Gita Singham-Willis PhotoGita Singham-Willis is one of three founders of Cadence Innova, a multi award winning digital and business transformation consultancy operating in the UK.

Cadence was at the forefront of digital transformation with Gita and the other founders working with Government to set up cutting edge innovations in digital;  Directgov (predecessor of GDS), NHS Choices and the first back office shared service in central Government providing the infrastructure for the new world of digital services.

Delivery of the UK Government’s first ever Gender Pay Gap (GPG), digital-by-default reporting service, is one of her career stand-out achievements. This award-winning project has propelled gender equality to levels where economic differences through pay, can be really tackled and make a difference to the lives of women from all backgrounds across the UK.

GPG is making a significant contribution towards understanding the prevalence, locations and causes of the gender pay gap in the UK, with multi-national and global companies in the UK addressing the pay gap divide annually.

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

As a female British Asian manufacturing engineer, travelling around the world, managing factory operations, I gained a solid foundation in understanding a wide variety of different cultures and approaches to work!  The age of ERP implementations led me into consulting and finally into building digital services and embedding digital culture. After a few moves across consulting firms I finally set up Cadence Innova with my business partners as a way of providing a different brand of consultancy with a different ethos – one of collaboration and diversity, nurturing skills and expertise, and working with our clients to have a beneficial impact on our society. As such we have grown our workforce from 3 to over 40 and have attracted many experienced female colleagues, into the industry, giving opportunities in the expansive digital world, whilst supporting modern and flexible ways of working.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did not plan my career at all.  As a ‘good’ girl of Sri-Lankan heritage, I did what was expected, to an extent, at the beginning. I focused on getting to Cambridge to do something in the sciences…. But after that it all became much more organic.  After a couple of years in engineering there, I realised that I hadn’t planned for anything past university… and didn’t really know what I should be doing with my life. I went into manufacturing in the 3rd year at college as it seemed to be a more practical application of science, and thus fell into manufacturing operations. After that it was more about taking opportunities as they came my way and jumping in! Starting my own business was never something I thought I would do growing up!

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

My career has always been about challenge. Being the only women in a manufacturing environment, and a woman of colour to boot, travelling from place to place, working in a foreign language environment, with just two weeks of being on an intensive course for each country, and no social network to fall into… It was very much about making it happen by myself and building inner strength and resilience.

In each country I had to get used to the way of life, the culture, find a social life, learn a language, and make a success of whatever job I was doing with little guidance. This experience made me realise that there was no reason to be afraid.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Starting Cadence. Creating and growing an organisation that is values driven and embraces a diverse culture, delivering projects which have a positive impact on society…. I am incredibly proud of our employee owners, and how they commit to our values.

Delivery of the UK Government’s first ever Gender Pay Gap (GPG), digital-by-default reporting service, is one of my career stand-out achievements. This award-winning project has propelled gender equality to levels where economic differences through pay, can be really tackled and make a difference to the lives of women from all backgrounds across the UK.

GPG is making a significant contribution towards understanding the prevalence, locations and causes of the gender pay gap in the UK, with multi-national and global companies in the UK addressing the pay gap divide annually.

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

There are a few things that helped me in my journey. Realising that success can be defined in different ways, and that success and happiness are not mutually exclusive, gave me the freedom to change career after 10 years in manufacturing. After this, working across multiple organisations led me to realise that the values I have and the work I wanted to do were not always in line with what I ended up doing. I wanted a more rounded approach to work, a team ethos built on support and collaboration, and a desire to do positive impactful work. And so, Cadence began.

And I do have to shout out to my business partners, colleagues and my husband – who are all very good at keeping me focussed on those things that really matter in life.

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

Keep learning and exploring. Challenge yourself and push the boundaries surrounding you. Don’t worry about taking a few wrong turns…

Understand if what you are doing resonates with your values and what you really love to do.

Find good support mechanisms – networks to help you, resources to help you learn, people to mentor and coach you

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

Yes – sadly many sectors are still male dominated and working within that environment is challenging. A level of resilience is necessary for individuals, along with a healthy use of mentors and coaches. Luckily there are more and more networks for women in technology to provide support. Companies need to really work hard to expand the talent pool when searching for resources. Positive attempts at integrating women in at an early stage and investing in keeping them interested and engaged are essential. This has been the ethos at Cadence where 57% of our employees are female and many are leading tech work in the central and local government sectors, as well as in private and health sectors too. The company supports all employees work life balance needs, from their child to adult care responsibility needs to working flexibly to meet everyday life situations.

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

I can speak of my own organisation to demonstrate this best… We at Cadence support women through a very flexible approach to work. We have employed many women returners who have family commitments which we understand and value, and some work part-time.  We provide challenge for our people, but they have the support of the whole organisation as this enables people who come from diverse backgrounds to find their feet quickly and start exploiting their strengths. We also are more concerned, when recruiting people, about their values, their fit with the organisation and their aptitude and attitude. Looking outside a ‘traditional consultancy profile’ has helped us grow and develop talent from within, enabling those who are interested in technology at all levels to learn.