Chief executive, Daisy Corporate Services
Name: Stefni Oliver
Role: CEO of Daisy Corporate Services (DCS)
Context: Recently demerged from Daisy, DCS employs around 1,100 staff and boasts revenues of circa £210m. Oliver joined Daisy in 2003, and has been DCS' CEO since 2018.
Career highlight so far:
My favourite memories are of the early days at Daisy in the early noughties when we were a tiny team (blessed with much youthful energy!), with a business growing so fast we could barely keep up with it. Both the passion and camaraderie were immeasurable and we had so much FUN! Most of us are still here but all grown up with families to go home to instead of mud wrestling in the car park after work! The most important factor for me however, is the lifelong friends I have made here who have added so much to my life in so many ways, regardless of what job role I have been in. We lost our dear friend and colleague Mark Hickey recently, bringing this factor very close to many of our hearts.
Who is your role model?
I don't get hung up on role models, but I do have ever-changing heroes! My current love is "The Iceman" Wim Hof. Google him. Total legend, incredibly humble, absolutely lovely and hilarious, and has taken a horrible tragedy and somehow turned it into scientific discoveries that can help every person on the planet significantly improve their health and wellbeing - for free. He's made it his life's mission to get this information out into the world. He's just such a dude, and whilst I love his breathing exercises, taking his recommended cold shower every day is much less enjoyable, but it does make me feel fantastic afterwards!
Do you think the IT industry's gender diversity deficit - and diversity deficit more widely - warrants highlighting?
I usually avoid engaging on this subject as I find it irritating - I will explain why. I fully appreciate the existence of archaic attitudes towards other humans, but for so many reasons, not just gender. Therefore, surely addressing the underlying reasons for prejudice in society as a whole should be the focus rather than zooming in on one particular niche (gender) in one sector of industry (IT). That said, I also totally understand that by doing this, people feel they are making some contribution to the greater good in the one area they may have some influence. I do also feel that as society continues to grow and evolve, these attitudes will continue to fall away, but without understanding how they are fostered in the first place and addressing it, we could quite easily birth many new prejudices with each new generation.
There is often a danger when campaigning to address an issue, that the campaign starts to unintentionally portray its focus group as victims and leaves them feeling patronised. I don't personally feel oppressed and don't want to be pitied for anything, nor do I want women as a whole to be pitied just for being women. I also don't want to be celebrated for achieving something just because I'm not a man (so what?) or to be appointed into a role purely as a token tick-box exercise. I would much rather have no role at all than that role, thank you! Women are awesome, men are awesome, anyone who fits in-between or outside of the two are awesome. Can we move on now and let our children enter the workforce not having to worry about any of this?
Mostly I get irritated because I don't want to get embroiled in some distracting noise around anissue that I feel I can impact more if I just concentrate on doing my job well. And also by ensuring I have a business that is as free from personal prejudice and judgement as possible when it comes to making employee-impacting decisions.
Back to the question, I don't see anywhere near the imbalance that there was a couple of decades ago. When I look at my own business and then at my supplier and vendor partner peers, I see a diverse mix of genders. We have the likes of Anne Sheehan at Vodafone, Angela Whitty at Cisco, Alex Tempest at BT Wholesale, Tristia Harrison at TalkTalk - all great female leaders, doing their thing and doing it well. I've yet to see any evidence to show that gender is relevant as an indication of capability for a (non-physically challenging) role, but I have seen plenty of evidence to show that diverse teams perform better. This makes perfect sense; our brain synapses fire differently across genders - different brains can bring different perspectives to a team, which is why I also feel strongly that teams should also have a mix of personality types, ages and experience. too.
Hopefully, society isn't too far away from moving into a place where this issue becomes a non-issue and all humans are judged on their attitude and capability for a role rather than worrying about what is between someone's legs or any other naturally occurring state that we have little to no control over!
What is your advice to women and girls thinking about a career in the channel?
The same as I would any other young human - be yourself and don't try and act like someone else or like you think people would expect you to act. You may think you're a good actor but trust me, people can sense disingenuous behaviour and you'll fit in with your team much more easily and perform much better in your role if you just relax and bring your whole self to work - you are enough! Concentrate on doing the best you can in your role and keep learning and improving to be the best version of yourself that you can be. Leave your ego at the door, collaborate, and do your bit to foster and maintain an environment where ideas are shared and debated to crowdsource the best possible answer to a problem. Self-interest stands out like a sore thumb when everyone else is working together towards a common goal - please don't be that clown!