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ITP Award Winners 2021 - Outstanding Contribution to an Individual’s Development
Associates / Sarah Martinez Williams

This award is presented to an individual that has helped others through development to enhance their skills, knowledge and work performance.

Commenting on her entry, the judges said, “Sarah has worked in a dynamic environment in a very challenging year to change a cultural approach.

Her ability to reach a wide breadth of experience and successfully deliver a change program is impressive. What stood out from her nomination the most was how she brought management and employees on the journey with her infectious enthusiasm.”

We chatted to Sarah to find out more about her career journey and what motivates and inspires her.

Can you tell us about your career history so far and how you got to where you are?

I started my career in the travel industry but when BT Cellnet (later to be O2) opened their contact centre in Bury, I took the opportunity to move into a fast-growing mobile market. The building was still being constructed at the time and we were flying by the seat of our pants, but it was exciting and energetic, and I loved it! I started as a customer service advisor helping customers get to grips with scratching off the top up codes and loading them into their phones. It was a brand-new world to everyone, we just had two Phillips phones on our pay and go portfolio at the time! I coached and managed several teams within customer service including the first Big Brother support team before moving into Change Management, right at the early stages of new initiatives helping shape new propositions and campaigns for our customers. I left O2 in 2005 to join BT as a team manager and the next day we became Openreach! I managed various operational teams for a while and was part of the team that stood the first fibre cabinet in Manchester, before returning ‘home’ to my change role where I am today. I wouldn’t change it for the world!

What made you want to pursue a career in telecoms?

The mobile market was shifting at a rapid rate and there was never a dull moment, I was always learning something new and that’s still the case today. There are always new, better and faster ways to communicate, and every day is a school day. Today it goes much deeper than that, it’s about the impact our job has on families, businesses, and communities. I’m super proud of what we do day in day out, particularly over these last couple of years. Keeping businesses open, children learning, families connected and not to mention the NHS critical infrastructure during the pandemic has been nothing short of incredible. My youngest son tells his friends ‘My mummy does the Wi-Fi for us’ – mum goals right there!

How has this past year been in terms of employee engagement and development?

Who hasn’t found this past year tough at times? But I consider myself extremely fortunate to work as part of an amazing team made up of the most talented, smart, funny but most importantly caring individuals who really came together and supported each other. We’ve actually become much more than colleagues and having those connections with strong leadership has been invaluable. Against the odds, we’ve achieved so much over this past year including successfully supporting and developing circa 750 leaders in Network Delivery through a 12-month behavioural learning journey.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

This award!!! I never thought in a million years that I would even be nominated but to then be shortlisted alongside some amazing people just blew me away.

Can you tell us about the biggest challenge you have faced?

Being a young woman coming into BT wasn’t easy. I had the comments, the looks, the questions about what university degree I had to ‘get in’ and sadly some people just didn’t think I was worthy of my role. Believe it or not, it was even suggested to me that I should decide whether I wanted to be a mum or have a career. Challenge accepted!

How can others inspire and develop their staff, particularly during these challenging times? What advice would you give?

Get to know them, be there, support them and have their back. Our industry is bursting with talent so look for the opportunities for our people to grow and be the best that they can be. People who are happy in their role will sparkle so I’d say look for the right position to play them in.

What would you say to young people who may be considering a career in IT and telecoms?

I don’t think there is such thing as a job for life anymore, but the world is always going to need ways to communicate so it’s as good as it gets and right at the forefront of new technologies. There is a huge variety of roles available from engineers and project managers to transformation and HR and you won’t have time to get bored!

What does winning this award mean to you?

As I’ve said before it totally took me by surprise, and I’m honoured to have won this award. The messages of support I’ve received from all over has been incredible and very humbling. I’m very lucky to do the job that I do for Openreach, and this has given me a boost in confidence to continue to be the best I can be. Well done to all the people nominated in all the categories and thank you to the ITP for the recognition.

See the full list of 2021 winners and finalists here.

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