An ordinary week

Steve Westgarth
6 min readSep 7, 2021

Leadership is a topic close to my heart. I have (and will) always make a conscious effort to be the best leader I can be; sometimes its important to remind yourself what great leadership is about.

In some ways the last 7 days have just been an ordinary week; but reflecting on the last week I think it has also been a week where I have been reminded of what leadership is about and why its important to use whatever influence I may have to positively impact the lives of others. For that reason I want to share some of the events of the last 7 days.

The Boots Technology Awards

As an IT function colleagues from Boots Technology have not all been together in one place since March 2020. This week saw us host the inaugural Boots Technology Awards where the entire function came together in the same physical location to celebrate our success over the last year.

For me the event was humbling; it was an absolute privilege to see so many team members recognised for their great achievements in very challenging times. It was also awesome to see 2 of my own team recognised for their outstanding work.

Amar Mehan, was recognised with the Agile Champion Award. Over the last 3 years Amar has literally reinvented himself as an advocate of Agile ways of working and has worked tirelessly to reinvent our solution governance processes so that the processes are fit for purpose within the agile construct that we now operate within. I am so proud that he has been given this recognition; it has been amazing to watch Amar’s journey since I joined Boots and to support his development.

Martin Parker, was recognised as the Global IT Person of the Year. Martin joined my team around 6 months ago. I’ve worked closely with him since I joined Boots but in the last 6 months I have borne witness to the work of an incredibly passionate and dedicated team member who is both respected and admired throughout Boots Technology and the wider the organisation.

As a leader it is moments like this that make you reflect and consider why you do the job that you do. At the Boots Technology Awards I felt privileged to have the opportunity to lead such a talented group of individuals and it excites me to speculate on what this amazing team will achieve over the next 12 months and beyond.

IT Leadership Team Away Day

Another first since the start of the pandemic; our ITLT team held an away day which focussed on our collective need to show up together and all pull in the same consistent direction.

I’ve had the privilege to be a part of some great teams during my career but something feels different within this particular group of leaders. The desire to transform and enable both Boots and the Technology function to achieve extraordinary things is palpable and the enthusiasm across the leadership group is infectious. I really feel like I belong in this team and that we are at the start of a great and fantastic journey.

PI Planning

This week also saw our quarterly Programme Increment planning event. Boots has had a difficult journey as the organisations learns to adapt and to become the agile product centric organisation that we need to be. Some people argue that aligning to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is itself a very anti agile construct and in some contexts I’m inclined to agree. At Boots however the framework is giving us a structure that allows us to adapt our processes and to embrace the essence of what agility means — to release value early, to focus on our customer and to continually improve.

The last 3 months has seen some big changes.

We have created a renewed focus on the development of our teams with every team member having access to SAFe training; also the introduction of coding Dojo’s for our Engineers.

We have restructured the agile release train enabling us to simplify solution delivery, reducing the number of dependencies between teams and increasing predictability.

We have focussed on the development of KPIs and metrics to measure success and identify opportunities to inspect and adapt.

Our Engineering team have visited a Boots store to connect closer to our customers and colleagues and get a better understanding of the problems and issues that we have the power to rectify.

We have laid a foundation which will enable us to transform our test and platform engineering approach which will enable us to truly embrace and enact the DevOps culture that we want to embed within the organisation.

Looking back at the event in June and comparing it to the event in September is like comparing chalk and cheese — our teams have improved so much and it’s amazing to see their hard work and dedication really pay off with great confidence being reported at the end of the day.

I have left PI planning with a renewed sense of optimism about what the art of the possible really is when you have dedicated people who are given the autonomy and support to do the best work of their careers. We still have a long way to go on our journey but this was yet another occasion this week where I felt privileged to be a leader working alongside such a talented and diverse group of individuals.

17 New Roles Signed off for Recruitment within Boots Technology

As a technology function we are not unique in that we are recruiting. What is special though is the backdrop to which these roles have been created.

Next year WBA are investing an additional 53% of capital into Boots Technology. Our CIO Rich Corbridge has been talking about this being an additional 53% of opportunity and trust from the enterprise in what we can deliver and achieve for the organisation and I really believe this to be true.

The creation of 17 new roles is testament to the trust that WBA is placing within our function and recognises the hard work and dedication of every member of the team. For me this is a huge vote of confidence in every individual member of the function and I can’t wait to show WBA what can be achieved with the right level of investment.

If you’re interested in coming to join our journey checkout the website and in particular the Lead Engineer, Solution Architect and Release Train Engineer Roles which are now live.

A New Recruit

This week also saw a new person join our Engineering team. As a leader I find it fascinating to understand what inspires people to choose to work for an organisation and to want to work for my (or any) team.

It is a great privilege to have the opportunity to help someone on their career journey and inducting our new portfolio analyst Jez Gilmour this week has once again reinforced this to me.

Thank you Jez for choosing to come and join us at Boots and a big hello and welcome to the team; we are all really looking forward to working with you.

As I reflected this evening I messaged one of my team who has had a hard couple of days to thank them for their efforts and to remind them that they are doing a great job. The reply to my text read:

“Thank you for being a superb leader and making not only Me, but your team feel valued”

The reality is that I can only lead people who want to be led and my ability to lead is predicated upon me having a superb team who inspire me and make me feel valued every day.

For me the opportunity to lead is a privilege. In so many ways the last 7 days have been “just another week”; for me though I think this moment of reflection is important, to remind myself why I do what I do but also to remember that without the hard work and dedication of the teams at Boots we wouldn’t be able to have the very real and meaningful impact that our customers, patients, and colleagues rely on every single day.

Thank you to all the Teams that I work with at Boots and for giving me the opportunity to call myself a leader.



Steve Westgarth

Steve 🏳️‍🌈 is the Global Head of Engineering at Haleon where he heads up the Software Engineering function.