ScotlandIS chief executive Polly Purvis to retire

Polly Purvis, the chief executive of ScotlandIS, who has been with the digital technologies industry organisation since its inception in 2000 and has led it for the past six years, is to retire.

“I believe ScotlandIS is very well placed for its new phase of growth – we have a great staff team who share with the board an ambition to grow the business,” said Purvis.

“We’re in the process of strengthening and complementing the existing team with new hires in the areas of data and cyber. We have a fabulous membership full of interesting, innovative and growing technology businesses who build and deliver high quality goods and services.

“So it’s a good time to hand on to someone who can bring fresh passion and a belief that technology can be a real force for good, and who can help develop the potential of the digital technologies industry as a major force in the new economy being built in Scotland.”

ScotlandIS said in a statement: “Polly leaves both ScotlandIS, and the Scottish digital technology industry, in excellent shape. Most recently, she helped secure support for ScotlandIS from Scottish Enterprise to develop industry clusters in data and cyber security, evolving ScotlandIS into a combined cluster management organisation and membership body.”

Purvis was instrumental in the creation of the Skills Investment Plan, published in 2014; a strategy developed to create a strong and continuing supply of skills for the tech sector, underlining its importance to the Scottish economy.

“Through a partnership between industry, SDS, SFC and other skills organisations the investment plan is creating a strong skills infrastructure to support future growth,” said the statement. “Initiatives including CodeClan, Digital Xtra Fund, Digital Skills Partnership and the Digital Schools Programme have come out of the Skills Investment Plan and further work is underway addressing subjects as varied as gender balance in the industry and recruiting more computing teachers.”

Purvis spearheaded the formation of CodeClan, Scotland’s first and only SQA accredited digital skills academy: “She recognised an opportunity for career changers and returners to develop technology skills to help fill the increasing number of job vacancies in the sector and established CodeClan to meet this need.” CodeClan is now producing more than 400 technically skilled graduates a year in Edinburgh, Glasgow and its new Highlands campus in Inverness.

She also championed the formation of the Digital Xtra Fund, a charity dedicated to ensuring all young people across Scotland can benefit from hands on experience of computer science, coding and digital making regardless of geography or economic background.

Purvis was also one of the small bid team comprising industry representatives and academics which developed the proposal for the establishment of The Data Lab, and was also one of the founding team that established the dotScot Registry, Scotland’s top level internet domain.

She has represented ScotlandIS on the Scottish Government’s Digital Public Service Advisory Board, the ICT & Digital Technologies Skills Group, the Converge Challenge Advisory Board, the ONE Digital & Entrepreneurship board, the Scotland CAN Do Innovation board, and the Industrial Advisory Board of the University of Dundee’s School of Computing.

Purvis chairs the board of CodeClan and is a Trustee of the Digital Xtra Fund. She has been recognised for her impact on the Scottish tech sector, receiving a lifetime achievement award from Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham in 2015, an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2017 for services to the Scottish digital technologies industry, and the lifetime achievement award at the Scottish Women in Technology Awards 2018.

ScotlandIs’s board said that Purvis will remain in post until her successor is appointed “to ensure an orderly transition”, and will officially hand over to the new chief executive at ScotSoft2019. It added that Karen Meechan, currently head of operations, has been promoted to chief operating officer “providing additional continuity to the membership and focussing on the continued growth of the organisation”.

Frances Sneddon, chair of ScotlandIS and chief technology officer of SIMUL8 Corporation “will work with Karen, Polly and the new CEO to build on the legacy that Polly has left. Between them, Karen and Frances have more than 40 years experience in the technology sector and more than 25 years helping to run ScotlandIS in an operational and board capacity”.

Purvis added: “Karen has been part of ScotlandIS for nearly as long as I have and she knows our members really well. She’s been the person who has made the organisation work day-to-day, growing the membership and creating the Digital Technology Awards – and she led ScotlandIS while I was setting up CodeClan. With our chair, Frances, our wider board and the new CEO, our members – and the industry – will be in excellent hands.”