Dr Shirley Knowles featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Shirley Knowles | Chief Inclusion & Diversity Officer, Progress

Dr Shirley Knowles

Dr. Shirley Knowles joined Progress as its first Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer in 2021.

She is responsible for leading the company’s inclusion and diversity initiatives designed to foster a culture of belonging where all employees feel valued, safe and seen. She previously served as the first diversity and inclusion officer at a large property and casualty insurance company in Boston, where she led initiatives to promote inclusivity and appreciation of cultural, racial, ethnic, religious, socioeconomic and educational diversity.

Shirley earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Marquette University; a Master of Leadership Studies degree from North Central College; a Master of Arts in Gender and Cultural Studies and Master of Science in communications management from Simmons College; and a Doctor of Education in organisational leadership degree from Northeastern University.

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

My background is in corporate communications, although I have graduate degrees and certifications in multicultural leadership and gender and cultural studies. I have also taught cultural diversity classes, so I am used to giving foundational knowledge around the importance of inclusion and diversity in the workplace. If I think about it, I was always destined for a career in inclusion, diversity, and belonging based on my lived experiences. I have always been one of the few in various capacities – in the courses I was enrolled in from a young age, to the universities I chose to attend, to the teams I’ve been on, to my personal interests. I’m used to being in a space where there aren’t many people who look like me. This has helped me to have a better understanding of how important it is to get people to connect with you before you ask them to think about the way they see the world and the people they connect with.

My current role as the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Progress allows me to make a meaningful impact in the lives of my colleagues as I dive into the importance of inclusion in the way we see one another, and the way we work together. I understand how subjective diversity and inclusion can be for everyone, so I try to find balance in respecting and understanding various perspectives, but also trying to create the type of change where people don’t feel excluded any longer due to the colour of their skin, their gender, who they love, where they went to school, their role in the business, their age, their abilities, or any number of factors that lead to others unfairly prejudging them.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never. Fifteen years ago, I would never have thought I’d be leading an inclusion and diversity function for a global, public tech company. I never sat down and said, “In five years, I want to be in this role”. Much of my success was built on making real connections with people, and the opportunities came from that.

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

I remember early on in my career when I had several graduate degrees and a ton of insight into digital communications, but was the lowest paid person on my team. I struggled for a year or so trying to understand how I could be teaching senior level employees how to make the most of their social media marketing campaigns, but not be paid fairly. I remember a recruiter telling me that my title made it seem like I only “stapled papers and made copies.” It was at that moment that I decided to take control of my career and start working towards more senior level roles at another company.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Moving into my most recent role as the Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer stands out above all of my other career achievements. It’s a great responsibility to lead this function for Progress, but being able to connect with employees and help them to see why this work is so important to the success of the business – and their own individual growth – has been very rewarding.

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

I think a big part of my success has centred on meeting people where they are, which requires intentional listening. What I mean by this is – it is important to listen to every individual as they talk about their work priorities, but also their life priorities. What experiences are they having? What story do they have to tell? When you can connect with someone and let them know that you understand their priorities in work, but also in life, they tend to form a deeper connection with you. They see you as someone who “gets them.” And, I believe, this is what transformative leadership is all about – being able to transform the way we connect with one another, which, in turn, can impact the way people can speak positively on your behalf when you’re not in the room.

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

As cliché as it may sound, network with others in the tech space – and not just at your company. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with others who are working in industries similar to your own. There are a number of professional groups on that site that you can join and connect with others in the tech space. Another great way to excel is to join your university’s alumni group and ask for a mentor. Or, if you didn’t attend a university, there are non-profit organisations who have leaders and board members from the tech space that would be open to connecting with you over coffee to discuss your career aspirations and ways to grow within your organisation. At the end of the day, the connections you make with others who are more tenured in the space are what will help propel your career.

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

I talk a lot about the importance of allyship and advocacy from men in the tech space. It is no secret that the technology space is male-dominated. There is no shame in admitting that. I think the real shame comes in when we know there is an imbalance in the opportunities afforded to women in the tech space – especially when it comes to leadership roles – but we are apathetic about making any changes. We need men to develop, grow, and promote women in the same way they would their male counterparts. There are some brilliant women out there who are ready to make a big impact in the technology space – all they need is someone willing to give them a chance and help develop their career.

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

Companies need to start investing in their women. Sponsor their attendance at a tech conference or offer them training that can help develop their skill sets. Identify top talent and start mentoring those women. Leaders should let these women shadow them to see what their workday is like, which will help them understand what it takes to be a leader in the tech space. They should also spend some time with these women and ask them what their interests are, then connect them with other leaders who are doing great things in that space. It’s important to use your connections and influence to help women grow. Additionally, I think companies could invest in tech nonprofits that are geared towards motivating young females to enter the tech space. Building that talent pipeline from a young age could pay off dividends ten years down the road as those young girls become women looking to work for an inclusive company which values gender diversity.

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 mentioned it before, but I’d get more leaders to understand their unconscious bias as it relates to women in the tech space and have them give women the chance to prove they can be great leaders in this industry. Leaders need to understand that women aren’t waiting around like they used to, hoping that a leader will one day “give them a chance.” Women are creating their own opportunities, starting their own businesses. If these organisations don’t want to see this talent one day turn into their competitor, they’d better start providing real, impactful opportunities that can highlight the many talents and skills that women bring to the table.


Climbing the ladder in tech

Woman climbing the ladder. Сareer growth, achievement of success in business or study.

Article by Fiona Hobbs, Chief Technology Officer, Opencast Software, the independent enterprise technology consultancy

With over 15 years in the tech industry, Fiona Hobbs discusses her experience so far, tips for anyone developing their career in tech and the lessons she has learnt on her journey to Chief Technology Officer.

Fiona is currently the CTO at Opencast, the independent enterprise technology consultancy headquartered in the North-East, where she works with clients across the financial services, government and health sectors.

Develop your passions

A lot of success in the tech stems from passion. Most people who work in the industry do so because they want to and because it’s a career they enjoy. Some technical roles don’t require you to have a degree, you just need to be able to demonstrate your knowledge and experience in different ways. For example, many developers have begun their careers because they were interested in gaming, and writing code for games allowed them to develop their knowledge to a point where they were qualified for jobs within the software delivery industry. Being passionate about what you do is vital in the tech industry.

For me, I enjoyed IT when I was at college and found I had a flair for coding, and that’s where my career stemmed from. I realised I liked having a job – and still do – where I can see a tangible difference has been made. For example, I get the opportunity to see millions of people using an app I have played a part in developing, or more recently, work that I did for a biotech company years ago – writing code for analysing genetic data – has been used to create the COVID vaccines. For me, that gives my career a real purpose and that pushes me to keep improving.

Secure your base knowledge

If you have the passion, the next step is to secure your base knowledge. In my case, it started by being the first female in my school to take IT at GCSE level, which allowed me to confirm I was good at it. Then, following a couple of unrelated jobs that I didn’t enjoy, I went back to college to do computing for A-Level, and then onto Durham University to complete a BSC in Software Engineering.

However, education is not everything – it gave me an understanding of which elements I enjoyed and didn’t enjoy, but the next most important thing is getting experience. Apply to the jobs you feel will add something to your repertoire, whether this be sector knowledge, or different types of coding and tech. I worked within biotech, pharma, financial services and education before narrowing down what I actually wanted to do. All experience counts if you’re learning along the way.

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Take the right leaps

As you move through different jobs, it becomes clear that sometimes you have to make leaps if you are going to end up where you want. The best thing about tech and IT is the amount of opportunities in the space. It has certainly made it easier in times of difficulty to feel confident that you will be able to secure another job using your skills.

I decided to take a leap when I realised I’d like to work as part of a larger team and practice all the lessons I had learnt around agile delivery. At this point in my career I moved to Sage, the enterprise software company, to work as a Senior Developer, delivering on projects. This eventually allowed me to move to Sage Spain, based in Barcelona, where I ran a global team developing Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for their platform.

This experience eventually led me to Opencast, where I have now been for seven years. I have seen the team grow hugely, and it has given me the chance to create the culture I would like to work in, alongside building the right products for our customers. I have worked on clients ranging from the NHS to DWP and Morgan Stanley, looking at their tech landscapes and guiding them down the right path. Working in a consultancy has also allowed me to take on two or three leading edge projects a year, which has given me double the amount of experience you would get as an inhouse CTO.

It’s key to think about what experience you have, what experience you want, and what kind of company you want to be based in. Make sure you’re aligning your values with your work, and you should be on the right path.

Key advice

My advice is: if you have a passion for tech or IT, go for it. Often, the syllabus at school can put people off, but in reality, IT is so much more than that. If you can’t build your knowledge alone, there are now key programmes such as Women Who Code that are encouraging women to get into this space if they have the desire to do so. If you enjoy writing code and being technical, then certainly don’t allow yourself to be pushed into a business focused or project management role. There is huge progression in tech, so stick with it.

Additionally, consider the best environments for learning and developing your skills. Nowadays everyone wants to have Government on their CV because they are working on leading projects and they are accessible. They are focused on making their culture diverse and collaborative, where other sectors may not be as forward thinking. It’s always important to look for the right work environment for you.

Finally, it’s been well acknowledged that women still have to struggle balancing a career and family life and not compromise on either. So it’s key for me to mention that technology is actually a great sector for being able to work remotely or work part time. It may only be a part of the puzzle, but it’s a crucial one for women trying to climb the ladder.


Bruna Capozzoli featured

Inspirational Woman: Bruna Capozzoli | Head of Creative Content, On the Edge Conservation

Bruna Capozzoli

Bruna Capozzoli is Head of Creative Content at On the Edge Conservation, a digital not-for-profit working on the preservation of our natural world.

She is also a digital specialist who directs, produces and develops content that resonates with audiences in meaningful ways

Bruna has shifted her activities by engaging in purpose-driven projects committed to deliver positive impact on and off screens. She joined On The EDGE Conservation as Head of Creative Content and is the creator of the new On The EDGE YouTube series.

Bruna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ+ community. Her continuous interest and engagement in social and political issues resonate across all her professional activities.

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

I’ve been a digital content creator for over seven years and my day-to-day role is to find ways to engage young audiences on the online platforms where they hang out, such as YouTube.

With OTEC, I have created the world’s first virtual YouTubers for kids. Each character is a lesser-known endangered species who vlogs weekly about their life, just like a human blogger, but at the same time they engage kids about the importance of biodiversity and the protection of our natural world.

I’ve had a varied career – from starting as a theatre actor in Brazil where I was born and grew up, through writing and directing short films, until now managing and developing my own content series. Each role has been creative in its own particular way.

Within the digital kids and family arena I have worked with well-known brands such as Angry Birds, Talking Tom & Friends and Playmobil, as well as smaller IPs that were starting to build an online presence. My main responsibility was to translate each brand’s identity into engaging, original YouTube content.

In January last year, I decided to leave my position as Creative Director at the commercial production company CAKE / Popcorn Digital, to focus instead on helping purpose-driven projects and organisations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

For sure! As a foreigner entering the UK’s highly competitive creative industry, the challenges were huge.

Understanding what it is exactly you want to do in this sector is also tough – there are so many avenues to go down. I was fortunate enough to experiment and work in fields that really matter to me.

When I started out, the digital space was new and evolving. In each of my roles I learnt a new skill which opened up fresh opportunities.

Overall, I definitely plan my career, but this doesn’t mean that things always go the way I think it will. I knew the field I wanted to work in was very competitive and that I needed patience and hard work to constantly improve my craft.

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

The virtual influencer project I am currently working on at OTEC is probably one of the most challenging I have ever done because it really explores uncharted territories in digital and animation.

In creative content production you need to monitor and understand consumer trends, while also staying on top of the most cutting-edge technology and emerging digital platforms. It’s extremely challenging, but you have to be comfortable with not knowing everything and instead having the drive to learn.

Good communication and the confidence to ask questions are important skills to have.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Measuring career achievements is always about perspective. At the time, each little step was such a big accomplishment. From getting my first job in media, all the way to being responsible for an entire content series. It’s important to celebrate every phase.

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

I am very conscious that I had a privileged start to my career. My parents supported me during my studies in Brazil and the UK. Without their help and loving support, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

When my career started, instead of not understanding something and making mistakes, I’d always ask questions, do extensive research and learn more – never having the mindset that what I knew was enough.

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

For women specifically, I would say that it is important that we own our space, feel comfortable speaking up and add our point of view. Tech isn’t always a field that is particularly welcoming to women or designed to help us succeed, but that is changing.

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

I think that it would be fair to pose this question to the male counterpart instead and ask them to reflect on what they can do to eradicate the ‘Boys’ Club’ culture that can be quite pervasive in this sector.

It can be exhausting for women to take on the responsibility of educating men on this matter, on top of the ownership and challenges of the job itself.

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

It’s very important that the actual decision-makers – those in positions of power – are representative of different genders, ethnicity, social backgrounds, disabilities and sexual orientation.

Sometimes, the lack of representation in top positions is a deliberate choice, which perpetuates bias.

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 definitely make sexual harassment and discrimination vanish once and for all, so women could feel comfortable to exist at their fullest in the workplace. This would be an important first step to allow female professionals to achieve their complete potential.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There is an amazing book which really changed my perspective on the tech world and added so many new questions and points of view to my experience: Lean Out, edited by Elissa Shevinsky.

This book helped point out a lot of issues and systemic barriers which I was experiencing and keeping inside  me – almost as abstract feelings. I could only overcome them by identifying them and understanding that my experiences were shared by many others.

I also follow Lesbians who Tech, a community of LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans individuals working in the world of tech, they are a great resource.

Click here to see On the Edge Conservation’s Virtual YouTubers in action


International Day of Women and Girls in Science, African female scientist in protective glasses looking and testing tube chemical in laboratory, development for the future.

STEM growth across genders

International Day of Women and Girls in Science, African female scientist in protective glasses looking and testing tube chemical in laboratory, development for the future.

Sandra Mottoh, Regulatory Expert and passionate campaigner for re-addressing workplace gender balance specifically in male dominated sectors such as banking and tech, discusses the importance of encouraging girls studying STEM subjects from an early age.

Historically, we have seen fewer girls than boys studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects in school, which over the course of multiple generations has resulted in a noticeable imbalance of women in the workplaces of STEM-related professions.

It is widely acknowledged there are multiple contributing factors but, in my opinion, the key one to identify is the lower number of female role models connected to STEM businesses, in prominent positions of power and in the mainstream media. As a society we must recognise that we have undergone a generation mindset shift, now rightly challenging our perceptions of what female, male and non-binary individuals can achieve. More than ever before, we are conscious to rebalance the gender bias within schools, university admissions, entry-level recruitment processes and ultimately who sits on the top of corporate boards.

We cannot underestimate the fact that some girls have a natural preference towards social sciences and the arts over STEM subjects, but undoubtedly can be successful in either. As a feminist, I believe girls’ preferences should be valued and celebrated. Girls should have equal access to opportunities should they desire to pursue a STEM qualification or not.

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Statistics show that significantly more men than women study the disciplines that most technical positions require, such as computer science or data science at Masters or PhD level. Therefore, in order to bridge the gap, there has been a noticeable trend with women taking up more management or administrative roles within STEM industries as an alternative route in; a strategic move that enables women leverage their (innate or learned) skill set within  STEM sector. My belief is that the technical industries could adopt the ‘innovative hiring process’ by inviting women from other sectors to join as subject matter experts, bringing with them a fresh and balanced perspective to the industry.

Both young girls and women need to see that there are role models in the sector and through their own work they too could be celebrated. These role models are more visible alongside their male counterparts and remain relatable to others – this is crucial for younger girls in particular to see women who look and sounds like them having successful and desirable careers in tech. One such women has carved such a path is Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Meta, formerly Facebook), who oversees the firm’s business operations such as sales, marketing, business development, human resources, public policy and communications. As the first female on the Board of Directors at Meta, she holds an impressive position of power within a heavily male-dominated work environment that beautifully illuminates to ambitious youngsters what can be achieved with academic application and hard work.

Having learned lessons the hard way through my own personal career, my advice to young girls reading this or those in an educational position supporting the next generation, would be to not let fear get in the way of making a start – this is your first step. I cannot stress how important it is to just make a start and then keep going, as making it in the STEM world will take a concerted level of dedication and determination. Invest in yourself to ensure you acquire the necessary skills and work experience to forge the successful career in tech that you desire and deserve to have. Remember that tech is here stay for decades to come and will constantly be evolving at any increasingly rapid pace, so only those who are prepared will excel.

Sandra MottohAbout the author

Sandra Mottoh, who after working in Regulatory Compliance and Governance in the banking sector for the past 20 years, is now also focussing her social enterprise endeavours (AI White Box) on identifying the compliance gaps in the emerging AI sector. As a black woman, she is passionately campaigning to help more women enter the world of AI, particularly those coming from financially challenged and ethnic minority backgrounds. Her legacy is to model financial empowerment to women in a way that liberates their lives.


Women's Engineering Society

Women's Engineering Society

WESThe Women’s Engineering Society is a charitable company, founded in 1919 to support women in engineering.

Over 100 years later, we still operate as a Membership Society, promoting the education of women in engineering and advancing the education of the public concerning the study and practice of engineering among women. We founded International Women in Engineering Day (INWED), held on 23 June annually as an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focus attention on the amazing career opportunities available in this exciting industry.

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Inspirational Woman: Jen Marsden | Director of Design Engineering, SharkNinja

Jen Marsden SharkNinja

Jen Marsden is Director of Design Engineering at leading home technology firm SharkNinja and is originally from the Wirral, Merseyside.

From a young age she was fascinated by engineering, sparked by her Dad, who having previously worked as a Navy Engineer, would teach her about how things work.

Jen’s interests grew throughout secondary education and she gained a place to study Design Technology BA at Loughborough University, graduating in 2005.  She started her career as a junior designer at Vax, where she worked on floorcare products for 11 years, swiftly working her way up to Head of Product Development. Keen to progress her skills in a different sector, Jen joined SharkNinja as Design Manager in 2017. Over just three years, Jen has progressed to a leadership team role. During her time heading up New Product Development for the Ninja Heated category, she has led the team through the development of several hero products including the Foodi Pressure Cooker, Ninja Foodi Health Grill and Which? Best Buy’s Ninja Air Fryer.

In 2019 Jen made moves to take her career to the next level, as she headed up the launch of SharkNinja’s London WE Lead initiative. WE Lead was born in the firm’s Boston office, with the objective of being a social and professional network for women in the US team. Inspired by this and by her own experiences as a woman in STEM, Jen began work to launch a parallel programme in London. Consisting of internal panel events, talks and clinics, the objectives of WE Lead are to provide a supportive, professional network for women in SharkNinja, to directly tackle the main gender equality issues surrounding women in STEM and to spread awareness of the wealth of career options and various avenues to get into STEM, both at SharkNinja and more generally.

Jen’s actions are truly inspirational within the STEM community. She continues to lead her career as Director of Design Engineering, but is also putting immense passion and drive into establishing the WE Lead programme for her colleagues. She hopes to not only increase understanding of the trials faced by women in STEM and how these should be overcome, but to tackle the root of the cause of the industry’s gender imbalance through strategic partnerships.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly, from a young age I was creative and always enjoyed arts and design subjects at school.  As I worked towards my A Level subjects, it was maths which I found to be most interesting and as a result, rewarding.  This combination led me to go on to University to study design, but the diversity of career options was never really highlighted to me during my school years.  Part of my course involved a year working in industry where I joined the design team for Salton Europe (now Spectrum brands) which manufactured consumer products for brands such as Russell Hobbs, George Foreman and Carmen.  It was this exposure to consumer product development that forged my aspirations to work in this industry, designing market leading products for the mass market.

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

More often than not when meeting new customers or clients the assumption is made that I do not work within the engineering team. Whilst I don’t feel this has directly impacted my career growth, it highlights that this is an extra hurdle for me, to always work that bit harder in order to prove my position and capability.  The lack of female peers and leaders has sometimes fed into that insecurity, however, it has also been a big driver in wanting this situation to change.  The WE Lead programme is about providing a support network and raising awareness of this gender imbalance within technical and leadership roles.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I would have to say the progression to my current role. As Director of Design Engineering for Ninja Heated New Product Development, I work with fantastic teams across the world to deliver products which positively impact peoples lives.  It’s exciting to be a part of a category which is growing significantly and bringing such innovative and exciting products to life.

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

It’s important to feel challenged and to continue challenging yourself to further improve and I think a major factor in ensuring this happens is honesty.  From having the ability to admit when you don’t know something, to being open and honest with team members or stakeholders, honesty ensures direction and alignment is always clear.  This is hugely important in driving success both individually and for the business.  Being open to and seeking feedback has enabled me to build on my strength areas and identify growth opportunities.

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

Try and get a good mentor or mentors, someone who can support both your personal and career development.  This does not have to be someone you work with directly, and in fact it’s important that the conversations don’t become performance based. It’s about finding somebody with good and varied experiences who can give feedback and guidance – I believe this is the best way of broadening your skills and knowledge base by enabling growth in many areas.

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 barriers very much prevail and it is these which are at least partly responsible for the continued gender imbalance in STEM. Throughout every stage of the British education system, there are more boys studying STEM subjects than girls. Although society is working hard to move away from gender stereotypes, an unconscious, implicit bias still remains, and many people still associate scientific and mathematic fields as ‘male’ and the arts and humanities as ‘female.’ Additionally, there is a great absence of information, guidance and encouragement to enter STEM experienced by girls, which is a further factor feeding into the low levels of females choosing to study these subjects and enter the STEM workforce. Sadly, the barriers don’t stop there. I recently read that although there are now one million women working in STEM in the UK, only 5% of leadership positions in technology are held by females, which really shocked me. There is no simple answer to overcoming these barriers, but I believe it starts by everyone realising they have a role to play, whether you are a parent, teacher or employer, girls and women need to be aware of the wealth of opportunities available to them in STEM and given guidance around how they can start a career in the industry and continue to flourish.

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

Firstly, I believe the industry should be working closely with the education system to teach children and students about technology from a young age, shining a light on its instrumental role in shaping the world we live in and highlighting how students can get involved in this exciting sector. Secondly, the entry routes into these professions need to be diversified and for awareness of these to be greater. Alternative avenues firms should look to invest in might look like apprenticeships, work experience weeks, or shadowing schemes. Finally, there need to be processes in place so that female employees progress at the same rate as their male counterparts. Organisations must implement initiatives to support women to advance to more senior positions as well as gender targets at all levels. I am so happy to be working for a firm which recognises the importance of gender equality in the workplace and has implemented initiatives to address it. Through the WE Lead programme, SharkNinja runs a series of events aimed at raising awareness of gender issues amongst all employees, creating a global support network for women across the business and providing education and entry avenues to students through joint ventures with universities and schools.

There is currently only 17% 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?

It would have to be to increase the number of females in leadership positions.  The percentage of women in tech overall is low, but those in the highest positions in a technology role, as mentioned, is only 5%.  Changing this will not only help younger generations to be inspired to follow careers in similar industries, it will also help break down the unconscious gender bias that still exists across many generations.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are lots of great resources available for inspiration.  There’s a great Podcast Playlist called ‘Women in Tech SF – Empowering Podcasts’ which has a lot of insightful podcast channels with episodes covering topics such as working in a male dominated workplace, why there are so few female CEOs and talks with successful business women who discuss their career paths and challenges.  Sheryl Sandberg the COO of Facebook has a short, but really inspiring TED talk about women in leadership, or lack of: https://www.ted.com/talks/sheryl_sandberg_why_we_have_too_few_women_leaders#t-445745 there are plenty of other TED talks too which are a great source of information (https://www.ted.com/search?q=women+in+technology)

There are also more and more events, festivals and conferences being held which talk more about the topic, and celebrate the success of women within the technology industry, including;


woman holding a like a boss mug, kickstart your career

Starting anew in 7 easy steps | Becca Powers

woman holding a like a boss mug, kickstart your career

Have you ever approached a new year really wanting it to be different than the year before?

Then, as you start to imagine yourself implementing these new changes, you get hit with a wave of slight defeat. This troubles you because you feel energized and ready to start anew. But, there is this part of you that already knows you are going to fail. Why? Because this is a not your first time trying to implement lasting change and start your new year off differently.

What if there was a way to start anew, leave last year in rear view mirror, and get the long-term results you are looking for? I’m here to tell you there is! I will be sharing 7 easy steps to start anew and create the lasting change you’ve been looking for. For it to work, it requires an honest self-assessment. Are you ready to get real with yourself? Okay, let’s go!

Starting Anew in 7 Easy Steps:

1. Assess Your Life – That’s right, I want you to access the different areas of your life and identify what parts are working well and which ones aren’t. I like to break it down into four categories for better clarity:

    1. Personal Relationships
    2. Health & Wellness
    3. Profession & Purpose
    4. Finance & Abundance

2. Admit the Areas That Aren’t Working Well – This is crucial step and one that is typically by-passed. There is a power in admitting that an area isn’t working to yourself and to someone else. This very act invites in possibilities.

3. Grant Yourself Permission – Give yourself permission to have the outcome you desire easily and effortlessly. We all deserve to live a life we love, and it starts with giving ourselves permission to do so!

4. Embrace the Power of Choice – Shame and guilt are energy and goal killers. Where you are now does not define where you are going. Own that you made some choices that may have hurt you and your goals – and let it remain in the past. Starting today, use the power of choice to make choices that help you achieve your goals – feel empowered to choose again and again if you stumble.

5. Connect with Purpose – Purpose gives you fuel. Why do you want to create this change? What pain will you continue to feel if you don’t change? Who are you hurting if you don’t change? What will you gain from this change? How will it impact your life if you successful implement this change? Answering these questions and doing an honest exploration behind the why to this change will give you fuel to keep going!

6. Macro Goal – Now that we have done the prep work, it’s time to get clear on our goals. What is the high-level goal you are looking to achieve? And when are you looking to achieve it by? Ex: I want to lose 30 lbs. by July 1st, 2022. Be as specific as you can here.

7. Micro Goals – To every macro goal, I suggest making three micro goals. This micro goal setting help you get clear on how you are going to reach your macro goal. Ex: track food daily, move my body every day for a minimum of 20 minutes, have a weekly check-in with an accountability partner. These micro goals should be practical and obtainable. The more you achieve them, the more you tell your nervous system that it’s safe to change!

These 7 steps with implemented and revisited help make starting anew easy and sustainable. Come back to this list as much as you need to as you work on creating a live that you love and deserve.

About the author

Becca Powers Becca Powers, based in South Florida in the U.S.A., works as a Fortune 500 Sales Executive in the tech industry by day and coaches women on how to have it all by night. She’s also a Kundalini Yoga Teacher, Mother of a blended family of 4 kids, 2 hers and 2 his and Author of Harness Your Inner CEO due out Autumn 2021. Through juggling it all and believing she can have it all – Becca boasts a multiple 6-figure income and being the breadwinner in her house. But Becca wasn’t given any exceptional special privileges which credit her success today. She was a child of working-class parents who battled addictions throughout her childhood. But it was her Grandma who was the dreamer in her family who made her believe you can have whatever you want. Becca’s journey hasn’t however always been straightforward having found herself divorced with 2 children by 28 and a 3-time college drop out. But this didn’t seem to stop her with her life’s motto being “Never lower your net worth for anything or you’re sacrificing your self-worth!”. Becca has recently been featured in the Mail Online a leading career expert. ‘Harness Your Inner CEO’ is due to be published autumn 2021 and tipped to be a best-seller in the female business category. To find out more visit: https://www.beccapowers.com/


Vinita Marwaha Madill featured

Inspirational Woman: Vinita Marwaha Madill | Project Manager, Mission Control Services

Vinita Marwaha Madill
Photo: Harry Parvin

Vinita Marwaha Madill is a Project Manager at Mission Control Services. From developing spacewalk training, helping astronauts move around in space, to building a robotic arm for astronauts to use onboard the International Space Station, no day is the same.  

One of Vinita’s most interesting projects involved designing a skin suit to mimic the effects of gravity to protect astronauts from muscle and bone loss whilst in space. The suit was the culmination of more than 10 years of development and has been worn by astronauts in space since 2015.

Vinita is a part of This is Engineering Day, a day created by the Royal Academy of Engineering to celebrate the world-shaping engineering that exists all around us but often go unnoticed, as well as the engineers who make this possible. As part of This is Engineering Day, the Royal Academy of Engineering has announced plans to create a new virtual museum named The Museum of Engineering Innovation, which can be accessed through QR Codes dotted around the country as well as by visiting Google Arts and Culture. To view the first collection of exhibits, which include Jonnie Peacock’s running blade, visit https://artsandculture.google.com/partner/museum-of-engineering-innovation. #BeTheDifference

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

My background is in human spaceflight and robotic space operations. I’m a space engineer and the Founder of a platform called Rocket Women which aims to inspire the next generation of young women to choose a career in STEM. During my career I’ve met some amazing people — especially other positive female role models. I think you need those role models out there, tangible and visible, to be able to inspire the next generation of young girls to become astronauts, or be whatever they want to be. I started Rocket Women to give these incredible women a platform to spread their advice and ensure that their voices were heard. I’m interviewing women around the world in STEM, particularly in space, and posting the interviews on Rocket Women, along with advice to encourage girls to be involved in STEM. As Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” It’s one of my favourite quotes and is absolutely true.

Presently, I’m a Project Manager at Mission Control – a space exploration and robotics company. Getting humans to space, as well as lunar exploration, is enabled by robotics and autonomous systems, and there is a current lack of commercial software products to make that happen, which is the gap we’re hoping to fill at Mission Control, with a focus on mission operations and AI. I’m working on new lunar projects with the Canadian Space Agency, in addition to leading projects with commercial space companies internationally and in space health which is really interesting. I contribute to our public outreach programme called Mission Control Academy which allows any class of students with an internet connection the opportunity to learn about planetary science, rover design and ultimately plan and execute an exploration mission remotely & operate a real rover prototype in an analogue Mars environment. This allows the public and students to be involved in and experience rover and mission operations!

Previously, based at the European Space Agency as a Space Operations Engineer I focused on future human spaceflight projects, including the European Robotic Arm (ERA). The European Robotic Arm has been developed by ESA and is soon be launched to the International Space Station (ISS). The European Robotic Arm will help astronauts and cosmonauts carry out spacewalks (or EVAs) and install new parts of the space station.

As a Space Operations Engineer at ESA I worked on developing the operations for the project, including preparing a smaller version of Mission Control at ESA’s technology centre ESTEC in the Netherlands, and astronaut training. My typical day could vary from developing astronaut / cosmonaut (Russian astronaut) spacewalk (or EVA) training with colleagues in Russia, to creating and testing missions for the astronauts to control the robotic arm at ESA. Once the robotic arm is launched the operations team will be working on-console at ESA-ESTEC and from Mission Control in Moscow on robotic arm operations and supporting the spacewalks conducted by the astronauts and cosmonauts onboard the ISS.

Having wanted to work in the space industry since I was young, working in space operations is a dream come true. One of my favourite things about working in the space industry, is that the environment both at ESA and at commercial space companies is extremely international. I enjoy being able to work with colleagues from all around the world to design future human spaceflight and robotic exploration projects.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve always been interested in space since I was young. As a child I loved reading and read every space book I could get my hands on. I remember sitting in the library with a pile of books next to me and in one of the books, among the stories of shuttle missions and NASA astronauts, I spotted an image of a young woman in spacesuit with a British flag on the arm. The caption next to it says that this is Helen Sharman, the first British astronaut who flew to the Mir space station merely two years earlier.

Here was a woman in front of me born in the UK, who had studied chemistry, replied to a radio advert calling for astronauts, beat 13,000 applicants and had recently gone to space.

In that moment, looking at the image of Helen Sharman in her Sokol spacesuit, I realised that that woman could be me. Maybe, I could be an astronaut too. That changed something inside me. I knew my dreams were possible. She was, although I didn’t know it yet, a role model to me.

But I’m also fortunate to have been encouraged at that age and by my parents and teachers throughout my childhood and education, who really cultivated that interest and encouraged me to study space.

I knew that I wanted to be an astronaut, but what I didn’t know growing up was how. A few years later, at the age of 11, I printed the astronaut candidate guidelines, from NASA’s website, at the library and glued them to the inside cover of my secondary school folder. They were a daily reminder of how to reach my goal and I set my focus on achieving them. Those guidelines set the direction for my career. The first guideline said that a candidate had to have a bachelor’s degree in engineering, biology, physics or mathematics.

Knowing this, I studied Maths & Physics with Astrophysics at King’s College London. In the end only three girls graduated on this course. One went on to be an astrophysicist, one is a science teacher and I work in the space industry. Whilst at King’s, I learned about a fantastic organisation called UKSEDS (UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space), through which I met space professionals for the first time, some of whom I actually went on to work with. This allowed me to interact with professionals from the space agency and education. Rather than space being a dream and something I read about, suddenly it felt attainable.

I’ve taken small steps over the last decade and through secondary school beforehand to be able to work in the space industry. One of the largest was going to the International Space University (ISU) which was a life-changing experience – I had daily lectures by astronauts and space industry experts. They have a brilliant 9 week course called the Space Studies Program at the International Space University (ISU) which takes place in a different international location each year. The course gave me an overall view of the international space industry and was where I decided that I wanted to work on human spaceflight operations. In my education and career, ISU really was the inflexion point and created a world of global possibilities for me.

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

There are stereotypes and cultural barriers related to engineering that we need to overcome. My background is British Asian (Indian), so although my parents were supportive of my interest in space and science, there was some pressure to study a traditional subject for a girl – become a dentist, doctor, pharmacist or a teacher, as it was a “safe” choice and an acceptable job for a girl in the South Asian culture. I worked as a dental nurse on the weekends whilst studying at sixth form and it helped my parents and I realize that although I enjoyed some aspects of the role and the medical side, being a dentist wasn’t for me. It was a great role to learn how to be responsible for other’s care and medical tasks.

Based at the European Space Agency as a contractor I worked on some of the medical aspects of preparing a launch campaign (where the team will go to the launch site in Kazakhstan to prepare the European Robotic Arm for launch) for the mission I worked on and I’ve also worked in the European Space Agency’s Space Medicine Office, so having some background in this has helped. But ultimately we need to address the lack of representation of minority ethnic women in STEM, ensuring that their stories are visible and able to inspire and support both the future career decisions that young women make and provide their parents and peers with examples of successful careers. Through Rocket Women, we’re aiming to ensure that these stories of diverse women in STEM globally are visible.

In the UK, only 12% of the engineering workforce is female and according to recent research from the Royal Academy of Engineering, only 9% of engineering professionals are from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Yet, right now, the UK has an annual shortfall of up to 59,000 engineers, and research shows that many young people – young people who want their careers to make a difference and have a positive impact on the world – haven’t even thought about it as a job. This has to change. It is why This is Engineering Day was launched, to raise awareness of engineering as a career and why I am telling my story to inspire the next generation of engineers.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My proudest career achievement so far has been contributing to the development of the European Space Agency’s SkinSuit at the European Astronaut Centre. In space, astronauts lose 2-3% bone mass on International Space Station (ISS) in six months and grow 4 – 6cm taller – which impacts their spinal health and can be quite painful for them. The SkinSuit provides loading onto the astronaut’s body that essentially recreates the effect of gravity upon their skeleton. Each Skinsuit itself is individually fitted to every astronaut and a tailor takes over 150 measurements of the astronaut’s body along with their mass and height to customize the suit.

The Skinsuit has been worn on the ISS by Danish European Space Agency Astronaut Andreas Mogensen and most recently evaluated by French ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet during his six-month mission. The suit aims to improve spinal health in a microgravity environment and prevent painful spinal growth. It’s been amazing to have worked on the initial prototypes of the spacesuit and having seen it being used on the space station by astronauts is the ultimate reward.

I’m also looking forward to contributing to lunar exploration over the next decade – the future of human spaceflight and robotic space exploration is extremely exciting! We’re going to see a ramping up of interest in lunar exploration, both in orbit and on the surface of the Moon from international agencies and governments, but also from the private sector. The Gateway, a new mini space station in lunar orbit is currently being designed by NASA, in conjunction with international partner agencies including the European Space Agency (ESA), JAXA (the Japanese Space Agency) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to enable humanity to return to the vicinity of the Moon in the 2020s, building on the international cooperation that built the International Space Station.

The spaceship will be humanity’s next step beyond Low Earth Orbit, and out into the Solar System. One thousand times further out in the solar system than the International Space Station, it’s a platform where we’ll learn to overcome the technological challenges of living and working in deep space. Relatedly, NASA is developing the Artemis programme, with the goal of establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon. NASA, in collaboration with international partners, aim to send the next man and the first woman to the surface of the Moon in 2024 through the Artemis programme.

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

I would have never had been able to complete my studies internationally and to

reach my goals in the space industry without the fortuity of scholarships. Having support from organisations and scholarships throughout my education inspired me to develop a scholarship program through Rocket Women, a platform that I founded to inspire the next generation of young women to choose a career in STEM. The Rocket Women apparel collection was born from a desire to make a difference. Moreover, we need 100% of the talent available to solve the hard problems that we face in the world today. Proceeds from Rocket Women clothing will go towards a scholarship to build opportunities for women studying science & engineering. Representation matters and scholarships play a pivotal role in encouraging diverse talented individuals to pursue opportunities in STEM that may not have had that chance otherwise.

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

My advice to those considering their career path is that it’s possible to achieve your goal, whether it’s to work in the space industry or otherwise. It takes hard work and dedication, but it’s absolutely worth it.

The experience that I gained through gaining a comprehensive view of the space industry through studying at the International Space University in France and through focused internships or volunteering helped to forge the path to where I am now. I think almost everyone that I know working in the space industry and otherwise has felt like their future career was unknown at times, but pursuing your passion and persevering is important, whether you’re able to do that in your main job or even as a side hustle or volunteering role.

It’s important to enjoy the subjects that you study and the work that you’re doing. So I’d recommend graduates to really pay attention to what their passion is for. Because as NASA Astronaut Zena Cardman brilliantly said:

“If you wake up curious and excited every morning, you’re going to be really happy no matter what the end result is, whatever career you wind up in. Just pursue whatever interests you. I sit here in this blue flight suit, and I have to say it’s possible. So you just have to go for it.”

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

Girls decide to leave STEM by the age of 11, when they are in an education system where the choice of subjects severely limits their options for working in other fields later on. We need to change the typical stereotype of a space engineer or someone who works in tech & STEM is usually male and nerdy. There also seems to be a disconnect between young women in particular, wanting to make a difference and knowing the positive impact on the world that a career in STEM can make.

Many men and women that work in STEM don’t consider themselves a stereotypical ‘nerd’. Girls also need to know that it’s fine to be nerdy, or simply smart, in fact as an increasing number of jobs incorporate at least a moderate level of technical skills, it’s going to be necessary for young women to feel comfortable in a technical environment in order to succeed and thrive in any chosen career. There also seems to be a disconnect between girls in particular wanting to make a difference and knowing the impact that a career in STEM can make.

More diverse representation is also needed of ‘smart people’ in movies and the media – we need more women and more minorities represented as scientists and engineers in popular culture, reflecting the world around us. The rhetoric also needs to be changed to ensure that popular culture communicates to the next generation that women are just as capable and intelligent in STEM. Through visualizing increased women of colour as role models in STEM and taking an intersectional approach, it will help to make young girls feel more confident and included when deciding on a career in STEM.

It’s hard for young girls to imagine doing something in the future when they don’t see someone like them doing that job today. It’s important to help girls, in particular, realize the impact that they can have with a degree in STEM and make a positive difference in the world. Female role models are essential to provide young women with examples to look up to when they’re making the most critical decisions in their education or career.

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

Many women working in technology have a real interest and passion for these fields. Retaining women throughout their career and avoiding the ‘leaky pipeline’ syndrome is also a challenge that the technology industry is still working to overcome. Things are changing for the better though. The space industry is becoming more accessible and diverse. The ratio of women chosen in the 2013 NASA astronaut class was 50% female – the highest female ratio selected, bringing the percentage of female NASA astronauts in the NASA Astronaut Corps to around 30%. This thirty years after Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. NASA and the global space industry are really looking forward, which is fantastic. The recent 2017 astronaut class has five girls out of a total of 12 astronauts, with two astronauts selected at 29 years old. If you think about it, that’s close to 10 years between completing Year 12 or 13 at school, to being selected as an astronaut!

Ultimately technology and specifically engineering are about problem-solving, communication, teamwork, and creativity; skills that we need for the future. We need to communicate that the STEM field is based on innovation and creativity – we need diverse viewpoints to innovate and provide creative solutions that encompass our entire population.

There is currently only 17% 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?

Ultimately, we need to change the stereotype of a scientist, engineer or someone working in tech. I’m really excited to be involved in the This is Engineering campaign with the Royal Academy of Engineering, which celebrates the engineers shaping our lives and the world around us to challenge the narrow public stereotypes of engineering – aiming to encourage more young people from all backgrounds to consider engineering as a profession. Engineering really is everywhere and at the heart of everything from your mobile phone, to satellites, special effects on your favourite sci-fi show, to clean water – but there’s a narrow and outdated stereotype of what engineers do, look like and the role that they play in society. This in turn, can prevent young people from considering these rewarding and varied careers.

MIT Professor Dava Newman rightly said that you don’t have to be the “best in maths and science” or the top of your class, “you just have to want to help humankind. That should be the passion.”

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Books

Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez

Becoming – Michelle Obama

Inferior – Angela Saini

Podcasts

Pivot – Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway

Women Tech Charge – Anne Marie Imafidon

How To Own The Room – Viv Groskop

Working from Home with Stylist

Work Like A Woman – Mary Portas


woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

How to transition into a career in tech

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Have you ever read about the tech sector’s latest success and wondered how you can be part of it too?

This is a question that many smart professionals ask themselves today.

The tech sector is booming

The pandemic hit many sectors of the economy, but it has been fertile ground for tech. Revenues at the tech giants,  Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, grew by 40% on average compared with the same period a year ago and profits soared by 90%. In every minute of the first three months of 2021, these companies made $88 bn profits before tax. This is more than $1bn of profit for every working day!

While local businesses shut down, tech companies went on a hiring spree. But, if you have never worked in a digital environment, it is easy to assume that they would never hire you.

In 2021, I taught MBA students and executives at London Business School and Oxford University’s Said School of Business. Most of my students, while very smart and capable, do not have backgrounds in computer science, and have not worked in tech.

In my courses students learn technology concepts for non-technical professionals. We cover what role design plays in technology, the difference between a back end and a front end, how to use APIs to scale audience, and so on.

This knowledge is the foundation for the students’ bigger goal: a transition into a career in tech.

Some of them want to start tech enabled businesses, others want to become tech investors, yet others aspire to corporate leadership roles.

Whether you want to transition into tech as a founder, an investor or an employee, I have found that there are core strategies that lead to success.

Capitalise on your experience as a user

My former student, Juliet Eysenck, had no intention of working in tech when she started her career as a journalist. Juliet was a news reporter at The Telegraph.

At the Telegraph, like at any other publication, journalists have their own portal to upload news stories. After using the journalist app to upload her news stories, Juliet began giving feedback about this product to the team in charge. She shared her insights as a user, to make life easier for herself and her journalist colleagues.

As she did this, Juliet realised that product management appealed to her more than breaking the news. In turn, the product team got to know her and found her user insights valuable. So, when a job opening for a product manager came up, the team asked Juliet to apply. She did and she got the job.

Juliet transitioned into a career in tech because she had a unique user perspective. She became a product manager for a product made for journalists.

Whatever you do today, you have a unique user perspective. Your insights as a user can be the thing that gets you into tech.

What apps and sites do you use to do your job? How would you make them better?

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Get involved while doing your day job

Oksana Stowe began her career in investment banking but wanted to swap death defying hours and corporate culture for life in venture capital. Sadly, many investment bankers have the same idea, and competition is fierce.

To transition into a career in tech investing, Oksana started making angel investments with her own money. This helped her learn about start-ups and technology, and to widen her network.

Since 80% of jobs do not get advertised according to some estimates, having a network and being known for your expertise is vital in a career transition into tech.

This strategy worked for Oksana and she is a successful venture capital investor, investing in retail tech and consumer technologies today.

However, most people do not have the funds to make angel investments to pivot their careers. But you can use the same principle, without spending your hard cash.

You can get involved as an organiser at an angel investment network. This will give you exposure to start-ups and investors, show you how tech investment decisions get made, and ensure that when there’s a job opening in a VC fund, you’re the first to know about it.

Where can you volunteer that gives you exposure to tech? I am positive that there are plenty of opportunities that you could get involved in right now.

Transition into tech via your clients

Ronan Walsh runs a marketing agency called Digital Trawler. While his core competency is marketing, he participates in the tech boom via his clients: his agency only works with software as a service businesses.

If you are a professional services expert, like a lawyer, an accountant, an advertiser or a PR, you could pivot into tech by working with clients in this lucrative sector.

To attract and retain tech clients, you do need to know the basics of what they do. If you’re pitching your services to a tech company and you don’t know the back end from the front end, you are probably not going to win the client.

You need to know the core concepts of technology, rather than retraining as a coder. If you know how to connect technology concepts to business outcomes and user needs, you are well equipped to be a strategic advisor to a tech business. This is not hard to learn and is exactly what I teach my students.

Transitioning into a career in tech for non-technical professionals is not only possible, but that there are many more ways to do it than you probably think. Juliet, Oksana and Ronan are just three examples, but there are many more.

Would you like to become one of them too?

Sophia MatveevaAbout the author

Sophia Matveeva MBA is the founder of Tech for Non-Techies, an education company and consultancy (with a very useful podcast).


women in tech, soft skills featured

New year, new you? Try sharpening the tools you already have

women in tech, soft skills

The New Year often carries with it promises to make vast changes in our professional and personal lives, with January heralding calls of ‘this will be my year!’.

But, rather than trying to completely reinvent yourself, it’s often better to work with the skills you’ve already got within your midst.

Take Q2Q IT as an example. Managing director, Lorna Stellakis, is a strong advocate for optimising the infrastructure you already have at your disposal – be it tech or talent – and here, she explains how you can too.

Resolutions and rituals are often set with the best of intentions but can often be broken should the implementation not be ‘easy’. While making a change will always cause some disruption to the norm, in many cases a grand shift isn’t the answer.

Often, simply exploring the capabilities of something you already have – or pay for – can revolutionise your life. And, in terms of tech, this could be extracting every ounce of value from a product or service, by understanding all of its respective ‘bells and whistles’.

When purchasing, you might plump for an ‘add on’ service – a relatively small extra investment which could result in considerably more value to the system or equipment.

And, as a very people-focused business leader, I believe this also applies to colleagues.

With the exception of our admin staff, the team at Q2Q are all highly skilled techies, and the main purpose of their day-to-day role is creating solutions for clients, as well as solving any IT-related issues which crop up.

However, if we stuck to the stereotypical techie role profile, you could stop there and generalise their work as simply ‘doing technical stuff’. And I am sure the company owners reading this will identify with such a sentiment.

When I took over the reins of the Q2Q ship in 2018, I made it my mission to delve further into each one of my colleagues – their skillsets, motivations for coming to work, and what they see as ‘a job well done’.

By understanding what makes them tick – their preferred ways of working, and what they’re passionate about – I could quickly see they were each capable of adding additional value to the business, that wasn’t already being utilised.

In fact, we all have skills beyond those required in our basic job description.

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Talent within the team

Take our technical consultant Damien Gelder as an example. He is a whiz at coming up with analogies that perfectly explain a complex issue in an easy-to-understand way. He uses this talent in all sorts of situations too, and we see it called upon on a daily basis – particularly when trying to introduce a new product to a client that we believe will make their lives easier, or giving a non-technical demonstrations of a service to a prospect.

On the other hand, Ash Williams, our technical support engineer, has an obsessive attention to detail and is extremely methodical in the way he works. So, if we need a complex project scoping out, we call on his expertise to ensure all the steps are ticked off and there are no stages missed.

Phil Irwin, another of our technical support engineers, has strong people skills and is great at seeing a variety of perspectives in any given situation, which translates perfectly into relating to our clients. That’s why he’s our ‘customer excellence champion’ and, if we’re looking to alter any of our processes, he’s our ‘go to’ when it comes to sense-checking changes.

Then, regarding seeing themes in IT-related situations, technical support engineer Harrison Burke comes into his own during our team meetings! We rely on him to highlight where there is a recurring pattern and offer solutions to nip this in the bud, by rolling out new internal processes to all customers.

In fact, all the of the team now have a specialism that is predominantly non-technical!

Not only does this add something extra to the firm’s dynamic – by playing to everyone’s strengths – but it adds value to the service we offer and gives everyone a sense of purpose beyond just doing their job.

So, while I’m not sure that I could get away with describing the Q2Q crew as: “tools that previously needed sharpening,”, that’s essentially what we’ve done!

Making the most of what you have is not only a cost-effective and time-efficient way of making sure you’re getting the maximum out of existing investments, but also identifying where you may need to plug any gaps.

That’s why, it’s worth having an IT reassessment, or audit, every year – or six months if you’re growing rapidly – to make sure it’s continuing to do what you need it to.

If you’d like to chat to us about any of the additional services mentioned above – or you have any other questions about what’s possible from your IT setup – give us a call on 01524 581690, or drop us a direct message!

About the author

Lorna Stellakis, MD of Q2Q ITMy role is to provide the overall direction and “eye on the compass” as to where we, as a team are heading, setting the overall business strategy and financial budgeting. Whilst always having been involved with systems implementation throughout my career, I have an operational background and no specific IT experience. However, if anything, I believe this makes me more qualified to ensure the team deliver great service, drawing from my operations experience, and having been on the wrong side of poor IT support in the past. I can relate to how crippling this can be to a business, making it paramount that we ensure that IT issues are as invisible as possible, leaving the customers to get on with running their businesses smoothly.