Tam HusseyTam Hussey is European Head of Strategy at WONGDOODY, the human experience company powered by Infosys.

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

Since November 2020 I have been the European Head of Strategy at WONGDOODY, the human experience company powered by Infosys, where I am responsible for evolving the strategy offering, delivering impactful digital strategy for clients and supporting and mentoring my team. I also play an active role in DE&I and Sustainability.

Prior to this role I worked at Infosys, primarily in the Consumer, Retail and Logistics area of the business. I have helped close over $30m of new business, supported senior management on evaluating acquisitions and strategic partnerships, co-created our innovation offering, contributed to a key WEF Whitepaper, sat on panels and spoken at numerous events.

I haven’t always worked in strategy. After studying Psychology at university, I was about to start law school when a chance drink with a friend led me to join a mobile startup (this was in 2002 so pre iPhones). I was number three in and stayed there for five years, taking on a range of responsibilities; legal, marketing, content, licensing, experience, sales, client relations and so on. We started off providing content and tech to network operators in the early days of mobile – then when the walls came down and content became free we decided to expand into mobile marketing. I set up and ran Flix Marketing for just over three years delivering campaigns for clients including Warner Brothers, Nivea, Texaco and London City Airport.

I then joined WPP as an Account Director as part of their mobile agency Joule, where I sold creative, media and production, but mainly strategy – which I also delivered – building that up to become the biggest part of the business.

After having two babies in close succession my career took a curve ball as my trajectory to MD was disrupted by an acquisition, resulting in me being given a purely sales / account management role which I did not enjoy – I wanted to be solving problems. After much thought, I decided to take a big leap and joined Infosys as Senior Digital Strategist, jumping off the management track into a strategy role for a technology company.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I tried (as I love a plan). My original plan, after my Psychology degree at Bristol, was to be a lawyer. I had it all planned – had got into law school, had done work experience and was on my way to getting a training contract but I just couldn’t do it. Law, to me then, appeared to be more about spotting potential problems and I wanted to work on fixing them. Luckily, an interesting opportunity presented itself during dinner with a friend. After that I became a strategist by stealth – in every job I did I naturally gravitated towards digging into what the actual challenge or opportunity was and then finding ways to fix it. At the early stages I didn’t really understand what strategy was but I just naturally leaned into it – it is only later when I look back that I see my career path was dictated by my natural inclination towards strategy. I was lucky enough to find jobs that allowed me to shape my own career and move into that role more formally.

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

Yes, after my second child I was brought back into a sales and account management role. I didn’t enjoy being separated from solving the problem. I was at a career crossroads at a time when my confidence was low, after having two children in quick succession. I leaned into my network to ask for help, asking people if I could pick their brains about their roles and career paths. People were incredibly generous with their time – something I will never forget – and through these conversations I was able to clearly visualise my options and make plans. I took the risky route moving off the management track at WPP and doubling down on Strategy as a career, becoming a Digital Strategist at Infosys, which has a very different culture, product set and client from my previous employers. I am so happy today that I took that decision.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I still think my biggest career achievement was Flix Marketing – one of the earliest pure play mobile agencies. To have built out an agency proposition in my 20s, in an immature market and grow it to a point where it had significant revenue, an impressive roster of globally recognised clients and award-winning work was quite an achievement. I didn’t realise it at the time which is probably why I was successful – I didn’t feel that pressure!

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

My desire to collaborate and through that building up a network of great people that I can depend upon. I truly feel that it is only through strong collaborations that we can achieve great things, which is why I love working with Infosys at WONGDOODY. We have the most amazing people working within the company with an incredibly broad array of skills that we can tap into for our clients and which give me and my team a constant source of opportunities to learn.

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

  • Don’t feel you need to know all the answers before you feel confident enough to get involved – you will never know all the answers and whilst you wait to learn them you will miss out on a bunch of opportunities from which you would learn a lot
  • Lean into other people and collaborate. Find the pockets of people with whom you can – between you – unlock the most value, be inspired by and from whom you can learn. And keep them close!
  • Tend your network well inside and outside your organisation. I have leaned into my network again and again for support and it has always delivered. Try and ‘pay it forward’ whenever you can, especially with the women who are rising up behind you. Do what you can, whenever you can to reach a hand behind you and pull them up the ladder. There are very few of us within the tech world and even fewer in senior positions so we need to support and celebrate each other whenever we can.

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

The data tells us there are still barriers. According to the ONS, in the UK, 31% of tech jobs are held by women, while women make up just 10% of leadership roles in technology (Harvey Nash Tech Survey 2021).  There are both common and unique barriers within individual tech companies and a few quick fixes such as increasing the number of women you interview or running coaching sessions for women, will not fix the root causes. Companies need to take the time and effort to truly understand the barriers within the organisation at each stage, create strategies to address them, implement those strategies and measure their success iterating them over time. Then share the learnings (and the benefits of implementing such strategies) with other tech organisations to enable us to move faster as an industry.

Another significant and multi-faceted barrier is supply – according to UCAS just 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women – we ultimately need to fix the root cause of why less girls opt for STEM education.

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

The first step is to find and really understand the barriers women face within a company. At Infosys we have identified key ‘points of intervention’ specifically around retention, where we can have the most impact. We address these points in a very focused way with a range of initiatives for each. For example: focused interventions around supporting women to come back into work after they have had a baby; strengthening participation in areas of the business, such as digital, which are experiencing the most growth to enable women to rise further, faster; and focused training for women at a specific level of seniority to strengthen the talent for the executive pipeline. We have targets we want to hit and are rigorous about measuring how we are getting on. In some cases we are behind, in others ahead, but the important thing is that we are committed to making a change and are measuring what we are doing and iterating it as we go.

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?

I would wave a wand and remove the ‘I can’t do that’ voice in women’s heads. I know this is a generalisation but what we hear time and time again is that women tend to have less confidence in their own capabilities and as a result underestimate what they can achieve. And right now if we could remove that voice for all women at all levels of seniority in tech I think the value we would unlock would be immeasurable not only for the % of women working in tech but for the organisations themselves.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

  • Each other – my network of women in tech who support and guide me
  • Podcasts: Brene Brown – Dare to Lead
  • TED talks

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