Charlotte Woffindin featured

Inspirational Women: Charlotte Woffindin | Senior Program Manager at Amazon (London)


Charlotte Woffindin, is a Senior Program Manager at Amazon (London).

Charlotte Amazon

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To be honest, no. I have always done things that interest me and that I enjoy – I think that is really important, otherwise the days just drag. I spent five years working for a big high-street bank before joining Amazon. Whilst there I “tried on” different roles in agricultural banking, strategy, and communications before finding I really enjoyed designing training curriculums. That’s how I got into Amazon and working with the tech community designing onboarding training for Amazon’s global SDE hires. I have loved every minute of it and learn something new every hour!

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I love a challenge! I studied IT and web design at A-level then went on to major in business at university, so starting at Amazon was a huge challenge as the engineers I worked with appeared to speak a different language, and designing training programs where I knew nothing about the content really stretched me. But I found that asking questions was the way for me to find out more, and identify the people who could really help me. The people who first helped me three years ago are still helping me today – they just bring more engineers to the conversation!

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?

Give it a go. I find that I surprise myself more than I surprise the people around me – they know what I’m capable of, more than I do. My advice would be to build a great network around you, find role models and watch what they do. Everything is new once, and until you try it out you’ll never know if you can do it. One of the greatest pleasures throughout my career is when I’m able to help someone reach their goal – whether it’s coaching them to deliver a great presentation, to become a great facilitator or to achieve a result they thought impossible. It’s a great thing to watch and be a part of.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Their passion and enthusiasm, and the way they earn trust. At Amazon, that is so important – earning trust opens so many doors, and can often be overlooked. Many of my successes here have been through having the right conversations with great people. When hiring at Amazon, we have fourteen Leadership Principles that help to guide how we work, how our leaders lead and how we all make decisions on behalf of our customers.

These principles aren’t just something we put up on a wall – we use them every day, whether we’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates.

Being someone who fulfils these principles is normally the deciding factor for hires.

How do you manage your own boss?

My boss is based in the US, so we don’t get much time to talk. I “manage” him by keeping them informed – regardless of how small a thing it is. I keep him in the know about wins, misses and things I’ve learnt. Especially when I’ve build a new relationship which could benefit the team in other ways.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My day usually starts with my cycling to work – it’s a great way to get the blood pumping, some calories burned and me focusing my head on what I need to do. Then I tackle my emails; as my team is mainly Seattle-based, most of my emails come through when I’m asleep. An hour of email-admin then I can know what needs to be done that day (that I might not have known about the day before) and continue working on my big projects. Towards the end of my day is when my team starts to come online, so it’s a few calls with them and state-side partners before I cycle the nine miles home.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Say yes to new opportunities. You are the greatest cheerleader for you and your career. Sometimes you will get lucky and someone will notice you, but most of the time it’s through being seen (and heard). I remember the first time I was asked to speak at an event, and the reason they asked me was because they had seen me doing the introductions at a conference the previous week.

I put my hand up to introduce the keynote and that was the start of something I do pretty regularly now. Saying yes, although scary, can be really powerful for opening up some great opportunities. So whether it’s speaking at new hire inductions, delivering training or working on a difficult project, say yes and don’t look back. You will regret the things you didn’t do more than they things you did!

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Absolutely! Although it’s usually pretty informal, I’ll ask for help and advice from people around me, and I also try and attend great training about coaching, speaking and other topics I’m interested in. When I’m at conferences I’ll try and speak with interesting people there, as it’s amazing who you meet and what you gain from meeting for coffee (or wine) after.

I find myself surrounded by amazing people all the time, and make the effort to go to events where there are leaders speaking or panels, even if it means I have to work a little later in the day.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?

Networking can be scary, but the secret is that most people feel the same way. My top tips would be: [1] go with a friend, it’s easier when you know someone and getting into the first conversation together is a great ice-breaker; [2] take a look at the attendee list before (if it’s available), map out who you want to talk to and have a couple of great questions ready and a short intro about you ready; and [3] join a conversation that is already underway, listen for a while and join in when you feel comfortable. Or if you are like me, stand by the bar – everyone grabs a drink and it’s amazing who you can start talking to there!

What does the future hold for you?

Who knows! I’m just about to start a new role in Amazon Web Services, so that should be a great learning curve and something different. I want to continue working with great people and challenging myself in new areas at Amazon. But as long as I am enjoying my job and continuing to learn, I could be doing anything!

Tell us three things about yourself that would surprise us!
  • I’m a classically trained singer and often asked to sing at weddings
  • I’ve had dinner inside the England Rugby dressing room and
  • I cycled the 100-mile Ride London challenge in seven hours 24 mins for Alzheimer’s Society this July!

Catherine Breslin featured

Inspirational Women: Catherine Breslin | Manager, Machine Learning at Amazon Alexa


Catherine Breslin, is the Manager of a team of machine learning scientists working on the speech and language technology behind Amazon Alexa (Cambridge, UK).

Catherine Amazon

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never sat down and planned out my career in depth, but I’ve always had some idea of my next step and how I should achieve it. I grew up being interested in computers and technology, and I chose to study Engineering at university. It was only in my final year there that I learned about the field of machine learning and I became interested in how we can teach computers to do complex tasks such as understanding speech and language.

I went on to do a masters and PhD on the topic of automatic speech recognition. Since then, I’ve been fortunate that the field has been growing rapidly and many different opportunities have come my way. At times, I’ve had to think hard about which direction to take, but have normally chosen the opportunity that has given me the most scope to learn new skills.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

It is great to be challenged, but it can be daunting and uncomfortable at times. I find the best way to deal with challenges is to prepare well – by reading as much as I can about new topics and talking to others who have faced similar issues. Then I break the larger problem down into smaller chunks that can be tackled one at a time. I do the same for all challenges, whether it’s something at work like tackling a new and complex technical problem, or something at home like working out how best to juggle family life.

When faced with two equally qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

I would hire them both! As machine learning is such a fast growing field with large potential, we struggle to find enough qualified candidates to fill our roles.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

My day starts with a strong cup of coffee as I’m not a morning person! After the school run, I sit down at my desk to go over emails. Our daily team ‘standup’ meeting is also in the morning, where I catch up with the team and the status of our work.

We work closely with other teams in both the US and in the EU, and partnering with colleagues in multiple time-zones means that good communication is key.

Hence my workday often ends with a video call between different teams to keep our joint projects on track.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have had a number of great mentors who have helped me at different times in my career. I think that having someone to talk to and bounce ideas off who is outside of your immediate team can be very useful as they have a different perspective and are less influenced by the dynamics of your particular team. Outside of formal mentoring programs, I’m fortunate to know a great network of people to turn to who have a breadth of experience and lots of helpful advice.

What does the future hold for you?

Machine learning has a lot of potential to impact the world, and I think we are only just at the beginning of seeing the benefit it can bring. When I was growing up, the thought of being able to speak naturally to a device and have it respond was still the stuff of sci-fi films. But now, speech and language technology has advanced and is in products like Alexa, and used by a large number of people. Voice is the future and can fundamentally improve the way people will interact with technology.

We are still a long way off being able to converse with a computer in an entirely natural way, but the systems are getting smarter every day.

capgemini featured

Capgemini flexible working: Update


capgemini featuredIn a blog post last year, the CEO of our Applications Business, Paul Margetts reflected on our corporate culture around flexibility.

He said that whilst we were starting in a good place, with 61 per cent of our employees saying they felt they had flexibility around their personal circumstances, he wanted to see this improve to 100 per cent. We’ve worked hard on this over the last year. Internally, we focussed our efforts on empowering our people to work collaboratively to get a better balance between their work and personal lives. We re-shaped our Work Life Harmony policy, in recognition that whilst formal flexible working patterns are great, sometimes an informal arrangement can be just as powerful.

We encourage our employees to have conversations with their managers and teams to find ways of working which suit them, and the teams around them.

Speaking personally, I think I’ve got people in my circle at work who work pretty much every pattern going, from people like Sales Director Mary, who works full time, but always collaborates with her teams to make sure she can support her sons when they need her; to Andrew who starts and finishes early so that he can be home for his kids’ bath-time. Mary and Andrew both have informal arrangements in place, but there are others who have formal flexible working arrangements in place, like Lisa, who works term-time hours only, and Caroline who works four days a week. All of these individuals are client-facing, and recognised high performers, and “must-haves” for key projects – they are brilliant ambassadors for flexible working approaches which are right for the individuals and their teams.

We’ve made great progress in the last year, with a shift of seven percentage points, taking us to almost 70 per cent of our employees who feel they have flexibility around their personal circumstances.

We’re proud of the progress we’ve made, and we still want to do more. One of the areas where we really wanted to make a difference, was with our openness to a more flexible approach for new hires. We weren’t alone – the brilliant “Hire Me My Way” campaign recognises that this is a challenge in many areas of professional life, with new recruits rarely being offered the opportunity for flexibility which you might see as an existing employee (The Timewise Flexible Jobs Index states that “only 8.7 per cent of jobs paid £20,000 or more (full time equivalent) are advertised with part-time or flexible options”). So our Apps business, under Paul’s guidance, have taken another bold step.

All of our new roles are now advertised with the commitment that if you are the right person for the job, we will have a conversation with you about the way you want to work. We want to make sure that we find the right people to work in our teams, and we know that working full-time isn’t necessarily right for everyone. If you are the right person for a role with us, we will find the way of working which suits you.

To find out more, visit our careers pages.

About the author

Tricia Driver, Capgemini

As part of my role as our Capgemini Consulting Strategic Learning and Development Business Partner, I retain a strong focus on inclusion from my previous role as Capgemini's UK Talent Diversity and Inclusion Lead. I’m driven by ensuring that we attract, retain and develop the best possible talent from as broad a population as possible. We know that teams with a rich diversity of backgrounds and profiles are the ones which come up with cutting edge innovative solutions. We have a terrific offering for all our employees, and we want to make sure that message is out there in the market place for everyone to see. I believe that inclusion is about more than just the absence of exclusion. We have to make a proactive and concerted effort to ensure that everyone in our organisation feels completely free to be their real selves at work.

Women in Tech

Pioneering change for female leadership


Women in Tech
Just 24 per cent of respondents to a recent Skillsoft survey reported that they felt their organisations had a strategy in place to develop women leaders.

Whilst there may be unofficial women’s groups within companies, often programmes specifically designed for female development are not implemented. This seems a counterintuitive business strategy when research shows that getting more women into leadership positions can make a significant difference to the bottom line.

In 2012, Bloomberg published a study of 2,360 companies, conducted by the Credit Suisse Research Institute, which compared company financial results based on the makeup of leadership teams. It found that companies with a market capitalisation of more than $10 billion and with women board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 per cent worldwide. DDI, a global human resources firm, also found that in the top 20 per cent of companies – in terms of financial performance – 37 per cent of their leaders were women. In the bottom 20 per cent, women comprised just 19 per cent of the leadership.

More than 9 out of 10 of respondents in Skillsoft’s recent survey agreed that there is a lack of women in leadership. Most companies have a lot of capable women who simply are not making it into leadership roles, and organisations cannot afford to underutilise this significant percentage of their workforce. The key question that needs to be answered is how to best use this untapped resource, which comprises almost half of the country’s total workforce.

Businesses need to ensure talent pipelines are realising the full potential of the female workforce. The best performing companies in this area are taking small, simple, yet effective steps to increase the number of women in senior leadership positions.

 Implementing change

 Tapping into this talent requires changes across the board. This includes changing behaviour, process and the culture within an organisation. Companies have had some success by fostering greater senior leader accountability, by becoming less biased in decision-making processes and by changing their cultures to be more inclusive. In reality, however, there is often a lot of talk and little action.

The 2016 McKinsey ‘Women in the Workplace’ report found that approximately 75 per cent of US CEOs felt gender diversity was a priority. But is this reflected within the organisations? When Skillsoft conducted primary research on the topic, 71 per cent of respondents felt that their organisations were not doing enough to address the lack of women in senior leadership roles.

While the intention to change is often present, when attempting to implement strategies, good intentions often meet a lack of will across an organisation. A variety of common factors contribute to the ineffectiveness of change efforts.

 Addressing the gender gap

HR leaders are often pressured to deliver results that demonstrate they are addressing the gender gap. They need to produce evidence that programmes are in place and projects are underway. Many efforts do in fact produce useful outcomes, but they often fall short of their full potential because they are not fully integrated into the organisation. When training is not consistent, widespread and fully integrated into the culture of an organisation, it can very easily turn into a check box activity.

Women’s leadership training has a much higher efficacy when integrated the whole organisation. Too often, a selected group of women are offered sporadic professional development opportunities, where they attend one or a few sessions without any specific follow-up, measurement of progress, or any attempt to link the programme to particular leadership skill gaps. Women return to their daily work environment, and due to lack of on-going reinforcement and environmental support required to cement any changes, the organisation as a whole fails to make any meaningful change.

 Identifying areas to change

Women often predominate in human resources and marketing but are less represented in operations, finance, R&D and other areas of the business. Some businesses do exceptionally well at talent development, but struggle with promotion. Others excel at helping women get into positions of power but face challenges in keeping them there. Identifying what the organisation already does well and where it needs to change enables the challenge to be broken down into more manageable aspects. These can be assessed, changed and measured for success against specific progress criteria.

Myriad changes have been identified as effective, including expanding the talent pipeline in recruitment, job diversity, and middle and senior leadership by broadening where the talent is identified. By identifying and changing the unconscious biases embedded in the decision-making processes around talent, mind-sets will open up and women are empowered to realise they are capable of moving into positions of leadership. Continued professional growth and development, including focused training with follow-up and implementation support, then helps ensure these benefits are sustained.

Starting small

Widespread, lasting changes are not easy to make. Large organisations are often successful at creating lasting change by starting the process with one team, in a single business unit or defined area of the organisation. They learn what works, and the effort can then be scaled into other areas of the organisation.

Businesses need to start small to provide an opportunity to experiment and create a comfortable pace of change. Commitment to company-wide leadership programmes that are relevant, time efficient and flexible is key. Leadership education must focus on key competencies required for career growth at all levels. To meet the time demands of all workers, education programs should be efficient and tailored to fit the experience level of each employee. Starting small creates built-in change agents for a wider rollout and means everyone can become comfortable with the pace of change. It also yields examples that can be shared organisation-wide to increase understanding and reduce resistance. Like any area of sustained change though, the development of women for leadership roles requires continuous, on-going education.

About the author

This article was provided by Tony Glass, VP and GM EMEA at Skillsoft.

Where are the role models? Why more women in tech is essential to the younger generation


Tech event
There’s a multitude of valuable careers for women in technology. Unfortunately, not enough women are embarking on them yet.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills revealed that just 26 per cent of those working in the digital sector are women. And although there are government initiatives in the works to introduce greater gender diversity into tech roles, the industry must play a part for these initiatives to be a success.

In short, we need more female role models. And we need them now.

Here’s why. There’s currently a drive within schools to shake up the way children are taught about computing. The long-in-the-tooth ICT courses are being replaced by computer science GCSEs. This is great news, reflecting the changing way that we interact with computers, as well as the new skill sets needed to thrive in the digital economy. The only problem is that the uptake of the new qualification simply isn’t high enough.

As reported by the BBC in June, the British Computing Society revealed that the number studying for a computing qualification could halve by 2020. A major contributor to that decline is a lack of interest from girls. In fact, only 20 per cent of those who took the computer science exam last year were female. And that’s the battle we’re facing here. Girls don’t always see careers in technology as something suited to them. There is and will increasingly be such a huge reliance on tech across more sectors than ever seen before so we need to find a way to change that – and quickly.

As an industry, we want and need a talent pipeline filled with young women who are excited by the prospect of working with technology. To do this, we need to recognise and act upon the fact that there is something of an image problem we need to address. An important part of that is to move beyond the stereotypical image of the IT, engineering and technology worker being male. Another issue is to communicate the incredibly diverse range of roles which use technology.

Yes, there are female coders, and yes, we do want more, but just as important are the other jobs in technology and using technology that aren’t communicated or showcased as often; frequently because they are brand new roles.

Everything from marketing to consultancy and leadership to sales, from social innovation, to data science and creative roles, can all be found across the employment landscape.

Female voice

The onus is on businesses to create and highlight the female role models that will inspire the next generation of STEM workers. We need to increase the number of women in the industry but, at the same time, we also need to celebrate those who are already working in the sector. We must illustrate the variety of their roles and what their jobs actually entail, how they operate, and how tech roles have evolved across multiple sectors.

Businesses need to be doing more to find and showcase female spokespeople from within their companies. Crucially, it’s not just about broadcasting the views of women at the top (which we’re already so good at doing). These roles may not appeal or be realistic to every potential applicant.

We also need to start looking at how to showcase female spokespeople from every level within the business to demonstrate the wide variety of opportunities available in the industry.

Establishing female role models in this way will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will speak to those who already have the skills and are looking for opportunities. Sometimes, the issue can also be one of retention: ensuring that those with the talent come to our industry and stay there to develop themselves and their careers. When they see the possibilities of those who have already been successful within the industry, it could give them the extra motivation they need to seek wider, higher or different opportunities using their skills, knowledge and expertise – often across different vertical sectors.

Secondly, it will be helpful to those who are currently at school and considering what kind of career choices they could be making. Female role models, or females using STEM skills and showcasing how they could be applied in a variety of roles, help challenge the concepts of jobs for boys and jobs for girls, demonstrating how tech is a sector for all comers, with roles that are rewarding and attractive.

Diversity breeds success

Businesses that do this will help themselves both now and in the long term. There are many benefits to having a diverse workforce. Gender diversity guarantees a workforce with a varied skillset. It’s a workforce that is both productive and able to successfully engage with its diverse customer community. Statistics show that companies who encourage gender diversity within their management teams enjoy more than average growth and an increased return on equity.

Indeed, businesses should be at the heart of creating a more diverse technology sector. Not only does it help safeguard their individual companies for the future, it also helps nurture talent across the board. This means communicating with women who may want to join a fascinating industry. And who better to tell those stories than the women themselves?

About the author

This article was provided by Lynn Collier, COO UK&I, Hitachi Data Systems.


Recruiting for the FinTech industry


Marieke Flament is a respected technology leader and is currently heading up the European expansion of leading social payments app Circle. Here she provides insight into what she looks for when recruiting for this fiercely competitive industry.

People are the life and blood of any organisation and this is particularly true when talking about a FinTech startup. Having an analytical mind and entrepreneurial spirit are pretty much a given for any candidate even wishing to get to the interview stage.

But when recruiting we look for a lot more than just possessing the right skill sets. In a small startup it’s essential the candidate is the right cultural fit. Whilst candidates may look the part on paper, how will they fit into the existing team? Are candidates passionate about the problem you want to solve? Do they share the company’s values and character traits?

I’m often asked what we look for in candidates during the interview process and would say the following are all essential:


At Circle we are not just a social payment app, we are on a revolution to make money work the way the internet does so that the world can be a better place for our customers. That's a big and ambitious vision -and we want people who understand and share our vision. In an interview, I test this by asking people why they want to work for Circle and assess what they think of the app.


In a startup the highs are high and the lows are low - we need resilient people, people who can learn from mistakes (and it's ok to make mistakes!) and bounce back. In our industry you cannot afford to stand still and wait for things to happen because you are too afraid of making a mistake.


We need people with a "go-get-it" attitude - there is no job too low for anyone to do! From setting up your own computer, to picking up the phone for someone else and to making the coffees. In a small team everyone needs to pull together irrespective of their title.


Working in such a multifaceted industry such as FinTech it is vital a candidate demonstrates a willingness to step outside their comfort zone and learn about other areas i.e. marketing, regulation, risk. We are looking for well-rounded, multi-skilled people, avid to learn new skills as our industry is continuously evolving and requires you to keep learning.

Creative but practical

What we do has never been done before, and therefore there is no manual or ‘How to Guide’ we can refer to. Therefore, we need people to not only be creative to find new ways of doing things, but also practical. If someone is creative but not practical then nothing will get done - and we need to get stuff done. Be “creatively practical!”

FinTech as an industry employing over 61,000 people and generates billions of pounds of revenue for the UK’s economy. The possibilities for this industry are endless and competition to work in it is fierce. As for most jobs, having the right grades and qualifications is not enough. You need to possess traits which cannot be taught and are innate, and share the passion of the company you want to join. If you have all the above then you are well on your way!

Women in IT

Why is there a shortage of women in IT?

women in IT
Image via Pixabay
Its 2017 and Britain has recently celebrated a record number of female MPS winning seats in the UK general election.

Women head up the Tate Britain, National Gallery and BAFTA, and across the country more women are getting accepted into university than their male contemporaries. However, when it comes to IT, the statistics look very different.

Women are wildly underrepresented in the IT world and with a shortage of female employees in managerial and technical roles, the industry is suffering. TechCrunch reported last year that only five per cent of leadership positions in the corporate tech industry are held by women and this is set to decline even further as the percentage of women in the US computing industry is projected to drop from 24 per cent to 22 per cent by 2025.  Even tech giants like Google have struggled to address this inequality with the company admitting that only 17 per cent of its technical workforce are female.

Alongside the glaring benefits of a more equal workforce such as more diverse viewpoints and wider skills sets leading to better business decisions, the most frustrating issue at play here is that there is already a dearth of talent in IT which desperately needs to be filled. The Guardian projects that if the current trajectory continues, there will be one million more jobs in the industry than graduates to fill them by 2020.

Cyber security in particular has been hit hard, with a decline in skilled workers that is set to leave the industry 1.8 million short by 2022 according to a Frost and Sullivan report, and in the current climate, this is an area that cannot be ignored. By encouraging women to pursue these roles and consider IT as a viable career option, this demand could easily be met and the industry would benefit as a result - after all, women use technology as much as men so to use their skills in innovation will widen the market and help to fill product gaps for female consumers.

However, moving towards a more gender equal workforce in IT industries is easier said than done. Widespread change is required in the perception and attitude towards women working in tech, with many females facing unfair stereotyping and discrimination for choosing what is perceived by many in society to be a male career. We see that girls are less inclined to pursue technical subjects from a young age as although 57 per cent of US college students are female, 82 per cent of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) are male and this comes down to education, with a shortage of female STEM teachers and role models to influence students.

The women that do end up in a technical careers often face greater challenges than their male counterparts as they struggle to fit in as a minority in the workplace. It is also speculated that in general, female employees are less boastful of their contributions, letting male colleagues step in and take credit for their work in a professional environment, meaning that their victories go unnoticed by management and they are less likely to be promoted.

It is clear that there is a need for wider societal change to redress the gender balance in the tech workplace. We may be wise to take tips from countries like Russia who boast high percentages of females in technology roles compared to the rest of the world and put this down to strong role models, a gender neutral school curriculum and an attitude towards science as a national priority, and an area that all citizens can be proud to work in. However, there are already movements across the UK to move towards a more equal attitude towards tech jobs, with the Girl Guides pioneering new badges for coding and computer skills for its members and companies offering a wide range of  IT positions for girls considering a career in the industry.

About the author:

Rowan Chernin writes about Tech and outdoor activities including a life-long obsession with the English coast line.

Zelica Jones

Inspirational Woman: Zelica Jones | Founder of VASS


Zelica Jones is the founder of Vass; a virtual assistant business which provides administrative, accounting, legal, HR, event co-ordination, marketing (including social media management) support, which in turn frees up your time to focus on the activities that bring in the most income for your business.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No.  When I was younger, I wanted to be a Barrister and then an Athlete.  But I was really good at Maths so my Head Teacher suggested I should be an Accountant.  I was never sure whether that was something I actually wanted to do and didn’t make a firm decision about my career until I started my business in 2014.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I have faced many challenges! Racism, sexism, feelings of not being good enough and doubting myself.  But my mum and kids are my biggest cheerleaders and soon have me feeling great about myself. Whenever I feel down, I just spend time with my family who will have me hysterically laugh and feeling a lot better. Exercise also helps.  If I’m feeling overwhelmed, I head to the gym and run.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Make a five year plan. Decide where you want to be in five years time and then work backwards. Where you want to be in four years, three years, two year, one year, six months.  Make sure you look at that plan at those intervals to make sure you are still on track or if your goals need adjusting because the plan has changed.

How is your own company/organisation improving diversity and balance?

I am black, female and a working mum so I tick a few boxes myself! I also want as many different people working with me so we can appeal to as many clients as possible.

How do you manage your own boss?

Badly! I am the boss and find it hard that I’m not accountable to anyone sometimes.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I’m awake by 6am to get my son ready for school and we are out of the house by 6.50am.  Once I drop him off at 8am and get the train into Central London, I check emails and social media.  Before I go to bed, I go through my diary and organise my next day and add any tasks to my to do list which have come up.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Be visible and speak up. Women stereotypically just get on with things and can fade into the background.  Make yourself known to those who are the decision makers.  Be vocal about your ambitions and show initiative.  Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

It has helped gain clarity over various aspects of my life; made me accountable; keeps me motivated; have someone I can offload/brain dump to.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker

Networking is great but network where your ideal client or people who are where you want to be in the future will be.  Networking isn’t about having fun, it’s work.  Have any agenda or plan of action about what you hope to get out of attending that event

What does the future hold for you?

The next two years I plan to grow the company to a stage where I only handle a maximum of two clients and start The VASS Community Project (VCP).  VCP will a fully funded version of VASS where we help train people in Accounting, Admin, Marketing/PR, Design, Social Media Management skills to give them a flexible way to work.

Perhaps they have been a stay at home mum who wants to get back into the working world but has found that she can’t afford to because childcare is too expensive.  I want to train as many people as possible in Virtual work.

agnie featured

Inspirational Woman: Agnieszka May-Sadowska | Area Vice President of Central and Eastern Europe at Commvault


Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

While I can’t say that I planned my career step by step, I did make some very conscious decisions while at university that I believe helped put me in the best possible position to achieve success.

Of course, an advantage for me is that I have always been interested in how businesses run and what makes them successful, for example what strategic decisions do companies make to ensure success?

In a sense this is probably how I have always approached my career, and, by doing my dissertation on strategic management I was in a perfect position to put everything I learned into practise – starting with my very first job xxx years back. Since then, I have dedicated my career to growing companies, studying the market, making as smart, informed decisions as I can and always being conscious of the long term results I was aiming for.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I face challenges of varying degrees every day – but in all honesty, given my ‘go getter’ personality, if there were no challenges and nothing to overcome, it’s highly likely that I would get bored.

That said, I am definitely someone who prefers to work with a plan, but when an obstacle does present itself, I feel it’s important to have the presence of mind to be flexible within reason i.e. if the obstacle can’t be moved, don’t fixate on the original plan but find a way to work around it. It might not be the original route you planned to get there, but the important thing is that you still achieve the goal, even if the journey takes a detour! Add a healthy dose of determination to stay focused, and you’ll go far in achieving your goals.

What advice would you give to someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

If you are keen to take on a leadership role, it’s important to remember is that there is a difference between being a manager and being a leader. A leader guides and develops ideas that support the day-to-day strategy, which is implemented by others. A leader’s role is to create a vision and a set of goals, sharing the desired end-result with the team and empowering them to create and follow a path to get there.

Leaders also communicate in a different way to anyone else in the business. They talk about “we” instead of “me”.

They talk about coming together as a collective to achieve a bigger goal. It is a mind-set change and often comes naturally to leaders as they step into this role.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Honestly, I have to say I have not often found myself in this position - there are always differences, even if small – that set people apart. Especially as you become more involved in hiring for more senior positions, the qualifications of candidates vary greatly.

However, if I did find myself in this unique situation, I would trust my gut feeling. The more you interview, the more you find that you have an intuition about people as soon as you meet them and I would advise following that. The other important factor to consider is how this candidate would represent your business. If they interact with partners and customers, would you be proud to have them be the face of your company?

How do you manage your own boss?

That is quite an interesting expression, “manage your own boss”- it’s kind of a contradiction in terms! I think the best way to have a great working relationship with your boss is to remember it is just that, a relationship, a two-way street based on trust from both parties, that has developed over time.

As an example my last boss and I had an excellent working relationship. We had similar ways of working, both being, goals and results driven, and focused on business outcome first and foremost. Working with a boss who has the same outlook as you do always makes it easier, but unfortunately this doesn’t always happen. I have worked for other people who are the complete opposite from me, and the biggest issue that created conflict was their impatience.

The best way to instill confidence in an impatient boss is to always set out a plan of action - show that you understand the end goal and have specific steps planned to achieve it.

You may not be able to give them the results they are looking for immediately, but well-thought out plan will always be appreciated.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I always try to start or end my day with exercise – granted this is easier said than done, but whenever I can I try to fit it in. Exercising is a great way to rebalance, relieve stress and clear the mind. It also inspires different ways of thinking and can present solutions to problems you never thought of.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Create an environment that cultivates celebrating success – especially your own. I strongly believe this is one area where we as women really sell ourselves short. We are quick to praise others, but often forget to do promote ourselves after a big win or successful project.

This also applies when looking for your next opportunity. If a job opens and you are thinking about applying, don’t over analyse or second guess yourself. Reflect on you experience and skill set – don’t doubt your abilities – believe in yourself and take the jump. You never know what doors it could open.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

If I look back to the start of my career the concept of mentoring was not as prominent within the industry, especially for women in such a male dominated environment as tech. Personally, I had to rely on my own confidence to go for it. I observed my male colleagues, adapted what they did and had conviction in my ability to achieve exactly the same as they did, perhaps even more!

I think this is a tried and true method of growing in your career. Find someone that you admire, in a position that you one day would like to fill, and emulate them. Learn from how they carry themselves, what they contribute in meetings and how others respond to them. Also, if there is someone who volunteers to mentor you and provide guidance and feedback, always take advantage of this, even if it is not necessarily someone who you would have chosen – you will definitely benefit.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?

I think networking is extremely important. We are social animals and can always benefit from meeting new people, expanding our connections and engaging in educational conversation. My three tips to a newbie networker are:

  • Networking takes time and effort to maintain. Commit to this and it will be worth your while
  • Show genuine interest in others - good networking is a two-way street
  • Ensure that who you network with aligns with what you hope to get out of it
What does the future hold for you?

I am really optimistic about the future. I am really happy with my professional achievements to date, but like everyone else I am still focused on career progression and looking for ways to better myself and my team. A new priority for me is also to find balance between my work and private life.

I am a mother who values her career, so finding time to nurture both is a new challenge that I am facing. But right now I am healthy, happy and living my dream – and I am not shy about sharing that.

Dunola Oladapo

Inspirational Woman: Dunola Oladapo | Morgan Stanley FX Support Analyst


WeAreTheCity spoke with Dunola Oladapo, a 22-year-old recent graduate from Royal Holloway, who currently works as an analyst at Morgan Stanley. She is also the UK ambassador at the G(irls) 20 summit.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely! It is important to have short, medium and long term visions. Life is unpredictable though, and no matter how meticulously we plan things, life happens. But career goals and plans help cushion the bumps along the way.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Everyone faces challenges, I try to see challenges as opportunities. I think the most productive approach is to focus on solutions rather than the problems.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Go for it! Sometimes, the best way to learn and grow is to actually veer from theory to practical. Everyone has the capacity to lead and I would advise that one carefully evaluates their strengths and weaknesses.

Self-awareness will help to develop your unique leadership style.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Beyond technical skills are the key transferable skills needed in many professional settings. These include teamwork, leadership, time management, confidence etc this is why I am such an advocate for meaningful social action.

How do you manage your own boss?

I think transparency is key. Wise transparency means that I am appropriately open about my ideas, plans, ambitions and areas of improvement. This helps to manage their expectations and attitudes towards me.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

Start: After my long trip to work, I turn on my computer, check my personal inbox and the team inbox then just begin to reach out to our London FX traders to provide points so that I can start funding for the day.

End: Having completed my tasks for the day, I usually just ensure I check again against the team daily checklist. After one final look at my emails, I leave the office.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations

Get involved in something outside your team! When I first joined Morgan Stanley, one of the things that helped me settle in was joining the firm-wide Choir! I also try to attend ad hoc talks and events and speak to new people.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

As a Girls20 ambassador, I have had the opportunity to be coached by my amazing Edelman coaches Angela and Gabriella. This has been so awesome because they have taught me so much about how to really express myself for maximum impact. They have encouraged me to exhibit my ideas in the most effective way and I am immensely grateful for the experience!

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker

Networking is everything! It is so much more than the activities within the confines of a formal networking event. Here are some tips that really work for me:

  • There is a saying that people don't always remember what you say but how you make them feel, bearing this in mind be as courteous and engaging as you can.
  • Maintain the relationships by saving contact details and reaching out appropriately. Follow up by perhaps sending occasional messages on LinkedIn/email/text. One should endeavour to maintain the relationship because we have no idea who someone will be in the future!
  • Try to come across as a giver. For example, if you meet someone who you want to mentor you, rather than approaching them like 'I just want all your knowledge and experience' maybe be like 'I am enthusiastic to learn from you and possibly positively contribute to you/others around me in some form'.
What does the future hold for you?

I am excited about launching my girls’ empowerment organisation in Luton! I can't wait to hopefully inspire more females into currently male-dominated industries.

No one can tell what exactly the future holds but I think that mine will include constantly formulating solutions and making positive impacts in my communities.