Lessons learnt climbing the career ladder as a woman in tech

Step ladder on a pink wall, career ladder concept


Rachel McElroy, Marketing Director at Axiologik, looks back at her career and the lessons she's learnt, sharing her tips and advice on how to climb the career ladder as a woman in tech.

An experienced marketer working in technology for over a decade, Rachel McElroy is part of the Yorkshire board of the Certified Institute of Marketing (CIM) as vice chair of communications.

career ladder

Responsible for marketing, brand and the comms strategy across Axiologik, she plays a pivotal role in helping customers understand how the company can support and provide superior digital services through building resilience, creating impact, and delivering excellence. Shining the spotlight on regional tech innovation, Rachel is also part of the working group for techUK’s Local Digital Index. Connect with Rachel on LinkedIn.

As I reflect on my journey from being an estate agent and regional sales manager in the property industry to running a successful marketing company spanning three countries and time zones, and now a marketing director for a technology firm, I’m reminded of the invaluable lessons I’ve learned along the way.

Climbing the career ladder is a journey that involves not only professional growth but personal development as well. Here are some key lessons that have helped shape my career trajectory.

The power of your network

Never underestimate the power of a network. Building a circle of trust, having allies, and seeking mentors has been one of the most significant contributors to my career growth and in navigating challenges along the way. Surrounding yourself with a diverse group of people, each bringing unique perspectives and experiences to the table, is also essential for continuous learning and development.

Throughout my career, I’ve attended external events and engaged with different people to expand my knowledge, which has given me invaluable insights. As the saying goes, “Every person you meet will teach you something,” and I’ve found this to be true, whether the lessons were positive or negative.

Don’t compromise on your values

It’s crucial not to compromise on your values and stay true to who you are. That’s why choosing to work for a company that aligns with your ethos and values is so important – maintaining authenticity has been a guiding principle throughout my career.

Ask yourself the question: what legacy do I want to leave behind? What do I want people to remember me for in my work? This will help you get intentional in the steps you make to further your career – steps that feel right – and actively build your personal brand.

Stay humble

No matter how high you climb on the career ladder, staying humble is a virtue that should never be overlooked. Remember the journey you’ve been on and be willing to step outside your comfort zone – these are key components of sustained success.

By transitioning from the property industry to becoming director of my own marketing company to working in technology scale-ups, I’ve learnt that job titles don’t define you. What matters more is finding the right fit, both in terms of skills and personality. That’s why more organisations are prioritising personality fit over mere job titles when building their teams – you can acquire skills, but you can’t (and shouldn’t) change who you are as a person.

You can also stay grounded by giving back and helping others – volunteering for local charities is something we are proud to do as a team at Axiologik. This creates a positive impact on your professional network.

Don’t stop learning

Despite having no formal marketing qualifications for the first decade of my marketing career, I invested in my growth by first completing an accredited level 6 marketing diploma and then joining the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Board. This was a great decision – allowing me to continuously evolve and expand my skill set. Embracing a commitment to lifelong learning has been a catalyst for my professional development, and it’s a principle I carry with me to this day.

Focus on the future

Having a plan and setting both short- and long-term goals are crucial not only for professional success but also for personal development. Forward-thinking can help you feel more confident about the career choices you make, and your decisions will be well-informed. Stay ambitious and focused on growth – this extends beyond the workplace and into every facet of life.

Maintain a healthy work-life balance

You can’t bring your best self to work if you’re not feeling good mentally. Mental wellbeing is a cornerstone of personal and professional success. Be sure to take time for self-care, whether that’s hitting the gym, spending time outdoors, or simply walking the dogs – it all contributes to a healthy work-life balance and achieving long-term success.

Embracing ongoing growth

My journey hasn’t stopped yet and I still carry these lessons with me as I continue to climb the career ladder. But I also know the path to success is not just about reaching the next rung – it’s about growing as a person along the way.

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