Celebrating Women in Tech is our series exploring the achievements of women who are breaking gender stereotypes to build technology-based careers. Michelle is a digital strategy expert at PA. She specialises in business and cloud strategy, and is a mentor to women in business and technology. In our interview, Michelle reflects on her career in tech and shares top tips for women as they progress through their own careers.
My main driver throughout my career has been curiosity, I want to know the what, the why and the how. I believe in the power of ingenuity – we all have choices and that’s why I love technology, it gives us the choice to use our creativity to do things differently and be innovative.
Another driver has been embracing the opportunities I’ve been given. I once had a call from an old colleague who I worked for as a graduate. He asked if I wanted to head up the sales and strategy team at a global data company and my first thought was, ‘really?! How on earth am I going to do that?’ I told him to find somebody else with relevant experience but after some discussion, I realised he was not looking for experience but for attitude, he wanted resilience and someone who was not afraid to take a deep plunge into something new. I took the chance, really embracing the opportunity, and was successful. We successfully delivered exciting work to customers under my leadership. So, when an opportunity comes, let it come and don’t fight it, as it has the potential to be something very exciting.
That’s a tough question in tech as you’re always learning – there’s always some new development that opens your eyes to new possibilities. But I think there are five key principles I’ve learned to keep in mind all the time:
At a structural level, there needs to be more mentoring and sponsorship programmes available to women to help develop and nurture tech talent. In addition, flexible working patterns should be available to engage more women in the tech field by promoting work-life balance and supporting women with young families.
At a micro level, there should be more support and encouragement provided. As women, tell other women they’ve done well, call out and correct mistakes if you see them. Doing this encourages everyone to do the same, adopt positive behaviours and act as an ally.
Finally, as I look back at my journey, the steady progression I had imagined as a young girl was not so, I experienced a lot more ups and downs. It’s important to remember that there will be times where progression seems impossible and mistakes are made but in the end, it’s an adventure. I’m a strong believer that without our mistakes, we won’t succeed.