Siobhan Tierney

I have always had a passion for STEM subjects and was always quite an inquisitive child; my dad worked for a “computer company” and used to bring home bits and pieces so I would build and dismantled PCs in the garage and then try and get them to work!

In school I studied Biology & Chemisty at A-Level so that I could do Medicine at university, however after some very interesting work experience on a geriatric ward I decided Medicine wasn’t for me! Without a clue what I wanted to be when I grew up I studied Biology at University. I graduated in 2007 and after travelling amid the financial crisis I returned to a reduced number of graduate opportunities so I started temping at a local company selling and delivering IT solutions into educational establishments. I worked as a project coordinator learning about infrastructure, PCs, networks, interactive whiteboard and projectors. I really loved the company and the people and applied to their graduate scheme where I became a project manager. My first projects were to manage the catalogue creation and the order fulfilment of the Tesco for Clubs & Schools scheme and to introduce LEGO Mindstorms robotics into schools within Oxfordshire which was a joint venture with LEGO Education, both of these projects really made me feel like my job was allowing me to “give back” by supporting the next generation of children and their STEM opportunities. I also worked on new product introductions which got me back into the nuts and bolts of PCs, servers. I was mentored by two amazing strong female project managers who taught me how to get the best out of people and how to use my skills to always get the job done. I will never forget the impact they had on my career especially as they encouraged me to always try new things and push myself to go for new and exciting opportunities.

Later, I moved within the same company back to the department I had “temped” in and was now project managing the delivery of all IT into brand new schools and academies. It was awesome! I was on building sites in a hard hat and boots, writing and deploying patching schedules and doing whatever was needed to get the job done, to ensure that a new school could open on time in September.

I loved this job, however, I wanted to progress and try new things, so I moved to a company offering similar IT solutions in the B2B sector as well as education. I got to hone my customer management and stakeholder skills with businesses with totally different requirements and needs to those in education. I was really fortunate to work with new technologies and some very big companies which gave me new experience in a corporate world I hadn’t been introduced to until then.

In 2012 I decided I wanted a new, bigger challenge and applied for a role at Vodafone as a Senior Project Manager, having never delivered a software delivery project, I was thrown into the deep end on their CRM & Billing transformation programme where I had a portfolio of projects delivering archive management and single sign on capability amongst others. I worked very hard and remained ambitious so I managed to persuade the programme director to allow a 28 year old with a relative lack of experience compared to my peers, to programme manage the next release. I actually ended up managing two concurrent releases with over 25000 man days worth of code change. It was like a drug! I knew I loved programme delivery, it was fast-paced and exciting and I got to learn from some of the most experience professionals in the industry.

Once the programme was ended, I felt a bit low and wanted a new challenge, I wasn’t ready for going back to “normal” programme delivery so I was promoted into a role in Vodafone Group managing global retail demand and engagement and working on a retail-led omnichannel strategy.

In 2016 I was offered a role at O2 to deliver their omnichannel transformation programme and I snapped up the opportunity. Unfortunately this was effectively cancelled when the O2/Three merger was stopped so that O2 could revisit its ongoing technology strategy. Since then I have been fortunate enough to learn and run the agile Online delivery team alongside delivering customer-facing programmes such as O2’s industry changing Custom Plans, GDPR and the Apple Watch on O2. Most recently I have started a role managing O2’s Enterprise and Business IT portfolio and Salesforce platform taking me back to my roots with the types of projects I was delivering to B2B customers around 8 years ago.

Somebody I admire greatly once told me that experience isn’t always about the years you spend doing something, but about what you do with that time; 11 years might not seem that much, but to deliver a major transformation programme for a globally recognised brand at 29 years old, with no formal IT education other than “on the job training”, gives you a significant amount of experience in a very short period of time. I am a Prince 2 and MSP practitioner, but anybody can go on those courses; it takes hard graft to be a Project Manager or a Programme Manager.

The hardest part of my career was to get a bunch of older, more experienced men to listen to a 29 year old woman and actually deliver a transformation programme on time, to budget ensuring the business were happy. This is still my reality, I’m usually the youngest in the room, I’m often the only female, but I have worked hard to gain the respect of my peers.