Senior Executive, Nationwide
At the age of 21, after a short failed career trying to be an Actuary, I joined the TSB Trust Company IT department as a Systems Analyst. I'd taken an A-Level in Computing Science as a back-up qualification - thinking that it might be useful as one day most people were likely to have a computer on their desk!
I spent the next 20 or so years developing my career in IT and Change with TSB, Lloyds TSB and eventually Lloyds Banking Group. In 2011, after having had two boys, I was a senior manager in Lloyds, commuting to London 2 hours each way. With my youngest son just about to start school, I decided I needed a job closer to home.
In September 2011, I was introduced to Nationwide's Chief Operating Officer, Tony Prestedge. I remember having coffee with Tony and he talked about being successful in Nationwide. The one thing that really resonated with me was when he said "You need to fall in love with the place".
After some further discussion with Nationwide, I was interviewed for a role by our Enterprise Development Director. Early in the conversation, I happened to mention that I would need to work flexibly as I picked my son up from school club and dropped him off 2-3 days a week. This meant that I'd be in after 9am and would need to leave by 4.30pm on some days. He said this wouldn't be a problem and I remember the relief I felt at that time, thinking, "This man gets what I need". The rest of the interview went swimmingly resulting in me leaving LBG (after 26 years) and joining Nationwide in November 2012. I joined as a Senior Executive running 4 of the IT Practices - Analysis & Design, Build, Test and Environments.
Prior to my joining, I'd seen an article in the Independent about Alison Robb, one of the Nationwide Directors. Alison talked about starting up a women's network. I wrote to her and asked if I could join the project and we met for coffee soon after my arrival. I now run WiN (Women in Nationwide) working with Alison, the HR team and a group of fantastic volunteers. We have a 'hub and spoke' model whereby we have established regional networks across the country, 7 in total.
Each of the networks is run by its members for its members. We meet monthly and share great ideas about events and schemes that the teams have running. We also run national events every few months with inspirational internal and external speakers. Our most successful programme is running Career Conversations where a senior person (man or woman) talks with a group of up to 12 women in an intimate group about how they have their developed their careers - as well as the trials and tribulations along the way!
More recently we are working closely with our other diversity networks - these include Faith & Belief, LGBT, Disability and BAME - so that we can share ideas support our minority groups as effectively as possible.
In terms of senior women in Nationwide, and referring to the Davies Report, we have had a Board level target in place for some time but for the first time this year, targets have been set for our wider executive community (to be published with our results this year) and we are also extending targets to senior level feeder grades in the talent pipeline. As one of the existing senior women I now have more of a role to play to ensure the success of other women in the organisation.
Finally, working in our IT department, with a female Chief Information Officer, there is a role to play for women in IT. We have recently launched a Technical Academy and I want to make sure that we do as much as we can to encourage young women to work with us.
I feel immensely privileged to be able to hold a Senior Executive position in the world's largest building society, running a department of over 1000 IT colleagues and partners while also being able to spend quality time with my sons. It's a job I love and a company that I have fallen in love with. Tony was right!
From an early age I knew I wanted to work within the IT sector but never exactly knew where. I was forever being told by my parents to "get off that computer and go and play outside" but I was more interested in developing my skills online.
I started my IT journey at school taking two IT qualifications at GCSE level and achieved straight A's. I went on to college and looked at alternative options so chose to study Creative Media and English, alongside Business and History. I soon realised that these subjects were not for me and fast tracked my IT A-level in one year.
After leaving college I joined Nationwide as an apprentice in Network Services. The opportunities available and the reputation of the company, combined with being in the Top 50 Employers for Women made the decision to join Nationwide an easy one.
I did have one concern on my first day though... would I really fit in to a predominantly male environment? How would employees who have been working in IT for the best part of 20 years react to having an 18-year-old, female apprentice joining the team?
In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. My team were all really welcoming and assured me that if I needed any support that I could speak to them. Obviously it took time to build relationships with my new colleagues and with only one other female employee in a team of seven I felt it was essential to be successful in my role. The guys in my team are all really helpful and continue to support my development as my apprenticeship progresses. As a result of forming these relationships I have built up my workload and increased the responsibilities I have within my team.
There have been some challenges along the way with people perhaps thinking that because I'm a woman I'm more likely to do their admin and that maybe I'm not as technically skilled as my older, male colleagues but this gives me more determination to be successful and prove them wrong.
Looking forward I hope to secure my permanent role this year within the Networks team and continue to pursue a career in IT. I am also involved with a number of activities to engage with my wider team and I am proactively looking to make a difference.
For any women toying with the idea of a career in IT I would strongly recommend it.
Don't let the male dominant environment put you off applying. Personally I feel like being 'thrown in the deep end' in an unfamiliar setting has helped me to develop and settle in more quickly than I would have done otherwise. Through doing this my colleagues feel more trusting when giving me work and are increasing my responsibilities all the time.
And don't let the knowledge and experience of those around you intimidate you - use it to your advantage to learn, develop and to push on with your career.
Julia Phippard, 46, is a mother of two and lives near Salisbury. She has worked in financial services for 28 years of which 25 have been in IT. She joined Nationwide in November 2012.
Hannah Clinch, 18, joined Nationwide as part of its apprentice scheme in September 2014.