Written by, Emma Leach

The Women in Tech Festival Global really brought together a lot of shared thoughts that are often not spoken about within the workplace. It not only created a space where all those thoughts could be expressed but sparked encouragement to use our voices in order to improve workplace diversity, look forward in our careers and push past the barriers of our comfort zones.

I attended the Women in Tech Festival last year, new to the role of an SDR and trying to find my feet in the world of tech sales and self confidence. It was eye opening and reassuring to hear the thoughts of self doubt are such a common feeling that many women face in such a male dominated industry, making up just 17% of the technology sector.

This year, we are faced with a completely different scenario of social distancing, remote working, more screen time, and feelings of isolation. The festival was even more poignant as many of us have been and continue to work from home, away from the buzz of office life and having open discussions around mental health and wellbeing, imposter syndrome and burnout are more important than ever during these times.

Following on from the festival, the women of EngageTech put together their thoughts and main takeaways from the talks we attended over the two days. We all agreed that we felt really inspired to take these ideas on board for our own personal development but also to tackle the gender diversity deficit in technology and how it can be applied to these goals at EngageTech.

What were your main takeaways from the session?

Alex, Head of Talent – I think the most important thing for me was just knowing how many likeminded women there are out there right now in the tech space, and that we are all feeling the same! Right now it’s easy to feel isolated and go a bit mad, but it was really good to see people asking questions about the same things I’ve been questioning, or airing similar concerns, self-doubts etc. I love that it was still possible to hold the event online, but do hope we can have a more immersive, in-person experience next year.

Emma, Sales Project Lead – The Guest Keynote talk – From Nowhere to Now Here by Jacqueline de Rojas really resonated with me. Particularly her advice ‘vulnerability is your fortress’ and ‘success is always on the other side of fear’ reinforced to me the importance of stepping outside your comfort zone but also showing the struggles along the way and how those failures and challenges are part of the learning process and the journey to success. She also gave some great advice on looking outwards and not inwards, reframing experiences, and always looking for the miracle in things which felt so reassuring and comforting right now during this current climate and is a perspective that can be held in all aspects of life. Roberto Lucca also gave some fantastic tips on building your personal brand and taking the steps to posting content on LinkedIn and engaging with others.

Paige, Business Development Representative – Something that resonated with me was the way women apply to new roles. As someone who just got hired, I found myself following similar patterns while applying to jobs. I knew I wanted to get into sales, however I was overly critical with my previous experience and whether I checked every box on the application as opposed to being in the mind-set that there were certain things I could learn on the job. It’s okay if you’ve never used salesforce, you’ll learn – apply!!

Scarlett, Business Development Representative  – All of the sessions that were incredibly insightful but if I were to mention one or two… I’d say ‘There’s An Imposter in the Ranks’ by Lisa Emery at Royal Marsden NHSFT and ‘Punching Through the Glass Ceiling’ by Debra Coady at Softcat. Both highlighted areas where I initially thought perhaps I was the only person that thought/felt that, and to some extent maybe I was just being too sensitive; but it goes to show that there are definitely others in a similar position, so discussing how they were able to overcome those feelings/emotions was really helpful. One line that stood out for me was “it’s a career lattice, not just ladder of progression” which I think is the best outlook to have, especially in this type of industry.

“I love that it was still possible to hold the event online, but do hope we can have a more immersive, in-person experience next year.”

Why should other women consider a career at EngageTech?

Emma – EngageTech has such an open and welcoming culture. Although I was one of 5 girls when I first joined the company, it didn’t put me off and I didn’t feel out of place as my colleagues and senior management are so supportive and approachable and want you to reach your full potential. The fact that they asked for my input on tackling gender diversity in my second interview at the company, proved they were open minded to new ideas and understood the importance of diversity.

Paige – During my first month in the role, I have been nothing but pleased with my experience when it comes to the culture and management. The company places a huge focus on career development and skill building. One of the things I was most nervous about going into the role was my lack of previous SDR experience. Management has provided amazing training sessions and the overall support of the team is fantastic. People from various different levels are constantly chiming in to give you advice and encouragement. Management wants you to be the best and they really do provide every opportunity for you to be the best.

Alex – Sales and tech Sales are traditionally such male driven industries, but some of the best sales people I’ve worked with have been women. Getting more women into the business so key for me as Head of Talent, and not to ‘tick a box’ but because it will bring more ideas, creativity and different skillsets, mindsets and qualities to the business making it rich and diverse. We’ve grown our female headcount a lot in the last year, and this is something we want to continue and to champion the girls we do have into succeeding and growing in the business. The company investing in all of us attending this event I think is just one small thing.

Scarlett – The “train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to” quote on the website really does sum up the culture at EngageTech. Regardless of your gender, background, favourite football team, there are plenty of opportunities if you’re willing to put the work in. The support network is like none other and management are always on the look-out for new ideas too.

How will these key takeaways from the session help moving forward?

Alex – For me there’s been some really good tips to just start using in my everyday life – about relaxing, switching off or structuring your day, but also bigger things like having more confidence in myself, to trust my instincts and decisions – I’m in this position because I’ve earnt it and it’s okay to say that!

Emma – How I can be more present is one I want to work on as I often spend a lot of my thinking time looking forward and not in there here and now. The How to Detach from the Digital World talk by Hannah Loveday talked about the impact of screens and negative thoughts on our brain wave states and how taking time to be mindful can lower your levels of DMN (Default Mode Network or wandering monkey mind as she called it). Debra Coady’s tip of a ‘boost folder’ in the Punching Through the Glass Ceiling talk is also something I am going to take on board. A digital folder of good feedback, praises and achievements as proof you are capable of the job and a great reminder when you are having feelings of self doubt.

Any advice for women thinking about applying to EngageTech?

Scarlett – Just go for it. Don’t doubt your skills or knowledge. If you’re looking to start your sales career, or fancy a new challenge, then I’d strongly recommend reaching out – EngageTech are always on the look out for new talent!

Alex – To know that you’ll be working with likeminded individuals, and that we are really challenging the ‘laddy’ sales culture that’s seen in most similar businesses!

Emma – 1. Don’t feel you need to fit the false ideal of what a successful salesperson should be (often boisterous, pushy) – be your authentic self! 2. Persistence is key, get comfortable with the uncomfortable 3. It’s perfectly normal to struggle and hit roadblocks and is part of the journey, reach out and talk openly about them as much as you can.

Final thoughts

A comment that came up in the chat box during one of the talks, ‘just because you can work anytime, anywhere doesn’t mean that you should work all the time, everywhere’ really struck a cord. It was such an important reminder to not only women but to everyone in the workplace. The chat box was a great tool to share thoughts and ideas throughout each talk and really gave a collaborative feel even though we were all behind screens. Hopefully, we will be able to come together in person next year!

Written by, Emma Leach