Sarah Ennett featured

Inspirational Woman: Sarah Ennett | IOT Manager, Digital Isle of Man

Sarah EnnettSarah joined Digital Isle of Man in September 2020 to manage the Isle of Man Government Accelerator​ Programme for IoT (Internet of Things), the initial aims of which are to promote the use of IoT for the social and economic development of the Island. 

She has worked in telecommunications for nearly 25 years in several key business areas; Product Management, Business Development, Head of Retail Operations, ISP Operations and HR.  Specialising in Manx Telecom for the last 9 years on developing global M2M (Machine to Machine) and IoT solutions, she was initially business development manager then gained her product management certification with responsibility for IoT product development strategy.

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

My name is Sarah, I am 45 years old and from the Isle of Man.  I’ve loved technology from a young age thanks to my Mum introducing me to Science Fiction books/TV and computer programming on our Vic 20.  I felt privileged to join a telecommunications company at an exciting time in 1996, when mobile phones and then internet services were first being sold to the mass market.  Technology advances came at such a fast pace each year that I got used to continuous learning and I feel blessed to have never been bored at work.  I now work for the Department for Enterprise, part of the Isle of Man Government, as Internet of Things manager.  It is a dream job for me, still being involved with assessing and deploying tech, but looking to see how we can grow our local economy at the same time as solving societal problems, with a big emphasis on education and collaboration.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I really didn’t, I had a bit of a turbulent time in my private life when studying for GCSEs then A Levels, so didn’t meet my potential at that time.  If we did get any careers advice then I don’t remember it, and there was also an assumption that if you got enough GCSEs then A Levels and university were your only option, in hindsight I think a more vocational approach would have suited me much better.  I managed to scrape together enough points to get a place on a HND course through university clearing, but it wasn’t a course I liked so after completing the first year I decided that I’d be better off entering the world of work.  As I was staying in Bristol during term time and coming back to the Island for summers and Christmas for a few years, I signed on at a temping agency.  It was the making of me really, I hadn’t felt very confident in myself but I had a strong work ethic and a curious mind and found that I was able to learn quickly and make myself useful in turning paper based processes into databases, which in turn built up my confidence and showed me that I did have options.

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

We all face challenges and the worst ones that spring to mind are when you’ve messed up something, being able to admit mistakes and take responsibility for them, no matter how hard, is usually the quickest path to getting support from those around you and allowing others to help you get back on track.  My favourite piece of advice in how to overcome adversity is to always remember there are three ways to look at an issue; you can either fix it, change how you are thinking about it, or move on from it.  It applies to many things, and I’ve often been guilty of spending too long on the first aspect of this, but when you aren’t able to change the issue itself then you can choose to downgrade how you perceive it or if that isn’t possible then you can take the initiative and find a way to move on.  Life is too short to be unhappy, ask for help and take responsibility – we all need support from time to time, and most people who have received it are more than happy to reciprocate to others, it’s a virtuous circle.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve had so many highlights but as a product manager I was proudest of the period when we launched a new IoT focussed product set and saw our revenues double year on year and for the four years it was my key focus.  There is something really special about working with a small team of passionate people who are all striving to beat targets and make your product and support processes the best they can be, but who have your back when things aren’t going as well.

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

It is hard to choose just one, I’m a fast reader and a fast learner which is probably one of the biggest reasons I have been successful, the fact that I can and do digest a lot of information on many different topics to challenge myself and continually learn from others.

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

Always be learning, and realise that doesn’t always mean a specific training course, though I’ve always grabbed those with open arms when they are offered!  A really good way to keep fresh is to follow as many thought leaders as you can think of on Linked In, and read the articles they write and the thoughts they post, and push yourself to get involved in a conversation about them too.  If you look at the comments you often see people disagree, and sometimes that is the best way to learn that for a particular topic there isn’t just one ‘correct’ way to do things.  Aside from keeping an eye on future technology trends I also love to read up about the future world of work and best practice management and organisation design, they are fascinating topics and very useful if you are looking to grow as a leader.

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

I like to be optimistic, and I certainly don’t want to put anyone off getting into tech, it is such an exciting and rewarding career.  There has been a huge change in attitudes over my career to date and I’d like to think there are very few, if any remaining barriers for success now, once you are in a tech career.  The main thing that springs to mind is recruiting people into a tech career in the first place.  We need more representation, the fact my Mum liked computers made it normal in my mind, but even so I didn’t know what that could mean career wise for me.  We need to talk more about the types of careers that exist, and how creative they can be, we need to showcase women who are thriving and inspire the next generation to join us in even greater numbers.

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

If companies are really serious about equality, then I think they should invest in initiatives like training about unconscious bias. We are starting to attract more women into tech which is great, but when you look at the more senior levels and especially the boardroom, then the gender balance can still be pretty poor in a lot of companies.  I think as a society we need to understand and respect the differences in style that being raised in a very gendered way, which I don’t think has changed very much (hello pink themed girls toys), can mean to you as an adult, and which are really hard to change the older you get.  I know I tend to be very honest, to a fault, and the style of language that is my natural style is very different to the majority of men at a similar point in their career.  I’m not saying that women should be given any advantage, but I am saying that our default view of what is a strong and effective leader, needs to be challenged and changed.  Sometimes a little more honesty or humility or humble language is needed in a boardroom conversation, it doesn’t mean the person with that style is any less talented or hungry for success, just they have a different way of achieving it, and we need a diverse group of opinions and different ways of looking at problem solving to be really successful.

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 do think careers advice is key to this, and it isn’t just a responsibility of schools to do this in a more exciting and structured way, it can be all of us as employers and parents and mentors.  Help make a careers hub in your local spaces, bring together lots of case studies and examples of the types of jobs that are exciting and well paid and in demand for your particular area and demonstrate real example pathways for people to gain the skills they need.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

If there isn’t a local networking group for professional women, then I recommend you start one, because having the ability to talk to your peers, to seek mentors and to offer to mentor others, is one of the most empowering and supportive things you can do.  Hopefully in another generation or so it won’t need to be a gendered thing!


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Inspirational Woman: Joanne Thurlow | Global Head of IT, Siemens Energy Industrial Application Solutions & Board Member, Digital Isle of Man

Joanne ThurlowCanadian born, Joanne has spent 15+ years living in multiple European countries, making Isle of Man home since early 2021.

As Head of IT for Siemens Energy, Industrial Application Solutions (SE IA), she partners with business providing strategic, innovative, cost sensitive and engineering-centric, global IT environments. As leading Energy transformation towards sustainability, SE IA engineers innovative electric, automation, and digital products, solutions and services for multiple markets including Oil & Gas, Marine, and more.

Joanne further commits her time to providing leadership, inspiration, motivation, strategic consulting, and market insights through various avenues: As a Digital IOM Executive board member; committee member of LOVE TECH (IOM), volunteers committed to promoting STEM careers for girls & young women; or as a global speaker at various conferences.

With 30+ years in Tech, Joanne has an extensive knowledge of IT. Today’s focus is on innovation, solutions, digital business transformation, IoT, tech-enabled sustainability, agile working and new organizational models.

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

Canadian born, I have spent 15+ years living in multiple European countries, making Isle of Man home since early 2021. With 30+ years in Tech, I have an extensive knowledge of IT. Today’s focus is on digital business transformation, IoT, tech-enabled sustainability, agile working, and new organizational models.

As Head of IT for Siemens Energy, Industrial Application Solutions (SE IA), I partner with business providing strategic, innovative, cost sensitive and engineering-centric IT environments in over 40+ countries. As a leading organization in energy transformation, SE IA engineers innovative electric, automation, and digital products, solutions and services for multiple markets including Oil & Gas, Marine, and more.

I further commit my time providing leadership, inspiration, motivation, strategic consulting, and market insights through various avenues: As a Digital IOM Executive board member; committee member of LOVE TECH (IOM) promoting STEM careers for girls & young women; or as a global speaker at various conferences. I am now working on my first business book ‘Team Management – as learned from the back of a Dog Sled’  to be published early 2022.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, at key intervals as milestones were reached and circumstances changed.  My academic choices provided equal skills in science and business. I set position and earning targets by certain ages. At one point, not being sure what was next for me, I invested in a career consultation process where I deep dived into all aspects of personality, vocational interests and more – the best investment I made in myself. I did not plan to be at the level I am today. That has been part of the evolution of my career.

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

Careers, as life, are full of challenges. My biggest challenge came in moving to UK. A complete restart - no job, no working visa, no business network and only one contact.  I researched the job environment, working culture and volunteer opportunities, went to local business events, etc. I approached industry leaders for advice (not jobs), was clear on what I had to offer, and what I did not.  A few years with  Siemens, a promotion to Global IT coordinator based me in Norway. A few months after that, organization changes led to my current role and to Germany. Many openly questioned my ability or my right to be in this role; cultural expectations stated promotions were the ‘entitlement’ of years of service. I was ‘unknown and unproven’, new to Siemens. The biggest challenge was Imposter Syndrome - accepting I could do this role, that it was ok not to know everything, that I would develop the knowledge and skills – and most importantly – the confidence to do it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Where I am today – Completely restart my career in another country and continent; secure a C level management position with global responsibility for one of the world’s most respected companies. Be appointed to the Digital IOM Executive Board who, in partnership with the DIOM Agency, will set direction for the digital industry of country. It is such an honour to be a part of that! That’s a big thing to say! To help inspire young girl & women in tech careers through LOVE TECH (IOM), public speaking, and writing – I have the privilege of providing leadership, inspiration, motivation to the inspiring young women in tech today.

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

Being willing to get out of my comfort zone, take calculate risks and accept/deal with the consequences thereof.  That includes anticipating, planning, mitigating those risks and working through the inevitable setbacks.

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

First, understand YOU – your personality, vocational interests, and overall aptitudes. Knowing what you are good at, interested in - or not - contribute greatly to setting direction.

Next – understand your DIRECTION/GOALS – Where do you want to go in your career? What is the ideal role you imagine for yourself? What does your perfect ‘day at the office’ look like to you? Use this as a start point, work backwards to understand what will get you there.

Thirdly, understand how OTHERS SEE YOU. We are usually unaware of how others see us and what value we bring. Make use of tools such as 360degree interviews to begin to understand this.

Last, get clear on what your strengths, weaknesses, gaps are, your goals and revisit these often. Review frequently – are you on track or not? Realign, revisit, learn from your failures as much as your successes.  Never stop learning!

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

Yes, there are still barriers for women in tech, as with other minorities. Creating lasting change will need action at many levels – individual, society, corporate culture and through government policy.

We actively need to attract girls/women to the Tech industry by raising awareness of the many interesting opportunities that exists. Diversity and inclusion targets and programs within corporations’ help keep them there. Too often, women leave through insensitive policies and cultures, which make it difficult to manage their family, work, harassment, biases etc.

By creating environments that allow women to ‘strive and thrive’, more women will be in place to help achieve the quota targets set out by governmental policies. At this level, promoting women into C level roles and onto Director Boards, where they can more readily influence the strategic outcomes of an organization.

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

There is no one action that can be recommended. Organizations – and industries – will be at various degrees of progression is creating a supportive and enabling environment. We need to create environments that allow women to ‘strive and thrive’

Awareness programs educating all management and employees on unconscious bias is a great place to start. ‘Getting to know you’ programs to ‘spotlight’ individuals within an organization is another inclusive way to raise awareness. Championing programs go beyond mentoring by actively raising the awareness of talent – this opens many ‘doors to the old boys club’.

However, it is not the sole remit of an organization. Women themselves, inadvertently become the barrier by hesitating to apply for higher roles if they do not feel they most of the requested skills; fear it could take away from family responsibilities’ resulting in guilt: Imposter syndrome steps in and many step back.  Women need to be encouraged to self-promote and take more risks.

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?

Give women the personal soft skills to self-promote, be confident and take risks. If personally empowered, they will excel, be excited, prove the ‘nay-sayers’ wrong. This will go a long way to keeping the women currently in tech in the game, have them go further, and subsequently encourage other women to step into the industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are many resources available in multiple formats. It is important to find ones that resonate with where you are today. That said, I do have a few ‘go to’ favourites which include:

Conferences:  in person/virtual/networking

https://www.women-in-technology.com/   and https://www.europeanwomenintech.com/

These events are top drawer. The quality of speakers, relevancy of topics, and the sheer opportunity to meet so many other like-minded women is brilliant!  I find the audience here is varied in age and role and attracts more senior level women.

Online platform in concert with Women in Tech events - https://ascend.women-in-technology.com/

Online virtual event - https://www.womentech.net/  This event rocks! A completely online event, it is attended globally by over 100,000 attendees.  Attended by a wide variety of women, it does seem to resonate more with the younger women.

Some reading material I often recommend:

  • The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It by Valeria Young
  • How the World sees you by Sally Hogshead – great tool for understand how others see you and creating your own value statements
  • Business Model YOU, written by Tim Clark (part of Stratgyzer series of books)

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here