Lisa Goodchild’s experience in – and passion for – all things digital is unrivalled. For more than 20 years she has lived, loved and been a major player in the industry making waves in far-reaching arenas, from fashion, finance & tech to online advertising and non-profit.
Her advice to young people looking at technology as a potential career option. “Become a thought-leader in that space and start building your platforms. You are the future leaders and the future creators and so if you’re interested in, for example, Artificial Intelligence, create a blog, create your Instagram, start talking on LinkedIn. If you do that, companies will be all over you because there’s no way you will not be an expert if you just live and breathe a certain subject and talk about it with passion and love they will come and find you.”
Early Life and Education
Lisa Goodchild grew up in South East London. She says that her early life was chaotic. Her mother suffered from mental health issues, her father was in prison and her stepdad was a heroin addict. Despite this, she learned from people around her, including her aunties, grandad and uncles who ran their own businesses. She says: “I had lots of people around me that had their own businesses, so I think that helped me see a variety of life.”
Lisa’s love of digital grew out of a visit to the Albert and Victoria Museum on Japan, she explains: “In that conference it had all this amazing futuristic technology which wasn’t that futuristic now, but it was really, really cool and I remember just being amazed by this technology.” Lisa’s uncle also had a robotic arm, she adds: “He always had all the gadgets and I think I was really, really inquisitive about that. My background was absolute chaos, crazy, we were feral children, we were kicked out of the door, we lived in the park and we made do with what he had and we hustled and I think that gave me a great foundation for life.”
Despite having left school with only one GCSE, Lisa was encouraged by her best friend’s mother to go to university. She applied to go to Greenwich University, she says: “I applied, didn’t get in but I didn’t give up, I contacted the lecturer and I said, you know, ‘I really want to do this course’. He said, ‘come in and have an interview, do a maths and English course’, obviously I passed and I sat at the front of that class every single day and it was twenty odd years ago so it was one of the first degrees, it was a digital degree and you did everything.”
Lisa learned to code and says that she loved animation, choosing to work out how to code her own inventions rather than stealing code in the way that many of her classmates did. Early in her degree she gained the top score in one of her projects which really boosted her confidence; she adds: “I got 96 per cent and it gave me such a boost to be able to do it. … I just knew that, oh wow, I can achieve anything, and it really did help me, helped set me up for the future and helped me realise that I can achieve anything.”
In 1999, during her course, Lisa and her friend Sarah, set up their own web design company; Desino Designs. They created websites for the music industry, footballers and estate agencies. Lisa sold her share in the company when her father came back into her life in 2004 and she went travelling with him and her mother.
Overcoming obstacles in life
Lisa says that her early life experiences helped her to overcome many obstacles in life and is a key message for children attending Digilearning. She explains: “Growing up in these situations it actually gives you a quality and experience that kids that go to Eton or the top private schools in the world haven’t got, and that’s this determination and hustle that you end up getting because of your background. I think those areas really helped me; determination and being able to handle the knocks and just get back up. It’s given me amazing qualities; that’s what I want to get across to these kids, that it’s like a degree, you should have a degree in the street because that’s exactly what it’s given you.”
Marketing Academy and Living Leader bootcamp
Lisa was one of thirty people invited to attend the Marketing Academy and took part in the Living Leader Bootcamp run by Penny Ferguson with the aim of helping people to find their purpose. Lisa is now a trustee for the apprenticeship element of the programme, she says: “The apprenticeship level is brilliant, there’s kids from my type of background and we’re seeing amazing results and we’ve got some brilliant brands, like Virgin Atlantic and the Prince’s Trust, that are really supporting and giving these kids the chance that they need.”
As a result of attending the Marketing Academy, Lisa realised that she wanted to help people from similar backgrounds to her own and started Digisparks followed by Digilearning which focuses on children’s education in the digital world. She explains: “Digisparks was the first element of it. We went to Barbados and we trained about forty entrepreneurs and I taught them social media. I’ve always worked in schools and colleges and tried to help kids realise the potential of social media. I’ve been harping on about social media for the last ten years. I’ve been banging down brand’s doors, and saying, ‘please, listen, this is real’ and if you watch the Big Hack on Netflix you’ll soon realise that’s why we’re Brexiting and Donald Trump’s been voted in, because of social media and the power of it, the propaganda.”
After the birth of her second daughter, Lisa and her friend Sarah, realised that books about computing were out of date and unrelatable for today’s children and decided to write some alternatives.
Lisa has created four characters, each with their own specialist niche interest, including; Michael who likes video editing, Mitchell likes gaming, Sofia is into social and Mia into search engines and knows everything. On her next trip to Jamaica, Lisa took printed copies of the books and arranged with the Ministry of Education to visit three schools. Lisa says: “I went to three of the schools out there and it was a real eye-opener. These kids had no facilities, they were unbelievable. It was a primary school. They had nothing, the books were so old, it was in a shack, it was unbelievable to see that they had no computers either, so I’m on a mission to change this. So that’s where it sort of developed.” The Ministry of Education also asked Lisa if there were teaching guides and on her return to the UK, she set out to develop them. The range now includes Artificial Intelligence, how to keep safe online or how to search etc. The books are both in print and digital.
Having started these two ventures, Lisa realised there was still more to do to make a real impact and started Digihacks and is now working with the Harris Foundation of schools in London. Lisa explains: “We’ve got three areas with Digilearning; Digihacks is where we physically go into schools, colleges, youth zones and work with children, young people, and also parents as well and teachers Our aim is to go in and physically do workshops. Our second area is our Digipacks which are monthly subscription packs where people would be delivered a pack every single month, so this pack would include a book, a number of missions and some physical tasks (they are currently raising money to do this). These tasks could be creating a binary code bracelet out of beads and using binary code. Digiworld which is where kids would be able to log onto an area via our App which would have a gaming element, with augmented reality and Artificial Intelligence, delivered in that sort of Pokémon style but really capturing the kids because what we’ve got to do is get away from making education boring and so separated from the real world.”
There is also an area for teachers and parents. Lisa adds: “We’re delivering our first one this November to take to Barbados and working with some parents out there to pilot it. We’re doing this alongside the Prince’s Trust because Prince’s Trust International is in the Commonwealth; they’ve started off in Barbados and they’re going to Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and we’re going to work with them.”
Lisa says she has had many mentors in her life, many of which were men, however this changed when she turned thirty, she explains: “When I got to thirty, I ended up having these amazing women coming into my life, including Sian Osmond MBE, Kanya King MBE, June Sarpong MBE. They’ve always guided me and took me under their wings.” Lisa also counts Brenda Amanis and Mary Keane-Dawson as mentors, adding: “These phenomenal women really made me believe in myself. I can’t say I’ve ever really experienced anything bad from men, me and my Sarah, when we did our degree course, we were literally the only women sitting there and we were lucky, we had a harem of men around us and helping us
The Prince's Trust
Lisa became involved with the Prince’s Trust via her friend Sofia Foster and Lynn Franks, when she was working with her. She has recently become involved in the Prince’s Trust International via her work in Barbados and Jamaica. She adds: “The Prince’s Trust are phenomenal and what they’re doing out in Barbados is brilliant, because Barbados is a small island, is only 300,000, so you can really see the significance …what’s going to be a beast is when we go to Jamaica because you can fit twenty-six of Barbados in Jamaica and there’s a lot more social problems in Jamaica and poverty. … I’m so proud that the Prince’s Trust has taken that angle and taking the step and are really making a difference and that their results have been phenomenal. I’m really proud to be part of it and the difference that they’re making. I know that we can help them digitally and we’re going to partner with them on a lot of things and really, really make a lot of impact.”
How will technology change us in the future?
Lisa points to the many changes taking place around the world in terms of education, from China where they have changed their education system in terms of Artificial Intelligence because they want to be leaders by 2030, to America which is funding a new large institute in New York to focus on Artificial Intelligence.
One thing that Lisa would like to see in the UK, is equality of educational opportunities with digital as the fourth pillar. She explains: “I see a lot of courses offered to private schools and my concern now is that we’re getting a massive divide between the rich and poor again with the rich, very well-educated and digital, and the poor, or even the middle classes, not becoming very well-educated.
I believe that digital has to be the fourth pillar of education with maths, English and science; we really need to focus on that. It’s vital that we start investing in our young otherwise we’re going to see ourselves massively behind. She points to the nation’s ability to be creative, adding: “We are the most amazing, when it comes to fashion designing, music making, we really are a hub of creativity and I believe the UK specifically is that hub of creativity. We can give masses to a digital world and then follow that through and help educate the rest of the world, especially using the Commonwealth.”
Lisa offers the following advice to young people looking at technology as a potential career option. “Become a thought-leader in that space and start building your platforms. You are the future leaders and the future creators and so if you’re interested in, for example, Artificial Intelligence, create a blog, create your Instagram, start talking on LinkedIn. I think it’s Malcolm Gladwell who says if you spend 10,000 hours on a certain area then you will be an expert in that. If you do that, companies will be all over you because there’s no way you will not be an expert if you just live and breathe a certain subject and talk about it with passion and love they will come and find you.”
Lisa’s ambition and aim is to create the leading education, entertainment brand for the world. She explains: “I think it’s massively needed, and we’ve seen all of these games like Roadblocks and Minecraft and Fortnite, and we need to make the equivalent in education where the kids go mad for it. There’s no reason for it not to, we just need the right brands and creatives on board. With our Digilearning platform we want to get the kids creating it with us as well, we want them to be part of the journey and for them to massively be involved in it.” Lisa’s vision is to have reached twenty million children by 2023.
Interviewed by: Kerri Mansfield on the 16th September 2019
Transcribed by: Donna Coulon
Abstracted by: Lynda Feeley