Inspirational Woman: Hanan Harhara Al Yafei | CEO, Hub71

Hanan Harhara Al YafeiHanan Harhara Al Yafei is the Chief Executive Officer of the Abu Dhabi based global tech ecosystem – Hub71, where she is responsible for driving its vision through sound strategy development and strengthening ties between public and private sector, multinational corporates, government agencies and strategic partners.

Hanan is a seasoned and enthusiastic Emirati leader with a track record of leading teams and initiatives across multiple sectors with expertise in building successful organization structures and managing corporate change.

Throughout her career as a communications and human capital expert, Hanan intuitively drives positive change within teams, identifies areas of opportunities to align them with the vision of an organization while building solid grass root corporate culture.

Working across multiple industries all underpinned by investment in technology and innovation Hanan worked cross functionally with organization leaders to drive business goals and build strong brands.

Having spent multiple years at Mubadala, Hanan’s latest role has been as Executive Director of Human Capital at Mubadala Investment Company responsible for all people matters for its Alternative Investments and Infrastructure Platform.

Hanan holds a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Media Sciences from Zayed University and a Masters in Coaching and Consulting for Change from HEC Paris in partnership with Said Business School at Oxford University.

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

As Hub71’s Chief Executive Officer, I am responsible for translating the tech ecosystem’s vision of accelerating the capital’s digital transformation and attracting global startups to Abu Dhabi into clear-cut, efficient plans and strategies, and working with the wider team and our extensive network of partners to turn those strategies into tangible actions. I am also committed to expanding Hub71’s network of multinational corporations, government agencies and strategic partners, specifically focusing on expanding our cross-border collaborations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, but not in the traditional way of positions and stature. Instead, I always consider what it is I enjoy doing, and what I want to do more of. Ever since I was young, I knew I wanted to be in a role that supports people’s growth – I like the elements of nurturing, coaching, guiding people to reach their goals. Throughout my career, I’ve cherished roles that have allowed me to be a part of a business growth journey.

I am attracted to those roles that will challenge me and force me to step out of my comfort zone – not only on an intellectual level, but also from a perspective of creativity. I don’t only want to be in a traditional 9-5 job but I want to be able to push my boundaries, bring new ideas to life, and deliver meaningful impact.

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

Absolutely – challenges are a natural part of any career journey and can encourage growth and development. I am a passionate person that commits entirely to the responsibilities of the job that I carry. It is because of this sense of ownership that I tend to lose track of my identity away from the role I represent at work. My initial response to challenging situations is to surround myself with mentors, both personally and professionally and ask for guidance, support, point of views. The network I have around me is one that is filled with people I trust and look up to, who provide me with invaluable support and direction to navigate any hurdles I face.

I have also learned to not be afraid of feeling vulnerable and asking for help. As female professionals, sometimes we feel like we have to be strong all the time, or else those around us won’t take us seriously. This is not true – it takes remarkable strength to acknowledge the need for reflection, self-awareness, and time to reset.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I see my achievements in how my work and relationships have affected positively people around me.  Whenever I witness people who I have supported in some way, shape or form, reach their objectives and success, I am filled with immense pride at their commitment and dedication. Seeing the impact of my passion for supporting people translate to positive results is incredibly satisfying.

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

The UAE is blessed with plenty of female role models to look up to for inspiration. Those include ministers, frontline workers, business leaders, engineers and medical doctors whom have served as examples to me. Today, the UAE Cabinet comprises 32 ministers, including nine women making up 27 per cent of the cabinet, with the youngest minister being a 22-year-old woman. Also, within government institutions, women constitute 46.6 per cent of the labor force. They also make up 66 per cent of the public sector, with 30 per cent in leadership roles and 15 per cent in technical and academic roles. Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s Founding Father, said “nothing could delight me more than to see the woman taking up her distinctive position in society,” and our current country and business leaders have stopped at nothing to make his inspirational words a reality.

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

Believe in your product, your skills, your vision and yourself. We attend a multitude of pitches every year that tend to be quite similar, but founders who exude passion when they’re talking about their innovation and the impact they hope to achieve really resonates with us. It isn’t only about building a profitable business, that is necessary for sure for any investor, however technologically innovative products have a real chance to disrupt sectors, streamline processes, and make a difference – if you believe that, and believe in your and your team’s ability to make that a reality, you will succeed.

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

The reality is that the tech and VC industry is largely dominated by men – posing the question: what are the systematic barriers for women getting into the tech sector and what are the things we can address quickly and easily and be mindful of, as well as how can we support individual needs?

To be able to change the outcome, we must first accurately diagnose the challenge and truly understand the unique needs of every individual. We must create an environment that is female founder friendly, supportive, and meritocratic, that openly tells women: “we welcome you, we celebrate and support your ideas, and we have plenty of female founders just like you!”

At Hub71, around 20 per cent of the startups in our community are female-led, with many more female colleagues. Females who wish to be entrepreneurs and wish to be part of a thriving community feel at home in an environment that encourages diversity. Diversity in gender, nationality, background, etc. is a huge resource for us in terms of knowledge, cultural nuances, and real-life experiences and learnings.

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

To future-proof our businesses and attract more women into technology and senior roles, we need to ensure managers and decision makers understand women. They should be able to understand that some women may not be comfortable with self-promotion but are just as capable when given the opportunity to take the next step in their careers. This includes understanding their unique individual family situations whether it’s childcare, flexible working, or overseas travel.

In the tech world – there are still too few females who venture into AI for example and the world needs more diversity (ethnicity and gender) to embed fairness and reduce unconscious bias in AI and machine-learning algorithms.

At Hub71, we actively encourage more women participation in management roles and board positions. On the selection committee for example, we have women on the panel to help balance startup choices; all the way to our supply chains to influence and balance supplier choice.

Still too few women are willing to become entrepreneurs and promote themselves as leaders because it may not be in our nature to boast or celebrate wins (or failures, which is more to the point in the tech world). But my message to women at ALL levels is to celebrate, share and commiserate your wins and your failures with others so that other women and girls can see your real journey, and be inspired to embark on their very own.

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

Eradicate the double standard. In my opinion, every opportunity is looked at through a gender-centric lens, and by default, women are held to higher standards. This needs to change – we need to begin looking at the person and evaluating their ideas, pitches, strategies, etc. depending on the value of their content and their objective, instead of their gender.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I strongly recommend attending networking events that will expand your circle of mentors. Surrounding yourself with bright minds and communities who can give you wisdom, advice, and direction, is integral to success. I also believe in the power of Ted Talks – even if they aren’t directly technology-related, listening to people’s journeys, failures and learnings inspires me to shape how I respond to certain challenges – it’s a great learning tool for me.


Ceejay Momoh featured

From operations to agile delivery: Solving problems for citizens

Ceejay MomohCeejay Momoh is an agile delivery manager in the integrations team at DWP Digital. She’s based in Manchester, and joined DWP Digital in March 2018.

She says: “I’m an agile delivery manager, which entails leading on agile and lean practices for my team, removing impediments and just ensuring team health. I make sure my team can get on with building great services.”

Ceejay has been a civil servant for a few years, but only recently moved into delivering digital services.

“I studied microbiology at university,” she says, “and went on to a career in the health service in the laboratory. I dabbled in teaching, then joined the civil service.

“I actually worked on the front line in operations for about five or six years, then joined the Digital and Technology fast stream. I wanted to build great services, and to make life and the experiences of my colleagues on the front line easier. I thought ‘we can do this better’ and, hey, why not volunteer and do that?”

Scale and variety

Ceejay was already a civil servant when she joined DWP Digital, and she knew the challenges facing colleagues and customers at the front line of services.

“I’d worked in operations, so I knew the impact our services have on people’s lives. All of us are going to use DWP services at some point, so the scale is massive, and there’s a lot of variety of projects. In just over a year of being in DWP Digital, I’ve already worked on infrastructure, building software, and agile delivery.

“Initially I was worried about not having the skills. But the team were so welcoming, and I had the support of senior delivery managers, and a whole community of delivery managers.

“Agile is a mindset. If you come from any other background, it takes some adjustment to get into that mindset. I don’t have formal authority in the team structure, but I need to influence them.

“That was a difficult challenge, but I eventually got there.”

Delivering for impact with the integrations team

Although Ceejay was completely new to agile, she was given a project, along with the support of mentors, coaches, and self-led learning. She trained in agile methodology, including Scrum, Kanban, and sprint planning.

“I love applying learning to my work, so that was really interesting for me,” she says. “I set about learning as much as possible in a short space of time, using the 70-20-10 rule of formal and informal learning.

“I was networking at agile meetups in Manchester, watching videos about Scrum, going to community of practice meetings. Just talking to other delivery managers – I found that really helpful.”

Ceejay’s team – integration services – has nine members. As well as an agile delivery manager, there’s a digital delivery manager, product owner, business analyst, software engineers, Dev Ops engineers, and a user researcher.

“We’re currently working on the strategic API exchange platform, which is a solution for the whole of DWP,” says Ceejay.

“Our overall aim is to improve the experience for our end-user. For example, one of the projects I worked on reduced the average application process for claimants from two hours to 20 minutes, though a simplified triage process.”

Using innovations and technology to solve problems

Working with new innovations and technology is one of the things Ceejay finds interesting and rewarding in her role. Particularly when there’s a positive impact on the end-user.

“Sharing and reusing technology and systems is a key thing for us,” she says. “We’re currently exploring the Mulesoft Anypoint Platform, in order to migrate our API gateway and API portal.

“Ultimately, the benefit of that will be that people in DWP Digital will be able to log on to the API portal and look for something they can use, instead of building their own APIs from scratch.”

Life in the Manchester hub

DWP Digital delivers its services from six hubs across the country. Ceejay works in the Manchester hub, which she says is a fantastic collaborative space.

“I remember walking in here and thinking how big, bright, and open it is,” she says. “There are loads of shared spaces, big meeting rooms, and it’s flexible, so it lends itself to collaboration.”

Ceejay says she’s still enjoying life in the civil service, and the move into digital has given her new and varied experiences.

She says, “I’ve gone from software engineering to infrastructure during my time at DWP Digital. There’s a huge breadth of work to get involved in, and lots of opportunities to do different things.”

She’s also enjoying “working from home, which had me re-thinking wellness and wellbeing. I was now in a position to take advantage of the 24 hours in a day. I took up running good for my mental and physical health, created time for self -development and fully took advantage of the day. The resultant productivity in terms of time management has been truly liberating. I have found working more fun with less pressure.”

“I have 24 hours to do it and the autonomy within reason to do it at a pace that works for me.”

DWP Digital’s specialists use their digital skills to play a fulfilling and meaningful role in the future of our society. To join us, visit DWP Digital Careers site or subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to date with the latest roles and information.


Proud to be me: self-reflection as Black History Month comes to a close

Black History Month, Kafui Mbrou

Kafui Mbrou, IT Security Risk manager at DWP Digital shares what she’s ‘Proud To Be’ for Black History Month.

I’ve recently been involved in two events that led to a period of self-reflection, and I want to share my thoughts here. First of all, Black History Month, which comes to an end on 31 October. The theme for Black History Month this year is ‘Proud To Be’. The idea is that it aims to encourage people to share what makes them proud to be who they are.

Secondly, as part of the Digital Voices support network, I recently attended a session titled ‘I am Remarkable’. This talk aimed to help empower and encourage those that attend – particularly those in underrepresented groups – to develop their confidence and competence to engage in self-promotion.

During the session we were encouraged to challenge perceptions around self-promotion by writing down a few reasons why we felt that we were remarkable. This was a very difficult task for me as I was unsure of what to write.

What is it about self-promotion that is so difficult? According to Forbes.com, “It’s the ‘self’ part; the egocentric nature and seemingly aggressive pushiness that makes us cringe not only when we attempt it for ourselves, but when we observe others bragging in a self-centred manner”.

I was raised in a culture where from childhood we were taught that bragging was an unattractive quality, as it makes others feel insecure about themselves. Where self-promotion isn’t traditionally and culturally right, to the extent that custodians of culture and our traditions, in their wisdom, brought in a third party for the exercise of self-promoting. A classic case would be the appointment of a chief linguist (a chief’s public voice, as one must speak through him to communicate with the chief) who will do all the self-promotion of the chief and his achievements. At no point will the chief be seen promoting himself or the many achievements and development projects he’s done because culturally it would be wrong for him to do that. Therefore, if the custodians of our traditions say it’s not ethical to brag about who they are, then in my cultural setting it becomes a big challenge to promote myself.

I grew to belittle the things that I had achieved thinking they were not worth sharing in comparisons to greater things that were achieved by others. Humility was encouraged with the hope that others might recognise our achievements.

However, I have come to realise that accomplishments don’t speak for themselves! So with this in mind, how do we talk about our achievements with the aim of encouraging others without being perceived as a braggart?

It’s not bragging if it’s based on facts

During the session I was encouraged to see the positive aspect of self-promotion, and in doing so I was able to recognise some of the reasons why I feel am remarkable.

I am remarkable because I’m a Security Risk Manager

As a Security Risk Manager I assist diverse digital projects by providing advice and guidance on information security. This involves identifying and recording risk and mitigating them to the lowest possible level.

I joined DWP Digital 2016 as an FDM consultant with the aim of furthering my career in project management. On my first day of work I was placed in the Security team within a Product Delivery Unit. As a Business and Marketing Graduate, I wasn’t familiar with the Digital world and found myself asking a lot of questions: what is security? what does it mean?

I remember telling my manager that I struggle to explain my role to friends and family and he encouraged me to do a presentation on my understanding of the role. Although I was not from a Digital background I have since learnt on the job and love it due to the continuous development the role provides. Earlier this year I achieved a certification in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) with the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), together with successfully completing the BCS Foundation Certificate in Information Security Management Principles (CISMP).

The world of Digital is dynamic, no day is ever the same and it’s great to be a part of a team that contributes to making the department’s systems safe and secure for the citizen.

I am remarkable because I give back to the community

I have a passion for serving others and giving back to the community, particularly through youth volunteering. I believe it’s important to invest in our young people, by giving them visible role models, as that helps to develop them as the future generation. I am the project coordinator for a Christian youth charity which aims to provide an open forum for the young people to discuss issues that affect them on a day to day basis. I have also volunteered on the International Citizen Service, which is a development programme that brings young people from the UK and developing countries to volunteer in some of the poorest communities in Africa and Asia.

A few months ago (on my birthday) I took part in the 48in48 social justice non-profit build which is a 48-hour hackathon-style event. The aim is to connect local non-profits organisations with skilled marketing and technology professionals. At the end of these 48 hours, 48 local non-profits organisations have new, professional, websites. I had the honour of working with other professionals to build a website for a youth charity, and the whole event was a really rewarding experience.

I am remarkable because I am a Digital Voice

I am proud to be part of the DWP Digital Voices programme, which supports and encourages women to build their skills and confidence. I started my career in the civil service in 2016, when I successfully secured a placement in DWP Digital. Although I finally secured a job, several years of  being rejected from job applications after graduating from university had a considerable effect on my confidence. Also because of the under representation of women in this sector and coming from a BAME background, I had always held the perception that I would never be good enough when compared to my competitors.

Amid these challenges and setbacks, it has taken me a great deal of courage to build my confidence to an acceptable level. Embracing a new challenge like the Digital Voices programme has given me the opportunity to build my confidence in a safe, welcoming environment.

Since joining the programme I have seen a visible change in myself which has also been recognised by colleagues. I believe I am finding my voice and I’m becoming a visible role model to help bring other people up alongside me.

You are Remarkable

This period of self-reflection has been very important for me, especially during Black History Month as I am reminded that I am remarkable regardless of my colour, gender or any other stereotypes others may identify me with. Although I found it difficult initially, just like any new skill it’s important to invest time in learning, developing, and practicing in order to improve the art and skill of self-promoting.

You are remarkable, just try it!

If you’re interested in growing your digital career within an organisation with lots of opportunities, take a look at the DWP Digital careers site or you can also subscribe to the newsletter to be kept up to date with the latest roles.


How technology can enhance diversity and inclusion

Diverse-group-of-stylish-people-standing-together.-Society-or-population-social-diversity

By Marina Ruggieri, IEEE fellow and professor of telecommunications at University of Roma “Tor Vergata”

If I were a painter, I would consider a canvas as a neutral means to transfer my ideas and emotions into a painting.

When we discuss the neutrality of technology, we are referring to the idea that the technology is the canvas, and technologists and scientists are the painters. We have the role, competence, and responsibility to make the canvas become artwork.

A blank canvas

The beauty of technology is its intrinsic neutrality. Technology has a huge potential to either benefit or damage the environment, and the teams working on said technology have the opportunity to shape it to fully benefit them. This is indeed a fascinating opportunity, which is open to all in a broad breath of diversity and inclusiveness. The more diverse and inclusive the technology team is, the more diverse and inclusive the application developers are, and the more beneficial the result will be. New technologies which are fair and unbiased are really the best ally when it comes to designing an attractive and lasting future for humans and the planet.

The power of AI

One example of neutral technology can be seen with artificial intelligence (AI). This particular technology often generates mixed feelings, and many individuals have a strong lack of trust with it. What worries a lot of people, is perhaps potentially an uncontrolled evolution of the algorithms which can cause damage to humans. For example, the troubles caused to the protagonist of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” by a super intelligent calculator are hard to forget, for people of all generations.

AI algorithms need to be trusted in the most objective way – and what is more objective than a truly diverse and inclusive team of developers? Diversity and inclusiveness could be a strong guideline for the algorithm evaluation from the performance and ethical viewpoints. AI is going to be increasingly pervasive and, if properly developed and tested, is destined to become an extremely beneficial pillar for the sustainability of the planet. AI is just one of the many examples of technology frameworks where diversity and inclusiveness can improve the results, create a powerful osmosis between the means and goals and create a natural outcome.

Collaboration is key

A deep trust in technology and its neutrality is very important to appreciate the role AI can play to create an even environment. For example, when daily activities in either professional or social domains are widely supported by the neutrality of a key-technology such as AI, diversity and inclusion can be more easily guaranteed. Neutral technology is the “guardian” of even opportunities which can contribute to various domains in the most diverse way. Only an unbalanced trust in technology could result in a lack of diversity and inclusion.

As humans, we are intrinsically non-linear, and our unconscious bias is aligned with natural behaviour. The rational approach of AI-based algorithms is an effective means to balance the human non-linear trait in various application domains, like recruiting procedures. The best outcome is teamwork between humans and AI, as this provides a contribution of rational and non-linear behaviour. In fact, the rational and data-driven approach identifies the short list of solutions to a given task or issue while the non-linear contribution helps identify the spike often associated with an ingenious solution.

Any technology which is prone to exchange knowledge from data and to allow the proper use of knowledge is an ally to diversity and inclusion. Going forward, we can expect technologies that have broad coverage and highly reliable speed and latency to be utilised within the super-connected infrastructure.

About the author

Marina Ruggieri is an IEEE fellow and Full Professor of Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. She is co-founder and Chair of the Steering Board of the interdisciplinary Center for Teleinfrastructures (CTIF) at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. The Center focuses on the use of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for vertical applications (health, energy, cultural heritage, economics, law) by integrating terrestrial, air and space communications, computing, positioning and sensing.


woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

More needs to be done to encourage women to join the tech industries

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Professor Nicola Wilkin, Director of Education at the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, University of Birmingham outlines the importance of attracting a greater gender diversity in the technology industry and how businesses and educational institutions can help bridge the gap.

While the number of women working within the technology industry has continued to climb over the past year, there is still a concerning gender imbalance in the industry, magnified even further when we look at representation of women of colour and women from disadvantaged economic backgrounds.

The benefits of a diverse workforce in any industry cannot be overstated, but particularly in STEM sectors where female voices are often underrepresented. Despite a growing awareness of the need to bridge the gender recruitment gap in the tech sector, and a steady rise in women working in the industry (currently 31% in the UK), there is still an alarming absence of women of colour in technology roles. For example, Black women only made up 0.7% of IT positions in 2020, according to a recent BCS’ study based on Office for National Statistics (ONS) employment data.

The startling statistics of inequality don’t stop there. According to the Women Tech Network, 34% of STEM graduates are women but only 5% of tech start-ups are female founded. Furthermore, almost half (46%) of women in the technology sector have reported experiencing sexism and discrimination  first-hand.

Whilst there’s no single route to solving this complex and nuanced issue, we believe that access to education can lay the foundation for real change. PwC research discovered that only 3% of school-age girls wish to pursue a career in tech as their first choice, despite the fact that girls engaging with and thriving in STEM subjects at school is significantly higher.

Lack of prominent female role models and the perception that the industry is unwelcoming for women have been found to be major stumbling blocks that deter women from pursuing their passion or realising their potential. By encouraging both school-aged girls and women looking to change their careers to consider STEM subjects will contribute to challenging stereotypes and inspiring a future generation of female tech professionals.

At the University of Birmingham, we are committed to empowering students, helping them turn ingenuity into reality. In 2019 we launched 24-week part-time intensive Coding and Data Analytics Boot Camps to help mitigate the diversity challenges the industry is currently facing.

Our Boot Camps equip learners with the skills they need to advance their careers. Throughout the course they are given personalised academic and career support. On completion they are awarded a certificate from the University of Birmingham, the prestige of the institution and its reputation for high quality education helping the graduates stand out from the crowd.

Alongside this, we have partnered with the West Midlands Combined Authority Digital Skills Training Fund to offer a ‘Women in Tech’ scholarship which will see eligible applicants receive £4,000 towards their course fees and provided with mentoring and careers support throughout their journey.

Partnering with employers as we tackle the gender gap is also hugely important. We work with some of the world’s leading companies and have helped our alumni secure roles with Gymshark, HSBC and PwC to name a few. A simple, but effective way, for employers to reinforce their commitment to diversity is to showcase their female employees via interviews, case studies and blogs.

We’re actively working to create a more dynamic and diverse workforce in the UK by offering flexible educational models that help our students achieve a learn-life balance. For example, our Boot Camp learners can fit on-campus or online study around their home and employment responsibilities making it ideal for women who want to upskill or change their careers completely to pursue a job in tech.

For more information about the University of Birmingham Boot Camps, please visit: https://bootcamp.birmingham.ac.uk/coding/landing-ab2/


Emma Murray featured

Emma's problem-solving career: from IT to product design

At DWP Digital, our people are encouraged to grow and thrive in their profession. Emma Murray, Product Owner is no different.

She takes us through her career journey and shares how she first joined the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 1992, when she started working in her local jobcentre – around the time the field of IT was growing.

“As DWP started to embrace new technology, I took a keen interest in IT. I decided to complete an NVQ in IT, followed by a degree in the Science of Computing sponsored by the Benefits Agency,” she says. “I liked it, and was good at it, so I applied for a job in Blackpool as a Business Analyst (BA) to work on one of our benefit systems.” 

Building a career in digital

The next few years were busy for Emma. She had children, taught on a programming language and problem solving course, and provided training to DWP Digital colleagues on how to use and test systems and get qualified in business analysis.

“Once my children had reached a certain age, I was back to being me, and I applied for more technical roles. I became a first line technical support specialist, then moved in to a technical BA role.

“I’ve worked on many projects over the years that have provided direct benefit to our citizens or improved the IT hardware and software that our DWP colleagues use, including a key enterprise tool that services over 90,000 users,” says Emma.

“Over the last year I’ve been really proud to work on a major project that designed and implemented a new service portal that impacted every DWP colleague, as well as service providers,” says Emma.

“The new interface was urgently needed as the existing one was reaching end of life and needed to move from Jelly to Angular. This provides a more enriched user experience with mobile compatible features and advanced chat capability.”

Driving impact and overcoming challenges

Emma and her team develop new technologies for DWP, and they’re working on automation to make services more efficient. She finds it rewarding to work on such large scale, impactful projects, but she also enjoys facing new challenges each day.

“As a BA, I work closely with a wide range of stakeholders across the business,” she says, “for example infrastructure engineers, software engineers and external service providers.

“I have to manage conflicting requirements, which requires a great deal of diplomacy to ensure the team follows the product roadmap.

“You can achieve a great sense of satisfaction, from managing to get a people to agree on the way forward, to prioritising high demands of workload. Both ensure the most important things are dealt with and done at the right time.”

Embracing a diverse mix of perspectives

Ultimately, Emma sees her role in digital as about helping her colleagues across the organisation to spend more time working with citizens.

Emma enjoys her job, particularly when she’s facilitating groups of stakeholders to develop an agreed, tangible outcome. Agile methodology helps her team make sure they focus on those outcomes, and deliver them in a way that works for everyone.

“It’s challenging when people have a difference of opinions. It requires a great deal of drive and influence to keep them on track and get the outcome you need,” she says.

“I like retrospectives, where as a team we reflect on what we’ve achieved. It’s rewarding to know how your work has helped to make someone’s life easier, increased efficiencies for colleagues, or reduced costs for the taxpayer.”

Flexibility and balance in a digital environment

Emma is a working mum, and technology has enabled her to balance her work and home life, reducing the need for her to travel away from home.

“I utilise MS Teams a lot to interact with colleagues, using the video and voice call to connect with others, and other features to manage tasks and collaborate with my team” she says. “I also use Jira to organise the activities, workloads and resources of my engineers, where I’ve set up all my projects to track progress and underpin delivery”

“I’ve also been supported by my line manager to work part-year, which means I take four unpaid weeks every year during the school holidays to enable me to have quality time with my kids.”

“My passion out of work is my Kindle – I read all the time, and being able to read anywhere, anytime with a small device is great. Kindle also has audible now, which means I can listen to my books.”

“In DWP, everyone plays an important role, and there are a number of opportunities available to develop skills and knowledge, or gain experience,” says Emma.

“I’ve been involved in the Women in Digital network for a number of years. This personal and professional development network has helped me to meet, collaborate with and learn from colleagues across DWP Digital.

“I’ve also been involved with the award-winning Digital Voices programme, which helps to build confidence for public speaking and encourage women into digital roles.

“Through this programme I’ve gained a wide range of contacts, and it’s helped me with both my work and personal life. It’s given me the confidence to take part in big events, such as Civil Service Live and Civil Service Local, and become a role model for women in digital roles.

In DWP Digital everyone is aligned to a practice, which encourages career progression, targeted learning and community involvement. Emma benefits from being involved with two professional communities at DWP Digital.

“Being a member of both the Infrastructure Engineering and Business Analyst communities, I have been fortunate to be exposed to a wealth of development and collaboration opportunities such as technical knowledge, roadshows and lightening talks to name a few,” says Emma.

“I feel more inspired than ever to be a role model for DWP Digital. I’m using my new confidence to strive for the career I want, and to support others in reaching theirs,” she says. “I’m now looking for a new challenge as a Product Owner to develop my technical skills.”

Are you looking for a new challenge? DWP Digital are currently recruiting into various roles, including business analysts, interaction designers and more. Visit the DWP Digital Careers site today or simply subscribe to their newsletter to be kept up to date with the latest vacancies.


group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

Forget about the ‘future’ of work. The time for a plan is now

group of young multiethnic diverse people gesture hand high five, laughing and smiling together in brainstorm meeting at office, company culture

Article by David Burrows, Director of Workforce Planning, Faethm

The news agenda has been saturated with stories about the future of work in recent times.

Whether it’s ‘hybrid’ working, machines taking jobs or the growing talent shortage in various industries, discussions about how work will change and the likely impact of emerging technology on skills have become a mainstay in the media.

Generally, its use of the term ‘future of work’ is somewhat misleading. Why? It fails to account for the fact that technologies such as automation and AI are already a huge part of our working lives. Rather than viewing work as having scheduled points of change in the future, we should acknowledge the fact that these changes are happening around us every day.

Acknowledging this also means recognising the issues that the emergence of such technology presents to employees and employers. Both are dealing with a host of new challenges due to the integration of automation and AI into the workplace, with a dearth in skills meaning many businesses are struggling to fill new, technologically focused roles.

If they don’t respond adequately to these issues, a possible employment crisis looms. That’s why organisations must take steps to intelligently plan their workforce’s development, and ensure their strategies are focused on aligning the anticipated skills of their workforce with future demand.

Building a solid foundation

Before getting started with strategic workforce planning (SWP), you must make sure your approach will deliver on its purpose – planning the transition of your current workforce to one that will deliver your future business strategy. That means challenging several misconceptions.

Remember SWP is not solely an HR initiative, either. HR teams generally own the workforce planning programme but will only be successful with strong collaboration from business leaders and key stakeholders from functions across the business.

It also mustn’t be seen as a one-time process or project. Maintaining an effective workforce that derives maximum business value from resources, including technology, requires you to run an evolving programme, one that requires constant validation that assumptions are relevant and monitoring of progress to the plan.

Try not to be overwhelmed. Workforce planning seems daunting at the outset, but can be managed by breaking it down and prioritising through targeted pilots. This approach can also make your SP process more easily measurable and help iron out glitches before you expand your programme.

A six-step framework for SWP success

On top of the above, you must also ensure your senior leaders are clear on the goal of the process: the development of evidence-based plans for the workforce that will help your business achieve corporate goals by using available resources to their fullest capacity, and bolstering them with key new recruits in specialist areas if those skillsets aren’t available.

Once you’ve got senior buy-in on the strategic importance of data-driven workforce planning, you should aim to follow this six-step framework to make it an enduring success:

  1. Establish your programme of work

To set yourself up for success, you need the right skills and support for your SWP programme, ensuring you have access to specialist areas like talent acquisition, organisational design, and learning. The programme lead will also need strong collaboration and communication skills to ensure the key stakeholders in the business are engaged and supportive.

Collating the data on your workforce is also a complex but crucial first step. It can be done directly by HR teams, but it can be difficult and labour-intensive to get an accurate picture of the tasks employees fulfil, the technologies they use and their skills. It’s worth deploying analytics platforms that automatically associate skills and capabilities with tasks in your business, and give you a current, detailed view of jobs.

  1. Review your business strategy

Speak with senior leaders to identify what strategies are in place that will drive your business forward, and how this could impact your workforce in future. From there, you should work alongside business unit leaders to assess the strategic implications for the workforce in detail to identify which roles they will need to achieve those goals.

  1. Compare talent supply to demand

Assess how your internal talent might be affected over time by events such as attrition, retirement, planned redundancy and the introduction of new technologies. This should highlight which skills, knowledge, and capabilities you can expect to have available to support your organisation’s business strategy. Once you understand your supply, assess the demand for skills, knowledge, and capabilities your business strategies indicate you will need in order to deliver on corporate goals. Analytics tools are invaluable in surfacing this insight and will help deliver a clear understanding of which roles your organisation will need more, or less of, to deliver your strategy.

  1. Pinpoint skills gaps

You can now anticipate talent surpluses and shortages and when they will take effect. From here you should evaluate the risk to business efficacy if left unaddressed. Remember, external availability and competition for talent is a major factor – always look specifically at the gaps and consider the resources needed to resolve this internally, such as reskilling surplus employees from other roles.

  1. Develop a plan for transitioning your workforce

Instil these insights into a workforce plan which addresses capability gaps and mitigates risks on a role-by-role basis. Validate this plan with key business stakeholders, including the senior leadership team, and formulate effective measures and timelines for progress.

  1. Continually execute and review your plan

Implement the strategy you have devised but revisit and refresh it regularly, so you are prepared to adapt as business needs change and new tools are deployed.

What to take away

First and foremost, don’t leave anyone behind! Employees who represent company values and strive for success on the business’ behalf shouldn’t be forgotten. It’s your responsibility as an employer to ensure everyone has their role reviewed and a plan developed so they maintain a serviceable skill set.

This approach helps you build career pathways for employees and retain talent, which is important for generating and retaining business-specific knowledge.

We know recruitment and redundancy are two significant costs relating to workforce management, so it’s always advisable to consider redeployment before other approaches. The opportunity to reduce costs while also freeing up potential budget for improved learning and re-skilling programmes should allow you enrich and grow your workforce even further.

Ultimately, intelligent insights are the most critical ingredient to informing what your workforce strategy should look like. Adding a data-driven element to workforce planning and decision-making allows you to futureproof your workforce with the talent to achieve its goals, while continuing to deliver for customers. The numbers really do add up.

It also makes sense on a people level, too. Investing in the future of employees and offering them opportunities to develop and improve their potential means you can build a skilled group of invested stakeholders in the business who have no reason to leave. It’s that simple.

Astute businesses are already taking steps to make sure they are prepared for the technology-driven requirements of work, now and in the future. Make sure you do the same.


Young asian female chemists with senior caucasian chemist working together in lab, looking into microscope, Women in STEM

Curious thinkers are the key to a sustainable future

Young asian female chemists with senior caucasian chemist working together in lab, looking into microscope, Women in STEM

Article by Siobahn Meikle, Managing Director – UK & Ireland at Eaton Corporation

Embracing people and giving them a space to be themselves can only enable ideas and innovation to shine.

When people think of STEM employers, there’s often the expectation that all our employees come from traditional STEM backgrounds and have had years and years of technical training, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. I always say to my team that we want to be hiring curious thinkers, no matter their background. If we really want to innovate as an industry, we need to expand our views on what STEM talent looks like. In reality, any innovation-driven business needs a broad range of backgrounds to embed creative thinking into the team. In this way, STEM actually becomes STE[a]M, with the arts filling the gap.

To take Eaton as an example, when we’re developing new products or services, we don’t just want products that work efficiently for our customers; we need them to go above and beyond in terms of user experience too. Aesthetics plays a huge part in product or service development for exactly this reason.

However, the need to be expanding the STE[a]M talent pool goes far beyond this practical need. If you build a team with a diverse range of personal and professional backgrounds as possible, you suddenly start having much more creative solutions to problems. This is where real innovation happens. For example, if you look at the Eaton senior leadership team, you’ll see a range of backgrounds – many who have come up through the energy and power management ranks on the engineering side. But there’s also some incredible business and marketing minds, who like me, were drawn to the innovation going on in the sector and wanted to be a part of it.

As an industry, I think there’s still a huge amount that needs to be done to ensure we are recruiting from a wide a pool of talent as possible. This means that collectively, we have a big education job on our hands – most arts graduates won’t have considered a job in STEM because it will have never been presented to them as an option. This means that we could be missing out on some exceptional talent, purely because historically, we’ve not been looking in the right place. At Eaton, we have developed a program to support young people in understanding what STE[a]M opportunities look like. We also have an inclusion employee resource group (iERG) ENGAGE which, among other initiatives, drives awareness for future generations and brings to life STE[a]M activities.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have a front row seat as our team finds innovative solutions to some of the UK’s biggest energy challenges. But these solutions need creative thinking – we can’t do this without changing the way we think about recruiting into STEM careers.


Veronica Melendez

Inspirational Woman: Veronica Melendez | Head of Payments and Fraud, Recharge.com

Veronica Melendez

My name is Veronica Melendez. I’m originally from El Salvador, where I pursued my bachelor’s degree in business and quickly moved into the international space continuing my studies in Spain, France and the UK. 

I started my career in business and financial roles and one day, I stumbled upon a position in the payments industry. I cannot describe how much I loved this fast-paced industry and I decided to continue my career on this path in fintech.

Today, as Head of Payments at Recharge.com, my responsibility is to improve the overall payment and fraud prevention performance in our brands and enable our customers to purchase our branded payments in a fast, simple and safe way.

At the moment, I am working on exciting projects that will help our business to scale up, reduce time to market to offer new payment methods to our customers in new country launches and best orchestrate all the flows in payments and risk to get the highest acceptance at the lowest costs.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I have taken the time to plan my career a couple of times because I am the kind of person that believes that we should always start with a goal in mind. However, life is always unpredictable, and by allowing myself to explore new things that were not part of that plan, taking challenges outside of my comfort zone and challenging the status quo,  I discovered what my skill set was, which things I am good at, and which things I am not good at all.. In the fintech industry I found something I was passionate about.

Having said that, I had to put that career plan aside and enjoy the ride, adapting to the circumstances and identifying and grabbing opportunities as they came.  Sometimes it turned out to be even better than I’d planned.

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

Yes, I think we all do. From getting a promotion, leading former peers, being the only woman sitting in a leadership group to finding the right career path and working in a multicultural environment… I think there is no ending when it comes to challenges, but I like to see the positive side of things. Good challenges are what makes us grow, not only as a professional but also as a person. What has always helped me is to give a step back, look at the big picture and analyse the situation as if I were a stranger. Then, just be humble — recognise when I made a mistake and learn from it. Take one step at a time and keep moving. Never stop.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I believe every single step in my career has been an achievement.  But being able to launch my career at an international level really gives me a sense of satisfaction. I’ve been able to meet incredible people along the way, from many different cultures, backgrounds, and ways of seeing life.

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

Finish what you start. Never stop — take small steps but keep going. A lot of people have great ideas, but they quit when things start to get complicated. If you hold on, you’ll be amazed by what you can accomplish. There is a quote by Nelson Mandela that I really like: ‘It always seems impossible until it’s done”.

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

Don’t be afraid to fail. It’s important to try, fail, and try again. Always be curious — keep yourself updated on what’s happening and try to understand how technology works in this ever-evolving industry. Take short courses, cultivate yourself, and keep learning.

Be aware of what — and who — surrounds you. Join a community and network; you’ll find great minds that can support you but also challenge you for the best.

Most importantly, embrace change. Nothing changes as fast as tech — no two days look the same in this industry. Be proactive and part of the community that makes this happen.

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

Yes, I believe there has been a lot of progress made, but there’s still room for improvement. I can mention a few but today I’ll stick to one: the biggest barrier we need to break is inside our own head. Women need to break free from the mental barriers that can hinder us from success. For example, the belief that only men can take risks…  I don’t see any barrier that women cannot overcome if we set our minds for success.

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

I believe there are active ways in which companies can support the careers of women in technology, such as promoting gender equality and fostering an environment that fights for that; awarding salaries based on capabilities and skills rather than gender; being proactive in recruiting women for roles where they are underrepresented or prioritising career paths for women in the industry to help them get there…

But on top of that, it is of the utmost importance to create inclusive workspaces for everyone whose passion is technology — safe workspaces for both women and men. Condemn bullying, mobbing, sexual harassment. If we want our women to dare to take risks, to go outside of their comfort zone, then we need to promote a safe and inclusive workspace. All your employees and your company as a whole will benefit from it.

There is 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 give all of us women the confidence in knowing we have the skills and abilities to succeed in technology; the confidence that women can create and make a long-lasting impact. I know I’ve been asked to think of one thing, but I have two — the second is that I would provide girls at a young age with tools to access and discover the tech world sooner. Basic courses, free courses, devices, workshops, and tech summer camps that can otherwise feel out of reach to young girls; early exposure and access to the industry can help many young women decide to pursue a career in tech when their time comes.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

• TED talks. I love them. You can find talks about pretty much everything and also find inspiration in every single one of them.

• Networking events, communities, and tech conferences can be key in providing insight and support.

• There are a lot of courses on platforms such as Coursera and Platzi

• Books — The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo was particularly insightful to me


Nicola Brown

Inspirational Woman: Nicola Brown | Sales Director, Central Networks and Technologies

Nicola BrownI’m Nicola Brown and I’m the sales director at Lancashire-based IT solutions provider, Central Networks and Technologies (Central).

I have over 20 years’ experience working within the technology and public sector industries, during which time I’ve worked in all kinds of roles – pre-sales support, account management, and director level. And this breadth of experience has culminated in where I am in my current role at Central, heading up the sales team and leading the company’s commercial strategy.

In addition to my love of tech though, I’m also a director of WISH (Women in Social Housing) – a community interest company that champions women working within the sector – as well as co-chairing the North West WISH network. If you’ve already guessed, I love being busy!

I enjoy helping businesses to grow, and having been in my current role at Central for six months, I’m really enjoying working with the team to help drive the business forwards.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. I sort of ‘fell into’ the industry after leaving education. I studied law at Durham University – originally wanting to be a lawyer – however during my work experience I found that this wasn’t really the route for me. I found something I truly loved when I landed a job in sales – selling all-things IT related.

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

When starting out my career in tech in late 1990s, one of the biggest challenges was working as a female within the industry. In fact, when I attended my first event aged 23, most of the delegates were men, and women had had a harder time ‘earning their stripes’ and demonstrating their expertise.

This has significantly improved over the years, with more women gaining a seat at the boardroom table and being recognised for their capabilities. It was only in a recent BBC News article, that it stated the number of women on boards has increased 50% in five years.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One of my biggest achievements was starting a job in a tech firm as a sales support and leaving two decades later as a director with a board seat. This was a pivotal moment in my career, as I really put my sales, business management skills, and ability to translate technical jargon into everyday language into action — and progressed through the company as a result.

Like many parents across the UK, one of my biggest, most recent, achievements has been juggling home-schooling with work – that’s been an experience like no other!

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

Honestly, I think this is deeply rooted in my family and life experiences. My father died suddenly and tragically when I was 27 – he was 56. Life is too short not to strive to do the things you want to achieve.

This same ethos is also something which I translate into business, and it’s the way I approach my job – it’s like it’s my own company and I want to support it and see it thrive every day.

I think that’s why I love working with small to medium-sized enterprises, that I can have a real impact on. I’m a very personable individual, so being a part of a sales machine in a large multi-national firm wouldn’t’ suit me – I’m all about driving a positive customer experience and being able to witness this first-hand.

As a person, my nature is also to be resilient and positive – I try to take a positive out of every day – and I think that’s important not only for progressing professionally but personally, too.

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

To be flexible and open your mind to change and new opportunities – that’s often how the greatest things happen!

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

Unfortunately yes. There are many well-known major tech firms which are struggling to recruit women and have dedicated support groups to try and attract and retain their talent.

But we shouldn’t need these groups in the first place.

To help combat this, companies across the board have to be more forward thinking, diverse, and inclusive in not only their recruitment processes, but the whole way they operate their business – from HR to culture and marketing. Also, women need to champion other women to help propel positive change forwards.

As part of my work with WISH – aimed at all women, at all levels, within housing – I’ve found that this sector is much further ahead than big tech companies, so there’s clearly some work to be done.

The gender pay gap is also a massive topic of relevance here. And while “78% of large organisations have admitted to having a gender pay gap in tech”, it’s not solely this industry that’s affected. And this needs to be addressed across the entire corporate world, to help bridge the divide effectively.

The pandemic has also had a huge effect on the progress made surrounding workplace gender equality and pay gap disparity. Last March, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suspended the need for companies to report their gender pay gap data – and this is now the case until 5th October 2021.

This, coupled with the added pressures many women have experienced around home-schooling and childcare closures, are more examples of the barriers we’re continually faced with and need to overcome. There’s no doubting that more definitely needs to be done to keep gender pay gap reduction high on the agenda of both the government and workplaces alike.

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

They need to implement a genuine inclusivity and diversity agenda across their business – ensuring that all of their employees are supported equally in their career.

There is 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?

For me, it starts with the early years provision and how children are taught about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at school. In fact, I’ve recently spoken at my daughter’s own school as part of British Science Week, leading a discussion on innovation and how exciting technology can be.

There is also a ‘This Girl Can’ programme – led by Sport England – which aims to encourage women to be physically active, regardless of their shape, size, and ability, and a similar concept applies to inspiring women to enter the world. Gender doesn’t matter when it comes to getting a job in the tech world – all you need is a passion and drive for the sector.

How we speak to our children and the language we use is crucial in normalising females entering these career fields, too.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

It’s not technology specific, however I really recommend Anthony Taylor’s book, ‘Mental Toughness Metaphors’. It’s a great read about thought-leadership and building resilience.

How will the pandemic and its aftermath affect businesses and their technology?

There’s no doubting that Covid-19 has shaken up the way businesses operate – not only across the UK but the world over. Also, life – both personally and professionally – has become more digitised and will likely continue to follow this trend as we look ahead to the future.

For organisations, the rate of adoption of remote and hybrid working models has risen drastically over the past 12 months, and as we look ahead to life ‘after the pandemic’, business transformation programmes will undoubtedly remain a priority. We expect to see even more investment in tech infrastructure and telephony projects, to enable personnel to seamlessly ‘work form anywhere’.

For us here at Central, this means we’ll likely be seeing continued demand for cloud-based software solutions – such as Office 365 – intranet solutions, and file storage systems

It is clear that because of everything that’s happened over the last year, we’re going to witness more diverse and progressive workplaces, and some may continue to be home-based – scrapping the ‘traditional office’ model completely.

For these businesses, they will be focusing more on how to safely access and store their company’s data – looking towards cloud-based storage infrastructure and telephony systems, to help their operations remain effective and connected.

Business change projects have happened and will continue to evolve as we enter the next phase of the ‘new normal’, and more businesses increase their reliance on digital solutions.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here