Women in Tech: Claire Vyvyan

Senior VP at Dell EMC, Claire Vyvyan, discusses her career as a woman in the tech industry

What does your job involve?

Being the Senior VP and General Manager at Dell EMC, I help with the management of the UK & Ireland Commercial business on behalf of all our stakeholders, including customers, partners, the Dell EMC team and our owner. In my role, I help to support our customers’ businesses with their digital transformation and IT requirements, by provisioning innovative solutions and ongoing support – from design to deployment as well as after implementation. I also deliver the fiscal plan for our shareholders. 

I am extremely focused on making Dell EMC a great place to work – to provide and engender an outstanding working environment, where team members can deliver their best work on behalf of our customers and partners. This includes supporting and providing opportunities for team development in terms of upskilling and career progression.
What is your favourite part of your role?

I love all parts of my job, but I particularly enjoy those moments when our teams create and deploy solutions which exceed our customers’ expectations.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

The most frustrating part of the job is when customers fail to recognise how critical great technology is to their customers and to their own team members. Some companies still buy technology based on price, rather than its ability to enhance the experience of their customers and employees – which is a complete false economy.

What inspired you to do what you do?

I have always loved technology and the development of new technology innovations continues to excite me every day. What inspires me the most is its ability to advance every day, which is not only helping to change the world, but also improve lives. For example, we have been working with Genomics England to collect DNA sequences of 70,000 NHS cancer and rare disease patients and their families, to help develop new disease diagnostics and create more personalised treatments. Technology has already evolved so much in my 30-year career in the industry!
What education options did you choose to get your role?

At A-Level, I chose to study Maths, Physics and Geography. I then went on to study a first degree in Sports Science (my other love) and Mathematics. Because of my passion for technology, I decided to educate myself further and did a post-graduate Master’s degree in Computer Sciences.

When you were considering your options, who influenced you? Were there any barriers to STEM in education?

I was fully supported by my father to study Mathematics at University. However, I studied the subjects that I was good at and I loved.

What would you say to girls considering their education options?

To any girls looking at their future education options, first and foremost, I would recommend studying subjects you love and are interested in. Don’t let peer pressure or teachers change your mind – if you love Maths and the Sciences pursue them. The ability of Science and Technology to change the world and solve the world’s biggest challenges is huge – and so is the route to exciting, highly rewarding, hugely creative and well-paid careers.

What might put them off a STEM career? How can these barriers be overcome?

It is crucial to get outstanding teachers of Maths and Sciences in to schools. We need all children to understand these subjects and their role in the development of mankind, but we also need children who are talented at these subjects to be inspired to follow them further and ensure the UK continues to build a large talent pool in Science and Technology. Females are currently under-represented at the highest levels of IT, but we are beginning to see more female names pop up – from the likes of Sheryl Sandberg, Jo Bertram and our own Karen Quintos. By encouraging more girls in STEM, it will enhance the economy and bring high paid jobs in to the UK.

The tech industry also needs to engage with girls about their future early on to combat the stereotypes and demonstrate the scope of opportunities that are available – so making the subject more appealing to girls whilst as school. They all Tweet, are on Instagram, use Snapchat and so on yet they aren’t pursuing it as a subject. It’s not enough to encourage more women to join the IT industry, nor to support them once they are involved. We must tackle the stereotypes associated with the IT industry from a young age and let girls know that IT and the technology industry is no longer just about men sitting in dark rooms coding, but is shaping societies, cultures and people. Parents also have a duty to overcome the same unconscious biases.

At Dell, we partner with schools, supporting graduate scheme programmes and running mentoring programmes with inspirational women within the business. For example, we have an initiative called ‘IT is not for Geeks’, where staff visit schools and speak to students preparing to select their GCSE and A-Level topics. The sessions are designed to encourage students to pick STEM subjects early in their studies and demystify believes about a career in the IT sector.

What needs to change to retain more women in STEM careers?

There are a few things that need addressing in order to help retain more women in STEM careers. One example is that there needs to be more equality in maternity and paternity pay and also better child care arrangements for working women. Better flexible working arrangements will allow both parents to balance parental responsibilities with their passion for work.

And it’s not just women who need to advocate this change – men need to help too. It is the responsibility of both men AND women leaders to inspire young individuals and help them to understand the exciting opportunities that a career in IT holds. Communities like MARC (Men Advocating Real Change) are helping to achieve fairer opportunities in the workplace. Dell supports female entrepreneurs in the workplace through Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) – a community helping to connect female entrepreneurs across the globe with networks, sources of capital, knowledge and technology, giving them the power to do more.

It’s a huge advantage being a woman in technology, because you stand out. There is still some work to be done to get more women in STEM, but it’s a challenge that I hope more men and women choose to take on.

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