Leveraging the power of technology to improve customer experience and productivity is Lucy Cobb’s area of expertise. As the Head of Global Delivery Architecture for Fujitsu, a global leader in technology and business solutions, Lucy’s role is to drive technology standardisation across delivery.
“Fujitsu’s mission is to create a more sustainable world through human centric innovation,” says Lucy. “Our focus is always on our customers, delivering innovation to support growth with exceptional service.” Her role contributes to this goal by ensuring Fujitsu’s offerings and services are seamlessly integrated for optimal customer experience.
Lucy says it feels good to work for a company that is determined to make the world a better place. “I look on in awe at the solutions we create, from removing debris in space to advancing the detection of brain aneurisms, from advancing growth of food to making our cities work smarter. It’s so inspiring, who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”
Currently a key focus of her role is how to evolve Fujitsu’s use of Intelligent Automation tools in its delivery of services. The programme she runs is focused on Fujitsu’s Intelligent Automation Platform, integrating automation use cases across the enterprise. “This programme has given me the privilege to work with a terrific team pulled from all areas of our business who have inspired, challenged and driven us to innovate our approach,” she says. “We have a clear vision to drive composable automation for continual re-use across the integrated toolsets resulting in speed to develop and speed to transform for our customers. But more than that, we are driving the use of AI by using virtual engineers to create, governed by humans for quality.”
Her current passion for IT started young, as she was around technology at an early age. “My dad was in IT, so I grew up as a little girl coloring on punch cards and playing Space Invaders at his work on a ‘mainframe’ with 48k memory!” she says. Even so, when Lucy began her professional career, she never intended to pursue technology. “Except I came back from working in Paris, having been a nanny, and started as a temp in a UK telecommunications company. I was quickly moved to the IT team due to my experience and rose from there. So, this unintentionally became my career.”
Since her first IT job, Lucy has built a remarkable 30-year career, taking on a wide range of roles across the IT industry. “It has been empowering to have these different types of roles as it creates experience in how things really work,” she says. “We know that good customer experience is driven from good user experience. My inspiration now is exploring how the user is going to interact with the systems that they use and how that interaction affects their frustration or happiness, and making that experience a great one.”
Lucy’s move into AI was therefore a natural next step in her career. “AI is going to let us do a lot more in that CX/UX space, more than we were ever able to do before,” she says. “From allowing a natural interaction with digital employees by continually learning, to automating our actions. AI just frees us up to do more, allowing us to get to things that we couldn’t previously get to because we were too busy with transactional tasks.”
At Fujitsu, Lucy explains how AI capabilities are built into all areas of the organisation, from the products and services the company creates, to how Fujitsu manages its internal operations. For example, AI is built into quantum-like computing, into data analysis for drug therapy development, and used to optimise resourcing across operational teams. “These days there aren’t many areas that we don’t embed AI into,” says Lucy.
Despite the proliferation of enterprise AI, Lucy knows that not everyone is comfortable with the technology just yet. She attributes this to the early days of AI, when the technology, and those who worked with it, were in small specialised teams. “Information around automation toolsets and the potential of AI were not widely shared,” she recalls. “People started to see it as, ‘Automation and AI are here to take my job — they’re going to automate something I do and therefore I’m going to be out of a job.’”
Lucy says Fujitsu is working to change this mindset. “For us, giving somebody an AI tool, giving them the capability of using it to help them do their job better, will remove the mundane and let them do more,” she says. By helping people see the technology as a tool, rather than competition, Lucy anticipates that it will enhance job satisfaction. In fact, Lucy believes AI can help businesses navigate the Great Resignation, as AI can be deployed internally to improve people’s jobs, making it easier to attract and retain top talent.
When thinking about the power of AI for the betterment of our world, Lucy hopes there will be a significant push to use AI to address global issues. “If we pool the power of AI capability with expertise and citizen developers, and focused on solving those types of problems — food, health, climate — that would be incredible to see,” Lucy reflects. “I know people are working on this but it’s not being done at the scale that needs to get done.”
Closing the Gender Gap in STEM
To increase diversity in STEM, Lucy says more needs to be done to ensure technology education reflects the reality of working in IT. “Answering from a New Zealand background, we try to engage girls at school, and it worries me that all they seem to know is that there are programming jobs,” says Lucy. She describes how young girls are always surprised to learn that women in technology-related roles at Fujitsu work in a wide range of jobs and possess a variety of different skills.
“The schools aren’t teaching the range of skills needed, and I think that’s because we teach technology... But it shouldn’t just be about the technology, it should be about the roles that you need to apply the technology well,” she says.
If given the opportunity, she would tell her younger self to have confidence in her own capability. “Always be clear on the value that you bring and embrace it. Always look to do better, be nicer, be kinder but never underestimate the value that you bring,” says Lucy. “That’s the key thing and it took me a lot of years to understand that.”
Lucy noted that she was fortunate to have had a number of great mentors as she progressed through her career, not all of them female. She encourages young females to find someone they admire and learn from them by asking for advice. “If it is someone you admire,” she says, “it will be because you see something in them you aspire to and talking to them about it, they will want to support you too. We have all been in your shoes once. And you never know, as a mentor, we often learn from you too.”
After working in technology for three decades, Lucy has garnered invaluable insights and advice for women who are pursuing careers in STEM. She explains how the industry is moving away from “pure science” into what she calls “people jobs,” so she encourages women to feel confident pursuing a career in technology even if they themselves are not technical. Although many people in the IT industry are still very technically focused, Lucy encourages those who are not to learn from their more technical colleagues. She also describes how the industry is constantly evolving and says there are “always opportunities to evolve. Look at me, if you had asked me at the start where I would end up, I wouldn’t have dreamed of what I do now.”
Finally, Lucy highlights the important role technology plays in making a difference for customers and for the world: “We can use that technology for good, and so, if that’s your thing, go for it.”