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Dylan Roberts: A Career Championing Allyship And Inclusion


Dylan Roberts
Chief Digital and Information Officer
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board

by Bernie Clarke

18 March 2024

From Humble Beginnings to IT Leader


Dylan Roberts’ career has been a remarkable journey of progression and growth, starting from humble origins. Leaving school at 16, Dylan began as a YTS (Youth Training Scheme) computer programmer at a county council in North Wales.

Dylan went on to hold various IT roles, from operations and development to network engineering and even leading shifts supporting mainframes. His dedication and talent paved the way for him to become the Head of IT Operations for Denbighshire County Council at just 28 years old, making him the youngest head of IT in local government at the time.


A Diverse Career Spanning Local Government, Healthcare, and Smart Cities


Dylan’s career has been a tapestry of diverse experiences, spanning local government, acute hospitals, and smart city initiatives. In 1999, he became a CIO (Chief Information Officer) equivalent in local government, a position he has held for over 25 years. His exceptional leadership skills led him to take on the role of City CIO for Leeds City Council, the second-largest local authority in the UK.

“The Leeds job developed into not just being CIO for local government, but I became a city CIO, including smart cities, digitising communities and in particular it included responsibility remit for delivering better health and well-being outcomes for Leeds,” Dylan explains.

His remit expanded to encompass primary care, clinical commissioning groups, and leading programmes like the Leeds Care record. Dylan’s versatility allowed him to adapt and evolve his roles, always striving to remain current and relevant.


The Importance of Allyship and Inclusion


Throughout his career, Dylan has witnessed the power of allyship and inclusion in creating positive work environments. When asked about the meaning of allyship, he emphasises the importance of empathy and understanding, stating, “Allyship for me, I think in the first instance is really understanding, empathising and helping… But I think it’s really important from my perspective doing that with two ears and one mouth in that proportion.”

Dylan recognises his privilege and the need to listen deeply to others’ experiences, particularly those who may not have had the same opportunities. “You only get understanding by really listening, ultimately helping people realise their full potential. That’s the key thing for me about allyship,” he asserts.


Fostering Inclusivity through Departmental Development Groups


One of Dylan’s notable initiatives has been the establishment of departmental development groups, which aim to create inclusive and supportive work environments. These groups bring together employees from diverse backgrounds and characteristics, fostering open dialogue and understanding.

“I set up a departmental development group where there was no seniority and basically looked… to reach out to the staff networks that did exist,” Dylan explains. “To try and pull people together into a group about how we make this a great place to work?”

These groups not only helped identify and address issues like bullying but also provided a platform for different perspectives to be shared and understood. Dylan acknowledges the challenges in implementing such initiatives. However, his commitment to creating positive change has driven these efforts forward.


Calling Out Unacceptable Behaviour and Fostering Change


In his current role at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, an organisation in special measures, Dylan has encountered instances of unacceptable behaviour and pressure from various levels. He recalls receiving “threatening emails” from senior individuals, suggesting consequences for his career if he did not comply with certain demands.

Despite the potential repercussions, Dylan has felt compelled to call out these poor behaviours and initiate discussions with executives and leaders to address them. “You don’t know what’s going to happen,” he admits, acknowledging the bravery required to challenge such conduct, especially for those with less experience.

Dylan’s actions have contributed to positive changes within the organisation, including the appointment of a new chief executive who recognises and aims to address these issues. His willingness to confront unacceptable behaviour, even at the highest levels, exemplifies his commitment to creating a more inclusive and respectful work environment.


Strategies for Overcoming Impostor Syndrome


Even with his vast experience and achievements, Dylan has encountered moments of impostor syndrome, particularly when venturing into unfamiliar territories, such as engaging with ministers and government officials. However, he advises others to confront these feelings head-on and not let them become debilitating.

“You might get impostor syndrome, but you have got to try and break yourself out of that,” he advises. Dylan encourages individuals to embrace new challenges, as they often lead to the most rewarding experiences and personal growth.


A Call to Action: Fostering Allyship and Understanding


In reflecting on how others can become allies and promote inclusivity, Dylan emphasises the importance of recognising one’s own limitations and being open to learning. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” he cautions, urging individuals to avoid the pitfall of thinking they have all the answers.

Dylan advocates for creating safe and comfortable environments where people feel empowered to share their experiences and perspectives. He suggests setting up forums similar to the departmental development groups, where individuals can gradually open up and contribute without fear of judgment or repercussions.

“Put yourself out there, set those things up,” he advises.

By fostering open dialogue, actively listening, and creating inclusive spaces, Dylan believes leaders can break down barriers, promote understanding, and ultimately create environments where everyone can thrive and reach their full potential.

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