Adeela MahmoodI’m Adeela Mahmood, Head of Global Marketing and Communications at Colt Data Centre Services.

In my role, I manage a growing team based in the UK, with some support in APAC, overseeing several functions from PR and communications, campaign management right through to digital marketing. There’s a real mix of things that I’m responsible for, including working strategically with commercial teams on our go to market strategy.

So much has changed over the last decade since I joined Colt. The business has undergone a massive transformation to shake off the image of being a traditional telco to creating a more vibrant and engaging brand. This has really opened doors for me into different channels of marketing.

To continue learning and challenging myself, I joined Colt Data Centre Services in 2016, which was a whole new world for me – learning what the data centre does and how instrumental it is within a business’ IT infrastructure, has been an amazing experience, leading to my role today.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In a word, no. My journey into the professional world began when I undertook a bachelor’s degree in computer science. And to be honest, the main reason I chose this path was due to my limited knowledge of technology. I felt it was a truly expansive and innovative industry which would keep me enthused.

While the degree gave me great technical knowledge, I have always had a creative mindset which I was keen to explore. As such, I volunteered for a graphic design role which was a happy medium in bringing out my technical knowledge with some creativity. This then brought me to my first marketing focused role in a telecoms company – since then I haven’t looked back.

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

While I haven’t faced major challenges, I was mindful of the need to prove myself as a marketing professional, despite not having marketing qualifications.

Thankfully, I’ve always had great mentors and support throughout my career at Colt, which has given me the confidence and opportunities to gain first-hand experience. As a result, the need for traditional qualifications hasn’t been a barrier.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

At the moment my biggest career achievement is supporting and driving our entry into the APAC market which is something I didn’t have much experience in. It goes without saying that APAC is a very, very different market and is challenging to successfully break into.

The fact we now have a presence there, with a small PR function and a growing digital footprint, is a huge personal achievement. This was only made possible due to the belief of my mentors and senior leadership at Colt, who gave me the confidence to not shy away from entering the challenges of this new market.

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

If I had to sum that up in one word, I’d say confidence. We all must have confidence to put ourselves forward, but also have supportive leadership which fosters confidence.  This has a massive impact in terms of coming out of your comfort zone, to truly explore and push your own boundaries.

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

There are two key points. The first of which is perseverance. Perseverance in following what you want to do and not giving up at the first obstacle. Because there will always be obstacles! You will always be compared to someone with more experience or with technically relevant qualifications, so perseverance is key.

The second point is to be dedicated to constantly learning, whether that’s learning on the job or joining mentoring groups.

These two things are key. Afterall, the technology world is fast paced and doesn’t stand still, so these two attributes are important to maintain.

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

This is an area I feel particularly passionate about. There has been an age-old debate on how to encourage more women into tech roles, and I believe most B2B organisations have had this on their agenda and recruitment drive for some time.

Thankfully the conversation is progressing, certainly from a millennial workforce perspective. It has now started to centre around capability and education rather than gender. I feel strongly that its women who are in these roles who need to create this shift in the conversation and position the forefront of the conversation around capability not gender otherwise we will never progress.   Ultimately, any change needs to be embedded at a very early age, with children in primary schools, opening their eyes to the possibilities of STEM based subjects. We must engage with the young workforce of tomorrow as early as we can.

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

Companies can, and should, be doing much more to showcase their talented female employees. Greater support and resource allocated to allowing women to speak at events, as well as career days at schools and colleges, would not only empower them, but also help engage the future female workforce.

The demand from schools is clearly there – they are crying out for resource and material to educate young women about STEM subjects and careers so it’s a great opportunity for businesses to expand their existing CSR programmes.

PwC’s work regarding ‘The Tech She Can’ did a really good job of addressing the current lack of gender balance. Tech She Can is a charity, working together with industry, government, and schools to improve the ratio of women in technology roles. They specialist in educating, equipping and inspiring young people, especially girls, to study technology subjects and choose a career in technology.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

This again feeds into the education piece – it’s rooted in showcasing to children what the possibilities are.

If I could wave a magic wand, I would suggest we look at incorporating technology more seriously into the national curriculum. Rather than just teaching children how to use computers, explaining how technology shapes our world, and truly educating them on its impact.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

PwC’s ‘The Tech She Can Charter’ would definitely be one. Aside from this, I would recommend an organisation called Stemettes, whose mission is to show the next generation that girls can do Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths too. Stemettes does so by inviting women leaders across a wide breadth of STEM focused careers to talk and participate in their experiences, acting as role models and mentors.