Zoe Wilson, Head of Enterprise Collaboration and Productivity at Agilisys, is a finalist in the 2020 Women in Tech Excellence Awards in the Innovator of the Year: SME category. In celebration of her nomination, we asked Zoe to tell us more about her role at Agilisys, how she thinks we can encourage more women into the IT sector, and more.
Tell us about your current role and what motivates you. What has been the driving force behind your career strategy?
My role requires me to work both across the entire internal business with colleagues helping them get the best use out of the Microsoft 365 platform, and also with customers on their strategy around Microsoft 365 so that when they have these tools in place they can make the best use of them, and help people be more productive.
I also work closely with our partners, including organisations like Microsoft, to discuss how we can work with their products, including what they’re doing in terms of innovation and what they are bringing to the market that will benefit our customers.
Essentially, the main aim of my role, both internally and externally, is to make technology work better for people so it’s easier for them to do their job. The tech almost falls into the background, it’s really a way of freeing people so they can focus and spend time doing their jobs.
Even in my personal life, I enjoy making things easier for people, and from a work perspective, it’s what I have done for years, but being able to lead a team of people is incredibly rewarding because it enables you to help people on a much bigger scale, far more than you could do on your own.
Tell us about an achievement in your career that you are proud of
This year I had the opportunity to be involved in an interesting project with The States of Guernsey. The States are unique because they’re not just a local authority, but act as a government as well, so they needed a way to continue parliamentary debates and the democratic decision-making process throughout lockdown. In particular, they were at a crucial point because they were coming up to an election so being able to maintain the momentum towards this was vital. At the same time, they also had to make important decisions on how they would respond to Covid-19 and support the people on the island.
Enabling Guernsey to move their parliamentary debates to fully virtual was really interesting and I was privileged to have the opportunity to work with the administrators who support the parliament, and the members of parliament themselves, to help them move their parliamentary debates over to Teams Live Events. I spent time coaching people and running trials to figure out the logistics, which in itself was challenging as you have a group with varying degrees of IT literacy, who aren’t all using standard equipment and some who haven’t used Teams before. Getting to work with them and gearing them up to handle the different aspects of Teams was very rewarding.
They took to it brilliantly and went on to use Teams for all of their parliamentary debates during lockdown, they were also able to stream the live events on BBC and Guernsey news sites so the public could still watch the debates, as they would have been able to before lockdown. Overall, it was a success and they actually continued to use Teams Live Events to stream debates when out of lockdown, so the technology still supports their previous way of working which I feel is a great example of some of the positive changes we’ve been able to make during the pandemic.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in your career?
Don’t be afraid to have a voice. Quite often as women, when you go through the school system and then out into the working world, there’s a lot of unconscious bias that can be instilled, particularly that women should be seen and not heard.
Personally, it was something that I did suffer from earlier in my career. It was really common for me to be the only female in the room and that, along with looking young for my age, made it much harder to be taken seriously. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what people say, you have to get out there and have a voice, stand up and fight not only for yourself but for others too. If you see examples of unconscious bias in action, speak out, and support people. I believe the only way things will get better is if we are willing to speak up and show people that we’re in the room and have a seat at the table.
How would you encourage more women into the IT sector?
I feel passionately about this, I’ve been a hiring manager for years and of course, have tried to bring more women into the team and if you look at the more technical roles we have, even within my business unit, you can see a difference in the number of men and women.
I think it’s all about visibility. There’s a saying that people want to be what they can see and within the tech industry, I think this is something we don’t do very well – we need to get better at marketing technical career paths as an exciting and rewarding area to work in. I’ve asked young people about this and it saddens me to hear that, even in school right now, young girls still see it as a boys subject and I think there’s a view that only certain types of people go into tech.
In reality, tech is one of the only things that spans almost all other industries – it really is the backbone of everything we do.
I believe showing people what different tech roles can look like is key. There are many different roles within the sector, some of which require a lot of empathy and other skills that women are traditionally thought to seek out.
It is challenging and not something I believe we can fix overnight, these options need to be visible from a young age and we must continue to raise the profile of female role models. That’s why awards like these are so important, because it’s an opportunity to raise awareness of some of the great women that are working in this industry.