Susan Bowen featured

“Geeky, boring, coder” Susan Bowen shares how she helped catch criminals in the 90s


“I can either be seen as a geeky, boring coder or as someone that was helping to catch criminals in the 90s,” says Susan Bowen, Vice President and General Manager, EMEA at Cogeco Peer1 who believes the tech industry should do more to inform students of what a career in technology entails.

“Geeky, boring, coder” Susan Bowen shares how she helped catch criminals in the 90s (F)Having spent 16 years at Hewlett Packard and Hewlett Packard Enterprise she opted to move to global web infrastructure and cloud company Cogeco Peer1 last year. She recently shared her career journey and plans for her exciting new role at Cogeco Peer1, with WeAreTheCity.

At school Bowen quickly realised that she excelled in her Computing classes, which guided her in her subject choices: “I planned to take English and politics, but I found that I was good at Computing. I took A-Level Computing and got the opportunity to go to University.”

She started her career in technology as a Systems Engineer, at Electronic Data Systems, in 1996. Here she worked on UK and International Projects for Met Police and Amex Bank.

She explained how at school she was not aware that a career in technology would enable her to travel the world and work on exciting, real world projects: “I went straight into a programming job and I got to code on the millennial bug, which was real. I had to change the coding in banking applications and you had to do every desktop in those days. I got to travel the world and worked in the World Trade Center. I also travelled to Singapore and worked in the financial sector. The trading floor was the heart of the technology industry in 1999.

“I was also on the tech team for the Met police, when it was very early days for analytics. My coding helped to created maps, which analysed communities based on crimes and individuals. I had to visit every police station to make this possible and they even showcased my code on The Bill. They didn’t tell me at college, that I would get to do things like that.

“I can either be seen as a geeky, boring coder or as someone that was helping to catch criminals in the 90s.”

She later studied further and opted to learn the business side of her work too: “I then learnt the business side of things and I later joined HP. I signed up to take Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and I was the first one at the time. I went on the courses when Active Directory was first certified. I was previously the only girl on my A-Level course and I was the only girl at HP taking courses at that time. I was in a laddish environment, but I’m boysy. It didn’t intimidate me, but I can see how a less laddish environment would be better.”

In 1999 she took a job at HP where she managed the Mission Critical support service contracts as a trusted advisor for JP Morgan Chase, Schroders PLC and 3i PLC. During her time at HP she worked her way up to Chief of Staff UK & Ireland at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Throughout her career at the company she was appointed by HP’s Executive Committee to lead the UK and Ireland through its Company Separation, which formed HP Inc and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. She also worked with McKinsey & Co to deploy a new sales coverage model and workforce restructure establishing a $1.5bn business and returning to growth in a recession.

She was pivotal in forming HP’s SMEngage programme to change the way HP works with Small, Medium Enterprises (SME) and as a result increased HP’s spend with SMEs by 50% in two years. She transformed HP’s Managed Print Services business increasing profitability by over 60pts and over 50% revenue growth in two years. In addition, she created a nationwide community based corporate social responsibility programme to log over 160,000 hours of volunteer time by employees in one year.

She became a techUK Board member in 2013 and was appointed by techUK as Chair for the Women in Tech council in 2015.

Speaking with a sense of loyalty and appreciation for her time at HP she said: “I really enjoyed the ride.”

Bowen said the move to Cogeco Peer1 was made at the right time and that she is enjoying the challenge: “I look after everything that enables people to go to the cloud. This can be enabling music to be collected in the cloud or even betting at Charlton.

“I had, and still have, such loyalty to HP. The timing was just right to leave as I was not going to a competitor. I am very excited to grow the UK and EMEA business here, with leading edge technology.”

A move into management

When Bowen decided to make the move into management she bided her time and waited for the perfect moment. She advised other ladies to identify a business need to show leadership first: “I spotted a gap in the way that HP was doing business with critical clients. Transition and transformation would create better customer service. I showed leadership first and then management.

“A leader also realises that someone else can take the glory for your idea and that you don’t always have to be at the front. For me it’s not about being front of house and taking the team’s glory.”

If she could go back in time and give herself one piece of advice she said she would tell herself: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. I spent time worrying about things that weren’t perfect or that I had said the wrong thing. Instead channel your energy and don’t sweat the small stuff.

“You have to think of what you control and own and what things you can influence. Don’t worry about things that you cannot fix and don’t put time into the things you know you cannot change.”

Bowen has a hectic schedule, but she is careful to keep a good balance with her personal live: “I have a long day and I work hard to see my son. Either end of the day I fit in a piece of exercise and I swim at least three times a week. I’m taking part in the Ride100 in September, so when my boy is asleep at the weekends I put my cycle gear on for two hours.

“I work with teams in Canada, France and London so that can mean early and late calls and I’m also techUK’s women in technology Council Chair. On top of that I have networking events too. There is a balance – if 60% of your diary isn’t taken up with things you have organised then you need to flip the balance.”