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 Programme Manager at Sky Betting & Gaming, Clare Ramsay, about starting a new position during the lockdown, working as a single mother, her role models and her advice for women on getting in tech.
What were your career aspirations growing up?
I actually wanted to be a policewoman. Both of my parents were in the police so after hearing their work stories and being the sort of family that made watching The Bill the highlight of the week, it always appealed to me.
Who is your all-time role model?
That’s a tough one! I’ve tended to lean towards different role models at different stages of my career. Sheryl Sandberg stood out when I was new to tech after reading her book Lean In. I’ve since purchased this book a few times as a gift. This really opened my eyes to those behaviours that we as women so often overlook or excuse. More recently, it’s hard not to immediately adopt women such as Jacinda Ardern as a role model for how she is managing events in the present circumstances. I also follow closely the work of Dame Stephanie Shirley – she is such an inspiration! I would highly recommend her new book Let It Go.
You have forged a successful career in tech – in your opinion, is the industry now a more accessible career path (for women)?
It’s certainly more accessible than it used to be but there’s still more that can be improved. Having a young daughter, I’m always thinking about what her future might look like and I want her to know that she has every route available to her. It still doesn’t feel like there is enough focus on STEM in schools and we could certainly do with more STEM partnerships across the industry.
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?
It feels like the challenge of balancing work and home life continues to be an issue which disproportionately impacts mothers. As a single mother I’ve had to make some tough choices, and they often feel tougher because of the expectations on women to sacrifice their careers to care for their children. In my time, I have found that most colleagues do appreciate the unique challenges of being a woman and a mother in tech, but not all.
What is your proudest achievement?
I'd say that one of my achievements was actually moving into self-employment (no moving mountains I'm afraid!). This was a personal leap of faith for me as I had considered it for a while before I had the courage to take this step. I'm pleased to say it was one of the best decisions I've made and it also led me to where I am today, working on an exciting Programme with a great team. It's a huge opportunity to work for SBG and its been everything I've hoped it would be and more.
Do you think education or experience is more important when looking on embarking on a tech career?
I’d say experience is more than time spent at something, it’s a type of education you can’t get from a classroom. I’m a huge fan of supplementing experience with self- development, so much so you won’t find any fiction books on my shelves (except perhaps for an old copy of The Gruffalo). There have been a few occasions where I have applied the techniques from a book I'm reading at the time and it's proven invaluable. Ultimately, I believe raw talent always makes it through in the end, and it’s important for companies to be able to recognise this, regardless of what people’s CVs say.
Do you have any advice for balancing home and work life?
This is such a relevant question given the lines between home and work life is vastly becoming more blurred in the current climate. Starting somewhere new during COVID, albeit a truly positive experience, hasn’t been without its challenges. I think most people in my team have already met my clingy dog Henry, seen my home and experienced my ‘on-screen’ parenting techniques.
More than ever, I think my advice would be not to beat yourself up when things don’t go to plan. I’ve found that there are good days and bad days. I’m still learning to not feel parent guilt for overusing the phrase ‘just one more minute’ or for taking the easy options so I can have time to focus. Remembering to take time out for you is crucial and don’t feel guilty for it. If this means early bedtimes, ordering pizza and binge-watching Gogglebox, then so be it!
What one thing have you learnt during your career that you could pass on?
As cliché as it might sound, my advice would be to listen more to your gut instinct. After many years avoiding being the one that asks the most obvious question in the room from a fear of looking silly, I’m now the first to ask and I don’t apologise for it. It’s usually the question most are looking for the answer to!
Do you have any advice for any future talent looking for a career in tech?
We’re all still adjusting to the new normal and it’s probably safe to say things will get tougher before they get easier. I’ve been very fortunate during these times but I know this won’t be the case for so many – it’s important people don’t give up. Stay positive, get feedback and adjust.
Shout out 3 incredible people in your network that are doing great things
I’ve been really lucky to meet and work with so many great, dedicated people it’s difficult to pick just three. Jason Preston and Lorraine Jones stand out for me for working so hard to transform and modernise delivery in a leading law firm, an environment I’ve found to be very traditional in its approach. I would also shout out Alan Mullet who I was fortunate enough to meet and have as a mentor during my time at Northern Gas Networks. His approach to designing and delivering cultural change was both hugely interesting and highly successful!
Lastly, I want to shout out to all of the team I am currently working with at SBG. The Data, Infra and Security Tribes are coming together to work on some really exciting things in the Data realm which is very exciting to be part of.
If relevant, how have you dealt with the hurdles of career transition and/or returning to the workplace?
Your support network is SO important, as is the ability to have open and honest conversations with your manager without feeling like your failing at something. The lockdown has really shown us how flexible so many companies can be and I hope this is something that continues long after the pandemic passes.
In conclusion, are there any other comments you would like to make?
A huge thanks to Sarah Copley at The Bridge for the opportunity to share my experiences and opinions!