Debbie AshtonAs a founder of FinancialForce my role is to ensure FinancialForce’s customer experience is best in class.

I look to continuously innovate to deliver moments that matter for the FinancialForce customers, employees and investors. I engage with many customers directly to understand their journey with FinancialForce, and gain feedback and insight to ensure they are maximising the value they receive from the FinancialForce solutions. My position is a global, cross functional role specifically directed to make the FinancialForce customers wildly successful and drive advocacy.  When I started FinancialForce in 2009 with the original CEO & co-founder, I ran the Engineering, Success and Support teams.  I created the Customer Success discipline at FinancialForce, ensuring a customer centric mindset was built into the company’s DNA. Over time I built & ran the Product Strategy, Product Management, Product Marketing and Software Engineering teams globally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly. I was driven by setting goals and targets with things I wanted to accomplish by certain ages. Such as I wanted to have a role which enabled me to travel the world, which meant I needed to go into either consulting or sales type roles. Both of which I’ve had experience with.

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

Yes, one of my earliest career challenges was when I was on maternity leave and our company had just gone through an acquisition.  I realised how important it was to have a support network in place. I was able to go back to work quickly because my dad was retired and he helped with my baby’s childcare when I returned to work. I then moved my home back to the same street I grew up on, five doors down from my mum and dad so it was easier for them to help look after the children, take them to school etc. This gave me the flexibility to travel globally for my role. Moving close to my mum and dad was one of the best decisions I ever made.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has to be starting the FinancialForce business and growing it to nearly 1,000 employees, nine offices and 1,400 customers worldwide.

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

I think my ability to see the strength in the people around me, to create relationships and build teams leveraging people’s unique strengths. Coupled with my desire to continually improve myself and the areas I’m working on an ongoing basis.

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

Do not give up, set targets and goals and then strive to achieve them. Do not allow people to settle for anything less than your dreams. Also I think it helps to find a mentor, someone who can guide you and help you make the right decisions within your role or career.

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

I do think there are barriers for women working in tech. There are not enough female CEOs in technology, or female board members. I do think the board room lacks diversity, whether that is gender diversity or race diversity. I think these barriers can be overcome through continual discussion and raising awareness about the problem so that more and more executives who are decision makers can drive the change that is needed.

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

Companies need to have a diversity and inclusion policy in place that makes everyone regardless of who they are, what backgrounds they have, gender, race, feel equally involved in and supported across the business. This can be initiated through education, starting a Diversity & Inclusion committee like we have at FinancialForce, and ensuring that there is a recruitment and hiring process that supports diversity. Then celebrating the differences in the cultures, backgrounds, etc. as an organisation.  I work very closely with our Chief Legal Officer who heads up our Diversity & Inclusion programme and we aim to support the progress of women working in technology.

There is currently only 17 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 think encouraging more women to choose computer science courses at school, and then continuing to encourage that path for University or College degrees. That is how we will drive more women into the industry, it all starts with the education early on in their journeys

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Understanding about the new technology trends and innovations that are being released all the time through news articles from research companies is a great place to start.

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