Interview with Sian Cleary

Sian Cleary recently completed a Masters Degree in Politics and Contemporary History, focused on Governement digital policy in the 1990s.  Sian left school in 2006 with a passion for sports and a keen interest in History, with only a vague interest in IT, an industry she would later go on to have a successful career in. 

She went on to the Sixth Form College Farnborough which was, she says, like a university given the size of the college and the range of subjects on offer.  She studied psychology, physical education, history and general studies at A level.  She was the first of her family to go to university and from 2008-2011 read history at Queen Mary, University of London.  There she started to focus on Contemporary History drawing inspiration from the original teaching of Professor Peter Hennessy with the course ‘Cabinet and Premiership’ taught by Professor Jon Davis and the Mile End Group, (now the Strand Group) where she got to understand first-hand how government worked . Sian’s final year special subject was the Blair Years, and her associated undergraduate dissertation was on the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit which she received a Double First Award for, and a strong 2:1 degree overall.

Sian was one of twelve graduates who were accepted onto the John Lewis and Waitrose IT Graduate Scheme in 2011 and she spent the next 11 years in retail IT, where she honed her craft as a Business Analyst designing systems for Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Primark and latterly as a Senior Functional Consultant for Fluent Commerce a SAAS Retail Order Management Company.

She felt called back to academic work in 2022 for a Masters in Politics and Contemporary History at King’s College London where she studied alongside the Strand Group.  Sian used the Archives of IT and interviewed extensively for her dissertation called ‘From Dial-Up to Downing Street: an analysis of rapid technological advancement and the British Government’s response’.  Sian highlights the importance of individuals with technical knowledge that were seconded into the Department for Trade and Industry and proved crucial to early digital policy under Minister Ian Taylor. She is critical of the City of London during this period as it focused on delivering dividends from safe companies and investment rather than promoting ventures in IT.  She is now planning to do a PhD in the subject. 

Sian was interviewed by Richard Sharpe for Archives of IT