Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Tiffany St James

We’re asking some of our industry’s leading figures to nominate their digital hero and to explain what’s so special about them.

One of our most experienced digital transformation specialists, the redoubtable Tiffany is the founder of Transmute and former Head of Public Participation for the UK Government.

Who is your digital hero?

This was a tough one for me, as I look to our women who influenced me in my early digital career: Martha Lane-Fox, Joanna Shields, now both Baronesses, and Sherry Coutu.

One woman I had the great pleasure to meet later in my career was Catriona Campbell and her story resonated with me most as a maverick and rule-breaker who got things done.

What have they done to win hero status in your eyes?

She was instrumental in creating the UK standards for Usability and Accessibility across digital media set by the UK government, but more than that, the way she approaches barriers and challenges struck such a chord with me.

When she was in her twenties, in the first dotcom boom, she had been turned down by multiple investors. Turning to a friendly investor for reasons why, this was suggested because she was a woman and may want to have children in the future that may affect the investment.

She hired and scripted two male actors, re-pitched in a technical role with her new ‘team’ and won investment. Before the investment was signed, she confessed all to her new investors, who loved the story and rationale. Her new launch hit the broadsheets and she shortly had a six-figure business. I love her ingenuity and spirit.

How has their heroism helped drive digital?

Her approach and story shone an early light on the issue of diversity and female founder capability brokering a new early acceptance in positive female founder role models.

What the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

My focus tends to be on digital capability in large businesses and governments. Now digital transformation or organisational change to embed better digital services, delivery and new ways of working has grown up a bit, culture is the key issue for many businesses.

How do we create or change organisational culture to embrace the constant digital changes and leaps we will see over the next decade? How do we enable and empower our business Leaders to continue to scope and embrace the constant digital evolutions to come?

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I was fortunate enough to work in early UK government digital transformation, as the first Director of Comms of Directgov, putting government services online for the first time, and later as first Head of Social Media pan-government, both roles I am still immensely proud of today.

This work formed the foundation of the work I consider my greatest personal achievement in digital which is being pulled into manage digital or social media national crises or civic contingency that unfold from Swine Flu, through London Riots, to Somerset Floods and, more recently which I consider a huge personal achievement leading the digital team for the pan-government Grenfell Response Team.