Vanessa Ullam featured

Inspirational Woman: Vanessa Ullam | UKI Alliance Lead, Citrix Systems

Vanessa UllamHi, my name is Vanessa Ullam. I work for Citrix Systems; I am the UKI Alliance lead and manage two of our most strategic partners - DXC & IBM.

I fell into tech 18 yrs ago and it was the best unplanned move I made!  It has been fast paced, no year has been the same as innovations in tech are constant, I have loved working in the technology field and would encourage more  woman to look into this industry. Working in tech has meant I have been able to fulfil my mom role and keep my career on track. I began my tech career selling Citrix solutions – which is software that enables access to data and line of business applications from anywhere. They had the strapline back then which – any,any,any. Meaning, any location, any device, any person. Essentially this meant I was in an industry where remote and mobile working was widely accepted – work is what you do and not where you are. You didn’t have to be physically present at a desk in an office to be productive.  As a mother to a child with a long term health challenge this was vital because it meant I could cater for the additional needs of my child whilst maintaining my career and providing the financial stability we need.

The post covid new norm means that more and more organisations are ensuring they have a strategy for mobility and business continuity and as an organisation Citrix is now in an ideal place to execute on the messaging and strategy we been promoting for years. I moved away from services to software & joined Citrix 2 years ago and its been a fantastic move; I would definitely encourage more females to take the leap into tech.

I am married with 2 boys (8 and 1). My 8 yr old has a blood condition called Sickle Cell which has impacted every area of our lives. Our experience with this condition has highlighted how little awareness there is for Sickle Cell in the UK and secondly how the lack of funding and resources available to support families.

This has led us to set up a charity called Crescent Kids; we provide services to support children and parents as they navigate life beyond the diagnosis.

https://www.instagram.com/crescentkids/

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I fell into technology by accident 😊. I had aspirations to work in advertising / marketing. I was hired straight from a recruitment fair by the marketing Director of a IT graduate recruitment company called Pareto Law. Pareto Law recruits graduates into IT -they ended up finding me a role within a software services company.

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

Yes, having a son with a health condition has been the biggest challenge to my career. Sickle Cell can strike at any time; the pain crisis are very unpredictable. I was in the right industry however and the fact my role was mobile and the technology meant ‘work is what you do and not where you are’ enabled me to maintain my job. Juggling clients and often working from hospital ensured I was able to maintain my position at work. Financial stability became even more crucial as I wanted to be able to provide for his health needs.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have a few, I’ll pick the most recent. It would be closing the largest deal in my team after we were acquired by a global systems outsourcer. I led a team that sold an end to end workplace transformation to a financial organisation in Norway. The total deal was 10million USD.

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

My work ethic has been key; I really believe hard and smart work pays off. In addition working in technology has given me the flexibility to work from anywhere.

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

Understand the industry and embrace it.

Be  open to the changing pace of technology

Back the right technology; think 5 yrs out and align with the right company.

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

In my 15 years in this industry I have seen it change rapidly; the doors are opening wider for women in tech (although not wide enough). We are still massively underrepresented in the workforce despite the scream for workplace equality.

These barriers may eventually be overcome by a multi faceted approach/drive  from companies, universities, the media even women currently employed in technology to encourage other women to take the leap.

In addition focus needs to go into education and finding a way to encourage more women to enrol for STEM subjects/ courses or degrees.

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

I think employers need to be intentional about supporting women in technology to progress up the ladder to leadership. This can be achieved via training programmes, mentorship, programmes to instill confidence to pursue high paid tech positions

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 open up more high profile leadership positions in technology for women, visibility of females in top tech roles will serve as major inspiration for other women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I enjoy some of the following podcasts:

https://thewomenintechshow.com/

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/women-in-tech-with-ariana/id1338917627

Books:

Female Innovators at Work: Women on Top of Tech Book by Danielle Newnham

Conferences:

The Women in Technology, World Series 19-20 November

What advice would you give your 16 year old self?

Figure out your passion and work on a side hustle! I’ve learnt over the years the importance of multiple streams of income!


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