My career in technology started out purely by luck. I was a Maths graduate who was looking for a temping job over the summer break before my graduate Operational Research position was due to start in September. This was 1998 and the company I landed at was Cisco – fairly small in the UK at the time but growing incredibly quickly. The manager of the team I joined, the wonderful Ian Catlin, saw something in me that I hadn’t necessarily seen myself (and continues to do so to this day) and created an IT graduate position for me that rivalled the job offer I had.
I knew very little about IT but I was working with a fantastic team and enjoying every minute of it so I threw caution to the wind and joined them. That’s where my love of start-ups began – the need to turn your hand to pretty much anything and create processes and systems where nothing exists, as well as my appreciation of the importance of working with a team that works hard but always supports one another in the process.
I picked up the basics of end user computing and IT support fairly quickly and got to work in Amsterdam and travel across Europe. I soon learned that networking and coding were never going to be my thing but I loved the customer service and process improvement side of things – fixing problems and making things work better was definitely my bag.
That was 20+ years ago but the team spirit and hard work ethic instilled in me at Cisco never left and I spent a long time trying to find it again in other places. I’ve been an IT business relationship manager at a pharmaceutical company, I took IT Service Management to Juniper Networks in the US where I first came across ServiceNow, and I returned to the UK as Service Management consultant at another ServiceNow partner. This is where I met my business partner Matthew Shears and we pooled our sales and operations capabilities and started our own company.
Along the way I was the only woman in the room or on the call so many times. Like any woman my age working in IT I’ve experienced my fair share of casual (and not so casual) sexism – being told to make the tea on several occasions, the assumption that you’ll take the notes, watching as your male colleague is deferred to over you despite your experience and of course the mansplaining.
I also noticed that more senior I got – in both senses of the word – the less this happened. It’s far less of an issue for me now than it used to be but I’m not so naïve to think that things have changed that much. However as I look back over the last 20 years of my career I choose to think of the smart, strong, determined women I’ve worked with who helped lift me up. Julia Livesey who picked me up when I was made redundant and fiercely supported me when I started this business. Ann-Marie Neave who was a strong advocate for me even when my own manager didn’t fight my corner. Pari Nasseri-Sina who mentored me through leading a team of people older and more experienced than me. And the supremely fierce Kimberley Schaffer who has the biggest get sh*t done attitude of anyone I ever met.
I look back at those experiences and they galvanise me. I’m determined to do my bit. Another ex-colleague and strong woman in IT Shannon Brock recently posted this on her Facebook page:
“And when you get to where you’re going, turn around and help her too. For there was a time, not long ago, when she was you.”
That’s what this next stage of my career, and UP3, is all about.
To find out more about working at UP3, visit up3.co.uk/careers.