Innovation and inspiring talent

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It’s our differences that make a difference.

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have endured a career in Information Technology for many years. At university, I decided that I was interested in pursuing a career in technology and haven’t regretted my decision. Since joining Pearson four years ago, I have had the opportunity to experience how technology is leveraged to fuel the education business. It’s remarkable that millions of learners globally depend on Pearson’s technology platforms to acquire knowledge essential in growing their careers. At Pearson, the technology team is at the heart of our digital transformation and we are challenged every day to find innovative ways to learn and exploit new and emerging technology and trends. Examples of these technologies are Big Data & Analytics through Robotic Process Automation, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.

As part of my role, I have a highly rewarding and demanding responsibility of nurturing and inspiring talent. This is an essential part of leadership, but as a woman who has experienced many years in the technology field, I understand how critical it is for me to prioritize this as it can’t be tackled by a rule book or process.

We’ve recently seen many headlines regarding the scant number of women pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). There are many reasons why girls aren’t deciding to pursue degrees in technology and when they do choose to enter a technology career, there are many more reasons for why they decide to change course early in their careers.

During the journey, many women continue to be affected by explicit and implicit biases that impact their decision to continue with a degree or a career in technology. Sometimes these biases are the catalyst to barriers of success, and more often than not, it’s women who become the casualties of this. It’s important that we intervene prior to this resulting in a loss of confidence and a feeling of not being “good enough” to excel in the field of technology — ultimately a tremendous loss of talent.

I am inspired by the growing number of initiatives out there to reach young people who have the odds stacked against them. I advocate for men and women to lift as they climb. Zerin Azun Karim, senior portfolio analyst in tech operations at Pearson, found her way into technology after working at the Genius Bar in an Apple store. Today, Zerin mentors other Bangladeshi women as they navigate STEM careers. It’s hugely encouraging to see talent like Zerin at Pearson, and she’s also made a point to help others facing the same odds she did. I really encourage you to listen to Nevertheless, a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology, to learn more about Zerin’s story.

Embracing innovation is also a critical part of success. Overcoming barriers — with or without the help of others — to get your foot in the door is only the start of the battle. Technology is changing and the world at large is changing at an unprecedented speed. In this climate it’s critical that our thinking changes too so that we can keep pace and succeed in an aggressively competitive environment. Technology is not going to wait for us to catch up and I’ve adapted my own style throughout my career. I applaud individuals that push against the status quo, positively disrupting business as usual. Speaking out and trying new things can be daunting, especially at companies that have existed for over a hundred years, but that makes thinking differently all the more urgent and necessary. The stakes are higher, but so are the rewards.

As a leader, the job of creating an environment where people feel safe and challenging norms rests on my shoulders. It’s simply impossible to tap into the creativity of seasoned professionals if they’re constantly desk-bound, number crunching, fire-fighting or in fear of breaking protocol. There’s equally no incentive for creativity if we solely reward or recognize people for immediate, tangible results. I’m proud to work for a company that recognizes that it’s our differences that make the difference.

I urge everyone reading this to join me in opening doors for others when and where they can. I encourage you to think big and take calculated risks — everyone will be better for it. After all, innovation has no barriers, except those put up by people.

Nevertheless is a a podcast celebrating the women transforming teaching and learning through technology. Supported by Pearson. Subscribe on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, Soundcloud, TuneIn or RadioPublic.