Overcoming Obstacles: Emma Murray’s Journey to Tech Leadership

In a male-dominated field like technology, it can be challenging for women to break through and achieve leadership roles. Emma Murray’s career path is a testament to the power of perseverance, continuous learning, and finding the right mentors. Her story offers valuable insights for aspiring female leaders in the tech industry.


An Unconventional Start


Emma Murray’s journey into the world of technology was an unconventional one. She studied psychology, but her interest in data analysis during her degree programme paved the way for her future career. “I did a psychology degree in 2005 to 2008. This involved statistical analysis using some software called SPSS. That’s what gave me an interest in working with data,” Emma explained.

After graduating, she found herself drawn to informatics jobs in healthcare, attracted by the unique nature of the data and the sense of purpose in helping others. In 2010, Emma joined the NHS as an information analyst, and her career in tech took off from there.


The Importance of Technical Skills for Leaders


While some may argue that technical expertise is not essential for leadership roles, Emma believes that having a solid technical background is crucial for effective leadership in the tech industry. “I think in having those underlying technical skills gives you the understanding of what needs to be achieved and how this can be done,” she said.

Emma emphasised that technical leaders don’t necessarily need to be the most knowledgeable experts on their teams, but they should have a deep understanding of the work their teams do. This understanding enables better decision-making, mentorship, and the ability to drive change within the organisation.


Key Skills for Career Progression


Throughout her career, Emma has developed a range of skills that have been instrumental in her progress. She highlighted the importance of SQL and related BI tools, such as SQL Server, Reporting Services, Integration Services, and Power BI. However, she stressed that it’s not just about knowing how to write queries; it’s also about optimising them for performance and efficiency.

Beyond technical skills, Emma emphasised the need for problem-solving abilities, effective communication with both technical and non-technical colleagues, and the willingness to take initiative and implement improvements to processes.


Facing Challenges Head-On


Working in technology is not without its challenges, and Emma has faced her fair share of obstacles. From data load failures and performance issues to server problems and unexpected glitches, she has learned to troubleshoot and fix issues quickly to ensure that the hospital’s data needs are met.

Additionally, Emma highlighted the unique challenge of keeping up with new software and technology in the NHS due to funding constraints. “It can be a challenge to keep up with new software and technology because funding isn’t always available. A lot of the time it’s trying to do the best you can with the software and the technology you’ve got within the NHS,” she explained.


Overcoming Imposter Syndrome


Despite her achievements and positive feedback, Emma admitted to experiencing imposter syndrome, a common phenomenon where individuals doubt their skills and feel like they don’t belong in their roles. “I’ve been in this role now for eight years, been in informatics for 14 years. There are still days where sometimes I wonder if I’m the right person for the job. You doubt your skills,” she confessed.

To combat imposter syndrome, Emma has relied on open communication with her manager, seeking reassurance and reflecting on her accomplishments. She also attended a course specifically designed to help individuals deal with imposter syndrome, which provided her with valuable strategies for overcoming self-doubt.


The Importance of Mentorship and Support


Emma’s journey was greatly aided by the support and mentorship she received from her manager, who encouraged her to develop her SQL skills and explore new technologies. “Despite my limited SQL experience, they were willing to offer me the role. My manager always encouraged me to develop on the job. But knowing that I had that support helped build my knowledge quickly and gave me that confidence,” she said.

Emma strongly believes in the importance of having mentors and coaches throughout one’s career, not just in the early stages. She emphasised the value of sharing skills, exploring new ways of doing things, and having someone to bounce ideas off, especially when problem-solving technical issues.


Advice for Aspiring Female Tech Leaders


For women aspiring to leadership roles in tech, Emma’s advice is simple yet powerful: “Don’t be afraid to try and even fail. Sometimes I’ve found that if a task doesn’t go right the first time, you actually learn more about how the process works when you finally get it to work.”

She encourages continuous self-development, whether through formal courses, webinars, or online forums, as technology is rapidly evolving, and it’s essential to keep pace with changes. Collaborative working and sharing ideas with a community of peers can also lead to the best possible outcomes.

Emma’s journey is a testament to the resilience and determination required to succeed as a female leader in the tech industry. By embracing challenges, seeking mentorship, and continuously developing her skills, she has carved a path for herself and serves as an inspiration for others to follow.

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