You don’t need a technology background to have an impressive tech career


Lesley McGrail, Crisis Manager

I’ve been with Barclays for 16 years. I work in Group Resilience, which is part of the Chief Security Office. I’m a Crisis Manager which is a very interesting role because you get to find out what people’s biggest worries or concerns are. We’re trying to make sure the bank is resilient, in the sense that it can withstand disruption through cyber-attacks, technology failure and loss of property or people. I haven’t got a particularly technical background. One of my previous roles in another company was acting as liaison between the business and the technology team, and making sure they were talking the same language and how critical projects could be to that part of the business.  It was quite an interesting introduction into the technology sector, and I’m using all the skills I learned then.

Have you had the freedom to take on new roles at Barclays?
I’ve moved around quite a lot. When I started at Barclaycard, learning about that side of the business was a substantial task. I was an Intraday Analyst in a call centre. I would watch calls come in and ensure we had enough people to answer them. In those days, it was largely manual – whereas today call centres are virtual. Next, I moved into Retail Banking, which was another massive learning curve. Now I’m in Group Resilience. Each time I’ve moved, there’s been something new to learn. Different risks come up all the time as well - things I never thought I’d need to know. On one project, I had to follow the patterns of the monsoon season, and when the high tides were going to coincide with the heavy rainfall in India.

Why would you need to know when it’s monsoon season?
We make sure all of our teams are ready to respond to a crisis. They have to fully understand their roles and responsibilities. We have to give them plenty of chances to have already worked together as a team, and to check they’ve got the right documentation and contacts. In addition, we have to go out across the business and find out the real risks in that area – like monsoons in India. One of the things I enjoy most about my job is coming up with scenarios for cyber crime, data breaches, terrorist attacks, flooding, pandemics and more.

What has been the most exciting one of these scenarios to play out in real life?
During the EU referendum, we had a war room set up overnight in Canary Wharf where we watched the results coming in. Like most of the world, we’d assumed what the result would be, but by 6am it was totally different. We had a link to Singapore, which was still live and trading, so they could understand the results and the impact they were having on the market in real-time. I certainly didn’t think five years ago that I would be involved in something like that.