TECHWOMEN100 ONE WEEK LEFT-1

One week to go until nominations close | TechWomen100 Awards 2021

TechWomen100-One-Week-Left

Just one week to go until nominations close for the TechWomen100 Awards 2021.

Our awards focus solely on women working in tech below director level. We hope that by highlighting the accolades of up-and-coming inspirational female tech talent, we can help to create a new generation of female role models for the industry, and a pipeline of future leaders.

The awards also feature a “Global Award for Achievement” category, to help expand our search for global talent. This category is a female individual who works within the tech industry outside of the UK, whose current position is below director level.

Through the awards, we would also like to recognise a number of senior individuals who are championing up-and-coming women, as well as any organisations that have designed and implemented successful initiatives and programmes in order to attract, retain and develop the female tech talent.

Finally, we applaud the often-voluntary efforts of the women in tech networks that operate across the UK, and again would like to formerly recognise these within our awards.

Nominations close at 23:59 (BST) on 10 September 2021. Don’t miss your chance to nominate amazing women, Champions, Networks and Companies!

CAST YOUR NOMINATIONS

What happened next for our TechWomen100 alumni?


Hear from our TechWomen100 alumni about what they’ve achieved since winning the award, how it’s helped them progress and why you should nominate an amazing woman

Tribeni Chougule | Head of Change Management, Visa Finance (Europe)

Shruti Ajitsaria | Partner and head of Fuse at AllenOvery

The TechWomen100 awards are the first of their kind to focus solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognise the impact of champions, companies and networks that are leading the way.

The 2021 awards are kindly powered by Goldman Sachs and sponsored by Accenture, BAE Systems, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Ipsos Mori, Oliver Wyman, and OpenFin.

The process

Nominations open online on 02 August via WeAreTechWomen. Nominations will close after a six-week period on 10 September.

A shortlist of 200 women from a range of technology disciplines will be chosen in October by an esteemed panel of judges. There will also be a shortlist of three Champions, Global Award of Achievement, Companies and Networks.

The shortlist will then be published and we will also open the TechWomen100 individual category for public votes of support.

Winners will be announced in November and celebrated at a virtual award’s ceremony on 08 December. There will be 100 winners of the TechWomen100, a Champion of the Year, a Global Award of Achievement, a Company of the Year and a Network of the Year.

Who should nominate?

  • Self-nominations are encouraged
  • Organisations looking to recognise their emerging talent pool
  • Organisation wishing to obtain recognition for their initiatives
  • Individuals who would like to recognise their efforts of their champions/role models
  • Individuals/colleagues/friends/clients/mentors/sponsors of the nominee

Award’s timeline

Nominations open
02 August 2021

Nominations close
10 September 2021

Shortlist announced & public vote opens
25 October 2021

Voting closes
05 November 2021

Winners announced
15 November 2021

Winner’s celebration event  (virtual)
08 December 2021

POWERED BY

Goldman Sachs NEW

SPONSORED BY

TechWomen100 Awards Sponsors 2021-1

Shilpa Shah

Inspirational Woman: Shilpa Shah | Director in the Human Centred Transformation Practice & Women in Technology Leader, Deloitte

Shilpa Shah

Shilpa Shah is a Director in the Human Centred transformation practice at Deloitte specialising in future operating model design bringing together the best of people, technology and insights to drive transformation.

She is also the leader of the multi-award winning UK Deloitte Women in Technology network, chair of the Consulting Inclusion Think Tank and board member of the Institute of Coding’s Industry Advisory Board. She is also a co-author of the recently published book: Women in Technology: A practical guide to increasing gender diversity and inclusion.

Shilpa has an MEng in Computer Systems Engineering from UMIST (now University of Manchester) and has over 23 years of experience in Management Consulting, working with a range of clients to design and deliver digital and data enabled business change with a focus on people at the core.

Shilpa is recognised as a role model within and outside of her organisation including on the EMpower ethnic minority role model lists. Shilpa is passionate about increasing all forms of diversity in technology. This includes encouraging more girls and women to consider careers to work in what she considers to be the most exciting and interesting industry in the world.

She also loves mentoring and supporting others already working in technology and helping them to develop and progress their careers. Shilpa has two teenage daughters who have always been tech-curious. She wants to see longer term change for all and has been helping to create a more diverse, inclusive and equal technology skilled workforce to best solve the challenges of today and tomorrow.

Shilpa is also one of our TechWomen100 judges. Nominations for the TechWomen100 Awards are now open until 10 September – don’t miss out, nominate an amazing woman, champion, network or company today!

TechWomen100 2021 logo

TechWomen100

Nominations are now open

The TechWomen100 awards are the first of their kind to focus solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognise the impact of champions, companies and networks that are leading the way. Nominations are now open until 10 September 2021.

CAST YOUR NOMINATIONS

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My name is Shilpa Shah and I am a Director in Deloitte Consulting’s Human Capital practice. With over 23 years’ experience in management consulting and solution delivery, I love solving complex business problems and innovating.  I help clients deliver technology enabled transformation across their organisations by bringing together the best of people, technology, data and insights. Working in Consulting has meant I have had a variety of diverse experiences and been able to help a range of clients with their business challenges. I have always been and am driven by new challenges, fixing things, making things better and delivering tangible improvements for others. My roles have ranged from software developer to data architect to project manager and operations and programme director. What has remained throughout my roles is my passion for innovation, data and putting people at the heart of the technology enabled transformation journey.

I am also proud and privileged to lead our multi-award-winning UK Deloitte Women in Technology network which has over 1800 members. I have always been passionate about diversity in technology and worked with many organisations to drive change and increase diversity in technology.  I also chair the Deloitte Consulting Inclusion Think Tank and am a board member of the Institute of Coding’s Industry Advisory Board. Excitingly, I have just co-authored a book which has been published by the BCS. It’s called Women in Technology: A practical guide to increasing gender diversity and inclusion (available here using discount code SHAH).

Personally, I was fortunate to be raised by two extremely hardworking parents who had both migrated to the UK from East Africa before the expulsion of Asians in 1972 by Idi Amin. Born in the UK, my parents instilled within my siblings and I, ethics of hard work, fairness and respect for others. They also supported and encouraged curiosity. I remember taking apart my speak and spell at the age of seven as I wanted to know how it worked. My dad bought me an electronics kit early on and encouraged me to have programming lessons on the Commodore 64 (anyone remember that?). I also helped him at the age of 10 use SuperCalc2. It was my father who encouraged my love of technology and I still think today, parents and carers have a strong influence on their charges futures.

I studied Computer Systems Engineering at UMIST (Manchester University) where I also met my future husband Bhavin, who is an award winning behavioural optometrist and a technophile! Our love for innovation and technology as well as curiosity is something we have shared and encouraged in our two teenage daughters too (though its often them now teaching us new things!).

I joined the advanced technology practice of Arthur Andersen in 1997 and enjoyed and developed my technology skills across a range of technology and problem-solving disciplines. Arthur Andersen was acquired by Deloitte in 2002 and I transitioned to the then business intelligence function and have worked on a range of data and insight enabled TMT and Public Sector projects and programmers, developing and progressing my career. I also took a slightly different career path by taking on an internal role within Deloitte that gave me an incredible opportunity to be part of and grow our own delivery business. Its been an incredible journey and I often encourage others to explore the unexpected as the experiences and new skills and opportunities can take you a new path and help you develop in new ways.

I love helping, mentoring and connecting others (probably comes from having been a brownie, girl guide and ranger!) and have done this both formally and informally over the years. I have always been an advocate for better diversity in all aspects of society and work, especially in technology where we need creativity and diversity to solve problems and design and build solutions that work for all. My hope remains that by the time my daughters come to the world of work, we will have significantly improved equality, diversity and inclusion and society will be truly more egalitarian.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I was really young, I wanted to be a Lawyer (after watching a TV show called LA Law!) but I was also a huge Knight Rider fan (remember the talking car Kitt?). I knew technology would be the future. When I started my degree, I knew I wanted to work in technology but wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do exactly. I explored different options and most people at the time were either looking at working in Investment Banking or Management Consulting. I chose the latter as the variety of work and problem solving sounded really exciting and resonated with me.  When I joined the world of work, I didn’t fully know what to expect and feel my career has developed through the experiences I was able to have. I do think making decisions and checking in with yourself relatively regularly is important and making sure you feel you are on the right path. I also think it’s important to not do this alone and speak to others (your friends, family, line manager, coach). One of the guests at a women in technology panel I co-hosted recently encouraged every one to have a ‘personal strategy day’ at least every year and maybe even once a quarter. Its great advice (alongside making sure you set your own objectives for what you want to achieve). This is something I do and would encourage others to do the same.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Challenges come in different forms but I always tend to look at them as opportunities. I was the only girl on my degree course but at the time, never saw it as a challenge. I was often the ‘only’ in teams I worked in. In hindsight, it probably took a lot of energy and resilience to be the ‘only’. Whilst I always felt included and in the early days felt like ‘one of the guys’, one of the motivating factors for me driving our own women in technology agenda was that not every female may be having the same experience and wanted and needed to connect with others. I am glad there is more awareness now and willingness for organisations to discuss and prioritise inclusion and inclusive teams as, if nothing else, the business case and impact of inclusion and diversity are being better understood. The (tech) industry still has a way to go but I am heartened to see that some progress is being made, albeit not fast enough.

In terms of other challenges, when I needed to learn something new for work, whether it was, in the early days of my career, new programming languages or techniques, or latterly, negotiation techniques, managing people, I was always excited to continuously learn. This is why I probably (sometimes stubbornly!) always think there is a solution to a challenge and I will work out how to overcome or solve it. I think there are numerous challenges I have had to navigate, from juggling childcare with travel and work (and when the girls were younger, trying to make it back before the nursery closed!) to deciding how to progress my career when different opportunities arose. Earlier on in my life and career I always thought it was down to me to solve these challenges on my own. I soon realised that you can only succeed and help others by leaning in and trusting others. Two heads are better than one and multiple heads are even better. By investing in relationships with family, friends, work colleagues, mentors and others, I believe you are able to use your tribe to overcome challenges and turn them into opportunities.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

That’s a tricky one. I give my all to everything I set out to achieve. I would have to say achieving promotion to Director in 2015 and leading the multi-award winning Women in Technology network are my biggest career achievements to date. Both have been roller coaster journeys, requiring selling a personal and business case for justifying investment (in me or the network) and to have the recognition of the contribution myself and my teams have made continues to motivate me in both of these spaces. It’s also been great to have been able to share how businesses should drive change for women in technology by becoming a published co-author of a book. And being Industry Advisory Board member for the Institute of Coding is something else I am proud to be a part of.

I always take pride in my work and have helped achieve business transformation for a wide range of clients in both the Technology, Media & Telecommunications and Public Sector.

I do also think the small daily wins should be celebrated. Whether it is helping a colleague learn something new or providing them with guidance and advice, developing a new skill or coming up with a new idea, I think we should take some time out to acknowledge and celebrate our achievements each day. I think the practice of gratitude journaling, each day writing down three things you are grateful or thankful for having achieved is a great way to build and strengthen your positive mindset, something we all need to continue to do, especially in the challenging and uncertain times we find ourselves having to navigate.

And that’s another thing I would encourage everyone to do. Take some time to write down your achievements – it’s a cathartic exercise and your probably don’t realise how much you have achieved until you take the time to write it down!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I think for me, it has been staying true to my core values and always being authentic that have helped me to get to where I am today. Whether as a member of a team, as a leader or a parent or friend, I believe in being collaborative, honest and transparent. These traits have helped me navigate challenges, make the most of opportunities and build trusted relationships.  And being authentic attracts authenticity from others. I have been able to build and work with high performing, inclusive teams by being open to learning from and sharing with those I work with, regardless of their experience, grade or background. You can learn something new everyday from those you work with. Trust is critical in delivering excellence and the pandemic has shown just how important it is to be able to build trust, especially with those you have never worked for before in a completely virtual environment. Whilst we have all needed to adapt and remain agile in uncertain times, staying true to core values and building trust will always result in collective success.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

I would say my top tips are:

Build & leverage your networks and collaborate – you don’t have solve every problem yourself and the power of collective thinking and working will generate better ideas and outcomes for you and your teams.  You need to invest the time in building relationships and this will pay out for you. Join networks inside and outside of your organisation (WeAreTechWomen is of course a great network to join!) and build your tribe and community.

Find Mentors and Sponsors – mentors can be incredibly valuable, whether formal or informal. Most places offer mentoring programmes and formal mentorship or you can find your own mentor within or outside of your organisation. You could even reach out via social media if there is someone you want to connect with.

As you progress your career, a sponsor will be invaluable in guiding and advocating for you. Women (generally) tend to not seek out mentors and sponsors but I would encourage everyone to do this as it will help you develop and progress your career.

Be confident, be bold, be authentic – easy to say but not so easy to ‘be’. And this sometimes comes with time. I look back on times in my early career where I was unsure of whether to go and have that conversation with a senior leader or ask for what I wanted. I think there was a turning point for me a few years ago and whilst I can’t pin point it exactly, I am sure that role models that I worked with encouraged me to just ‘go for it’. I changed my approach and behavior and noticed that this did improve my confidence. Now I sometimes think – what was I worried about? Over-analysing and worrying about what might be are again (generally!) female tendencies so trying to avoid these and just going for it could pay off. Authenticity comes naturally in a trusted environment and I believe as you open yourself to having those trusted relationships, you feel more at ease being yourself. Everyone should feel comfortable being themselves where they work and if we all make a conscious effort to be authentic (sounds counter intuitive) then you will really see cultural change. 

Invest in yourself – to excel in tech, make the time to learn more on areas you are passionate about. Whether its short courses, technology certifications, online learning, there are so many different ways to learn, pick what works for you. And if there isn’t a course within your organisation that meets what you need, do some research and ask if your organisation will support you in attending the course. And there are of course books and other training you would want to do for yourself – make the time to do this.

Make sure you don’t cancel training because you think you are too busy. Training is investment in yourself so you really owe it to yourself and those you work with to take it on. Also, do make use of the great resources and technology available – TED talks, news apps, books, journals whatever your preferred channel – to stay ahead and up to date.

Build your brand – Internally and externally there are so many ways in which you can do this. You could contribute to thought pieces, points of views, interviews, social media, awards nominations, speak at conferences and events. These are just some of the ways in which you can build your brand. An exercise I recommend whatever your role is to make sure you have a ‘one pager’ on what you bring to your work/area/industry – it can be a great conversation starter (you can use this to have conversations with leadership in your organisation). As I said previously, writing it down also helps you to understand your achievements – its something we often take for granted.

At the end of the day, to be able to excel in tech or any other discipline, it is important you do what you love and love what you do. If this isn’t the case, take some time to work out why. Talk to others and take that personal strategy day to work out what you want to do and be open to exploring new opportunities.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There have been lots of efforts to impact getting more women into the industry over the last 15 to 20 years. And it definitely feels like more people are on the journey and that incremental change continues. And more and more role models, more and more exposure, through technology platforms and shifting the narrative around the kinds of jobs that you can do if you work in tech has also helped. Organisations like the Institute of Coding,  FutureDotNow, STEMettes and charters like the TechTalentCharter and many others are all helping to drive the cause for more women in tech.

Recent research from the BCS has shown that the proportion of women in tech increased to 20% in 2020. Organisations will need to (continue to) play a key role in removing barriers for more women to work in technology related roles. This means improving inclusion, changing culture, having better policies and processes.  I am hopeful that inclusive hybrid work models and changes to how many organisations will work in the future will also mean more women are (re)attracted to work in tech.

And we also need to encourage more girls at a young age to consider technology as a career. We undertook research with the Institute of Coding in 2019 on the motivating factors that would encourage more girls and women to study in technology. You can read a summary of the findings here which include the need for smarter signposting, rebrading digital and providing flexible learning opportunities as well as technology roles that also serve and contribute to societal purpose.

But progress does need to be faster and continue. And we need much more broader representation across different aspects of visible and non-visible diversity. We still have a long way to go in terms of intersectionality, including ethnicity, sexuality, neurodiversity, disability.   Everyone should have the opportunity and be supported to work in the most exciting industry in the world.

Progress requires ongoing relentless focus and commitment from government, early education onwards and industry all continuing to make changes. We can all drive incremental changes as individuals and organisations but could be even more powerful if we work together. And we shouldn’t stop until we get to parity!

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

There are many things organisations can and should do to support and retain women working in technology.  And thankfully there are many resources available to organisations to help them in this journey. From the fantastic Tech Talent Charter that organisations can sign up to and use open playbooks that share initiatives and projects that organisations can undertake to the Women in Technology book we have published with the BCS including practical tips, case studies and guidance on how to attract and retain more women into tech there is no shortage of information on what can be done.

But organisations must first acknowledge the challenge, why there is a challenge and that they want to do something about it. They will then need to commit to making a change and then put in the effort to make the change.

And it is an iterative and ongoing process, one that takes collective effort, work and requires constant listening to your workforce. Customer experience and engagement are key imperatives to businesses but they are fast learning, often the hard way, that employee experience is critical to an organisation’s productivity and profitability. Paying more attention to and addressing an organisation’s culture along with inclusion should] bring benefits including a more diverse workforce.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Whilst there isn’t a silver bullet or magic wand there is more we all need to do accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry. We need to work together across life stages. At the early stage, education, government, role models parents and carers can join forces and encourage more girls into tech careers. Digital upskilling and the levelling up agenda will also have their part to play in encouraging better diversity in technology.

There also needs to be better signposting for apprenticeships and higher education opportunities in technology for young women.

Barriers to entry, including background and experience need to be examined and compared with potential to increase women wanting to study and then work in technology.

Organisations need to create (more) inclusive cultures, prioritise inclusivity and diversity initiatives until they become business as usual and focus on retaining more women in technology. And they need to look at new ways and sources to bring in (more) women into technology roles whatever stage of their careers they are at from those who want to get into tech to retrainers (who may have left tech a while ago ) to retirees (who may not want to retire after all as the opportunities in tech are too exciting to pass up)!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

There are so many resources you can use to stay up to date on all things tech. Great conferences focussing on raising awareness and inspiring women in technology are both in person and virtual, from local to international including WeAreTechWomen’s own conferences. There are so many great networks to join too like TLA Black Women in Tech, the WiT Network, Women in Data, depending on what you are interested in.

There are lots of great books out there too – Invisible Women: Data Bias in World Designed for Men (Caroline Criado Perez), Female Innovators at Work  (Danielle Newham) and Life in Code A Personal History of Technology (Ellen Ullman) are all recommended reads for Women in Tech.  And of course our recently published Women in Technology: A practical guide to increasing gender diversity and inclusion. Of course, if you prefer, you can also listen to audio books.

And podcasts remain increasingly popular with 15 million listeners in 2020 in the UK and predicted growth to 20 million listeners by 2024.

I think listening to audio books and podcasts which cover not only technology but a range of other topics you are interested and helps drive innovation. One topic may spark thinking in another. For example, I’m currently listening to an audio book by Chris Voss called ‘Never Split the Difference’ – a great reminder of negotiating approaches applicable in all aspects of your life.


School of Code

School of Code is expanding it’s free Skills Bootcamp to people across England

School of Code

The School of Code is taking its ground-breaking, free coding bootcamps across the country.

Starting on 15th November 2021, the Skills Bootcamp in software development will be full-time, intensive, and 100 per cent FREE to residents in five English regions – the North West, West Midlands, East Midlands, London and the South East.

This expansion is in partnership with the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee and Plan for Jobs.

School of Code - Cohort 2

There are no prerequisites to apply and no previous experience required – those applying for the course don’t even need to have seen a line of code before.

School of Code takes a learner from beginner to software developer in just 16 weeks before helping them find their first role in tech.

Already this year, during the pandemic lockdowns, they have successfully helped 62 people go from zero to programmer and started their professional tech careers.

The course prides itself on being open to anyone, with diversity in each cohort, a 50:50 gender split and an age-range of 18-60. The School of Code has helped former teachers, return to work parents, school leavers, refugees, bakers, unemployed people, barbers, retail assistants, musicians, artists, air hostesses, beauticians, personal trainers, PhDs, probation officers, health and hospitality workers all learn how to code and change their career paths. Previous graduates have successfully secured roles at employer partners including The Economist, Bravissimo, Santander, Gymshark, Wise, and many more.

They are looking to help 192 people across the country start new careers by April 2022.

School of Code - Karenjeet Chahal

Speaking about the announcement, Dr Chris Meah, Founder of the School of Code said, “Technology will be the engine of recovery for the country, but we need to make sure everyone is on board to benefit.”

“At the School of Code we are free and open to everyone to remove barriers for people.”

“Our mission is to help more and different types of people take advantage of the opportunities technology gives, and to future proof their skills and career.”

“We believe talent can come from anywhere. Money shouldn’t be a barrier to accessing life-changing educational opportunities.”

“That’s why we provide a free route taking people from knowing nothing about technology to becoming world-class tech talent, and partner with employers to help land people into jobs and make our new model of education sustainable.”

“Skills Bootcamps offer a short, intensive, immersive and transformational learning sprint to a new career.”

“The experience helps to change lives and power growth by giving participants the right skills to be immediately useful to employers on day one.”

“But crucially our bootcampers also learn how to learn.”

APPLY HERE
TechWomen100 2021 logo

TechWomen100

Nominations are now open

The TechWomen100 awards are the first of their kind to focus solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognise the impact of champions, companies and networks that are leading the way. Nominations are now open until 10 September 2021.

CAST YOUR NOMINATIONS

Inspirational Woman: Clare Gledhill | Operations Director, CDS

Clare Gledhill

Clare Gledhill has over 18 years’ experience working within the digital sector and is focused on leading teams to deliver large-scale digital transformation programmes and user-centred insights, design, and creative projects.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Clare Gledhill, the operations director of digital, insight, and content at Yorkshire-headquartered CDS – a communications agency that focuses on making a positive difference in society.

I have over 18 years’ experience of leading teams and shaping services to deliver some of the UK’s most important digital transformation programmes, user-centred and accessible research projects, and the creation of award-winning content.

At CDS, we’ve also recently announced the launch of our new behavioural insight division, designed to drive inclusivity and accessibility throughout the private and public sector. And as part of my responsibilities, I also oversee the management and strategic development of this new venture and our digital and content divisions at CDS.

 Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. I’ve had a really varied career – working both in the UK and abroad, and it’s this role diversity, and my love of learning, which has led me to where I am today.

After leaving school, I initially worked within retail banking, before leaving to join the RAF – where I became an air-traffic controller for three years. I then did a PR degree at Leeds University, which saw me go on to work in various marketing and HR roles. I then caught the travel bug and moved to Italy’s Amalfi Coast, where I worked in hospitality before returning to the UK and continuing my career in HR.

I then decided it was time for another adventure, so I trained to become an English teacher to speakers of other languages and spent two years teaching in Genoa, northwest Italy. After my stint of teaching, I was fortunate enough to be asked to join a fledgling digital agency and spent time between the UK and Italy for a further three years.

Next, I went to Africa to do a specialist assignment for VSO in Zambia, as an organisational development advisor, before returning to the UK and getting a job in another digital agency. I’ve since held many senior roles within the digital delivery and agency operations spaces too, which is how I came to be appointed at CDS in 2015.

I’ve enjoyed every single element of my career so far, and each decision has been made due to life circumstances and lifestyle choices at that time. For me, the most important part of career success is being committed, open, and honest in the way you operate – this is how people see your value as an employee, a leader, and as a person. If you operate with integrity, career planning isn’t really that important.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Yes, absolutely. As a woman in the professional world, I’ve been sexually harassed on numerous occasions, discriminated against, and, on one occasion, bullied in the workplace. At times, this can undermine your confidence, but no matter what, you have to work really hard to continue believing in yourself and your capability to do a good job.

The world is forever changing, and my advice is to be clear about who you are, what you stand for, and the value you bring – try not to be intimidated. Speaking up and standing tall in your own truth and power is incredibly important.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There have been many moments I’ve been proud of, but I’d say my biggest achievement has been while working at CDS.

I came to the firm nearly six years ago to run the digital division and have since taken on the content and behavioural insight departments – and I’ve done so against the backdrop of being single parent with young twins and also completing an MBA. It’s been tough, but so worth it.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Being human. I’ve never played the corporate game, and I’m not politician. I like to behave as a real person and see people as human beings.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

No matter which area of the industry it is, I’d say to know what you like and do what you love. If you’re passionate about what you do and you find an environment that is accepting and supporting of this, you’ve won.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, there are, but I think the barriers are more around perception. The reality is, we don’t receive many CVs from women, and I think more needs to be done at school level, regarding education about the digital industry the opportunities available. Generally, people aren’t aware of the varied roles that exist in the agency space, and just because a person classes themselves as ‘creative’, doesn’t mean ruling out a role in tech. The perception that it’s only about being technically minded is far from the truth – smart thinking, collaboration, and strategic planning all play a crucial role too.

As an employer, I would love to see more amazing females in our tech and digital teams.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Be flexible and accommodating for all staff – irrespective of gender – and have an inclusive approach to how they run their business.

I think that recognising and implementing flexibility around working patterns is vital, as is understanding that people are human – they have families and other commitments outside work and they’ll perform so much better in the professional environment, if they’re able to manage this balance themselves, with full support from their employer.

There are currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would change the way that we talk about tech in education – talking truthfully about what it is and the plethora of roles that are available. We need to convey the message that for the technology industry to thrive, you don’t just need one kind of person, but a broad mixture of skillsets, perceptions, and opinions, which work together to deliver something great.

Also, it’s important to raise awareness that technology really can be used as a force for good and that working in the sector gives you the chance to have a major, positive impact on enabling people’s lives within society.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I don’t have any really, as I’ve never seen myself as a ‘woman in tech’ – I see myself as good at what I do, not that I’m a female operating in the digital world.

One thing I will say though is that there are some amazing networking groups out there that can help to bolster confidence and help you share your industry experiences with like-minded individuals.

You mentioned CDS has launched a new behavioural insight division, can you tell us a bit more about this?

The core aim of our new behavioural insight team is to help organisations to understand the needs of their audiences, so that they can build and deliver experiences and communications that are truly authentic and empathic in nature – and an overall delight.

The division itself has multiple arms to it – including behavioural research, service design, user experience, and planning and performance – all of which work in harmony to help brands uncover their users’ needs and requirements and deploy communications that truly resonate with them.

We want people to feel their own individual needs are understood by the brands they interact with, and this means inclusivity should be baked into their communications strategy as standard. The one-size-fits-all approach to communication is neither effective nor sustainable for businesses and we’re here to empower them with true user insight, to help create an ethically and commercially stable future – which always has the target audience at its heart.

Ultimately, the humanisation of communications is crucial for organisations – not only in order to better connect with their customers but their employees too.


Inspirational Woman: Nathalie Marchino | Former Olympic Rugby Player & Head of Partnerships, Figma

Nathalie Marchino

Nathalie Marchino has represented the Colombian women’s rugby team at Rio 2016, the US in the 2010 and 2014 15s world cup and in the 2013 7s World Cup, where they earned a Bronze medal.

She also worked her way up in the tech sector with the likes of Google, Twitter and LinkedIn, before progressing to the role of Head of Partnerships at Figma – the web-based design platform behind Uber, Deliveroo and Spotify.

Now based in London, Nathalie is a huge advocate for helping athletes enter the workforce, helping women reach the top of their game both professionally and in sport, and for helping minority groups have their voices heard. Her experience as an athlete has taught her a thing or two about how to collaborate and help minorities succeed in business – something she applies to her role at Figma, which is democratising design for all.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Nathalie Marchino, a half Swiss half Colombian former Olympic rugby player with a ten year long career in the tech sector also under my belt. I’ve worked and competed across the globe, but I’m currently based in London working for Figma – the design platform for teams who build products together.

It’s fair to say I’ve had an unconventional professional career – for many years I held a day job alongside competitive sport. Throughout my first roles at Nestlé, Google, Twitter and LinkedIn – which were all based in the US – I’ve always juggled them with playing professional rugby – which could at times prove to be a challenge in more ways than one!

Two years after retiring I moved to Figma, where I’ve progressed to the role of Head of Partnerships and show leading brands how to make their digital design more collaborative and more accessible. I’ve been at Figma for almost three years now, and have recently relocated to London to lead the partnerships teams in EMEA.

Whilst my retirement from professional rugby has taken a lot of adjustment, it has been so exciting to not only channel all my focus into my career at Figma, but also to be in a tech role that I love, helping to create opportunities for designers around the world.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The short answer is no! In terms of my rugby career, I didn’t think there was ever an avenue for me to become an Olympian. I grew up in Switzerland, and even though I loved sport from ever since I can remember, I wasn’t exposed to as many advanced sporting opportunities there as I was in the US. When I moved to the US for college and eventually for work, my love of basketball was quickly replaced by a love for rugby when I realised that it combined a lot of my existing athletic skills.

To seriously pursue rugby, I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices along the way professionally. I’ve had to quit almost every job to participate in big athletic events, including representing the Colombian women’s rugby team at Rio 2016, the US in the 2010 and 2014 15s World Cup and in the 2013 7s World Cup. It’s a massive commitment, and I know I’m not the only athlete to make these career sacrifices – nor will I be the last.

Having retired in 2016, I’ve since had an opportunity to sit down and work out where I wanted to make my mark in my career, leading me to the work I’m doing with Figma now, breaking down the barriers of design for all.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced was balancing both my tech and my athletic careers – especially in terms of capacity. To maintain my fitness, I was going to the track at 5am, lifting weights at lunch time, and going to endurance training at 6pm, all the while trying to maintain my sales targets too. As an ambitious person, I found it difficult to prioritise one career over another.

By pursuing rugby though, and taking time out to compete at international events, there were often misconceptions that I wasn’t serious about my tech career. I’ve been passed over for promotions and lost contract renewals because of it.

I’m not convinced this would have happened if I was in a more mainstream sport and even less so if I wasn’t a woman. I found out the hard way that women’s rugby doesn’t garner mainstream support in the US, and having watched a documentary on women’s soccer, I’ve come to realise it’s a widespread issue in women’s sport. This was always front of mind for me as a rugby player.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement is definitely moving to Europe during a pandemic with Figma to help launch a partnerships team that I love. Not only has my team been crushing their targets, which is really encouraging, they’re also a motivated, curious, interesting and smart group of people that I feel incredibly fortunate to work with every day.

As someone often described as a minority candidate, I feel that in the past colleagues haven’t recognised what I can bring to the workplace. Nowadays, I can also honestly say I feel the most accepted and the most ‘myself’ at Figma. My team are a diverse group of people who are unified by one vision that we truly believe in – I think that that is the foundation of our success over the last year. I am immensely proud of that.

Nathalie Marchino

You were an Olympic athlete – how have you transferred your skills to working in tech?

Almost all the values I bring to the workplace were learnt from the sports I’ve played throughout my life. Each team sport has taught me something about learning to work with others, and appreciating different perspectives and ambitions. This has really helped me to navigate team projects in my professional career.

My main takeaway from rugby was shifting my mindset. I had a very fixed mindset growing up, and through rugby I learnt to be more of a growth-oriented person. The Japanese concept of Kaizen, which refers to the notion of constant self-development, has really shaped my outlook and goals for my career. Every day I try to learn something new, teach something new, or make sure we’re developing a team, product or strategy that’s a little bit better than the day before.

As I said earlier, I have also found my appreciation of teamwork in sport and the good of the collective to be immensely transferrable. As an Olympic athlete, I’m hypercompetitive (unsurprisingly!) but I truly believe we should compete as a team and not against one another in the workplace. If we can lift each other up, we can only be better off for it.

There have been many campaigns encouraging more women into sport and exercise. What would your advice or tips be to get more women moving?

Although I have always been sport-oriented, it’s not something that’s necessarily taught to girls growing up. Coming from a Colombian background, femininity is taught as the best expression of who you can be as a woman, and sport is viewed as incompatible with that.

My advice is simple; if you have the urge to play sport, give into it! Give yourself small things to try that aren’t overly intimidating. Try a bunch of different sports – not any one thing is going to appeal to everyone so it’s all about self-discovery. If you don’t know where to start, join a group or go with a friend to ease your way in. Surround yourself with people that will encourage you, because there are plenty of people who will say that women’s sport isn’t as interesting or athletic as men’s (which is just not true!). There are a lot of women that I follow that are breaking the mould of what it means to be a woman in sport – let those people be the ones that drive you.

Most importantly, try not to be motivated by the physical element of sport. A lot of people are driven by the goal of looking fit and have unrealistic aspirations as a result. At the end of the day, it should be something that makes you feel good, happy and accomplished.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Statistically speaking, it’s been proven that there are far fewer opportunities for women in tech than there are for men. We encourage men to be ambitious from an early age, and as a result, men apply for jobs that they are hardly qualified for, whereas women try to meet around 90% of the requirements before applying.

One thing that I am really excited about at Figma, is that the eight-person team I manage is made up of seven women. Although sales teams are notoriously male-dominated, my team goes to show how there are super qualified women in tech.

Now that we know less women will apply for such roles, it’s important to not only encourage them to apply, but to proactively recruit women and show them how accessible these roles can be. It’s up to leaders to empower women to see what they can contribute to a workplace, and that their perceived imposter syndrome is unwarranted.

I think mentorship is a really valuable way to help women also. At Figma I’ve been really lucky to have mentors who have encouraged me to be ambitious in my career. I really recommend reaching out to your networks to connect with people you want to emulate so that you can learn about how they’ve navigated their careers.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

To create change, you have to be aware of it. A lot of companies are starting to ask themselves the right questions about diversity, but they aren’t necessarily putting the infrastructure in place to address these problems.

Leadership teams have to be invested in driving opportunities for not only women, but also under-represented women, with an appropriate accountability structure in place to enable tangible progress. Without this, the subject of diversity stays at the conversation level.

What I’m proud of at Figma is that we don’t see diversity as merely a tick-box exercise. We have done a good job recruiting incredible female talent and making it a key priority as we go forward.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

First and foremost, I would have more women apply to more positions in tech, be more vocal about their capabilities, and be confident in what they can bring to a role.

However, to do so, society requires a mindset shift. We still associate traditionally ‘male’ attributes with leadership, despite it having been demonstrated that women leading companies do really well. If I had a magic wand, I would remove the biases towards women in leadership roles. At the end of the day, I truly believe culture is top-down, and if those at the top don’t believe women belong there, then nothing is going to change.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

One of my favourite books is Legacy, by James Kerr, which recounts the successes of the New Zealand men’s rugby team – the All Blacks – and the lessons that can be applied to business. This book really reaffirmed to me about how athletes make great employees – they bring a unique, transferrable skillset to the workforce as self-motivated, goal-driven, dynamic, and highly adaptable individuals.

I think there’s also so much to be learned from your peers – you don’t have to go far to be inspired! Our Head of Sales at Figma was recently featured on the podcast SaaStr, where the most prominent operators and investors are interviewed to uncover their tips, tactics, and strategies to attain success in the world of SaaS. After learning about SaaStr, I’ve really enjoyed the conversations that I’ve heard from other business leaders.

And in terms of podcasts generally, there’s a lot of content out there that is women-generated for women about how to advance your career. The LatinX in Power podcast is a personal favourite that highlights both male and female business leaders in the Latin world, which really resonates with me as a Latina woman in tech.

The Harvard business review is also a great resource. I’ve had a lot of insightful quick reads shared with me on the subject on tech start-ups, how to scale up your team, and how to find the right people.

Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck was also instrumental in prompting my shift from a fixed to growth-oriented mindset, whilst Chop Wood Carry Water by Joshya Medcalf is a great read about a boy’s journey to becoming a samurai warrior and deep diving into the mental process of improving your craft, whatever that craft may be.


woman and man looking at a computer screen with coding, carving a career in tech, digital exclusion

Upskilling communities to eliminate digital exclusion

woman and man looking at a computer screen with coding, carving a career in tech, digital exclusion

Digital exclusion remains a growing issue all around the world and the pandemic has brought the problem into even sharper focus.

The past year has demonstrated how a lack of digital skills or connectivity can create an additional layer of social exclusion and exacerbate social and economic problems for communities.

Last month, local councils in the UK announced a collaboration to build a stronger data picture of digital exclusion in their areas, as part of the CCIN Policy Lab Understanding the Digital Divide project. But it’s not just the responsibility of the public sector to address the issue of digital exclusion.

Technology companies have a large role to play in helping to upskill communities and equip them with the ability to be successful in their digital lives. This will also be crucial for addressing the widening STEM skills gap, which is affecting society and industry more broadly. According to a new report from the Institute of Engineering and Technology, 93% of engineering firms do not have the right skills to meet 2050 climate targets.

Here, WeAreTechWomen speak to Sarah Atkinson, director, corporate social responsibility at global software company, Micro Focus, on the role of technology companies in helping to upskill communities and eliminate digital exclusion.

Can you provide us with a brief overview of your career and how you got into running CSR programmes?

I’m a former news journalist, with over 20 years of experience with organisations such as Cisco, BEA and most recently, ten years as Vice President, Communications & Social Responsibility at CA Technologies. Purpose has always been important to me and around 2008, I felt that I wanted to make more of a difference, not just in terms of the workplace but more broadly regarding inclusion at all levels.

I took on my first non-exec role at techUK (a member organisation representing the IT industry in government on topics ranging from economic policy to skills and diversity). Here, I worked closely with the government on various digital skills and I&D initiatives, such as Gender Pay Gap reporting, Returners Programs. I was a founding supporter of the WISE Campaign’s People Like Me Digital, which aims to influence 200,000 11-15-year-old girls to consider a career in STEM. I also had an amazing opportunity to collaborate with Girlguiding to help incorporate STEM subjects into their badges and attended Camp CEO as a role model for Girl Guides.

I joined Micro Focus in 2019 to establish and lead their CSR program globally. Today, I am also a board director at the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Chair of the Nominations & Governance Committee and a member of its Skills, Education & Employment Advisory Panel as well as the LEP’s I&D Champion. I am also a long-standing member of techUK’s Skills & Diversity Council and a trustee at Berkshire Youth, a social enterprise that works to support, empower and inspire young people.

Why is addressing the problem of digital exclusion so important?

Today every business is a digital business. As more and more services move online as digital transformation becomes more pervasive, it is important that nobody is left behind. Industry must continue to play a key role in helping to address this issue, as digital exclusion can also widen inequalities on many levels, including health, social and economic mobility. It spans all aspects of society – whether it’s a school child not being about to submit homework or take part in online lessons. Or those in the community not having the right skills to access important government services, or missing out on competitive energy tariffs. It can impact in many ways.

How has the last year exacerbated the issue of digital exclusion?

Overnight our lives went digital – schooling, socialising, shopping , staying in touch with each other and working from home (where possible) meant that those who did not have access whether broadband, devices or the skills were marginalised even further. We also changed our approach as we quickly transitioned from delivering in person workshops at schools to virtual workshops, where employees were able to connect with hundreds of students in the classroom virtually.

What is the role of technology companies in helping upskill communities and eliminating digital exclusion?

Tech firms can and do play a major role in helping, on many levels.  The Micro Focus INSPIRE program is focused on helping equip communities with the right skills to be successful in their digital lives.  Every employee has four days a year to volunteer and through a number of our non-profit/charity partnerships we have been able to help multiple communities around the world. For example, at the beginning of the pandemic, volunteers in Bulgaria and Italy used their volunteering days to help upskills teachers to get online to deliver lessons.

What are the specific steps technology companies can take to address this issue?

Engaging your employees is a great first step. Tapping into the talent and passion you have in your organisation can provide you with an army of volunteers and role models – whatever the size of your business. Secondly, empowering and enable employees to take time in work hours to volunteer. And thirdly, supporting educational organisations/non-profits/charities who are working in this space.

What skills do we need to equip people with to help them be more successful in their digital futures? How does this relate to closing the widening STEM skills gap?

Today every job requires some level of digital skills. Therefore, it’s important to help young people understand that whatever career choices they make, digital skills will be required along the way. In terms of the skills gap, yes there remains a chronic STEM skills shortage in the UK. While improvements are being made, we still have a long way to go.  The issue must be addressed from the classroom to the boardroom – over coming stereotypes, biases and providing more role models as a starting point.  Engaging young people to study STEM subjects and pursue jobs in tech is important. However, we cannot rely solely on the next generation to solve the problem. Reskilling existing workforces for the jobs of tomorrow is critical, as many low-digitally-skilled workers will be impacted by automation and AI, leaving them without the right skills to be successful in the future.

Employers can play a key role in helping to keep their workforce up to date through investments in ongoing learning and development, amongst other things. Attracting a diverse pool of talent also remains an issue. Tech needs talent from all backgrounds. Research has shown time and time again, that to drive innovation we need diverse thinking, ideas and problem solving.  Let’s not forget it is also about equality and fairness. Not all talent gets the same opportunity so we need to help create opportunities for all but also then ensure we have inclusive environments where all talent can thrive.

Sarah AtkinsonAbout Sarah

An experienced leader and former news journalist, Sarah Atkinson has over 20 years of experience in multinational organizations including Cisco, 3Com and most recently spent ten years as Vice President, Communications & Social Responsibility, EMEA at CA Technologies. A member of the company’s leadership team, she also led Create Tomorrow, a program designed to inspire and excite young people, particularly girls, about careers in STEM, as well as the company’s Diversity & Inclusion strategy in EMEA.

From 2015 to 2018, she served on the main board of techUK, a non-profit representing the companies and technologies that are defining today, the world that we will live in tomorrow.

Today, she is the Vice Chair of the Diversity & Skills Council at techUK and is actively involved in several Diversity & Inclusion programs including Gender Pay Gap reporting, Returners Programs and is a founding supporter of the WISE Campaign’s People Like Me Digital which aims to influence 200,000 11-15-year-old girls in the UK to consider a career in STEM. In 2018, she also worked with Girlguiding to incorporate STEM into their badges and attended 2018 Camp CEO as a role model for Girl Guides.

She was listed in Cranfield University’s School of Management 100 Women to Watch report – a supplement to the Female FTSE Board Report 2018 and in the Computer Weekly 100 Most Influential Women in Technology in 2017 & 2018.

A regular commentator on STEM, equality and inclusion topics, she has appeared on BBC News, BBC World and in various publications.


TechWomen100: What happened next for Rachel Pattinson

Rachel Pattinson

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

Now in their fifth year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Rachel Pattinson, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2020.

I manage digital research and social innovation programmes at Newcastle University, as part of Open Lab, a world-leading research group in interaction design and ubiquitous computing.

I’m responsible for managing the strategic management and operational delivery of the EPSRC-funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Digital Civics (£4.7million) and the Digital Economy Research Centre (£4million). These programmes are training and supporting researchers to explore how emerging digital technologies can promote civic engagement. From 2020, I will also be managing Newcastle University and Northumbria University’s Centre for Digital Citizens (EPSRC: £3.7million), co-ordinating the programme’s network of over 30 partners.

Outside of my paid employment, I am a director and trustee of award-winning theatre company, Mortal Fools.

I moved into a technology role in 2019. Working on interdisciplinary digital programmes connects with my broader professional interests in education, arts and culture, libraries and information, charities, and working with children and young people. I am interested in exploring how technology is changing the way we live, and how we can change technology.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

Surprised, and completely delighted! It was amazing to become a TechWomen100 winner after less than 18 months of working in a digital role. It’s an honour to be part of the TechWomen100 community, which includes so many incredible women working in the technology sector.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

Well, quite a bit!

When I won the TechWomen100 award, I was just starting a Senior Leader Degree Apprenticeship and MSc with Newcastle University Business School. I’ve now completed the first year, and I’m on track to complete the programme in late 2022.

I also started managing a new digital programme at Newcastle University: the EPSRC Centre for Digital Citizens, a Next Stage Digital Economy Centre. Since the TechWomen100 awards, I successfully managed the launch of the programme and our initial work with partners – engaging around 70 different organisations.

I definitely think winning the award raised my professional profile. I was featured in blogs and social media posts by my employer, Newcastle University. I’ve been included in coverage by the BBC, Computing, and regional press too.

Winning the award also really made me think about gender equality in tech. I wrote a blog post exploring how we can support women in academic computing roles, and I also chaired a panel at the Dynamo North East conference on whether we need a regional women in tech network.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

Go for it! I never thought I’d win – but it’s really helped my confidence.

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers? 

Talk to people, take risks, and follow your interests.

TechWomen100 2021 logo

TechWomen100

Nominations are now open

The TechWomen100 awards are the first of their kind to focus solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognise the impact of champions, companies and networks that are leading the way. Nominations are now open until 10 September 2021.

CAST YOUR NOMINATIONS

TechWomen100 Nominations, 400x300

Two weeks to go until nominations close | TechWomen100 Awards 2021

TechWomen100 Nominations now open

Just two weeks to go until nominations close for the TechWomen100 Awards 2021.

Our awards focus solely on women working in tech below director level. We hope that by highlighting the accolades of up-and-coming inspirational female tech talent, we can help to create a new generation of female role models for the industry, and a pipeline of future leaders.

The awards also feature a “Global Award for Achievement” category, to help expand our search for global talent. This category is a female individual who works within the tech industry outside of the UK, whose current position is below director level.

Through the awards, we would also like to recognise a number of senior individuals who are championing up-and-coming women, as well as any organisations that have designed and implemented successful initiatives and programmes in order to attract, retain and develop the female tech talent.

Finally, we applaud the often-voluntary efforts of the women in tech networks that operate across the UK, and again would like to formerly recognise these within our awards.

Nominations close at 23:59 (BST) on 10 September 2021. Don’t miss your chance to nominate amazing women, Champions, Networks and Companies!

CAST YOUR NOMINATIONS

What happened next for our TechWomen100 alumni?


Hear from our TechWomen100 alumni about what they’ve achieved since winning the award, how it’s helped them progress and why you should nominate an amazing woman

Shruti Ajitsaria | Partner and head of Fuse at AllenOvery

Sonal Shah | Vice President in Projects, Barclays

The TechWomen100 awards are the first of their kind to focus solely on the female tech talent pipeline and recognise the impact of champions, companies and networks that are leading the way.

The 2021 awards are kindly powered by Goldman Sachs and sponsored by Accenture, BAE Systems, Bank of America, Credit Suisse, Ipsos Mori, Oliver Wyman, and OpenFin.

The process

Nominations open online on 02 August via WeAreTechWomen. Nominations will close after a six-week period on 10 September.

A shortlist of 200 women from a range of technology disciplines will be chosen in October by an esteemed panel of judges. There will also be a shortlist of three Champions, Global Award of Achievement, Companies and Networks.

The shortlist will then be published and we will also open the TechWomen100 individual category for public votes of support.

Winners will be announced in November and celebrated at a virtual award’s ceremony on 08 December. There will be 100 winners of the TechWomen100, a Champion of the Year, a Global Award of Achievement, a Company of the Year and a Network of the Year.

Who should nominate?

  • Self-nominations are encouraged
  • Organisations looking to recognise their emerging talent pool
  • Organisation wishing to obtain recognition for their initiatives
  • Individuals who would like to recognise their efforts of their champions/role models
  • Individuals/colleagues/friends/clients/mentors/sponsors of the nominee

Award’s timeline

Nominations open
02 August 2021

Nominations close
10 September 2021

Shortlist announced & public vote opens
25 October 2021

Voting closes
05 November 2021

Winners announced
15 November 2021

Winner’s celebration event  (virtual)
08 December 2021

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SPONSORED BY

TechWomen100 Awards Sponsors 2021-1

Inspirational Woman: Laetitia Avrot | Senior Database Consultant, EDB

Laetitia AvrotLaetitia Avrot is a Senior Database Consultant at EDB and a passionate advocate for women in technology.

Having co-founded the Postgres Women Group, Laetitia works with Postgres user conferences across Europe to increase the attendance of female engineers and developers at events. Her goal is to get more women speaking at conferences, contributing code, and mentoring one another to increase the diversity of the Postgres community.

Laetitia holds a degree in computer sciences engineering from INSA in Lyon, and worked at the National Nuclear Safety Authority and National Geographic Institute before arriving at EDB. She is one of only three women recognised on the official Postgres contributors list, but hopes many more will join her in years to come.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m Lætitia Avrot. I work as a senior database consultant at EDB, where I help my customers find solutions to their problems while taking into account their constraints. I’m also involved in the Postgres community: I’m an elected board member of PostgreSQL Europe, co-founder of Postgres Women and also a recognised contributor of the PostgreSQL project.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I started working in 2004, right after my IT engineering degree. At the time, the IT world was still recovering from the burst of the Internet bubble in France. So, I took the job I was offered, thinking I would gain experience and plan later. For several years, I kept feeling guilty that I didn’t know where I was going with my career, until I realised that it was precisely how I was leading my personal life: doing what I liked, with the people I liked, so that I can achieve my ultimate personal goal in life: be happy now, not later.

It worked very well for me, as I can say that most days of my professional and personal life are happy days. I love what I do and until it changes, I’ll keep going that way. Of course, I had some bad work experiences (like everyone), but I never hesitated to quit. It  was always reassuring to know that finding a new job in IT is rarely a problem.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Like most humans, my biggest challenge is to fight my own fears to keep moving forwards – like when I decided to write my first Postgres patch. It wasn’t so difficult technically, but I had many fears to overcome: the fear of failing, the fear of not being taken seriously, the fear of having totally misunderstood important and fundamental concepts, fear of showing my code and getting negative comments, fear of the unknown. But as I always tell my daughters, there’s no real courage without fear! So having tamed all those fears is a source of great pride for me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I think being recognised as an official Postgres contributor was the most important thing in my career. It’s particularly meaningful because there are only three women in the official Postgres contributors list, and I helped to make that number a little higher. Of course, there’s plenty of room for more! I’d love more women to reach that list, which is why I co-founded Postgres Women, a group that exists to support others with mentoring, speaking at conferences and events, or even material assistance when needed.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

When I was a child, I had no trouble learning at school – academic subjects were really easy, but physically, I was a little clumsy (I still am). My parents wanted me to learn the real value of working hard to achieve something, so they made me study classical piano for 10 years. As I said, I don’t have great coordination skills, so I had to practice hard to master my finger movements. I never reached a high level at playing the piano, but I became good enough to play classical pieces with an emotional touch. I truly believe that knowing I can count on hard work to help me improve my skills, at any level, has helped me a lot. And a certain stubbornness too…

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Learn something new every day. The brain works like a muscle: the more you learn, the more you can learn. Thankfully with IT, there’s always new things to learn!

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are several things that will prevent women from working in tech, and the first one is the intimidating environment a minority of men are creating to push women out. It’s little things like glances, small chats asking you about your kids when they ask others about their work, discussing project-related topics in the football locker rooms… anything that will make you feel uneasy without you being able to point to one specific thing and say, “that’s the problem”.

These small tactics can add up to a major problem, which isn’t taken seriously enough. I haven’t found a better solution than to leave the companies that maintain such an atmosphere, but thankfully, with IT, finding another job is not difficult.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Companies simply need to promote them! I read a great article recently about a woman who found herself doing all the “glue” work in her team, like onboarding juniors, setting up brainstorming sessions to solve team issues, reviewing code, helping other team members and so on. When a new management position opened up, did she get promoted? No, because she was told she was not doing enough code contribution to the project to be taken seriously as a manager!

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would change the ‘blue/pink’ or ‘boy/girl’ sections in stores into purple, or children’s departments! I’m certain this is one of the root causes of the problem. Two months ago my six year old discovered that she was allowed to love dinosaurs – even though she is a girl – by watching ‘The Mitchells vs. The Machines’. I’ve never guided her away from any interests or preferences, but she deduced what girls were supposed to like by looking at other children and toy departments. Even though we had told her several times there was no such thing as ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ toys, and she had plenty of books to illustrate that, children pick up on society’s norms and expectations from a very early age.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I think being able to speak with other women helps. I’m a member of the Duchess France association. It’s normally for Java developers, but it’s open to other women in IT. Being able to talk about something that bothers you and hear other members’ ideas about what to do is really great!

I’d also love to meet more women at meetups and conferences. Readers, don’t be afraid to attend, and managers, please do send women to those kinds of events too!


Sarah Armstrong-Smith

Inspirational Woman: Sarah Armstrong-Smith | Chief Security Advisor at Microsoft

Sarah Armstrong-Smith

Sarah Armstrong Smith, part of The Female Motivational Speakers Agency has decades of experience in the technology industry.

She worked directly on The Millenium Bug, which threatened to dismantle cyber software and systems. This trial by fire taught Sarah the importance of defensive cybersecurity strategies, particularly in business

What led you to cybersecurity, data protection and digital transformation?

I’ve been working in the technology environment for over 20 years now, and I chase this back to sort of 1999 – all those many years ago! I was actually working for a water utility company on the Millennium Bug or Year 2000 programme, and many companies were on really large transformation programmes to recode a lot of their computers and servers.

The theory was, at the stroke of midnight, a number of computers and servers would melt down, because of the way that the year ‘2000’ was actually coded into a number of different systems.

And really, for me, from a young age I’ve always been driven to keep asking ‘why’ and ask abundant questions: ‘what if the systems go down?’, ‘what if we can’t get people to work?’, ‘what if what if’ – all of these types of things. And I didn’t really understand at the time that what I was looking at was business continuity.

For me, it just felt like common sense to keep asking these ‘what if’ questions. I always look at that as the point, as where I started my career. From business continuity, that then pivoted over the next 20 years or so, into disaster recovery, cyber security, fraud, crisis management – all of that comes under the banner of resilience. And that is how my career has evolved.

How has gender inclusion in the workplace evolved since the start of your professional journey?

When I was at Fujitsu – I worked at Fujitsu for 12 years prior to Microsoft – I was actually coaching with the Women’s Business Network for three years. We set ourselves a mission to have more women in tech and senior roles, as opposed to just more women in general.

So to put that into perspective, Fujitsu is the biggest Japanese employer in the UK. They have 12,000 people, of which about 3,000 are women. And then one of the objectives we set was to be a Times Top 50 Employer for Women.

The entry criteria for that is really tough, really hard. And we said, ‘we’re going to be bold, ambitious, and we want to do all of these things – we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing’. What was interesting to us, as well, was that when you compare men to women in these types of environments, the statistics on women and ratio to men is always going to be a lot lower.

As I said, Fujitsu has always been around 25-26 per cent women, but they had the objective to get that to 30 per cent and then over X number of years to bring that up to 50 per cent. That sounds very, very positive if you’re a woman, not so great if you’re a man. If I was to increase the number of women to 50 per cent, I’d have to potentially remove 3,000 men from the organisation. And that’s not really what we’re saying, but that is how some of these messages are perceived.

So we really have to be careful when we’re talking about this so that what might sound good for one group, doesn’t then sound like a disadvantage for another, and that we don’t fall into the trap of positive discrimination, where we have any kind of quotas and people feel like they’re just a number as opposed to an individual.

If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?

Don’t be afraid to keep pushing yourself forward!

I had this nasty habit when I was younger to keep volunteering for things when I didn’t really know what I was volunteering for. I think people sometimes feel afraid that, if you’re going to apply for a role or it’s a voluntary position and you’ll have a list of things you need to be able to do. And I’d go, ‘oh, I don’t know, I can’t do that one, so I won’t apply.

And I now think – just do it anyway! Because actually, you’re going to learn on the role. You never know until you put yourself forward and you really never know where it’s going to lead to. But again, if I look back, I never really set out to be in tech. I never even thought about business continuity or cyber security. Actually, when I was much, much younger, I wanted to do something with art, I wanted to be graphic designer because I loved art.

So, my advice would be, don’t worry about not having a life plan or that you don’t have things all mapped out. Just take these opportunities, have these experiences, keep learning along the way. There may be things you like and things you don’t like but hopefully, over the course of your career, you’ll find something that you love and cling to it.

More than anything, I would say, just enjoy the journey.