Tech leader awarded honorary doctorate
16 September 2022
Tech pioneer, Damian Corneal, who has championed underrepresented voices in the sector awarded honorary doctorate in technology from the University of East London.
Damian Corneal, partner at IBM, received an honorary doctorate in technology from the University of East London (UEL), for his work in implementing information technology into the UK health system and his efforts to promote diverse voices in the tech sector.
Damian has spent his entire career championing voices from underrepresented backgrounds in the tech sector setting up two start-up companies supporting children and young workers. He was included in 2019's Financial Time's list of the top 100 most influential BAME leaders in the UK Tech Sector.
Working with his business partner, Damian kickstarted iCompassUK.org - an online learning platform which teaches young people employment and life skills and TRACSUK.org - a platform designed to help child services deliver better results for children in care.
Speaking at a ceremony held in front of 350 graduates, Damian separated his speech into three lessons that he has learnt on his journey.
The first being to get out of your comfort zone; find your passion and be bold in pursuing it; and to be curious and never stop learning.
As I have navigated my career, I have learnt the importance of representation, role models, and sponsorship to encourage attainment of employees from underrepresented backgrounds."
"I would ask myself, why were there not more people who looked like me, from my type of background in the senior leadership teams. Even though I was still on my journey, I realised I could help those who were coming after me.
"I got involved in the technology degree apprenticeship programme and volunteered my time in the creation of standards to identify the skills, knowledge and behaviours required for the tech industry and I worked with training providers and universities like UEL, to align course delivery with the needs of business.
"I saw the power of degree apprenticeships to transform the lives of young people and those not so young – who would not have otherwise been able to access those opportunities. This proved the root to delivering on my passion of helping those from underrepresented backgrounds achieve social mobility," he continued.
"Not bad for a boy from Trini"
Born in Morvant in Trinidad and Tobago, Damian, received his first computer in 1987 - an Apple IIe with 64-kilobytes of memory - an impressive model at the time. Coming from a family of nurses, Damian explored ways where technology could be used to improve health outcomes for citizens.
While working at IT consultancy firm, Accenture, he helped develop the rollout of medical imaging across the UK, which moved away from paper and used digital technology to improve response times and facilitate quicker diagnoses.
In his current role at IBM, he has worked with the UK Health Security Agency and lead a team that supported the country’s test and trace systems during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Not bad for a boy from Trini," said Damian as he took the stage.
"I was born from humble beginnings, back in the Caribbean. My family helped instil the drive, resilience, and determination I needed to elevate my situation. Attributes that you have all shown in pursuit of your degrees.
"Technology has moved on exponentially since my career began. Looking at the possibilities in AI, quantum computing, Cloud computing, and everything evolving across the tech industry, the opportunities are endless.
It means that as you learn and develop in your own careers, you will be the people making the exponential changes in the way that we all live, work and experience life. I wish all of you the best of luck on your journeys and I am absolutely honoured to receive this honorary doctorate today."
For more information see computer science and digital technologies at UEL.
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