Bilge Mert leads Brit Insurance's Tech & Data teams and won CIO of The Year at the recent Women in Tech Excellence Awards 2022.
Bilge Mert, CTO at Brit Insurance, has 19 years' experience in technology, with a strong track record in driving commercial value and business transformation through the integration of automation and technology. She joined Brit from InsurTech iptiQ, Swiss Re's start-up where she most recently held the position of Senior Director and member of the Executive Committee. Bilge also brings valuable experience from outside of the insurance industry, with a career that has spanned, fast moving consumer goods (FMCG), pharmaceuticals and consultancy.
She reflects here on the importance of women being involved in technology as it will fundamentally alter the nature of opportunities available, and also the variety and types of free training available to young women seeking perhaps a first opportunity or a career switch.
Why do you support Computing's Women in Tech Excellence Campaign?
Advances in technology such as automation and machine learning will see millions of job roles change, and millions more be created. Supporting Women in Tech is crucial if we are to enable women to capitalise on these new job prospects and future proof our careers.
I also believe that it is critical that we start to see tech and digitisation as an opportunity, not a threat. An opportunity to future proof careers over the long term, move higher up the career ladder and close the gender pay gap.
How did you get into IT industry?
I'm originally from Istanbul but have actually been mainly in the UK for the last 20 years. I studied Computer Science and have worked in technology throughout my career having started as a graduate trainee with Mondelez.
What you think is the main reason why the IT Industry is mainly male, especially in technical roles and senior positions?
There are lots of reasons for this, but more important is what we do to address it. I'm a huge believer in increasing diversity and inclusion in technology across all areas. It is something I've always been a huge supporter of and it's been a highly rewarding part of my career to help develop the careers of graduates from a range of backgrounds. Working to create more balanced workforces is so essential, as those become the most effective and innovative workforces. There are great organisations like Codefirstgirls, which are all about training diverse talent and bringing it into tech and data roles.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
Having the right conversations with senior stakeholders is important, making sure they truly understand how tech can enable business decisions and really taking them through the journey of how technology can support a strategic vision. It is also crucial to make sure you are prioritising initiatives that actually drive business value for an organisation.
Integrated teams are also pivotal to success, bringing together multiple skillsets from across a business. This is always far more successful than the traditional and more disjointed model of having IT just delivering a service to the business.
What are your three top tips for women looking to start a career in IT? / What advice would you give to young women aspiring to take on leadership roles?
As a starting point we can perhaps make it less ‘scary'. Moving into technology doesn't have to mean an immediate career rethink. Simple upskilling is something that can be of huge benefit to everyone, and also provides significant upside for employers, ranging from greater efficiencies to more intelligent application of data and insights.
Knowing here to begin is often the hardest part. Some of the things I would recommend are exploring many of the free training courses on offer from the likes of Codefirstgirls, exploring what training your own company has and taking advantage of mentors. There are also lots of "bitesize" forms of training and a huge range of apps that can help people learn and upskill. For example. Kahn Academy can teach you computer programming, while DataCamp can teach you the principles of data science on your phone.