Christine is Senior Programme Manager at Co-op Digital and she’s on a mission to help colleagues better connect with each other using digital collaboration tools. But she’s also got another passion: to grow the mentoring network she set up last year which is already benefiting (and developing) many colleagues across Co-op. She talks to Rachel Machin
Fresh from being named Woman of the Year by Co-op’s Aspire network (set up to support career equality), within minutes of meeting Christine it’s easy to see why.
She’s a formidable lady who’s already achieved so much in her six years at Co-op since joining as Head of IT then moving through a number of high profile roles to her current as Senior IT Programme Manager in Co-op Digital. In fact, she was the very first Co-op Digital colleague – which now has a 200-strong team.
The magic of mentoring
But it’s not only her work in the technology world that’s turning heads. The mentoring network she set up through Aspire only last year is thriving. So how did it all come about?
“My passion has always been about people and improving them. I’ve benefited from some great line managers, mentors and coaches in my career that have really pushed me.
“Last year I did a roundtable talk for Aspire on my career and talked a lot about mentoring. I ended up with a queue of people saying: “will you help me?”
“I quickly realised that on my own I can only make a small difference and needed to find a way I could make a bigger difference. I joined the Aspire steering group with exactly that in mind. They gave me the OK and we’ve grown from strength to strength.”
Now Christine leads 50 mentors who help 70 mentees across Co-op. As well as doing one on one mentoring, with the help of the HR Learning and Development team, the network has run sessions on personal branding, CV workshops, goal-setting and LinkedIn, and there’s more to come in 2018.
“We’ve got fabulous attendance and feedback,” smiles Christine. ”Colleagues are liking the independence of it. It’s something they can choose to do rather than being told by their line manager they have to. They can take ownership of their own development.
“So many times I’ve seen people looking to set a mentor network for their own area but I always say it’s more beneficial to spread yourself wider. The learning someone can get from a different area is far superior. It really is an example of One Co-op in action,” she says.
So where would she like to go with the mentoring network?
“We’re looking to expand so we’re more inclusive to all colleagues. At the moment we’re in discussions about how we can make that a reality – using Skype for business or Google hangouts to feel more connected.
“There’s a huge appetite for this in food stores and we’re looking at how we can connect potential mentees with the right people. My vision is that through their own successes people then set up their own networks.”
Change for the better
Christine’s packed a lot into her time at Co-op and been part of some of the major moments of the past couple of years. The launch of our new membership system being one of them.
“I was also part of the rebrand from a technology point of view,” she explains. “Thinking about anywhere and everywhere the old Co-op brand was: within systems, websites. My team had to make sure what members and customers saw was consistent and co-ordinate changes over one weekend so there was no downtime and all the links worked.”
Both massive change projects but change is something Christine thrives on. “With every change everyone has some uncertainty – it’s the fear of the unknown. I love change and I love developing myself. I saw my new role in Co-op Digital as a massive opportunity,” she says.
Since 2016 Christine has been working as a Senior Programme Manager. One of her first achievements was introducing Google (G-suite) to Co-op. And right now she’s working to make sure everyone is collaborating and using all the functionalities of Google to best advantage, but doing it in a safe and appropriate way so we’re compliant with GDPR.
“I’ve learnt so much in this role and have been able to supplement my skills as a traditional programme manager with agile ways of working. I now use the principles and techniques from each area to do what’s right for each particular project.”
Working for organisations that ‘do good’
Doing the right thing is important to Christine. She spent 20 years with Greater Manchester Police – from programmer right through to IT director. Her hardest decision was taking redundancy.
“I had nine or ten jobs in my time there. It’s exciting when the work you’re doing is making a fundamental difference to people’s lives. I was protecting the police officers and giving them the information they needed to make the right decisions. I had to make sure those IT systems were available 24/7 – their safety was at stake.
“Coming to Co-op was a natural move for me. I saw that Co-op was all about people and community. And that’s essentially what I’m about.”