I’ve worked at Nominet for almost 24 years, having applied for an entry level role straight out of university because I was eager to start earning, plus Oxford sounded like an exciting place to be after four years in Aberdeen. I had no expectations, to be honest, but it proved to be such a rewarding place to work that I haven’t been able to leave. When I joined we were like a start-up, just a small team, which meant there were loads of opportunities to get involved with different things as the business developed. I’ve done all sorts of roles over the years but really feel I’ve found my niche now as Head of Audit and Risk.
Looking back, I think I’ve always had the skills for working in continuity and risk. I’m very organised and pragmatic, and good at planning and communicating with other people. Most importantly – especially when you are constantly considering the worst-case scenario – I can keep a cool head in a crisis. But it’s not all disaster planning; my role covers everything from conducting audits and risk assessments, to business continuity planning for events like office closure “snow days”.
The past year has been incredibly busy with Covid-19, but it’s been satisfying to see that all the emergency planning we’ve done for so long pay off enormously: the business handled the transition to remote working incredibly smoothly, with no down time. Business continuity is critical at Nominet because the work we do supports and protects millions of people and businesses. Knowing that my work really matters – and to see it perform in practice this past year – is so rewarding and one of the reasons I love my job.
I never had any sort of career plan as a young person; I just kept my eyes open for the next opportunity to do something interesting and learn something new. As a child I loved languages, picking up Spanish from my South American mum and French on our many European holidays. This led to me picking European Studies at university initially, hoping to spend all day speaking to people in Spanish and French, but it wasn’t like that at all! It made me realise that communicating with others and learning how societies past and present operate was what I most enjoyed, and not studying French literature, so I switched to History and Politics.
The internet was fledgling when I was at university and we used it occasionally for research, although the content on it was pretty basic – you’d rather go to the library. The one thing I got excited about was being able to use the UNIX terminals in the computer centre to message friends in different parts of the country; again, it’s all about communication for me. It was fun and I enjoyed learning how to do it, but I certainly never expected to spend 24 years with a technology company that runs the national internet infrastructure.
The technology sector is completely fascinating; it’s constantly re-inventing itself, and it’s been incredible to be involved in it for so long, watching it infiltrate every single aspect of our lives. As a woman in the sector, I’ve always been in the minority, but it’s never bothered me and no one has ever treated me any differently than they would a man. It’s your performance and output that matters at Nominet, not who you are. I’ve had two children and reduced my hours to part-time over the years and have been fully supported throughout. I’m really lucky to be able to do a job I love in the hours I want so I can spend time with my children; it’s fantastic to have an employer who understands the importance of family.
Young people shouldn’t think the tech industry is only fun for programmers and coders; that’s not me at all but I find working in the sector so rewarding and so interesting. I have learnt some technical bits and bobs over the years, but at heart I’m a strategist and organiser, a great communicator who can act almost as a ‘translator’ between the technical people and the non-technical people. The best way to approach your career is to identify your skills and then be open-minded about the opportunities you come across. You never know what role might be the best fit, helping you to have an impact and enjoy yourself along the way. I certainly didn’t – but I seized opportunities and discovered the role that is totally ‘me’.