Maddy Norris

Inspirational Woman: Maddy Norris | Principal Network Consultant, Hamilton Barnes

Maddy Norris

Maddy Norris is a Principal Network Consultant at Hamilton Barnes, the leading provider of talent solutions to the Network Engineering sector.

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

Growing up I always wanted to be a solicitor specialising in Criminal Law, having binged on fictional crime series like True Crime! My twice great-aunt was one of the first female judges in the US, so I used to say I looked toward her as inspiration.

I studied Law at university but discovered early into my degree that it was no longer the career I wanted to pursue. However, I wasn’t deterred as I enjoyed studying it and a Law degree was far from wasted time.

I always knew two things about my career; I wanted to earn money and having grown up in North London, I wanted to work in the City. My biggest motivators are to create stability and financial freedom for myself and being able to support my family in the future.

But I graduated in 2020, in the midst of COVID, so this put a spanner in the works of pursing the career I thought I wanted and I began to look elsewhere. A friend offered to refer me into a recruitment role and I felt that I had the required skills; I was people-person and had always had natural problem-solving ability. I was lucky enough to secure my role with Hamilton Barnes and my career in Networking/Telecoms recruitment began!

I started off recruiting in the Fibre market which was fast-paced and there were quick wins; after placing over 100 Fibre Engineers with the biggest Carrier in the UK, I then moved into the Internet Provider Networking Team.

Since starting, I have been promoted three times in two years and now as a Principal IP Network Consultant, I have started managing my own Team. I recruit within the IP space for UK-wide clients, from up-and-coming Alt-Nets to some of the largest Carriers.

Recruiting within the space, it was apparent from the start that there was a serious lack of female Networking candidates and that they were highly sought-after. We began to spit-ball ideas of how we could influence/encourage women within the market. This is how Hamilton Barnes’ podcast spin-off series came about.

We started the Podcast in 2021, featuring questions that aimed to encourage others/give advice to people in the space or going into the space. The Spin-off series focusing on Women in Tech features inspiring women at all levels from graduate up to C-level, giving them a voice, offering real-life perspectives of women in the industry and aiming to inspire the younger generations. I now run with this podcast alongside my Recruitment role.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The only time I planned my career was in my final year of university when I had to begin thinking about what career I wanted to pursue. I knew that I needed direction and clear goals to be able to excel but discovered early into my degree that I did not want to go down the legal route. I was fortunate enough to have a mentor, who was an immigration solicitor, during my first two years of university. She was very frank with me but explained that if I wanted to go become a solicitor or barrister, I had to be willing to work long hours with no compensation and few increases on salary. She warned me of how difficult it was to secure a training contract following the LPC too. I enjoyed studying law but my heart wasn’t in it enough, I knew I needed a career that would be able to support my lifestyle and would allow me to earn enough to eventually buy a house in London.

I took a shipping law module in my final year and loved the subject. I also had a relative who had a very successful career as a Shipbroker, so I knew there was money to be made and the idea of a role had me excited at future prospects. I attended Shipbroker classes for several weeks, on top of joining many other platforms for women in the field, and I thought I had my whole career planned out. Until COVID hit. All of my applications were put on hold because of a hiring freeze.

But I’m a strong believer in that everything happens for a reason. Since joining Hamilton Barnes, I have never looked back and my prospects of a career in shipping are far behind me!

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

Imposter syndrome is more of an internal challenge than a career challenge but I have often struggled with not feeling good enough, feeling out of place or receiving a promotion and feeling as if I haven’t done enough to warrant it or it is undeserved.

Many people struggle with it and all you really can do is remind yourself of and celebrate your successes. It’s easy to focus on the bad especially in a Sales/KPI driven environment and not acknowledge all the achievements and successes you have had along the way.

I’d recommend keeping track of your achievements/things you’re most proud no matter how small they are, whether it be on a note on your phone or a journal so you can refer back to it when you’re having a moment of doubt. Having a strong support system of friends and family who all believe in you is another crucial point; you can lean on them when needed.

And I’m a passionate advocate for personal development. If you feel you aren’t smart enough or inadequate for whatever reason I would recommend furthering your knowledge wherever possible because, in turn, it will improve your confidence and you’ll start to doubt yourself a lot less.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date is securing my role at Hamilton Barnes. I was told constantly that it was going to be difficult to find employment post-university, during COVID, but that made me even more determined. After my first interview I got that instant gut-feeling that this is where I needed to be. I knew they were very selective about who they hired and there were five or six people that I had to impress to get the job offer. After only two weeks of searching for a job and getting offered the role, the sense of achievement I felt was immense and one I’ll never forget.

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

I think a major factor for me is feeling the need to prove myself. On joining Hamilton Barnes, I was the first woman in an office full of men. I felt I had to work hard to prove that I was just as, if not more, capable than the guys I was working with.

My family and parents are another massive motivator for me, having sacrificed a lot to support my studies. I have always been motivated to repay this favour and make them proud.

Something that was drummed into me from a young age by my mother and something I am grateful for was telling me to earn my own money and ‘never, ever have to rely on a man for money’. She always homed in on the freedom that having your own money brought and that it meant you were never tied into any bad situation or anyone for that matter.

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

Research and utilising platforms/forums is key in the space. My mentor during university was a massive help to me, she didn’t sugar-coat anything and steered me away from a career in Law that I may have pursued had it not been for her complete honesty on the reality of a career in the industry.

Having spoken to many amazing women within the Network Engineering Industry through my podcast, all of whom were willing to help anyone out with career/industry advice and encouraged people to approach them, I would advise people to approach industry professionals – on LinkedIn or other social media platforms – to ask for any tips and knowledge of roles within their current place of work etc. You will be surprised just how many will be willing to help. But they were all in your shoes too!

If there are ways you can upskill in your industry, constantly upskill! Grab any certifications, courses, or programmes available with both hands. Anything extra you can do to make yourself stand-out from the crowd and give you that extra edge above other candidates, do it.

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

Honestly, the barriers are not what they once were. Naturally, some men will always have an unconscious-biased about women and their ability to excel at C-level etc. But I would say the majority do not have this thought process anymore. There are still gender pay-gaps and other factors at play but from what I have seen within the space as a recruiter is that male hiring managers and male colleagues can be the biggest advocates for their female colleagues.

Many of the women I have spoken with have had male mentors that believed in and challenged them to push themselves and go for that promotion.

I think one of the biggest barriers is simply the lack of women in tech. A scary statistic that I heard at a conference recently is that there are 115 qualified men to one woman in the tech industry. But, as we start to see an increase in more women in the space these barriers will begin to come down further.

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

Companies should have platforms for women to come together. Cisco is particularly amazing at bringing together their female employees, having spoken to a number of them myself. Their ‘Women of Cisco’ Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook are all platforms with the same aim ‘to empower the Women in Technology’. These platforms enable female employees to share their stories, promotions, hardships and allow the younger generation to have access to thousands of other incredibly successful, like-minded women.

Ensuring there is gender diversity across management positions and at C-level is something I believe is essential. Often, if there isn’t someone that females can relate to in more senior positions, it’s hard to be able to picture yourself in that position and strive to be like them. Knowing the importance of having a role model myself, ensuring diversity is prioritised and aiming for a 50/50 split between male and female seniors is key.

There are currently only 21 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?

The root cause is the lack of exposure to the career opportunities available to women and the lack of incorporation of it in Government education. I would change the Government education on computer science and other STEM areas and give young girls early exposure to what studying these subjects could allow you to achieve. I think for each subject that is taught, they should cover potential careers and open the doors up to opportunities early on. As tech is such a current and pioneering area, I believe it should be taught as a core subject in secondary school and be incorporated into later primary school years.

I believe I would have gone straight into the industry had I known about the opportunities available. I was lucky enough to ‘fall’ into it per se but not everyone is.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

As mentioned, LinkedIn and Twitter are the best platforms to use to reach out to other professionals. But there are a host of other great events and podcasts out there; Karren Brady’s Women in Business and Tech Expo is an event I would highly recommend. The Secrets of Six Figure Women by Barbara Stanny (book); Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck (book); The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, by Mark Manson (book). The Route to Networking, Hamilton Barnes’ (podcast), The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett (podcast); Real AF with Andy Frisella (podcast); The High Performance Podcast: and Modern Wisdom (podcast) are also great.


female data scientist, woman leading team

Standing out from the crowd as a female in Network Engineering

female data scientist, woman leading team

By Maddy Norris, Principal Network Consultant at Hamilton Barnes, the leading provider of talent solutions to the Network Engineering sector.

As the Host of Hamilton BarnesThe Route to Networking podcast spin-off series that focuses on women in the space, I’ve been privileged to interview a number of highly successful women in the Network Engineering industry. These incredible discussions have allowed me to draw conclusions on a few key areas.

Firstly, attitude. Attitude played an important role for these women in having the mindset to not be defined by their gender. They felt like they had to work twice as hard to prove themselves in a male-dominated industry, but Rita Younger, a Global Manager at an ISP, explained, “I didn’t realise I was a woman in technology, I just wanted to be the best damn engineer there was”. Having started her career as a graphic designer, she shifted into technical training and ultimately started on her Networking journey.

Secondly, the ability to bounce back from any adversity is critical to the success of these females. Take Lexie Cooper, who started her career as a legal assistant but struggled to find satisfaction in this role, instead making the brave decision to go back to school. Her first degree was in English Literature, so the shock of being in her first ‘Introduction to Networking’ class was amplified when there were roughly 55 people in the classroom and only four were women. Indeed, in this first class, the lecturer singled out the women with derogatory comments and Lexi was almost turned off Networking for good. Fortunately, she had the strength of character to attend the second class, where she met her instructor – also a woman. The rest, as they say, is history.

Next, community. Social media platforms offer a powerful means of spreading encouragement of our fellow female professionals and the concept of women empowering women is a strong one. A few of the successful women I spoke with were Networking professionals but also content creators, leveraging their Twitter accounts and hosting weekly podcasts or recording videos for YouTube to openly encourage discussion across the broader community. Knowing that there were other, like-minded individuals in the sector provided these women with solidarity and if the opportunity arises to talk to other women in the space, take it.

One of my guests, Betty DuBois, who runs Packet Detectives, a network performance consulting and training firm, has been so encouraging of other women joining the industry that she devised a conference incentive scheme. Speaking annually at SharkFest, the Wireshark Developer and User Conference, she has forgone her fee and agreed with the conference organisers that more women be allowed to attend for free instead.

This leads me onto early exposure, since it was in Betty’s interview that she encouraged the industry to, “Get ‘em young, treat ‘em right”. A common theme across my guests’ stories was that they ‘fell’ into their role or got into the industry on a whim. Very few of them had intentions of going into tech from an early age, highlighting the lack of exposure to the industry for young girls, where getting an internship during college allows you to gain valuable insight in the industry whilst still being educated on it. More needs to be done to increase awareness of the space whether it’s through better exposure to the opportunities through education and university courses, Networking internships, or female-centric conventions. Progress is being made but not enough, in my opinion.

Is being a female an advantage or disadvantage?

And it’s progress that’s needed in more than just awareness, since there is still a great deal of stereotyping that goes on in the sector. Many of my guests have faced unconscious biases in the workplace, for example being mistaken for somebody’s assistant or being on the receiving end of misogynistic comments. Unfortunately, these biases can result in Imposter Syndrome, with women questioning whether they are in the right area or have the necessary expertise.

That said, in the case of my interviewees, these biases seems to have the opposite effect; they see the challenges that push them out of their comfort zones as positive, using them as fuel to drive their personal growth and development. A message of positivity is one that resonated most strongly with my guests as they are the trailblazers of their gender with an edge over male engineers. Their hard work in spite of difficult odds has delivered results and they’ve proved themselves to be high-performers. As Kori Younger, an Associate Systems Engineer at Cisco and the daughter of Rita, quoted earlier, said, “It’s easy for anyone to look at you when you walk into a room, being young and also a female and obviously I look different than the engineer sitting across the table from me most of the time, but when we pass our exams and validate our knowledge, it bridges a gap naturally.”

With the right role models in technology, like the amazing women who have featured on The Route to Networking podcast, more women can seek the inspiration they need to thrive in the sector, even use being a minority to their advantage. That would be my career advice for women looking to pursue a tech career; don’t be held back for being different, rather leverage these differences to bring a different perspective and dynamic to your work and help you stand out from the (largely male) crowd.

To listen to the The Route to Networking; The Women in Tech interviews in full, please visit: https://hamilton-barnes.com/podcasts/.