Inspirational Woman: Shefali Davda-Bhanot | Director, Seventh Degree

Shefali Davda-BhanotShefali Davda-Bhanot in her capacity as the Director of Seventh Degree, assists technology starts ups headquartered in Silicon Roundabout to Silicon Valley to scale and grow from seed funding stage to IPO.

She has seen through the exponential growth of technology starts ups including unicorn business, Anaplan, start-up City Pantry and is currently working on the international growth strategy and tech talent growth of AI Healthcare company and now unicorn, Babylon Health.

She initiated the set up the Women in Tech & LGBTQ+ “power of diversity” groups at Babylon Health in 2018 which has grown to a group of 50 people. In 2018, she launched her book ‘Start Up to Scale Up: Practical Tips & Strategies to Scaling Up Start Ups’ at the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, and in 2019 spoke to an audience of tech talent specialists on inclusive hiring and the challenges in hiring diverse tech talent.

She is champion of diversity within the field of recruitment and is a member of an organisation called Women in Recruitment which aims to attract, develop and retain female recruiters. Her role has seen her organise a number of events such as hackathons, talks, workshops and spoken at  parliamentary events to mark occasions such as International Women’s Day.

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

My name is Shefali Davda-Bhanot, and I’m the Director of Seventh Degree, a leading firm specialising in niche technology talent consultancy, with clients ranging from one-person bands to companies valued at over $2bn.

I was born and raised in London and studied Pharmaceutical Sciences in the sea-side town Portsmouth.

When I took my first few steps into the world of recruitment, I realised that a great deal of analytics and human-emotional intelligence applies not just to sales, but to leadership in general.

Coming from an analytical background, the fit to recruitment felt natural and I loved the industry upon entry. Albeit noted it was extremely male dominant in not only the industry I worked in, but the sector I had chosen to recruit into- technology.

I’ve worked in the recruitment industry for almost 10 years now. Today I oversee the Seventh Degree’s ongoing business and growth mission—that includes hands on recruitment and embedding within internal onsite talent teams however prior to this, I worked for a number of agencies including global RPO & agency, Experis.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The simple answer to this is no. My plan is to not to plan too much! During university and early on in my professional life, I’d say there was an degree of planning but I was much more focused on short term goals and small triumphs. As I  built up more experience in a field, I thought I was good at, it became straight-forward to make longer term plans, understand and harness passions and set more ambitious career goals to keep me motivated.

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

Many! The recruitment industry operates almost entirely on financial targets, so when I initially started, I was always on edge about hitting these targets- or finding myself out of a job! Other career challenges have included (and still include) tackling diversity and inclusion in both the tech and recruitment sectors. It was important right from the start to ensure my voice wasn’t getting drowned out by the 20 men on my team!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to speak in front of Parliamentary Peers in the House of Lords about Women in the City, Women in Tech and Diversity within working environments. Having had the opportunity to consult with two unicorn businesses and collaborate with some incredibly talented individuals along the way for me is also a great note of accomplishment.

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

I can’t say I have achieved success, however I believe there have been some great triumphs in my decade so far. I would lead these to, following instinct and passion, this allows an authentic and unique perspective to shine through. and acting on the 3 L’s of continuously listening, learning and leading from others and from the front.

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

Invest in your personal development and learning.  Learn new tech skills, attend meet-ups and hackathon, network within your industry,  create Github projects, be active on Stackoverflow, try new roles, read books, stay curious, ask for help and opportunities, listen to others career stories – ideally seek a mentor or a role model.

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

More and more studies are being released that reveal the challenges women face in workplace, compared to men, which extend well beyond pay differences.

The tech market is approx. 80 per cent male dominated at present, with this, I have been told it can feel divided at times to potentially be the only woman in a team. A solution for this would be to hire junior, newly qualified grads where there is a wider talent pool of diverse talent.

In most workplaces, there is still a lack of flexibility in working hours, or access to childcare – this can also prove a barrier for success for women working in tech.  Businesses can really support with this by introducing greater flexibility around the ways in which people work and to switch the focus to “results-based-work”, as opposed to the number of hours put into a task.

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

Creating mentorship and coaching programmes with role models within the business. Assist with elevating women in tech profiles, such that their work can be observed and evident to others both inside and outside of the organisation.

Training and Development – organisations should have training and development budget assigned to each employee and it is pivotal for businesses to support the progress of women working in technology by using the budget toward upskilling. A lot of businesses don’t use up their allocated budget for L&D.

There is currently on 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?

If I could wave a magic wand I would have a number of highly performing engineers and senior leaders within Engineering & Product spaces,  carving the way as mentors to a younger generation of technologists. Breaking down prejudice and breaking the invisible glass ceiling. I would also want to encourage more awareness to the younger generation about product innovation and a career in technology.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Podcast: The Women in Tech Show: A Technical Podcast - A women in tech podcast featuring technical interviews with prominent women in technology. The interviews explore topics in software engineering, software design, artificial intelligence, research, entrepreneurship, career strategy, machine learning, security, and more. Hosted by Edaena Salinas, Software Engineer at Microsoft.

Meet-up: Women Who Code (WWC) – a membership of almost 6,000 members – probably one of the most active community of engineers dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology career.

A must read: The Lean Start-up: offering a scientific approach to setting up a successful business.