Emma MahyMy career started in nursing and, while I have shifted fields more than once, that desire to make a positive difference to society and individuals has always driven what I’ve done.

After I decided to leave my nursing career behind me as a result of injury, I worked in technology for a period of time, managing operational roll-outs. It was a great basis for the future but, after seven years, I felt I needed a fresh outlet for my passion and energy.

It was then that I moved into the charity sector, fundraising and event planning. A period of my life that exposed me to many interesting people and projects. It was truly inspirational to work with others who were making such a positive impact.

After 14 years I decided that I wanted to reignite my career in the world of technology so moved to the network provider, WND. It was there that I met my current business partner, Neal Forse.

Our combined frustration with the IoT market led us to join forces and develop a service that would make the Internet of Things accessible for the masses – helping to realise the potential that it offers to change society and the lives of individuals.

I am now the CEO of IoT Solutions Group and am thoroughly enjoying growing a hungry and talented team and proposition, as we gain more traction and demonstrate the effectiveness of our solutions.

The last three years have been exciting and inspiring. I’ve met and worked with many amazing people who have taught me so much and been a constant source of inspiration. We have developed some genuinely life-saving solutions in the field of adult social care. We have also deployed transformational solutions in fields such as social housing, waste management, smart parking and compliance – all with the intention of improving public services and saving organisations money.

With my background in nursing and charities, the tech world may seem a strange step but, as we’re demonstrating, tech can be for good and I am delighted that all the work I have put in is making a positive impact on the lives of individuals and society as a whole.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the beginning yes. I planned to be a nurse but then, after a period of time I decided I needed a change and, to some extent, my subsequent career has ‘happened’! By that I mean I didn’t have a specific plan, other than wanting to be involved in work that makes a positive difference.

The roles I have undertaken have arisen as a result of my relationships. Getting to know people, helping others out, exploring opportunities and so on. The more I explored, the more doors opened.

The career choices I have made, whilst not planned from the beginning, are a result of hard work and strong relationships nurtured over time.

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

The biggest challenge I faced was when I sustained an injury that meant I had to halt my career in nursing. I was 18 and all the studying I’d done and the work experience I’d gained to that point had been focused on that career path. It was devastating to me at the time.

I had to stop, reassess my life and decided what I was going to do next. I took the opportunity to travel around Australia and Asia and think about what I wanted to do. I made a point of opening my mind to new opportunities, built my networks and explored all options.

My future turned out to be hugely positive but, as a young woman whose chosen career had come to a sudden dead end, it was a significant mental challenge to overcome and required calmness, friends, family and a great deal of patience to make the next step.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without doubt it is being bold enough to set up IoT Solutions Group. Evolving the company from a micro business with embryonic ideas to an organisation that is scaling and employing people fills me with enormous pride.

We produce our own UK manufactured devices, have developed our own data analytics and reporting platform, work with a fantastic team of employed and contracted champions in engineering, sales, marketing and administration and, most importantly, we have solutions in the field with a range of clients making a huge difference…saving lives, improving environments and more.

If you’d told me five years ago that I’d be sat here now telling you this story, I’d have laughed at you. It’s been stressful, challenging, exciting, tiring and rewarding – often all at the same time!

The journey has been exciting but also hugely educational. Every day I learn something new, be it about PCB components, the world of adult social care or PR…it’s refreshing and inspiring to work across so many areas of the business.

I’ve made a difference in many places but to establish and grow the business as I have with my business partner, Neal, is truly exhilarating.

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

Relationships. Without doubt, connecting with people, listening to their challenges and needs, being an open door and establishing trust is the number one factor.

I have a wide and varied network and love talking to people. Asking questions and understanding other people’s goals has created so many opportunities. One conversation leads to an introduction or a follow-up meeting, out of which a long-lasting relationship is built. Other conversations lead to invitations to speak at events, from which new sales leads appear or expert advice is uncovered.

No successful person achieves success alone – even the biggest names out there have mentors, coaches and critical friends to call upon.

I’m truly grateful to those that have helped me on my journey.

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

There three elements I’d emphasise.

1 – As per the previous question – relationships and networks. Put yourself out there, meet people, be brave, ask questions and be curious.

2 – Tenacity – simply put, don’t give up. If you have a passion and a meaningful problem to which you have a solution, go for it! If you have a good idea, it may need refining, but there are people out there who can, and want to, help you. Persist and connect – you’ll find the support you need.

3 – Look after yourself. Any career path can be challenging and, in the fast-moving world of technology it is easy to feel overwhelmed or out of your depth. In truth, most people are in the same boat; they have a good idea or a particular passion but need to learn. No-one has all the answers so don’t be hard on yourself.

Cut yourself some slack, keep a trusted group of friends close to help you and also take time out to give your mind a rest. Burnout doesn’t help anyone.

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

Sadly, yes. There are barriers for women across all industries, relating to age old cultures and societal norms, such as women traditionally being the ones to take parental leave and promotions being hard to come by as a result.

Whilst improving, unconscious bias still exists and women are not treated as equals. Most women will be able to relate to situations of men talking to their male colleagues, even if the colleague is the more junior or less experienced member of staff.

I am hopeful that cultures are improving, but there is still a way to go.

To overcome these barriers though we have to be ruthless in demonstrating our competence. Take the podium when opportunities arise, open doors through strong relationships, get your name out there in the media and on social networks. Don’t take no for an answer and maintain your self-belief.

Only by raising your head above the parapet can you prove to the world that you have something to contribute. As I said before, if you have a good idea and energy, you will make it. It may be harder to make the cut through as a woman, but it can be done.

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

The starting point has to be cultural. Leadership teams need to genuinely embrace inclusive ways of working. It’s not just about saying the right things, but genuinely valuing the input and views of the whole workforce.

By opening conversation and welcoming challenge from across the organisation, ways of working are improved and opportunities are available to all. This culture has to be lived throughout all levels of management and be genuinely adopted by the whole team – lip service is not sufficient.

Alongside a true culture of inclusivity and openness, organisations then need to look at more practical methods of helping women in tech progress. Parental leave policies need to give women the chance to return to their careers after having a baby, without penalty. Support in training and development needs to be made available to those that want to embrace it and networks developed that allow women to access the expertise and support that will help them progress.

If entrenched barriers are removed and support provided then we can progress. To my mind though, it’s a case of ensuring the institutional barriers at corporate and societal level are dismantled.

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?

Making science and technology be seen as gender neutral in schools. If we can move away from STEM subjects being seen as the domain of boys and embed initiatives that open them to all, the change will come.

The nature of children is that they want to do things that are fun and don’t separate them from their peers, so if we can make STEM subjects ‘cool’ for all, we’re on to something.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I don’t have one or two particular go-to places. I have progressed by having a broad range of inputs so networking groups and accelerators such as Barclay’s Eagle Labs are valuable, organisations such as Digital Catapult also offer opportunities to meet inspirational people you can learn from.

I also find that local networking groups offer great opportunities to build strong relationships, as it’s easier to connect with them more frequently on a personal level. Hailing from Dorset, I’m extremely lucky, as it is a hotbed of technological innovation, but there are more and more innovation centres popping up around the UK, so seek them out and jump in with two feet.

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