Apex Group’s Marie Measures is both a techie and a creative

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Marie shares her journey of navigating prejudices, leading a global team, and cultivating the next generation of IT leaders.

Marie Measures is the chief digital and information officer (CDIO) at Apex Group, a financial services provider based in London, UK. However, Marie makes quite the journey to get to work, as she resides in the Lincolnshire Wolds, 200 miles (320km) north of London – not a bad drive to work since the Wolds are famous for their natural beauty.

Marie has a large portfolio and has many people reporting to her. “My function’s a little bit wider than just traditional technology,” she explains. “I have a CIO, CTO, CISO, CDO, and several heads of product technology who report to me, with around 800 IT staff to support 12,000 employees overall.”

She says that the group covers 14 to 15 core product areas and in order to be able to cover the global size of the organisation, Marie requires a senior structure of IT leaders that report to her. Among these is a global CIO based in Cape Town, JP Khaitan.

Marie’s father was an engineer, and at the tender age of 10 years old, she developed an interest in computers and basic computer programming. “I’d describe myself as an engineer at heart, and I’m very interested in how things work,” she says.

She initially wanted to become a doctor, maintaining good grades in high school, but ultimately traded the stethoscope for a motherboard. “It was the 1980s and I was told that there probably wasn’t a career in computing for me,” she says. “I decided to focus on medicine, but then when it actually came to going to university, I changed my mind and forwent medicine.

“Instead, I started a new degree at the time called business information systems, which is quite popular now, but at the time was revolutionary. It was the business school and the computer science faculty joined together and realised that in the future, managers in business would need to be technical,” she says.

She was quite fascinated by this course, and did every module offered in it, including traditional computer science, programming, database structured design, customer experience and user experience modules, but was also able to combine that with project management.

“I even studied business strategy and completed several modules on law and psychology. It was a really flexible, pick your own degree scenario,” she notes.

Marie’s first job out of university was as a business systems analyst for a small company, which at a later stage started implementing technology and rolling it out into the business. The business had an IT manager, she recalls, who often fell asleep at his desk due to being overworked, and this pained Marie. She disliked seeing people struggling and stepped in to help, looking after his team when he couldn’t.

Eventually, by way of doing two jobs at once – her own and the IT manager’s when he was away – Marie ultimately asked if she could take up that role herself, and her IT career took off from there.

Marie worked for an American bank for 15 years, as project manager, then working in information security, disaster recovery, and helped with defining the technology strategy with the leadership team.

“I worked my way up and became chief engineer for the European business. I later left the bank to take up my first CIO job for another bank, but this time a UK bank – that was about 10 years ago,” Marie says.

Five-a-side, but often left aside

It goes without saying that IT is still a boys’ club, and in Marie’s 30-year career, navigating all the challenges that came with working in a male-dominated industry is something she’s all too familiar with: managing male egos and balancing motherhood with work are just some of the obstacles she faced. Fortunately someone guided her during her journey, and now she’s paying it forward.

“I didn’t really find that role model or mentor until I joined the financial services industry,” she notes. “I’d say that for the first 10 years of my career, I was the minority. I can only think of one other woman that I worked with, and she was a young graduate coming through the team, and I was the only female senior consultant.

“I had a young family at the time, and it was very hard juggling everything. Business culture was geared around team meetings at the pub in the evenings, and a lot of decisions would be made at five-a-side football, which was played by all of the men, and I needed to get home to tend to a young child. So I would say very early on, I felt like even though I had got to a relatively senior level quite early, I still felt like I was held back from opportunities.”

Marie recalls going to client site visits with her male apprentice, but her apprentice would be greeted first, and to make things worse, they would automatically assume that she was the apprentice, simply because she was a woman.

Owning her space

She does, however, have thick skin, having grown up with two brothers. Marie went wherever and did everything her brothers did, which taught her to not really see gender as a barrier. But it was when she joined financial services that Marie found her mentor – a female CTO who became a role model.

“She became a fantastic mentor to me and helped me get rid of some of the guilt I had of being a working mum, and a working wife,” Marie says. “She really helped me focus on my career because, and I realised that I was in control of when I would spend time with my family, and when to concentrate on work. My mentor really opened up things for me and helped me gain confidence, helped me think about a career path, and made me realise that it was possible to have a family, and to be a woman in technology.”

Marie paid it forward 15 years ago when she developed a coding course that was introduced to 42 primary schools in the UK for learners aged between seven and 11 years old. It was a learn to code club that wasn’t exclusively for girls, but also encouraged boys to join. However, the way the course was written to be more appealing to girls.

Through the club and other changes in making roles more appealing, Marie managed to hire quite a lot of graduates – 50 percent female and 50 percent male graduates. The graduates were also encouraged to assist in running the club.

Some snaps and a couple of books

Marie has some really great hobbies away from work. She’s into books, and that’s putting it mildly: she goes through at least 60 to 70 books a year. Books on fiction, crime, thrillers, thrillers, and a bit of history are her go-to. Marie is currently reading a series by LJ Ross, an internationally bestselling author.

However, Marie’s main hobby is photography, and she’s really good at it. “I try to blend photography with road trips, bringing my family and two dogs along,” she says. “The north of England is very mountainous, not huge mountains, but compared to where I live, it is quite mountainous. There are stunning big skies and breathtaking scenery. In autumn and winter, it tends to be very cold, and there’s a lot of bracken that turns gold. In the summer, it is very very green, with lots of lakes, lots of rain. However, that’s perfect weather for taking shots. The extremes of weather and extremes of light are fantastic.”

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