Phoenix Group – Roxanne Ewence, Senior IT Analyst

We interviewed Roxanne Ewence, Senior IT Analyst at Phoenix Group on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.

Phoenix Group

  1. What does your job role involve?

Working in Function Management requires you to become some form of Mary Poppins… we appear in the issues and activities we are needed in, once resolved, we’re off to the next problem area.

I get involved in a wide spanning world of topics and issues, from researching and documenting required technical fixes; financials; recruitment and beyond. Function Management operates as an eclectic base of company knowledge, specialising in problem-solving skills and people management. It is a really enjoyable role due to the varied nature of the position… you never really know what fire is suddenly going to pop up that needs putting out.

Working in IT for Phoenix Group means I spend my days working alongside a fantastic lineup of colleagues who deliver incredible products to our customers. Working as part of a team who are skilled and passionate about the work they deliver is a real driver for myself and my Function Management colleagues to detect and resolve any problems and blockers as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

 

  1. What made you choose a career in technology?

In all honesty a career in technology chose me – if you’d have asked my Year 9 IT teacher if I was destined for a career in the Technology world… he probably would have laughed. Technology wasn’t in my sights until I finished college and really started thinking about my career. Being from the town of Telford one really common career route is Agriculture… so thank goodness the other common career route is Technology. Growing up every house on my street had at least one person living there who had a career in the IT world, so taking on an Apprenticeship to step into this world made perfect sense to me, and 13 years later I don’t see myself leaving the industry any time soon.

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

I did study IT up to GCSE level, I knew at that point I wasn’t passionate about what was seen to be stereotypical IT at this point in my life, so went down the route of Business Studies for my A-Levels. Several years into my career at a Technology company I decided to go about achieving a Degree in Business Management & Leadership, one fantastic element of this was that, although it was itself not a IT focused degree, I could overlay my years of IT life into my studies and see how my new skills and techniques learned could impact the real world of working in a Technology bases environment.

 

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

I was recruited into an IT company when I was 17, I spent 10 years at that company in roles such as PMO, Change Management & Business Operations. I’ve since been in my current position at Phoenix Group for nearly 3 years.

 

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

The simple and bewildering answer is yes. However it is great to see Phoenix Group taking positive steps to ensure this isn’t a question we ask in the future. I am a member of the ‘Women in Tech’ initiative at Phoenix Group and one brilliant change implemented by this team has been the update in interview setups, namely an interview must contain both a male and a female interviewer. This simple update gives a more balanced review of the interviewee, and allows an interview to take place that is conducive to a more comfortable environment.

 

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

Yes, when I started in IT I was shocked at just how many employees were male, it’s hard not to see a stereotype when that’s the environment you’re surrounded by. However, in 13 years of working in IT I have seen some incredible work delivered by men and women alike that challenges any stereotype. I’ve also seen the numbers of women in the industry increase, largely through apprenticeship schemes, grad joiners, and the incredibly impressive route of women further into their working life, upskilling and bravely taking a new direction in their careers. Life is too short for a stereotype to stop you!

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

Give women a chance to realise there is something they could become passionate about in the IT world that is worth them working towards. Historically gaming has been focused around men/boys, and this has been an opportunity for them to see what technology can do and peaks their interest from a young age. I don’t know many women that grew up feeling like the world was trying to get them interested in IT, and even when they are shown it as a career path it is just that… ‘a viable career path’. Giving girls and woman the chance to realise there is so much in the Technology Industry to be passionate and excited about would change the face of Technology and allow a new world of thinking to enter what has largely been to this day a male dominated industry.

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

I do think the IT environment could be seen to be a daunting place to have a career as woman, this is largely because it has historically been so male dominated. Being seen for your work, being valued and truly being listened to isn’t the easiest in an environment that is made up of mostly men, and knowing that work-based setting exists is a difficult one to willingly step into – those in that environment already are steadily creating a far more even playing field for those who are considering a career in Technology. At the end of the day “empowered women, empower women!”.

My team in particular within Phoenix Group IT is an equal 50/50 split of male and female team members – we have a wide range of experience and skillsets… and in all honesty we just make a brilliant team. All credit to the Manager of Function Management, he built our team into what it is today, we all have a voice and are heard, we feel supported by one another, we deliver above and beyond and we genuinely have a great time working together. I have been lucky to be a part of Function Management at Phoenix Group as it serves as a shining example of what a business looks like and how it works in such an equal environment.

When I look at my future career in tech, as well as the careers of the women around me at Phoenix Group, I am encouraged by what the future holds regarding breaking down these barriers. Schemes such as ‘Phoenix Flex’ means achieving a work/life balance is far more in our control than it ever has been before, whether it be days you work from home or how your hours are split over the course of a working week – we now have Phoenix Flex helping us to succeed in our careers and have time for a personal life without the need (as we have seen historically) to make so many sacrifices.

 

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

Show them what it looks like! It’s not just a case of turning up at career days at schools and telling them about a company. Show women at all stages of their working life what roles are available, what skills are needed to achieve high levels in these roles, and what a day in the life looks like in each of these positions. Any career move requires a personal investment to be dedicated in learning and applying new skills, and a career in Tech is a never-ending cycle of learning… for that level of investment the personal and professional benefits need to be clear and enticing.

As part of the ‘Women in Tech’ initiative I am currently working to setup sessions to advertise “a day in the life of” for the numerous different roles we have across the tech world within Phoenix Group, this will be a great opportunity for the female employees across Phoenix Group to see what careers are available, broaden their network in previously unventured areas of the company and support individuals to see a career in tech as a viable and exciting move.

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

Take the time to discover what you are passionate about! When we are young we think we need to choose a career that will be something we’ll be interested in forever, and unsurprisingly not all of those jobs are potentially achievable (speaking as someone who did not become a Hollywood Director), but we shouldn’t have started with the job as the target… we should have been looking at what individual and specific elements we are excited about. Speaking as someone who realised many years into her career that she loved problem-solving, networking, finance management, and attention to detail… these skills are actually so broad that the range and options for career opportunities are just as broad.

The result of identifying a role that incorporates the skills you feel passionate about, is you work in a company that is lucky enough to have a woman who is enthusiastic about the work she delivers.