International Women's Day: Celebrating success

To mark International Women’s Day, The IT Insider caught up with some of the inspirational women from across the industry to find out more about how they got into tech and what advice they would give to women starting out. 

Helen Dempster, founder and chief visionary officer at Karantis360 tells us how personal experience led to the idea for Karantis 360.

“Technology was something that I used and had not really thought about how it was built up until my grandfather’s illness. I had no technology experience nor did I understand the process of coding or designing an app. I had various roles after my children were born but then went to work with my family Taxi business. I loved the job, meeting new people and supporting those in our community.”

The route to tech wasn’t a straight line for two more of the women we spoke to. Ashlea Atigolo, Co-Founder, INATIGO told us: “Before moving into the world of technology I had a very different career as an Educational Director of Operations for UK Government & UK Private Educational Centres.

"After going on maternity leave in 2016, I decided to really explore my side-passion, creative design and product branding. I set up a fashion business but when I learnt about the disastrous effects fashion was having on the planet and I knew that I couldn’t be a part of the problem. 

"Once I got to really looking at the issues with climate change I knew that something more had to be done with the bigger issue facing us all. This led me down the path of looking at how we can use technology and the millions of devices for the greater good of us and our planet.” 

For Amanda Woolfenden, customer engagement executive, Orb Data it was in the period after having children that she decided to give her career a new focus. “After a few knockbacks due to zero experience in tech, myself and Orb Data found each other. They were (and remain) real gurus in their field of Enterprise Management with a focus on ITOM, ITSM, Monitoring, Observability and AIOps. They are very customer-focused, conduct business ethically and are always open and honest. This approach aligns strongly to my core values.”

 

The route was a little clearer for Jane Emerson, client director, Logicalis UK. “I started at IBM 31 years ago as a sponsored student, they were doing the Uni milk rounds for interview practice and invited me in for a formal interview prior to my A level exams results. 

“Once I got my results they offered me a sponsored student post, based in Nottingham. I then progressed through IBM after successfully passing this and the Uni course. I had no real plans to go into the industry, I was originally set for Uni full time. But the chance to learn in a real life job with practical experience and being sponsored through the Uni course was appealing. It led to a career in IBM that saw me progress from student to brand rep, client exec and two years in the USA working for a VP in a worldwide role. IBM trained me to use skills I still call upon today and they ultimately led me to working in the channel.”

Even when tech wasn’t the path they originally chose, our women all had lots to be proud of. 

Both Helen Dempster and Jane Emerson, told us that their children were the thing they were most proud of but both also have lots of work achievements to talk about.  “I landed the biggest deal Logicalis has ever done. This happened back in 2015, it wasn’t so much the win but it was the collaborative approach with the Disti (Arrow), vendor, the wider Logicalis teams and the superb skills that everyone bought to the table along with the customer. It was a true team effort and we have some great people at Logicalis who I am in awe of. It’s the team effort that help make a salesperson successful, it was a privilege to coordinate and manage the team to a successful conclusion. I learned so much!” Jane told us. 

We went from strength to strength last year and won three awards for our technology,” said Helen.  “But the biggest achievement in my career to date was the runner up place with the Sunday Times in 2019, it was one of those moments that re-energises you and makes you remember all the hard work is worth it” she continued. 

Awards recognition also stood out for Ashelea. “Last year I was recognised as a finalist for the ‘Best Product Engineer’ and ‘Best Social Impact’ by the Products by Women Awards alongside tech women from Google, Amazon, Etsy, Goldman Sachs among others.”  

Whilst the path hasn’t always been a straight line, all of the women we spoke to have had some great experiences and had some advice for women starting out. Have more confidence in yourself and make sure your salary is fair and reflective of your role and experience,” Nilpa Patel told us. 

Jane continued: “Be passionate about what you do and above all do something that excites you and that you enjoy doing – then you’ll do it well! We spend a lot of time in the working environment and life is too short to do something that doesn’t make you happy. If in IT you often find you are the only woman in the room, be confident and believe in yourself. The best advice I ever got – don’t be afraid to ask questions, its how we learn and progress, the only stupid questions are the ones we don’t ask!

For Helen it’s about being determined: “Things have changed so much in the industry even in the short time I have been involved, but my biggest piece of advice would be don’t take no for an answer, we all think differently and those that think from a more creative or practical standpoint often have a problem which needs a solution and what’s the worst that can happen.

Read more about the women featured in their full interviews using the links below:

Nilpa Patel

Helen Dempster

Amanda Wolfenden 

Ashlea Atigolo

 

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