Nicola Brown

Inspirational Woman: Nicola Brown | Sales Director, Central Networks and Technologies

Nicola BrownI’m Nicola Brown and I’m the sales director at Lancashire-based IT solutions provider, Central Networks and Technologies (Central).

I have over 20 years’ experience working within the technology and public sector industries, during which time I’ve worked in all kinds of roles – pre-sales support, account management, and director level. And this breadth of experience has culminated in where I am in my current role at Central, heading up the sales team and leading the company’s commercial strategy.

In addition to my love of tech though, I’m also a director of WISH (Women in Social Housing) – a community interest company that champions women working within the sector – as well as co-chairing the North West WISH network. If you’ve already guessed, I love being busy!

I enjoy helping businesses to grow, and having been in my current role at Central for six months, I’m really enjoying working with the team to help drive the business forwards.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. I sort of ‘fell into’ the industry after leaving education. I studied law at Durham University – originally wanting to be a lawyer – however during my work experience I found that this wasn’t really the route for me. I found something I truly loved when I landed a job in sales – selling all-things IT related.

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

When starting out my career in tech in late 1990s, one of the biggest challenges was working as a female within the industry. In fact, when I attended my first event aged 23, most of the delegates were men, and women had had a harder time ‘earning their stripes’ and demonstrating their expertise.

This has significantly improved over the years, with more women gaining a seat at the boardroom table and being recognised for their capabilities. It was only in a recent BBC News article, that it stated the number of women on boards has increased 50% in five years.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One of my biggest achievements was starting a job in a tech firm as a sales support and leaving two decades later as a director with a board seat. This was a pivotal moment in my career, as I really put my sales, business management skills, and ability to translate technical jargon into everyday language into action — and progressed through the company as a result.

Like many parents across the UK, one of my biggest, most recent, achievements has been juggling home-schooling with work – that’s been an experience like no other!

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

Honestly, I think this is deeply rooted in my family and life experiences. My father died suddenly and tragically when I was 27 – he was 56. Life is too short not to strive to do the things you want to achieve.

This same ethos is also something which I translate into business, and it’s the way I approach my job – it’s like it’s my own company and I want to support it and see it thrive every day.

I think that’s why I love working with small to medium-sized enterprises, that I can have a real impact on. I’m a very personable individual, so being a part of a sales machine in a large multi-national firm wouldn’t’ suit me – I’m all about driving a positive customer experience and being able to witness this first-hand.

As a person, my nature is also to be resilient and positive – I try to take a positive out of every day – and I think that’s important not only for progressing professionally but personally, too.

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

To be flexible and open your mind to change and new opportunities – that’s often how the greatest things happen!

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

Unfortunately yes. There are many well-known major tech firms which are struggling to recruit women and have dedicated support groups to try and attract and retain their talent.

But we shouldn’t need these groups in the first place.

To help combat this, companies across the board have to be more forward thinking, diverse, and inclusive in not only their recruitment processes, but the whole way they operate their business – from HR to culture and marketing. Also, women need to champion other women to help propel positive change forwards.

As part of my work with WISH – aimed at all women, at all levels, within housing – I’ve found that this sector is much further ahead than big tech companies, so there’s clearly some work to be done.

The gender pay gap is also a massive topic of relevance here. And while “78% of large organisations have admitted to having a gender pay gap in tech”, it’s not solely this industry that’s affected. And this needs to be addressed across the entire corporate world, to help bridge the divide effectively.

The pandemic has also had a huge effect on the progress made surrounding workplace gender equality and pay gap disparity. Last March, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) suspended the need for companies to report their gender pay gap data – and this is now the case until 5th October 2021.

This, coupled with the added pressures many women have experienced around home-schooling and childcare closures, are more examples of the barriers we’re continually faced with and need to overcome. There’s no doubting that more definitely needs to be done to keep gender pay gap reduction high on the agenda of both the government and workplaces alike.

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

They need to implement a genuine inclusivity and diversity agenda across their business – ensuring that all of their employees are supported equally in their career.

There is currently only 15% 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?

For me, it starts with the early years provision and how children are taught about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) at school. In fact, I’ve recently spoken at my daughter’s own school as part of British Science Week, leading a discussion on innovation and how exciting technology can be.

There is also a ‘This Girl Can’ programme – led by Sport England – which aims to encourage women to be physically active, regardless of their shape, size, and ability, and a similar concept applies to inspiring women to enter the world. Gender doesn’t matter when it comes to getting a job in the tech world – all you need is a passion and drive for the sector.

How we speak to our children and the language we use is crucial in normalising females entering these career fields, too.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

It’s not technology specific, however I really recommend Anthony Taylor’s book, ‘Mental Toughness Metaphors’. It’s a great read about thought-leadership and building resilience.

How will the pandemic and its aftermath affect businesses and their technology?

There’s no doubting that Covid-19 has shaken up the way businesses operate – not only across the UK but the world over. Also, life – both personally and professionally – has become more digitised and will likely continue to follow this trend as we look ahead to the future.

For organisations, the rate of adoption of remote and hybrid working models has risen drastically over the past 12 months, and as we look ahead to life ‘after the pandemic’, business transformation programmes will undoubtedly remain a priority. We expect to see even more investment in tech infrastructure and telephony projects, to enable personnel to seamlessly ‘work form anywhere’.

For us here at Central, this means we’ll likely be seeing continued demand for cloud-based software solutions – such as Office 365 – intranet solutions, and file storage systems

It is clear that because of everything that’s happened over the last year, we’re going to witness more diverse and progressive workplaces, and some may continue to be home-based – scrapping the ‘traditional office’ model completely.

For these businesses, they will be focusing more on how to safely access and store their company’s data – looking towards cloud-based storage infrastructure and telephony systems, to help their operations remain effective and connected.

Business change projects have happened and will continue to evolve as we enter the next phase of the ‘new normal’, and more businesses increase their reliance on digital solutions.


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


Caroline Lewis featured

Inspirational Woman: Caroline Lewis | Sales Director, Tiger

Caroline Lewis – sales director at Tiger

I’m Caroline Lewis, and I’m the sales director for Tiger – a workplace data analytics organisation.

I’m proud to be the company’s sales director – driving forward an eight-strong sales division. But while sales is my specialism, I also work closely with all of the different teams and departments across the whole of Tiger – working collaboratively to ultimately grow the business and build upon our strong reputation within the industry.

I have over 20 years’ experience in the industry, but my passion for tech started when I decided to study a computing and informatics degree at the University of Plymouth.

After graduating, my first job was in a customer tech support role at Tiger. I then swiftly progressed into the sales area of the business, due to my combined business and technology skillset. Tiger is a company which really fits with my own personal values. Aside from the inspiring technical developments, it offers lots of support and development for its people, which makes it a positive and rewarding environment to be part of.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Honestly, no. When choosing my A-levels, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I enjoyed STEM subjects, and I liked the idea of working in business. Looks like I was on the right track after all!

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

Flying the flag for women in a predominantly male-dominated industry has its challenges!

In my early twenties, I remember sitting down in board meetings – where the c-suite representatives were all men – and having to demonstrate my ability to not only hold my own in the room but to understand technical discussions.

I quickly discovered the importance of having confidence in your own skillset, but also knowing when you do and don’t need support from colleagues with more experience.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There have been several key milestones for me.

Of course, I’m proud of being Tiger’s sales director, but not because of the desire for seniority, rather it’s about all the years’ positive experiences, successes, wins, and hurdles overcome which have got me here. Being able to use this knowledge and experience within my own team to help them develop, grow and ultimately be more successful, is a hugely rewarding process.

Also, a specific achievement that springs to mind is having been awarded Tiger’s ‘Salesperson of the Year’ title for four consecutive years. This is given to the team member with the best revenue performance for that financial year – something I’m extremely proud of.

However, alongside being recognised by my fellow colleagues, it’s always very rewarding to see how our technology makes a difference to our customers – helping them to interpret their data so they can make better decisions, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.

Ultimately, I’m proud of the reputation Tiger has in the marketplace and the relationships we have with customers, partners, and the wider UC&C space. We don’t stand still – which makes it a great place to be!

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

Great parenting – mine have been a big influence in my life.

I inherited my passion for STEM subjects from my dad, and my self-belief and drive – stubbornness! – from my mum.

From an early age, my parents encouraged my brother and I to enjoy learning and developing an interest in a plethora of subjects – there were never any barriers or boundaries to what we could do. And this confidence in my capability to do anything I put my mind to has stayed with me.

However, finding a company which possesses this same ethos has also played a pivotal part in this success – it was fate.

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

To believe in yourself, be determined and surround yourself with people who have this same positivity – don’t listen to the doubters! Finally, find a job that interests you – it’s important to retain your passion and excitement for your chosen field.

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

The barrier is often other people’s mindsets. That’s why it’s important to work with, and learn from likeminded colleagues, coaches and role models plus look for a company which has the same ethos you do.

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

Ultimately, this has to come from both sides of the fence – the company and the employee – with women being confident and believing in their capabilities.

However, the firm should have a level playing field and open mindset when hiring new candidates – they need to be conscious about how they’re presenting themselves. For example, are the culture they promote and the job descriptions they write authentically inclusive? If so, this may go a long way in attracting more female applicants.

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?

The change has to come from an early foundation. I’d push the importance of STEM subjects in education and ensure that all schools and colleges had positive role models with encouraging attitudes towards women in tech careers. I always remember my maths tutor laughing at me for wanting to do a computer science degree, and that shouldn’t happen.

What is your favourite thing about working in the tech sector?

The ability to be part of an industry that can challenge the norm, influence change quickly and inspire everyone with new ways of working.

What do you think will be one of the biggest tech trends in 2021?

While 2020 saw businesses having to react quickly by setting up remote workforces or accelerating their home-working capabilities, this year it will be all about those same companies catching up with where their tech investments have rapidly propelled them.

All this will take place alongside analysing what worked well and not so well – to inform future business decisions, regarding people, productivity, and efficiencies. And workplace data will play a vital role in achieving this.

Last March, Microsoft Teams’ users increased by 12 million in one week, while Cisco reported 6.7 billion minutes of meetings on one day. And one of our clients had voice data volumes increase over threefold between February and March.

Now, companies will be figuring out how to harness all this intelligence.

In the age of ‘dispersed workforces’ – all sat remotely behind a webcam – business leaders will want to know more about how line managers are looking after their teams, whether employees are engaging with the new tech, and if there are any staff wellbeing issues, and more.

But having the data to know if staff don’t have their cameras on for every video call or send high numbers of instant messages to colleagues, can help to identify any issue and remedy it. Whether it’s because they’re lonely, they’re having technology issues, or there’s a training need – organisations will need this insight at their fingertips.

But crucially, everyone needs more access to the data that’s relevant to their team. This will be the key in helping individuals to better help staff, collaborate and enhance productivity – benefitting the entire company.


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: Kate Emery-James | Sales Director, Trend Micro

Kate Emery-James

I’m Kate Emery-James and I’m a Sales Director at Trend Micro, specifically leading the Large Enterprise (Major Accounts) team.

My team are responsible for the relationships between Trend Micro and some of the largest FT100 and Government accounts in the UK.  My background in sales spans 20+ years with a diverse mix of companies from Cybersecurity leaders, tech start-ups and an entrepreneurial business who secured funding on Dragons Den!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At some points yes, absolutely, and then other times no – I just explored the opportunities that have come my way.  My main ethos has always been to work hard, make an impact and help others thrive, whether that be clients or colleagues.  This has meant that my career choices have always been more about the people I get to learn from rather than being at a certain point in my career or having a certain job title.

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

Yes many! From unexpected acquisitions, juggling a career and small children to working with difficult customer situations – career challenges have come with lots of different guises along the way.  I’ve always just looked at them to reframe a situation, say “plot twist!” learn and move on!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve been very fortunate to lead teams who have closed out market making deals for the companies I’ve worked for. One particular deal involved a large virtual team, our CEO and multiple product managers, technical leads and commercial/legal experts.  We crafted a solution that was transformational for our customer and the satisfaction of seeing everyone involved grow, develop and celebrate the win was very special.

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

That I don’t have all the answers. It’s important to be humble, constantly be learning and to work with the resources around you to support your goals.  My success depends on the success of those around me,- I believe that by focussing on helping others we all win.

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

My passion is people and the ways in which technology can transform their lives, whether that’s making the world safer for the exchange of digital information or ensuring children are safe online.  Focus on the end goal of what the technology can do for the greater good and an area that excites you.

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

Being a woman in IT has helped rather than hindered my career. In a predominantly male environment I’ve often been the only woman in the room or call. What this has brought is a different way of thinking in team meetings or projects which has helped us reach a better end goal.  That being said, I do think women need to think big and put themselves forward for roles for which they may have the ability but may not necessarily have all the experience.

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

Be flexible.  This isn’t just about working practices but more about looking at the whole person.  I’ve been very fortunate to work for some amazing male leaders, who have given me opportunities for which I may have not fitted the “traditional” mould in terms of tenure or experience, but they believed in my core skills and ultimately my ability to do the job.

There is currently only 15% 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?

More investment at the education stage, technology isn’t all about being in development.  There are masses of other roles, in sales, marketing, customer success, design and support which are all IT related.  I also believe companies should actively invest in inclusion groups and mentor programs, which allow younger employees to learn from experienced colleagues both male and female alike.  This also raises the bar and profile of those involved.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Go to as many events as possible (Women of Silicon Roundabout) be active on LinkedIn and adopt a learning mindset.


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