Margarete McGrathMargarete McGrath is the Chief Digital Officer for Dell Technologies for the UK. 

Previous to that, Margarete worked as a Management Consultant where she worked for EY and PwC leading complex change programmes. She previously worked for PwC in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and more recently in Ireland. Margarete  supported many public and private sector clients with their business transformations.  

Alongside this, Margarete  previously ran two successful start up’s focusing on sharing models in food sustainability and building social networks while in New Zealand. 

Today, Margarete  works with a diverse group of Dell Technologies clients to support them with their digital and security transformations. Dell Technologies provides a wide range of solutions ranging from edge computing delivering smart solutions to advanced analytics to drive enhanced and secure customer experiences and new business model opportunities for leading financial institutions.  

Dell Technologies is continuing to invest and innovate in research and development across its seven technology businesses which enables Dell Technologies to partner with leading global clients to support them automate, modernise and transform their business models. 

Margarete is a champion of diversity in digital and a strong advocate of STEM. She is big believer in female entrepreneurship and green technology. Margarete is an advocate of Mental Health and Wellbeing in Dell. 

Margarete is also one of our speakers at our upcoming virtual tech conference, Disrupt. Innovate. Lead. on 26 June. This unique learning experience is aimed at individuals working in technology who would like broaden their industry knowledge, learn new skills and benefit from the thought leadership of some of the brightest minds in the tech industry.

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

I am the Chief Digital Officer for Dell Technologies in the UK. Prior to that, I worked as a management consultant with EY and PwC for many years driving large scale change programmes, many of which had a strong connection with technology. My current role is diverse with a focus on both internal and external change to drive digital adoption. I am big supporter of internal people focussed change initiatives such as reverse mentoring, mental health awareness and building collaborative networks with our clients.

A big part of my role today is focused on driving greater digital transformation and adoption of new ways of working particularly considering this pandemic. We are focused on supporting our clients with how they return to work safely and how we help businesses reimagine their business models to leverage existing and new technologies and platforms to drive value.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To an extent I did have a plan or at least an idea of a plan. I really enjoyed working on big transformation programmes for global business while I was in the advisory world. That provided me with some insight into the power of technology and the value it can unlock for organisations with the right business readiness and change management support. Since then, I was drawn to a move into technology as I wanted to learn more about how it can really accelerate growth.
Michael Dell is an impressive entrepreneur and inspirational leader and so when the opportunity presented itself to work full time in technology, I made the change. In summary to answer the question, I always had an idea that technology would be part of my career journey and it hasn’t disappointed yet.

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

Yes, I think that’s where most of my learning comes from. I think the challenges and set backs we have are often the biggest teachers for us. I have had lots of setbacks from change programmes falling over at the eleventh hour, to unions refusing to adopt new protocols and embrace digital devices to drive efficiency after considerable rounds of consultation and agreements to integration project not meshing together as planned. Some of these challenges have been disappointing and frustrating at the time but I know in hindsight, there have been lessons to learn from each of these experiences. You have to take the positives from each situation, I really believe that there is learning to be had from everything.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I think many of the achievements have been personal where I have delivered a large result for a client or I have seen an organisation make a large shift in behaviours to drive and spin up a new business model.

Some of the most memorable achievements are the small wins where I know that I have shifted my perspective on something in a considerable way. One small example is the move I made from an Advisory Partnership focussed on long term value creation to a US quarterly driven technology organisation. A technology company that is looking to drive quarterly sales but also develop long term value driven transformational solutions. This was a significant shift for me, one that I really feel I have gained hugely from a learning perspective. I remember feeling that it was a bit of a leap of faith at the time.

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

I have always had great mentors and sponsors throughout my career, both at PwC and beyond. These relationships have been invaluable to me and I draw upon them regularly to seek their guidance and wisdom. I think the other factor is that quest for learning and curiousity, I have always believed that we are always learning and developing so being open minded has really helped me throughout my journey so far.

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

Firstly, I think the first thing is to believe in yourself and your value. Self-worth and self-belief go a long way when you are facing a shift or a change in career.

There are lots of pathways into technology firms whether it is through technology sales, business operations, engineering, marketing, eco system ventures etc… I think if you can identify the companies that your values align to and see what opportunities they may have available, that’s a start. Right now, there is a hold on recruitment across the technology and innovation space, but this is short term and things will reopen so my guidance would be to use this time well. Figure out what you want to do in technology, research and short list the technology firms that resonate with you and start to build your network. If you are entrepreneurial minded, you may want to consider setting up your own start up, there are lots of platforms and support mechanisms available to encourage early stage start ups with bright ideas get off the ground.

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

I think things have come along way in the past few years, but we can do better across all parts of technology. We still do not have enough STEM graduates and young girls looking at STEM courses in school and university. At a board level, female representation is still under represented despite the great efforts by Helena Morrissey in the 30% club. I think we have a long way to go in the Venture Capital space particularly around tech and innovation and it is disappointing to see the slow pace of change in terms of diversity and inclusion. I think the barriers stem from are a mix of people reverting back to old ways because that’s what they have always had and a lack of courage to invest, nurture and grow both internal and external talent in STEM roles.

In summary, I think we have a lot more to do. However, I am hopeful as we have many more senior female and male champions flying the flag for young women in technology. It’s a start but much work needs to be done to get this more balanced across all capability areas in the technology sector.

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

I think there are several ways to support the growth of women in technology and there is no single bullet. I think much of the progress can be traced to a few key mechanisms:

Commitment from senior male and females leaders in the industry to get more women and great ethnic groups in technology roles. We also need to recognise that it’s not okay to have all male executive teams. This also goes for all male panels at conferences. There needs to be wider recognition at senior levels that diverse organisations drive better financial performance, and this is not just relating to females. We need greater diversity of thought all round and greater BAME representation to bring the best thinking to the table to create the right technology solutions for everyone.

Other mechanisms include schools outreach programmes and reaching out to young girls to encourage them to take an interest in STEAM subjects from an early age. Another mechanism is to focus on returnships and attracting mums who have been out of the workforce for a while to come join us and support them with retraining and development programmes in technology and coding.

Lastly, the importance of role models cannot be underestimated. We really need more female figures at the top table actively supporting young women to follow careers in STEAM. Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, Karen Quintos from Dell Technologies, Susan Wojcicki from UTube, Angela Ahrendts from Apple. More locally Sue Black from Tech Mums, Emer Coleman, Parul Green from AXA, Jane Duncan and Fiona Capstick from EY, Jayne Ann Gahdia in Salesforce are all strong role models, we need some many more to drive this sea change.

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?

Greater focus at schools and less unconscious bias to encourage young girls to reach for their stars and set their sights on anything that want to. I think we are still conditioned to think in one way and follow certain career paths. Giving people the permission to think bigger and to broaden their perspectives from an early age by exposing them to new things whether its computer coding, access to new technologies, learning new languages, a greater focus on sustainability etc… In many countries, around the world, women are still very much considered to be secondary citizens. I think we have some amazing young talent coming through in the UK who are not shy, this brings us hope for the future.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

There are some many resources out there now, its hard to list them all off. I think We are the City has done an impressive job making webinars and digital assets available to some many. I would strongly encourage women to get on social and really start to engage and listen to some of the live discussions underway on many tech podcasts, LinkedIn, Instagram, twitter, whatever platforms works on technology for good, ethics in technology, new innovations to solve today’s challenges using tech, green tech, med tech and many others. There are so many insightful conversations that are live on technology right now so get involved and find the ones, that interest you.

Lastly, I wanted to finish with a quote that my dear friend and mentor, Emer Coleman gave to me many years ago, Emer encouraged me to make the leap into the technology world. “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” – by Madeline Albright. We all need to support each other right now and I have been lucky to have some great female mentors and I hope I can encourage some young talent to be bold and make the move to a career in technology.

Augmented workingMargarete is hosting a WeAreVirtual webinar on 24 June, discussing the future of work with guest speaker, Mona Bitar.

This conversation will explore some of the emerging workplace trends and how workplaces are being reset for a new reality. You can join us for what will be an engaging discussion on the workplace reality, one that is unlikely to revert to old patterns but presents an opportunity to reshape workplaces as we know them.

Find out more and register here