It’s safe to say that Three UK’s Belinda Finch has left a significant mark on the telecommunications and wider technology industries. Boasting a wealth of experience in telecommunications and utilities infrastructure, she has worked for industry giants across her 20-year career, including as Group CIO and Chief of Staff at Centrica, and eight years across digital transformation roles at Vodafone, namely as Head of Partner Delivery and Head of Transformation and Online.
Finch kicked off her career at Three — one of the UK’s four main mobile networks — in September 2020, joining as the company’s CIO, and has been a figurehead spearheading post-pandemic transformation for the betterment of organisations and the clients and communities they serve.
Speaking with Mobile Magazine at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2023 in Barcelona, Finch shared more about Three’s transformation journey. “Over the last couple of years, we have been going through a bit of an IT transformation journey. We were very much a technology-led transformation programme. We’ve changed that completely so that we’re now very much a business-led transformation programme.
“It’s not all about working with technology, but it’s all about working with the business.”
Influencing a shift to a fully-virtual world
Joining Three at the height of the pandemic — at a time when cybersecurity was confronted with exceptional challenges from the escalating cybercrime and the mass shift to remote work — in her first 12 months Finch created a brand-new technology department, hired an entire management team and overhauled the transformation programme, all completely virtually. And with Finch joining at such a pivotal time for Three, technology and the wider world, she has positioned herself at the forefront of change for the better.
In an interview with Jugo, Finch shared that despite the upsides that comes with hybrid and fully-remote working — especially as a woman and working mother in the industry — she stressed how with fewer opportunities for spontaneous interactions, leaders have to make more intentional actions to ensure relationships are established and maintained across teams.
“Not only more regular one-to-ones but more virtual coffee chats and more opportunities to just have that virtual chat,” she shares. “You’ve got to make more of an effort because you don’t pass people in the corridor anymore.”
Blazing the way for female inclusion in a male-dominated landscape
Along with accelerating digital transformation opportunities, Finch is passionate about dispelling the myth that there are significant barriers to entry for women in technology, and is an advocate of using exercise to increase productivity, efficiency and peace of mind.
“You are a very, very strong business and a very successful business if you have a very diverse workforce,” Finch told Clare Carpenter on season five of Corndel’s Unlocking Leadership podcast, which has a listener base of more than 60,000 people.
“And that’s not just male and female,” she continues. “This is different races and also different backgrounds — public school or a normal, comprehensive school. Whether you’re from the north of England or from South Wales, you think slightly differently.”
Championing culture change and digital transformation
As Three’s CIO, Finch is at the helm of delivering the final stages of the company’s IT transformation programme, as well as focusing on how best to better its customer experience. In this role, she brings her wealth of experience in telecommunications and utilities infrastructure and culminates that into positives to Three and the wider telco sphere.
With a wealth of experience in leading teams through the turbulence of lockdowns and the wider pandemic, Finch is an advocate for having the right technology and systems to ensure the strengths of her teams are harnessed, while also highlighting how changing how people work and helping them adapt is a lofty challenge. She stresses that culture change and training employees, as well as managers, is vital to digital transformation.
“Remember in the 80s and 90s, you only got promoted if you worked really long hours or you had beers with your boss? Are we actually getting back to that culture because it’s a very male-dominated office environment?,” she asked in an interview with Jugo. Here, she emphasises how organisations must act to move beyond simply meeting immediate needs and instead establish themselves as strategic partners that can help shape the future of the business.
“One thing we really should be able to do is train our leaders in organisations to invite more women to the table,” she adds. “We don’t want to have our future technology that is potentially not diverse. We’ve seen things with Artificial Intelligence where it hasn’t been built with diverse teams so therefore you get algorithms and AI that can be quite biased. We need diversity of not only male and female, but all diversity – it’s incredibly important.”
Showcasing sustainability benefits through advancements in 5G
And advocating for diverse backgrounds is not the only way Finch is helping shape the future of the industry. At MWC 2023, Finch addressed how advancements in 5G can ensure everyone can be more eco-conscious moving forward.
“We’ve had to alter our path a little bit, alter not only the technology, but the way that we’ve actually done transformations,” she shares. “There are absolute ways that everybody can become sustainable. Every telco can become sustainable just by moving to 5G.”
She details how the revolutionary technology uses approximately half the power than any other network. “By having greater bandwidth, we’re enabling the rest of the economy to be able to do more that will enable sustainability.”