Managing Director, TPP
Charlotte Knowles, Managing Director of Leeds-based healthcare technology company TPP, reflects on her successful career in tech — and what she looks for in potential employees.
How did you kickstart your career in technology?
I initially studied Medicine at university but soon switched to Mathematics, which had always been my favourite subject. I then decided to take an MSc in Computer Science. That gave me knowledge of a broad range of topics including programming, networks and artificial intelligence.
What did you do after your MSc?
My first job after uni was at an educational software company in Oxford. It was a large company and I found the bureaucracy and many layers of management frustrating and slow paced. I then found a small company in Leeds, called TPP, who had huge ambitions and a vision to transform healthcare technology. Frank, the CEO, talked to me about this innovative architecture that he had written that could save clinicians time and improve outcomes for patients. I remember thinking that I was going to learn a lot at this company. When I look back over the past 20 years at TPP, it’s humbling to think that I have contributed to this hugely successful company.
Are STEM degrees a good route into programming?
Yes – definitely. At TPP, we actually look for programmers from any degree subject, however, we do find the vast majority of them from STEM subjects. STEM graduates have analytical, logical minds – perfect for coding. In fact, over half of our directors have STEM degrees.
You’re responsible for recruitment. What kind of job candidates catch your eye?
Our staff are our greatest asset. They are a wonderfully diverse bunch, from all over the world, with a whole range of interests and backgrounds. So we really don’t have a ‘typical TPP person.’ What we do look for is exceptional academic achievement. We really do hire the brightest minds.
As a leader, you need to ask yourself: ‘Am I treating people in a way I would like to be treated?’
What does your role involve – and what leadership skills do you need?
I’m responsible for the day-to-day running of the company and overseeing the activity of all teams, from product development to system deployment, plus supporting the welfare of our staff. For me, empathy is a characteristic that every successful leader needs. You must understand what motivates and drives people. Do your staff feel safe, empowered, looked after, rewarded and do they trust you? Trust is so important in building relationships with both your colleagues and your customers. As a leader, you need to ask yourself: ‘Am I treating people in a way I would like to be treated?’
What’s the best thing about your job?
The huge variety of projects we get to work on. I’ve worked on AI to help clinicians diagnose cancer, I’ve helped develop public health surveillance systems and I’ve visited countries all over the world. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve been particularly proud of the work we’ve done. For example, together with Dr Ben Goldacre, we built the largest platform for COVID-19 research in the world, OpenSAFELY.