Kingfisher – Jess Powell, Head of Performance & Improvement

We interviewed Jess Powell, Head of Performance & Improvement at Kingfisher on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.

1. What does your job role involve?

I lead a team that empowers our Technology teams to improve their performance so that we deliver greater customer and business value. The role was new to Kingfisher Technology, so it has been a fantastic opportunity to establish a new team from scratch, creating a meaningful purpose and strategy to ensure we focus on the most valuable initiatives. We ensure we explain our Tech performance transparently by measuring what really matters, collaboratively drive improvements to optimise our effectiveness, efficiency and ensure we delivery quality Technology.


2. What made you choose a career in technology?

Technology is a huge field that is constantly changing. This means there are lots of different opportunities to make a difference, and variety that means you never get bored!


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

I did a Business & Technology GCSE and a Business studies A level. At university I did a Psychology BSC


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

After uni I started doing a contract resourcing role for a tech department. I found the variety of roles interesting and took up a IT Graduate scheme there. I moved into Business Analysis for the next decade or so, moving into different roles (Senior BA/Lead BA/BA Manager), working on a huge variety of change initiatives for Technology delivery which I loved and allowed me to develop a wide range of skills and experiences. That all helped me move into my current role as Head of Performance & Improvement for Technology.


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

Yes, particularly in certain roles.


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

Historically that’s been a challenge for STEM areas. I think that stereotype is changing, but there is more progress needed.


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

Marian Wright Edelman sums it up nicely – you can’t be what you can’t see. Women need to see other women studying and working in technology. I think there needs to be better clarity and communication about the breadth of roles in technology, not all of which are technical, how to get into them, and what difference they can make.


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

Similar to above: you can’t be what you can’t see. I think more emphasis is needed on encouraging school age girls into STEM subjects, as well opening more apprenticeship opportunities to women wanting to switch careers.


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

We need to raise the visibility of different career opportunities in tech for all genders and clearly explain the routes into a role in Tech. Women need to be aware of the exciting ways that a career in Tech can help make a difference, that there are Tech companies out there crying out for greater diversity in thinking and approaches, and that there can be flexibility to support work life balance. There are some fantastic apprenticeship opportunities that can enable a step into a new Tech career, and mentoring programmes designed to support women in Tech.


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

You are important in making a difference and shaping the future. You can do far more than you think, so push yourself to take on a new challenges, rather than focuses on what you can’t do (yet!). And there is no such thing as failure – only opportunities