Jill Wilson, Senior Business Development Lead at Unisys

Jill Wilson

My main goal at the moment is to make a success of my current role. I think Unisys has a unique offering and a rich heritage, a pedigree unlike any other software company. I want to be effective in introducing it to new customers.

Business development is a very satisfying career as you have considerable control over how you manage your role and you are rewarded based on the results you achieve. What I particularly enjoy about working in technology sales is the meritocracy – everyone is on an equal footing. Either you can do it and you’re good at it, or you don’t and you’re not, regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, from aged 10, I wanted to go into shipbroking like my dad. At 19, I became the youngest ever woman admitted to the Baltic Exchange in the City and one of only six women, compared with 2,000 men, on the Exchange. It was a baptism of fire in terms of holding your own in a ‘man’s world’. After a break to have my family, I had a brief spell in IT recruitment and was approached by a client who asked me to join their software sales team. 20 years later and here we are.

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

Raising a family singlehandedly and trying to balance motherhood with lots of international travel was very tough for me. I made sure my daughters became part of ‘our’ team and this helped as we celebrated my work successes together. They would benefit from my achievements and I always tell them I couldn’t do it without them.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have enjoyed being part of small, new, ‘longshot’ suppliers, bringing innovation to the market and going on to win significant deals with large, demanding enterprises. Writing my book ‘Is Your Boss Mad?’ and achieving a top ten listing on Amazon Business Books was fantastic and allowed me to have a different level of conversation with my prospects.

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

I have never tried to do my job like my male colleagues. EQ (Emotional Intelligence) is now recognised as a valuable attribute, but for years I saw women being encouraged to adopt what were typically male traits in order to be successful. To me, this is the wrong way to approach a challenge. To be consistently successful and happy at work you have to be you, and have faith that the skills and experience you bring have great value.

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

From my personal experience, when I was offered my first tech job, I focused on learning the lexicon for the business. My advice would be to understand the language used in your area of expertise – make sure that you don’t go into a meeting not knowing what to say. Do the research but if you don’t understand don’t be afraid to ask. You will be surprised to see how many times other people confess to not understanding the latest ‘TLAs’.

It’s also important to remember that, although we work in technology, it’s still all about people. Building and nurturing relationships with clients and colleagues is the best way to find your way within an organisation. In every job I’ve had, I’ve tried to reach out and talk to as many people as possible. For instance, when I joined Unisys, the hiring manager gave me a list of about 12 people to connect with. I immediately doubled that – I talked to everybody! I can assure you, 99% of people love helping others – you just have to ask. Having those relationships and building a network within your organisation will help you enormously.

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

I don’t think there are any actual barriers but sometimes women don’t have enough confidence. We need to know when to stand up for ourselves and it’s about having that faith. If you have studied, worked on real-life projects and know your stuff don’t let anyone make you feel like you are not good enough. I recommend practicing saying “Really…?” with incredulous emphasis, so you don’t have to actually say ‘that’s bull!’.

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

I believe that there are many initiatives companies can roll out to support women, access to a flexible working model being one I would have appreciated. It needs to become a widespread standard, so that employees can work around their children and their lives. Furthermore, if a company implements such a model, women need to stand by it and not let other people who are not using the system undermine those who are.

In the past, a request to attend a family event in work time, was often met with rolling eyes from male co-workers. I think that women tend to put much more pressure on themselves to exceed all the expectations and ‘prove’ we are as good as men just because we want to balance career and personal life. It is a horrible feeling trying to cope and we need to change that.

Other company initiatives can contribute to developing confidence and supporting progress. At Unisys, we’ve a Women in Technology group that meets regularly, providing a forum to share and learn from common experience, as well as inviting knowledgeable guest speakers.

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 think it starts with close family members – having mothers, sisters or cousins who get into technology improves the chances that a young woman will follow in their footsteps.

As well as having these role models in personal life, we need them in the public eye too. I’d love to see a woman who’s blatantly techie become a household name! Familiarising girls with women excelling in different aspects of technology should start at the earliest stage. From this, girls are more likely to join a computer club at school, put their hand up to learn coding and attend a careers evening to see the opportunities in the IT sector.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

All of these! My advice would be to read and absorb information from as many sources as possible and maybe find a mentor, this can be invaluable. And find a good recruiter.

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