Kingfisher – Sinead O’Donnell, Engineering Manager

We interviewed Sinead O’Donnell, Engineering Manager at Kingfisher Group Technology on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.

1. What does your job role involve?

My role involves managing a team of Lead Engineers and Technical Leads, who in turn manage Software Engineers. I cover the Software Delivery Lifecycle, Ways of working, People management of all areas, including pastoral care, engagement, performance mgt, recruitment, career development etc. I am also heavily involved in the working relationship with one of our key outsourcing partners in Europe.
I also get involved in developing and implementing the Engineering Strategy and taking a longer-term view of how my teams will be engaged and working in the future.


2. What made you choose a career in technology?

I had a ‘knack’ in IT related areas in my administration roles early in my career (intranet site administration for example), and when I was a single mother of 2 at age 27, I wanted a better future and path for my family, so I started a part-time Foundation Degree in Computing & Internet Technology. The Screwfix call centre was my ‘uni’ job! 16 years later, I’m still here!


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

Not at GCSE, I have no A levels, I have the foundation degree as mentioned above I gained in my late 20’s as a mature student.


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

I didn’t get any work experience before moving into Application Support (L2) in Screwfix toward the end of my foundation Degree.


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



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

Yes, especially in my area, things are changing, slowly, however, it’s still very male oriented.


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

Change the culture, the original programmers were women, the culture seemed to change when computer games were all the rage, and it became ‘boys’. I have daughters and even at 6, the boys are on Fortnite, and the girls are playing with dolls, it’s ingrained before they are even aware.


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

Culture, attitude, the section in job ads (not ours) asking for a computer science degree as part of application.


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

Start young, make it cool, make it accessible.

Make it flexible, an engineer could be coding at midnight. The working hours around some tech roles could be 100% flexible with the right company approach, why not make it as flexible as the MLM selling roles traditionally sold to women as an option.


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

Set your stall out early, have clear boundaries (this applies in all areas of life)

Work sustainably, I have a 24 hour contract, and I work hard to maintain these hours. I know that if I were to be full-time, there would be an expectation of unpaid overtime, that doesn’t seem fair to the full-timers!

Call out unfairness or prejudice where you see it, and if it doesn’t change, fight for change or move on, don’t let it go on forever and wear you down.

Find other women within your team, I’ve worked in many male oriented fields and whilst it can be fun to join in the banter have really great working relationships with men, the value I’ve gained from having a network of women in IT has been far more valuable than I could have imagined.

Payback, there have been women who have helped me along the way, so when I can, or I see an opportunity, I try to support others on their way up too

Find your passion and follow it, you’ll be working for a long time, make sure you enjoy it.