Inspirational Woman: Lisa Weaver-Lambert | Data and Digital Operating Partner in Private Equity

Lisa WeaverLisa Weaver-Lambert is an experienced data and digital results-driven leader with over 20 years’ professional experience.

She works in close partnership with companies to develop technology-enabled strategies and deliver commercial solutions. This approach has helped shape strategy and deliver significant business change by taking a data-driven approach to commercial decision making, optimising performance and earned the respect of a broad range of clients. Her extensive portfolio includes private equity build-up and corporate carve-outs, public and privately held B2B and B2C companies across multiple sectors and international markets.

She has lived and worked in Europe and the US as well as working in China and Africa and speaks fluent French and Italian. Currently, Lisa is working for a European PE firm in London as Data and Digital Directo, partnering with the portfolio companies to redesign value propositions and services, using technologies, data and ways of working to accelerate performance.

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

I am an experienced digital and data results-driven commercial leader with the ability to set a clear vision to drive growth. My extensive portfolio includes private equity build-up and corporate carve-outs, public and privately held B2B and B2C companies including Consumer, Media and Technology. Having lived and worked in Europe and the US throughout my career, as well as working in China and Africa, I am currently working for a European PE firm as Data and Digital Director. I partner with the portfolio companies to redesign value propositions and services, using technologies, data and ways of working to accelerate performance. I am also on the board of City College Capital Group, London’s largest Higher Education Group.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career has been a synthesis of discipline, opportunity and timing. Planning and taking opportunities as they arose has created a path that continuously broadened my horizons. Early in my working life I had the privilege of a breadth of experience not only on multiple disciplines but also in geography. This led to finding a role related to data management that became a golden thread throughout my career. I left my comfort zone very quickly after university by moving to France and then the US, which forced me to confront different cultural mindsets and ways of working. Such changes opened me to growth. This period also coincided with huge technology growth, which definitely shaped my choices of firms and geography; in my move to the US I was part of the incredibly rapid uptake of technology. So, I think of my career planning as a series of incremental shifts towards constant growth.

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

Shift of environment/geography:

At the start of my career in France, I had the good fortune of working for US clients at Apple Computers and American Express, who brought a whole new mindset to my life. Throughout these experiences, I became increasingly aware that I was in the right job but in the wrong country. I realised that if I was interested in technology I needed to transfer to the US. The challenge at this point was not putting up barriers for my forward direction, so I moved to the US by networking and simply getting on a plane and setting up job interviews in five days. It worked.

Shift in skill set:

A few years into my career, I realised that I needed to professionalise my business acumen by leaving the more entrepreneurial tech world I had sought out in New York and get some solid training. I chose the tech side of consulting and landed a job with Accenture, which provided the career structure, I was previously missing. Moving from a highly collaborative, creative tech environment in NY, to a more systemised way of working at Accenture in London, was a major shift. The economy was going into a downturn so I had to dig deep, focus, adapt to survive – and stay on track.

Shift in approach:

Knowing how and when to leave a comfortable job in a large consulting firm was then a challenge. This was solved for me by saying yes to help on a significant tech transformation under the leadership of an ex-Accenture partner. This led to building up an interim career across a number of sectors, leveraging client or external swarm teams to solve business challenges.

Shift in culture:

The transition into Private Equity has undoubtedly been challenging – from a cultural rather technical skills perspective.  It’s still early days for tech in PE, as Private Equity is deepening its focus on technology alongside more traditional areas of evaluation. Although not yet well understood, technology is a growing competency that’s becoming increasingly critical.  Having spoken to many tech peers across the PE sector, how to integrate diverse technology skills effectively is a challenge we are all facing.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Rather than a single one, my career has been a sequence of meaningful achievements that have helped increase confidence and lead to the next achievement – a flow rather than a mountain with a flag pole.

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

Continual learning, adaptation and resilience – these things are all inextricably linked.

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

Understand what is possible, raise your expectations, keep learning and be resilient.

Seek out other women in tech and ask them questions. If they can help, they will.

My current tech/digital community is full of fantastic men and women who all share the same goal – the technical challenge we are solving. This is the common denominator so don’t be afraid to ask men in tech for help too.

I have found that the problems of discrimination are invariably with the system not individuals. At the beginning of my career, the door was opened for me by a male CTO, after which I had a fantastic male coach who gave me his time for free when I could not afford his superstar fees. Today, I have a long-standing and very successful collaboration with a number of male tech operators.

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

There are two key barriers and they are interrelated. Firstly, the subtle stereotyping that tech is for boys and that girls don't belong, can have very real effects on employees’ professional expectations and performance. Sometimes subtle discrimination is a more potent inhibitor than explicit forms, as it’s often harder to identify and push back against. This is compounded by the lack of awareness of opportunities and options I have mentioned previously. Together, these can create challenging but not insurmountable barriers. It’s important to recognise that within the current system, guys get more experience, which, in turn, reinforces the narrow opportunities for girls.

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

Initiate connections with women already working in tech to engage a wider audience to the full scope of different roles available. These don't have to be CTOs, there are plenty of inspiring role models out there throughout the industry.

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?

Get women to be more proactive in ‘asking’ for advice, help or even opportunities. Every day, I am contacted by men putting themselves forward for roles. Yes, many of these asks might meet a ‘no, not now’ but it’s critical to build up resilience. Women tend to think they need to be perfectly trained to do a role – men tend not to think in this way.  Women often don’t feel confident until they’ve checked off each item on the list. This thinking is likely a result of bias in some work environments, as studies frequently show that women need to meet more of the qualifications to be hired than their male counterparts.

My advice is: women need to have more faith in themselves, and support to up-skill where they need to.

Also girls are strongly socialized to ‘follow the rules’ and from school onwards are rewarded for doing so. Interestingly, girls’ success in school can arguably be attributed to their better rule-following. However, in their careers that rule-following habit has real costs, including when it comes to adhering to the guidelines about ‘who should apply’.

Finally, qualifications were our ticket in, our way of proving we could do the job as women tend to get judged more and receive less benefit of the doubt. This probably leads some women to approach the workplace as more orderly and expect it to be more meritocratic than it is. As a result we may overestimate the importance of our formal qualifications, and under estimate advocacy and networking. Doing quality work is not the only ingredient you need to become visible and successful within an organisation. The ingrained expectations for women are highly complex but I think we do need to rethink our habits of diligence and believe less in what appear to be ‘the rules’.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I co-host a podcast – The Private Equity Technology Podcast where we share some valuable insights and challenges around operational execution of technology.

I encourage women to follow people or companies they admire on Twitter and Linkedin.

And, get to know tech-focused recruiters, who scan the marketplace day-in and day-out, and can be a great source of intelligence and partnership.


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