Simone MorrisI have worked within the IT industry for over 20 years with a mixture of companies, from large corporates to smaller organisations that I have enjoyed watching grow.

I always choose the next company that I move to by the challenge it can give me, whether it’s a new product that needs some traction generating in the market, teams that need some structure to help them grow, or just a product that really resonates with me. Like the old cliché, I wasn’t particularly looking for a change, but Unisys Stealth really interested me.

Stealth is a pretty cool cybersecurity product suite, in the fact that it has a great military background and now has been developed for the commercial market. The ability to cloak your network to prevent it being hacked was particularly compelling and the fact that by it being identity-based, it can enable an organisation to speed up their processes and reduce their management of users. Furthermore, in the current scenario with many people working from home, it helps keep remote users secure without them fighting for a connection or having bandwidth issues.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all! My first job was as a trainee accountant – I saw the advert in the local paper and thought that looked like a sensible career choice and something that my parents would approve of. I didn’t go to university, so that role was straight after A Levels. I really enjoyed it and I am very grateful for the amazing foundation and attention to detail it gave me, but working with people and helping solve problems is where I thrive.

No planning has gone into my career. There are a few mottos I work by, the first being that if you don’t like doing something, then stop doing it. The second is that I have to be passionate about the product, solution or organisation to join a company. Finally, a role change has to be a step up and a developing experience, as I love learning.

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

A career is never an easy journey nowadays. I think we have all faced redundancy, or been part of that process, or a challenging work environment at some point. Now we are seeing that COVID is changing the way we are doing things for the time being and is helping to shape the future into a completely different way of working for some sectors. Sometimes it is hard not to be impacted by life’s challenges whether it is a financial, mental or physical one. The way I deal with them is to take stock, research and then work out a plan to set achievable goals.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am a planner, so I set myself goals each year and in each role. These goals can be to overachieve a target or to overcome a specific hurdle or challenge by agreeing a short and long term plan with a customer. My favourite challenge so far, was to make a customer, who had a number of issues, happy and as a team we did it. The sense of personal achievement was phenomenal. There is nothing like getting a ‘thank you’ note from a client whose problems you have helped solve and then move into the next phase of the relationship.

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

Someone once called me tenacious and I was deeply offended, as I had interpreted the term  as a person who wouldn’t let go of a course once it had been set. Whilst I am determined and will hold firm on a course of action, I also constantly revaluate, take advice and change direction if needed to make things happen.

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

Enjoy learning. I love learning about how we can use technology to solve problems, develop customers (and our own organisations) to help them achieve more. Also, take opportunities to study things like ITIL as they will come in handy.

Set yourself goals. Short-term goals to get you through the weeks and then mid-term so you can see how much you have done. And make sure you celebrate what you have achieved.

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

I don’t think there are barriers as such, but people tend to think it is more technical than it actually is. I do like to understand how things work, but only so I can then turn it into something that a customer can relate to. I am not paid to be a technical whizz and there are people far better at it than me.

If you are just starting in the job market or looking for a change, you will find that working in ‘tech’ is a broad term for everyone. Skills from other industries are transferable and most of us did something else before we got into this industry.

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

Technology companies should be promoting roles that have a wider scope than just the technology. There are many, many capable men and women in other industries who could make the transition across in non-technical roles that use exactly the same skill sets that they already have. We need to make technology organisations less daunting and demonstrate that it isn’t all about the tech. Technology companies need all the core functions that any other company needs, so the roles for HR, Finance, Business Analysts, Sales etc all existing within a tech company.

On the flipside, there are lots of roles on the more technical side that also have transferable skills, we need to be promoting these and help people to make the transition.

There is currently only 15% 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 think it is important to reinforce the messages that everyone should be judged on their ability to do the roles and that skills are transferable from other industries. Women in Tech groups should be about how we promote the tech industry to increase the percentage, not about promoting women to the exclusion of others equally capable for the role.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I use LinkedIn a lot for learning about organisations, events and groups. In my current role, I post a lot to promote the principles within cybersecurity that we are trying to market and I network with people I find are likeminded. Don’t be afraid to ask someone’s view as it raises your visibility and also can provoke interesting debate. It’s good to talk.

I am a member of a few cybersecurity specific groups and other technology groups which give a broad view of the industry. I like to find key speakers in the industry and follow those on LinkedIn and Twitter and also the companies that are competitors to the ones that I work for so I have awareness of other things happening in the market.

I tend to dip in and out of podcasts and go through spurts of listening to lots. I do like a good Ted Talk, but tend to pick up articles, webinars and podcasts from articles that I have read or recommended through LinkedIn.

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