Woman in Tech of the Month: Helen Freestone
Celebrating Women in Tech is our series exploring the achievements of women who are breaking gender stereotypes to build technology-based careers. This month, we’re celebrating Helen Freestone, Manager of UK SI Partners at Amazon Web Services (AWS). In our interview, she reflects on her career in tech and shares advice for women as they progress through their own careers.
What interested you in technology and what has your journey been like so far?
I started my career as a solicitor and really enjoyed the academic side of law, but knew it wasn’t for me. This was at a time where tech was just emerging and there weren’t really the big brands we know today, but I had always been interested in what tech had to offer. Tech looked fast paced and engaging, I wanted to be in a buzzing environment with lots of opportunity. So, I made the transition!
I have been super fortunate to have such a varied career, working at some of the most well-known tech brands and seeing how they have grown and transformed. I worked through the start of cloud their cloud journey, technical revolutions, working from home and increased focus on diversity, and have watched all these changes ripple through the industry. Looking back, it’s been fascinating.
Can you be a woman in tech who is not technical?
If you are not technical, tech is one of the most interesting areas to be. We need people who can talk at a business level, who are able to understand and articulate the impact tech has on customers and users. I wasn’t technical at all but interested in the industry, the environment and culture, and where tech was going. I am so excited about what the future holds for tech, especially with AI and robotics and the potential to have such a positive impact on society. You just need to have an interest in the impact tech can have on us.
What are some of your career highlights?
This always goes back to the people and experiences that stick out to me, especially throughout all the transformations we have seen in the industry. I was there to see Bill Gates’s leaving speech at Microsoft, I worked through the birth of the cloud and saw the huge impact that had, and I have met countless inspiring people in tech along the way.
What challenges have you faced?
The biggest challenge for me was having a form of dyslexia called non-verbal learning disorder, which makes me almost number blind. I delayed going into senior leadership for a long time because I was worried this would hold me back, it was at a time where people were not so comfortable talking about the challenges they faced in the workplace. Over time, I grew in confidence and workplace culture became more diverse and accepting. My piece of advice would be to acknowledge the things you aren’t so good at, or that you don’t enjoy, and put your energy into what you are good at and excel at that.
What’s your advice for women looking for a career in tech?
Do it! Tech is still an amazingly exciting place to be and it’s growing phenomenally. There will be so many opportunities that we don’t even know about yet and you have the chance to play a part in really shaping how society engages with the world.