Driving business transformation and valuing diversity

Jill Brennan, Vice President at PagerDuty, EMEA, picked the technology career path at an exciting time of change, prior to the emergence of the powerhouse that would become Silicon Valley.

At the beginning of my career, the companies I worked for were just starting to focus on their digital transformation processes and to shift away from the traditional ways businesses had been operating for decades, now seeking distributed modernisation. It would soon transform careers, launch technology unicorns, create entirely new industries, and massively change the way we all worked. I was truly in the right place at the right time, starting at a small San Francisco based software start-up, and then onto a role in IBM’s software group.

IBM had historically been known for mainframes, computer hardware, and services, and when I joined the software group, it was a relatively small division - approx. 21bn of IBM’s 100bn business. It was a risk, given how our division’s focus differed from the rest of the company, but it was early in my career, and I could afford to take a risk. I saw the huge potential for professional growth.

Working for a large enterprise was a great opportunity to learn about the different types of business technologies, and to be a part of a company willing to invest in building them. IBM had numerous global development and research teams. This exposed me to how teams and ways of working come together as a globally collaborative enterprise. My career and professional development grew there for 23 years, affording me the opportunity to work directly with customers keen to modernise their business and technology landscape and drive better business performance through trusted, scalable, and secure innovation.

From the massive scale of IBM, I went to work for a much smaller software company that develops and markets software as a service for clinical trials. This was in 2018, well before the COVID-19 pandemic. I was now immersed in a company where the greatest focus was to safely achieve innovations for clinicians and patients. My role was to lead their team in EMEA and grow the business in the ways I already had done in prior roles. I formed a tremendous appreciation for technology that can dramatically help improve and save lives by modernising and accelerating clinical trial outcomes, supporting effective vaccine development, medicine, and health treatments.

Fast forward to 2021. I had not heard of PagerDuty when I received a call from a recruiter seeking a leader for their European business, and to support their plan to grow to $1bn revenue and beyond. This was an exciting growth trajectory, and I wanted to learn more!

I found PagerDuty to be unique. Not only due to its growth ambition as the operations cloud platform for the modern enterprise, but also due to the company's focus to fuelling digital transformation and building customer trust. In addition, I had never come across a company so strongly committed to their mission, purpose and values - empowering their employees and the business to live these values every day.

Diversity, equity and inclusion

The company’s commitment to DE&I was critical in my decision to join PagerDuty. If businesses want to attract top talent, this is absolutely one of the factors potential employees are considering, as are investors. I had always appreciated how my previous firm, IBM, had been on the leading edge of valuing diversity. For example, naming their first female vice president in 1943, and who’s ninth CEO was a female who drove record results in diversity and inclusion while supporting my and others interest in DE&I, empowering us to redefine the purpose of the corporation.

The diversity among the board of directors and senior leadership at PagerDuty was a big factor in enticing me to join. I was eager to work with our incredible female CEO, active and diverse board leaders, and chief diversity officer. A company committed to high diversity metrics, offering the opportunity to participate in employee resource groups (ERGs) which align to make a great social impact in the communities where we live and work, was key.

When a company’s board has a single prevalent personnel profile, it speaks volumes to how that company may engage with customers and employees. Living your values is key. How you recruit is a litmus test. I really tested the commitment to the mission, purpose, and values before joining PagerDuty and I found that it is deeply genuine and completely pervasive throughout the company. In my experience, this was unique and outstanding.

For young people in technology

Have confidence that the technology industry needs fresh minds like yours. There is much talk about ‘doing what you love’, and while one does need to be interested in their job, all of us that work know that you may not love it every minute of the day! Work is hard, and one of the best things it offers is an opportunity to be intensely challenged and tested to grow and learn new things. If you find a company that represents something interesting, a real need in society, and offers a chance for strong personal growth and long-term satisfaction, jump on it! No one should go into an industry expecting to love it from the get-go. You might not find your dream job at the start, but you can make it an interesting journey, learn and do some good along the way.

Also, consider if the company serves a niche purpose or a long-term lifespan. Will it be around in two to five years, or longer? If the answer is yes, consider how your role would impact the company and its customers' expectation for satisfaction via digital experiences. The pandemic accelerated and heightened the average consumer’s awareness and expectation of access to digital services, whether related to retail, insurance, banking, local government, or medical, etc. Does the role you are considering impact on the digital transformation of the company or their services?

For young women in technology

Always expect a level playing field. Don’t expect special treatment as a diverse group member, while never considering there are career and or professional development opportunities available to others but not to you. Never marginalise your aspirations.

Make sure that you are always seeking or open to receiving feedback and learning all you can along the way. Those experiences will help you improve for the next role. Such as, I had no degree in computer science, but learned to write code with experts in my first role. Be open and embrace challenges, learn as you go, and have fun!

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