In our new series 'Tech Talks, my career journey' we'll be diving into the career journeys of individuals from across the tech industry.
Our aim? To motivate, spark curiosity and inspire.
By exploring the challenges, triumphs and experiences of our talent network, through this series we will highlight that there are opportunities for all in the tech industry. In a sector that has been traditionally seen as lacking in diversity, we want to inspire people from all backgrounds, genders, sexual orientations, ethnicities, levels of experience and education, to realise their digital ambitions.
In this Tech Talk, Senior Consultant Sarah Copley speaks to Founder and CEO of e-bate Leanne Bonner-Cook MBE about setting up a business, role models, career paths for women in tech and learnings from a career in the industry.
What were your career aspirations when you were growing up?
I didn’t really have any. I am dyslexic but was good at numbers, so found myself training to be an accountant. However, after I became qualified, I realised it wasn’t the job for me, but found technology fascinating, so made the transition into technology. I then had various corporate roles until 2007 which is when I started my first business.
Who is your all-time role model?
From a family perspective my Dad, he is so driven and has so much energy. He has always been encouraging and made me believe I could be anything I wanted to be. From a business world, Dame Stephanie Shirley. She defied the law when women were really held back in business to become extremely successful. So, whilst diversity still has a long way to go, we have also come a very long way.
You have forged a successful career in tech – in your opinion, is the industry now a more accessible career path (for women)?
It is a more accessible career path for women, but in my opinion, the problem is not many women are applying for the roles. Therefore, we must educate youngsters and girls to get excited about technology and engineering. I think businesses and schools need to work closer together and that technology needs to be categorised as a STEM subject as appose to design subject to raise the profile. After all, technology is used in every aspect of our lives.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome in your career? Do you think this relates specifically to the Tech industry being male-dominated?
In my corporate career, I definitely hit the glass ceiling. This was a combination of the tech industry being male-dominated and the sectors I worked in. There is an unconscious bias out there that most of us have, which prevents us from breaking the mould.
Since running my own businesses, the biggest challenge has been access to investment:
“For every £1 of venture capital (VC) investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p, all-male founder teams get 89p, and mixed-gender teams 10p” - British Business Bank.
What is your proudest achievement?
When I was awarded by MBE for service to women in business on the 2018 New Year’s Honours List.
Do you think education or experience is more important when looking on embarking on a tech career?
Personally, I think both can work and I would say it is down to the individual. I didn’t go down the education route and it never prevented me from being successful in my career. However, for some specific roles, then I would say education may propel your career.
Do you have any advice for balancing home and work life?
Know when you have done enough. There are never enough hours in the day but you need quality time with family and friends. I never work the weekend unless something critical comes up. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out to do things for yourself, for instance, I prefer to exercise in the morning, so if that means coming into the office an hour later, so be it.
What one thing have you learnt during your career that you could pass on?
When you are presented with opportunities, take them!
Do you have any advice for any future talent looking for a career in tech?
Tech is a great career with many varied roles, whether you are creative or very analytical there is something for you. It is engineering at its best!
Shout out 3 incredible people in your network that are doing great things!
Apart from all my amazing staff which make all things possible, it is difficult to come up with 3, as there are so many people that do amazing things:
James Ker-Reid: he runs a company called Sales for Startups, which is an excellent company and James is always willing to make great introductions.
Julia Payne: she runs a company called Incisive Edge a technology marketing agency. They are our outsource partners and have been amazing at both understanding our sector and providing a full outsourced marketing service.
Jim Overend: he runs a company called The GamePlan. Jim has really helped us be very clear about our company and team objectives to ensure we are all on the same page and working effectively as a team,
If relevant, how have you dealt with the hurdles of career transition and /or returning to the workplace?
Not relevant for us, as we have a combination of remote and office working anyway, so the transition to home was relatively straight forward for most. However, for some, they like the office environment and feel better about being in the office, so we have allowed people to start coming back, considering social distancing.
In conclusion, are there any other comments you would like to make?
A couple of little quotes:
END = Effort Never Dies: if you put effort into something you want, you will succeed.
NO = Next Opportunity: don’t take it personally, your goods and services will not be for everyone, but don’t give up.
We spend a large proportion of time at work, therefore we have to enjoy it. Love what you do, and never work a day in your life!