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INTERVIEW: MY JOURNEY And Experience Working In The Tech Industry

If you've been following Sarah on Instagram, you will have been captivated by her lifestyle and travel content. Her trips across the world have been perfectly curated on her feed, but what many of you do not see is a career that has allowed her to enjoy the life she has today. In an exclusive interview, I got the chance to interview Sarah on her career development journey.

Sarah shares her journey from studying nursing at university to transitioning into a start-up that is now a global tech company valued at over $7 billion as of today. In this interview we discuss Sarah's experience as a woman in tech leadership, advice for others seeking to break into tech and so much more. If you enjoyed our last interview, be prepared to enjoy this one even more, as we learn more about how a career in the tech industry helped shape the life that Sarah enjoys today.


In a previous interview you mentioned studying nursing, how did you get your first tech role?

I was studying to become a nurse at university and realised that it wasn’t for me, I transferred onto a child development major and didn’t find that suitable either. During my summer break, I landed a 3-month summer job at a networking company. Once the summer break was over, the manager reached out to me and offered me a permanent role at the company whilst I finished my studies.

I continued working with the networking company after graduation and the company was later acquired by a larger tech company which enabled me to develop more tech-related skills. It was from that role that I later joined a start-up which became the company I work for today.

What does your current role involve?

I now work as part of the sales leadership team for a global tech company. This involves working on KPI’s, our go-to market strategy and ensuring that the business is achieving its goals. I assess the varying aspects of the business to ensure the company’s success.

How would you describe your experience growing with the company from a start-up to a $1 billion enterprise?

When I first joined the company 13 years ago, there were 80 members of staff worldwide. This gave me the opportunity to expand my skillset whilst being in close proximity to the company’s leadership. This also meant that I could receive personal investment from the leaders, who were more than willing to mentor me.

The personal investment opportunities was one of my main motivations for joining a start-up.

Before joining the start-up I worked for a company with over 100,000 employees and it was very easy to get lost among the numbers. There was limited autonomy in that role and I wanted to be in a position that allowed me to have greater impact.

What are the benefits of working for a start-up versus an established company?

If you’re working for a good start-up, the personal investment that you receive is second to none. Everyone is determined to grow the company, and this provides numerous training and development opportunities. It is also much easier to get promoted, as you can easily adopt skills from other staff, if you’re working in a smaller team. Start-ups tend to be very supportive in this way.

The time commitment in working for a start-up is very high, in the early stages you must be prepared to work longer hours in order to meet the demands of the business.

Established companies may be better for someone that wants more predictability in their role and isn’t too concerned about climbing the corporate ladder quickly. Your decision on whether to work for a start-up or established company really depends on what you want to achieve and the level of commitment you can give to the role.


What has your experience been as a woman in tech leadership?

Over the years I’ve gotten used to being a woman in a predominantly male industry. It has taught me the importance of using my voice and I’ve learned to get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations, whether that’s negotiating a promotion or business deal.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

What are some of the best decisions you’ve made for your career development?

My decision to move to Europe was one the best decisions I made. Being willing to step out of my comfort zone and move to a new continent helped me to develop a world view. The cultural values that I’ve gained have helped me to become a better leader at work.

Even if you don’t see yourself living in another country permanently, I would still encourage you to work in different countries to gain a global perspective.

I would also say that nurturing and maintaining my professional relationships have opened so many doors for me. People often leave organisations and then cut ties with their ex-colleagues, but this is not something I would recommend. You never know who will help catapult your career development.

What advice would you give to someone that wants to get into the tech industry?

The industry values diversity of thought so do not be discouraged if you’re coming from a non-tech background. If you’re just starting out, you will probably need to begin with an entry level role i.e. analyst. If you build rapport and execute well in that role, you can easily get promoted within a year.

What are the top five skills needed to thrive in the tech industry?

  1. The ability to articulate yourself clearly

  2. Be extremely driven and passionate

  3. The ability to build great rapport

  4. Be an execution machine

  5. Be an independent thinker and have high EQ

All of these skills are extremely important if you want to succeed in this industry. Career progression is highly dependant on relationships. Good working relationships are founded on work ethic and the ability to produce accurate results quickly. This is where being an execution machine is vital. When you’re able to produce results quickly, this harbours trust and gets you noticed within your organisation.

What are some common misconceptions about the tech industry?

Misconception 1: Tech salaries are consistently high across the globe

This is a major misconception and I’m sure many people have heard about the salaries in Silicon Valley, which are accurate. Depending on the role, new starters can easily earn salaries in the 6-figure bracket in Silicon Valley (USA) but this does not apply to entry roles in Europe or Africa for example. You will have to develop a plan to enhance your earnings as you progress through each role, especially if you choose to work in Europe.

Another factor to consider is the opportunity to earn through equity. This is usually where the bigger earnings come from, especially if you work for a successful start-up.

Misconception 2: Employees in tech companies hardly work

Although the work is fun and there are plenty of perks (e.g. unlimited food, massages, travel) there is a lot of work to do and it’s not uncommon to be working 16-hour days.

When you get into leadership roles the weight of your decision-making is heavy and comes with added stress and responsibility.

Misconception 3: You need a computing science degree to get into the industry

There are a range of roles available that don’t rely on technical IT skills, I came from a child development/health related major before I started my first tech role and this hasn’t hindered me from from progressing. It's all about identifying your transferable skills and adapting them to a different industry.


What advice would you give to someone that feels stuck in a rut in their current role?

Be honest with yourself about your performance at work

It is easy to wonder why you haven’t received a promotion or salary increase, but you honestly need to review whether you’ve been performing in line with your next role.

Ask yourself whether you can handle the responsibilities that come with a promotion

You also need to ask yourself whether you’d be willing to take on more responsibility.

After you’ve assessed your current situation and made the necessary changes, you then need to consider whether your company can provide the opportunities for progression. If not, you may need to look for another role or company.

Don't be afraid to make changes and seek guidance in order to grow

Over the years careers counsellors, mentors and executive coaches have all played a part in my journey. I've been proactive in seeking out guidance from people that are in the position that I aim to be in.

You’ve launched a coaching programme. What inspired you to offer career coaching?

After receiving numerous messages about getting into the tech industry, and coaching people on an informal basis, I realised that there was a huge demand in this area. Given that I’ve worked my way up from an entry level role to a leader over the past 13 years, I thought it was appropriate to offer my skills and experience to assist others in reaching their professional goals.

What benefits will your clients receive through your coaching programme?

Guidance and direction. I find that the biggest hindrance to people getting into the tech industry is a lack of guidance and direction. In my coaching sessions, I focus on getting to grips with your goals, experience and developing a career plan that will land you your dream role. I also offer real-life examples from my own experiences in leadership, so that you can avoid the early pitfalls to achieve progress in the tech industry. This also requires a personal investment of time and effort on the client's part but the rewards are plentiful.


Take action!

We hope you enjoyed this really insightful interview! While we all love the glitz and glam of travelling, shopping and having well curated Instagram feeds, it's so important to develop skills that are valued in the professional sphere. Perhaps you've been wanting to get into the tech industry, or maybe you need help with developing a career plan sign up for career coaching with Sarah whilst slots last.


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