ITP Award Winners 2021 - Woman in Technology Award Associates / Andrea Cavner
Can you tell us about your career history and how you got to where you are today?
I started my career 37 years ago with BT as a clerical assistant in the finance department. I was fortunate that I was able to develop my skills through various day release and night schools and qualified as a Management Accountant (ACMA). I’ve worked in finance at BT for the biggest part of my career but in the last few years I’ve moved to a business improvement and change role. In my current role, I enjoy supporting the operational teams delivering process and system improvements to enhance the customer experience, employee satisfaction and financial growth.
What attracted you to a career in IT and telecoms?
I joined BT just before privatisation and I was attracted to the stability of the company, ‘it was a job for life.' When I joined BT the service offered was simply a way for people to stay connected using the telephone (landline) however over the years we’ve seen so many advancements in technology and today the services we offer are an integral part of everyone’s life.
I’m extremely proud of being part of an organisation that keeps the UK connected and during Covid-19 the nation relied on us more than ever, keeping our customers connected whilst working from home, homeschooling, connecting the Nightingale hospital in rapid timescales and providing that much-needed communication channel with friends and families.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I’m immensely proud of the team I lead, last year the team delivered a significant financial savings whilst delivering improved processes and solutions for our customers and employees. We were a new team, we hadn’t met face to face and this was achieved during the pandemic with the team working remotely but managed to stay connected - epitomising the true value of teamwork.
Have you ever faced challenges as a woman in this industry?
Absolutely, when I first joined BT - it was a very male-dominated organisation, my managers were all men and very few women advanced to a senior level. I have a couple of examples that stick in my mind. The first was when I wanted to progress my own development and study for my CIMA qualification, I was told I could do it but I’d probably fail! The second was when I became pregnant with my first child and I was told, by my boss, that this was the worst possible thing for my career. Shocking - I know - but in some respects, it probably made me more determined to succeed. However, I was also fortunate to meet a very self-assured woman who became my manager, she was strong, resilient and she gave me the confidence that women can be successful in the workplace. I’m pleased times have changed across the industry and BT and Openreach actively encourage more women to join the sector and create a more diverse workforce.
Do you think the industry should be doing more to encourage women to pursue careers in telecoms? If so, what?
Absolutely and Openreach is actively encouraging women to take up careers in engineering and technology, last year the intake of women engineers were higher than in previous years but there is still more to do. We’re committed to building a diverse organisation where people feel confident to be themselves. Unfortunately, due to stereotypes and misconceptions, some women may not see themselves in Telecoms or Technology but the onus is on companies like Openreach and the wider sector to challenge these stereotypes. Sharing stories of successful women in the workplace, promoting women in senior positions and offering them more visibility are a few examples of ways to encourage more women to join our industry. Also work closer with schools, include more technology modules in the curriculum and feature women speakers at career fairs could help.
How important is mentoring to you?
I believe having a mentor is important but what is equally important is understanding what you want from a mentor. Mentoring can happen in different guises, one to one coaching, job shadowing or a more formal structured review of an individual’s development plan. I also believe networking can be just as important and my managing director recently shared this African proverb, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.' This resonates with me and I value the connections I have made throughout my career. In today’s world, it’s so easy not to pick up the phone or go for a coffee with somebody but this form of interaction is really important to build relationships, support personal growth and makes you visible to those who can influence your career. Remember every interaction counts, make it a positive one.
What would you say to other women considering a career in this industry? Where should they begin?
I truly believe working for Openreach and being part of the fibre revolution is a job through which you can make a difference to people’s lives and leave a legacy for decades to come. I would encourage women to find out more about the opportunities, talk to people in the industry, use LinkedIn to search for roles, be brave, be bold and make the move.
What does winning the award mean to you?
I was very honoured to have won the award, the comments and the support have been incredibly humbling. I’m hoping that sharing my career journey can inspire and attract females into the technology and telecoms sector and give them the confidence in knowing they can advance to a senior position.
See the full list of 2021 winners and finalists here.