David Watts

Doug Woodburn
clock • 3 min read
David Watts

David Watts

Managing director and senior vice president, UK and Ireland, Tech Data, who is also a sponsor of all three of Tech Data's UK business resource groups

What's the most pressing issue preventing progress with diversity today that no one's talking about?

Initially the most important thing is to start the conversation, take a non-patronising educational approach and show leadership through action. At Tech Data - and it's the same for many in our industry - we are talking more about diversity now, and that has to be seen as real progress. 

What do you believe are the most effective policies and initiatives that companies can implement to promote diversity in their workforce?

The journey we are on - and we haven't finished it, by any means - is one in which you need to look at all of your policies and ways of working to ensure they maximise opportunities for everyone and make everyone comfortable and happy at work.  Business resource groups that focus on supporting women, on race, religion and ethnicity, and on LGBQT+ colleagues, play an important part of this process at Tech Data. They meet regularly to openly discuss issues and how they can be addressed. We ask them to challenge the leadership team and I would encourage all businesses to do something similar. 

How much progress do you believe the industry has made in diversity since you started working in IT?

Although it took a while for the industry to wake up to the need for positive action, I believe we are making some real progress now. The fact that at Tech Data we have a number of business resource groups (BRGs) to support diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) and that this list is being compiled, shows that it's being taken seriously.  The challenge continues to be in senior positions; it's improving, and we all have a part to play, but if you go to an industry event where the invitees are senior people, you will see progress is still slow. 

What should senior management teams be doing more of to help create a more inclusive industry for everyone?

Drive open discussion and debate on diversity within their business and set up some kind of group to make that happen. You need to give it focus and time - it's a journey and "saying it doesn't make it so". Some senior team members are natural allies, and some are more cautious. All need to be included in the process. Visible supportive leadership is key. 

How did you first get into the IT industry?

By accident! I had always worked in the public sector with my last roles being in the prison service. I left with no job to go to at 29, starting again and took a job as a temporary purchaser for CHS Distribution. Pure luck and it's been great.

What have been some of your experiences (both good and bad) with how the IT industry has historically approached diversity?

I think we need to look forward, not back, and take a positive and progressive approach to diversity.

Who have been your biggest role models in your professional life, and how have they helped you to succeed?

I have been lucky to have mostly great bosses - my current and last ones, most especially.  Andy Gass - now CDO (chief digital officer) for TD SYNNEX - saw that I could progress and stretch before I believed in it and always inspired ambition.  Patrick Zammit - my current boss - lives servant leadership and asks the best questions to stimulate better thinking.

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