Joanne ThurlowCanadian born, Joanne has spent 15+ years living in multiple European countries, making Isle of Man home since early 2021.

As Head of IT for Siemens Energy, Industrial Application Solutions (SE IA), she partners with business providing strategic, innovative, cost sensitive and engineering-centric, global IT environments. As leading Energy transformation towards sustainability, SE IA engineers innovative electric, automation, and digital products, solutions and services for multiple markets including Oil & Gas, Marine, and more.

Joanne further commits her time to providing leadership, inspiration, motivation, strategic consulting, and market insights through various avenues: As a Digital IOM Executive board member; committee member of LOVE TECH (IOM), volunteers committed to promoting STEM careers for girls & young women; or as a global speaker at various conferences.

With 30+ years in Tech, Joanne has an extensive knowledge of IT. Today’s focus is on innovation, solutions, digital business transformation, IoT, tech-enabled sustainability, agile working and new organizational models.

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

Canadian born, I have spent 15+ years living in multiple European countries, making Isle of Man home since early 2021. With 30+ years in Tech, I have an extensive knowledge of IT. Today’s focus is on digital business transformation, IoT, tech-enabled sustainability, agile working, and new organizational models.

As Head of IT for Siemens Energy, Industrial Application Solutions (SE IA), I partner with business providing strategic, innovative, cost sensitive and engineering-centric IT environments in over 40+ countries. As a leading organization in energy transformation, SE IA engineers innovative electric, automation, and digital products, solutions and services for multiple markets including Oil & Gas, Marine, and more.

I further commit my time providing leadership, inspiration, motivation, strategic consulting, and market insights through various avenues: As a Digital IOM Executive board member; committee member of LOVE TECH (IOM) promoting STEM careers for girls & young women; or as a global speaker at various conferences. I am now working on my first business book ‘Team Management – as learned from the back of a Dog Sled’  to be published early 2022.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, at key intervals as milestones were reached and circumstances changed.  My academic choices provided equal skills in science and business. I set position and earning targets by certain ages. At one point, not being sure what was next for me, I invested in a career consultation process where I deep dived into all aspects of personality, vocational interests and more – the best investment I made in myself. I did not plan to be at the level I am today. That has been part of the evolution of my career.

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

Careers, as life, are full of challenges. My biggest challenge came in moving to UK. A complete restart – no job, no working visa, no business network and only one contact.  I researched the job environment, working culture and volunteer opportunities, went to local business events, etc. I approached industry leaders for advice (not jobs), was clear on what I had to offer, and what I did not.  A few years with  Siemens, a promotion to Global IT coordinator based me in Norway. A few months after that, organization changes led to my current role and to Germany. Many openly questioned my ability or my right to be in this role; cultural expectations stated promotions were the ‘entitlement’ of years of service. I was ‘unknown and unproven’, new to Siemens. The biggest challenge was Imposter Syndrome – accepting I could do this role, that it was ok not to know everything, that I would develop the knowledge and skills – and most importantly – the confidence to do it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Where I am today – Completely restart my career in another country and continent; secure a C level management position with global responsibility for one of the world’s most respected companies. Be appointed to the Digital IOM Executive Board who, in partnership with the DIOM Agency, will set direction for the digital industry of country. It is such an honour to be a part of that! That’s a big thing to say! To help inspire young girl & women in tech careers through LOVE TECH (IOM), public speaking, and writing – I have the privilege of providing leadership, inspiration, motivation to the inspiring young women in tech today.

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

Being willing to get out of my comfort zone, take calculate risks and accept/deal with the consequences thereof.  That includes anticipating, planning, mitigating those risks and working through the inevitable setbacks.

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

First, understand YOU – your personality, vocational interests, and overall aptitudes. Knowing what you are good at, interested in – or not – contribute greatly to setting direction.

Next – understand your DIRECTION/GOALS – Where do you want to go in your career? What is the ideal role you imagine for yourself? What does your perfect ‘day at the office’ look like to you? Use this as a start point, work backwards to understand what will get you there.

Thirdly, understand how OTHERS SEE YOU. We are usually unaware of how others see us and what value we bring. Make use of tools such as 360degree interviews to begin to understand this.

Last, get clear on what your strengths, weaknesses, gaps are, your goals and revisit these often. Review frequently – are you on track or not? Realign, revisit, learn from your failures as much as your successes.  Never stop learning!

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

Yes, there are still barriers for women in tech, as with other minorities. Creating lasting change will need action at many levels – individual, society, corporate culture and through government policy.

We actively need to attract girls/women to the Tech industry by raising awareness of the many interesting opportunities that exists. Diversity and inclusion targets and programs within corporations’ help keep them there. Too often, women leave through insensitive policies and cultures, which make it difficult to manage their family, work, harassment, biases etc.

By creating environments that allow women to ‘strive and thrive’, more women will be in place to help achieve the quota targets set out by governmental policies. At this level, promoting women into C level roles and onto Director Boards, where they can more readily influence the strategic outcomes of an organization.

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

There is no one action that can be recommended. Organizations – and industries – will be at various degrees of progression is creating a supportive and enabling environment. We need to create environments that allow women to ‘strive and thrive’

Awareness programs educating all management and employees on unconscious bias is a great place to start. ‘Getting to know you’ programs to ‘spotlight’ individuals within an organization is another inclusive way to raise awareness. Championing programs go beyond mentoring by actively raising the awareness of talent – this opens many ‘doors to the old boys club’.

However, it is not the sole remit of an organization. Women themselves, inadvertently become the barrier by hesitating to apply for higher roles if they do not feel they most of the requested skills; fear it could take away from family responsibilities’ resulting in guilt: Imposter syndrome steps in and many step back.  Women need to be encouraged to self-promote and take more risks.

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?

Give women the personal soft skills to self-promote, be confident and take risks. If personally empowered, they will excel, be excited, prove the ‘nay-sayers’ wrong. This will go a long way to keeping the women currently in tech in the game, have them go further, and subsequently encourage other women to step into the industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are many resources available in multiple formats. It is important to find ones that resonate with where you are today. That said, I do have a few ‘go to’ favourites which include:

Conferences:  in person/virtual/networking

https://www.women-in-technology.com/   and https://www.europeanwomenintech.com/

These events are top drawer. The quality of speakers, relevancy of topics, and the sheer opportunity to meet so many other like-minded women is brilliant!  I find the audience here is varied in age and role and attracts more senior level women.

Online platform in concert with Women in Tech events – https://ascend.women-in-technology.com/

Online virtual event – https://www.womentech.net/  This event rocks! A completely online event, it is attended globally by over 100,000 attendees.  Attended by a wide variety of women, it does seem to resonate more with the younger women.

Some reading material I often recommend:

  • The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It by Valeria Young
  • How the World sees you by Sally Hogshead – great tool for understand how others see you and creating your own value statements
  • Business Model YOU, written by Tim Clark (part of Stratgyzer series of books)

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here