Professor Gillian Hogg

Heriot-Watt leader of City Region Deal

Tell us about your journey to your current role as a professor at Heriot-Watt University?

I had a rather unconventional journey into academia as I started as a graduate trainee manager in the NHS and had three children before completing my PhD whilst in an RA role at University of Stirling. I worked at Stirling, Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde Universities before joining Heriot Watt in 2007 as Head of the School of Management and Languages. I become a Deputy Principal here in 2013.


Amazing! What specifically are you a professor in and what was your PhD about?

I am a Professor of Management! My PhD was in Marketing Management but my first degree was English Literature – quite a change but I’d been a practising manager for 7 years.


Tell us about a typical day at work for you at Heriot-Watt University?

One of the good things about my job is that there is no typical day at work. As a member of the University Executive we have a weekly meeting which is a fixed point, but most other days are different. As well as leading on the City Deal I am also responsible for academic promotions across the university, Athena SWAN and advancing equality and diversity, developing our ‘Flourishing Communities’ strategy with both internal and external communities. I also am leading a project on improving our current on-line courses.


What are you particularly passionate about in your work? 

I am particularly passionate about diversity and how we support the development of our University community. At Heriot Watt we have a very STEM-based subject mix, traditionally dominated by men. Ensuring that we are a community where all our employees and students can flourish is very important to me. Last year, as part of our new strategy development, Strategy 2025, I led the work-stream refreshing our values. We want to be a values-led organisation so I am very proud of the new values, Inspire; Collaborate; Belong; Celebrate, and the way they have been welcomed by the university community.


What is your vision for the DDI programme/City Region Deal? What is HW’s involvement?

The City Deal and DDI programme are a massive opportunity for us as a City Region to establish us as the Data Capital of Europe. Heriot Watt has been involved from the outset and we were delighted to be part of the innovation strand of the Deal. Through the Edinburgh Centre of Robotics, a collaboration between Heriot Watt and Edinburgh Universities, we are already world-leading in our areas of expertise. The City Deal and the creation of the new National Robotarium will mean we will be the UK’s leading innovation hub for the practical application of robotics and autonomous systems, opening new industrial opportunities through focused challenge-led interventions that support the Government’s Industrial Strategy.


Do you work with any particularly interesting data sets, technologies or analysis techniques you’d like to talk about?

As a consumer behaviour researcher, I have worked with small data sets for many years however I am not a data scientist. I understand the importance of data, how data can be used to change the way we live and its importance in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. This is why the investment in the City Deal and DDI is such a fantastic opportunity for this City Region.


What are the biggest challenges for women and girls at HW in data science and related fields? What would you like to see change in data and data innovation?

We have some amazing women working in data science and related fields, but we need more and one of the key the challenges is to get more girls interested in data at school. The DDI skills programme of the City Deal is so important as it looks at how we inspire people at all stages, from primary school right through to re- and up- skilling people in work. There is no inherent reason why this ambition shouldn’t be open to men and women, but we need to ensure that women see this as something for them and I think we will do that by the excitement we can create about the practical application of data innovation in all our lives.


What does inclusive growth mean to you?

Inclusive growth is important because, as with every other Industrial Revolution, the nature of work will change over the next years and we need to ensure that everyone has equal access to the opportunities this presents. The City Deal will drive growth in this Region and by ensuring we up- and re-skill our existing workforce as their jobs change, as well as teaching the next generation how to use data, we will make the biggest difference to our Region.


What would you recommend to women and girls who’d like to do what you’re doing?

A career in academia is an incredible privilege and one that is open to all so there is no reason why any woman or girl with the ambition to do my job shouldn’t succeed. I was very fortunate to come into University management through an academic pathway, it is not the only route and we have some excellent professional services managers who do a very similar job to me through a different route. Not all academics want to be managers and there are great careers in universities for female academics as researchers and teachers that don’t lead to senior management. But if any women or girls would like to do what I am doing I’d say there is absolutely no reason why they can’t.  


Who is your hero or heroine?

My heroine is my grandmother who as a child was disabled, poor and very badly educated, largely because of her disability, but believed passionately in education and its power to transform lives. She was the most amazing woman. I was the first in my family to get a degree, at that time only 10% of school leavers went to University and I know how lucky I was to have the support of my family to achieve my ambitions.


To finish up, what do you look forward to?

In future, I have handed over the day to day leadership for the Robotarium and am looking forward to helping use the City Deal to foster partnership working between the Universities, Colleges, businesses and local authorities in the Region. I represent the HE/FE group on the Regional Enterprise Council and I think this really has the potential to be transformative in the way we all work together.

Image of Professor Gillian Hogg
Picture by Lesley Martin, interviewed by Poppy Gerrard-Abbott

The City Deal looks at how we inspire people at all stages, from primary school right through to re-and up-skilling people

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