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Want to be the MD of a tech company? Here’s some tips to get you started

Female business leader with team

ARTICLE SUMMARY

With over 17 years’ experience operating in senior commercial roles within a complex, customer driven environment and over ten years’ experience with TalkTalk, Ruth Kennedy, managing director of TalkTalk Business, has developed a proven track record of leading transformational change within a tech business and delivering excellent, sustainable results.
Ruth Kennedy, managing director of TalkTalk Business

Now, as managing director, Ruth is actively utilising her experience, along with her inspiring leadership style and ability to adapt to situations, to motivate her teams and drive outstanding business performances. 

In this article, she looks at her journey to becoming MD for a tech company; what it means to be a woman in position of leadership within tech; the qualities that make up a good and effective MD; and useful tips and specific challenges that might come with the role.

AS MD OF TALKTALK BUSINESS, I FIND MYSELF IN AN INCREDIBLY PRIVILEGED POSITION.

For anyone who takes on a leadership role, there is a level of duty to motivate, develop and encourage the members of their team. And for female leaders in the tech industry, there is also an opportunity to act as role models and mentors for others, helping them to thrive in a world traditionally dominated by men.

In 2022, female leaders in global tech companies peaked at 14% – a steady increase from 8% in 2015. While this indicates that the tech sector is moving in the right direction, there’s still a long way to go, so it’s important that women continue to support each other and be supported. This means making sure that women entering the industry are equipped with the right the skills, are confident in their ability and are offered opportunities to take on new roles to progress in their careers.

With this in mind, here are some of my top tips that I’ve learnt along my career journey to become the MD of a tech company like TalkTalk Business.

PRACTICING ORGANISATION AND FLEXIBILITY

No matter the industry or sector, if you want to be in any position of leadership then you need to be organised. Before I started at TalkTalk, I spent five years with the Army in the Royal Signals, and organisation was just as crucial to me there as it is now.

As an MD, I often find myself being pulled in multiple directions at once. Learning how to prioritise and keep on track of my workload has been crucial in allowing me to remain calm and balanced in my approaches to the work and challenges I face.

However, as well as keeping to strict deadlines, being an MD means I have to be flexible. I need to adapt to situations and approach each challenge with a fresh mindset. This wasn’t an easy skill to learn, but it came with time and by remaining open to different opportunities and experiences, it’s something anyone can develop.

I first joined TalkTalk as a Carrier Manager and have progressed through a number of different roles across the organisation before becoming the MD at TalkTalk Business. I think having a breadth of experiences is key to learning flexibility and for me, has certainly widened the scope of challenges I have been able to take on.

WORKING WITH OTHERS

I began my career development in the Army, and this is where I gained the vital leadership and industry experience that I took into my next job, and eventually to TalkTalk Business. One of the most important skills I learned was how to work effectively with a wide range of people and personalities.

Collaboration is key in the Army – just as working with others is crucial to being an effective MD – so my time spent there was an invaluable experience. I’d advise anyone with aspirations of taking on a position of leadership to look at the opportunities and experiences available to them and consider how they can best utilise them to develop their core qualities and skills – it can be surprising which experiences will prove the most useful in the long run!

FINDING STRENGTH IN INDIVIDUALITY

When women in positions of leadership walk into a room traditionally dominated by men, they bring a new perspective. Diversity in the workforce is essential, as it allows teams to draw on different life experiences to influence decisions and approaches. My advice to anybody aspiring to be a leader is to embrace their own individual experiences and voices, and those of the people around them. Having a unique worldview might just be somebody’s greatest success.

SHARING CLEAR GOALS

As MD of a tech company, I need a base understanding of the sector and tech to begin with. This is something I’ve built over time by being in different roles, gaining new perspectives and working with a wide range of people.

It’s critical that I understand the key goals of the business and the people I work with. When it comes to responsibilities like stakeholder engagement and management, knowing what everybody is working towards is essential for success.

I’ve found that taking the time to listen to different stakeholders needs, whilst understanding their goals, helps me to respond appropriately to them. This is another skill that I developed in the Army, and it’s something that I continue to prioritise. I’m always speaking to people across the team to learn about the different challenges and activity – the learning never  stops!

SUPPORTING OTHERS

In my current role, I need to be a people person. I try to speak to everybody in the same way and show respect to everyone. I want to help the people I work with develop, in every way.

When I’m working with people, no matter their position, I always look for an honest approach to work, and a willingness to support others. These attributes stand out in people and make a big difference.

If I could give one piece of advice, it would be that it’s never too early to start practicing the skills necessary for being a leader. I love to see people who are ambitious and willing to take on different opportunities from the start of their career – whether the goal is to be an MD or to take on another position of leadership, it’s the best way to build the necessary experience and skills.

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