Lyndsey McGonnell is a finalist in the Women in Tech Excellence Awards, Digital Leader of the Year Enterprise category
Digital transformation is continuing to change the nature of how enterprise interacts with customers. The impact of the organisational changes involved are immense, and it is crucial that the voices of women are heard within the process at a senior level. The Digital Leader of the Year category of the Women in Tech Excellence Awards is full of women who have led digital teams, projects or departments, and all have made a real impact on their workplaces and perhaps beyond them.
Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence campaign?
Firstly, personal experience has shown how rewarding a career in this industry can be - I don't want other women to miss out because of gender or other perceptions.
Secondly, technology needs women to reach out to women, helping to create the critical mass that dispels the myths around technology being a male domain.
Finally, I want to expose and celebrate the successes of Women in Tech to encourage others to join the industry. Technology is a growth industry always looking for new people. Our recruitment pool is reduced by 50% if women are excluding themselves (or being excluded.)
How did you get into the IT industry?
I graduated from Durham University with an MSc Chemistry degree and joined the graduate scheme at AstraZeneca pharmaceuticals, where I was lucky enough to get experience across multiple domains (auditing, quality assurance, manufacturing). However, my passion for technology triggered the switch from a career in pharmaceuticals to one in software consulting. I joined Accenture Consulting in 2005 and have enjoyed a fruitful career across multiple industries and technologies, culminating in my current role as Architect Practice Lead for Communications and Media at Salesforce.
What do you think is the main reason that the IT industry is male dominated, especially in technical roles and senior positions?
Today's technology evolved from the worlds of engineering and science, both of which tended to attract more males than females. So the problem has its roots in history. We are trying to overturn not just a modern-day phenomena, but one that dates back centuries. While undoubtedly there are those who are trying to redress this imbalance, there are others who want to maintain the status quo. This is a war of attrition - we cannot expect legislation or some sort of lightbulb moment to suddenly make everything fair.
What's the biggest lesson you've learned in your career?
Women tend to be more self-critical, so I've learned to realise my value and potential.
If a job specifies 10 "must-have" skills and the applicant is only experienced with half, a man is far more likely than a woman to apply. Believe in your potential. Put yourself forward for situations you don't feel comfortable with as that is how you learn and grow.
I was much less confident in my early career. If you're an introvert or a people-pleaser, it can be daunting to get a word in during a heated discussion or to risk conflict. But remember: you have been given a seat at the table for a reason. Recognise the value you bring so that your opinions are heard and your accomplishments are recognised.
Although it's getting rarer, it remains a sad reality that you will encounter individuals who are biased against women. I used to obsess about winning these people over but you'll get further investing your time in the people who really value your work. Negotiate your way around your company so these people become your line managers, mentors, and champions.
Surround yourself with people you can learn from and who complement your skills. You might feel exposed if you're not the best coder on the team (I never was). Consider speaking to the coders to understand their areas needing development. Your strengths could fill the gap. As you become a leader, understanding how to build a team around you to best complement your skills is crucial.
What are your three top tips for women looking to start a career in IT?
First up, challenge your own beliefs that technology is not the right industry for someone like you.
Secondly, talk to other women who have made technology their career; learn about the challenges as well as the benefits so you go into it with eyes wide open.
Third, just do it! The industry is actively breaking down gender barriers, recognising the enormous value and potential that women bring, and giving women the opportunities they deserve. Be in the vanguard.
What advice would you give to young women aspiring to take on leadership roles?
Don't try to mould your character and your style around some pre-conceived notion of how a woman in a leadership position should behave. The most successful women are those who are true to themselves and don't try to behave out-of-character. Authenticity, honesty and trust are characteristics of any great leader. That's not to say "never change" - start by being who you are, then evaluate your impact and adjust through self-assessment rather than against someone else's standard.
Build a strong team around you. Know your strengths and identify when you need to bring in the expertise of others to complement your skills to deliver great results.