Caroline, you are a role model for women in the tech industry; what motivated you to pursue a career in this field?
In the beginning, it was more of a happy accident rather than planned! I studied Drama and English at university and, like many graduates looking for their first job, knew I wanted to go into business but didn’t know in what area. I liked the thought of going out and meeting new people, and building positive working relationships.
So initially, I went for sales jobs, and it just happened that my first role was with Rackspace Technology. I quickly realised that technology was a fascinating space to work in because it’s constantly changing and innovating. That was nearly 20 years ago, and I’ve never wanted to work in any other industry. However, I did soon acknowledge that my skill set was more suited to a career in business development/strategic partnerships, so I moved into alliance management roles.
How do you balance your responsibilities as a Strategic Alliances Manager at Six Degrees with your role as an example of a successful woman in the tech industry?
I think they complement each other well – whichever hat I’m wearing at the time. In my role as Strategic Alliance Manager, I act as the liaison between Microsoft and Six Degrees, building and strengthening important commercial relationships between Six Degrees, our customers, and Microsoft.
As such, I’m fulfilling my role as a ‘Women in Tech Leader’ by actively demonstrating the skills and value that women bring to their jobs. I also love being part of initiatives that help women pursue careers in technology and sharing how Six Degrees, my employer, is playing its part. My hope is that by demonstrating equality in the workplace, I can help to bring about positive changes.
What do you believe are the biggest challenges and barriers to success facing women in the tech industry, and how can they be addressed?
One of the biggest barriers that holds back women is the gender pay gap. It should be simple to change, but it is still an issue both within and outside of the technology industry. This needs to be addressed urgently; otherwise, women will continue to be treated unfairly, and the industry will remain male-dominated.
Also, providing training for women on how to be more assertive could help. In my experience, women are often grateful for what they are offered during the recruitment process and have the tendency to take the salary first offered to them rather than negotiating a better one. The fact is that women are often grateful to be at the table, while men are confident of their value and therefore feel comfortable asking for more.
What steps can companies take to increase diversity and inclusion in the tech industry, and how can they create a more supportive and welcoming environment for women?
Nowadays, companies are striving to make their recruitment and interview process more inclusive for women, which is a start, but there need to be more women visible in senior positions.
At the beginning of my career, there were very few women in technical roles, and that is partly why I took the sales route. Had there been more women in these jobs twenty years ago and initiatives promoting Women in Tech, I am certain I would have taken a different career path.
How can women in the tech industry support and mentor each other, and what role do male allies play in supporting women in tech?
The women I have worked with over the years have inspired me hugely, and I firmly believe that they have played a major role in my success. We can help inspire each other to be stronger, whether that is through informal mentoring or being part of Women in Tech initiatives.
Of course, men have an important part to play, too, in bringing about equality – from finding out how they can best support Women in Tech initiatives to changing the ‘tech bro’ workplace culture into an inclusive one that embraces diversity.
What advice would you give to young women who are interested in pursuing a career in tech, and how can they overcome the obstacles they may face?
Be prepared to be the only woman in the room to start with, but trust that this will change. When you are in those situations, be confident about speaking up and don’t be afraid to call people out if they talk over you. Always remember that you have been employed to do the job because you are qualified and skilled. Never forget that you are a valuable asset to your employer – and how much you are worth.
What initiatives or programmes have you been involved in to support women in tech, and what impact have they had?
One that I’ve helped introduce at Six Degrees is women-only sessions, where we discuss work and life topics, including women’s health, consent, and family choices. We sometimes invite guest speakers to share their experience covering subjects like unconscious bias and the impact of Covid.
Feedback is very positive as women appreciate the opportunity to talk freely in a safe environment and offer advice to each other. I’m also setting up a mentoring programme with an external company which I hope will help the members of the group gain more confidence and support them in achieving their personal goals.
How do you see the role of women in the tech industry evolving over the next few years, and what changes would you like to see?
I have been working in the industry since 2004 and witnessed many positive changes during that time, but I want to see so much more!
I want to see more female CTOs and more women working across all technical and developer roles. It would be great to see an even gender balance when looking at the makeup of organisations within the next few years – and know that Women in Tech had become a reality.
How can women in tech promote themselves and their achievements, and how important is networking in this industry?
Women need to shout about the things they are achieving! Our male counterparts share their successes vocally on social media, at events and in interviews, and feel confident in doing so. I encourage women to do the same. Also, contribute to conversations in the workplace and present to internal groups – this is something we really encourage at Six Degrees.
Networking in the tech industry is extremely valuable. It’s a small industry, and people move around a lot which increases visibility, and it means a personal brand is so important. You never know when you might work with someone again, so always be professional and show your value in every engagement – and it will help you make more connections, ask for introductions, and enhance your career.
Finally, how do you keep yourself motivated and engaged to continue being a success at home and at work?
I’m passionate about running! I took it up during lockdown, and I’m now training for my third London Marathon – something that I never believed I could ever have achieved. It reminds me of how determined I am and gives me the energy to keep pursuing the things that matter in life, both at work and at home!