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“There Are Still Many Causes Worth Sacrificing For, So Much History Yet To Be Made.” – An Interview With Gill Cooke

“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.” – An interview with Gill Cooke

Since starting Women Rock the group has grown and grown and has introduced me and the girls to some unbelievable women further afield then just Bristol, where we originally started. We are super lucky to have Gill in the Women Rock network and an inspirational role model for the tech industry. Gill isn’t just a Digital and Agile transformation leader, head of planning and delivery at Three, she is also leading the Women in Tech within the business and also the Founder of STEMConnext.  How she does it all as well as bringing up two girls is very impressive and her story even more so. Thanks so much Gill, looking forward to collaborating together soon.

As the Head of Planning and Delivery at Three, what does your day to day look like?

My days are pretty varied, which is how I like it, I could be managing budget or headcount, chatting to new starters about working at Three, attending large planning sessions, having catch ups with my direct reports or in leadership team meetings. Over and above my day job, I might be on Linkedin making new connections, having calls with potential panellists for my #STEMConnext networking events or attending the Diversity & Inclusion strategy sessions.

You have worked at Three for almost 10 years and have progressed from Project Manager to Programmer Manager to your role now. How have you done so?

Honestly I don’t know, I genuinely thought I would last 3 months as I moved from an exciting career in TV to Telecomms and I didn’t understand any of the the acronyms! However I obviously did something right! My transferable skills of organisation, scheduling and budgeting worked well, I passed my Prince 2 training and I seemed to be good at delivering projects. A key milestone for me was changing to part time hours – initially 4 days a week and then 4 days (30hours) over 5 days to fit in with my daughters starting school. I applied for Lead Project Manager in the Online team and then the Programme Manager role (all part time) and in 2017 I was seconded into the Head of Planning and Delivery for Online & Digital (the website) and my secondment was made permanent at the end of the year. Luckily my bosses were more interested in the outcomes I delivered rather than the hours I was in the office which is rare I know. I think I have progressed thanks to having some fantastic and supportive line managers.

You run Women in Tech at Three, volunteer for STEM events and you are also organising your own networking events in Glasgow and Berkshire. Could you tell me about those?

I have always been passionate about developing people and investing in the future. When I worked in TV I established a work experience scheme and most people I employed as runners are now very well-known producers/directors. This became even more important when I became a parent so I love volunteering for career events and demonstrating that you don’t have to be technical to work in Tech. As part of my personal development last year I decided to increase my network outside of Three and I wanted to attend Women in Tech networking events but they were all in London and very hard to get to for a 6/6.30pm start. When I was asked to take over the leadership of the employee group Women in Tech @ Three, I saw this as an opportunity. In Berkshire and the M4 corridor we have so many tech and science companies that I recognised a real gap in the market – I researched and there were no STEM networking events in the area so I decided to organise a networking event that I would want to go to… luckily about 80 other people wanted to go too! I launched #STEMConnext (named by my husband) and went live on Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/stemconnext/ and I haven’t looked back since. Our Facebook group already has 200 members in only 4 months and the registration for our second networking event in Berkshire has just gone live and I’m planning our first in Glasgow! Our group vision is to bring STEM women and men together in their local area – to connect, collaborate and converse.

And also could you tell me about Adviza Partnership, I haven’t heard of it before?

Worlds of Opportunity (www.woop.org.uk) is a programme managed by the Adviza Partnership which was set up in Berkshire and along with Learning to work (www.learningtowork.org.uk), they connect schools with businesses for Career Fairs, work experience and apprenticeships. I’m delighted to be a STEM Champion and working with them to promote career fairs and volunteering within my network.

How do you juggle being a mum, your job and also everything you do outside of your role?

I guess by accepting that I’m not perfect at anything and I don’t have to be, all I can do is my best. I’m not a perfect mum, but I’m a good mum and I do my best. I’m not a perfect career woman, I do my best but I get things wrong sometimes and I prioritise and am good at time managements. The things that are important to me are my family and my friends and if I remember that, then sometimes things have to give. I work hard and am on my phone or laptop when my kids are chilling and watching telly or doing homework, but if they need me I turn them off. I work late a lot especially when I’m organising an event but that is my choice and so I don’t have anyone to blame but myself but I believe that with small steps I am making the world a better place for my daughters so that is what motivates me.

What has been your biggest challenge getting where you are today?

I worked in a TV for 11 years so my biggest challenge was being made redundant and making the decision to completely change industries. I made the hard decision to go back to work earlier than I planned when my second daughter was only 6 months old. I took a massive pay cut and would have to start from scratch again, but I didn’t want to miss out on the perfect logistical job (no more commuting) and I’m still there 4 promotions and 9 years later.

If you could change one thing about the tech industry what would it be?

I would change “one” BIG thing! I want to change all tech and big industries and haul them into the 21st century on mindset, culture, behaviours, flexibility, inclusivity, diversity and bring them into the Digital age!

What’s next?

I’d love to make a career out of my STEMConnext brand somehow, organise networking events and be paid for what I am doing outside of my day job – driving diversity and equality changes, challenging the perception of girls in STEM at a young age by attending career fairs and meeting amazing, inspiring, like-minded people at conferences and networking events.

What’s your favourite quote?

There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made. – Michelle Obama

Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast – Peter Drucker

Be kind, do what is right and try to make the world a better place – Me to my girls….

Who’s your squad?

My best friend, my sisters and my husband.

#STEMConnext’s next event: 20th March 2019 at Bourne End, Bucks

Why do so many of us feel like frauds? A panel of experts will discuss why about 70% of men and women suffer from Imposter Syndrome and lack of self-confidence.

Please come along to join the discussion and get some tips and advice on how to challenge this perception and build your confidence:

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stemconnext-berkshire-tackling-imposter-syndrome-tickets-54800636178

#Womenrock
a voice of diversity in tech

@womenrockbristol

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