Women in Tech: In conversation with Katie Ley

| minute read

At Sopra Steria, we have always valued diversity and we’re lucky enough to have a great team of female leaders and mentors, each of whom have their own stories to tell about overcoming challenges and creating opportunities that have shaped their careers, and their lives.

The next in our series of short interviews is with Katie Ley, Chief of Staff within the Aerospace, Defence and Security sector at Sopra Steria. In this insightful conversation, Katie shares her thoughts on not being afraid to ask for help and support, and pushing yourself to go for career opportunities, even if you don’t feel 100% qualified.

What’s your role at Sopra Steria and what do you enjoy most about it?

In my role I support the senior management team and the general running of our account, as well as developing our efforts in Social Value. This includes working on improvements to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Working on a client facing account means it's important our team are all aware of everything going on in Sopra Steria. This is a large part of my role - making sure our people are in the know and supported, such as leading on our account level Great Place To Work plans.

I really enjoy helping people and making a difference as well as developing plans and strategies. I think these come together in a really satisfying way in my role.

Why do you think it’s important for more women to join the tech industry?

A team is more effective when it’s diverse and this isn’t just a question of how many women are in the tech industry. Our industry is one where creative thinking for problem solving is essential. The more diverse a team is, the greater the potential for creative solutions and innovations, and this will help close the gap on gender biases.

Some examples of historical gender bias can be a piano being easier to play for men than women because of the size of an individual’s hands and gender aimed toys for young children. This is getting better but a more recent example of gender bias in design is Virtual Reality (VR) gear. Research has shown that VR equipment is more likely to cause motion sickness in women due to its design. In one study the leading cause for this was concluded to be due to a poor fit for the distance between pupils which occurred often for women.

Considering gender bias from a business point of view in technology, not having women involved in the development of products and solutions can cut off half of the marketable population as their characteristics have not been considered during development. It’s essential that the diversity of technology users is reflected in the team's leading on technological innovation.

What learning and development opportunities have you had?

I enrolled on the Project Management Academy in 2020 which concluded in the summer of 2021. The academy is a 15-month development programme for project managers at a relatively early stage in their project management career.

The development programme is a Level 4 apprenticeship standard designed for project managers at a relatively early stage in their project management career. I learnt a lot of useful information on this apprenticeship which helped me understand the business better, communicate more effectively with key stakeholders and improve my planning and strategic approach. It was also a really useful way to determine that project management was not the career path I wanted to pursue at this point in my career.

I’m currently on a commercial training course called the “Art of Negotiation” which I’m thoroughly enjoying and is more my cup of tea. It has been great to learn useful skills that will put to and have an insight into other areas of the business that might be appealing as next steps in my career.

I also took part in our Emerging Leaders Programme in 2022 to help develop my leadership skills and business understanding. During the programme it was fantastic to meet colleagues from across our business who were all at different points in our careers. We came together for our own development as well as those we were leading (or aspiring to lead).

Sopra Steria is recognised as a Great Place to Work®, what do you personally think makes it so great?

It makes me happy to see the work Sopra Steria does to support communities and the environment. This is something that I hadn’t realised would be so important to me for my employer to do; I will always use this to determine a good company throughout my career.

I really enjoy taking part in our inclusion network events and contributing to planning meetings, every member is encouraged to shape what we do with our inclusion networks and that, I love. There’s a lot more to be involved in than just day-to-day work and we have a large range of clients to work with and roles available, so I feel that the opportunities available here are impressive too.

As women we can hard on ourselves, but you’ve got nothing to lose putting yourself forward for roles and opportunities, you never know where it will lead.

What advice would you offer to women starting their careers in technology to help them succeed?   

If you meet some of the criteria for a job role or aren’t sure that you have the right experience – my advice would be to go for it and apply. There is nothing to lose when applying for a job role as you never know where it may lead. Generally, women are harsher on themselves when assessing whether they are suitable for a role compared to male candidates. Look at your experience and see how it can demonstrate the desired qualities, but don’t write yourself off if you don’t meet a few of them. Go for it and see where it takes you. Even if you’re not right for the role you apply for, other opportunities can present themselves or you may learn something from your interview to help with the next stage of your career.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I have been in this scenario myself and I put myself there, I had lots of brilliant colleagues around to support me when I started (and I still do), and I was the one that held myself back.

Start small if you need to and build your way up. Remember that even if you are starting a similar role in a new business there will be a lot of new information– so be kind to yourself and give yourself at least three months (but more like six) to settle in and get your head around being in a new business, role or sector.

Head to our website to find out more about our Diversity & Inclusion vision, and read more about our celebration of women in the tech industry.



Related content

Women in Tech: in conversation with Meredith Patton

The third in our series of short interviews is with Meredith Patton, Workforce Inclusion Manager in Sopra Steria’s Aerospace Defence and Security Business.

National Apprenticeship Week 2023: developing skills for life

Monday 6th February marked the start of National Apprenticeship Week, an annual celebration of apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on society and the economy. 

Celebrating Preet Chandi's incredible world record for the longest solo polar expedition

As sponsors of Team Forces, we've been privileged to support Polar Preet's journey, who broke the record for the longest solo, unsupported, and unassisted polar expedition by anyone in history!