Following the last fascinating Q&A with Diana Stefanova we continue our Q&A series with female technology leaders at VMware. Today, we hear from Sue Holly-Rodway, Senior Director, ELA Strategy EMEA and Interim Enterprise Director, NEMEA.
1) Why did you choose to go into technology, and what led you to where you are today?
I definitely didn’t have any grand plan for my career – I just found myself in the IT industry! 26 years on and I’ve loved every minute of my time in this constantly changing world. Now having been in the industry so long, I’ve learnt to recognise the patterns of change and love the circular nature of IT as it continually re-invents itself.
I’d put my career success down to my genuine enthusiasm about technology’s ability to improve our lives. I try to position myself as a translator between those who create the technology and those who want to use it – a philosophy that has been vital on my way to becoming the Senior Director of ELA Strategy across EMEA.
2) Why do you find it a fulfilling career?
As a business’ working practices evolve then so too does its IT needs. Essentially, working in IT is all about problem solving. I love the resourcefulness that goes with being in an industry that is always asking: “what’s next?” Being at the heart of the biggest changes in IT is also very exciting and I love to get energised about the big themes of the moment.
3) What are technology companies missing out on by failing to employ more women?
How long do you have?! For a start, mixed gender teams generally perform more effectively than teams which are all male or all female – the stats show that a mixed gender balance returns better financial performance. Men and women both ask different questions and approach problems in contrasting ways. IT is an industry where every angle needs to be carefully considered, so it makes sense that you would want as broad a perspective as possible across the teams. The industry is overwhelming male-dominated and I can’t help but wonder what questions are not being asked.
Furthermore, in my own line of work, specifically sales, I’ve found women tend to be able to empathise better than our male colleagues. This can be critical in building a more meaningful relationship with your customers. The more you care about and understand their problems, the better you can fix them.
4) What initiatives are you involved in (inside and outside VMware) to encourage greater equality in the workplace? What needs to be done to get more women working in technology?
As a member of VMware’s EMEA Diversity Team, I spend some of my time focused on achieving better diversity through mentorship, specialised recruiting efforts and overall talent development. I run workshops to help women build up their inner confidence and express themselves with more impact. In addition to this, I have mentored a number of talented young women over the years, providing support in order that they have the chance to reach their potential.
I’m also a member of Women in IT, a network that connects women in the industry. I have presented in the past to sixth form girls to try and convince them to think about careers in IT. We have to remove the stigma around being ‘techies’ and teach women that even if they don’t have those skills there are a number of other roles within IT companies.
5) Who do you see as female role models in business or technology?
There are one or two high profile women in the industry that I look up to, but I consider female entrepreneurs as my real inspiration. These are the ones who make real changes happen across the world, whether in business, technology or in life outside the enterprise. We should look close to home for our role models – there are lots of women who make a big difference nearer than we think.
6) Can you give any practical tips for women in the workplace?
Put simply: believe in your value. Be proud of what you’ve already achieved and think about where you’d like to go next. Don’t be shy about letting people know the impact you’ve had and certainly don’t let others make you feel less than you are.
If you’ve got good ideas, don’t keep them to yourself but take them to the people who can make them happen. Finally, if you want to get on in your career, always think about carefully about the practical applications of technology. Remember that the users are the real driving force for innovation.
7) What advice would you give to teenage girls looking to get into the industry?
It’s a great industry, please join us! IT is a fast, dynamic and innovative place to be – you’ll never be bored and there are so many opportunities to take.
And, just between us girls, the men really need us!
8) Can you tell us more about your personal aspiration/goal?
I’d like to carve out more time to give a helping hand to the people who are just starting on their career journeys. I want to leave a legacy as a great role-model for women in the IT industry.
In the short term, I’ll be continuing to strive towards a more balanced work and home life and attempting to put down my email – a difficult task in such an engaging industry.