Press release

Ciara ready to help build on Opencast's success

1 March 2023

One of the UK’s fastest-growing technology companies has appointed a vastly experienced head of architecture.

Ciara Conway joins Tyneside-founded UK consultancy Opencast from Aviva, where she was group chief architect.

Ciara has held senior IT roles at major banks and financial services companies such as NatWest, Lloyds,  CYBG and insurance giant Aviva. She’s also worked for the European Space Agency (ESA).

Born in Hamilton near Glasgow, Ciara studied linguistics at the University of Glasgow. She then traveled to France, Spain and Italy where she taught English before being offered a role in an Italian internet start-up.

“I’d always had a fascination with tech – my dad worked at BT so there were always computers and computer magazines around the house. I remember getting Computer Weekly and doing the programming exercise, which I really enjoyed,” Ciara explains.

“But back in the 90s, tech education in school wasn’t good. I spent a year programming traffic lights – it was so dull, and I just couldn’t see how it could possibly translate into a job. So, I studied languages which I hoped would get me travelling, and was a passion of mine.”

However, she found she loved working in tech and programming at the new start-up, so returned home to Scotland to complete a master’s degree in IT at the University of Paisley.

Armed with this new qualification, she returned to Italy where she found work as a web production manager and head of editorial at the European Space Agency.

She returned home two years later, working at Aegon and other major financial services companies and global banks before being appointed group chief architect at Aviva.

Colour photograph of woman smiling
"Getting women into architecture teams has been a challenge, but I know Opencast shares my ambition to change that "

Unique culture

She joined Opencast in February and has already recognised the unique culture of the business: “Our culture is warm, welcoming, open, genuine and honest. It’s also an ambitious company and working at a pace I enjoy.

“I’ve also been really impressed with Opencast’s commitment to diversity and its promotion of women in tech. Its something I’m passionate about – I remember interviewing 87 people for a role at one of the banks I was working at and only three were women. This has to change.”

She points to the forthcoming International Women’s Day (March 8) as an opportunity to raise the profile, and expectations of women working in tech. The theme for the day is ‘DigitALL: Innovation and technology for gender equality.’

“I’ll be working hard to make our architectural team as diverse as possible, including in management positions. Getting women into architecture teams has traditionally been a particular challenge, but I know Opencast shares my ambition to change that here, as well as encouraging and promoting women in the tech sector more widely.”

The architecture team she leads is about 20 strong, and she aims to expand it further: “We have a great team here, it’s very talented and there is so much opportunity to expand this area of the business further – particularly into new other architectural areas such as infrastructure and data.

“Opencast is such a successful company and is growing so fast and I think our team can certainly help further growth,” she said.

Opencast specialises in designing, building and running user-centred digital and technology solutions. Its work for the government – including its biggest clients HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) – develops services that support critical national infrastructure and help millions of citizens through tax, benefit and support services.

Founded in 2012, the company has grown quickly to become one of the north east’s most successful technology businesses – last year employing its 400th team member. It is also one of the North East’s most attractive employers, last year earning a Newsweek accolade as the region’s Most Loved Workplace, as well as being in the UK’s top 20.

The company has also opened new city hubs, in London, Edinburgh and Leeds – with a new hub opening this spring in Glasgow, where Ciara will be based,

Lee Foster, Opencast’s chief technology officer, said: “Ciara’s knowledge and experience of leading architecture teams, driving technology strategy and delivering transformation initiatives for large organisations will be invaluable in helping us to shape our architecture practice and service offering, diversify our client base, and expand the variety of work we can offer our people. 

“Working from our new Glasgow hub, Ciara will also strengthen our leadership presence in an important growth region for us both in terms of our people and new business opportunities.”

Ciara’s knowledge and experience will be invaluable in helping us to shape our architecture practice and service offering