The view from here – Sarah Tulip, BJSS

Image showing Sarah Tulip, smiling and conversing with anther person at an event

In this series we ask key figures in the region and from our core sectors to share their insights.

This time we spoke to Sarah Tulip, Head of Digital Transformation at BJSS and Digital Ambassador for Leeds City Council, about the opportunities and challenges she sees for the tech sector and her mission to drive diversity in digital.

Tell us about your role at BJSS and recent developments there.

BJSS was founded in Leeds some 30 years ago and I joined at the turn of the year, with a remit to lead the consultancy’s global Digital Transformation client portfolio. Our aim is to help businesses and organisations to innovate and grow through transformative use of data and technology.

We now have bases in Melbourne, Lisbon, Houston and New York – growth which was considerably accelerated through the pandemic. Although the COVID crisis was – and continues to be – disruptive and challenging, it also brought far-reaching implications for every business and industry sector, with digital transformation being at the heart of organisations strategy.


And in your role as ambassador for Leeds’ digital sector, what would you say are the main opportunities and challenges for our region?

Many companies here are well ahead of the curve and now need to stay on top of what is a non-stop digital evolution, while other businesses are currently refocusing and getting back in the game.  The digital industry sets the way for these organisations.

One of the many attractions of Leeds for businesses and investors is the real mix of industries here – not just financial services and medtech, although we are of course world-beating in those sectors.

We also have a true business and academic community here. Unlike more disparate cities such as London or Manchester, you can get across the whole city quite easily, and we have a very special ecosystem – competitors work side by side, collaborate and support each other, rather than working in isolation.

What we all have to do is sell that proposition better, more widely and more often.

We’re competing with London companies offering London wages to top talent, who can work from home in more affordable locations. Employers will have to offer a new way of working and a clear vision to attract and retain graduates who have global opportunities.


As co-founder of Women in Leeds Digital (WiLD), diversity in the sector is clearly very important to you – what will help to achieve that mission?

WiLD is all about growing, engaging, developing and retaining the diverse digital community in Leeds and we have some tremendous role models in the city and great leadership. Leeds people and organisations generally care very much about this and gender diversity has been a priority for a while, with budgets allocated and policies established.

Obviously much more needs to be done and to promote wider inclusion across sexuality, race, neurodiversity and socio-economic diversity. Friends who are behavioural specialists tell me that you have to explain the commercial and financial benefits to open the conversation and we have tangible proof that the more diverse a business or organisation is, the better it performs, I think we have to take that approach to some of the more traditional thinkers.


How can the Nexus community and wider networks help you?

As well as constantly developing your recruitment, placement opportunities and student engagement, challenge the all-male speaker panels; promote the achievements of diverse role models and ask where and how you can support groups who are helping to change the landscape.

You can help to ensure that the voices which are not normally heard are given a platform.

When I was C.O.O. of an international tech company, I attended industry events where I was often the only woman. Things have changed a little, but we can all do more and it’s everyone’s responsibility, there are some wonderful male advocates in the city who pushing the agenda too.


What’s next on your radar and what can we look forward to in terms of events and initiatives from the Leeds digital community?

It’s been great to be out mixing within the wider digital community within the city. I’ve been back in the Nexus building recently, catching up with Barry Singleton and the rest of the team and it is so refreshing.

The digital festival was a huge success where we launched our WILD research project on racial diversity in the digital sector, which Nexus has supported. This is just the beginning of this programme and we will be evolving this alongside some of the key digital organisations from across the city and kick starting actions that will help us become the most inclusive city in the country to work in digital.

The wider community diary is getting full and I can’t say too much but I have asked to be part of the board of a city wide charity tech ball in the spring, which will be a wonderful opportunity for us all to let our hair down after this tough two years.

Explore more insights from our ‘the view from here’ series: