• August 24, 2022
  • Andy

Discussing Women in Technology with Cheryl Graham, Service Strategy Lead at Sky


Cheryl Graham, Service Strategy Lead at Sky, landed in the technology industry accidentally. Her first role in the sector was for Vodafone, where she started as a Contact Centre Agent and was able to work her way up and into more technical areas.

Following her time at Vodafone, Cheryl worked in various technical project management roles in fields including finance, oil and gas and the public sector, before joining Sky.

“As soon as you get to Sky, the opportunities are endless. You can move sideways, you can move up, you can move across, but internally, the culture is there to let you develop if that’s what you want. And so, once I got here, it was a case of – and it’s no pun intended – the sky’s the limit.”

In her current role, Cheryl bridges the gap between customer experience and technology, ensuring that platforms are scaled & reliable and customer journeys that operate on them drive excellent customer experience at the right service economics. She also monitors consumer trends to ensure Sky’s products and packages evolve to meet their changing needs.

Shifting Mindsets

As someone who has worked in the industry for 25 years, Cheryl has had a firsthand vantage point for the changing ways that women in technology have been treated. From the early days in her career where the perception was that certain roles were for women and certain roles, such as coding, were for men, to the current environment where inclusivity and diversity are becoming more and more important.

The question around supporting and encouraging women in technology often focuses on helping women to move up the ladder into leadership roles. However, it is just as important to do the work to encourage those from outside technology to move into it.

“We need to demystify technology, and actually explain in simple terms across the board, what the roles are within technology, and also highlight the huge number of different roles that there are. A business analyst doesn’t have to necessarily have a technology background, because understanding business requirements doesn’t necessarily require you to understand how each individual system works under the hood.”

Sky are focusing their roles on behaviors rather than technical skills, allowing those from outside the industry with the right attitude the opportunity to get a foot in.

“The behaviours are what’s needed to get in – and the appetite to actually want to work in that part of the industry in order to get you into that space. There’s an element of skillset to get into the role, but moving forwards it’s imperative that development is supported with honest PDPs, focusing on the soft skills which move you into leadership role such as negotiation, communication, presenting with impact and adapting style to the audience. We need to move away from the theory that you need to be educated to degree level (I’m not) and you absolutely don’t need a degree to progress within the technology space ”

Motherhood and the Technology Industry

Cheryl has had two periods of maternity leave and, as someone who was made redundant during one of those periods, she believes strongly in supporting women to return to their roles. Providing that contact and giving mothers the confidence to return to work is something that the industry is working hard to get right, but balance is always needed.

“We can always do more to make our mothers feel better about returning to work – providing those refreshers, and shadowing opportunities. It’s a fine line, though, because one of the things that I think we need to respect is the time off. I think some of it needs to be driven by that person, you don’t want to start bombarding people and have them failing to return to work.”

Making the workplace more inclusive for women should mean creating a more inclusive workplace overall – and that includes supporting men through challenges that they face.

“There are situations that women will find themselves in that men won’t, and vice versa, it works both ways. I think we need to acknowledge that with women’s topics that are starting to come to the forefront – menstruation, pregnancy, menopause – we also need to acknowledge the mental health issues, the dark suicidal thoughts that men can get, the anxiety. We need to be raising awareness across the board for a lot of these things. But both for men and women and transgender – everyone – they need to be treated equally.”

Cheryl’s Advice

Looking back on her career, Cheryl’s top advice for those hoping to follow in her footsteps is to take the leap and face challenges head on.

“Be brave. Opportunity presents itself and you need to say yes. If you’re passionate about something, I think you need to go for it. What is the worst that can happen? At that point, you need to not be afraid to fail.”

Alongside this, it’s important to recognise that what people portray isn’t necessarily what they feel. For those who are introverted, it is necessary to get rid of the mindset that a more outwardly confident person will win an opportunity.

“Understanding that just because that person is a bit brash and a bit cocky, doesn’t mean that they’re any more qualified for the job, or that they’re any more likely to get it. What matters is that you are passionate, you can articulate, and that you have the right behaviours.”

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