Leadership 15th March 2021

Inspirational Women Tech Advocate Questions with Kirsty Carter

Our Chief of Staff Kirsty Carter was recently invited to take part in a popular Q&A series with We are Tech Women.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your current role

I’m Kirsty Carter and I am the chief of staff for technology solutions and services provider Solutionize Global. I have ownership of all people-centric activities – from hiring through to onboarding, professional development and all HR matters.

I also manage our talent acquisition function which specialises in providing technically qualified associates to fill skills gaps in businesses. For organisations to stay afloat, they’re having to innovate and to do so, they need top talent – that’s where our expertise comes in.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I definitely didn’t in the early days – I was eager to work, learn and add value regardless of the environment. However, when I got into my 30s, I had identified that I felt most fulfilled when I was supporting the people. There is such value in setting people up for success

Prior to joining the Solutionize Global team, I had experienced working environments that put profits before people and that leads to disappointment, disengagement and ultimately losing all the best talent from the business. I believe passionately that people need to be valued in a way that they recognise and be shown the future and what it can mean for them.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

A big challenge was the pivot I made when deciding to focus on a people-centric role – and getting prospective employers to buy into this. Despite having had full autonomy over HR in my previous roles, unfortunately, some companies didn’t recognise the complementary experience that I had and how it could lend itself to their vacancy.

We’re fortunate at Solutionize Global that transferrable skills are recognised. We are also do not shy away from talent from outside of the technology industry.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Navigating the growth that Solutionize Global experienced throughout 2020 – from £9 million to £42 million in turnover! I started in October 2019 and jumped straight into managing the hiring processes for several new staff members. The biggest challenge was making sure the quality was still there even though we were doing everything at pace, just in time for a national lockdown. I’ve taken great pride in developing a Virtual Hiring and Onboarding experience.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Having integrity – doing the right thing, when nobody is looking. If you’ve got the trust from your senior leadership team to work autonomously and bring ideas to the table, there’s nothing you can’t do.

I have built this into the SG hiring process, I explore a candidate’s values and behaviours before I move into the competency and experience. I believe this has contributed to our growth during the pandemic. Although we are all different, our values and our expectations of each other are aligned.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Remember that your existing skillset is fundamentally important. You might not have a tech background but that doesn’t mean you don’t have attributes to offer the industry. After all, you might come up with different ideas compared with tech-focused colleagues to drive the business forward.

Additionally, read everything! I’ve signed up for a lot of newsletters from various sectors which has helped to give me a breadth of information across multiple professions.

Finally, I’d recommend booking one-to-ones with the subject matter experts in your business. Do not shy away from your training needs, your colleagues will support you and guide you.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

There are challenges, thankfully I’ve never experienced any in our organisation. We have a gender split of 63:37 (women: men) with regard to our permanent inhouse employees, which could be seen as quite surprising for our industry.

It comes down to your culture and leadership – are you hiring the best people for the job or overlooking top talent purely because you’re used to bringing in similar individuals time and time again? Only companies can answer this and address it.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Acknowledge that skills are transferrable – don’t simply look at a CV or job title and think someone can’t add value. Explore what they have been delivering throughout their working life.

Also, make sure there are equal opportunities and family-friendly policies in place – having these, and simply publishing them on your intranet, isn’t enough. You need to review their effectiveness regularly.

And, if we’ve learnt anything recently, it’s about the importance of providing an agile working environment that can adapt to —and embrace — everyone’s remote working circumstance.

Finally, make sure your job ads aren’t accidentally gender-biased in the way they’re worded. They should be designed to attract the right mix of people – for example, highlighting flexible hours, the inclusive culture, and annual leave expectations that support people who are trying to juggle multiple roles in their home.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Please be open to hiring from other industries and live and breathe your inclusive policies.

Leaders must be human in their communications and immerse themselves in providing a motivated, secure working environment and thriving culture. Now’s the time to trust employees that provide value, and not focus solely on gender.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

My CIPD membership is a fantastic resource for engagement, remote working, and virtual onboarding. I subscribe to an employment lawyer too, Daniel Barnett, to keep abreast of the latest legal guidance that could impact our team. Our lawyers and recruiters also deliver webinars on topics such as IR35 and these are incredibly helpful when growing my knowledge.

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