Remarkably (to me at least!), today marks my 30th year working in IT and whilst a great deal has changed in those three decades, my passion for making life better for people through digital and tech solutions certainly hasn’t waned. If anything, it’s stronger than ever. That’s why I’m absolutely thrilled to be taking on a broader, new role at Sopra Steria, as Director for Citizen and Devolved Government Services.
There is nothing like a big life milestone to make us pause, reflect and look back on the journey. When I think about my thirty-year career, here are a few observations that really stand out.
I’m no longer the only woman in the room
When I think back to my first job, I picture a young Margaret in her dark suit, working hard to be taken seriously in a room full of male colleagues. It would often be assumed that I was there to take notes or make the tea. Back then, I felt like I had to work harder to get the same opportunities as my peers.
Thankfully, this is a world away from the culture and team I’m part of now. It’s something I really value about working at Sopra Steria. It feels like a meritocracy and we benefit from diversity of thought in our team. We’re only stronger for it. We still have work to do as a company and society to level the playing field and ensure no one experiences barriers to fantastic career opportunities, but I’m reassured by the progress that’s been made since 1990.
So many more ways to solve problems
It is quite mind blowing to think about how quickly technology has evolved in these 30 years. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never felt bored in this sector, there is always progress and excitement around the corner.
I remember a day when we scoffed at the idea of ‘video on demand’. Now most of us can’t imagine our lives without the likes of Netflix.
I love being in the business of solving problems for people. Now, there are so many more new and innovative ways to do this and make life better for citizens. This has been particularly stark this year as we’ve all relied so heavily on technology to keep us connected.
It’s all about how we treat people
In our work at Sopra Steria, we always start with people first. This ethos runs through everything we do, not just how we approach our client work. This is another reason I’ve worked here for more than half of my career. The culture, our values, how we prioritise doing the right thing and our care for families. It’s meant I’ve always felt supported as a member of the team and I always strive to return that support to my peers and colleagues. I’m also passionate about our wider impact, how we can benefit communities and how we can give back.
Balancing the seesaw
As a woman in tech, thoughts about achieving ‘work/life balance’ and the associated guilt are common to so many of us. Being able to juggle my roles as mother, wife and business leader has been hugely challenging at times. My children are now 15 and 17 and their Dad also works full time. Over the course of their lives I’d say I’ve become an ‘expert juggler’. I’m not sure I’ve always struck the perfect balance but perhaps this isn’t what should be striving for at all. I now find it healthier and more achievable to think of life more like a seesaw that balances out overall.
When I started out, I knew I’d have to been known as Margaret. My preferred name, Mags, wasn’t professional enough and I’d been perceived as ‘young’ and ‘not serious’. But that also meant I wasn’t being authentically ‘me’. 30 years later, I am openly and authentically Mags at work, at home and everywhere.
With 30 years’ experience and expertise under my belt, I must feel pretty accomplished, proud and successful right? Yes, I absolutely do. But the truth is, imposter syndrome does sneak in at times. Am I really the ‘grown up’ in the room? Are people really looking to me for guidance? But, the more I’ve felt able to bring my true self to work over the years, the more I have thrived and seen my teams do the same.
I think it’s so important that everyone can be themselves in and outside of work. It’s only going to make our teams and our work more authentic and successful. Imagine where we will be in another ten years.
So what’s next?
For me at in my new role I am looking to drive new innovations and efficiencies across the Scottish Public Sector and UK local government.
I am also super excited about the opportunity to work with NHS Shared Business Services (a Sopra Steria joint venture with the NHS), to join up citizens’ health and social care journeys. And, on top of that I will be leading on the company’s identity credentials to streamline verification across both government and commercial organisations.
I’m excited to see what happens in the next chapter…