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May 16, 2019


Ann Kempster, Director of Strategy
Director | Digital | Public Sector | Strategy

What’s your background?
I’ve worked in and around the public sector in the UK for about 20 years - first through academia, then the civil service, and more recently as a consultant. I’ve spent about half of that time in “digital”, focussing on delivery and helping teams get things done. I’ve worked in most central government departments and a number of agencies and non-departmental public bodies - including GDS, Home Office, BEIS, Defra, MoJ, UKRI, Crown Commercial Service amongst others.

Connecting people is really important to me, and something I’m quite good at. I was lucky enough to be able to start my government digital career by running the first online community in government for communications professionals. I was also an early member of some of the early groups in government that went on to run the successful TeaCamp and GovCamp events.

My focus has always been on delivery and helping teams get things done. I’ve spent the last 5 years helping government departments and charities with their digital transformation journeys from service delivery to capability. I’ve worked on things like the Digital Marketplace, helped departments set up agile hiring and programme management, and helped Barnardos to get their transformation journey started with a new website and a radically new open intranet.

I’m one of those strange people who really cares about better government procurement, and have spent lots of time advising SMEs how to win more business in government.

Describe your role at Difrent
I’m really excited to be joining Difrent - the company is scaling at pace and I’ll be helping to do that. Their strong reputation of delivery, a focus on people and for doing good in the public sector matches so well with my own values. It feels like a natural fit. I’m also really looking forward to working with such a strong female leader in Rachel.

I’ll be focusing on our strategy - helping Difrent get to where it wants to be through building new client relationships, developing internal capabilities, a focus on our areas of service expertise and making sure that the company stays aligned to things like the new government service standard. I’ll have one foot in the present, and one foot in the future.

Who are you outside of Difrent?
Work/life balance is super important to me. I think it’s important to be able to switch off, and so when I’m not at work my email and Slack are switched off.

I like travelling and have spent lots of time across South East Asia - Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore. The weather, the cities, the jungles, the people and most of the food keep taking me back there.

Food is one of the most important things to me - whether it’s a 15-course tasting menu at 3-starred restaurants in Bilbao, sitting on plastic stools on street corners in Hanoi eating unidentifiable meat or just having a good cheeseboard at home on a Sunday night.

Mostly I like being outside - fresh air, trees, mountains. Doing transformation work is really intense and draining and I find being outside is the best way for me to recharge

Who would you invite to dinner, dead or alive?
Quite a few people, and it’s difficult to make a choice. I’d love to invite one (or all!) of these, preferably at the same time:

Barbara Kingsolver - one of my favourite American authors who writes the most incredible, powerful female characters

Shirley Chisholm - the first black woman elected to Congress in the US and the first woman to run for president, in the 1970s. She’s hugely inspirational and I’d love to hear the stories from the 1972 convention (outing myself as a massive politics nerd).

David Attenborourgh - I mean, who couldn’t listen to him just read the phone book?

Jon Snow - the tv news guy not the Game of Thrones character. I’ve read his autobiography and wow has he experienced some incredible events (that politics nerd thing again).


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