Tim Bardell | NTT DATA UK

Tim Bardell | NTT DATA UK

Meet Tim. He’s an engineer, a technologist and a management consultant. Husband, a father and a brother and a runner, a woodworker and VW camper van enthusiast – maybe not in that order! He’s also been a huge advocate of Diversity and Inclusion for the whole of his career – our kind of guy! Women Rock Ambassador Ryan, chatted with Tim about everything from fighting for fairness – to the mind-blowing legalities surrounding homosexuality underneath Thatcher’s reign as PM in the early 90’s. It’s a fascinating read – get stuck in!


HI TIM. THANKS SO MUCH FOR TAKING THE TIME TO SPEAK WITH US! COULD YOU PLEASE GIVE AN INTRODUCTION TO YOURSELF?

Whenever I’m asked to introduce myself I’m reminded of the Jack Nicholson character in Anger Management who puts increasing amounts of pressure on Adam Sandler’s character to “Tell us about yourself”. Not what he does, or where he works, or his his hobbies, or his personality… “Who are you Dave?”

It feels like we are always under pressure to define ourselves so that others can decide if they want to get to know us or listen to our story. That’s hard because it means that we’re always second guessing our audience and trying to conform to our perceptions of what other people might think about us. So with that in mind, here is me on a few different dimensions.

  • I’m an engineer, a technologist and a management consultant.
  • I’m a husband, a father and a brother.
  • I’m a runner, a woodworker and VW camper van enthusiast.
  • I’ve built chemical plants, made shampoo, helped save jobs, implemented IT projects, transformed working practices and been part of building some amazing teams.
  • I’m an ageing rude-boy, a left-wing idealist and an optimist who looks for the silver-lining in every cloud.

Importantly in this context: I’m a middle aged, middle class, straight, white man that wants to use whatever privilege I have to fight for fairness, equality and opportunity for all.

BEST INTRO EVER! WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?

I’m not big into self-help or management books but a friend recently recommended Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman who wrote for The Guardian for years and who’s columns I used to look forward to reading.

It’s a hugely positive and uplifting book once you get past the stark reality that the average, human lifespan – at least in the part of the world that I’m lucky enough to live in – is just 4,000 weeks.

This isn’t a direct quote but it sums up the message that I took away from the book. “You are going to die and your life will amount to nothing in the grand scheme of things. Now go and do something that really matters to you with the time you have”

This isn’t about contemplating what higher meaning we should be searching for, or a hedonistic licence to do whatever we want. It’s about looking at what is important to us, the things that we feel we can and want to contribute to. That might be as a partner, a carer, an entrepreneur or an employee. But equally it might be as an activist, a campaigner or a revolutionary. No matter what the history books say, the best that most of us can hope for is to be thought of with love by those that we have touched as we pass through this world so we should focus our efforts on that not trying to hack our productivity and respond to every email and IM that comes our way.

YOU ARE PART OF NTT DATA’S DIVERSITY & INCLUSION STEERCO, COULD YOU TELL ME HOW YOU BECAME PART OF THAT AND YOUR MOTIVATIONS BEHIND THIS?

I have been active in various aspects of what would now be called D&I initiatives since being part of a team that re-wrote The Boots Company’s “equal opportunity policy” in the early 1990s.

This was at a time when Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government had introduced Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 that made it illegal for schools to “promote homosexuality” or “promote the teaching… of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. This was awful for young people growing up who had their identities denied and were left with no one to talk to at a very confusing part of their lives.

We worked with Stonewall and several other FTSE100 companies to include LGBT equality alongside gender and ethnic equality for the first time in the company’s history. This was a huge step for what had been a very conservative business and I remember very clearly going out celebrating to a club in Nottingham with gay friends the night the board signed it off; we couldn’t believe what we had achieved within that environment and in the prevailing political climate.

A few years ago a colleague, and I’m proud to say friend, within NTT DATA, was setting up a D&I initiative. Kim Gray is an absolute visionary in this space and took the approach that this should be a grassroots-led initiative rather than a top-down, corporate mandate. She recruited various of us on the leadership team to sponsor initiatives and to support the actions of those who stepped forward to participate.

Thanks to Kim’s leadership we now have active Women’s Business Network, LGBT+ and Allies Network, Cultural and Ethnicity Network, Mental Health and Wellbeing Network, and an emerging Neurodiversity Network.

I am very proud to sponsor the LGBT+ and Allies Network that has been brilliantly led by a couple of colleagues over the years, initially Paul Barwick-Copeland and now Gareth Lewis-Jones. My job is really to find budget, remove organisational barriers and say “yes” to the amazing ideas around education and celebration that emerge from within the community. When I consider the progress this country has made from when I started work to where we are now I am hopeful that my children will get to work in a genuinely inclusive environment where “equal opportunities” policies and D&I initiatives are, eventually, no longer needed.

COULD YOU PROVIDE AN EXAMPLE OF THE TYPES OF ACTIVITIES YOU ORGANISE?

The things that we do fall into three overlapping categories: education, networking and celebration.

On the education front we make a point of sharing individual stories and highlighting key aspects of the LGBT+ journey during LGBT+ History Month and days like IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia) and the International Day of Pink.

We’re a sponsor of the myGwork community which is an LGBT+ networking platform and we regularly organise networking events internally and with client and partner organisations.

Finally, we celebrate. Often! We organise events for Pride and regular informal get-togethers as well. The emphasis is on inclusivity and the invite regularly goes out to the all-company distribution list.

WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE IMPORTANCE OF RUNNING ACTIVITIES LIKE THIS?

I recall a conversation with a colleague a few years ago. He told me that he didn’t attend the get-togethers because he didn’t want to be defined by his sexuality in work. He then confessed to feeling guilty for not supporting them as the knowledge that they happened and that this was something that his employer was actively supporting was very important to him. It was one of the reasons that he loved working for the company.

The real importance for me is in keeping D&I initiatives and changing behaviours at the top of the agenda. It is important that we keep creating and supporting safe spaces where people can share stories, seek support or just celebrate together with colleagues, friends and allies. And it’s really important that the company shows that its support is both active and genuine.

WHAT AREA OF D&I ARE YOU MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT?

The topic that I keep coming back to is “fairness”.

The whole point of D&I initiatives, to me, is to create an equal workplace, organisation and society. That means equal opportunity, equal treatment and equal rights. It also means that people need to see themselves reflected in their leadership, arts and society to know that the opportunity really exists and to have role models to learn from. It means that we have to remove conscious and unconscious bias so that everyone is treated with respect and in a way that enables them to flourish. It means that fairness, which is very much a two-way principle, is enshrined in every way of working, policy document and law.

I read a brilliant book recently about the Slung Low theatre company in Holbeck near Leeds. The Club On The Edge Of Town tells how the theatre company did a deal with the Holbeck Working Men’s Club to take over the running of the club in exchange for creating a performance space. Because they followed through on their principles of fairness they ended up running a non-means tested food-bank supporting the families of Holbeck and beyond.

Their principles are: ”Be kind. Be useful. Everyone gets what they want, but no one else gets to stop others getting what they want.” which emphasises the two-way nature of fairness. As Alan Lane, the Artistic Director of Slung Low says in the book “no one gets opera until every child has crayons”.

YOU HAVE DONE SOME AMAZING THINGS IN YOUR LIFE AND CAREER TO DATE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT?

I am always proud when I see others carrying on something that I started. While the LGBT+ and Allies Network takes a lot of organising in the background, it is now being done by a passionate group of volunteers who are making it their own. I’m asked for my input but the team have strong ideas about what they want the Network to be and that is as it should be.

I’m proud to have been part of starting and enabling the journey and I feel the same about many of the causes that I’ve been part of over the years and now have differing levels of involvement in.

AND FINALLY, YOU ARE A PRETTY KNOWLEDGEABLE HUMAN BEING! WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK?

My stand-out book of the last few years though has to be Benjamin Zephaniah’s autobiography, “The Life and Rhymes of Benjamin Zephaniah”. I have long been a fan of his poetry, first his performance work and then the written stuff. I’ve also deeply admired, and tried to emulate, the thoughtful and compassionate way that he addresses issues of equality and rails against the inequalities that he sees around him, taking practical steps to address them as well as using his platform to lend weight to the cause.

It’s a harrowing read of what it was like growing up in a racist culture where opportunity wasn’t just denied, it was taken away based on issues of race and class. It is also a message of hope and love, and the redemptive power of both of those. It made me realise (all over again) the importance of using whatever privilege we have to create solidarity with those who don’t enjoy the same opportunities.

Thanks Tim – you absolutely rock!

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