Now the firm, as it continues its transition to becoming an IT services and professional consulting body and less of a line fixer, has taken another sort of shift: it has started hiring people like Dina Matta.

She is director of strategy for the One IT division in BT Exact, the firm’s research, technology and IT operations business.

“I am responsible for defining strategy for our IT division and then the execution of that strategy and its alignment with the rest of the BT group,” she told MIS UK.

One IT itself is part of a wider aim to drive a more centralised and efficient IT operation within the company, within a wider ‘one BT’ strategy. The idea is to achieve a more integrated approach and achieve economies of scale across the company.

Engineering success

Matta is one of a rare but growing breed of IT leaders from non-IT backgrounds. However, her career is more varied than most.

She holds dual nationality from the UK and Jordan and was brought up in the Middle East before studying, in a now-truncated educational course, mechanical and industrial engineering and economics at Nottingham.

“I think this was one of the first times social science and engineering was deliberately mixed, which was fascinating. But I have to say most of the 50 or so of us who did it have become straight engineers,” she says. Indeed Matta herself started down this path too, going into manufacturing with one of the world’s oldest (now vanished) consulting organisations in the sector, the Anglo-Canadian PE group.

Not long after however she found herself in a completely new area when she was asked to be one of the team leading Midland Bank’s massive 1980s business transformation.

“The strategy was to deliberately emulate some of the things that Citibank had done where it had hired a leader from the car industry,” she recalls.

“The idea was to apply production engineering approaches to the service industry, for which they needed the odd engineer who could read and write too.” Joking aside Matta did well at Midland, culminating in the acquisition five years later by HSBC, before a stint at Swiss Bank in the mergers and acquisitions team in Zurich, which she eventually headed.

Then she took a completely different tack again – she worked in a couple of internet startups in the asset management and shipping areas.

So why IT after all that? “What I have always found is that IT is the one consistent thing that works across all business units and can be the best way to unify and align all the different areas – but only if it is supported and focused on,” she believes. “We are the people who are helping not just map the business’ future but building it too. The banks saw that back in the 1990s – now everyone sees it.”