“Tremendous amounts of talent are being lost to our society just because that talent wears a skirt.”Shirley Chisholm.
Shirley Chisholm was the first African American woman elected to US Congress in 1968. She must have been an incredible individual, and though she is not a household name, her life has a direct impact on my own, as a woman who proudly works in Tech, half a century later.
Though undoubtably my own journey has been far easier, like Shirley Chisholm, I know how it feels to be the only woman in a room. I know the deep-seated reality of being “different” and the whispers that follow of “am I good enough?”.
The first eight years of my working life were spent in education, either teaching itself or recruiting into the classroom. Surrounded by female colleagues and young children, this was where my reliance on coffee was born! Back then I couldn’t have imagined being passionate about anything else other than being involved in providing an exceptional start in life for our children.
If anybody had uttered the words: “OTT, VOD, AI, Machine Learning, VSAT, LEO, GEO, Cyber Security, RF, End-to-End” or even “Content or Connectivity” to me I would have thought they were speaking a different language. At this point, as an avid reader, I didn’t even own a TV! In fairness, these terms are akin to their own language, but what I would never have dared to believe was that this would be a language I could speak and a community I could be a part of.
And yet, here I am… AND I now own a TV!
I have forever been inquisitive, in fact (pre-covid), I would be that person who struck up conversations with strangers on public transport and would end my journey with a new friend or having inherited a new recipe – much to my fiancés’ bemusement. Growing up, I must have asked “why” a lot, because one of the phrases I recall my Father often saying was “it just is.” Little did I know, these qualities, not previous knowledge, are what has made me successful in the industry I now inhabit! On deciding I wanted to see what was outside of Education I begun to explore what was behind this mythical term: “TECH”.
And it was thus how I ended up at neuco. My journey begun in a coffee shop, with a very good cappuccino and one of my now Directors. From my recollection we discussed the Northumbrian Downs, the thrilling 2005 Ashes series, Strictly Come Dancing and Puppies. A few months later, I started at neuco. Did I know what I was letting myself in for – probably not. But what was crystal clear was that this “TECH World” seemingly was made up of friendly, normal people. Ok I was yet to meet somebody who looked like me, but we were certainly cut from the same cloth. Actually, it was deeper than that. I felt like I was coming home.
Those first 6 months were mind blowing: Discovering just how many satellites were in space, how quickly content could be distributed and crucially how the organisations we worked with were changing the world. My new clients were on a mission to better society for all, they were striving to connect the unconnected, and transform millions of individuals lives. How did I not know about all of this?! I had found myself in an epicentre of passion, innovation and talent. Did I understand all of it straight away – of course not. Though I have come to realise that these industries change so rapidly that even the CEOs are learning daily.
Within my first 8 weeks of joining neuco I found myself on a plane to Vegas for NAB, whilst I was met with a sea of men in grey suits and was acutely aware of my bright pink nails, the people that I met were only too delighted to introduce me to their colleagues and explain their newest technology. I’ve never learnt so much in such a short space of time as I did on that trip. In fact, in general a lot of the time there is so much going on I am unaware of the fact that I am the only woman in a room. Either a virtual or physical room!
Furthermore, every hiring manager I speak to wants to engage in ways to increase diversity in their teams, not because HR has told them to, but because it is recognised that diverse teams equate to better, healthier companies. I am often asked, what it is like to be a woman in the industry and for ways to increase diversity. I should mention, my friends think I have the coolest job … they would of course be right!
How do you begin to sum up the creativity, hunger and desire for change that I encounter daily? How do you accurately communicate the sheer talent and genius of individuals and organisations I get to work with? How can I talk about the closeness of my “work-family” or “tribe” of colleagues that I have the privilege to both laugh and work with, without sounding sickly sweet?
So yes, I am different to a lot of the people I work with, I do not look the same and I come at things from a different standing point. I am a deaf woman, in a world of men! The thing is, that deep-seated reality of being different, that used to worry me, is celebrated and encouraged. Of course, those whispers of “am I good enough”, creep in from time to time. But my goodness, I only need to pick up the phone and I have an army of colleagues cheering me on and showing me that YES! I am good enough!
Here’s the thing – I refuse to be ‘lost talent’ just because I wear a skirt. I will not rule myself out. If Shirley Chisholm were alive today, I would like to think she would be astounded and overjoyed and how different the world is. How far we have come and the energy we have propelling us forwards as we continue to make changes.
Being a woman in this industry has changed my life. I have never been happier. I have never felt more included. I have never looked forwards to the future more.