As Group Chief Marketing, Corporate Affairs and People Officer at Sky, Debbie has responsibility for drawing together all strands of the Sky brand – consumer, corporate and employer. She leads corporate communications, public affairs, internal communications, the Bigger Picture program, and the human resources team. We spoke to her about doing the right thing for Sky’s customers, colleagues and communities, and what she’s learnt during lockdown.

Q: You’ve been at Sky now for three years, what would you say is your proudest achievement?

A: The past year we have really worked hard to do the right thing for our customers, colleagues and the communities we serve and that makes me really proud. If I had to choose one aspect of that it would be how we have made progress in making Sky a more diverse and inclusive business.

Our whole team are so passionate and determined to make progress and we’ve supported each other as we’ve reflected on race and racism – more actively in recent months – and asked ourselves how Sky can do more. We felt very strongly that as a major broadcaster in Europe, we can and should use our voice and play our part in talking about discrimination and being part of an important conversation in society.

We are also partnering with organizations doing important work that makes a difference in communities, such as Kick it out who we are working with to tackle racism in sport. We have established our first colleague-led Diversity Action Group, and our first external Diversity Advisory Council, and set our 2025 targets to increase ethnic diversity and representation right across Sky.

Last year we became a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, supporting its principles on human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption so it’s important we live up to that. Our long-standing commitment to the environment continues as we transform our business to become net zero carbon by 2030.

Q: Tell us a bit more about your path to Sky and your previous roles?

A: I began my career in the 1990’s as a strategist in advertising at Saatchi & Saatchi and I went on to become CEO Europe and Asia Pacific of a marketing and communications agency group that I co-founded called Engine, working on clients across different industries - including Sky for many years. When I was given the opportunity to come and work at Sky, I jumped at the chance to cross over.

It’s so important to keep learning and growing, no matter how advanced in your career you are, and this role has really given me that. Sky is such an exciting business and to be part of shaping its future has been brilliant.

My role encompasses both People (HR) and Corporate Affairs, which I love as it involves telling the Sky story to all our different stakeholders across the UK and Europe.

It’s so true that what is inside the brand is outside the brand. The two aspects of my role have really come together in the last year as our people have shown incredible resilience and an unwavering focus on supporting each other, our customers and the communities we serve.

Q: This year has been challenging for everyone but what have you and your teams across Sky learnt during the lockdowns?

A: The last year has definitely reminded me how important it is to bring your whole self to work, and that we are all humans first and colleagues second. Doing weekly calls with my whole team, where for the first time they have had an insight into my life beyond work has helped us all feel connected. They have seen I have the same challenges as many other working moms! We have all faced similar challenges – but ‘we are all in the same storm, but not the same boat’.

There are some moments I have just missed not being physically together, being able to wander over and ask someone what they think of an idea, or bumping into someone and having a quick chat without having to dial into Teams and look at myself on camera. We’ve also had many new people, including senior leaders, join the team during lockdown so onboarding all these colleagues remotely has been the biggest challenge.

I want to make sure they don’t just think of Sky as just a laptop screen because we’re so much more than that when we’re all together.

Q: What are you currently working on at Sky, what’s the next big project?

A: I’ve been focusing on what the future of work at Sky across Europe looks like in a hybrid working world, where we will find more flexible working patterns that work for the individual, the team and for Sky as a business.

This is a new chapter for Sky and the hybrid working model is designed to be the best of both – keeping the balanced, collaborative and inclusive environment, whilst continuing to deliver the best outcomes for our customers.

I’m also working hard on our commitment to become a net zero carbon business. We are a partner of COP26, the global UN summit about climate change that will take place in the UK.

Q: How have you and Comcast worked together during the pandemic?

A: I love working with colleagues at Comcast and regularly share ideas – this year it’s been on diversity and inclusion, many People topics, and how to tell our story to journalists and the media in a way that amplifies the best of all of our companies.

I really feel a strong affinity for Comcast colleagues whenever I interact with them and the culture fit is really strong, which is remarkable. Bill Strahan, Vicki Williams and I have regular People calls, especially throughout the pandemic, learning and sharing as we entered uncharted waters in our respective markets.

One of the major programs we are also working on is SkyLife, our new employee digital platform, powered by Workday . It’s been great to learn from talented and inspiring colleagues across Comcast, who have recently been on a similar journey and have been very generous in sharing their knowledge. I know there are lessons from Sky that are of value to other parts of the Comcast family too.