desk-with-laptopArticle by Steph Ashby, Sales Manager within the Public Sector for UiPath, the market leader in robotic process automation (RPA)

I love my kids and they were the most beautiful babies in the world, ever, – fact- but I definitely would have been stark raving mad if I’d stayed at home with them, so getting back to work was a priority.

It was hard.  I went through the whole gamut of buying guilt presents for my first born in my lunch hour, trying desperately to reconcile getting that bid out the door with getting home for bath time, heart aching for them when away for work. The fact is you just can’t do it all.

I remember waking up one day, my tiny daughter vomiting and unable to go to childcare or a friend’s house, my boyfriend already at work, no family locally and me with a full diary including a meeting with half the board.  Crisis. Stress. Cue wonderful Mother in law driving 50 miles to take care of the sick baby. I virtually threw the ill baby at her and ran out the door, ran to the station, made it to the meeting 10 minutes late. I slid guiltily into my seat (the only woman, and the only one late, the only one sweating profusely) as my lovely colleague surreptitiously handed me pen and paper. ‘ what did I miss gentlemen?’. Honestly if they knew what it had taken to get there they would have made me a cup of tea (or a large gin), awarded me a day off, and pinned a ‘dedicated to the cause’ medal to my breast.  But no, they just noticed that I was a bit late. And they probably didn’t care. And several years on I still remember it, but they won’t.

Career Development

  • Say ‘yes’ to things.  Experimenting may lead you to find something that you love and are good at, that you may initially think isn’t suited to you.  Whatever the outcome you will learn from it. For me changing direction to be a programmer and working in IT (way back in ancient times before the internet was invented) was a huge departure and everyone thought I’d fail as I was rubbish at maths (I thought I might fail too, but actually ended up a fully-fledged tech geek).  Here I am 30 years later proving them all wrong .  But don’t be afraid to change direction – there are always options and new paths – you just need to look for them.
  • Ask! Women can be reticent about asking to take on new roles and responsibilities, or to be considered for promotions. We assume that everyone can see how good and efficient we are. News is, they often can’t , or don’t notice because they are too busy dealing with their own stuff – or listening to the people who are telling them how wonderful they are at their job. How many times have you seen a less qualified but more vocal person get the promotion?  My move into sales from a long career in delivery roles came about by me asking a board member to sponsor me.  He did and even arranged for a coach to help me transition. My coach became a life-long friend and supported me to move successfully into the ‘dark side’ of sales (as delivery people call it!).
  • Be ‘good enough’, not perfect We often wait until we have the ‘full’ set of skills before taking the leap to the next level.  Sometimes 70-80% is good enough.   Training, mentoring and coaching are all there to help you add to your skills and grow into a role.  Use those resources to their full extent.
  • Be brave – you are better than you think.  Put yourself out there. If you haven’t read ‘ Feel the fear and do it anyway’ by Susan Jeffers, please do. It will honestly change you for the better.
  • Be nice – this is a biggie.  Be the person you’d want to work with.   There’s a fallacy perpetuated that senior women need to be ‘queen bees’ and that they squash the ambitions of younger women.  Don’t be that woman.  Be the one who aims to help that clever, amazing grad to be your boss one day.  Being nice makes work so much nicer, and if you help people they help you back – often when you need it most.  My current team is my favourite team ever. We have fun, work hard, challenge each other, drink wine together and collaborate – everyone wins and we have a ball whilst working in what is a pretty pressurised sales business.

Interview tips

  • Prepare – an obvious one, but do it.
  • Be yourself – If they don’t like the real you then the job wasn’t for you anyway
  • Don’t assume  – it’s a bit like an exam when you were at school – don’t assume that they know your skills and expertise – show them. For example ‘how would you grow a new sales territory?’ the answer is not ‘Marketing’. It’s your whole potted strategy for identifying the market, segmenting it, finding spend, current suppliers/competitor analysis, finding partners etc etc….’ Be succinct but flesh out your answers. You’d be amazed at how you can miss ‘stating the bleeding obvious’ and how important it is for the interviewer to see your knowledge and ideas.
  • If you don’t understand, or are totally baffled, I was given this as a brilliant tactic (especially for acronyms and tech stuff that might bamboozle you): The question  ‘how would you approach BlockChain ?’ you answer ‘mmm, what do you mean by Blockchain?’ often you’ll find out that a) they haven’t a clue either and that line of enquiry fizzles quickly, or b) they tell you what they mean and give you the answer.

CV Writing

  • Be brief – no more than 1-2 sides of A4. No flowery language. Use a thesaurus if you need to but edit, edit, edit!
  • Bespoke it – a CV is a sales tool. Make sure that your introduction and overview meets the needs of the role spec and the corporate tone of the organisation.  You will fail in the first 2 seconds otherwise.
  • Facts and figures – show off!  Values, % improvements , team sizes achievements.
  • Include quotes from people who think you are fabulous ‘ xxx was the best project manager I’ve ever worked with’.  Collect a store of these over the years and use them.  A CV is no place for modesty.
  • Be interesting – a simple hook of a conversation starter can be a real godsend for the poor interviewers who may be seeing countless ‘drones’ before they get to you!

About the author

Steph is a diversity role model who has made waves in the IT industry. She started off as a programmer – during a time when the industry was made up of predominantly men – and has followed a meteoric career trajectory, overcoming several hurdles along the way. Steph has survived workplace bullying, two cases of sexual harassment, and being smashed against the glass ceiling. These setbacks simply made her more determined than ever to succeed, and to help other women around her do the same. During her career, she’s coached, mentored and supported the people around her that aren’t white middle-aged men.

Outside of work, Steph has appeared in a BBC programme called ‘Back in Time for the Weekend’ about leisure, and how technology has changed the way we live and enjoy our spare time.