Name: Melissa Rambridge
Role: CEO, of Surrey-based IT managed services provider, Sweethaven
Context: Following a period working in the oil and gas sector, Rambridge joined this family-run MSP's senior leadership team in 2015, and became its CEO in 2020
How did you get into the IT sector, and what led you to occupy your current role?
My grandfather and father founded the business in 1977. I, however, naively swore I would never work with my family and wanted to make my own way in the world - choosing instead to take work placements in Latin America and Spain before settling into a role in the oil & gas sector. It was only six years ago that I realised the real potential for innovation in the IT sector and the excitement that comes with working in such a high paced, fast-changing sector. It was then that I decided to (finally!) join the family business in the hope that everything I had learnt previously would bring a fresh, creative perspective to Sweethaven.
The launch of Sweethaven's new office space at the end of 2020 was a big moment for all of us; it's a huge milestone that really reflects the whole team's hard work and dedication to Sweethaven's growth and expansion within the MSP market.
Do you think the IT industry's gender diversity deficit - and diversity deficit more widely - warrants highlighting?
I do, from the perspective of the need for the 2 es: Education and Empathy! Talent recruitment and retention is hard enough in the IT industry, so I strongly believe the focus needs to be on education of a wider cross-section of the younger generation as to all their career possibilities, leaving all stereotypes behind from an early age. And the need for (non-patronising!) empathy; for people to understand that, whilst it shouldn't be, it can be intimidating for a woman to walk into a room full of men and make the right impression (I am sure it would be the same vice versa, too!).
Who is your role model?
I have two big ones! From a professional perspective, Sheryl Sandberg has been a huge inspiration - the importance she places upon female authenticity in the workplace really resonates with me. On a more personal front, it would have to be my father. I grew up seeing him graft (along with my grandparents and mother) day and night to evolve Sweethaven from a newsagents in the 1970s to the award-winning MSP it is today. If I can achieve only half of the same level of forward progression in my time, I will be very happy!
What are the key business benefits of having a diverse workforce?
So many! Ultimately a diverse workforce will deliver higher levels of creativity and innovation as more perspectives are incorporated and further serves a company in ensuring different personality types to fit with the differing personality types of your clients.
What's your top tip for tech providers that are serious about tackling their gender or diversity deficit?
Go out and speak to your local talent. Partner with schools, colleges and local outreach programmes to truly engage and help beat the formation of stereotypes from an early age. This is something Sweethaven continually strive to do through our apprenticeship programme and voluntary work with the charity "Inspiring the Future".
What is your advice to women and girls thinking about a career in the channel?
My main piece of advice would be to speak to as many people like the women listed in this article as possible, to truly understand both the potential and the challenges in the sector and to create a support network from the outset.
Who is your career mentor?
I have quite a few… approximately 85 of them in the Network Group - which has been a peer group that has been a continual source of support and advice from like-minded people since I joined the industry 6 years ago. I also have a personal mentor; Sarah Green. Sarah has run a large business herself whilst juggling family priorities and has been a huge source of support and guidance as I've sought to balance career ambition with my family life and a wonderful yet lively 5 month old!
How has Covid impacted the diversity debate?
The continued dialogue so needed to keep diversity at the foreground has been somewhat broken as the business world has gone into fire-fighting mode. Furthermore, I think there is concern from the latest statistics that women are bearing the brunt of lockdown; doing more of the childcare, chores and home-schooling. I very much hope that the "new normal" will encompass both a renewed effort to bring a diverse mixture of experience and talent to the workforce and a new take on flexible working for further enablement of all societal demographics in the workplace.
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