Liberis CTO Georgina Owens on the power of mentoring and apprenticeships

Sep 06, 2022
Financial Services IndustryIT Leadership

Georgina Owens, chief technology officer at financial services company Liberis, discusses unconventional routes into IT, the power of mentoring, and the best career advice she ever received.

Credit: Georgina Owens

CIO: What is your role and responsibilities at your current organisation?

I am responsible for all technology across Liberis, and currently as an interim looking after product development.

This means ensuring that all of our technology services are running to plan, supporting our business and customers, and running efficiently and to the required level of performance.

As well as ensuring the smooth running of business as usual, there is the development of new product features, the onboarding of new partners and geographical expansion that has to be supported by the product and technology teams. Add to this the architectural enhancement, the integration of new innovations and ensuring that we are a product and technology-led organisation, every day brings a new and exciting challenge.

For example, at the moment, we are building an end-to-end, one-click embedded finance journey. We’re streamlining the application process, evidence collection, quoting, decisioning, and funding – in order to provide funds into a customer’s account in hours. We’re using advanced architectural structures to deliver a fully API-enabled set of services that can be embedded in a partners ecosystem.

CIO: How has your career evolved to becoming an IT director/CIO/CTO?

When I was very young, my family moved to Africa – which was truly a life-enhancing experience. I grew up away from my entire family so it taught me adaptability at a young age. When you enter a class full of people in a strange country, and with a completely different culture, it can be very daunting, so you learn all sorts of techniques to survive. On my return to the UK, there was a mismatch in the education I had received and the available syllabus, so I had to look for an alternative path. I wasn’t able to follow the traditional route of A-Levels and onto university to get a degree, as I didn’t have the requisite base knowledge.

Fortunately, I was able to join an organisation at the ground level and be trained in each new role. I am happy to see the uptake of apprenticeships now as I really believe that learning from the bottom-up gives you a much more rounded skillset.

This is how I found myself in the technology industry and my route has since been fairly traditional, as I progressed through development, architecture, project management and then into leadership roles.

CIO: Tell us about something you have worked on over the last 12 months that you are proud of?

Since joining Liberis, we have practically doubled in size and I am very proud to be part of the team to help realise this incredible business growth – and this is only just the start.

In addition, in the last 12 months, I have been working as a mentor for a start-up accelerator. This involves me giving up time to talk to founders and advise them on their technology and product decisions.

It is incredible how many people have such passion about their ideas and give up so much to try and launch them into a successful business. Starting a company is exhausting both emotionally and mentally and requires incredible self-belief and resilience. It is an honour to help these founders in even the smallest way on their journey.

CIO: What do you do outside of work?

Outside of work, I have an active life doing high-intensity training and yoga. I am a jigsaw puzzle addict and find this to be a fabulous stress management tool.

I love visiting new countries and exploring different cultures; I visited the walled city of Dubrovnik in one of the brief gaps between COVID-19 lockdowns and was privileged to have been there when it was almost empty. It gave me the opportunity to walk around freely and enjoy the history of the town and the magnificence of the buildings. I love cities and I can never get bored of New York and London.  

When I get a chance, I love painting large abstract bright and colourful pictures. I have been to many workshops and worked on many varieties of pictures including a large nude portrait – very tame and decent – but I prefer abstract art. I am also an avid networker and supporter/mentor of start-ups.

CIO: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever received?

It came pretty late in my career but a wonderful lady that I worked with at Vodafone said ‘do not sit back and let your career happen’; you need a plan that you actively manage the same as any other kind of project in life.

Once I started doing this, I took control of my career, which was so incredibly empowering. As a result, I was much more selective about what I wanted to achieve and the results have been incredibly rewarding.