Capco – Madeleine J Howard, Managing Principal & UK Head of Technology Delivery

We interviewed Madeleine J Howard, Managing Principal & UK Head of Technology Delivery/OSS Management at Capco on her thoughts and experience on women in tech.

1. What does your job role involve?

My role has varied a lot over the years as it is shaped and driven by innovation and complex change within financial services. Predominately my experience lends itself to the delivery of large-scale technology focused projects, with a regulatory/audit requirement underpinning those change programmes.
I have been fortunate to lead large teams to deliver a diverse set of solutions and change across multiple client engagements. I currently lead the OSS Management capability for Capco which has successfully implemented Functional Operating Models for the integration of Open Source Software Security Management processes, tools and automation within the financial sectors SDLC cycle.

 

2. What made you choose a career in technology?

If I am honest it initially chose me, and was unavoidable based given the period during which I began my career. Technology was the ‘new’ answer to many high volume/manual operating processes in the mid-1990s and my business, operational and product knowledge enabled me to translate between the two worlds. Despite not actively making the choice initially, I made the decision to remain aligned to technology as it constantly engages me – and I tend to get bored quickly! I also enjoy technology’s transformative potential to enable solutions to a myriad of problems, whether business, product or regulatory in nature, for the benefit of clients and their customers.

 

3. Did you study an IT or technology related subject at GCSE, A-Level or University?

No. I went into banking young, and when I was at school there was no GCSE for computing – the ICT suite was green screen 1 terminal per 10 and basic. The explosion in the use of Microsoft software and the internet in banking only happened around 1993-94. For context, I used basic green screen updates (with no CDU functionality) in my product and operational roles for the first six years before moving into an area call Business, Process, Design and Technology in 1994.

 

4. Did you get any work experience in IT or technology before this role?

That BPDT role was my first role technology experience in a bank and I have remained associated and aligned to Business and Technology Change throughout my career.

 

5. Do you think there is a lack of females in the IT and tech sector?

I do believe there is a lack of senior female representation in technology. In the Nineties through into the early 2000s that was the case across all levels, so the industry has done well in targeting women early on in their careers to try and rectify that deficit. However, this has not translated into leadership roles, and we need to do better.

 

6. Do you find there is a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men?

Yes, there is a stereotype that technology is deemed too ‘complex’ or uninteresting for women and (sadly) due to this propaganda some women choose not to explore the discipline in earnest.

 

7. What would entice women to study technology related courses?

A simplification and demystification of certain topics would help. There can be an intellectual arrogance associated with technology subjects. I have always had the greatest regard for those male senior technology colleagues who took the time over the years to break down the complexity. On the other hand, I have in the past been tested by male technology Project Managers on my understanding and credentials, despite having a career and CV which matches or extends beyond their own capabilities or skillsets. Fortunately this happens less today, which shows progress is being made.

 

8. Are there barriers when it comes to women getting into tech?

There are fewer barriers today than 25 years ago, however, there is still a ceiling between junior and more senior roles. I do not fully understand why – I can only put it down to lack of acknowledgement and promotional opportunity perhaps? On my journey, I was conscious of the lack of female representation and people who will step up as mentors, and I had to push hard to be heard or taken seriously.

 

9. How could we encourage more women to start a career in tech?

We need more woman who have charged through and made a senior-level career for themselves who can encourage and mentor other women on their journeys. We also require more male allies at the CIO/CTO and CEO level to actively promote and encourage female representation within industry and across high-profile IT programmes and innovation projects.

 

10. What advice would you give to young women at the start of their career?

This is certainly a broad question and doesn’t just cover IT. However, here goes:

  • Trust your instincts and your awareness – do not be put off by others who challenge your intellect, as nine times out of 10 you will have prepped and understood the complexity better than most!
  • Remain authentic and true to who you are, despite the challenges and (mis)perceptions coming at you.
  • As you progress, positively identify and enable other women to attain senior opportunities and support their success.
  • Be courageous in the room in stating your theory or point of view – women have to do better at carving out space to make our voices heard in technology.
  • Finally, always retain a solid sense of humour. The ability to laugh at oneself and difficult situations can be a tonic for you, diffusing tension and enabling free thinking and innovation, and also demonstrates humanity and kindness to those you are leading as you deliver great things together!