Ahead of Essex Business School's Successful Futures Conference on 9 March, we spoke to key note speaker Lisa Perkins to get to the bottom of her drive for innovation and technology in business.

From uncertain beginnings

My career began way back when I started my undergraduate degree, which was in Biology and Mathematics. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do but I knew that I had enjoyed these subjects when I was studying for my A Levels and that I should have a pretty good shot of success with these subjects.

On completion of my undergraduate I, like many students, was still unsure of what to do next. Again, like many students I had numerous temp jobs and went travelling before I started looking seriously at where my career could take me. I realised that I loved communicating and working with people and so I happened upon an opportunity to complete a Masters in Telecommunications which led on to a graduate placement with BT, with whom I have been since 1997!

Developing a career in telecommunications

Twenty years is a long time to spend with one company and is not a tenure which is all that common anymore, but BT has offered me so many opportunities for personal and professional development and my career has completely evolved over this period. I was granted the opportunity to manage budgets in excess of £100 million and manage innovative projects delivering cutting edge technology out into the field.

Adastral Park

This led me to my current role as Director or Research and Innovation at Adastral Park, BT's innovation labs site. Adastral Park is an ecosystem that drives a whole host of innovation activities with businesses to maximise the opportunity for value with the aim to enhance industry. Currently Adastral Park is looking at leading the world in everything from next generation ultrafast networks, cyber security, applied AI to IoT and applied Augmented, Virtual and Mixed reality experiences.

One project which I am most proud of from my time at BT is the development and launch of the DigiTech Centre at the University of Suffolk. The DigiTech Centre provides cutting-edge digital skills for people looking to pursue careers in information and communications technology. I have really enjoyed seeing the impact of this project. There is a skills gap for digital and technological skills in graduates who the tech industry are hoping to recruit and Adastral Park were able to innovate and bring a project together to tackle this whilst at the same time supporting education. 

Advice for students

It is important to follow your gut and take opportunities that support your passions and will impact your performance and goals. Avoid saying no to opportunities, give everything a chance as you may discover a new interest or skill, however, don’t waste time on things that don’t spark an interest or passion. 

About Lisa

Lisa is Director of Adastral Park and Research Realisation for BT’s Technology division. She is building a rich and diverse technology ecosystem at Adastral Park which maximises the opportunities to find the best innovative solutions to real business problems.

She is accountable for showcasing the world class innovation and research at the park, collaborating with customers to ensure we find relevant solutions to their needs.

Lisa leads on down-streaming innovation and research to derive value for the business. She manages key partnerships with world leading universities in conjunction with the research programmes to encourage and develop premier class expertise. She actively promotes and drives an education enrichment programme, working with schools to encourage children and teachers to develop a love of technology, thus stimulating skills for the industry.

Lisa has direct leadership of research into both home entertainment and future industry and smart technologies.