Meet the CIO accelerating digital change for business: Helena Nimmo, Endava, talks about her journey into tech and lessons learned from the industry.
Accidental Foray into Tech
I began my career in technology quite by accident when I joined Nokia in the 1990s. The decision to take that role changed my life forever, leading me to become an advocate of the importance of people-focused technology, and since those early years when I ‘cut my teeth’, I’ve gone on to work with some of the biggest brands in the world, like Fujitsu and Thompson Reuters.
Now I’m paving the way to deliver digital evolution, agile transformation and automation solutions at Endava. Our mission is to reimagine the relationship between people and technology; something I’ve been doing since my first day at Nokia!
‘The Keys’ to Success
I’m often asked about what’s gotten me to where I am, and while there’s no ‘silver bullet’ to success, I’d place being adaptable, determined and having a positive attitude high on the list. At the same time, success is a shared experience, so having a supportive network of friends, family and colleagues to give me guidance or a boost when needed, has played a huge part in my career.
Frankly, I find it painful that in 2021 we’re still having the conversation about gender-related professional challenges, but sadly it remains an important conversation to have. A 2020 study by the AnitaB.org Institute found that women make up just 28.8% of the tech workforce, a steady increase from the past few years — 25.9% in 2018 and 26.2% in 2019, but still a drastic minority. These disparities tell me there’s still much to be done, and at this pace it could take decades for women to gain equal representation in tech. That is something I simply won’t accept.
It may not surprise you to know I’ve encountered my share of gender-related challenges during my career. A particularly challenging moment was upon my return from maternity leave, when I was offered a role with much less responsibility to the one I had previously. To me, this signaled that the company I worked for at the time didn’t think I could be both a mother and manage the demands of my professional responsibilities. I refused to accept this and resolved the issue by proving those ‘nay-sayers’ wrong. I think that’s a key lesson for any women in business – let alone technology – not to ignore those opposing views, but instead focus on doing what you know you can to prove them wrong.
Navigating ‘What Next’ Post-Pandemic
Since becoming the CIO at Endava, I have been faced with a healthy balance of challenge and opportunity. I joined in 2019, so the pandemic has probably been the biggest challenge so far as we’ve moved to get everyone setup to work from home and adapt working processes and technology to be able to maintain months of remote working. I’d bet that was the most challenging piece for any leader: to maintain your teams’ motivation and focus in so much uncertainty.
People often ask me “what next?”. As a CIO, I think the role has been evolving for years now so there is plenty to keep me busy every day. The growth potential within tech roles has increased and as we continue to lead digital-first lives, this will only continue.
As a ‘woman in tech’ and in the 30 years since I entered the industry, the overarching theme of my career has been to find enjoyment in what I’m doing. The only way I know how to do that, and my advice to other women in tech, is simple: “be yourself”. I’ve always been passionate about my work, technology and leadership – being able to take people on a journey and motivate them, is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Finding something that creates that sense of passion for you is what will power your career journey. It’s that simple.