Brigadier Sara Sharkey, whose work has been instrumental to Defence’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic, is to be made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List.
Brigadier Sharkey is one of four senior military Army officers to receive this level of recognition.
On learning of the award, she said she felt overwhelmed: “I felt a huge sense of pride, not just for me but also for the amazing team that supported the effort. It is as much about the team around me,” she said.
During the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response, Op RESCRIPT, the former Putteridge High School pupil from Luton, headed up the Defence Digital’s Agile Delivery Cell, which quickly enabled remote working by delivering new digital capabilities at lightning speed.
She was critical to Defence’s digital response to COVID and more importantly providing the services for Defence to coordinate and collaborate with the rest of government on the response.” Brigadier Starkey's citation
Her team is responsible for cloud hosting, infrastructure and other platform services allowing users across Defence to access hosting services and application development services. When the pandemic struck, it was the agility of both this team’s response and the volunteers that made up the Agile Delivery Cell, that enabled the rapid delivery of new services to enable Defence to digitally support the NHS.
“Working at the cutting edge of technology with a fantastic team of digital engineers and professional project staff” is what Brigadier Sharkey enjoys most about her job.
Having left university with a plan to become a research chemist, she joined the Royal Signals in 1991. She didn’t intend to join the Army but was tempted by the sport and adventurous training on offer. She has since gone on to enjoy a 30-year career.
Brigadier Sharkey attended a state school and sixth form before going to university. She is the Army’s STEM Ambassador, a Chartered Engineer, an ardent hockey player and a role model for female soldiers and civilians.
Her citation states: “Not only were the outputs she delivered remarkable, she also set a new bar for agile and cost-effective delivery, which will have long-lasting impact on Defence Digital’s productivity. She was critical to Defence’s digital response to COVID and more importantly providing the services for Defence to coordinate and collaborate with the rest of government on the response.”
Brigadier Sharkey, who has undertaken three operational tours in Bosnia and one in Iraq, lives in Corsham and is married to fellow Signals officer Colonel Dominic Sharkey. They have two daughters, aged nine and 10, a labradoodle and two rabbits.
Juggling parenthood with military service provide to be quite challenging for the Brigadier Sharkey and she said lockdown was ‘knees to chest’, likening it to being on an operational tour with her children. “There is no perfect solution and I have been fortunate to have been able to afford wrap around childcare.”
The CBE is the highest-ranking Order of the British Empire award and is given to people to recognise a positive impact they have made in their work.