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A Q&A WITH HEAD OF DIGITAL & CHANGE AT STEPCHANGE DEBT CHARITY

Wednesday 7th December 2016
Tags: guest blog
In this Q&A we speak to Andrew Burgess, Head of Digital and Change at StepChange, he tells us more about his role of head of change and digital at StepChange and provides some advice to candidates who are looking to follow a similar career path...

Your most recent role sees you as Head of Digital and Change at StepChange Debt Charity. Can you tell us a bit about what your job entails on a day to day? 
The charity’s Digital and Change teams are at the heart of specifying, delivering and improving the services we provide to help people with debt problems. In managing these teams, I work with a wide range of stakeholders to make sure I understand what’s on the horizon that might impact how we provide debt advice and solutions. This could be anything from the impact of regulation (we’re authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority), technology trends (half the first-time debt advice we provide is by telephone, and the other half online), funding and financial changes, opportunities for efficiency gains or continuous improvement, and loads of other areas. Making sure I’m aware of this wider context means I can then work with the Digital and Change teams on the detail of projects and day to day work in a way which ensures that everything lines up and delivers what we need as quickly as possible. It’s challenging because things never stop moving, but that’s also why I enjoy it. And knowing you’re contributing to helping people with their debt problems - people who are often in very vulnerable situations - is really rewarding.   

Can you tell us a bit about your career before StepChange and how you came to work there?
I've spent my whole career working with digital change, from the early days of the Internet when I worked at CompuServe, through to the Press Association's New Media division and then many years at Orange. My highlight was probably being part of the team that created Ananova, the world's first virtual newscaster. She foreshadowed a lot of things we now take for granted. I joined StepChange almost six years ago initially to cover a colleague's maternity leave...and the rest is history!

For those who may not be familiar with the organisation can you tell us about StepChange Debt Charity?
We’re the UK’s largest debt charity, headquartered in Leeds but with offices all over the country. We provide debt advice and solutions to tens of thousands of people who get in touch with us every month - both online and via our telephone helpline, and we work to influence external stakeholders on all sorts of debt-related matters. We've been going for over 20 years and have about 1,500 colleagues. Despite the fact that we’re a charity, we’re run along very businesslike lines and are regulated by the same organisation that looks after the banks - the Financial Conduct Authority.

What is it like to work at StepChange?
The charity is a great place to work for one major reason, which is that everybody you meet has one thing in mind - and that's helping as many people with debt problems as we possibly can. Doing our utmost to look after the wellbeing of our clients is something that motivates everyone I work with, and having something so strong to focus on really brings a team together. 

StepChange are currently going through an exciting period of change. Can you tell us how you are looking to incorporate more digital projects into these changes?
We're currently reviewing everything we do and how we do it. Like many organisations of our age and size, we've outgrown some of the ways of working we've been used to and we now have an opportunity to transform them. As for digital, we don’t start with the idea that we want to build something using a particular tool or set or tools - digital or not. Instead, we always begin by trying to get a clear understanding of the client need we're trying to meet, then look for the best way to meet that need.

If you were a professional looking for a new role, why would you want to work for StepChange?
The charity offers the chance to use a very wide range of tools and approaches to solve real-world problems. We have every function you would imagine in an equivalent commercial organisation of our size, from technical development to marketing and from business analysis to telephone helplines. Working here, you're helping improve the lives of many thousands of people, and the chances are you'll be collaborating with a lot of people who want to do the same. That creates a very special environment. 

What advice would you give to young people looking to work for a “not for profit” organisation?
The skills that are required are basically the same as those that a ‘for-profit’ organisation would look for, so I'd start with what you're good at and what you enjoy doing.  Then I'd look for an organisation operating in an area where I knew I wanted to make an impact. Ask yourself what functions they need, do your research on how they operate, then keep an eye on their website for obvious opportunities. I also wouldn't be afraid of applying for a role that wasn't quite what you were originally after. Once you have a foot in the door, anything can happen - as I've found out myself at StepChange!

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