I enjoy it because it’s such a multi-faceted role, relationship building, business strategy, sales, solutioning, product marketing & enablement.
How long have you worked in the technology sector?
Twenty-five years or so. After working in marketing for a couple of years in the Netherlands, I came back to the UK and did a conversion MSc in Information Technology
What other roles have you held in the technology sector?
Business Development, Presales, Technical Account Management, Business Analyst. My first tech role was in a consulting company on a project as a C++ developer.
What sparked your interest in working in technology initially?
Computing was an option as part of my undergraduate Psychology degree. I was interested in ELIZA (considered the first chatbot) and the concepts highlighted by Turing at that point—silly me. I started with Hello World, in Pascal, I think. I vividly remember how intimidating the labs were as one of two women both with zero computing background. I was so happy when the year ended, and I could chalk it up as not for me.
After a few years of working, I returned to the UK to do a conversion MSc in Information Technology. I could see how technology was starting to impact the industry and company I worked for, and I wanted to know more. It was the best decision I made, and the second time around I knew what I was getting myself into.
What challenges did you have to overcome to get your foot on a career path in technology?
Getting in wasn’t the problem. Being perceived as the ‘diversity’ hire was.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with extra challenges that you have had to overcome?
Yes! My rude awakening was becoming a mum. I stopped being seen as Alison, smart, capable, top performing and became Alison ‘mum’. It felt as if my experience, accomplishments, and achievements were suddenly irrelevant and gone.
What’s been the single thing that has helped you with your career in technology
- Constantly looking for new opportunities to build experience, to learn and further develop my skills.
- Finding clever, inspirational, and fun people to work with and learn from.
- “Stop doing the interviewer's job. It’s their job to decide if you can do a role or not. Not yours.” Thank you! Andy.
What changes have you seen in the sector since you started working in technology?
- Technology is now pervasive throughout society and business.
- Increasingly efforts are about creating equity and inclusion, not just diversity. Plus, there is now recognition that this impacts the top line. There is still some way to go though, only 8% of organisations consider age as part of their DEI strategies, which is a shame especially as we now have for the first time a workforce spanning five generations combined with a declining demographic. More thought needs to go into diversity intersectionality.
- The concept of career and progression has radically changed. Careers are now more dynamic and complex. It is now expected that people will reinvent themselves throughout their working lives. The jobs of the future do not exist today. Very different to when I started out and had to defend my move from Marketing to IT.
- Innovative companies are realising they need to address employee experience to ensure their future success. The dynamic between employee and employer is starting to change I’m optimistic that this will be positive for women in the sector.
What would your advice be to any woman wanting to start her career in the technology industry?
- Go for it. Technology is everywhere, and the opportunities are diverse.
- At some point, you will be encouraged to go down a management track rather than a technical track because you are good with people. Consider if it is really the right path for you. We have a technical skills shortage.
- Being excellent at your job is not enough. Do not neglect building the skills to manage your career path. These are the skills that will help you find and spot the next opportunity and navigate a long and sustainable career.
Do you think it’s important for more women to find career paths within the technology sector?
Technology is omnipresent in business and life. Women need to be involved in building this world. Otherwise, we will wake up one day and not like what has been created. Also, it does provide a good path to financial security. Why should this be the preserve of men?
Do you think enough is done to help women get into the technology industry? If not, what would you recommend? What would your manifesto be on this?
It’s a multifaceted problem, change is needed at a societal, organisational, and individual level. There are no silver bullets. Progress is being made in different areas, but the pandemic has caused setbacks. We must keep pushing for change and showing up. Starting with encouraging girls to see tech as relevant to stopping the leaky pipe after university and in early careers.
My manifesto is not limited to women. Individual agency is crucial in the workplace of the future. More effort needs to be directed towards assisting individuals in developing the necessary skills to manage their careers, not just giving them the technical and soft skills to do a particular job. This is about more than putting your CV together and interviewing. It’s crucial that people have the resilience, adaptability and confidence in their capacity to handle the ups and downs that come with a career in today’s changing and unfortunately sometimes biased world.
If there was one more question you’d liked to have been asked on this questionnaire, what would it be? And what would your answer be?
A. Would you do it again? B. And if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?
A. Yes totally.
B. Don’t settle. Pick and work for organisations that ‘walk the talk’ and really value diversity in their teams. Trust your gut more. And in 1998 when people tell you that a personalized greeting cards service is a stupid idea, ignore them.