As vice president of product development, Colleen Azzarello is a strategic leader that executes the product vision of the company.

She believes that when a company invests in its people and practices, it is an investment in a foundation that consistently produces quality products and solutions. During her time at Sovos, Colleen has led many strategic initiatives including building our global agile management and quality teams. She is currently leading product development for Sovos’ sales and use tax business. Colleen prioritises coaching and development as part of her management responsibilities.

Seeing the next generation of leaders develop under her tutelage that are capable of manoeuvring through industry changes and challenges is a great source of personal pride and satisfaction. When not in the office it’s likely you will find Colleen spending time with family.

She is also passionate about her charity work. Colleen has been volunteering with JDRF since 2013 as a Boston Walk team leader, coach and committee member to raise funds for the research and treatment of type one diabetes.

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

Over the course of my career, I have always worked in technology, across a variety of roles. Having worked as an engineer, trainer, programme or project manager and agile leader, all of these roles have allowed me to stay connected to my passions. Essentially, I love solving problems, improving processes and helping team members grow. Across my various roles, I have been able to build up a portfolio of different skills, and so I credit these experiences for getting me to where I am today!

I am currently Vice President of Technology at Sovos. Every day, my job is to solve and troubleshoot problems – be that through assessing the best way to mentor team members who are at different places in their careers, or by improving the way we solve our clients’ problems with the newest technology. As well as this, I’m responsible for improving the efficiency of our engineers’ workflows and ultimately, making their lives easier. One thing I especially enjoy is being involved in so many different aspects of the business.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Whilst I didn’t specifically sit down and plan my career, I did have a set of my own professional and personal goals, which has always given me something to work towards. When I left college, I gave myself about ten years to fully invest in my career and education, then I switched my focus to balancing my career alongside building a family. When my children were young, I prioritised opportunities and roles that could provide me with a good work life balance and kept travel to a minimum, which fit both my professional and personal goals at the time. As they grew up and became more independent, I was more able to focus on my career growth again. There are always going to be challenges in life, and so I have found it incredibly important to work for a company that is flexible and willing to help employees adapt to them. Over the years, I have been very lucky to work for companies that acknowledge life’s challenges and have helped me to balance work and family along the way.

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

Of course, every career comes with its challenges! In my eyes, the most important approach to any challenge is seeking help from your teams and focusing on learning from the challenges afterwards. This is something I talk about a lot with my teams to help them do the same.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One of my biggest professional achievements has been watching my team members grow – watching the team members that I have helped, flourish in their careers today, fills me with immense pride.

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

Adaptability. Change is constant, especially in the technology space, and being able to keep up with the evolving demands of the industry is so important. However, having the ability to adapt my professional life around my personal life has also been crucial, and working at companies which have allowed me to do that have got me to where I am today.

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

Be vocal and willing to learn. Staying on top of new technologies is important for everyone in the field. And for women especially, knowing you deserve a seat at the table, being vocal to make sure others know that too is really important. Choose your employer wisely; many companies are built on strong core values and have amazing diversity programs in place. With these strong foundations in place, I believe there will be more opportunities for women.

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

I do believe there are still barriers and although I personally don’t think I have ever been held back because of my gender, as a society we need to continue to address this existing bias. This is where education again becomes very important across all ages. Having spoken to students in the Sovos community or with team members that are early in their careers, it is great to hear about their thoughts on diversity and the educational opportunities they have been exposed to. More companies need to promote this internal education to help open the minds of their employees and ensure that we are all working in the right direction.

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

Offering flexibility to all employees is a great place to start. This may include reduction of weekly hours, modifications of schedules, and summer and school vacations to balance childcare. Just the other day, I was telling my teenage daughters that nursing and teaching offer amazing flexibility for mums, but after working in technology for so many years, this makes me sad. Over my career, I have not seen many options available at all for greater flexibility in technology. I have known women that, although they may have had reduced hours, held the same level of responsibilities as others in the field despite being paid less. This is definitely an ongoing problem that needs to be solved, especially with the rise of remote work meaning that people can work from anywhere, with no specific hours and no physical doors that close to stop work. Companies should seek to implement these changes to support women who want to grow their career and family at the same time.

There are currently only 21 per cent 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?

I truly believe in education and influencing our students from an early age. It’s so important for companies to find more ways to connect with female students early-on in their education and demonstrate to them the variety of careers and opportunities they could pursue in technology. That way, students can build their careers early and prepare themselves to enter the fast-paced world of tech.