A recent Tech Nation report exploring the topic of diversity revealed that 77% of UK tech director roles were filled by men, and only 19% of the workforce are women.

There’s no doubt there’s still more that needs to be done when it comes to encouraging a fairer gender split throughout the digital landscape.

It’s a subject that’s close to our hearts too and one championed by Vapour’s head of transformation Carol McGrotty. Selected for WeAreTechWomen’s ‘Inspirational Tech Advocate’ Q&A, she discusses how we can all take responsibility for being more inclusive, and why you don’t necessarily have to have a specific degree to be successful in the tech sector.

  1. Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

As head of transformation for disruptive cloud tech firm Vapour, I’m responsible for looking at the business at a higher level and piecing together all our departments to achieve true company growth.

The business is almost eight-years-old now and I’ve been here since just after its inception. I’m process-driven and people-orientated, so I’m passionate about making sure we keep playing to our strengths, exploring what we can do even better, and getting our culture and values right so we can drive forward collaboratively.

2. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Definitely not! I originally wanted to be a midwife when I left school. Thankfully, I can look back and say things have really worked out for me and I’m proud of the role I play now.

I’ve spent 20 years in the telecoms tech sector and once I was learning the trade, I soon felt like I was contributing to something. In terms of Vapour, I could see its vision when I joined, and I wanted to make my mark and build an exciting career for myself with a progressive company.

3. Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

It’s probably more of a personal one, but I can be quite harsh on myself. For example, I can make ten decisions in a day, nine of which are successful but for that one that perhaps didn’t go quite according to plan, I’ll dwell on it. I have to tell myself that nobody has all the answers, and as long as my decision was considered and well-intended, I can learn from it.

4. What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Moving from operations manager to head of operations and compliance was a defining moment. It was a huge shift in mindset because I was responsible for an entire department. It also led to one of my biggest successes to date – completing a scale up programme, in association with Barclays Bank and Cambridge Judge Business School, alongside Vapour CEO Tim Mercer and sales manager, Alec Stephens.

5. What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Finding a role that’s not ‘just a job’ and instead something I can add value to. I’m a big advocate for taking on a role that feels ‘right’ and being part of a company that shares the same vision, and invests in its employees. Thankfully, that’s what I’ve got with Vapour. 

6. What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Technology is forever changing so it’s important to be agile to stay ahead of the curve and provide customers with the support they need – which constantly evolves. Having a flexible approach when offering solutions is so important in this sector, alongside not being afraid to take on fresh challenges and being calm under pressure.

7. Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I do feel there are obstacles. Fortunately, I’ve never felt this but I’m well aware that females in our sector have experienced difficulties when it comes to breaking through. The numbers speak for themselves in terms of how many men are in technology compared to women, so this has to change.

When it comes to career guidance, are girls provided with the information they need to truly engage with the prospect of enjoying a career in tech? We have a responsibility to support this via jargon-free explanations as to what it means to work in digital, underline the vast benefits and really get across the impact that employees make. 

8. What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Exploring apprenticeships or accelerator programmes could be great places to start for companies. We also offer job visits to try and spark interest in people progressing a career in technology.

It’s about providing ways to help attract a wider talent pool and that’s where culture comes into play. If an organisation is committed to building an environment that’s forward-thinking and inclusive, it’s more likely to get a greater level of diverse applicants when its next job vacancy comes around.

9. There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Role models and strong influences that young girls and women can look up to are so vital. We’re seeing more females on boards and in director roles now which will definitely help. It needs to continue though, and we all have a part to play in this.

10. What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Well, of course WeAreTechWomen’s resources are fantastic! I’d also recommend Disruptive.Live for in-depth interviews and Technology Reseller is a really engaging publication. Let’s not forget the ‘Between the Eyes’ podcast either that’s hosted by Tim [Mercer]. He invites guests to talk on his show about everything from business development to wellbeing.

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