Sian BurgessI’m Sian and I work at Becton Dickinson (BD), a global medical technology company, as the UK Clinical Manager for Medication Management Solutions.

I have always wanted a career in the healthcare sector. When I left school, it was suggested at that time that the best opportunities for me were in the caring sector, so I went into nursing, critical care and high dependency units and went up the ranks within this path.

I got to a point in my career where I wanted to explore other opportunities within the healthcare sector – namely working for industry (i.e. medical technology providers). I was young enough at that point where I felt that I could make a big career change, and if that didn’t work out, I could go back into nursing. I applied for a clinical position for Alaris (an infusion pumps providers, which is now part of BD) and got the position within the week.

Since working in industry, I’ve held numerous roles from clinical trainer- various, project management, taking opportunities to move laterally and upwards. Having worked in a hospital environment and having in-depth knowledge of the technology used, I used this expertise to help shape BD’s approach to product development and staff training. I still felt that I was part of the NHS team even though I was working on the industry side. The clinical role I took on was a relatively new one and it became very successful, so much so that we have people in similar roles for six or seven NHS trusts.

The reason why I’ve stayed working in industry for so long is because having that experience as a nurse allows me to be the patient advocate, and so ensure that they are at the heart of everything we do. This helps drive good practice and improve patient safety.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

It’s all about opportunities and timing. I knew early on since moving to industry that this career path is where I want to be. So, I mapped out what I needed to do to be successful, such as plotting out training courses, areas for development, and trying out different roles to help further my understanding of the industry. Ultimately, where I wanted to be was still in the clinical field as that is what I know best and what I love to do. When the position for Clinical Manager came up, I went for it and thankfully got the role, and this is where I’ve been ever since.

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

Self-doubt and fear, especially as I’ve made so many moves. These feelings were particularly prominent when I moved to sales in the project management role. In my previous roles, I was the subject matter expert, so to go from that to not knowing everything (I didn’t have much commercial experience), can be very nerve wrecking. I overcame this by building a strong network around me. It’s so important to have trusted relationships with your team and other people you work with, as they can help provide honest feedback on how you’re doing and can help support your development. For me, it was also important to recognise when I was wrong and to use my mistakes as learning opportunities.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement would be building the incredible team around me over the years. Their belief in me as a leader that has contributed to my success. The team are well recognised in what they offer and the added value they bring to our customers. I’m so proud of how they’ve overcome the challenges in the past 18 months, particularly as many of them are customer facing or on the front lines. They have demonstrated their ability to adapt our products and services to what customers want, and it’s great to see that they’re continuing to be agile as we continue to navigate current and future health challenges.

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

I believe it is the ability to embrace change. The technology world is constantly changing, so it’s vital to have an agile and flexible mindset so we can better adapt to new developments. People have also been a big factor – from the leadership team at BD to the team I manage. We are incredibly supportive of each other and it’s nice to work in an environment where we are encouraged to speak up and have our voices heard.

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

  • Be prepared to ask questions
  • Believe in yourself
  • Embrace change
  • If you don’t know the answer or solution to a question, brief or problem, see it as an opportunity to develop
  • Most importantly, build trusted relationships with people. People you’re working with might end up being part of your team, and your peers could end up being your bosses, so it is important not to burn bridges

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

While we’ve come a long way in this industry, I do still believe there are some barriers. Most hierarchal organisations have predominantly male leadership teams. With BD, we have a strong company culture that encourages diversity of backgrounds, skills, and opinions, and these values are instilled from the top down. It is important to not only have leadership introduce strong initiatives and programmes to encourage women to be successful, but also have buy-in from all employees throughout the organisation.

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

Having initiatives, such as equal pay, have been vital in progressing women in the workplace. Also, companies need to continue supporting flexible working and offering a good work/life balance. Hybrid working has enhanced everyone’s understanding of home responsibilities. Before the pandemic, a lot of our team members would be on the road going to training workshops or sales meetings, so they often used their commute to clear their headspace. While virtual meetings have been great in freeing up people’s time as they no longer have to commute, there are often no gaps in between meetings to help clear your headspace. At BD, we have introduced various measures to improve mental health, such as no meetings on a certain day and more flexible working options. Therefore, in my opinion, the best way to support women and other employees in their career paths is to introduce measures that enable them to work in the best way they can.

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?

Start building awareness around the diversity of roles within healthcare and technology from secondary education level. When I left school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and was given guidance to what was best suited to me at the time, rather than all the potential options that I could explore. It is also crucial to promote and showcase current women influencers in the industry, so that younger people have role models and can better understand the opportunities out there.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

  • Listen to podcasts – As a team leader, I find listening to motivational content and leadership topics particularly helpful
  • Watch TedTalks – These are great if you only have a short amount of time to watch or listen to something
  • Build your network – Go to industry events, conferences, as well as internal meetups. Networking is also a great opportunity to get guidance from industry peers. from that network
  • Attend training and education courses – It is always good to plot out gaps in your knowledge and seek ways to learn more and help you become more well-rounded