Adelle Desouza

Adelle Desouza has spent her entire career working in the technology and IT sector, from datacentres through to colo, telco, MSP cloud and most recently cyber security.

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

Back in 2013, I started to write and speak on the topic of welcoming diverse and new talent into the sector, fast forward to today with a successful career within the data centre industry which spans more than a decade, I have lived and worked in the UK, Australia and now the beautiful emerald isle of Ireland.

But if I think back to my education and formative years as a young adult I never thought it was possible. Retaking year 12, worrying about securing a role after starting university during the recession, and taking redundancy at the age of 27. However, all these things led me to where I am now, as well as starting my own business Hirehigher, to help others with the transition from ‘studenting to adulting’.

Frustrated by the constant talk (and no action) when it comes to careers education. I wanted to create an organisation to revolutionise how careers advice is delivered in schools and how employers build programmes for young people starting their early careers. HireHigher works with educational institutions, employers, young people directly and the government, to drive change in how we can help those who are left to fall through the gap in terms of career help – the ‘shruggers’ – who have no clue what they want to do when you ask them. I have also launched an initiative dedicated to supporting diverse and new talent into the datacentre and connected industries: The Rising Star Programme.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I tried to create a career plan early on, but all that resulted in was taking on a role in finance – everyone from my university course became accountants! After that, it was a case of taking opportunities that presented themselves but also creating opportunities for myself by trying to inject those elements I was personally passionate about into my professional life. I always knew I wanted to work in the technology industry, but it just took a little time to find my groove.

I would now be very hesistant to suggest the creation of ‘career plans’ with jobs in the future not existing today and possibly with the advancement of technology vice versa, i think it has to be more about contribution and not just a career. How do the young people of today want to contribute to society, the greater good and to the role they envisage for themselves as adults?

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

I have been lucky enough to have some amazing managers and role models during my career to date, but I have also been exposed to others who were not so supportive or inspirational in the way they lead a team. I have learnt first-hand there is a difference between managing and leading, and hope that these experiences, both positive and negative, have helped me in carving out my career and will continue to do so moving forward.

There are those in this world who will make snap judgments based on personality types, relationships and their own insecurities which can make for an uncomfortable working life. Whilst I am a believer in fighting for what is right, I think the biggest lesson I’ve learnt is that you can’t win every battle and more importantly you have to choose those situations which are worth a fight versus those where it is more beneficial to remove yourself entirely.

I would also say that although a massive shock to the system, being made redundant at the age of 27, allowed me to take a step back and discover what I really wanted to focus my time on.  I was able to spend my gardening leave travelling, which gave me the opportunity to appreciate the things I may have missed out on, after going into the world of work straight from education.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Building an award-winning graduate scheme from scratch and with no HR background, with almost a 50:50 gender split representation. To work on something totally from scratch, allowed me to build an informal team, then with internal promotions and role creations, a formal department. With many graduates from the initial intake still at the company, the scheme grew to double the intake in year two, when the company also introduced an apprenticeship scheme.

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

Most definitely my support network. From friends, family, colleagues, suppliers they have all contributed, whether it’s working late, tight deadlines, striving for the somewhat impossible, my supportive network has enabled me to achieve success.

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

Be open, that’s it, there is no secret formula. Open to opportunities, open and having belief in your own capabilities and open to the fact that there will be some elements you are no good at, you do not excel in, or you do not enjoy and that’s ok.

What barriers for women working in tech, are still to be overcome?

Passive and unconscious biases. Formal training on inclusivity and reviewing policy and centralised practices are reducing barriers so much even during my short career. But the underlying biases and passive perceptions still have a long way to go.

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

Oh this is a hard one. I think it’s too easy to make a call on how good a company is just based on Linkedin, marketing and awards when it comes to such an important topic.

Being a woman in tech covers so many variables and there are also many sub groups within that including age, orientation, preferences, personality and cultural elements – what is great for one woman is not for another, so I am mindful to just make a catch-all statement.

That said, flexible working practices and good parental policies, learning opportunities and mentoring programmes would go a long way to help more women as well as opportunities for women to connect across business functions to build relationships because these relationships are the bedrock of support for women in tech companies that are still predominantly male orientated.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

Accessible role models, mentoring schemes, removing wider barriers and reviewing policies e.g. parental leave, hybrid working, part time working and benefits packages. I mention parental leave as an example here, rather than maternal leave, as some paternal leave policies are so restricted that even if Dad did want to stay home it financially doesn’t make sense so leave falls to the Mum. This is far from inclusive.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Attending conferences and grabbing opportunities to talk to people within the industry from all areas and business functions has helped me build up connections and my own industry knowledge. Even the industry events I attended at the start of my career (where 90 percent of the content went over my head!) gave me a great opportunity to ask questions and build a support network which I now credit for my success.