Sharon Miles

I’ve been working in financial services for over 20 years and I’ve spent the vast majority of my career so far in large multinational corporates.

I originally started out as an auditor with Arthur Andersen, then worked in GE Capital in the Insurance business and the Life and Pension businesses specialising in Lean Six Sigma, Programme Delivery and Operations. After that, I worked in Barclays both in the retail bank and wealth management businesses, delivering large scale programmes of change. More recently, I was the Transformation and Customer Service Director at LeasePlan UK, and then, I moved into fintech, joining Deposit Solutions as the Innovation Director for the launch of its UK business.
I joined Chip, one of the UK’s fastest growing fintechs, in 2019 as the COO. Chip uses AI to save up money for you and get you better returns, all automatically.
As the COO, I’m directly responsible for looking after Operations, Customer Service, and People teams, as well as ensuring that delivery across all aspects of the business and our partners happens in the most effective way.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did once when I was trying to decide what to do at University, choosing a degree that would allow me to make the most of the professional accountancy exams.
However, since then I have not sat down to plan my career and have been much more fluid in my career decisions and choices.

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

Absolutely. I’ve faced many career challenges; some of them good and some tough.
For example, working through the crisis of 2008 was very challenging as the business was resizing and many roles were being made redundant. I had to be flexible to ensure I stayed in the business – this approach felt very uncomfortable at the time, but in the long run paid off, because when business did pick back up I was in prime position for the new opportunities that were offered.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

That is a really tricky question. I have had individual achievements, which were all amazing. For example, winning top awards in the US with GE Capital, or smashing our targets with my team at Barclays.Having said that, I think I actually get the greatest sense of achievement seeing the teams I lead be successful or seeing people in my teams being promoted and seeing them flourish.

If I had to pick one team achievement, I would pick Chip. Over the last year, the growth the team and the business have achieved together is just amazing – Chips’s user base doubled, deposits grew 110%, our team tripled, and, most recently, we closed a record-breaking crowdfunding round.

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

I think a major factor is taking the time to look back. Work life can be very busy, and when you achieve a target or, say, a delivery takes place, it can often be almost anti-climactic as you are already on to the next thing or sorting out current issues of the day.
Only when you take stock and look back can you realise just how much has happened or been achieved. Also I would say, don’t worry about the small things. Of course, it’s easier said than done, but keeping the “real” goal front and centre is key to not getting distracted by all the little things.

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

Technology covers so many areas that I would say try not to limit yourself to one aspect too soon. It is a sector that is constantly evolving, so even if you have a niche or a specialism, it can become outdated fairly quickly. Stay flexible in what you would like to achieve in your tech career – make success multi-dimensional so that you can see success in your career through many different roles.

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 but I do not think they are limited to the technology sector. As a working mum of 2 school-age children, the practicalities of life can make it very difficult to juggle everything and not have parenting or work guilt. Women who chose to work for whatever reason whilst also supporting family are their own worst enemies – we should stop thinking we can do everything perfectly. We can’t and that’s ok, we are still very valued in the workplace and at home. If we can break our own mental barriers on this and believe we are good enough, that would be a very big step…although to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I get this right myself all the time!

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

As with other sectors, more needs to be done around flexible working practices. The technology sector by its very nature should be leading the charge on this. As we have seen through the Covid pandemic, remote working has leapfrogged many years forward. We need to embrace this more flexible, blending approach to working that allows more women and men to juggle home and work.

I also believe tech employers need to do more to recognise where roles are not required full-time and actually advertise them as variable hours. I rarely see a role advertised as 4 days a week, when in reality it could be.
More also needs to be done in the education sector. Technology is still seen as a male orientated sector for no real reason that I can see, apart from maybe video games (that are being designed for and played by men). These are huge generalisations, I know, but that is the reality of what puts some women off when it comes to joining the sector.

There is currently only 17% 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?

I would make tech a core part of the national curriculum up to at least GCSE level. It is still not part of the mandatory core GCSEs, which I believe it should be.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Innovate Finance hold great events and conferences, which I personally have always found useful. I’m also part of the Gamechangers network, which is all about women empowering others and being brave enough to ask the network when they need help and what they want help with.

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