Whenever I work with Generation Success they always ask for a Case Study, so this time I though I would share my journey with you…
I graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2004 with a Degree in Recreation Management. Although this is a BSc (hons) you can probably guess this was not a STEM degree. It took me a long time to complete my degree due to personal setbacks and the fact that I had up to three jobs throughout the course of my study to pay for the fees.
At school I was an avid scientist, but the career advice I received was un-inspiring. I didn’t choose science for my degree as I did not want to be a science teacher. Equally from a technology perspective, there was nothing in the way of “digital” subjects back then. I started University having never had a PC in our house and I had to learn how to correctly word-process (as it was called in those days) to turn in my assignments. And so I began my career in events management. Since then I have changed career twice. First into pharmaceuticals and then into technology. I have been in the technology sector since August 2014. A combination of fantastic networking, inspirational guidance and tenacity got me here. I now advocate for STEM careers, specialising in working with people from less privileged backgrounds – like myself, and women in business.
I am finally able to enjoy a career that is science and technology-based, and I am passionate about. The biggest challenges I faced centred around my own self-doubt and not feeling “worthy” of working at these companies. I am from a working-class family and did not have the financial advantages that some of my peers had, nor did I go to a top school. In the first part of my career, I lived with a fear of being “found out” that I didn’t belong in such illustrious organisations. This was a classic case of imposter syndrome.
My biggest mistake was allowing these feelings to hold me back. I didn’t advocate for myself and I didn’t apply for opportunities or promotions that I was very capable of doing. I eventually overcame this by pushing myself to network and to take on these challenges, even though I felt very uncomfortable at the beginning. I hope to stay in my role at Vodafone for a few years and then review what options are available to me. The culture and support at Vodafone suit me so I am keen to stay. My biggest success to date is the network of women I have built up with my Lean In network and my own company. Fantastic people who have faced a variety of challenges themselves and have such a wealth of knowledge and experience. With over 400 people now in my network who regularly interact with each other and attend events and webinars. The events we have are inspiring and help us all to develop our careers. Setting up my company was an easy and natural decision, helping me to support and reach more people to find the resources they need.
What are the 3 most valuable pieces of career advice you would give to a younger person?
- Don’t let the negativity of others affect your determination. Only you can know what you truly want and can achieve.
- Look for mentors in different places. I didn’t have good mentors in STEM growing up and I didn’t know how to find them. Look at the people around you. Your friend’s parent, your uncle or aunt, friends of the family. Ask them about their experiences. And if there is no one there to inspire you, find a person in the media who does. Research what they did and how they made things happen.
- Don’t worry if you don’t know what career you want right now. There is always a chance to change careers, retrain, start over or move sideways. Choose something you love to study and the rest will follow.
Are there any moments in your career that stands out?
- Winning my first Sales Excellence award in Pharmaceuticals at AstraZeneca for my work in respiratory medicine.
- Single handedly beating off competition from BAE Systems and several other technology teams to win the Royal Bank of Scotland Fraud & Security Co-Creation Event in Cybersecurity. This was during my tenure at CSC (now DXC Technology) and as well as a personal prize of a new Apple watch I also won the technology investment for our companies to take the winning project forward.
- Successfully closing my largest ever technology sales deal in October at £4.5 million.
I want to improve the prospects and advice out there for young people. I would not want anyone to be left so uninspired as I was. I think that with my experience I can help people to see and plan a way forward, and find ideas that will help them to progress. Mentoring is so important at all stages of your career, but having access to leading industry people at the outset will change a lot of lives. Generation Success is such an inspiring organisation to work with.