I’ve been very lucky in my career and regularly get asked to talk about all aspects of tech.
In January this year I joined Manchester-based Infinity Works as a managing consultant, having previously held senior roles at Codurance, Thoughtworks and Vodafone.
However, if I could go back and give advice to my 21-year-old self it would be not to say yes to everything and be brave to speak up about your needs when you’re trying to establish yourself.
My story went like this. After graduating from university I was desperate to get out career starting blocks with a bang.
After completing my undergraduateship at Liverpool John Moores University I did my Masters at Leeds Metropolitan University and I was highly focussed on securing my first role in tech.
My first step on the ladder was as a business analyst for LogicaCMG, based out of their London office. Back then I was very much in awe of the glitz and the glamour of my new city corporate life.
However, the glitz soon started to fade when my new corporate consultancy life saw me travelling for months on end to parts of the country previously unknown to me. I’ve lost count of the nights I spent at the Travelodge at Washington, in Tyne and Wear!
I would be up at 5am each Monday to travel up the A1 in my small Peugeot 106 or at Stockport station for 5.30am to catch a train to London, or wherever I was posted at the time.
I would spend my Sundays packing my bag and worrying about not being up in time for the required Monday morning travel plans.
Anyone who has had this life understands how the Monday dread impacts the quality of any Sunday. Your weekend is that tiny point between whatever time you land back on a Friday and midday Sunday when the feelings of panic about your Monday travels start to kick in.
The absolutely ridiculous thing about this scenario and a lifestyle of always prioritising work, was that there was a company office less than one mile from where I lived!
The other punchline about all of this was that because I was based out of the London office, anytime I travelled down south for work, as I remained living in Manchester the whole time, I paid for all my own travel expenses. Trust me, there isn’t money to throw about at this stage in your career.
The reason I accepted both of these scenarios and I didn’t ask to be relocated to the office within walking distance from my flat, or the fact I absorbed all my travel costs, was because I was terrible at speaking up.
I believed that the power dynamic was that I should be grateful to even have the role and career that I had. For me to question anything about changing the status quo around my role and working conditions, would seem like I was ungrateful.
Back then I didn’t want my managers and company thinking I wasn’t appreciative of the opportunity.
It’s taken me 20 years to build the confidence (yes even for an extrovert like me) to actually speak up about things that would personally work for me.
We all know that happy and fulfilled employees are the ones who are energised and motivated to deliver for any employer.
Yet still so many years on, it’s always hard for me to speak up and state what would work for me in the workplace, in order to turn up as my best self in any role.
It’s great to reflect and see how not just the ways of working, reduction of ridiculous commutes and time away from home, has changed over the last 20 years (especially during the last two).
It is also great to see how the working generations behind me are now finding their voice, they are speaking up for what works for them. The power balance and dynamic is changing in favour of employees and companies are hearing what is being said and asked for, so people can feel valued, understood and consequently bring their best, energised selves to work.
The days 5am drives up the A1 and an Alan Partridge-style lifestyle in small, budget hotel rooms are fewer and farer between.
So in light of all this, my words to my 21-year-old self, would definitely be ‘slow down, your career is a marathon, not a sprint, find time for yourself and speak up for what you need, you never know what an open honest conversation with your employer may lead to’.