I recently had the pleasure of meeting Fiona Squire, Services Director at Imtech ICT UK Limited at the Juniper Networks New Directions Women’s Forum in Laguna Beach, California. Having chatted with Fiona during the week in the US I felt she had an interesting story to share about how she got into tech and how she has developed a successful IT business and career. Here’s my interview with Fiona;
Zoe: How did you get into tech?
Fiona: Whilst I was growing up I had always wanted to be a nurse. So, when I left school I started a pre-nursing course at college. One year in I went to the job centre to look for part time work and noticed an ad for a trainee software engineer at Apricot Computers. I thought it looked interesting, so went for the interview, and got the job, I then ditched the nursing course and I haven’t looked back! That’s how I got into tech.
Zoe: Would you say you are an entrepreneur?
Fiona: It would depend on your definition of an entrepreneur; I would say I have some entrepreneurial tendencies, starting up Imtech ICT UK in 2002 alongside James Morgan (Managing Director) and Steve Gore (Finance Director) was pretty high risk for me, but the three of us complimented each other perfectly. I do certainly take the initiative and won’t settle for the status quo.
Zoe: What motivated you to setup Imtech ICT UK Limited?
Fiona: We (James and I) had built up another telecoms systems integration business for another organisation previously; Landis Public Networks, which was successful, but the parent company unfortunately was not and the business went into receivership. This is where our relationship started with Juniper Networks. So, it seemed natural at the time to pick up the team and start again, this time with a more stable financial investment from the Imtech Group. Our first office was my kitchen until the Parish Council complained too much about the cars! Then we moved into offices in Basingstoke.
Zoe: What is your greatest work achievement?
Fiona: Starting up Imtech Telecom alongside James and Steve has been very rewarding, and I don’t mean financially. I’ve been through a massive learning curve in business areas I hadn’t been involved in before and having the responsible for peoples’ livelihoods puts a whole new perspective on ensuring your business is successful. Four years ago we merged with another Imtech ICT company, changed the name of the business from Imtech Telecom to Imtech ICT Limited taking the business to another level. This continues to be something I’m most proud of in my career.
Zoe: How has your management style developed over the years?
Fiona: I would say it has changed considerably; experience has given me a lot more confidence in management and leadership. I have a much more pragmatic approach than when I was younger, which was then mainly emotional and I took everything far too personally.
I’ve attended various management training courses over the years. Plus Imtech has its own leadership training programme, which Imtech senior managers attend and this has helped me considerably to improve and develop.
Zoe: What would you suggest makes a good leader?
Fiona: I think a good leader is someone who is motivational, respected and gets involved. There is nothing worse than hands off management. I think that the key skills needed are; having open and honest communication, being a good listener and must be calm and patient under pressure. Being able to think “out of the box” and planning for the future business in years rather than weeks sets a good leader apart from others. Finally, and this is a personal mantra of mine “treat people as you would like to be treated” and always admit to making a mistake!
Zoe: Who are your role models and influencers?
Fiona: Probably my biggest influence has been Geoff Squire; he introduced the Oracle database to the UK in 1981, as the exclusive distributor. He subsequently joined Oracle Corporation, when he ultimately became the Chief Executive Officer of worldwide operations. He was widely credited with Oracle’s history making financial turnaround in 1990 and is one of the few individuals in the world to have built a $1 billion international business from scratch. Over the years I have spent a lot of time with Geoff and have been fortunate to get his advice on a number of my career decisions.
Zoe: What advice would you give to women wanting to get into tech?
Fiona: I am a great believer in “being in the right place at the right time” so you have to make sure you are ready for it when it happens. Do as much training and development that is offered to you and try to find a senior mentor that is respected within an organisation once you’re onboard.
Fiona: Making the decision to choose tech is an unusual choice and is ripe with opportunities, so try it!
Zoe: What do you think the next years hold for women in IT?
Fiona: I think we will all see a lot more woman moving into IT. The modern man has wised up to the benefits of women in the workplace and knows that having a diverse workplace adds a different perspective and more opportunities for businesses to utilise.
Zoe: What percentage of women work at Imtech ICT UK Limited?
Fiona: In total 26% of our workforce is woman, which is way too low, but in my services organisation my direct management team there is a 50/50 split of men: women.
Zoe: How do you balance your work life and personal life?
Fiona: Technology of course, the mobile world we now live in makes it much easier to keep me organised on the move. My role is 24x7x365, but it no longer matters where I am. I tend not to totally switch off from work, but I do spend quality time with my family and friends and also like keeping fit and walking my dogs.
Zoe: How do you stay ahead and keep up with the latest technology trends?
Fiona: I attend a lot of vendor strategy briefings, visiting customers and most recently getting into social media, by reading more blogs and searching Twitter, which I can do on the move from my smartphone.
Zoe: Are you into social media? How are you using this communication tool with your role?
Fiona: Mmm, I’ve just started and I am into it now, but a little late getting to grips with it. My strategy for social media within my services organisation is evolving at the moment, so do watch this space! You can find me on Twitter.