Are you attending the tech event of the year – Women of Silicon Roundabout – in London this June? If not, and you’re looking to progress your career, keep up to date with what’s happening in the industry, or simply want to hear some inspiring leaders share their thoughts and wisdom, you need to book your ticket!
I will be a first time visitor to this event and wanted to find out more about what we can expect from the industry and what opportunities it offers women looking into and beyond the next decade. Rather than do a little research, book my place and simply turn up on the day, I wanted to know about the speakers we would be listening to and what we might learn. I was keen to find out how they have worked through careers to their current positions and whether they would be willing to share some insights ahead of the event. Three of the panel kindly agreed to contribute and share their experiences, presented below, as a selection of their most valuable tips and food for thought. (You may want to seek them out at the event if they have inspired you!)
Thank you for your contributions Fiona Hathorn, Managing Director at Women on Boards UK; Lesley Reeve, COO and Director of Customer Success at FISCAL Technologies; and Stacey O’Connor, Project Manager, Team Lead and Account Principal at Adobe.
- What were the main reasons you decided to speak at the Women in Technology event this year?
Fiona:It is vital for women to learn and understand how to sell themselves into the boardroom. Planting seeds is my main goal in speaking at this event.
Lesley:I attended the event last year and was so impressed with its purpose, the speakers and the agenda. I met some wonderful fellow attendees and we all shared lots of insights. The whole experience was inspirational and memorable. I relished the idea of having an impact on attendees as I had had. If I can inspire one person, then I would be rewarding my own values.
Stacey:I attended the conference in 2018 and took a lot of inspiration from the women who presented; I enjoyed the format and forum of people. I am enthusiastic to encourage women into my industry who aren’t sure whether they have the right background or experience.
- Will you be devising the structure of your talk and its subject matter yourself?
Fiona:I will base it on what I feel I can offer the audience, in the position I hold at Women on Boards; valuable information unique to the knowledge and experience I can offer others.
Lesley:The event’s proposed topics cover many subjects I would love to speak about. However, my talk will be something I resonate well with, advice that I can share that will make a big impact on the audience.
Stacey:I chose to do a 30-minute talk from the proposed list of topics shared by the event organisers – I have selected four topics whereby I feel I have something to contribute.
- As an introduction, what can you tell us about your role within your company, and how you reached your current position?
Fiona:I launched Women on Boards in the UK in 2012 with the goal of helping others. Since we started, we have helped over 1,500 women get onto a board and supported many more women, and some men, applying for Board roles from preparing a board-ready CV to interview preparation and networking.
Lesley:My title (which is used often to satisfy the needs of business behaviour not me!) is one thing, my role is another. I am an Executive Director and Shareholder of FISCAL Technologies and have been since the beginning. I have always been in customer facing roles in one guise or another, sales, product and of course the combined functions I spearhead today: Customer Success, Service Delivery and People & Culture.
Stacey:My current role in consulting professional services is to focus on delivering high quality work to ensure the client is successful, create satisfying customer relationships, and work with them on their strategic direction.
- What were valuable lessons learned on your way up the career ladder?
Fiona:I learned that strong communication skills are essential to effectiveness throughout your career, not just in the boardroom. Those that understand influence and engagement constantly think about how to gain the advantage. Those who are women and effective in a male-dominated world understand influence, and understanding influence is vital.
Lesley:EVERYONE has an opinion – it does not make them right! Be bold, be courageous, live your values and sack your boss if you cannot grow. Know what you want and stick with it. As long as you have your health and your family, there really is nothing to lose.
Stacey: I’ve learned a lot about wading through ambiguity and complexity to get to clear next succinct steps. Openness and transparency establish good relationships. How to stay calm in situations that can get tough, although this is a constant stretch, as responsibilities grow.
- In terms of remaining focused and enthusiastic about your daily activities at work, how do you keep your role and career development fresh and engaging?
Fiona:The satisfaction I experience from the work we do at Women on Boards, supporting so many women on their way into board level positions, is extremely rewarding.
Lesley:Every day I look at the team around me who give their time and effort to do great things and create such value; it is my duty as a leader to inspire them, develop their careers, to ensure they are engaged and satisfied. I find ways to replenish my energy and bring new ideas to be credible in their eyes.
Stacey:I ask for challenging engagements. Being surrounded by marketing experts and talented consultants means I’m constantly absorbing knowledge and new ways of doing things. I aim to go on relevant courses from time to time and am currently studying a two-year MBA course.
- What are the top three things that keep you motivated at work?
Fiona:Helping others, recognition for this support, and hearing the positive results that come from our efforts. Helping women to understand what they want out of life, particularly at a young age, is extremely important and this type of guidance we provide keeps me motivated every day.
Lesley:People. There are no other things.
Stacey:An understanding manager or management team that you can trust. Getting along with colleagues. I’m lucky to work in a friendly atmosphere where we all work hard and rely on each other. Doing work that feels new.
- How much importance do you place on developing healthy relationships with your colleagues and does it have a direct impact on your work?
Fiona:Mentoring is a key area that needs to grow and develop for women in particular. Until more women are in these senior roles, other women within organizations will not be able to enjoy the benefits from mentoring support that men have always had access to. Understanding how to engage men on this aspect is paramount.
Lesley:(1) your colleagues are your spokesmen when you are not in the office. So, think about what they will say about you when your Managing Director or CEO asks them if you deserve that promotion. (2) When you suffer a crisis, you are under pressure and you need help, you can’t start shouting “but we are a team” if you haven’t developed it.
Stacey:I am genuinely interested in people so my natural tendency is to want to get to know people. In my view, colleagues have to rely on each other to get jobs done for the client so it’s good practice to be respectful and diffuse conflicting situations.
- For those readers, men and women, who are career driven and who aspire to progress to more senior roles in their professional lives, what would be the best piece of advice you could offer?
Fiona:Women must have a career plan, even though it is likely to change. Understand who are the influencers at your company and get to know the management – your voice will be heard. A mentoring program within an organization that champions achievements, helps develop communication, and teaches people how to understand the landscape of their company is a highly valuable asset any organization can develop and achieve.
Lesley:My advice would be to stay curious, solve problems that nobody else wants to, find your own “spokesperson” and always make choices using your values.
Stacey:There are a lot more experienced people out there than myself… so for me, I ensure that I know what being happy and healthy means to me, and I stick to my own radar & moral compass.