Mivy James featured

Inspirational Woman: Mivy James | Head of Consulting, National Security & Defence / Enterprise Architect, BAE Systems

 

Mivy James

Mivy James has been an IT professional for over 20 years.

She is the Head of Consulting for National Security and Defence and Deputy Head of Global Consulting for BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. Mivy advises government clients on large technical transformation programmes and also has responsibility for over 150 consultants within NS and Defence.

Prior to joining BAe systems Applied Intelligence in 2005 she worked for several international systems integrators and corporations.

Mivy started her career as an analyst / programmer after completing a degree in Computer Science and Maths and soon moved into technical leadership and system design.
Mivy is passionate about technology and particularly keen to encourage women to follow careers in the IT profession. She is the founder of our gender balance network at BAE Systems striving to support and encourage more women to have careers in this field.

Outside of work Mivy's time is largely consumed by entertaining her three year old son.

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

I’m the Head of Consulting for National Security & Defence at BAE Systems and an Enterprise Architect. As Head of Consulting I’m responsible for about 150 consultants, all based in the UK. I do technical consulting myself as well as having leadership responsibilities.

I started my career as an analyst / programmer having graduated in Computer Science & Maths, over time my responsibilities changed to focus on system architecture / design and leadership eventually leaving coding behind (which I do miss). The systems have become larger-scale and more strategic over the years and I now often provide technical and systems engineering assurance rather than producing the design myself.

I’ve been at BAE Systems for over 12 years having worked for a number of different systems integrators prior to that, including doing a couple of overseas projects in The Netherlands and Switzerland.

A couple of years ago I founded our gender balance network as I wanted to be part of the drive for change to increase the number of women in tech.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew that technology was my calling so I never considered another field, apart from the occasional day dreaming of becoming a professional athlete. In the early part of my career my main concern was ensuring that I was familiar with the most current programming languages and environments, I certainly never expected to have people management as a large portion of my job and didn’t even know what consulting entailed. So I can’t say that I have ever made rigid long term plans but instead have a set of characteristics that I need my work to fulfil such as being challenged, keeping my technical knowledge current, having the opportunity to continuously learn and feeling useful. I am certain that I will always want to continue solving complex problems where technology is part of the solution.

Every few years I take stock of where I am and how I feel about my role, and work out what changes to make given the opportunities that I’m aware of in both my own organisation and wider industry, along with the aspects of my role that I want to do more and less of. I like to always feel that I’m challenged and have developed my skills.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

A couple of times I have realised that I am in a role that is a poor fit for me. It can then be really hard to work out how to get back on track, especially as this situation can be damaging to one’s confidence. There’s a pattern which means that it takes me a while to notice, then I go through a phase of feeling worried that I’ve plateau’d or got out of touch before making a conscious effort to realign myself with where I need to be.

Interestingly, I then find myself more confident than before as the things I’ve learnt (the hard way) during poorly fitting roles have developed my skills. For example, I once tried my hand as a project manager and very much felt I’d lost my way technically, worrying that I would struggle to get a role as a senior architect again. I didn’t struggle and in reality those project management and line management skills meant my leadership ability improved enormously and that the role had been a valuable learning experience.

There’s an additional challenge that women in technology face which can drive some specific behaviours. There’s such a stereotype of what someone in tech looks like and those that don’t fit it can have their technical capability underestimated. It’s rather draining to know that often when first meeting people they will be surprised at the extent of one’s technical skills and / or be patronising. I am always conscious that I need to work harder than my male peers to demonstrate my credentials early on and often still be met with some scepticism.

I am also very aware that I am an ambassador for all women in tech and therefore put myself under enormous pressure not to let everyone else down, if I make a mistake or present myself badly then I am reinforcing the gender stereotype. For example, when I first started work a male colleague observed that I was much better than ‘Jane’ – the other female programmer he had worked with recently. The only thing that Jane and I had in common was our gender. I started coding when I was 9 and did computer science at university whereas she had only just begun her training. It seemed odd to me that the comparison was made but it was an early lesson in how one woman is expected to represent all.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Mentoring is essential to everyone’s career development. It can be ad-hoc for a specific development point or an ongoing relationship with a role model.

At BAE Systems we have a formal career management structure in addition to line management. I also look for advice from a few mentors when I need specific advice. I provide both regular career development advice and ad-hoc mentoring to people inside and outside of my organisation. I aim to get people to consider growth opportunities both within and outside of their current role, making them aware of opportunities they may not have otherwise known about such as speaking at conferences / leadership meetings or contributing to white papers. I work out people’s strengths and listen to their aspirations and look to tie these up with things that need to be done across the organisation. I am a big supporter of helping people develop their own networks and build their personal brand, something I think is particularly important for women in a male dominated industry.

I also often get consulted on potential gender specific issues and coach people on how to best deal with them.

Getting better (and perhaps cheekier) at seeking out mentoring for my own development is one of my key goals for myself in 2018. I am getting more comfortable with developing my own personal brand i.e. taking a bit of my own advice.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

There are lots of initiatives to encourage more girls into STEM careers as well as women in leadership development programmes. All of these are very important but they won’t succeed without widespread #HeForShe in today’s workplaces. My belief is that although we’ve come a long way there is still much to do to overcome unconscious bias before we can achieve true gender equality. We’re certainly a long way from having a level playing field since men and women’s achievements are typically measured differently. I could answer at length but instead I really recommend “The Delusion of Gender” by Cordelia Fine, which explains how deeply embedded neurosexism is. My dream is to achieve a true meritocracy, where every person’s capability is valued without unconscious bias.

How would you encourage girls or women into STEM and careers in technology?

The most important thing is for society to stop telling girls what they can and can’t do and what they are or aren’t interested in. It’s so frustrating to hear sweeping generalisations about what motivates girls. Boys’ and girls’ brains aren’t so biologically different that girls are hardwired to like all things pink and have an aversion to maths. There is absolutely no proven scientific research to back these things up – these opinions are simply down to sexist thinking even though very few people will admit it. I have had difficult conversations with people who don’t realise that gender stereotyping *is* sexism, let alone appreciate how limiting it is for everyone regardless of their sex.

Secondly, girls need to be able to see role models both in real life and fiction. This has to start from when they’re babies: books aimed at tots that only depict women as carers and firefighters as always male are dated and unhelpful. The snag is that by asking women in STEM to put themselves out there as role models we’re asking them to pay a “woman tax”: undertaking an additional responsibility that we don’t ask of their male peers. This is important activity and needs to be valued by employers. Women need to receive recognition for taking on these responsibilities otherwise such role models risk having slower career progression, rendering their efforts counter-productive.

Finally, tech traditionally has an image problem that isn’t helped by mainstream media. If a child draws a picture of someone working in tech it’s very likely to be a bespectacled, bearded white man. In reality the tech industry is very cool and there are more an more jobs that have technology at the heart of the skills needed. It’s the responsibility of those of us in the industry to present ourselves as role models to mitigate and change this stereotype. For example, I enjoy very technical work and yet I do get to communicate with clients most days: there’s a common misconception that all technologists never leave darkened rooms to interact with the outside world let alone wear a killer pair of shoes.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Every time I solve a new problem or learn something new I get a great sense of achievement. The wonderful thing about working in technology is that things never stay still and there’s always something new to learn. The more concern I have when I start tackling the problem (for example, thinking this is the one I won’t be able to do), the greater the satisfaction I get by solving it.

I have worked on small-scale yet very complex systems and thoroughly enjoyed the sheer geekery of them, to mind-boggling large enterprise-scale systems. The more complicated the better for me, for example working on the technical aspects of a multi-billion pound business case.

Recently I have overcome nerves around public speaking, having agreed to speak on panels at industry events in front of hundreds of people. A few years ago I would have really shied away from doing anything like that so it’s a personal achievement that I’m proud of.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My immediate challenge is to ensure that I continue to progress my career without leaving the technical aspects I enjoy behind me. The more senior I get the less hands-on I have become, this isn’t intentional. My personal brand is very technology focussed and I want it to remain that way.


Monique Breen featured

Inspirational Woman: Monique Breen | Chief Information Officer for International Gas, Structured Products and Treasury at BP

 

Tell us a bit about your role at BP

As Chief Information Officer for International Gas, Structured Products and Treasury I oversee all aspects of technology and systems strategies in service of the individual business priorities. I manage over 100 people and am accountable for applications deployed across Europe, North America and Asia. My remit includes delivering critical business outcomes, including multi-billion dollars’ worth of daily payments across the BP Group, 24x7 scheduling and balancing of gas and power with Europe’s Transmission System Operators and compliance with financial regulatory requirements.

The key responsibility of my role is to continuously - look for technology improvements through high performing teams and partners, ensuring the business has a competitive advantage in the marketplace and industry where traditional business models are being disrupted.

What does a typical day look like?

Every day is different! This is one of the things I love about my job. I often find myself spending time with business teams helping them to solve issues, figuring out what data is lacking, finding gaps in user experiences and how to expedite the onboarding of new products into our systems There may be days where an operational incident might consume some or most of my day – from a systems interface issue to dealing with the impact of a hurricane!

I also spend time reviewing my team to ensure it is operating at an optimal level and delivering a strong performance within defined parameters, including budget and headcount. This may involve attending recruitment fairs, interviewing candidates and coordinating meet-ups to encourage the sharing of domain knowledge and gaining external perspectives via guest speakers.

The best part of my day is when my team demonstrates some of the innovative solutions they are working on – whether it’s a new app or an external customer facing product that showcases the best in class design.

I am collaborating with some external partners to provide industry and leading-edge solutions, I frequently check-in with them to further the development of these initiatives.

I go home having been intellectually challenged and rewarded from the day’s achievements in a fast-paced yet friendly work environment.

What is digital transformation all about?

To me, it’s about solving for the needs of a business or consumer much more comprehensively than we could do before and allowing us to put into practice business models that seemed inconceivable. Digital technology makes it all possible.

What does this mean in practice?

Funny you ask that, as I’m writing this from a cottage in Norfolk I’ve rented through AirBnB. It wasn’t so long ago when it involved a set of arduous tasks such as rifling through several sites finding somewhere suitable on my available dates, getting in contact with the owner using another channel, searching for references and paying through a BACs bank payment or cheque. Now I’m able to do with a few taps on my mobile as I commute into work.

How does digital transformation impact BP’s working environment?

From a productivity perspective, we can remove redundant time-consuming processes through robotic process automation and machine learning to predict system behaviour and minimise downtime. We can connect with our colleagues across the globe more closely using new collaboration tools. The cloud offers us scale and flexibility and comes with innovative solutions that we can purchase off-the-shelf.

The expectations of our internal business are continually being raised because of their experience as consumers in their personal lives, like Amazon and Netflix. This means we need design products with the user at the centre, ensuring they are made available on multiple devices, accessed anywhere safely and at any time. We will be adopting artificial intelligence more and more to drive better and faster business decisions leveraging extensive sources of data. To that end, we are always looking to upskill our staff as well as attracting the best talent in the market.

Why is it important to get more female technologists into our business?

There’s been a lot of research to prove how it makes good business sense, but to me it’s much more obvious than that. If you think about it, we deliver our products to women as well as men inside and outside BP, and in fact to all types of diversity. In our data-centric world and the infusion of artificial intelligence, any biases in source data could lead to prejudiced decision making. In short, why would I want a product targeted at me as a woman to only be developed by men? We should capitalise on all of the available talent and ideas in the market.

How do we support this?

We start early with schools – through community partnerships and encouraging girls to consider STEM based subjects. We can’t solve this challenge alone, but we want to play an active role in growing the female talent of the future.

We explicitly target women in our recruitment process: by making sure we reach a diverse talent, by ensuring that we have mixed candidates at interview (even if this means delaying the recruitment process), and by championing agile working practices across the business.


Yingying Li featured

Inspirational Woman: Yingying Li | Investment Manager at CHINA STATE CONSTRUCTION (CSCEC)

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

When I was 22-years-old, I graduated from university and went to Congo for work. I stayed there for four years. Before the MBA at HEC Paris business school, I was key account manager and project manager in a telecommunication company. Now I am an investment manager in CSCEC, the biggest construction company in the world who wants to transform from construction industry to real estate investment. My responsibility of the role is to explore and find strategic and profitable real estate projects for CSCEC in Algeria.

  1. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

During the MBA, there are lots of discussions and seminars about career development. The core concept of these discussions is about what you want to do, what you can do and what are your assets. For me the most important part was to understand myself better: passions, fears, personalities, strengths and weaknesses. I needed to find what my drivers in life and work were, plus what my priorities were, through psychological tests and discussion with colleagues and coaches. It helped me to connect what I wanted to do and what I could do.

  1. How/why did you make the decision to move to the Democratic Republic of Congo?

I studied French in university and French is the official language of DRC. At the same time, China invested lots of projects in Congo and I found it a good opportunity to start an international career and live in a completely different culture.

  1. Despite great career success in Africa, you decided to move to France to complete an MBA – what made you want to do this?

Before the MBA, I was project manager of a big telecom project. In my work, I found it challenging to handle financial analysis, marketing strategies, sales, and the management of a team of 40 people all at the same time. So I decided to take the opportunity to learn the important skills and knowledge to become a better manager. It was a long-term investment for my career.

  1. What do you think you got out of your MBA degree?

The more you know, the more you dare is the motto of HEC Paris. The best thing that MBA brings to me is more possibilities in life and in my career. Knowing more about myself and this world allows me think about things that I wouldn’t have thought of before, such as the potential to become an entrepreneur.

Another important takeaway for me is the ability to understand people from different cultures and backgrounds. In my class of 68 students, there were 38 nationalities. It was an amazing experience to learn from them.

The HEC Paris alumni network is also very strong, especially in Europe. If you know what you want to do, the alumni always try to be helpful.

  1. What advice would you give to someone looking to do an MBA degree?

To do an MBA is one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. It’s very challenging, and quite a financial investment, but worthwhile. I think the business knowledge, the network and the experiences will benefit your career, especially if you already know what you want and can work towards that.

If you are not sure yet whether to take an MBA, I would suggest that you try to talk to someone with similar background who did an MBA. LinkedIn is a great way to find them.

  1. How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I didn’t really have a mentor or mentor others. But I had some similar mentoring experiences with a program called The Executive Committee (TEC), when I had opportunities to discuss important professional and life topics with senior people. I learned lots of important life lessons from them, so I think it would be a great experience to have mentor.

  1. What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to be an entrepreneur in the future. I know it means lots of effort and risk, but the opportunity of realizing original ideas and having a truly fulfilling career seems more than worth it.


Carla Raven

Inspirational Woman: Carla Raven, Social Strategy Director at SHARE Creative

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

I’m the strategy director at marketing transformation company SHARE Creative, which harnesses data and technology to create best in class strategies and campaigns for its clients. I head up the strategy team which is the umbrella for all paid strategy, analytics, insights and data science disciplines. In a nutshell, in my role, I, along with my team, bring together fragmented data sources to help brands use data to inform the bigger brand objectives and solve business challenges (whether this be audience segmentation, market sizing, etc). I work very closely with the creative strategy director to help inform and deliver the creative campaigns and strategies.

My background is Psychology, statistics and analytics and I call upon these skills within my current role.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was always fascinated in human behaviour and it is still my biggest passion point today.  I actually started out working on research projects within public health and then migrated over to the marketing industry. I truly believe that Psychology, data and research is the gateway into marketing and believe that the principles of this, when applied correctly, are what create truly ground-breaking work

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Yes, my biggest challenge was moving = into marketing after six years of working in public health. I felt like I had to prove myself and learn a whole new industry, but once I had entered the marketing industry, I knew it was the right thing to do!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Yes, I have a mentor currently and I would always be open to mentoring others. I think it’s really beneficial. -  A mentor provides guidance and gives you a sense of reassurance whilst also challenging you when you need it.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

 

It would be to make sure that all women feel totally supported juggling home and work life. This can happen in a number of ways from introducing flexible hours, work from home days and staggered return to work after having a baby. If a standard is set from the top down, then this is hugely helpful in distributing cultural expectations of what is and is not acceptable company wide. It is one of the most difficult things to juggle work and have a family for both women and men, so any workplaces that adopt a flexible, supportive and “no judgement” policy is a winner in my book! As a mother myself, it’s a topic that’s very close to my heart.

How would you encourage young girls or women into a career in STEM?

I think it’s important for women in STEM to attend talks, take part in discussions, provide advice in publications and generally make themselves available to the next generation of talent to raise awareness for the types of opportunities in the field. A key part of what I want to do is to break down the barriers females feel they face when entering into more traditional male roles.

More and more women are entering studies and careers in analytics, tech, data and mathematics, and this is no surprise to me. When I was studying at university 80 per cent of my classmates were female which was interesting considering a third of the degree concentrated on research and statistics – modules that are culturally often associated with men.

I believe that the appetite is there, it just needs to be nurtured through increased awareness of opportunities, empowerment and confidence.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Developing and working on SHARE Creative’s RAPID proposition. This is an audience demographic product that goes beyond audience demographics using psychographics in order to further understand how to effectively target each audience set. We use region, attitudes, personality, interests and demographics to fully understand each audience segment, how they live their life, and what they respond to. Brands use these insights to engage with consumers in a meaningful way. We took this product to market earlier this year and have already implemented it fully with one brand, which helped them shift their market position.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I would love to design and release more products to take to market. At SHARE Creative, we have just finished putting together a market sizing product and I am now looking into what our next product can be based on market needs!

I really believe that measurement and analytics will become a focus point next year too. I would like to nail how we measure dark social and allow our agency to adopt an “everyone is an analyst” approach through one, centralised command centre. I also believe that there is a lot that can be done around forecasting trends and want to work on helping brands to mitigate risk better through effective use of statistics and data.

If you cannot already tell, I am very passionate about using data to help brands solve business problems. I believe that there is a huge appetite and need for this, so my main focus now and into the future will be not only using data, but taking how we use it to the next level in order to continue to help brands realise their potential!


Nancy Doyle featured

Inspirational Woman: Nancy Doyle | Occupational psychologist & CEO of Genius Within

 

Nancy Doyle

Nancy Doyle is an occupational psychologist and the CEO of Genius Within, specialising in the workplace support of adults with neuro-differences. 

She is featured in the BBC’s series Employable Me, the first episode of which aired on Monday 27 November.

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

My first real job was working with young people who had learning disabilities and mental health needs. Whilst studying for my bachelor’s degree in Psychology I moved into recruitment, initially providing emergency back-up support for bank care workers and home helps. My first real crack at sales management was when I opened a new branch for the company and we turned over a million in our first year! However corporate life was not for me. I find it very constricting, so I became self-employed in 2003 whilst completing my Master’s in Occupational Psychology. I have delivered welfare-to-work projects, both client-facing and with recruitment and training leadership roles. I have delivered cultural change projects and became a neurodiversity assessor, workplace disability coach, as well as training coaches. I became a parent to twin boys in 2006 and kept my consultancy alive with the support of a long time collaborator and mentor, Caitlin Walker, with whom I was a co-director of Training Attention Ltd for 6 years. In 2011, both my children started school and I thought I would have more time on my hands! (Ha ha). I realised that doing 2-3 day consultancy projects away from home wouldn’t work anymore, so I started Genius Within, the aim being to do the projects near home and subcontract those that were farther away. By 2012 we had 25 associates delivering for us, in 2013 we had 52, 2014 we had 75, 2015 we had over 100! We now have over 100 associates and also 35 members of staff.

We provide full UK coverage for disability assessment and coaching in the workplace, focused on neurodiversity and hidden disability, including the impact that long-term conditions such as MS have on our thinking ability. We also provide personal development and vocational counselling to people who are in prison and unemployed. As the company has grown, so has my role. I went from being a practitioner psychologist, to a team leader of associates, to a head of service to a managing director and now a CEO in 6 years. It’s been one hell of a ride and I have had to learn whilst delivering constantly. In my current role, I supervise a team of Directors and Heads of Department. However my passion is campaigning, service innovation and building relationships and partnerships. I think what we do is vital for social inclusion and economic progress and equality.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, but it has had the same theme running throughout it. I believe that human communities work best when they embrace difference, and that people are happiest when they are valued and able to be productive, in whatever form that takes. We need to move towards a society that places human value as equal to economic value. I feel as passionate about social injustice and reduced opportunity now as I did when I was a teenager but I’ve used my work to get better at creating a clear, operational and valuable alternative.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

I face challenges every day. I love challenges. Problem solving is my favourite activity – how to adapt to market changes, looking for new ways to bring practical support in disability inclusion for businesses, finding the right delivery model for tight government budgets that produces long-term results without compromising integrity – it’s a challenging world I thrive on that. My main difficulty day to day is ensuring that as Genius Within grows we address the pitfalls of small to medium growth – cashflow, systems failures – whilst avoiding becoming too labour intensive, too admin focused and losing our cool.

Our internal company value is to practice what we preach, to walk our own talk and stay transparent, listening. We have associates and front-line employees on our board, we are planning an employee shareholder scheme, we regularly seek feedback and try to operate as coordinating hubs rather than a pyramid management structure. It’s really hard and sometimes I get it wrong. But staying congruent to our values is the only way to ensure that Genius Within is a company that I am proud to work for.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I am often blessed with mentors from different places. Debbie Beavis mentored my first management career and I thank her daily for the lessons she taught me. Likewise, my Chartership supervisor Malcolm Ballantie gave me the direction and confidence to practise as a psychologist. I seek supervision from talents, world class coaches Penny Tompkins and James Lawley and my PhD supervisor, Almuth McDowall has taught me how to write, think and evaluate at a master level. I have mentored several psychologists in their early career, and hope that I have instilled a strong value of placing client needs first and having professional integrity. Mentoring is learning at its best, we thrive when we are exposed to role models who we can learn from vicariously and who can support us while we practise and develop.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Be bossy. Own it. I’m not bossy, I’m the boss. State what you want to have happen clearly and loudly and to hell with anyone that tells you off for being direct. Let’s take back the control and stop waiting for people to give us the space to talk – ain’t never gonna happen. A study of the language used in appraisal feedback in Big 4 accounting firms revealed that the word bossy did not appear once in men’s feedback, though it was present in women’s. My first ever school report said “Nancy is a sociable child, but can be a bit bossy”. Would that be written if I were a boy? Or would I have trainee leadership skills?

I’ve been blessed with almost exclusively female mentors who weren’t afraid to speak up, I stand proudly among them and use my innate bossiness to advocate for my employees, my associates and our clients.

How would you encourage more women and young girls to choose a career in STEM?

Get rid of pink lego. Lego is just lego. The pink and blue social conditioning starts early and it is far worse now than in was when I was a child, though some things have changed for the better. Watching 80’s movies with my kids is eye opening. Do you realise that the opening scene of Ghostbusters is the older Physics professor trying to seduce the very young blond student? It’s outrageous. The Bechtel test revealed the terrible lack of female role modelling in movies, the Symon’s test revealed the same in Business Management schools. We need to see people like us doing things we want to do – these subtle messages affect girls and boys from a very young age. I was so good at maths in primary school that I completed the course work for Key stage 2 when I was 9 and I was sat in the corridor by myself to work on problems while the rest of my class were taught. However by the time I was 16, maths was my only C at GCSE. How did that happen? No one told me to stop doing maths, but I received more praise for writing and drama than I ever did for maths. I have recovered my maths ability through scientific research and learning to drive a set of management accounts, but how could we have prevented this? On the plus side, we really do have some amazing role models now. In my boys’ primary school one of the governors is an engineer – she used to take the maths brain kids out for stretch lessons, thereby engaging their skills and role modelling being a competent maths female. Things like this make all the difference.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Last year my husband and I took our children out of school for a year and we went to live in Vermont, USA, where I am a dual US citizen. We wanted to travel, enjoy the kids and stop the treadmill for a while. We saved enough to live on for a year, rented the house and cats and just left with one suitcase and a bicycle each. It was very hard to plan, arrange and let go of the business reins (even though I did stay in touch quite regularly) but it was, without doubt, the right for us to do. We spent the year skiing, hiking, we took a 12,000 mile road trip and learned more about each other than we ever would have done with protected ‘family time’ at weekends. We challenged ourselves to let go of our safety net and head off into the great unknown and met a lot of amazing people along the way.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have two marathons to finish – one literal and one metaphorical. I am running the London Marathon to raise money for Tourette Syndrome research, a very difficult conditions as shown in the amazing story of Ryan in this year’s BBC Series, Employable Me. I wrote a literature review paper for the British Psychological Society this year and discovered that despite a similar prevalence to autism, Tourettes receives about 1% of the same research funding. I am also in the last year of my PhD at City University of London and the write up will be a marathon. However, this will bring me to my next challenge, which is to continue researching and closing the evidence gap that we have around disability inclusion. For neurodiverse conditions, most research is about diagnosis and brain scanning – all very interesting but doesn’t help line managers, employees, or businesses decide how to help neurodiverse people achieve their potential.

My role on BBC’s Employable Me

I took part in the BBC2 Documentary series, Employable Me, to highlight the hurdles people with disabilities face and the amazing talents that can be overlooked if assessment is based on what is not working well, what people can’t do, what needs fixing. My company runs in-work coaching and assessment support as well as employability-focused groups for people with neurodiversity and mental health needs. Our positive assessment techniques draw out the sometimes exceptional qualities of our clients. To overlook these talents is frustrating for the individuals and detrimental to any future employer who is missing out on available skills and dedication.


Gillian Tans featured

Inspirational Woman: Gillian Tans | CEO of Booking.com

 

Gillian Tans
Gillian Tans is the CEO of Booking.com. WeAreTheCity sat down with Gillian to discuss gender bias in the Tech industry, her biggest achievement and plans for the future.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’ve had what you might call quite an unusual career path, because I’ve always been led by my curiosity and instinct, rather than following a traditional route. Before joining Booking.com, I worked in the hotel industry, in marketing and sales at the Golden Tulip Hotel Group and the Intercontinental Hotel Group. These were pivotal roles for me as they helped me appreciate how important customers are and the critical need to meet their expectations in our industry. When I joined Booking.com in 2002, the company was just a small tech start-up, with a handful of staff and a small footprint in Amsterdam. I left a successful job to join Booking.com but I decided to take the risk because I firmly believed that the internet was going to disrupt the hotel industry.

As Booking.com’s Chief Executive Officer, I am responsible for the global strategy and operations of the organisation, including the management of all business units with the company.

No two days are ever the same for me. I need to be agile and ready for anything so I try not to plan my days to the minute. Booking.com moves very fast so I need to be ready to make decisions quickly at a moment’s notice.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I definitely didn’t start out with a plan to become a CEO. As I was saying, I have always been guided by curiosity and this has led to quite a non-traditional career path. I took every opportunity I could to study abroad, moving to the U.S. from the Netherlands when I graduated to take a job at Hershey Entertainment. It was there that I was able to prove myself as someone hard-working, creative and not afraid to take risks, and I brought this all back to the Netherlands working in the hospitality industry. When the internet began to take off, I could see very early on that it had immense potential to change the hotel industry and global tourism at large and this is why when the opportunity to join Booking.com came along, I grabbed it – and I’ve never looked back!

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Being in the travel industry and also working in a company of the scale and size of Booking.com means there will always be challenges. For example, we operate on traditional customer service values which means keeping the customer at the centre of everything we do. This isn’t always easy as it means ignoring pre-conceived notions and ideas of what we may think customers want and being able to adapt to their needs. The work we are doing with artificial intelligence and customer service is leading us to innovation that helps provide an even more seamless process than what we already offer. It’s challenging, but very exciting.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

We still see gender bias in the workplace, especially in the tech industry, although it is getting better. While we are on the right track, there is still so much further to go. We need the tech industry to be even more diverse, and it’s the responsibility of tech companies and leaders to push for positive change, both within and outside the walls of their companies.

At Booking.com we are committed to diversity of all kinds and a huge part of this is bolstering female tech talent and eliminating the challenges they face in this industry which we hope to do through our Women in Tech initiative. As part of this, we recently launched the first ever Technology Playmaker Awards, which aim to celebrate and recognise women who have disrupted, and continue to transform businesses, industries, and communities through the use of technology.

We hope that by recognising, celebrating and rewarding their achievements, these women can become a source of inspiration for future generations of women who are looking to embrace the opportunities the world of technology can offer.

We are also working in partnership with the University of Oxford in the UK, and the Delft University of Technology (TU Delft) in the Netherlands and have introduced 15 Women in Technology Scholarships, designed to support women seeking careers in technology.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Mentoring is something that is extremely important to me. My parents have been real mentors to me, inspiring me to work hard and create opportunities for others through my successes. My mother is creative and could build anything out of nothing and I learned a lot about creativity and entrepreneurship from her. My father passed on a strong work ethic to me, this is something he instilled into our family early on.

Diversity of all kinds is key to the core culture of Booking.com and a big part of making a change in diversity is through positive mentoring. Recent research shows that 90% of women working in non-tech roles in the tech industry indicated that seeing more women in leadership roles will inspire them to advance their career in tech.

As part of our Women in Tech initiative, we recently ran the first “Women in Tech Mentor Programme” at Web Summit 2017, which gave female tech talent attending the event the opportunity to have one-to-one sessions with myself and other high-profile mentors. Part of the reason we launched the Technology Playmaker Awards, is because now more than ever we need positive female role models and an industry culture that celebrates female tech talent.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I’m very proud of what we have achieved as a company and having led our business throughout the transition from a small start-up to one of the largest ecommerce players in the world.

Another thing that I consider a big achievement is that we have preserved our entrepreneurial and diverse culture throughout this period of transformation and business growth. Booking.com has been so successful because we’ve been thinking and building on an international level from day one and putting our customers at the centre of everything we do.

Despite all this, sometimes it’s the smaller moments, like hearing a small business owner talk about how their business has been positively impacted by Booking.com, that inspire me the most. The little stories and successes are what drive me and our team of 15,000+ people every day.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

At Booking.com we are on a mission is to empower people to travel and experience the world. . We have worked to develop technology that can take our customers anywhere: wherever they want to go, whatever they want to do, they can make it happen through Booking.com. In the future, we would like to be able to offer the technology that is needed to break through barriers, whether that is time, money, choice or languages. We will continue to innovate and invest in technology to help make our product the most innovative and offer the best customer experience.


Helen Wylde featured

Inspirational Woman: Helen Wylde | Managing Director, Bringme

 

Helen Wylde

Helen Wylde is the UK managing director of Bringme, a Belgian digital solution to sending and receiving parcels at home and at work.

With a varied and extensive background in business, marketing and tech, ranging from banking to telecoms, entrepreneurship and leadership, and now onto Bringme, Helen is an inspirational woman leading the way for women in tech.

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

I am the Managing Director of Bringme UK - the intelligent Smart Locker service for residential buildings, University residences and Corporate businesses, currently doing a BREXIN and opening up the UK to our innovative IoT products and services.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes when I hit 25 and realised if I didn’t have a proper plan I wasn’t going to get anywhere! I put together plans A, B and C. Needless to say these have changed many times! I now normally review where I am and what I need to do next in terms of skills, qualifications, experience and networking about once a quarter.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Yes, many, from getting the right experience and skills to get to the next level, through to people who I had to persuade I could deliver. Someone once told me I was “tenacious in the face of adversity”, and I have hung onto that as a good mantra for my career. I am also lucky in so much as I have had many exceptional and inspirational bosses who have coached me through my more challenging experiences and a great support network of family and friends who seem to believe in me!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I haven’t had a mentor and I truly wish I had! I sincerely believe in mentoring as a concept and do have various relationships where I am mentoring. To me it is a privilege to be asked to do this, after all, this is the way to build future talent for UK plc.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Actually, it’s a great time to be a woman at work. I think if was to change anything it would be to make women more confident in their ability - you really can do anything if you put your mind to it - but most importantly be true to who you are, and work hard!


Marie Curie featured

The Curie-ous Case of the STEM Diversity Gap

 

On 7 November 1867 Marie Curie was born. She is widely considered to be one of the most outstanding women in the history of science.
Marie Curie
Marie Curie provided by Shutterstock.com

She was the first person, and a woman for that matter, to win two Nobel Prizes. Marie’s work broke barriers not only in physics and chemistry but also for her gender, cementing the idea that women should very much have their equal place in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Why then, a century after her accolades, is the gender gap in STEM still so prevalent?

In the UK, Tech Nation found that men outnumber women by a ratio of three to one within the technology sector.In the US, women make up 48 per cent of the workface – and yet, within STEM, only 24 per cent of employees are female. Despite progression in gender quality, women are still grossly underrepresented in STEM. These low levels of participation can be traced back all the way to the school years, where a number of influences from society and culture, education and the labour market are all at play.

Science and prejudice

Women have long faced trials when entering jobs that are seen as ‘for men’ – from directors all the way to the Supreme Court. Let’s face it, STEM compromises mainly of white males. People tend to hire people they feel they relate to and identify with. This unconscious bias can foster negative attitudes and lead to damaging stereotypical behaviours. These behaviours can negatively affect the education, hiring, promotion, and retention of women in STEM.

It doesn’t help that there are those who believe that women are not well matched to STEM in general.  Just look at James Damore’s Google manifesto. He still has the old fashioned attitude that women are better suited to social and artistic careers; that they would struggle with making controversial leadership decisions and that they are neurotic and can’t handle stress. Without realising, many men carry these views subconsciously, and – with most STEM decision makers being white, middle aged men – this can influence whom they hire or promote. It is the same reason why holding blind auditions for orchestras increases women’s chances of advancing to the final round by 30 per cent.

However, it’s not only men that believe this. Some women, too, feel that men suit STEM more than they do.  This is why there are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in these areas. These on-going drives are trying to eradicate and challenge old fashioned view points held by parents and teachers alike, that girls are less likely to want be involved in STEM career paths – or that they will find it too tough.

Men have a very important role to play in narrowing the gender gap. Invariably they are in the seat of the interviewer, and they need to be encouraged, trained and in some cases forced to create diverse teams. They need training in conscious and unconscious bias, and need to be educated about the benefits of diversity.

Equality within the sector

If there was ever a reason to assemble a diverse team, surely it is because your business will do better as a result? Companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 per cent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians, Forbes found. Additionally, a 2015 study from Bersin by Deloitte showed that diverse companies had 2.3 times higher cash flow per employee over a three-year period than non-diverse companies did.

Aside from this, the bottom line is that women are just as capable as men. People often ask, “Why should more women get into STEM?” It’s like asking why women should be doctors. These on-going drives to get women into science and technology will continue to happen until the question no longer needs to be asked.

Some women need to be persuaded to consider a career STEM. The opportunities for them in this industry are rife; it’s a growing trade with growing opportunities. But STEM companies need to make sure that they are promoting and paying women fairly. The stats would indicate that this might not be the case. For example, women comprise 20 per cent of engineering school graduates, but only 11 per cent of practicing engineers are women. There is a major drop off in the first ten years – women leave STEM jobs at a rate 45 per cent higher than men. It’s likely that gender bias plays a part here.

The UK has almost two million digital tech jobs, and between 2011 and 2015, the growth rate of digital jobs was more than double that of non-digital jobs. A lot of STEM jobs don’t exist yet.  In fact, Martin Boehm of IE University in Spain believes around 80 per cent per cent of jobs that will exist in 2025 don’t exist today.

Back to school

Encouraging women to get into STEM ultimately starts with education – from school to the boardroom. In school, coding should be mandatory for everyone; complex problem solving and critical thinking should be part of everyday life. When I was a child, we had computers around the house because my Dad was working with Digital in Ireland. I also remember all the Edward de Bono lateral thinking books we had. You will absorb what you are exposed to. As well as that, my Mum was an ardent feminist; she told her daughters they could do and be anything (and her son!). It was only when I started school that I realised people thought and told girls they couldn’t do things. Education and encouragement, fundamentally, is key to overhauling out-dated thinking.

In the workplace, training programmes can help people understand conscious and unconscious bias; both helping people to change the way they think, and call out unfair behaviour. Getting female talent into the industry is only half the story, however. Making sure they rise up the ranks is also key – with the support of women in leadership training programmes.

Overall, an attitude overhaul – for both women and men – is needed if we are to close the STEM gender gap. Through better education and encouragement of both genders, we can chip away at antiquated attitudes and create a more equal workplace.

About the author

This article was provided by Tara O’Sullivan, Chief Creative Officer at Skillsoft


Tas Hind featured

Inspirational Woman: Tas Hind | Technology Director at Essentia Trading Ltd

 

Tas Hind, Technology Director at Essentia Trading Ltd, a consultancy helping healthcare, science, public and private organisations transform their estates and infrastructure.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Tas

I didn’t, but I have grabbed opportunities that have been presented to me.

I often imagine myself being in a particular situation or doing something interesting and challenging and I have always achieved that. A year out of University, I joined the IT department at Lucas Industries, a motor and aerospace manufacturer in Birmingham. There, I was given a huge amount of responsibility and flexibility to shape my role and I loved every minute of it.

I soon realised that there was an internal consultancy within Lucas Industries that had some very high calibre individuals doing some incredibly interesting projects. I imagined what it would be like working in that type of organisation and, lo and behold, I got a breakthrough and was appointed as a Consultant in the Manufacturing sector.

A few years down the line, I was proud to lead an award-winning project on EXOSTAR (a workspace for secure information sharing and collaboration) for Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) and BAE Systems. By that time, I was also wondering how great it would be to work as a consultant to the NHS. I was very pleased to be part of CSC’s successful bid for the NHS’ National Programme for IT which led to me being on the programme for 13 years.

When I left CSC in November 2016, I had another big moment being offered the role as Essentia’s first Technology Director.

In summary, a lot of my career has been based on luck, being in the right place at the right time, grabbing the opportunities and making them a success and enjoying the work and the people around me.

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

Yes, I have faced many challenges. I have addressed them through self-belief, holding my ground and relying on people to have the same belief and confidence in me. It did not always mean that I won however. I always knew that we gave it our best shot and for me that is the most important thing.

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

Be brave. Don’t worry about ticking all the boxes. Believe and have confidence in yourself. Seek validation from others whom you trust and will give you constructive advice rather than say things to please you. Surround yourself with great people who are prepared to work hard and enjoy their jobs.

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

I start my day with yoga and a very healthy all-organic breakfast – a glass of warm water with a slice of lemon, spirulina with berries and yoghurt and a very big bowl of porridge with quinoa, chia and sesame seeds, raisins and cinnamon. That is very important to me, as I know that I need to stay fit and well to do my job. I then do a 20-minute brisk walk to the station to catch my 6:24 train to London. I end my day with another healthy meal full of freshly cooked organic vegetables, chamomile tea and walk with my husband to our town centre reflecting on the day that we have had and just generally catching up. Fridays are different as I end my day with a very long swim which helps me to unwind and get ready to enjoy my weekend.

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

Always aim to do the best that you can, no matter what it is. Make sure that you, your team and the client get credit for it. Do not be afraid to publicise great work. Use your marketing department to promote you and your work inside and outside your organisation. Develop a brand for yourself. Make sure people know who you are, what you stand for and your passions. Be kind to everyone you meet and work with. Always be professional. Thank people for their help and always make sure they are recognised for their achievements.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Yes, I have been led and managed by some incredible people throughout my career. Many have given me formal and informal advice and support which I have taken on board. I have also been on many leadership training courses where I was given independent advice on my strengths and things that I could improve. Finally, I have observed some great people in action and have learned a great deal from them.

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

Definitely. I will always remember my first day at CSC where I was told that the only way to get on in this large organisation was to network. So I picked up the phone and started to introduce myself and explain to everyone and anyone what I could do and what I wanted to do. It is a skill I have learned and developed over many years and it has put me in a great position to find work that I not only enjoyed but challenged me and helped to develop my career. My top three tips are: don’t be shy about talking to people as you will always find that they are happy to do that; maintain your network and grow it inside and outside the organisation and use social media such as LinkedIn to maintain your network and to connect to people.

What does the future hold for you?

I am thrilled about my new role as the Technology Director at Essentia, which is doing ground-breaking work to help transform the NHS and make it fit for the future. I truly believe that technology has a huge part to play in the future of healthcare and there are so many opportunities to help change the way that patient care is delivered. My focus will be to enjoy it and make a real success of it.


Kirsty Maxey featured

Inspirational Woman: Kirsty Maxey | Joint Managing Director, Teamspirit

 

HS_Kirsty Maxey

Kirsty Maxey is Joint Managing Director for Financial Services and Fintech specialist agency, Teamspirit.

She is dedicated to transforming both consumer and B2B brands by creating innovative solutions that deliver measurable success.

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

With over 20 years’ experience in marketing communications, I started work as a graduate trainee with SunAlliance, specialising in marketing and communications. At the height of the 1980's boom I helped to market the first pet insurance, Pet Plan, in the UK before moving into publishing with The Scotsman Publications, where we launched the first Scottish Sunday newspaper called Scotland on Sunday. I then went on to set up my own digital marketing consultancy in Scotland advising a diverse mix of clients.

In 2000 I came back to London, working in advertising with Teamspirit, and currently work with a broad range of financial clients helping them transform their brand experience for the better. I love creating innovative solutions for clients that deliver measurable success. I believe our key strength lies in making our clients’ visions a reality by building them a strategic understanding of consumer behaviour and desires, in order to deliver transformative brand experiences.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t, but I always grabbed at opportunities as they came along. My motto is say yes and then work out how to do it! I was once offered a job which came with a car, the interviewer asked if I could drive and I said yes. I was offered the job and then had four weeks to learn how to drive – and I did it!

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Setting up my first business was a challenge, it was the start of the dotcom boom and we were helping clients’ set-up their first web experience. We started off with no money, no clients, no office and no colleagues and you have to wear a lot of hats, but that taught me that anything is possible with a little time. 25 years on, that business is still going strong.

Helping companies and businesses transform is always challenging, and cultural transformation in particular, is always painful if its going to really work.

The best way of dealing with it is to plan for all eventualities, keep trying and failing, but always moving forward, stay open to challenges along the way and keep communicating. As my gran always said, nothing great ever happens without some pain.

Do you have a typical workday? How does you start your day and how does it end?

I wake up early at 5.30am and I’m always ready to go. I like to cycle to work and you can get across London really quickly at 6am, the roads are all clear and its actually a real treat to cycle past all those amazing landmarks. Once in work I have a quick shower and breakfast and I’m at my desk by 7.30am. That’s when I get my best thinking done and get myself organised for the day. The next 8 hours will consist of a mix of meetings with the Creative and Planning teams to catch-up on new ideas and insights for our clients. Presentations to clients on how we can transform their brand experience for their customers. If I’m lucky I’ll get away at 6.30pm and cycle home but several times a week we will be out networking at industry events or catching up with colleagues. We have a brilliant team and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Ideally I’m in bed by 10pm and fast asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Have you ever faced sexism in the workplace? How did you respond/deal with this?

I’ve worked in some very male dominated environments in financial services and publishing and in the 80s and 90’s they were still very sexist. There were no women on the Boards and very few in senior management positions. In fact, there were still rules then that women had to wear a skirt and heels! In those days, the easiest approach was just to ignore it and plough on regardless, now I would call it out.

How would encourage more women and young girls into a male-dominated career?

By showing them just how much fun they can have and how liberating it can be. In a male dominated world, women can really stand out, they are often the ones who will encourage more collaboration and bring creativity to their thinking, which is what the world of work needs more than ever.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I have mentored many people, men and women over the years – it is a brilliant opportunity to pass on your knowledge and hopefully fire-up the next generation of boundary breakers! But it is also very inspirational for me working with young, bright people who have lots of ideas they want to share too.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would give them the confidence to speak up and share their point of view. We are really lucky at Teamspirit and ensure that there is a 50/50 split from the Board all the way through the company. And we encourage everyone to have their say and get involved.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Jumping out of an aeroplane for the first time, on my own, was really scary. But I think helping to build Teamspirit into the no. one integrated specialist financial services agency in the UK, a company that celebrates diversity and one that has helped many careers get started.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I hope that I can inspire more people and women especially to be the best they can be and give them a platform to be brilliant.