Panel Profile: Natural History Museum CIO Alison Davis

We get face-to-face with one of the IT Pro Panellists

Welcome to the IT Pro Panel Profile, where we talk to the CIOs, experts and IT leaders that make up the IT Pro Panel, and discover their top tech, pet peeves and IT inspirations.

As CIO of London’s Natural History Museum, Alison Davis has a job many IT professionals would kill for, getting to spend her days surrounded by not just laptops and servers, but dinosaur bones and a giant squid. Unlike many techies, however, her original background is not in computer science but in chemistry.

Alison actually began her career as a research chemist, but spent more than four years in the trenches of the helpdesk before moving up to more senior IT leadership positions. Her task is now to ensure that the museum has the full technical capacity to carry out its vital research functions, as well as serving legions of fascinated visitors.

Alison Davis

CIO - Natural History Museum

Describe your role in 20 words or fewer. 

I am accountable to the Board and Executive for all IT (digital, data and technology) across the Natural History Museum.

What was your first computer? 

I used an Oxford Research Machines 380Z at school, but my first personal computer was an Atari games machine.

What do you like most about working in IT? 

I like the opportunity to deliver large projects and programmes with great teams of people. I enjoy IT as a creative exercise in delivering capabilities which the organisation did not have previously or enabling it to transform. I also really enjoy seeing people in my teams grow and develop in their roles and beyond.

If you could magically get rid of one piece of technology forever, what would it be, and why? 

This is a difficult question - I don't believe that there is bad technology; where there are issues, they are usually either the purpose that it’s put to and/or our ability to effectively manage the social implications. 

What future tech innovations are you most excited about? 

Right now, I'm very keen for a good test and trace app for COVID-19 - one which can enable research at the same time as minimising privacy and surveillance concerns, which will be a challenge.

I think that there need to be mechanisms for ‘ID tagging’ data with an owner and I would love to see tech innovations that allowed this. This would allow all of us to have much more control over how our data is used and even receive micropayments, rather than just having it harvested by the big organisations.

Who’s your biggest inspiration in the world of tech? 

On a daily basis, it’s my fellow CIOs who are doing great work that inspire me to be better. In terms of more public figures, I hugely admire what was achieved on the NASA Space Program by Kathleen Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, and I also think that what Bill Gates has done philanthropically is laudable. 

If you're a senior IT decision-maker and you'd like to apply to be part of the IT Pro Panel, please email panel@itpro.co.uk.

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