouldITbu campaign to attract more young women into the IT industry.
What was your first job?
As a trainee accountant, which I hated. I moved swiftly onto business systems analyst at the British Shoe Corporation.
What’s your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?
How it changes so quickly – you could never get bored.
What will be the next big innovation of the coming years?
I think it will be automotive vehicles.
Where’s your favourite place for escape?
I like to visit southern Italy.
E-readers or real books?
You still can't beat the feeling of holding a book in your hands and turning real pages.
The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?
Are you kidding? The Beatles, of course.
A classic: Godfather II. More recently I really enjoyed Moonrise Kingdom.
Windows or Mac OS?
I use Mac OS.
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