Bright Spark Q&A – Jill McKinney

Jill McKinney is the training & delivery manager at Sunderland Software City, she discusses her role, the impact of the organisation in the North East and short and long-term aims for the future

What led you into your chosen career?

My first career choice was to be a nurse; as a child I had always enjoyed caring for people so it seemed to be an obvious choice. But when I started working towards this I realized it wasn’t for me – the problem was I didn’t know what I did want to do.

It wasn’t until I stumbled across an advert in the local newspaper for a Customer Service Adviser for a large IT company that I thought “I can do that”. I got the job, loved it and was quickly promoted to the training team. When the company was bought out 10 years later, I joined the National Career Service, before spotting the opportunity to join Sunderland Software City as Head of Training and Skills.

Who or what has made the greatest impression on your career?

The best bit of advice I ever got was from my Dad. He always told me to push myself and try new things. He would say “if you jump the net will appear” and he was so right – I’ve remembered this with every career move I’ve made.

What does your organisation do and how is it making an impact?

The role of Sunderland Software City is to support the growth of the tech industry across the North East. We provide several business support services to tech businesses in the region, such as marketing and PR support. We also offer support to businesses that are just starting to explore how to use technology to grow their business, by providing fully funded technical specifications and market research. My role specifically involves working with businesses to understand the skills they require to support their current work demands, and what skills they are likely to need in the future. I take this information into education so that students, teachers and parents understand what skills are needed and what opportunities are available in the region.

Briefly, what does a typical working day comprise for you?

My working week is very varied – no two days are the same! I spend a lot of time speaking with businesses to understand how best to support them from a training and skills point of view.  I also regularly meet with careers services, curriculum & schools leaders to talk about the skills businesses are looking for, and how tech and digital can be imbedded into their teaching.

When I’m not doing that I can usually be found working with businesses to deliver bespoke training programs – anything from effective leadership, to presentation skills and pitch training.

What are your company short and long-term aims?

Software City was originally set up to support the growth of the software sector in Sunderland. We have now extended that remit to support all businesses in the North East, to grow and to adopt digital technology. We want the tech sector in the North East to thrive, to address the skills gap the industry faces, and to help businesses that are traditionally ‘non-digital’ to adapt as technology evolves.

Sunderland Software City