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IT Works: Interview with Fiona Timothy, chair of the Prince's Trust Technology Leadership Group

Cliff Saran

Fiona Timothy, chair of The Prince's Trust Technology Leadership Group and chief executive of Calyx Group Companies, speaks to Cliff Saran about why IT offers a great opportunity.

In this tough economic climate, trying to get in front of a bank manager is as hard as convincing Deborah Meaden or Duncan Bannatyne on Dragon's Den to part with their money. The Prince's Trust works with young IT entrepreneurs who struggle to get funding.

The role of the Prince's Trust Technology Leadership Group is to provide IT entrepreneurs with a loan of between £3,000 and £5,000, along with a business mentor and a plan to help grow the business. According to Timothy, whose main job involves turning around smaller organisations facing difficult times, IT is a good place to start out as an entrepreneur. "You do not need much capital and it is not always necessary to have academic qualifications," she says.

Timothy believes people do not need to be techie or a maths genius to make it in IT. "Music is a language, so is maths. There are rules and you can structure phrases." The rules and structure in music do not hinder creativity. It is the same in software, which also has a language (programming language) and rules (the semantics of the language and the algorithms). These building blocks provide a foundation on which all the creatively that goes into software development is based.

The Trust also works with the underprivileged. "Many of the people the Trust supports are on the edge of society, and are excluded from technology." As day-to-day life increasingly uses technology, if you cannot use technology then you are excluded, she says. So members of the Trust devote their time or provide hardware to help children get back into society. "We do a lot of work in schools and prisons. At a very basic level, technology is used to get kids back into society."

But Timothy believes IT has more to offer society: "Technology is a greater leveller. It's an intellect of a different sort."

She says one individual the Prince's Trust Technology Leadership helped is a chap from a less advantaged background, who managed to build a business with eight staff, developing e-commerce sites. He is now looking to expand the business.

Along with her role in the Prince's Trust, Timothy is also involved in HTI, a forum for headmasters, teachers and the industry. "Some people in education have never worked in business. HTI's goal is to facilitate putting head teachers on secondments in business," she says.


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