June AleJune Alle, is an Enterprise Account Executive at an IoT startup called Particle. which provides a platform to connect, manage, and deploy software applications to IoT devices.

Her specialism is how IoT is used to improve energy efficiency, particularly in stopping water waste. In her role at Particle, she helps companies bring IoT products in this area to market and to scale them. Typically, these may be IoT devices to detect water leaks before they happen, prevent freezing pipes or manage heating and ventilation systems of large buildings using the lowest possible amount of energy.

With 15 year’s experience of corporate sponsorship for technology companies, June studied software engineering shortly after moving from Nigeria to the UK as a teenager and she was the only woman in her class. She worked 6 days a week in a factory in order to save to study the subject she loved. She is as passionate about empowering more women into tech careers, as she is about harnessing the power of IoT to help the world reach its sustainability goals.

June is a mother of two children aged 11 and 3.

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

I was born in the UK but raised in Nigeria by two beautiful parents who taught me that I can achieve anything I want in life.  When I was 6 my mother told me: “June, the world is your oyster.” That’s something I will never forget. At 18 I returned to the UK with my elder brother to start our lives from scratch. We shared a room in a flat and started off working 12 hours-a-day, six days a week at a sausage factory in Leicester. With the money I earned , I could support my mother and fund my younger siblings’ education back in West Africa whilst planning my study for a Software Engineering  degree at DeMonfort Unversity in Leicester..

I was determined to succeed in a technology career. I also realised I have a knack for sales, so I moved on from the sausage factory to sales roles. Quite quickly, I moved into sales management . During my final year at university, I would spend part of my day working on my thesis which was on Neural Networks and Fuzzy Logic and the other part of my day managing a sales team of 10 people.

I was also a keen organiser and I started planning weddings for friends and then, realising I had a knack for event planning, I paired this with my passion for technology and started working at White October Events, helping launch global tech conferences like the Lead Developer, New York.

At the beginning of this year I took a role as an Enterprise Account Executive at Particle, an IoT startup. Particle is an end-to-end IoT platform that combines software, hardware, and connectivity as an integrated solution for  their customers. My specialism is IoT technology for the HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning)  and the Water Utilities industry.

I am also a mother to two beautiful children They are my source of inspiration. In my spare time I love to dabble in interior design, singing and travel.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Honestly, no. The plan was to go into medicine but I realised soon enough that I couldn’t stand the sight of blood and that ended that dream. But tech has always been in my heart. My mother bought me my first toy computer at about age 9 and it was my favourite toy. I’ve always chosen roles at companies the embrace diversity and preferably start-ups where I can make a real difference.

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

I have been told many times along the way, “You can’t do it” or “You are not focused on the job”, because I am a career woman with children. Every single time, I have excelled and become one of the company’s greatest assets.

When I had children, I was at the peak of my career as a Senior Account Executive at SDSD, a tech company offering SaaS solutions to the maritime industry, I also had a secondary role working  closely with the CEO on strategy and implementation of a new SaaS platform. Aound that time, I decided to start a family and gave it all up to spend time with my children during their formative early years. I left behind a role I loved and a great salary with excellent benefits.  What I didn’t anticipate was how hard it would be to get back into the workforce at the level I had previously been at. How did I get back on top? I started at the beginning, took smaller roles and worked my way up.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

That would have to be in my previous role working for SDSD, I played a big role in their Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy, working very closely with the CEO, finding partners, landing major deals and accelerating growth in new and unchartered territories. I travelled to 10 countries in one year such as France, Switzerland, Dubai, the Netherlands, Italy, etc opening new doors and managing complex deals.

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

When I came back to the UK at 18, I had to find the grit and determination to succeed in a new territory. I had to embrace a new culture and a new way of doing things whilst making ends meet and studying for a career in tech, all at the same time.  Those were trying times but they taught me resilience and the ability to successfully take on multi-faceted roles in tech. More importantly, I am a Jehovah’s Witness and I remind myself of  the words in the good book  that say “..make sure of the more important things..” That keeps me grounded and has played a big part in my success not just in my career but as a person.

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

Breathe! Then step into it and you’ll be fine. Take ownership of who you are and what your role is and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box; follow your gut and realise it’s ok to be different. You are your own best asset. Being a woman of colour in the tech industry, I have found that embracing what makes me unique and different has always been my best asset.

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

I think times have changed since I started out studying software engineering when I was  one of only two girls on the course. But still, it remains  particularly challenging for women (and men) getting back into work after choosing to take a break to embrace parenthood. That needs to be looked at and supported with career schemes introduced specifically  for people who belong to that subset.

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

Offering women (and men) with children-flexible working hours, proactively encouraging them to block off time in their calendar for school runs, etc. More of that is needed in this field to support the careers of women (and men) who have childcare responsibilities. People should feel it is possible to have careers in tech without feeling like they aren’t present for their children.

There are currently only 21 per cent of women working in tech, if you could change things, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Find a way to increase mentorships and scholarship for women in tech. Start the process of introducing science and technology to girls early in life.  Reach out to them during their formative years and introduce them to tech like my mum did for me, in her own way.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

If you’re into IoT like I am, join the Women in IoT group. There are other groups for women depending on your area of expertise. Actively seek out a mentor (outside of your organisation) and a sponsor (within your organisation). I have found this to be very helpful.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

It would be, “Relax June; you’ll be fine. You’ll do well in your career, spiritually and in your life as a whole. Just remember to make time for the more important things” .