Vicky Hutchinson featured

Inspirational Woman: Vicky Hutchinson | National Frameworks Social Responsibility Manager at ISG

 

Vicky Hutchinson is the National Frameworks Social Responsiblity Manager at ISG.
vicky
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

ISG is the first contractor I’ve worked for and my route was far from direct. I never sat down and planned my career, leaving school I had no idea what kind of jobs where out there. I went straight to university to study Management Science BSc (Hons) and stayed there to do a PhD and various research jobs looking at the construction industry.

I find the industry so inspirational. Being part of a construction project is so fascinating. One day you have a bare piece of land or a dilapidated building, and by the end you have a building that is making a difference to a community and to the people who use it. It’s so rewarding to be part of that.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenge I have encountered in my career was having a baby. Then comes the constant balancing of work and home life. I’m lucky to work somewhere that helps people manage their careers with their responsibilities at home. The construction sector has been very accommodating of me having a family.

ISG is a really positive place to work, especially due to its ‘family friendly policy’, where people can work flexibly to meet their responsibilities outside of work. For me that happens to be having a family. Don’t get me wrong, people work hard in construction and can have long days - but working one day a week from home helps me manage my workload with family and childcare.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

The focus shouldn’t necessarily be on moving into a leadership position, it should be on what value you can bring to your business. Then leadership will follow naturally.

A big learning for me was having the confidence to let go of something and let others take it on. As a leader you need to have faith in your team, and realise that the people you work with often have more specialist knowledge and expertise than you. It’s your job to maximise these collective skills for the benefit of the business, whilst bringing your individual leadership qualities to the table.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Candidates may be equally qualified on paper, but I find that people always differ in their experience or personal qualities. It’s important these days to be able to present your personal qualities and qualifications well.

At ISG, we are a dynamic company so we look for dynamic candidates. We look for the best person to fit into the culture of our company or who can fulfil a specific skills gap in our team.

How do you manage your own boss?

It can be difficult managing upwards in a busy team, especially when everyone is tight for time. I have learnt the importance of being able to drive projects independently, having the initiative and confidence to make key decisions and importantly knowing when to ask for assistance from the senior team.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

Every day for me is different, which is why I love my job. Once I’ve sorted out childcare in the morning and got to work, my days really vary. One of the great things about construction is you can be working on a building site one day, in client meetings on another or in the office with my team the next. I really enjoy having a change of scene and variety in my role, and that’s something the construction industry is great at providing.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

I was encouraged to apply for awards on behalf of my team. That really helped promote the work we were doing and our profile grew outside of the business as well as within. Part of my role at ISG is stakeholder engagement, so this profiles our work with everyone from local authorities to industry colleagues.

I also have close ties with ISG’s communications team and this close collaboration has proved invaluable in our wider objectives of getting more young people interested and engaged in the construction industry. It’s easy to forget that the work we do is often highly newsworthy and can help our overall objectives, so my advice would always be to share the good work that you do with your communications colleagues.

 How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Never stop learning is one of ISG’s core values and I firmly believe that mentoring and lifelong learning in general makes you a more rounded and insightful individual, more alert to opportunities and able to maximise the value of your teams.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is definitely a useful skill to have. It has helped advance my own career and my teams’, whether it be through recruitment or profile raising.

My first piece of advice is to be clear about what you want to get out of networking. When I started, I was going to events where attendees were looking for sales, but I wasn’t in a role where I could make those decisions. It’s important to pick the right events for your needs.

It’s also a good idea to network with someone. I developed a technique where I would find someone I didn’t already know at an event, and after speaking with that person for a while I would invite them to come and talk to others with me. Networking events can be daunting when you start out, so if you team up it can really take the pressure out of the situation.

What does the future hold for you?

I can honestly say I don’t have a grand plan for the future. I tend to focus on things I can do better,any skills I haven’t explored yet and always look for new challenges. I’ve never been envious of other people’s jobs, I’m competitive with myself rather than others. I’m happy at ISG, I’m committed and settled, and am supported to grow as a professional.

It’s always good to have an idea of the direction you want to go in, but you don’t necessarily need a five, 10 or 15-year plan to be successful!


Fintech

Breaking into FinTech

 

Marieke Flament is a respected technology leader and is currently heading up the European expansion of leading social payments app Circle.

Here she provides insight into the skills and qualities required to break into the increasingly competitive FinTech industry.

fintech
Image via Shutterstock

FinTech as an industry employing over 61,000 people and generates billions of pounds of revenue for the UK’s economy (EY’s UK FinTech: On the cutting-edge report). FinTech is focused on technology and its application to disrupt the traditional financial sector. It’s a multi-faceted industry that covers many areas; from banking and insurance, through to neo-banking and robo-advisor.

Competition to break into the FinTech industry is fierce so it’s important to consider if you have the correct skillset. In my experience, I would say the following are essential:

Analytical mind

If you’re going to pursue a career in FinTech, you will need to be good with numbers because you will more than likely be dealing with large amounts of data, whether that’s analysing the users of a system or understanding the logic behind the systems themselves.

Entrepreneurial

It is likely that you are going to be a joining a fast-growth environment, and there is always work to be done in a start-up. You will need to have the ability to work with an independent attitude and an entrepreneurial spirit while turning your hand to many different elements within the business. It is likely to be hard work but there are so many benefits to that too - in a start-up you get to assume more responsibility than you may do in a more corporate environment, which can often speed up your progression within the company.

Passion for technology

This is a given. I have worked within the tech sector for my entire career, and to succeed in this competitive industry you need to be passionate about technology –from how it works, the trends that are affecting it, how it impacts on consumers’ everyday lives. In my current role, I am the MD of Europe for Circle, a company that is breaking boundaries in the finance sector by exploring the ways in which technology can be used to change the way we view and use money. I am passionate about how our company is forging ahead with innovative technologies and is using blockchain to simplify and improve people's lives.

Customer-centric

The aim of FinTech is to leverage technology to serve customers with better, faster, cheaper and more secure services. Anyone wanting to work in this industry must be able to empathise with what consumers want and keep that at their core.

Big picture thinking

The financial industry is transforming and this change is being driven by technology. To keep up with these changes, you need to be able to continuously think ahead and be on your toes. What are the latest industry trends and how will these affect the business you are working in? What are the challenges that lie ahead and what are the solutions? Working in FinTech requires you to think both logically and laterally.

FinTech is an industry that is on its way up and breaking into it will only become more competitive as it continues to grow in importance.  FinTech employees need to have analytical and mathematical skills, as well as a passion for technology; combine that with an entrepreneurial attitude, project management skills and team working capabilities, and it will leave you in good stead to landing that dream job.

About the author

This article was written by Marieke Flament, Managing Director for Europe at Circle.


Womanpower in tech

Advancing womanpower in tech

 

The gender gap in IT reigns fierce. Tech companies still need to level the playing field when it comes to the diversity of their workforces. The question is, what practical steps can be taken to address this?
tech
Image via Shutterstock

Research shows that diverse teams, with higher levels of women in executive roles, drive stronger performances and yield higher returns. In addition, improving gender diversity within the tech workforce is key to addressing the overall digital skills deficit in the sector. However, as Britain’s technology sector thrives, creating new jobs at an unprecedented rate, we need to ensure companies are stepping up to inspire women towards these new opportunities.

Progress is underway

In many organisations, work is already underway to create fair and equal working environments across genders. In fact, more tech companies are taking the lead by conducting gender pay gap audits. This is a welcome step within an industry that has struggled to close the gender pay divide; global employee benefits company, Mercer, indicates that the pay gap in the UK’s high-tech sector is well above the national average at 25 per cent, compared to 18 per cent across other industries.

The gender pay gap legislation means that from the start of the new tax year, businesses with 250 or more employees are required to publish annual figures showing how big the pay gap is between their male and female employees, including bonus payments. This transparency will provide true insight into the difference between the wages of men and women within a shared organisation. As a result, it will put equal opportunities at the top of the agenda for UK businesses.

Do more, and show your people how

In Networkers’ recent Voice of the Workforce research, which surveyed 1,656 tech professionals, 54 per cent said they believe gender diversity is improving within the sector. In contrast, only one third of respondents actually know what their companies are doing to tackle the issue.

The first step is to ensure there are measures in place to make IT departments and tech businesses attractive to women. Businesses should consider adopting flexible working strategies and return to work schemes for women at all stages of their careers to encourage retention.

The next step is communication. Employers need to showcase what they are doing to address equality, not only for the benefit of new hires, but to foster positive energy and support within existing teams and to demonstrate it is high up on the agenda.

Ensure women’s voices are heard at all levels

Our research shows that tech professionals think companies also need to do more to address unconscious gender bias within leadership teams. This is concurrent with data from other sectors, where we see executive boards being dominated by men.

Companies should look at the current state of diversity within their organisations as they stand now, and evaluate where the gender gaps are most prevalent. We should be asking why, and we should be asking how we can we encourage more woman to apply for positions are that are often male-dominated.

Make IT attractive to younger female generations

We need to give girls the motivation to seek opportunities in tech early on. Research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows how important early years education is in determining children’s career choices. Less than one in 20 girls considers a career in STEM subjects while at school, compared with one in five boys. Moreover, in 2016, only 10 per cent of students working towards an A-level in Computing were girls. There is a long way to go before this is balanced.

Recent steps by the UK government to introduce cybersecurity lessons for schoolchildren is a major step in equipping children with the practical skills they need, as the way we work continues to be transformed by an advancing digital landscape. However, institutions, teachers, and parents also need to find new ways to make young girls consider a career in technology, give them hands on experience, show them the breadth of jobs out there, and encourage girls to envisage what a career in the sector could look like.

Inspiration from women at the top

Shining a spotlight on inspiring women at all levels, in a variety of companies, and within your existing workforce, will help to bolster the ambition of younger female generations to pursue tech careers.

Female role models such as Kathryn Parsons, co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded, who is dedicated to running digital literacy programmes such as ‘Code in a day’ and ‘Hacker in a day’, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who is inspiring women to ‘Lean In’, and Marissa Mayer, the first female Software Engineer at Google and now president and CEO of Yahoo, are effectively demonstrating that female tech entrepreneurs are crucial to success within the sector.

With only 14.4 per cent of the UK STEM workforce represented by females, it is clear that we need more women in tech. Ultimately, tech businesses should look ahead for long-term solutions to the diversity issue, rather than short term staffing solutions.

By doing so, tech divisions will ensure they are attracting and retaining employees with a broad range of skills, experiences and backgrounds. This will equip them with a versatility that will be crucial in preparing their businesses for future success. Ultimately, companies that fail to address diversity will not keep pace with thriving businesses in a global economy.

About the author

The article was written by James Smith, Managing Director of Networkers.


Inspirational Woman: Kristel Kruustük | Co-Founder of Testlio

Kristel Kruustük was just 23 when she became disillusioned by how QA testers were treated. She came up with the idea of building a platform that would appreciate the work of testers and elevate the importance of QA within organisations.

She shared her idea with then-boyfriend, later-cofounder, now-husband Marko Kruustük and the two entered the world’s largest hackathon Angelhack. Together, they took home first place winning a $25,000 seed investment and their first paying customer.

Testlio

What inspired you to start a business?

I started my career as a software tester during my second year of college, working on different crowdtesting platforms. That’s when I realised that these environments were not tester friendly. Testers’ time was undervalued. There was no teamwork; testers were pitted against each other and only the first to find bugs were rewarded. This was also harmful for the end-users. I wasn’t satisfied with the status quo and founded Testlio out of my own vision of how testing should be conducted.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss? 

The responsibility of building a company from scratch is uniquely challenging. No one will build your company for you.

You are accountable for every decision made; the bigger the company the bigger the responsibility is. You want the entire company to be successful, not just yourself. What’s really rewarding is when things move in the right direction and the people around. You are happy, excited and motivated.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

Have a clear vision, work towards it and don’t sweat the small setbacks on the way.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?
I’m constantly thinking about the unknown. Even with amazing employees, I can’t predict the future. I can only do my best in the moment.
How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

I was fortunate to have a really great friend and mentor in Pipedrive’s co-founder Ragnar Sass when I started out.

He gave us a lot of guidance and advice. He advised me to take part in the techstars accelerator in 2013, which was the best decision for Testlio at that phase. We made great connections there and acquired essential business skills that helped us build and grow Testlio.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Networking is extremely important especially when you start out and have to “sell” your company to others. Business is all about people, making connections and building long term relationships.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth? 

Scaling is a continuous process. You always have to be aware of what’s happening in your space – customers, competition and market dynamics. The end goal is to always offer the best service possible to your customers.

What does the future hold for you?

Great success for Testlio!  We’re helping companies build products their users love and providing meaningful career opportunities for testers around the world. We will change the way QA is done!


Marieke Flament: Managing Director of Circle shares her experiences

Marieke Flament is a respected technology leader and is currently heading up the European expansion of unique social payments app Circle. 
marieke

In February 2016 Marieke joined Circle as Managing Director of Europe, bringing with her over a decade’s experience in leading consumer and internet brands. Since her appointment Marieke has launched Circle in the UK, Ireland and Spain, is building a strong European team to spearhead the roll out across Europe. Her work has been recognised after she was shortlisted for the prestigious Women in IT award and most recently the Women in Finance Awards.

Here she shares her experiences of working as the Managing Director of a global technology company, the challenges she has faced and why she wants to see more women working in the sector.

I've been fortunate to have worked in technology for my entire career and have enjoyed both the highs and the lows. My technology journey actually started when I went to university and I was lucky enough to secure a place at Télécom ParisTech - the top French school for computer science. Since then I’ve never looked back and today I am the Managing Director of Europe for Circle, a company which is breaking boundaries in the finance sector by exploring the ways in which technology can be used to change the way we view, and use money. Leading a team at a company like Circle, which is at the forefront of new technologies and which is using blockchain technology to simplify our lives, is what motivates me every day.

It’s undoubtedly been a fantastic experience for me but it’s also been a steep learning curve as when I joined Circle, FinTech was an emerging industry. The most challenging thing so far remains building teams - in a start-up like Circle you don't have the luxury of several hundreds of employees - every hire is key and will make a tremendous impact. When recruiting, we look for passion and for people who share our values and ambitions. Although it may sound cliché, we also look for team players who value a collaborative approach. It’s about working together and finding solutions to problems.

I believe passionately that we need to have more women working in the technology industry, after all the world is made up of 50 per cent women!

At the end of the day the challenges solved by technology and the products created are for everyone. The only way to shape products and technologies for all is to have a gender mix. Disappointingly according to figures in 2015, just 16 per cent of Facebook’s tech staff and 18 per cent of Google’s were female. This needs to change.

This is one of the reasons why last year Circle became a proud signatory of The Women in Finance Charter, led by HM Treasury. As a young fast-growing FinTech company, innovation is vital but so too is our passion for people. We want the right people for the job, whatever their gender.

A big challenge for women is standing up against the stereotype of the types of careers women should and should not be working in. Stereoptypes and biases are often the root cause of the issue and can cause a lot of self-doubt for women working or wanting to work in the tech sector. For a wannabe female techology entrepreneur any doubt will simply hold you back. You need to have an unswerving confidence in your own abilities and need a positive outlook especially during the more challenging times. My favourite saying is “optimism is a force multiplier”, remember that even if at first you don’t succeed then try again. Numerous famous start-ups tasted failure, but kept going, maybe pivoted, tweaked their business models until they reached the right formula for success.

Passion, resilience, and optimism are key attributes and as long as you have these then that’s half the battle.


Women in tech | Should you consider a career change?

The WeAreTechnology conference for female technologists in London is sold out! This just goes to show how many women are either involved with or interested in a career in technology.
Women in Tech
Image via Shutterstock

As technology gradually takes over the world – especially with respect to the internet and mobile app development – more and more jobs are being created that require some kind of additional tech qualification. Coding and development skills are highly sought after by employers, and gaining a qualification in this area will all but secure yourself a job. Why then are women less inclined to enter into the tech industry than men? Should women consider a career change? We talked to Samantha Eltringham (Web Developer) and Alison Bossaert (Platform Developer) who both work for the UK’s biggest online bingo website. Both Sam and Alison drastically changed their careers by heading back to university to study for a degree in Computer Science, and they both have successful, rewarding careers in the tech sector.

QUESTION: Why did you choose to go into the tech industry?

SAM: With a background in animal welfare, a passion of mine since I was a teen, I’d worked in logistics for 13 years. However, with capped wages, a lack of progression, and a particularly bad day at work, I made the decision to return to uni. There seemed like an abundance of tech jobs and I had always been great with computers. I took the leap into tech as a mature student and I haven’t looked back.

ALISON: I initially studied Music, which was my passion. However, I soon came to realise that job prospects were limited in this industry. I ended up falling into a networking role where I was required to learn code; I really enjoyed this, so I decided to start my second degree at the open university in computer science as a mature student.

QUESTION: And what exactly did you study as a mature student?

SAM: I did a foundation degree first, then a top-up degree in Computer Science at Teesside University.

ALISON: I studied Computer Science at the Open University as it offered a large range of modules, allowing me to focus on my specific interests whilst also learning the general skills required for a degree in development.

QUESTION: Have you faced any challenges, specifically as a woman working in tech, if so what are they?

SAM: I haven’t experienced any discrimination being a woman in tech at tombola. However, some international colleagues in the past have been a little surprised that I was a female web developer. In general, I think companies are really supportive and encouraging of women in the technology industry, particularly tombola – but then I would say that!

ALISON: I do find people are shocked by my job title, but that’s changing. I think having a mixed gender team balances the work force because men and women sometimes think a little differently – that can only be a good thing!

QUESTION: Do you have any advice for young women considering a career in the tech industry?

SAM: I have a daughter and I would definitely encourage her to pursue a tech career, if she was interested. It’s a great industry to work in as your skills are always in demand, and so there are loads of worldwide opportunities.’

ALISON: I’d say it’s hard, but persist with it, because it is really rewarding. It’s a highly in-demand industry. For example: before working at tombola, I was made redundant due to budget cuts and was able to find a new role in three days!

If you’re considering a career change to the technology sector, there is a wealth of information for you on the WeAreTechnology section of the website, and may also want to subscribe to the newsletter for new information, conferences and networking events.


MEREDITH LYNCH FEATURED

Inspirational Woman: Meredith Lynch | Vice President, WE Communications UK

 

Meredith Lynch is the Vice President of WE Communications UK and is responsible for leading their UK technology practice. She is also the head of the technology sector in EMEA. 

Meredith Lynch

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

I’ve been with WE Communications for almost 17 years. When I moved to our London office in August 2012, I became a member of our EMEA board where we have a responsibility for shaping the agency’s direction in the region, with a focus on the experience our customers have. In my current role I lead our UK technology practice which has won awards for our work with clients like Aruba HPE and Microsoft Windows & 4Afrika.   More recently my role has expanded as head of our technology sector in EMEA which is a brilliant opportunity to continue our multi-market focus – especially as business becomes more and more global, and technology companies are (for the first time ever) considered more valuable than oil brands.

Originally from the United States, I grew up in the South which is a very conservative part of the world, not excluding my household. My family has been in North Carolina since the late 1800s and we have very deep roots in that part of the world. It was somewhat uncommon for a woman in our family history to have a university degree, or a formal career outside of the home or church. As the first woman in my family to earn a university degree and build a career from it, it’s an achievement I’m very proud of.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In my second year at university, I really started to think about what I wanted to do. I had some phenomenal professors who encouraged me to pursue a degree in communications given my strengths in argumentation and debate. So, yes – I did actively sit down and plan my career, and I’m so thankful for the advice of those brilliant professors. Communication is key to everything we do, it’s the most human thing in a very technical world, it can make or break a relationship of any size or scale, and there have never been more ways to communicate.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenges I’ve faced can all be connected to one thing – courage. Whether this is dealing with somebody who has more courage than they should, or struggling to find enough of my own, there has been a common theme. I’ve learnt that there is no one right or wrong answer to any challenge or opportunity in communications, we work in the grey area most of the time. Our field demands that we have the courage to trust our instincts every day. I don’t instinctively have the loudest voice in the room, so I’ve had to build the courage every day to articulate and stand behind my unique perspective.

How do you start your workday and how does it end?

In my dreams I’d wake up for a workout at 4:30, followed by a scan of the news and breakfast with my family. In reality, because we’re a global organisation with global clients, I start my day at about 5:00 with a review of what’s happened in the US overnight and my priorities for the day. With a mix of client and new business deadlines requiring organisational and people-focused needs, my day often consists of balancing those essentials. It’s important that I spend time on the things that make me a better leader and consultant as well, so I always make time to read and look for external trainings and events that can help me and my team connect more dots. My day can end anywhere between 19:00-22:00 – and when I make it home in time, I make the time to reconnect with my family and make sure I’m close to what’s happening at school and work.

Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?

I spent the first 12 years of my career with WE Communications (formerly Waggener Edstrom) at our Portland office in the US focused on one of our biggest partnerships, Microsoft. It was a phenomenal education in effective and impactful communications - no other brand invests more in their storytelling, influencer engagements and overall communications programme. In early 2012, after requesting an opportunity to take on an international role, the agency asked me to lead on our Microsoft work in EMEA. It was an easy “yes.”

After the first six months I took on the UK technology practice – and have been leading both for the last four years. In July 2016, my sector role expanded to head of technology for the region. With that I am responsible for making sure we’re known as experts in communications for technology brands in the UK, Germany and South Africa – and ensuring we have the right set of talent, services and perspective to help technology brands navigate the stories in motion within the technology space.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

I’ve had not one but several people throughout my career whom I’ve learned from, but I’ve never had an official mentor or sponsor. Regardless of formality, we can learn from just about everyone. I’ve had some incredible managers who supported and coached me, and some who didn’t – and I learned, from both, what to do and not to do. Some of the most effective growth opportunities come from painful mistakes, and if you aren’t making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risk, and you’re likely not learning much.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I want women to have more courage in the workplace. Much of what gets in our way is us – not always, but in my experience, often enough. We need to be unapologetic and relentless in the pursuit of what’s possible.

How do you think we could encourage more girls into a career in STEM?  

The best way to encourage girls to consider a career in STEM is to give more of them hands on experience, guidance and support. There are some impressive programmes like AppsForGood which is (not coincidentally run by a remarkable woman) doing this incredibly well today, and which could be even more effective with more support and scale.

If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?

I would see the continued growth of our business in the region led by the extraordinary talented people (women and men) I have the fortune of working with every day. WE Communications will be the well-established brand in EMEA that it is in the US, and we’ll have more women in key leadership roles around the world.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

I’d love to open the next regional WE Communications office wherever it may be, and I am incredibly optimistic about our success as a company in motion. I look forward to watching my boys go to university and seeing them achieve the potential I see in them.

 

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