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Spotlight Series: Catherine Amran, Director of Business, Virgin Media O2 Business

Catherine Amran, Director of Business, Virgin Media O2 Business

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Catherine Amran leads Virgin Media O2’s business division, supporting customers of all sizes with a range of broadband and mobile solutions to meet their connectivity needs and support their digital transformation goals.

She has over 15 years of experience across commercial, strategic delivery, M&A and consultancy, and is passionate about helping customers in all sectors embrace the digital tech they need to support their customers and enable their employees.

SHECANCODE CAUGHT UP WITH CATHERINE TO TALK ABOUT HOW SHE BECAME A WOMAN IN TECH, WHO INSPIRES HER, AND THE IMPORTANCE OF FINDING YOUR NETWORK.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED?

Back in May of last year, I joined Virgin Media O2 Business as director of its small and medium business (SMB) division. My role then was focused on delivering value, flexibility and secure connectivity to support the growth and digital transformation of the 5.5 million UK SMBs, concentrating on businesses with 10-249 employees. Since then, my role has expanded to look after Enterprise and Public Sector organisations too and I am loving the additional opportunity to really influence the connectivity of so much of the UK’s commercial and public infrastructure in addition to Medium businesses that fuel so much of our economic growth.

While I have over 15 years of experience in roles across commercial, strategic delivery, M&A and consultancy, and previously led the UK SMB division while working at Worldpay – this move, marked my first foray into the world of telecoms. I was interested in joining Virgin Media O2 not only for the company name, culture and opportunity, but it also felt like a great match for my experience and their need. I am excited to help shape the organisation’s provision of increased value to business customers, and to bring great tech solutions into a market I feel passionate about.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CURRENT EXPERTISE?

I see there being two halves to the way an organisation operates – what the business does, and how the business runs. For me, the business has to do something worthwhile and interesting. I love that VMO2 is enabling businesses of all sizes to transform and create their digital futures. I have always found most personal success in the latter part of the business equation. I find I can add the most value in helping organisations to run as well as possible, making their customers and colleagues equally successful and therein enabling businesses to thrive.  

DID YOU (OR DO YOU) HAVE A ROLE MODEL IN TECH OR BUSINESS IN GENERAL?

I am not sure that I have ever had a particular role model, however, I’m constantly inspired by the people I meet along my professional journey

At the moment I am enjoying working for and learning from Jo Bertram. Jo has a super-tech background (she architected the rise of Uber in the UK and Europe), is an executive committee member of VMO2, and has two young children too, which gives me confidence that it is possible to continue to grow and push the boundaries within businesses whatever stage your personal life is at. Jo sees pace and agility as commercial advantages and constantly challenges us to deliver more for our customers and enhance our capabilities as an organisation. I feel like I learn something new every day, and that is so important to me, to feel like I am growing in my role, so I constantly seek out people I can learn from.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR?

While I have been fortunate to work on a number of fascinating projects over my career, my proudest moments are when I successfully bring together a team of brilliant people. A team aligned to one common goal and driven by absolute focus, which gels together while delivering great outcomes for the company and our customers, is the greatest form of success. It can be a balance to recognise what you and your team need while matching the right mix of skills and perspectives. However, it enables leap-frog progress to be made while amplifying the success of all the individuals involved. Being able to recognise those moments of magic where you are flying, not just as individuals but as a team, and having fun whilst doing it are so valuable; and their rarity makes it worth celebrating when you have it!

WHAT DOES AN AVERAGE WORKDAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?

I am generally woken up by my son (aged 2) and daughter (aged 1) early, so the day always starts with lots of hilarity and excitement! My son helps me make some coffee to get me going, and we have a play before we start our respective days.

Virgin Media O2 empowers people to do their job wherever they are, whenever it matters, whichever way works best for everyone – whether an employee or a customer.

With young children, this workplace flexibility is invaluable.

I can either head into our London office / to a regional site, otherwise, I head upstairs to start the working day. Work is pretty full on with lots of meetings, but I try to get a good balance of subjects to help drive the business and our strategic objectives forward. However, I always make time for my team to make sure we are staying in step with how to best support our customers and our people. I fight hard to carve out time to think about where we are going and the evolution of our plans, and to actually get some work done!

I generally try and get home in time to eat with the children and have some more family time before their bath and bed.

I love learning new things and finding new perspectives, but often struggle to find the time to read. So, instead, I will listen to podcasts while getting the house sorted before hitting the hay. I generally clamber into bed far later than I mean to and cross my fingers that the children sleep through… Still a work in progress! No two days are ever the same, but I thrive on the difference, the breadth and the ability to feel like I’m making a difference.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD?

Setbacks are inevitable in any role. What distinguishes a desirable teammate, and ultimately a leader, in a time of challenge, is the ability to learn and bounce back from these challenges. This capability will see the team and wider company persevere and build resilience, and these attributes are what companies will always seek out – irrespective of the profession and sector.

Another desirable skill is adaptability and transferability of skills and experience. I don’t see sector knowledge as a barrier; the ability to understand what customers need and the aptitude to learn the rest are key.

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE?  

As a woman in the tech industry, there will be a lot of people in your life that will try to tell you that tech isn’t for you. They will be wrong.

Be confident in your choices and be mindful in your development so you are clear about what will add the most value and help you advance.

Don’t wait to be asked – get involved and go after what you want. Finally, a key one for me – be confident in your contribution. As women, we see things differently and question things differently; this can bring a much more powerful outcome to our work in tech, rather than defaulting to the existing points of view.   

HAVE YOU EVER FACED INSECURITIES AND ANXIETIES DURING YOUR CAREER, AND HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THEM?

Who doesn’t?! One of the things I have found most empowering, and confidence-giving is finding the right network of people to support me. There have been times when, being female, I have looked, sounded, and delivered in a very different way to the ‘norm’. This has created a crisis of confidence in the past. However, I now find strength in it. But that confidence has been driven by finding like-minded people to me. Sadly, in the past, I have had to look outside of the organisations I have worked at to achieve this, but there are amazing support networks out there. I would encourage others to reach out to people internally in similar situations to your own. 

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED?

Speak Up. In pretending all is fine, the only person that will suffer is you. It’s in the interest of the business to help you to be a success. You were chosen to join the team for a reason, trust that and be confident in your abilities. I recently heard a nice quote that ‘the only stupid question is the one that doesn’t get asked’ – it’s so true. Often what doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t make sense, but those already in the business have become numb to it. Use your freshness as an opportunity to bring a new perspective; that’s why they hired you! It’s essential you also share anything significant that is happening in your personal life, so you can get the right support. I joined Virgin Media O2 from maternity leave after my second child and being open with my line manager about the challenges I was facing helped each of us. I know this doesn’t always feel natural, but you don’t know how the conversation will go until you open it.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY?

Often, I see women feeling the need to adapt to their male peers’ behaviours and preferences to blend in and find acceptance.

You don’t need to be anything other than yourself.

If you are at the right company, they will celebrate you for being your best self and reap the rewards of having you join the team. If the environment you are working in isn’t appreciative of you being you, change your employer! The industry is desperate for tech talent and you will easily find a company that will celebrate having you on their team.

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