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Spotlight Series: Thea Tanner, Commercial and Propositions Director, BT Wholesale

Thea Tanner, Commercial and Propositions Director, BT Wholesale

ARTICLE SUMMARY

We sat down with Thea to chat about why she chose a career in tech, speaking up and putting your ideas out there, female strengths, and her advice for other women in tech.

THEA TANNER IS COMMERCIAL AND PROPOSITIONS DIRECTOR AT BT WHOLESALE.

In her role, she leads on the development of commercial pricing and deal making activities across the division. Her team brings to market new product solutions that enable customers to grow their business. She champions young women in the industry and is part of the ‘Women in Wholesale’ mentoring programme.

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

My current role wasn’t necessarily planned. I was in a Group Strategy role, and I felt I was ready to get some experience of what it is like to own business decisions. I ended up taking an opportunity with a colleague I trusted and began my role leading the trading and planning function for BT Wholesale. After my colleague went on maternity leave, I moved into my current position, and it felt like the right step as I’ve learned a lot from her.

My previous roles have helped me in my job now. All the skills I’ve learned from the various steps in my career have helped me to deal with the challenges that come up every day. Having a firm commercial grounding has also been crucial as I’ve stepped up into a senior leadership role.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK?

My role is Commercial and Propositions Director at BT Wholesale – the wholesale arm of BT where we provide communication, collaboration and connectivity to our customers and channel partners. Day-to-day, it’s my responsibility to enable the sales team to be successful and come up with innovative solutions to customer problems. The creativity element is one of my favourite things about my job.

I also manage a large number of people who work across my team. BT Wholesale is an incredibly varied part of BT, so we have individuals in pricing and deals, MNO (mobile network operators) and MVNO (mobile virtual network operators), planning, solutions and trading.  To make sure I’m tuned into how people are thinking and feeling, I invest quality time with employees to create a more engaged team and working environment. This means seeking out opportunities for upskilling, providing advice based on my experience and ensuring there is a safe space where it’s okay to fail.

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

My proudest moment to date is when I was appointed to my current role as Commercial and Propositions Director. I’d been in the Wholesale business for only two years, and I still felt like a complete novice. However, having that huge amount of trust placed in me felt like an amazing external validation of how hard I’d worked and what I had to offer to the business.

It feels great that I’ve reached a senior position in my early 30s, especially within a male dominated industry. It really feels like things are changing and I’m glad to be part of it.

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

In telecoms and specifically the channel, being solutions-driven is absolutely necessary. Every customer has their own unique problems and it’s my team’s job to think creatively and figure out the best way to overcome them. Sometimes they are an easier fix and other times they require greater collaboration. Having creative people I can bounce ideas off really helps us deliver great results for customers.

In a leadership role, you spend a lot of time managing people, so it’s important to be a people person who can provide guidance and support. These things don’t always come intuitively; it can be hard managing a large team, but I’ve had great mentors and training programmes that have helped me become the manager my team needs.

The most important trait, however, is an eagerness to learn. The technology industry is constantly changing and innovating, so there is always opportunity to learn new things.

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

Early on in my career, I shared an idea in a meeting and one of my male peers made a similar point afterwards. After the meeting, a colleague told me that they remembered the man who repeated my idea, but not me.

I remember thinking, “I’m never going to let this happen again.”

Since then, I’ve always made a conscious effort to ensure I speak up for myself as well as elevating other women’s contributions.

That event is just one of several where I have had to take ownership of my ideas and it is why I am so passionate about making sure women have the tools to make their voices heard. BT Wholesale’s mentoring scheme is a great way for me to share my experiences with junior members of the team. Having a mentor has been helpful throughout my career, so by taking part in our mentoring programme, I’m hoping I can ensure other women feel more comfortable and secure in the workplace.

The tech sector now is a much more supportive place for women but there is room for improvement. I’d like companies, both within and outside the technology industry, to consider what more they can do to support women. Whether that is providing them with tools to instil greater confidence or putting in place diversity and inclusion policies that they can hold themselves accountable to. The tide is changing when it comes to women in tech, but the industry must make sure it carries the momentum forward.

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

It’s normal to be overwhelmed when starting your career, and through periods of change. The world of work can be hugely different to previous experiences such as school or university and it can be tough to get used to it. My biggest advice for young people entering the workforce is that they are more valuable to a business than they think.

As a new generation enters the workforce, they are bringing with them new ideas and perspectives. Generation Z are digital natives so demand more from digital solutions, encouraging businesses to rethink their ways of working and presenting new opportunities for customer products. With their fresh perspective, younger workers have a huge impact within the workplace, especially in the technology industry.

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

Believe in yourself and stop saying sorry! Whilst it might sound like a cliché, women tend to undermine themselves. Within a male-dominated industry such as technology, there are often gendered stereotypes about what characteristics a person needs to fulfil their job role.

But, the strengths I see in women, such as being balanced, having good listening skills and providing clarity, are crucial for doing business. Women, and everyone for that matter, should embrace their differences and bring their true personalities to work to enable a diverse working environment where ideas and success can flourish.

The industry, and leaders in particular, need to make it easier for women to feel confident enough to pursue new challenges to enable their career growth. As a leader, I make sure to highlight strengths that women don’t often identify in themselves.

I would also encourage women to ask questions and speak up about their career progression. If there is something you are particularly interested in or if you have a career path in mind, speak to your manger or other members of your team. Make sure you are communicating your goals to the right people that can help you to grow professionally – having the right sponsorship is priceless.

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