With over 3 decades of experience in IT and AV services, Holly has a proven track record of success in the channel ecosystem, collaborating effectively with distributors, vendors, and partners.

As the UK lead of Extreme Networks‘ Channel division, Holly‘s main responsibility is to foster a high-performing team that collectively drives success in their respective areas, and align the team’s focus and efforts with the objectives of the distribution network.

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

For more than 30 years, I’ve focused on IT and AV services. Whether working with distributors, vendors, or partners, my entire career has been channel-based. Six years ago, I joined Extreme as a Partner Account Manager, a role that I now oversee. After three years of dedicated work, I was promoted to Head of Channel, and just last August I achieved another milestone as I was promoted to the position of Director of Channel. My primary goal is to foster a high-performing team that collectively drives success in their respective areas and aligns our focus and efforts with the objectives of our distribution network.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never intentionally mapped out my career path, it sort of fell into place. I needed a job and ended up landing one at an IT distributor. From there, I’ve been following where my career naturally leads and pursuing what truly sparks my passion.

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

Navigating the professional landscape as a woman has definitely presented its own set of challenges. This is a predominantly male-dominated industry, and there’s often an unspoken pressure to prove oneself constantly. Despite all the awareness and discussions around gender equality, the reality of pay disparity persists, even in 2024. While we may celebrate International Women’s Day or Month, unfortunately, the actions to address inequality often lag.

For example, during my tenure at Panasonic, I spent eight years as the only female salesperson in Europe. While some organisations have certainly made strides toward better representation, the industry as a whole remains heavily skewed toward men.

As a leader, I’ve been fortunate to welcome strong female candidates into my team. However, I’ve observed that a disproportionately low number of women apply for certain roles. This underrepresentation of female talent poses a significant challenge to future workforce diversity and progression. We need to dig deeper into why more women aren’t pursuing these opportunities or feeling empowered to do so. This issue reflects a broader industry-wide dynamic that demands a concentrated effort toward systemic change.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

This role stands as my most significant career milestone, driven by the ability to develop and execute a successful strategy alongside a formidable team. Working within a company that not only values diversity but actively embraces it while offering robust solutions that align with our objectives has been immensely rewarding. Despite being a smaller region compared to others, our success in UKI is a testament to our collective effort. Achieving greater results with fewer resources shows how effective our strategy is and how well our teams work together.

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

For the most part, it’s my own personal drive to succeed that propels me forward. I’m driven by the desire to accomplish what I set out to achieve. Enjoying what you do is essential. I also find fulfilment in nurturing, guiding, and mentoring my team, as well as witnessing their growth and progress. Selecting the right individuals, developing effective strategies, and providing mentorship to ensure everyone reaches their full potential is key. Consistency is also crucial; I firmly believe in staying the course, even when progress appears slow. It’s vital to maintain a positive outlook and adapt by continuously making necessary adjustments along the way. Ultimately, it’s about keeping the team motivated and resilient, finding creative ways to move forward, and exploring alternative approaches when faced with setbacks or any kinds of constraints.

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

First and foremost, finding enjoyment in what you do is crucial. If you’re not passionate about your work, it’s challenging to excel. Approach tasks with diplomacy and a positive attitude, and stay open to exploring new methods and ideas. Embracing change and challenging yourself leads to growth. Your enthusiasm and drive also resonate with others, so instilling their confidence in you as a person, not just the technology you represent, is key. Success isn’t solely determined by having the best technology, it’s also about effectively conveying its value to customers. In the channel, cultivating loyal partners with a focus on quality and scalability is paramount.

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

There are definitely challenges that persist for women within the industry. Joining Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) within your company can be incredibly impactful. Personally, I’ve found that becoming actively involved in ERGs gives me a voice in decision-making processes and helps address any lingering barriers. Taking a proactive approach by participating in these kinds of groups and assuming leadership roles within them can make a real difference. Encouraging your peers to join and actively participate also fosters inclusivity and collaboration. It’s essential to understand that ERGs, such as women’s groups, are not and should not be exclusive. They thrive on diverse perspectives and participation to foster understanding, acceptance, and continuous learning within the organisation.

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

There are a couple of important considerations here which tie into our previous discussion. Why is there a significant gender disparity in the tech industry? Are women not stepping forward for these roles due to a lack of confidence or feeling inadequate? Research suggests that women often hesitate to apply for jobs if they don’t meet every requirement listed in the job description, while men are more likely to apply even if they only meet some of the criteria. This confidence gap needs to be addressed.

We also need to rethink how job specs are formulated. Instead of a laundry list of qualifications, companies should focus on the essence of the role and the skills required to excel in it. For instance, insisting on specific degrees may exclude talented individuals who gained expertise through alternative paths. Talent doesn’t always come with a diploma. We must embrace a more inclusive approach to recruitment.

Further, we need to engage students early on and provide opportunities for practical experience. Offering internships or work placements to business and marketing students allows them to gain firsthand insight into our industry. By nurturing this talent from an early stage, we can cultivate a pipeline of skilled individuals ready to contribute upon graduation.

Lastly, once we have talented women within our organisation, it’s crucial to provide them with mentorship and career development opportunities. Personalised programs that cater to individual aspirations and skills are essential. This kind of support should be available to all employees, regardless of gender. There’s a clear need for personal development initiatives within organisations.

There is currently only 15% 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 believe there are multiple factors contributing to the lack of diversity in tech, there isn’t solely one issue. Consider this: if only 15% of the tech workforce consists of women, achieving diversity within a team or organisation becomes inherently challenging.

If I could wave a magic wand, my wish would be to foster greater diversity at the entry level. By cultivating diversity from the outset, starting at universities and entry-level positions, we can organically infuse the industry with fresh perspectives and talent. This approach not only creates opportunities but also nurtures genuine interest and enthusiasm for tech roles. Unfortunately, there’s no easy fix or magic solution to this challenge. It requires ongoing dedication and strategic initiatives to create meaningful and sustainable change.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

In the tech industry, there’s no shortage of networking events and literature, and while they offer valuable information, they’re not always the key factor in attracting talent. Ultimately, it’s the people you work with that make the biggest difference. So, how do we make our teams more appealing to potential recruits? Career events can certainly pique interest, but it’s the interpersonal connections that truly matter. While informative resources are beneficial, my personal experience tells me that it’s the relationships and connections that have drawn me in. My introduction to Extreme was through a referral, and from the start, it’s been the people who have kept me engaged and committed.

Read more from our inspirational women here.