Advice for women in tech: Look for the opportunities in everything you do and always be in control of your own destiny – Rubi Kaur, Senior Technical Architect at Vodafone Group

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Rubi Kaur is a senior technical architect at Vodafone Group where she is responsible for putting together unified communications technical solutions to help businesses around the world stay connected, communicate and create value for their customers. She has a successful track record in Central Government where her experience includes delivery of projects in mobile and flexible working, along with pioneering green IT policies across Government, and also the private sector at BT and O2. Rubi is a fellow of the BCS [The British Computer Society – the Chartered Institute for IT], also serving on the committee for BCSWomen and on the SteerCo for the Vodafone Group Womens network, where she leads the “Inspiring Leadership” Programme to further the advancement of women in technology. 

Rubi Kaur

Rubi Kaur

 “…You certainly cannot stop innovation, ideas and inventions. I am sure teleportation really will one day be a possibility!..” 

A love of physics – discovering how things work the way they do

I’ve always had a curious mind. At school I just loved physics, discovering how things work and why they work the way they do. After I graduated with a master’s degree in physics I joined BT on the BT graduate scheme.

There were no other tech girls in that year’s graduate intake and at the time this did not bother me and it made no difference to the guys I worked alongside either. I was just one of them. But as I look back it would have been wonderful to see other tech girl graduates.

At BT I worked on lots of high profile programmes. I learned a lot in a short space of time, readily accepting challenges and quickly rose through the ranks to become a senior designer.

Pioneering the world’s first mobile Internet services

I was always on the lookout for new opportunities and soon such an opportunity arose to join O2 as a technical architect and enter the fast moving world of mobile communications. I joined the team who were pioneering the world’s first mobile internet services, the technology which now drives all our smartphone social media applications, so Twitter and Facebook etc.

My job? I’m a problem solver

I am often asked what a technical architect does. I tell them I’m a problem solver. I just find the right building blocks and assemble them in the right order to form a solution to the problem. I’ve been in the tech industry for a while now and it’s truly breath taking the pace of change and innovation in the mobile communications industry. I just love the dynamic nature of the business I work in.

Today I work for Vodafone Group, where I am responsible for architecting unified communications services which provide converged fixed and mobile services to our Small Medium Enterprise customers around the world. These are vital services in our totally connected digital world. 

An opportunity I could not resist in an international, diversity rich organisation

Life is all about opportunities. Two years ago I was working in Whitehall for Central Government developing major cross government policies and strategies for Green IT and flexible mobile working. The opportunity came up to move out of my comfort zone and into Vodafone Group. An opportunity I could not resist.

Vodafone Group is an international, diversity rich organisation. It’s one big global family. In Vodafone Group we are international citizens – a mix of cultures, all working together to deliver amazing services which are used by millions of customers around the world. It’s a great working environment, it’s both stimulating and challenging, but above all it’s truly exciting.

Male colleagues – very much part of the solution to assisting women in tech

This year Vodafone Group signed up for the UN #HeForShe campaign and it makes me proud to work for a company that makes a stand against gender inequality. I am firm believer in inclusivity and our male colleagues are very much part of the solution to assisting women in tech. There are so many men that have been very supportive to me during my career and have been fantastic, inspiring mentors too.

You cannot stop or stifle innovation

Technology never stands still. Technology is for ever changing and progressing. This is what I love about the tech industry. You cannot stop or stifle innovation, mobile communication technologies are no exception to this either. The speed of emerging technologies now entering mainstream adoption is accelerating very rapidly. 3D printing is a great example. I know two colleagues who own home 3D printing machines.

The Internet of Things – an exciting area to watch

The latest emerging trend that we see in the mobile communications industry is the Internet of Things (IoT). This is the technology behind smart appliances being able to “talk” by sending data over the internet, so vending machines reporting if they are out of stock, or they are too cold, or having a motion sensing heating system etc. An automated process can then be used to respond to the need.

There are so many possible applications for IoT which are now beginning to emerge. It will not be too long before we are all living in a connected home or in a smart city of the future. IoT will certainly be an exciting area to watch and to witness its acceleration into mainstream adoption. You certainly cannot stop innovation, ideas and inventions. I am sure teleportation really will one day be a possibility!

It’s not all about being able to write a programme or code

The world of tech can appear to be a bit of a maze to anyone starting out, but I am always really keen to tell everyone right away that it’s not all about being able to write a programme or code in the day to day job.

There are so many technology job roles to get involved in – for example I know lots of women in tech whose job roles range from business analyst, project manager, programme manager, systems analyst, systems designer, UX [user experience] designer, app designer, solution designer, enterprise architect to technical journalist and tech entrepreneur.

“You cannot be a woman in tech.” – “Just watch me!”

Sadly I didn’t receive much advice when starting my career in Tech. Looking back I was a bit of a maverick, always wanting to be the first to try something new. Very few girls went into tech at the time and if someone had advised “You cannot be a woman in tech” – “Just watch me!” would have been my reaction.

But the best piece of advice I would give to anyone wanting to go into tech now would be: Develop your own personal brand. You are unique and you have your own core values and passions. Search for a role that resonates with your values and passions. In the world of tech, change is happening all the time. Keep up with the changes and look for the opportunities in everything you do. Always be in control of your own destiny.

Responding to my greatest challenge by being confident, articulate and passionate

The greatest challenge I have faced as a women in tech was being asked to present at the Treasury in Whitehall to a panel of 30 executive board members of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. I presented the results of a feasibility study which my brilliant team had undertaken and I needed to convince the board that the organisation should adopt Mobile and Flexible working technologies and policies across the 80,000 workforce to improve departmental efficiency and assist civil service reform.

Although it was nerve wracking,  it was a great experience as I had won their support. The experience taught me to always be confident, believe in yourself and your tech knowledge. Be confident, articulate and passionate when you speak.

The importance of the BCS [British Computer Society] Women’s network and also the Vodafone Group Women’s Network

Both these groups provide fantastic networking opportunities and events for meeting other women across the industry and across the business. I’ve been so fortunate to meet with lots of fantastic inspiring women at these events.

I joined the committees and became active because I am really passionate about wanting to give something back to the tech industry. Whatever help or support I can offer, I will. I want to see and help more women jump on the tech career ladder too. I want them to also have the same opportunities as I did.

I have organised  a few events and so many people come along, sacrificing their precious time to listen and take part. I am so touched when people later contact me and tell me how much they enjoyed the event and learned so much from listening to real life stories from our speakers of women in tech.

Last year I organised an event on inspiring leadership, and Jeni Mundy, Vodafone Group Enterprise Product Management Director and former CTO of Vodafone UK was our main guest speaker who gave us the fabulous career advice: “Always be your authentic self.” This resonated with many of us. How often to do we try and be someone else just to fit in?

Ideas rather than plans and avoiding the dreaded “comfort zone”

Someone once advised me that I should always have a plan in life. I disappointed them by telling them I don’t really have a plan. I have ideas and there is nothing wrong with having ideas.

Despite having no plan in life, I certainly could not confine myself to a job for more than two years and settle into the dreaded “comfort zone”. Luckily the tech industry forces change on us all. So there is little opportunity for standing still. I’m always keen to progress my career, seek out possibilities where I can increase my knowledge, gain more responsibility and accountability.

More informed and richer decision making

I strongly believe in self-development and improvement, so I am currently half way through an Executive MBA at Henley Business School. I embarked on this course as I am really keen to enhance my business and commercial knowledge alongside my technology knowledge too. This will help in my future career development and allow for more informed and richer decision making.

I get a real buzz out of management and leadership in tech. People always will be a company’s greatest asset. I really enjoy managing teams, supporting them, encouraging them, watching them develop and deliver fantastic results.

The future? As a woman in tech I am enjoying the journey. The tech world is just full of so many possibilities and opportunities.

 

http://www.vodafone.com

https://twitter.com/rubiredblue

https://twitter.com/VodafoneGroup

https://www.facebook.com/vodafoneUK

https://twitter.com/bcswomen

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