- 05 августа 2016, 14:16
- Business on HuffingtonPost.com
Jacqueline de Rojas
Jacqueline holds a full-time operational role at secure data and apps software company Citrix and has been employed throughout her career by global blue-chip software companies to accelerate growth through smart partnerships, smart people and technology that makes life easier. She is making the transition from an executive position at Citrix where she is the VP & General Manager of Northern Europe to join UK tech firm as an Executive VP at The Sage Group plc in the Autumn of 2016.
Jacqueline is also the president of techUK. Her presidency focuses on the ambition for the UK to seize its position as a digital nation of significance. She believes that growth will be powered by the tech industry and we must strive to equip our nation's entrepreneurs with the very best infrastructure and most supportive business legislation possible. Above all, the UK must demonstrate that it is open for business to global markets.
Prior to her presidency, Jacqueline held the role of deputy president techUK and board champion for women. She used this role to support her manifesto for gender equality and diversity. This has gathered increasing momentum as we build out the talent pool and is a cause close to her heart. It remains a key focus of her role as president of techUK.
She has served as a non-executive director on the board of Home Retail Group PLC since December 2012 and is a board advisor at Digital Leaders. She lends her support to the technology group of the 30% Club as well as Apps for Good. She was voted most influential woman in UK IT in 2015 and entered the Computer Weekly Hall of Fame in 2016.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Having spent my entire career in the corporate sector, I know that education and culture play an enormous role in creating great outcomes. As a leader, I believe in a strengths-based leadership approach which enables a team to come together and offer their best contribution to the team mission. As it implies, it focused on individual strengths rather than their weaknesses. I think it's important to give all employees space to be amazing. My job is to give them permission to be the best that they can be. And they rarely disappoint.
As you would expect, in a male-dominated industry like technology, I have come across many challenges as a female leader but I have equally experienced a very high level of opportunities. So as senior female leader, it is crucial that I remind myself to give back to those who are at an earlier or more difficult stage in their careers. I believe that 'sending the elevator back down' makes such a big impact on shortening the time to success for other women and it makes me feel good!
Female representation at board level is increasing but it's been a long hard slog - and there's more to do! Better job descriptions to write, more balanced recruiting panels, shortlists that include women, better networking, plus more women need to step forward!
How has your previous employment experience aided your tenure at Citrix?
I have largely been employed by American blue chip enterprise software businesses to take their teams through accelerated growth, and my role at Citrix has similar objectives.
One of my early leadership roles in IT was a fabulous learning opportunity. It was very sales-focused and in a very male-dominated culture. I remember just before I left how my manager told me that they just didn't have women on the senior leadership team. Simple fact.
I could have kept my head down and been contented with my lot but instead I decided to find a new company and, most importantly, a culture which welcomed diversity. As it happens, that didn't take long and I have never looked back.
That experience made me stronger. It made me realise it was time to move on. The irony was that I was actually approached, years later, to go back and trouble shoot that business. I like to think that's karma.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Citrix?
My conclusion from having worked in tech all my career is that, more often than not, something odd happens when we are asked to explain our technology. The light in our eyes is extinguished, we talk in three letter acronyms and we become entirely uncompelling.
The complexity, breadth and pace of the tech world offers you two options: to make sense of it technically to technical people or to make sense of it in value terms for non-technical people. So my focus has been on taking the complex and translating it into value based stories. I love the power of story-telling - and outstanding story-tellers are rare. It is a big skill and one to watch for.
If I was asked, on the other hand, to talk about a challenge, it would clearly be on the diversity front. Women remain a largely untapped resource across all STEM sectors, representing a paltry 15 percent of its entire workforce despite accounting for 47 percent of the wider British labour market.
I believe that diverse teams are more productive and reflective of the markets we serve. It has been my ambition to redress that balance across as many teams, both inside and outside of Citrix. It is a journey, though, and our culture, recruitment, benefits, and work practices need to evolve further to ensure that it is not only addressed but sustained.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in technology?
For me, it is important to know what you want, define it and make it real in your head. You've got to 'say it out loud' for it to become real. This quote from Lewis Carrol sums this up perfectly. He said: 'If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.'
So many people wonder why their careers aren't going anywhere but if you ask what their vision or ambition for their next role looks like, then it is often-times too vague or even something like: 'I just don't want to be doing what I'm currently doing...' This is easier said than done but without this vision, finding the right path will be a real challenge.
Part of this is also about understanding your personal brand. (And of course, your personal brand, whether you like it or not, is what people say about you when you leave the room). Facing what you are currently known for and want to be known for is crucial. And I wish I had known how important that was when I was 30!
Finally, any women starting their careers in technology should consider themselves agents of change. I hope they won't face all the same challenges that my peers and I faced at their age as the sector has changed! But be aware of potential discrimination and if you come across it, try and become part of the solution rather than just taking the nuclear option and raging against the machine.
What is the most important lesson you've learned in your career to date?
To take a step back and properly evaluate situations before acting.
My personal journey has evolved over the years in terms of my confidence and I used to go at problems with all guns blazing. I now take a more thoughtful route to problem-solving, taking stock of a situation and managing it more thoughtfully. Being an 'alphazilla' as a woman in business isn't the only way to win or compete and probably isn't always the fastest route to success.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Balancing home and work life is vital! I usually start my day at about 5am with my husband enjoying some meditation and yoga or I might go for a quick run to blow out the cobwebs. I need that time before I head off to London, Heathrow or our closer offices in Chalfont.
Navigating the constant ping of email traffic, meetings, deadlines and the daily barrage of calls and meetings can take a lot of time but I have found a very happy balance of family life, gardening and yoga.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
On my first day in the technology industry over 25 years ago I was told that the business I had joined "didn't have women on the leadership team". I would therefore say that the biggest challenge has been fighting the trend for men being promoted based on gender rather than performance, and the uneven playing field this creates.
That said, female representation on FTSE 100 boards has doubled from five years ago, accounting for over 25% of members last year - with zero men-only boards at all - so things are changing for the better. But this change isn't coming fast enough - and sexism or ignorance is holding back over 50% of the population from reaching the very top.
As an aside, a Leeds University Business School study (Women in the boardroom help companies succeed - 2009 - Professor Nick Wilson LUBS) highlighted that having just one woman on the board of a business has been shown to reduce the risk of bankruptcy by 20 percent and that percentage increases as more women are included.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I have been lucky enough to find great people along my career path who have wanted me to succeed. While I'm not sure that I'd call them mentors, I did learn to emulate the behaviours of these great leaders and role models.
A handful of people throughout my career have been very generous and helped me to gain the confidence to look for - and ask for - the next challenge. I feel very strongly that just as we all need that generosity from time to time, we also need to offer a hand to others so that their own journey is not quite so challenging. I know it can seem cliché but if we really want to create a technology sector in which diversity thrives, we do have to send the elevator back down.
On a personal note, my own parents' relationship was not one of equals. When we moved so my mother could raise my brother and me alone, I realised the benefits of becoming truly self-sufficient and resourceful. This has remained important to me as I have raised and guided my own children, and established my career in the UK technology industry.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I most admire those who take the time to help others. The generosity of people giving up their free time to mentor, to shine a light on difficult issues and to the unbreakable spirit of people determined to make a difference is especially strong in this industry.
For example, Martha Lane Fox and her Dot Everyone initiative; Sue Black for #techmums; Melissa Di Donato for her work at the Stemettes and 30% club and finally, to amazing young women such as Clare Sutcliffe and Linda Sandvik, making a massive difference with initiatives such as the code club. We are so lucky to have these amazing people, and a whole host of others, making a positive contribution to the industry as a whole.
What do you want Citrix to accomplish in the next year?
Citrix is committed to reimagining the world of work. Across the company, we believe technology can be a great liberator - and both customers and partners should be freed up to be a business enabler of the future instead of managing legacy technology.
At Citrix we believe that technology can enable us to work hard anywhere, so that our place of work is where we choose it to be, rather than a physical place. I love this disruptive thinking and the idea of flexible working supports parents or those who are unable to commute or global communities who need this flexibility to enable them to work better and live better.
Smart partnering is vital, and in the next year, I hope to see Citrix continue to demonstrate its unwavering commitment to customers and partners as it becomes less product-focused to instead provide solutions which enable digital transformation. Our goal is to help organisations free up their workforce to be as productive as possible with secure access to the correct data at all times.
Flexible working is the future and Citrix can deliver apps and data to employees anywhere, across any network and on any device. So whether they're an F1 racing driver, selling rental cars in a hotel lobby or managing forests in the northern most corners of Finland, Citrix enables professionals to work and live the way they want to.
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