Pilton gala queen’s now Queen of Hearts!

Posted on 15/02/2014 by



Local businesswoman Ann Budge hit the headlines this week when it was announced that she would give financial support to Hearts fans in their fight to save the club. It’s not the first time Ann’s come to the aid of a struggling organisation – back in 2010 Ann, who was born and brought up in North Edinburgh, sponsored a NEN initiative called ‘An Inspiring Community’.  Here’s the article:

An Inspiring Community?

This month, NEN launches a new feature, and we need your help and ideas.  We want to showcase the successes and achievements of people who live or have lived in the North Edinburgh area and who have, in major and minor ways, helped to make North Edinburgh the vibrant community it is.  Who inspired them?  Have they gone on to inspire others?  Have you or do you know someone who has achieved success against all the odds?  Do you know someone who has done something really inspirational?  We are looking to encourage people to believe in themselves and to show that humble beginnings need not be an insurmountable barrier to success.   If you have been inspired by others or if you know someone who is inspirational, we want to hear about them.

In a regular feature over the coming months we will highlight the people who have made a difference, and later this year we plan to hold a gala event to showcase all that’s good about inspirational North Edinburgh.

The feature is kindly being sponsored by IT entrepreneur Ann Budge, who won the accolade of Woman of Outstanding Achievement in 2009 following an outstanding career of over 30 years in the computer industry.  When she received the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2005, Ann was described by Entrepreneur Exchange President Sir Tom Farmer as ‘a tremendous icon for all businesswomen’.

Ann is very much a local girl made good.  One of five children, Ann was born and brought up in Royston, West Pilton and Drylaw.  Dad Jimmy was a docker and Esther, her mother, was a cleaner at the Western General.  She attended Pennywell School – which later became Inchview – and was West Pilton’s gala queen in 1960. Ann’s schooling continued as a bursary pupil at Trinity Academy, where she passed five Highers.

She then went on to study at Strathclyde University, where she gained an Honours Degree in Psychology.  At that stage in her life Ann had no clear idea of what career path she would follow, and got into computing almost by accident.  Following a comment from her sister – “Computers are the future; I don’t know what they do, but everyone is talking about them!” – Ann decided to find out more about computers and soon found herself on the first rung of the ladder in a new and developing industry.  She was taken on by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries as a graduate trainee and quickly showed her aptitude for systems analysis in the then exciting new world of computers.

Following a series of management promotions over the next 12 years Ann was head-hunted to join her future business partner Alison Newell at F International, a visionary computing company that actively encouraged the wider participation of women professionals in IT – particularly those with dependants.

In 1985 Ann and Alison set up their own IT company Newell and Budge, which proved to be very successful and the partnership lasted until 2001 when Alison Newell decided to retire.  Ann bought out her former partner, and the company continued to flourish – the annual turnover was then £38 million – attracting world-wide interest from the business community.  In summer 2005 Newell and Budge was sold to French giant SOPRA.

Ann stayed on as Chief Executive of Sopra Group UK, responsible for over 1000 staff across the UK, Ireland, North America and India.  One of the few women Chief Executives in the IT industry, she officially retired last year.  An honorary degree from Robert Gordon University summed up her remarkable achievements in a traditionally male dominated industry:  ‘Ann is an outstanding role model for women and an inspiration for everyone in computing”.

Ann is remarkably candid about her success, and her inspiration comes from very close to home.

“I laugh when I hear myself described as some sort of visionary entrepreneur – I don’t think I’ve ever had a vision in my life!   For me, throughout both my education and working life, it’s always been about hard work and being the best you can be.  My parents instilled in us from an early age the values of integrity and being honest.  They were very encouraging and supportive, particularly my mother – as children we were all encouraged to do your best, but never pressurised.  I was never boastful about being top of the class at school, but I know how proud it made my parents.  I know the sacrifices that were made to give me all the support they could and I always had a strong desire not to let them down”.

She went on:  “They were my role models and the values they taught us from an early age still hold true today:  you get nothing for nothing, if you want to get on you’ve got to work for it, be honest with people and, most important, look after your family.  We are still a very close-knit family”.

Despite a punishing work schedule that sometimes meant meetings in Edinburgh, London, Paris and India – all in a week – Ann has indeed always made time for family matters.

Ann’s sister said:   “To us, Ann is our sister first and foremost, not only a very successful business woman; she is part of a family circle in which she plays a big part.  Ann is supportive and inspirational to us all in many different ways. She spends a lot of time with her daughter, son in-law and granddaughter, she has a wonderful relationship with them, and as anyone who is busy knows this is never an easy balance to get right. Also her nieces and nephews have all benefitted from Ann’s willingness to give time to them and to listen and share ideas with them. She is always enthusiastic and encourages self belief in the younger members of her family. We are all very proud of her and her achievements”.

Ann also named two people from the world of commerce who she believes were influential on her career.  “Lesley Wise, who was my boss at Scottish and Newcastle, was an absolute autocrat and a very strong leader.  People respected him – maybe even feared him – because of his tough attitude. But in many ways he was a visionary, as he showed by encouraging and promoting woman within an industry which was predominantly a male environment.  I enjoyed working with him, he taught me a lot about IT and business management and we worked well together – perhaps he found it harder to be horrible to a woman!  Alison Newell had a very different management style – she really was a charismatic leader, the kind of woman you want to follow.  They were very different in style and personality, but both were inspirational in different ways and I was fortunate to work with them both.  I do believe in strong leadership – since early in my management career I’ve found that, for things to succeed, you’ve got to have strong leadership.”

So there is no magic formula to success, then?

“We came from a relatively poor background, but I was very fortunate because I had the right support at home.  I was never an ultra-confident person, but I’ve always believed that it’s perfectly possible to succeed – in life and work – through hard work, self-belief and striving always to do your best”.

Strong leadership, support, hard work and striving to do your best – qualities that will now be tested to the limit as she takes on the toughest challenge she – and the Hearts community – have ever faced.