Alison Young has been working at Agilisys for one year as Director of IT Shared Services and has over 20 years’ experience in the IT Professional Services and Telecoms Industry. Alison has been nominated for the Role Model of the Year: Tech & Services category at the Women in Tech Excellence Awards 2020. We asked Alison some questions about her role, how she has acted as a role model and lessons she has learnt along the way.
How have you acted as a role model to other women in business?
I came to IT from a completely different angle with a Languages degree, applying for an IT graduate management trainee programme in GlaxoSmithKline and beating many others to one of the three prized roles. I realised then that a career in IT could be open to a much wider playing field than STEM graduates only. It is one of the most rapidly changing and exciting fields to be in and a constant learning experience.
I have been a technologist, management consultant, account director, led major programmes and bids and held several leadership roles in an industry dominated by men. In every role, I worked tirelessly to do my absolute best and bring a different perspective and to champion women in the industry.
I have always been determined to lead by example and have encouraged the career progression of capable women. I am working with women across the business in leadership positions to make Agilisys a truly diverse place to work.
There is a powerful female presence in our customer base of local government and healthcare and it is critical we mirror and serve this demographic.
Tell us about your current role and what motivates you?
On joining Agilisys my primary goal was to set about building trust, then focusing on providing my team structure and support and a vision for the future whilst making them a fundamental part of its success. Setting out my vision for our IT Shared Services to best serve the growth of the business, I gave clear direction to my leadership team on our target state and the journey we need to travel together.
A Change Programme was established to deliver clear outcomes to help transform our services. This is particularly important, given the rate of change, to continue to be a market leading IT services provider, as well as creating opportunities for my teams to continue to develop and grow. I’ve worked hard to gain the trust of my team who are a diverse and geographically disparate group of talented and committed individuals and I’m thrilled that the feedback has been very positive, I hope that leading by example and determination will inspire everyone to stay on the journey with me.
Good Leadership should not be confused with making money whatever the cost. As a good leader you can navigate the commercial aspects whilst providing a positive working environment. I have always enjoyed encouraging and mentoring people to achieve their full potential – it gives me enormous pleasure to build on that success. At the same time, I am passionate about growing business and the exhilaration of successful selling and delivery, and I firmly believe if you have happy, empowered people, they will help win and deliver the best results.
As a career woman and a mother, I am focused on two things – having a successful, fulfilling career and achieving commercial success in business whilst maintaining (and never compromising) a happy and fulfilling family life.
The journey has not always been smooth, and business has not always supported working mothers, but I have raised two healthy happy boys and continue to strive to be a role model to them.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
I’ve learned that it is important to know your own worth and have the confidence to stick to your principles and drive forward with what you believe in if you know it is best for the
customer, the company, the people and your career.
People often swim with the tide because it is easier, or they may lack the confidence to speak up when there are more dominant voices. I learned that trying to please everyone was never going to change things for the better. Working collaboratively and managing stakeholders effectively is something at which women are naturally more adept and this is critical in business. However, sometimes it is necessary for someone to show leadership when decisions need to be made and it takes courage to stand up, whether it is to provide ideas, avoid mistakes or support colleagues. Facing up to and handling difficult situations is part of life and it is better to tackle these than ignore to avoid them.
It is also important to realise that IT is not just about technology but primarily about the
outcomes and benefits it can bring. Shifting the focus to finding IT solutions to the pain
points customers face or helping them realise their future goals is what we should be aiming
to achieve with technology.
What is your top tip for women looking to start a career in IT?
Make sure you do your research as there are many different career paths you can choose
from. It is important to understand all of the options and find where your interest may lie or where your skills fit best. You can also choose between being in IT within a customer or part of a provider organisation which services many customers. The research will also enable you to see which companies show commitment to women and diversity such as female role models, active recruiting, or flexible working.
With such a broad-based sector it is always important to try to gain some experience in
advance of starting down the path. Whether you seek out connections or sponsorship for
work placements, all work experience, however short, will always help. Some companies will actively encourage work placements for women, and this is not only for young graduates or apprentices starting out, but also for women returning to work after children.
The tech industry is crying out for passionate and confident people and demonstrating this is what will make you stand out in a fast paced, rapidly changing, innovative environment.
It is imperative that companies place more focus on advertising and demonstrating their
commitment to diversity in the workplace. Women will seek out those companies who
practice what they preach, where there are female role models in senior positions and where they can see diverse career paths in the industry.
As Tech is still a relatively young, fast moving sector with fewer misogynistic hangovers from the past, it is a great area in which to excel. IT touches and influences every part of society and although STEM skills are extremely important, they are not the only skills required.
We need to demonstrate the sheer breadth of opportunities across the sector, whether they be in technical delivery, operations, consultancy, sales, business analysis, process improvement… the possibilities are endless!