Jolawn Victor is an entrepreneurial strategist obsessed with leading global teams that build experiences customers love. She is currently the Vice President and UK Country Manager at Intuit QuickBooks.  

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

I am currently based in the UK as the Country Manager for global financial management software provider Intuit QuickBooks, but before this my career has taken me all over the world and across many different industries.

With an educational background in both engineering and marketing, I headed into the working world with a mix of skills that carried me from the USA as Director of Marketing at PEPSICO, to my first taste of Intuit as Product Director in Australia, before settling in the UK, initially as Chief International Officer at Headspace, and finally back to Intuit QuickBooks in London.

I am incredibly fortunate to have explored life and work around the world –  and in the process I have been exposed to many different work cultures and ways of working. I have made a point of using these experiences to inform my leadership style in my more recent roles.

One of the most valuable lessons you can take from each working experience is working out where your passions lie, which will help you to grow in meaningful ways. For me, that can be seen as much inside of my work at QuickBooks as it is outside of it. I am a passionate member of Black Women on Boards and a self-confessed budget nerd, proudly mentoring friends, family and community members around how to take control of their finances.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One of the greatest achievements that has come from my varied career is the ability to truly learn what I am most passionate about and embed that into my work life. When I graduated college with a daunting sum of debt, I immediately began educating myself in personal finance to secure my financial freedom. This education made me realise that establishing a sense of financial wellbeing is so often the key to ensuring psychological freedom and prosperity. In this, I found a purpose that mattered to me.

By matching the moral compass of my life to the moral compass of my livelihood I am guaranteeing a level of investment from myself into my work that will bring positive results.

I am at a point in my career now where I get to look back and see how each step I took helped to successfully navigate me to where I wanted to be: supporting people on their journey to financial freedom as the UK Country Lead for Intuit QuickBooks.

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

I’m a huge fan of author and renowned financial advisor Carla Harris and her ways of thinking. In her TED talk she explains how ‘it’s not enough to just do your job’ – what I took from this is that good networking will get us noticed and good work will get us talked about, but if you want to take the big leaps in your career then you need a sponsor; someone at your company who has a seat at the decision-making table and is prepared to use their voice to advocate for you.

Even in the rapidly evolving tech industry the big decisions are still made by humans, which means there is room for emotional influence and subjective thinking. Particularly for those working in industries where they have been historically overlooked or underestimated, many struggle to throw their hats into the ring. They need someone on the inside who has got their back.

This has certainly been true for me throughout my career and now I make it a point to ensure I am acting as that sponsor to others. As Carla teaches: Our voice is our power, and the most impactful way to grow that power? Give it away.

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

I remember I was working at PEPSICO on a five day market tour across the US eastern seaboard when I got the call that one of my children was unwell and unable to go into daycare. Despite this market tour being a huge work opportunity for me, I knew immediately that I needed to fly home. While the decision to leave was easy, I felt immense anxiety at the thought of telling my boss.

Between site visits, my boss happened to check in with me and asked how the family was. I was so grateful for a way to broach the topic and even more grateful that he immediately encouraged me to go home, care for my family, and crucially, invited me to the next market tour.

While the tech industry – and the world of work as a whole – has made great strides in improving gender representation and accessibility, there remain some stigmas uniquely experienced by women. Admitting to childcare and family needs can be a daunting topic in the workplace for fear of judgement or professional set back. But having allies in the workforce like my PEPSICO boss – that act with care and without bias – can be incredibly powerful..

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

I think often people make the mistake of viewing success as a singular or personal thing, when it is more often than not achieved as part of a team.

I can honestly say the biggest factor in my success has come from empowering my team. By creating an environment where your employees feel comfortable and safe, they are supported to produce their best work, which in turn enables me to do my best work.

While I was at Headspace, the concept of compassionate leadership was heavily promoted and something I still carry with me now at QuickBooks. In tech roles, people are often trained in dealing with numbers, not dealing with people. But it is by investing in the people – their wellbeing, success and emotional security – that is the fundamental driver of success for a business.

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

In industries that have been traditionally male dominated, there are internal processes and frameworks that can be put in place to encourage women into the sector and increase retention rates.

Representation matters, and we need to see more women and more diversity in leadership roles. We need female mentors, all-gender allies, inclusive colleagues. We need to consider our HR policies – what family support measures are in place? How can breast-feeding mothers be supported in a return to work? What about women’s health – is the company informed and equipped to support women experiencing the menopause?

These are issues very close to my heart. At QuickBooks just last year we conducted research that showed Menopause symptoms and lack of support is putting women in tech’s careers on hold. We cannot let this be the standard in our industry and the more we can encourage leading companies to help de-stigmatise these issues and create better support structures, the faster we will see change.

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

Listen and learn. As leaders, the most important thing we can do in any circumstance is listen to our people.

Women don’t have one universal experience of the tech world; each individual is exposed to different challenges and complications, and by listening to their experiences, companies can gather the necessary information to build effective, genuine support frameworks.

At QuickBooks we are already working on the next step for our Menopause initiative. We are continuing to level up our support infrastructure across the business and I am excited to announce the latest updates in the coming weeks.

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

I recommend seeking out the organisations that align with your personal and professional true north. You can utilise  these established communities to immerse yourself in the knowledge and experience of others in similar situations and learn from them. Some of the greatest groups I have found are Black Women on Boards and Chief – these surround me with like-minded people and support me in my own journey.

Be proactive, search these groups out. Don’t forget to look internally within your organisation too – at QuickBooks we have a fantastic Women’s Networking Group; an incredibly proactive community of women across all parts of the business providing inspiration and support for one another.

And if the type of group you’re looking for doesn’t exist yet, start it yourself! Chances are there are plenty of other women out there waiting to join you.