Donne BurrowsMy career started in industry working my way up through a number of junior procurement roles to category manager for a FTSE100 until I took the plunge into management consultancy and joined KPMG within their Operational Transformation team.

I had a fantastic time at KPMG working in a huge variety of client roles, travelling the world and helping my clients to transform their businesses. After returning from maternity leave in 2011 it was clear that my previous life of working all hours and working in any location was not the ideal mix with juggling nursery drops and mum life so I started a different, but just as rewarding KPMG career internally – helping the firm to transform itself. My passion has always been innovation and technology and it was clear to me that there was a huge digital juggernaut heading straight for the professional services industry and it had to transform or risk being flattened. Working with a number of colleagues in the UK, US and Germany we identified that data access and transparency was the key issue affecting clients and if we could unlock this, we could not only help the incumbents but also open up the industry to new entrants and really start to level the playing field.

It became clear that transformation on this scale had to be independent of any one firm and so I made the decision to leave KPMG after 14 years, with their blessing and to co-found Engine B in August 2019. I am Chief Operating Office of Engine B and our vision is to disrupt and open up the professional services marketplace through increased data access to enable current, and new providers to deliver their services. My role as a COO in a start up is wide and varied, everything from investor meetings, to recruitment, to financial management right through to making sure we have masks and sanitisers available for our recent all team meetings! Over the past 12 months I have led the growth of our team from the two co-founders to a team of 16 today which I am immensely proud of and having responsibility for the livelihood of so many people has suddenly made me feel like a grown up! 😊

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I really didn’t and even today and I don’t have a short, medium or long term career plan. My career has been a result of gut decisions I’ve made and working really hard to earn the opportunities that were made available to me.

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

I know it’s very cliched but I think the biggest challenge was going on maternity leave at a senior manager level, on the cusp of entering the director promotion process. I returned to an internal role after a year and felt my promotion had been pushed to the back of the queue. The reality of any large firm is that fee earning colleagues will always have the stronger business case for promotion. Instead of getting frustrated by this, I continued to work just as hard and to demonstrate my value to the firm and the opportunities I created with, what is now Engine B, have delivered a far better result for me personally in the long run.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It has definitely been my current role, in building a business from scratch, securing a significant government grant and investor funding, and building the team up to the 16 people we are today with another 8-10 roles to fill over the next 6 months. It’s been hairy and very scary at times but without doubt the most rewarding time of my career so far.

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

I think it has been not being fixed on the grade or what a role is called but rather, focusing on what I am doing and what I want to do, and how to get there. Too often we are told that our worth is measured on a job title or how much we earn but I believe our worth is measured in how satisfied we are, if we are continually learning and feel like we are making a difference.

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

You don’t need to be a techy to work in technology! I have no formal technology training but a bright mind, eager to learn will pick up what they need to know and there is so much more to building a career in technology than the tech itself.

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

I believe there are barriers for women working everywhere but what I have seen in tech specifically is that there are still not enough senior women in tech roles. Not for the want of trying or putting pressure on my recruiters but I definitely see far fewer CV’s from women for our senior tech roles and I think this is simply that there are not enough women yet, with the right levels of experience who have moved up the career ladder. It’s reassuring that at the more junior levels, there are lots of female candidates which gives me hope that we will start to see this change over the next few years with far more women moving into senior tech roles.

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

Push your recruiters to present 50% male/ 50% female CV’s for any roles you are recruiting for. As I said before this is more of a challenge at the senior roles but the more we do it, the more we will shift the balance. I think we also need to take some risks in the candidates – we may have a female candidate who has the potential to move into a role so could we give her a push up into it, support her to develop into it rather than taking the safe option with the more experienced male candidate? I am proud to say that my co-founder and I have diversity at the heart of our company values and a board that is more female than male which we hope gives a strong message to the rest of the company.

There is currently only 17% 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 don’t think there is a magic wand, but per my answers above its about taking risks with candidates and supporting them to step up into roles.

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