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Amanda Brock: My Life on Purpose
My Life on Purpose

Amanda Brock: My Life on Purpose

We talk to Amanda Brock, CEO of OpenUK, a UK-based not-for-profit company which supports open source collaboration and open technologies.
19th Jan 2022

Amanda Brock is the CEO of OpenUK, a UK-based not-for-profit company which supports open source collaboration and open technologies. She is also a regular international keynote speaker and writer for both academic journals and the tech press, experienced in a range of disruptive technologies, digital transformation and open technology strategy. She has been shortlisted for ‘Woman of the Year’ in the 2022 Women in IT Awards. 

What does purpose mean to you?

I was fifty a couple of years ago. Hitting that marker was a time for huge contemplation and figuring out what my purpose was (at least for now). That necessitated making some very big changes in my life. A half a century of experiences, good and bad, add up to quite a lot to work through.

For me, purpose is the thing that drives me each day and gives me my mojo. It’s what motivates the connections I have with people and between thoughts. I have a very scattered mind, but this also gives me my superpower. I see connections others can’t or don’t recognise. The true benefit of this is something I have only understood recently. 

What is your idea of professional fulfillment?

I’ve never felt a connection between money and fulfillment. My career has taken a meandering path from an early stage, following what was interesting to me at the time as opposed to what is lucrative. 

I find my role as CEO of a not-for-profit, doing something I consider useful, truly fulfilling. For me, this comes from a general sense of engagement, driving to achieve something that I consider worthwhile, making a difference to society, and at the same time, leading people.

Building organisations with people-centric structures and creating collective equity is fundamental to how businesses ought to be. It really matters to me to lead a business that’s built in this way. I think that’s reflected in who OpenUK attracts – those who volunteer and partner with us. We’re one of the most diverse groups I’ve ever seen in tech. 

In my current role the team is primarily made up of volunteers. That creates its own challenges but offers me the additional opportunity to support people develop and evolve their careers.

What leader inspires you?

During COP26, I met Baroness Helena Kennedy.  She has been a hero of mine for many years and her work on social justice is truly inspiring. Have you seen what she has done this year to rescue over 100 female Afghan Judges and their families? 

I’m also a fan of Gabor Mate, Eckhart Tolle and Brene Brown, whose work inspires me and has helped me to evolve.

Once you find purpose, living purposefully is intuitive. Getting to your purpose is the tough bit.

When do you feel the most purposeful?

When I don’t try. 

Just the other day one of my oldest friends, Jim, was explaining a phenomenon in professional athletics, “When you try too hard and give something that should be automatic too much thought rather than allowing it to flow.” It all goes wrong, and we’ve all experienced it. 

For me, I am most purposeful when I am in my flow, when I am present without trying. Sometimes that means when I don’t consciously intend something and sometimes it’s when I allow myself time away from my goals with a walk in nature for example. 

What’s the hardest thing about trying to be purpose-driven?

Once you find purpose, living purposefully is intuitive. Getting to your purpose is the tough bit. 

It may take a number of brave decisions to be true to our purpose. It requires some real self-love and self-belief. That’s not easy to do. 

Many people never find their purpose. For a lot of people, it’s just easier to hide behind convention and avoid the work. That’s not a criticism, just a reality.

Of those who understand their purpose, many I know didn’t find this when young. Enthused by youth and desire to do the right thing (what we thought that we ought to do) we jumped on the treadmill and followed the path well-trodden. That generally leads to a hollow period later in life which can trigger some deep and honest self-discovery.

I find being purpose-driven easier than anything that has happened in my life before. It’s something that one does with absolute authenticity and presence, so I feel entirely engaged. There’s no need to try. It just is. 

What’s your hope for the future of business?

I would like to see a shift in how organisations are run on a universal basis to create more respect for people. Respect is fundamental to collective equity and to creating businesses that are human-centric, with broader concerns than shareholder value, that will build all of us a more sustainable future. 

“Respect is fundamental to collective equity and to creating businesses that are human centric, with broader concerns than shareholder value, that will build all of us a more sustainable future.”

What are the qualities you most like in a person?

Honesty, humour and humility. I’ve been so fortunate to be able to spend my life and work with some incredible people. 

What cause are you really passionate about?

I start with energy on a high frequency which means that when I am passionate about something or someone, that resonates. Open Technology is a no-brainer with my passions. For me, that openness means a great deal. It’s not just about some source code or a diagram; it’s about societal values. 

I care greatly about education and social mobility, digital inclusion and changing our tech education to be more practical, useful and engaging for young people. I love animals and the countryside. 

When have you felt like giving up?

I wasn’t aware at the time, but my life wasn’t in balance and in 2018 it hit me hard. I had a bout of bad health, where muscular skeletal issues almost stopped me walking and being able to type. This resulted in me leaving a new job and a few months later the relationship I was in ended. Just over two weeks later my father, who was my best friend, died suddenly. One of my closest friends suffered a bad stroke in the gym in his mid 40’s.  It was terrible. I felt like everything I loved was being taken from me. 

Sometimes we must get to our lowest point to change. Perhaps that’s a point lower than the lowest point we thought we could go to. From that place we are forced to sink or swim, to find it in ourselves to be able to make the changes that count. 

I rebalanced my life, made the changes that count for me, and haven’t looked back.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Laughter. 

Oh, and changing the face of technology education and policy in the UK, shifting it to being more focused on open. That will be good for all of us and will create a more sustainable future. 

What gets you up in the morning?

I wake up early of my own volition. Like everyone, I sometimes roll over for that cosy moment before I get up, but I wake up pretty much ready to get on with the day and look forward to what lies ahead. 

There’s a job for me to do with purpose, and I want to do it. 

What keeps you motivated on tough days?

Memories of better days past and promises of better days future. 

I am unashamed of being vulnerable and when something is wrong I open up to my team and colleagues. That also means that I am willing to question myself and to accept that I am wrong and make mistakes. A culture where that’s okay and we can learn from this is essential to me.