Closeup of sad young Asian woman at cafe leaning head on clasped hands and staring into vacancy. Tired freelancer feeling burnout. Stress and bad news concept, stress

How tech companies can promote women’s mental health

Closeup of sad young Asian woman at cafe leaning head on clasped hands and staring into vacancy. Tired freelancer feeling burnout. Stress and bad news concept, stress

By Elizabeth Hatt, Director at Boomi

The pandemic’s widespread impact on the mental health of workers has been well documented, with a survey from the UCL finding that depression and anxiety symptoms increased sharply over the Christmas period.

While many employees experience periods of stress and anxiety, this has only increased during this long period of uncertainty. Is the pandemic over? Will it ever be over? We mull over these questions as we dig deep to push past something that feels like it may never fully end. The effect this has had is detrimental to the well-being and productivity of employees as well as to the success of a business.

Building back confidence

Every individual will respond differently, and we can’t predict the future, but there are several promising approaches we can take to improve the mental health and day to day livelihood of workers.

We’re talking specifically about women’s mental health and when I speak to women in tech roles about mental health, the same issues emerge. Competence and ability abound but due to a variety of reasons, both internal and external, confidence may not be in such high supply.

I find that a great way to support confidence is through mentoring and actively engaging in understanding the source of their confidence (or lack thereof).  According to a study by the Cambridge Judge Business School, mentoring programs can help reduce anxiety, ergo, it must help build confidence.

Opening up

As we move forward, we need to make sure that we are continuing to offer the flexibility that has been afforded to employees throughout the pandemic to provide some measure of consistency as they transition into the post-pandemic world. The idea of going back into a crowded workplace may excite some and unnerve others.  So, how, on a more permanent basis, do we develop and maintain an inclusive working environment while operating in different physical locations?

At Boomi I am exploring a more programmatic approach to this, getting innovative ideas from our teams on how we proactively nurture inclusion and understand what makes our employees feel at ease.

Businesses need to adjust or remove expectations. They have to be open and talk to their employees and continue to have those conversations surrounding mental health. At Boomi, we have created a wellness space, whereby everyone is encouraged to share and discuss their thoughts and feelings on the topics of mental health.

By creating and maintaining this community, whether through an active messaging channel, invited speakers or virtual exercise classes, all within the workplace, it creates an open dialogue that encourages conscious awareness of nurturing wellness in all facets of life and business.

Happy & Hybrid

Employees must be given the opportunity to articulate what they need in order to succeed at work and wellness.  This could be a more comprehensive, codified hybrid work scheme, allowing employees to take back control over their lives or challenging the status quo of traditional office life. As WFH restrictions are lifted, companies must tread carefully when establishing future working arrangements and the impact on their employees.

Establishing agility

Businesses should also look to pivot towards a results-based environment rather than hours worked, as showcased in the McKinsey ‘Agility in the time of COVID-19’ report. By maintaining vigilance with results, it will ensure everyone is fully transparent with regards to what they want to improve on and achieve going forward.

These points are relevant to both men and women.  Given we want to continue supporting gender balance in the tech industry we need to be sure that our future working environments help retain and attract women.

We can all play a role in nurturing and coaching. By encouraging reticent women to speak out about any concerns they may have, it frees up the workplace, traditionally mired in its own office politics, to focus on what’s most important for everyone, personal and business-wide growth.

Elizabeth Hatt

Inspirational Woman: Elizabeth Hatt | Director, Dell Boomi

Elizabeth Hatt Elizabeth Hatt is Director of Dell Boomi.

Dell Boomi is a leading SaaS company which provides world leading, cloud-based, end-to-end capabilities including application/data integration, API management, data quality governance, B2B network management, low-code workflow automation and application development.

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

Hailing from farming stock I had a bit of a head start on work ethic.  From farm to University, from University to world travels, from world travels to a pit-stop job in IT, from a brief foray in IT to a long-term and successful career…in IT.

I am currently celebrating a ten-year anniversary with Dell Technologies; an exceptional 10 years it has been too.  At my seven-year anniversary I had worked for seven different legal entities yet had seven years continuous service and felt entirely qualified to write a thesis on acquisitions and adjusting to change.

The first two years of those ten I spent at ChangeBASE and the last three years with Boomi. Both fed my passion for developing start-up-type companies; ChangeBASE to acquisition, Boomi to number one market share position in the UK, aided enormously by having best of breed technology and a customer-first culture.

Start-ups have featured a number of times in my career with varying degrees of success.  Why start-ups?  There is a collective we’re-in-it-together work ethic that appeals to my sensibilities.  There is so much good will and camaraderie to be had when all are fighting the same fight, an absence of politics and power-hungry jostling and a pure motivation to create an innovative and successful business. To solve customer problems but equally to identify the next wave of requirements before they hit and create new and exciting ways for our customers to exceed their goals and ambitions.

I take these values into all environments in which I work, with small teams and big, and every time they serve to support a one-team approach and an inclusive, over-achieving culture.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In answering this I caveat; perhaps do as I say not as I did.

I planned my career as a lawyer during my law degree, as a psychologist during my psychology degree and almost 10 years into IT I thought that perhaps I should plan for a career in the IT industry. I stepped into the industry as a naïve graduate. I simply thought I had the attributes described in a job advert that I picked up after a gap year in South East Asia.

20 years later the IT industry has changed massively and me with it.

So, no, I really didn’t plan my current career in the early years. I do now. And if I could talk to 22-year-old me I would suggest that I listen more, seek greater understanding from those in the senior positions to which I aspired, and to create a plan as a guide, not a blueprint, that I remain open-minded to opportunities and to changing my plan accordingly.

Life can throw up wonderful opportunities that you just might miss if you stick rigidly to one plan.

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

A lack of voice. I don’t know that I have fully overcome this one and perhaps I never will.  I am an introvert.  I get my energy from time on my own. I don’t speak loudly. I have often felt in my career that what I said wasn’t heard or valued and, yes, that has changed in more recent years and I have learnt to project my voice and insist on being heard but I will always be quiet and considered.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are many career highs that I have enjoyed. Taking Boomi, in three years, from 7th position in UK market share to the number 1 spot is definitely up there.

In terms of what I currently perceive as my biggest achievement it is the ongoing management of career and motherhood and enjoying both.

People relationships, both personal and professional, get us to our great achievements, and while I drive for the number one spot, it is those relationships that I value ahead of the achievements themselves.

In focussing on performance and values over politics and agendas I get to build great teams.

Invariably successes are built by more than one and the more we invest in building effective and productive relationships the greater the successes we will enjoy, at work and at home.

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

If we realised how rarely people think about us, we would spend a lot less time worrying about what they think of us.

I believe I started to enjoy a lot more success when I stopped considering quite so much what I thought people might think.  It was liberating and gave me a confidence in taking risk where I previously felt constrained.

An employee earlier this year said that working in my team was like being in an Enid Blyton book. In years past I would have scrutinised this comment (she intended it as a compliment; brick that she is), I would have analysed my behaviour and tried to adapt and change but I now realise that doing things the way I do gives me the best chance for achieving success because it’s unfiltered. So I embrace her Enid Blyton comment and I refuse to believe that you cannot be both considerate and strong, empathetic and make difficult decisions, kind and exceptional at driving business results. Lashings of ginger beer all round.

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

Be brave. Be real. Engage. Be gritty.

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

The goal of gender balance has to be endemic, prolific, so ingrained in the company DNA that barriers cease to exist.

To such end I encourage every senior male executive to find the inspirational leader behind the reticence of your most competent female employees and have the courage to promote her.

We all need help in progressing our careers. If it wasn’t for Toby Gold having the insight, foresight and  selflessness to put me forward for a Top Talent program, and if it wasn’t for Tim Griffin’s intelligent and inspirational leadership, and his willingness to take the time to challenge and mentor me, I would not be in the position I am in today.

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

Dell does a great job of supporting Women in Tech, something I have witnessed first-hand. Our Employee Resource Group, Women in Action, provides an ecosystem of support and advice that is available to all. I have been through the week-long Women in Leadership training and came out of it with greater awareness and support for my female colleague. These are just two examples of things that I think make a significant difference to the direction of travel for companies trying to reach greater gender balance.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

There are many, many books that may help. I found The Chimp Paradox really helped me with my fear of presenting to large audiences.  Angela Duckworth’s Grit resonated and reinforced my views on building resilience; ‘endurance is rare’ and ‘as much as talent counts, effort counts twice’.  Understanding this is critical to paving a path for success.

Books provide good theory but in practise nothing can replace the value of a good mentor and a close-knit network of supporters and advocates. These take years to nurture so please start investing in those relationships as early as possible.

What are your thoughts on the impact of Covid-19 on women in tech?

It’s a wonderful thing that we can so easily adapt our working environment and continue to work seamlessly at home, but I have heard so many stories this year about women struggling to manage the children at home and their jobs. So often we are the primary carers when we aren’t working that with children off school many women have been under pressure to perform in what is two full time jobs.

Much respect and admiration to those coping with this.  As a mental health ambassador; if it is at all possible, I thoroughly recommend carving out some time for yourself.  Bring on the vaccinations.

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.