Sheridan Ash

WeAreTechWomen Conference Speaker Spotlight: Sheridan Ash, PwC

WeAreTechWomen speaks to Sheridan Ash, Technology and Investments Director and Women in Technology Leader, PwC, about her career.

Sheridan is also one of the speakers at our upcoming WeAreTechWomen: The Future World of Work conference on 22 November. Sheridan will be talking about creating a movement and show us how working together we can inspire more females to get into tech subjects and careers at an earlier stage of their lives.

Sheridan’s career has taken anything but a conventional route, after leaving school at 16 with few qualifications, having undiagnosed dyslexia, she was spotted by an agent and entered the world of runway modelling. She completed her first degree in her 20s and has worked her way up ever since.

Sheridan commissioned PwC’s Women in Tech: Time to close the gender gap research which tells us that a lack of female role models in technology is a barrier to more females joining the sector, so Sheridan is personally playing her part in raising this issue, but also using her own experience to act as a role model by appearing in the media and at events to champion the benefits that an inclusive and diverse workforce can bring. This includes appearing on BBC News to discuss the importance of role models in technology.

Sheridan has more recently founded The Tech She Can Charter which is now backed by over 75 organisations.

At the conference, Sheridan will be discussing 'Tech We Can' lessons, produced by the Charter signatories. These have been successfully piloted with teachers and over 700 students between 10-13 years old.

WeAreTechWomen, the Technology arm of WeAreTheCity, is hosting its fourth full-day conference in London, aimed at over 400 women who are wanting to broaden their technology horizons, learn new skills and build their tech networks.

Our unique conference will include the opportunity for our delegates to learn about a variety of technical topics and get involved in Q&A’s, hands-on activities and interactive workshops. Our aim is to provide an environment where our delegates can upskill and grow their skills/networks for the future.

Can you tell us a little about your background? Where you’ve come from, where you’ve worked, how you got to where you are today?

I left school at 16 with undiagnosed dyslexic and no qualifications and felt let down by the education system and I was worried about what type of job i could get.. Fortunately, I was spotted out shopping on a day trip to London with my mum by a model agent and this lead me into my first career as a fashion model!

By 28, I was a divorced single mother! and knew I needed a longer term career. So, I did what I had to do best, used my sheer determination (not brains) to succeed for me and my family. I picked myself up, got help for dyslexia, went back to school and did A levels, going on to earn a place at university.

This degree led to to a job in the pharmaceutical industry, where because of my strong relationship skills I was promoted quickly. Later on, I decided to make life more difficult for myself by going back to university, this time to do an MBA at Imperial College where my interest in technology and Innovation was sparked. Whilst on the MBA, I worked as a researcher for a couple of leading tech innovation professors and supported them to write a book called think, play, do

I then joined Accenture which is where my technology career really took off. I joined PwC 10 years ago and have had the most extraordinary journey to my current role, leading on tech is Innovation. A few years ago I set up a programme of initiatives to attract, retain and advance women in tech careers at PwC. This led me to the realisation that there are to few girls and young women getting into tech subjects in school and universities and careers. With the support of many brilliant men and women at pwc and from other organizations who feel just as passionate as me about changing the ratio, we created Tech She Can.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not until recently, its only in later life started thinking about my longer term goals. I'm not sure if it's best to plan things too much as the opportunites I have jumped at and most enjoyed and learnt the most from, have felt very random, so if i had a big plan I might not have taken this opportunity. Who really knows whats the best approach. My main advice is to not get stuck in a rut, ive done this a couple of times and stayed far too long in the rut before looking for other opportunities. Go with your gut instinct, if something feels right or wrong then it probably is

What inspired you to get involved with in motivational speaking?

I'm not sure if I would refer to myself as a motivational speaker but if others take inspiration from me, and I motivate them, then I am delighted that I have helped that person. That's my passion, helping to inspire and educate others through initiatives such as Tech She Can or through personal relationships. This stems from my own early experiences where I only received very stereotypical career advice at school and very little support being a single parent and a female in a male-dominated environment. By speaking at events such as these, I hope to inspire others encourage more women to help other women.

Do you have a favourite experience from your career?

Launching The Tech She Can Charter in February 2018 was a real highlight for me. The Charter is now working together with 128 organisations and I’m proud to have been part of it, from an idea I had many years ago, seeing the Charter grow and start to make a difference at the school level to encourage more girls into technology subjects and careers. Not only that, it’s formed a network of great women and men in technology careers that are supportive of each other in whatever business or organisation they are in. It’s the first time we’ve all been able to work collaboratively on the same issue and are extremely passionate about the impact we’ll have together.

What do you think WeAreTechWomen guests will gain from your talk?

I hope that the guests will feel inspired and encouraged to get involved in the Tech She Can Charter.

What are your top three tips for success?

  • Anyone can have a career in tech
  • Support other women
  • Fake it until you become it

Which female role models are you most inspired by?

Too many to name, but they are young and old and I meet new ones all the time.

In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle for women at work and how can it be overcome?

Although I have worked with great people, it often felt a very lonely place. As a woman.. That is why I am so passionate about helping others.

What piece of advice would you give to your younger self?

My voice is important and don’t get stuck in a rut - if it doesn't feel right - get out /change what you are doing and move on.


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