Rhonda Doyle is  Senior Director of UK & Ireland Field Services & Operations with a specific focus on delivering services for customers and developing a growth strategy that targets critical industries including data centres and networks, manufacturing, and renewable energy.

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

I joined Schneider Electric in January 2021, at the height of the covid pandemic. Initially, I was responsible for leading the company’s Services, Projects and Back Office Operations teams in Ireland whilst also partnering with the Irish Leadership Team on strategies to grow the business, improve operations and further increase people development. In November 2022, I was promoted to Senior Director, responsible for Field Services Operations for the UK and Ireland, including all back-office functions. As part of this role, I joined our UK & Ireland Executive Leadership Team.

Before joining Schneider Electric, I spent 17 years at eBay; in fact, I was one of the first employees in Ireland. I started as a Services Supervisor and eventually rose to Director of Global Operations and Programme Management, my final post with the company.

While at eBay, I was the business Sponsor for eBay’s Diversity & Inclusion Charter. Today at Schneider Electric, I am a Leadership Sponsor for our Women’s Cohort and Working Parents Circle. For several years, I have been promoting STEM to young people and partnering with TU Dublin to give talks to students about Diversity and Inclusion and Project Management.

At home, I am a mum of two, to Jack, 11 and Olivia, 4 and am married to Jeff. I am a lifelong learner and am just completing a Strategy and Finance Programme virtually with INSEAD.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

My career evolved pretty organically. My primary degree is in Philosophy, and while studying and taking on a part-time job in a Contact Centre, I entered the world of business. Early in my career, I sought to do each job well, but then gradually, I started thinking about my career progression and how I could take on the next role. I have always been open to new assignments, curious to learn and willing to take on every bit of feedback. It’s an approach that has served me well. Also, I have always combined my work experience with continuous learning, even completing my MBA at eBay.

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

Yes, there have been lots of challenges and learnings along the way. There are so many experiences, such as the first time you become a People Leader, the first time you take on a new role, or lead a major project and of course, there’s always your first major setback.

I remember being part of a new organisation that didn’t work out. I worked very hard during that time to contribute to its success, and it was very scary when overall, we just knew it was not the right timing with the right focus. At the time, I enlisted the help of a career coach to guide me through the change and ambiguity and learned to reach out and speak to others. Now I’m glad of that experience, as it built my resilience to change, and I no longer worried as much whenever organisational changes came about.

On a personal level, becoming a mum and returning to work was a career challenge which is why I am so passionate about supporting other working parents, especially women, to help them successfully reintegrate back into the business. Becoming a mum was probably the most significant learning curve in my life. No doubt it’s the same for many women, coupled with having to reestablish yourself, your work and your brand when you re-enter the workplace. So many changes happen when you are out of the working loop. The world keeps spinning, as they say.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am proud of my move to Schneider Electric. Not only did I take on a role at the height of the pandemic, but I also changed industry, which I later discovered isn’t so common. I was curious to learn something new and to see if my transferable skills could work elsewhere in a different setting. I now encourage others seeking roles to sometimes think outside of the traditional sectors and companies that they might apply for.

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

Continuous Learning, including learning on the job, taking professional courses, taking on board all the feedback ever given, and reflecting on what went well and what I could improve on next time. I also think having sponsors or people supporting and advocating for you and as a leader is important. I try to do that for others now. I’ve been fortunate to have had great sponsors and advocates who gave me assignments and career opportunities that helped me grow.

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

It’s important to focus on the needs of the customer. Also, be curious to learn about the company you want to work for, the industry and the customers it serves, the company’s proposition and how it’s delivered. Technology is a broad space, so get as much experience as possible before settling on an area of expertise. Consider the value of lateral moves, such as taking on unpopular roles or assignments. In those circumstances, it’s better to focus on the experience you gain and build, rather than the role.

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

The latest research tells us women make up 25% of workers in the technology sector. This disparity is significantly worse at the executive level, where only 11% of leadership roles are held by women. Technology and STEM roles are traditionally seen as more male-dominated and so it can be more challenging to attract and retain female talent. Research by McKinsey last year tells us that a sense of “belonging” is vital for employee retention, satisfaction and well-being, with 51% citing a lack of belonging as their reason for leaving.

A lack of personal confidence or knowing your personal brand and what you are good at are common themes that come up from women I meet. Companies can support personal development to equip women with the skills they need, in addition to employee resources and support groups and networks.

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

Progressive policies that attract and retain women are essential, besides development programmes that can better equip and support women to succeed. I am proud that Schneider Electric UK & Ireland have increased fully paid time off for family leave, covering maternity, shared parental, adoption, paternity, care, and bereavement.

Also, this year our Schneider Electric Women’s Cohort is focused on exploring topics such as Belonging, Strengths, Personal Branding, Influencing and Resilience to develop and support some of our early female talents to be successful.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

We need to invest in the funnel early on in schools and colleges to create greater awareness about the range of roles offered in Technology and STEM. Also, make people aware that it’s not all maths, a common misconception. We also need to ensure that companies and HR managers are on the lookout for diverse and transferable skills.

We need to equip women better to succeed in traditionally more male-dominated roles, where they might be the only women on the course or in the room, which can be lonely at times and takes confidence and resilience. These are skills that can be learnt and developed.

Having men at the table as part of the solution is also crucial. I am very proud of my male colleagues and leaders at Schneider Electric, who offer support and advocacy for women in our business while helping others understand the disparity and gender gap that we are addressing together.