Joanna Shields OBE: 10 things you need to know about David Cameron’s new digital economy advisor

Meet the female entrepreneur and former Tech City CEO appointed to the prime minister’s digital taskforce...

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Yesterday it was confirmed that Joanna Shields OBE, former CEO of Tech City UK, had been appointed to prime minister David Cameron’s digital taskforce as his advisor on the digital economy.

Joining the taskforce alongside Francis Maude MP and newly appointed digital economy minister Ed Vaisey, Shields’ new (unpaid) position will involve offering advice to Cameron on the UK’s digital industries, infrastructure and entrepreneurship – but who exactly is the woman in question?

Boasting an impressive CV with a background in technology, business, and all things digital, here’s 10 key things you should know about Cameron’s new advisor:

1. She’s chair of Tech City UK

Shields currently operates as executive chairman of Tech City UK, one of many prestigious roles she’s held over the years including UK ambassador for digital industries. In February 2014, Shields stepped down as Tech City CEO, with Gerard Grech, former head of marketing for Blackberry, appointed as her replacement.

Shields still remains very much involved with the organisation which looks to “accelerate growth” of the UK’s technology clusters; an idea which originated from East London’s Tech City cluster – otherwise known as Silicon Roundabout.

2. She is a dual UK/US citizen

Although passionate about the UK’s digital economy, 52 year-old Shields was born in the US, in the state of Pennsylvania, and relocated to the UK from San Francisco’s Silicon Valley in 2000.

Before moving to London, where she lives with Formula 1’s Andy Stevenson and son Ben, Shields worked in California as vice president of production systems for Electronics for Imaging (Efi) which designed, built and manufactured controllers and servers which linked up digital printing systems with networks such as Kodak and Canon. She was also CEO of  interactive video tech company Veon which was acquired by Philips in 2000.

3. She was vice president of Facebook EMEA and is pals with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg

In 2009 Shields was recruited to run Facebook in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) by ex Google colleague, turned Facebook billionaire, Sandberg. While at Facebook, Shields helped to develop EMEA as the social media giant’s largest region and worked on its marketing, customer service, and communications platform.

4. She ran Bebo and, after AOL’s acquisition, headed up AOL’s people networks

Prior to Facebook, Shields ran social networking start-up, and Facebook’s then rival, Bebo where she introduced two new platforms; Open Media and Bebo Originals. In 2008, Shields helped to close AOL’s acquisition of the social media network for $850m and headed up AOL’s people networks which included AOL instant messenger.

During this time she also remained an active part of Bebo and oversaw the launch of its ‘timeline’ feature in 2009 – a tool which helped organise life events and statuses in a linear fashion.

5. She was managing director for Google EMEA

No stranger to digital and tech brands, Shields was formerly managing director of Google EMEA and was responsible for developing its advertising channel AdSense, and headed up products such as Google Mail, Video and Maps.

6. She’s non-executive director of the London Stock Exchange

Having worked with the London Stock Exchange (LSE) to launch its high growth segment, in January 2014 Shields was appointed to the board of the LSE group along with leading entrepreneur and investor Sherry Coutu. The group intends to utilise Shields’ knowledge of building businesses and “delivering technology-based solutions” to “drive the business forward”.

7. She created the Future Fifty Initiative

In April 2013, Shields and chancellor of the exchequer George Osborne launched the Future Fifty programme. The year-long initiative looks to identify the UK’s 50 fastest growing businesses and help them scale in order to be ready for flotation on the LSE. Companies listed in the initial Future Fifty include Mind Candy, Zoopla, Huddle and Skyscanner.

8. She’s one of the ‘100 most powerful women in the UK’

One of many awards Shields has to her name;  in February 2013 BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s House listed Shields as one of the country’s most powerful women on its Power 100 list alongside the likes of Burberry’s Angela Ahrendts and JK Rowling. Shields has also topped the number one spot in the 2011 Wired 100 which ranks the UK’s top digital “power brokers”.

9. She has been awarded an OBE for her services to digital

In the 2014 New Years Honours List, Shields was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her work to support the UK’s digital industries. She was also awarded the accolade for her voluntary service to young people having been a trustee of Save the Children UK, and also having served on the Prince’s Trust internet and media leadership group.

10. She’s a strong advocate for women in business

Shields was previously a member of the government’s Women’s Business Council which seeks to find ways to “maximise women’s contribution to economic growth”. Launched in 2012, the Council also looks to break down the barriers and “glass ceiling” that women face in “playing a full part in business and the workplace”. Shields’ role was to advise on issues such as getting more women into executive positions.

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