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Q&A with Nikki Wilton, Global Sales & Marketing Director, Technology Services, Xchanging

Q&A with Nikki Wilton, Global Sales & Marketing Director, Technology Services, Xchanging

Nikki Wilton, Sales & Marketing Director, Technology Services, Xchanging, a CSC Company, was recently added to the prestigious Women in FinTech 2016 Power list. Unlike most lists, which are compiled by a panel of judges, the influential women included in this list were nominated by their peers, both men and women. She was chosen along with her CSC marketing colleague, Paula Wilson. We sat down with Nikki to ask how women positively impact the technology industry and what inspires her to work in this sector.

What inspires you about your role?

Don’t you just love the way that the world is changing through technology. I can’t wait to get my driverless car, no quips about parking, then log into everything with my thumb print; no more sudden and inexplicable password memory failures.  Amazon will tell me what everyone wants for Christmas (virtual queueing is great). The day is close when my “stuffed in the back of a drawer” activity monitor (so yesterday) points out that not only do I need to run round the block five times,  but also tells me I need Vitamin C, otherwise I am going down with Christmas flu just before the party season……..well, what would you do? Take it of course.

We could do all of these things right now, perhaps with the exception of the Vitamin C alert.

Proactively embracing technology and standing in the shoes of the consumer is now the difference between success and failure. Business models are transforming, and industries are turning upside down and inside out. Spending 80% of the IT budget just keeping the lights on is yesterday’s solution.

The conversation in IT over the last 20 years has undergone a monumental change, and the industry is trying much harder to represent its consumer. Around 60% of consumers are women, so I can’t think of a better place to be.

My job is to work with our clients on the art of the possible. That can mean anything from working on commercial alternatives to customer engagement opportunities. My role also involves coaching sales people to really understand the industries that they support and how they can add value. We just launched a solution that shows how your customer interacts with you throughout your channels, maps and measures their experience and delivers the insight to make it seamless. This transformation conversation is the most exciting bit; imagine how powerful that information is for product design, customer retention and ease of doing business – it definitely wasn’t a conversation we were having five years ago.

You are on the Women in FinTech list, what does this mean to you?

There are lots of us! Brilliant women are making a huge difference in how the world works.  The Women in FinTech list demonstrates that even though diversity could be better, women have a place at the table. The list itself, and the number of women on it demonstrate just how important our contribution is to this industry.  

What do you find interesting about working in the technology industry?

The pace and the impact that technology has on every aspect of our daily lives, and how my customers have to totally re-think how they engage with their consumers to deliver the ultimate experience.

Years ago, technology companies focused on the wires and the internal systems. Now with the internet, technology companies have transformed industries and the economy, bringing competition from the most unexpected places. These days it’s rarely a discussion about “nuts and bolts”, now it’s about service everywhere, on demand, segmentation, customer experience, collaboration and having transparent results. Nowadays, you can start up a company in 24 hours, buy the software you need on demand, create your application and operate your shop window from the internet. Uber and Airbnb have yet to celebrate their ten year anniversaries, but they have both radically changed their respective industries, offering a totally different experience with a new take on their chosen markets.

Watching technology fundamentally and dynamically change our experience of an industry and to be part of that transformation is a huge privilege.

Did you choose a career in the technology industry?

Tech wasn’t really a choice; it just happened, and I don’t ever remember anyone suggesting it as a career, or really getting much career advice. When I first moved to London, I started temping and ended up at Racal British Rail Telecommunications – and it just went from there. I worked my way up to senior account manager, and I still have a soft spot for the railways and particularly the British Transport Police. Their response during the Paddington Rail Crash made a huge impression on me, and being able to support their effort, even in a small way, made for a very satisfying job.

Careers advice now available to girls still seems a bit limited. My two nieces, both young teenagers, when asked about what they want to do as a career, both say “I don’t know, a doctor I think.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that, but the “I don’t know” suggests that there is still much work to do in broadening the aspirations of the next generation, showing them the diversity of jobs out there.

How do you see the current state of play for women in technology?

Until very recently, I’d never really given being a woman in technology much thought. I mean, apart from the obvious differences, I had always had the opinion that everyone made their own luck, career choices and got to where they are on their own merits. That was until two things happened in my career. I sat on the Xchanging Steering Committee for Diversity and also became part of a pilot leadership development programme called Women in Action sponsored by Xchanging’s CEO. Both have been illuminating. We run our course in a virtual classroom; the debate is lively and we are all thinking and acting differently as a result. In a nutshell, the statistical evidence points to the fact that companies who embrace diversity are far more successful, but the statistics also tell us that it just doesn’t happen. The Women in Action course looks at how and why women might be inadvertently holding themselves back, simply because we act and express ourselves differently.

There are some great programmes out there to encourage women and especially girls still at school to consider a career in technology. Programmes, such as WISE, which inspire girls to study STEM subjects, and Girls in Tech, a global schools programme to encourage girls to think about the industry.

How can schools play a bigger role in informing girls about careers in technology?

Participate in this fantastic free resource now! https://www.techfuturegirls.com Jacqui Fergusson, SVP & GM of HPE (HP Enterprise) is a passionate supporter and role model for this initiative which works with around 4,500 schools in the UK. TechFuture Girls is THE opportunity to open those doors. If it’s not available at your school, it’s time you asked why not.

What do you think women bring to the technology industry?

Drive, passion and commitment; the same as any man. But we generally ask more questions, are very collaborative, spend more time in preparation and represent the hearts and minds of the consumer. Our barriers to success tend to be confidence and a wariness of self-promotion, coupled with a lack of financial acumen – this excellent TED video - The Career Advice You Probably Didn’t Get – is very thought provoking:

Diversity is near the top of the agenda for lots of tech companies. Some even have bonuses directly linked to achieving these targets, and why wouldn’t it be if, as evidence suggests, the core skills of a diverse workforce (including women), deliver improved profitability. Who could argue with that?!

Do you have any female business role models?

Nathalie Massenet, Cheryl Sandberg, Cara Delevingne - all of them have embraced technology in different ways to change the world.

How do you inspire women and men in your current role?

Listening, communicating at every level and following up. If I make a promise, I try to keep it, and hopefully I inspire my teams to achieve things that they never thought were possible. Early on in my career, the CEO of the company that I worked for presented his “Big Hairy Audacious Goals”. It made me laugh, and I have never forgotten that message. I try to hear everyone, make strategic decisions that are underpinned by numbers everyone can understand and ensure that those goals are shared. It’s an age-old adage, but if we are on the bus, we can all make the same destination on time.

What advice would you give to young women considering a career in technology?

Read Mrs. Moneypenny's Careers Advice for Ambitious Women, avoiding Chapter 3 unless you’re related to royalty; the rest is good. Some quick advice:

  1. Always understand the numbers, no excuses.  
  2. Find yourself a mentor, but preferably a sponsor. It doesn’t have to be formal, but feedback and guidance will open your eyes and are invaluable.
  3. Get in front of the customer, get to know them – what drives them, what are their problems, what do their customers want and need. The only reason to exist is to solve their problems. You don’t have to be in sales to do that, but be cognizant that without sales there is no business.

Are you part of any networking groups for women in technology? If so, how do you benefit from them?

I’m part of Steel Magnolias. A very small network of great global contacts who are always there, whatever the weather.

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