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How to advance your digital career: A female perspective

Photo of an African-American businesswoman with her arms crossed standing in front of her team, female leadership concept

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Josie Smith, chief architect at BT Group shares how to take on more senior responsibility as a woman in tech.

At the heart of this is an ethos of constant development, positivity and an ambitious mindset.

In her role Josie is responsible for all architecture across BT Group’s Digital unit including Global, Enterprise, Consumer, Corporate, cloud and digital infrastructure architecture. As one of the only women Chief Architects in the FTSE 100, she’s incredibly passionate about bringing more women into technology roles, especially at a senior level.

AS THE CHIEF ARCHITECT AT BT GROUP, I ENGAGE IN STRATEGIC THINKING AND LEADERSHIP ACTIVITIES EVERY DAY.

While the demands of my role can be a lot at times, I genuinely love my job. It has provided me countless opportunities to explore new avenues, experiment with ideas, and discover more about myself and my skill set. I only wish other women could access similar opportunities.

Currently, however, there is a lack of female representation in leadership roles like mine, and I am eager to see this change. According to Nash Squared’s Digital Leadership Report 2022, a mere 14% of digital leaders are women – a very modest improvement from the year before. This is such a shame. Offering diverse perspectives, women in leadership roles can significantly contribute to fostering more inclusive workplaces. Such environments cultivate a sense of value and respect for everyone, regardless of their gender. Ultimately, our leadership teams should reflect the diversity of those who work under them.

Clearly, there is more work to be done. But what can we, as an industry, actually do? Careers are, by their very nature, journeys.

You don’t wake up one day and become a tech leader.

It takes years of practice, experiencing success and failure and perseverance to get there.

When it comes to advancing in your tech career, there is no universal approach. That said, I’d like to offer my perspective – from one woman to another:    

DEVELOP YOUR SKILLSET

If you have a natural talent for something, prioritise developing and growing that skill set. Chances are that you’ll enjoy doing what you naturally excel at. As they say – find a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

EMBRACE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE

A desire for personal growth will get you noticed. With this in mind, be open to taking on new roles and responsibilities. Try to look at new roles and unknown challenges as opportunities, rather than potential dangers or obstacles. After all, every new job or project is a chance to combine your existing strengths with new ideas.

BE AMBITIOUS

Let yourself be ambitious. If you think it might help, join a personal development programme such as TechWomen from BT Group. Having the right support infrastructure in place can make all the difference, especially when it comes to applying for a promotion, leadership role, or board position.

As more women achieve leadership positions in tech, the concept of female digital leaders will become more normalised.

This will undoubtedly encourage the next generation of female talent to aspire to those roles.

As Nash said, “Role models play a central role in shaping a young professional’s career and are especially important if you belong to an underrepresented group.”

In addition to these role models helping women uplift one another and set an example for future generations to follow, we also need to ensure that support structures are in place. Due to a lack of confidence, women frequently miss out on career progression opportunities compared to their male counterparts. And I’m not just talking about women in technical roles; we all face similar challenges. Having individuals around who encourage you to be yourself and push yourself to pursue new opportunities is vital. Such support can make or break a woman’s decision to seek promotion or remain uncertain in her position. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those around me and the support they have provided.

Hopefully, in a few years’ time, tech companies won’t need to have specific strategies for hiring more women in leadership roles, as female digital leaders will simply be the norm. Until then, however, we as an industry need to foster the right environment for female talent to flourish.

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