Claire DarleyClaire Darley has over 25 years’ experience in the technology industry and has held leadership positions in both Sales & Marketing.

In that time, she has experienced first-hand the rapid changes that have taken place across the sector.

Claire joined Adobe in 2015 to lead Digital Media Sales for Adobe Creative Cloud, Photoshop and Stock. This is one of Adobe’s biggest business units in EMEA, part of a $2B+ business that continues to grow at over 30% per annum.

Claire has worked for some of the world’s largest tech companies, including Telefonica, Vodafone and IBM. She is passionate about the evolving technology landscape across Europe, including the increasing importance of data and how organisations use AI to create personalised experiences for customers.

Originally hailing from Scunthorpe, Claire made the move south to study Business Studies, Business Management and Marketing at the London Metropolitan University. During her third year, Claire interned at IBM (where she later returned); it was during this time that she first became aware of how important customer relationships are in a business environment.

She is the Adobe EMEA team’s Women’s Network Lead, a role she thrives on as it gives her the opportunity to both support the women she works with in reaching their fullest potential and to inspire the next generation of women to consider careers in the technology sector.

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

I have worked in the technology and telco space for the last 25 years, looking after sales, marketing and in general management. For the last 10 years, multi-channel, digital in particular has been a key focus.

Transformation has always been at the heart of what I’ve done in my job roles, driving change across people, process and technology to enable greater customer centricity.  At Adobe, I feel I have the best role in the company; I’m focused on delivering an exceptional multi-channel customer experiences to individuals and businesses, allowing them to try, buy, use and love Adobe services so they can create exceptional creative content.

I’m at the forefront of the wave of Customer Experience – re-orienting our already highly digital business around key customer journeys and segments, ensuring that we test and optimise everything that we can to make our messages resonate, as well as lobbying for investment into brand new markets.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I’ve often been in roles where I’ve felt I could do more so the evergreen desire to keep learning and achieving has forged my path. Early on in my career, I learnt the value of two things which helped me find and be ready for opportunities rather than purposefully planning my career. The first is Personal Development. IBM really invested in individuals – one example being the IBM Sales School. This investment in individuals is something I’ve worked hard to carry through across all my subsequent roles. For example, at Adobe I’m a champion of the Learning Fund, which reimburses employees for individual educational and professional pursuits outside of work. The second is Networks.  The importance of knowing your impact on others – being able to influence without dominating, and equally, recognising what others can bring to the party – is crucial.

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

Absolutely; career challenges teach you more about yourself. I once took on a new role to join a former colleague for a big job with a big title. I knew within weeks that it was wrong for me; the culture was a complete mismatch to my own values. So, I took on the virtues of a great quote: ‘Accept what you can’t change and change what you can’t accept’. In this case I made an agreement with the person who’d brought me on to ensure I could deliver the changes I had aspired to during the interview process, be a success and then make a dignified exit after a year.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The one constant in my career has been building world-class teams that deliver outstanding results. This comes down to creating a culture through leadership – caring, collaborating, driving, understanding, and inspiring. And I would also say that I think if you’re completely open to learning, you’re always achieving something.

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

A heady combination of good gut instinct and emotional intelligence. While both are quite difficult to learn, they can nonetheless be honed. Reading the atmosphere in a room, reacting to the subtleties in a moment, listening to your intuition and understanding your impact will take you everywhere – it will help you build your professional relationships, ask the difficult but necessary questions and have a positive impact on people along the way.

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

  • Know and serve your customer – relationships are everything
  • You can’t ever have enough data – make sure you know what to do with it!
  • Never stop moving – complacency is not an option
  • Test, test and test again – you should always be learning and trying new things
  • Automate and operationalise the basics so you can focus on things that will have the biggest impact

On an emotional level, I would say be confident, look for a mentor who will help you grow… and network!

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

According to a recent survey, 86% of female millennials consider companies’ policies on diversity and inclusion before taking a job, so industry needs to hold itself accountable. I work with some amazing women at Adobe, in fact four out of five of my leadership team are women.

I also think it’s the role of every successful woman to bring other women up through the pipeline and give them opportunities to shine, especially as women themselves are still less likely to put their hand up for a challenge if they feel they don’t have it nailed.

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

Women’s Networks are great spaces to develop and connect. Most focus on gender neutral topics, but ones that are specifically relevant to women also look at things like how to deal with difficult conversations, the best way to deal with conflict, how to create a personal brand… all to encourage development and progression. I find it incredibly fulfilling being part of an initiative such as the Women’s Network at Adobe, where I have the opportunity to help women reach their fullest potential.

Companies should encourage mentorship. I have huge respect for female role models who are refreshingly honest about their journeys; It makes them accessible and gives others confidence.

Supporting working mothers is also key – not just for maternity leave, but for their return to work when they may need flexibility.

15% of women currently work 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?

If I could wave a wand, I’d find a way of encouraging all young people in schools, colleges, universities to see what a career in technology could offer them, not just those on tech courses. Working in tech is not just about coding or engineering – while they are important roles to fill, there are so many other opportunities like sales, marketing, digital, legal.  It’s fascinating: companies need to have diversity if they are to represent their customers, and young people need to have an idea of all the opportunities available to them for companies to be diverse.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Some books I love: Lean In, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, Why Nice Girls don’t get the Corner Office and The Chimp Paradox. If you don’t have enough time to read, get Audible and listen whilst travelling to work!

Rising Strong by Brené Brown is a pivotal book that helped me realise how important it is to be curious about the emotions we are rumbling with, and not just deal with them superficially.

Work Fuel by my friend Colette Heneghan, and her podcast by the same name are also worth considering. An authoritative look at how to take care of ourselves in the real world of work.