Women in Tech: Michelle Roberts
Tell me a bit about yourself and your business.
I’m the Director of Partners at Ensono, a leading global Managed Service Provider. In a nutshell, we deliver hybrid IT services and manage business critical IT for the enterprise - from mainframe to cloud, and everything in between. Within Ensono, I’m responsible for the development of our Hyperscale Cloud partner relationships, as well as the management of our global market strategy.
What were you doing before you decided to get into the tech industry?
Initially, I was going to pursue a very different career path - graphic design and architecture - and worked for a double-glazing firm to fund my studies. It was here that I developed a talent for sales, and that kicked off the chain of events that led me to where I am today.
It was only when I began working for a distributer, selling printers and digital cameras, that I was first introduced to the world of technology. I managed a group of PC catalogue giants, like Simply Computers, Misco, Exertis (formally known as MicroP) and for Xerox who, at that time, was the third largest corporation in the world.
In hindsight, my career has evolved in an extraordinary way: I’ve moved from working for a technology manufacturer selling computer peripherals, to leading our strategy with a leading public cloud vendor.
Getting involved in tech is still a hot topic for women, what was the motivation for you?
I’ve always been drawn to technology, because I see the real-world impact it has, and I’m fascinated by the fact that technology is always developing – there’s always a ‘next’. Turning to technology also felt very natural for me: while I haven’t had technical training as such, I have a technical mind.
In another sense, it was also to do with the openness of the technology industry. In many sectors, it is extremely difficult to kick-start your career without the relevant academic credentials. Studying medicine is a pre-requisite to becoming a doctor and studying law is necessary to be a lawyer, and so on. But the technology industry isn’t quite so rigid. Yes, you can learn about things technologically at school, college and university, but you can also move into the tech industry in other ways. If you have the natural skills for leadership, planning and strategy, an intuitive mind, the passion to learn and can be agile, then the technology industry is open to you.
What has been the most challenging thing so far?
Predominantly, the rapidity of change in the technology sector, and in business in general. The world - fuelled by technology - moves fast, so the ability to stay focused and to think and work quickly is critical. M&A activity also adds to the complexity of a growing business, and it is easy to diverge from the strategy if it lacks the necessary focus.
How has the movement for encouraging women in tech affected you?
Attending #WomeninTech conferences and being part of the community online and offline has allowed me to develop a new-found level of confidence and insight into the way I perform my own role. Having the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience with many other like-minded women in technology and hearing from female CEOs is not only eye-opening, but encouraging.
What do you wish you had known when you were younger?
I wish I had realised earlier that life skills are just as important as your work experience and education. I also wish I had known more about the community that is out there to support women in tech. Throughout my life, I’ve always assumed that the gender imbalance in the technology industry was the “norm”, but I’m now starting to realise the vast array of skillsets that women can bring to the table and champion them to pave the way for the younger generation.
By tapping into both diversity and the life skills of individuals, I think you can solve many problems in business. I always look more at personal skills and life experience when I’m interviewing candidates for new roles at Ensono.
What do you think are the defining qualities that have made you successful?
It’s probably a mixture of great resilience, persistence, passion, and the fact that I’m constantly trying to prove myself – I don’t like to fail. Particularly in my current role as Director, where the main focus is executing strategy, this kind of perseverance has proved invaluable. I’m also a people person – I have a supportive network of people around me and build my relationships on trust and delivery. I can also say that building a network of personal coaches around me has definitely contributed to my success.
Who is your target audience?
Personally, and with this particular interview in mind, my audience is anyone that is looking to move into a career in technology or more of a leadership role. My aim is to give people as much confidence as is needed to make the step into tech. The tech industry is a diverse environment which, in turn, requires a diverse set of people from various backgrounds and experiences. I can’t stress enough the importance of life skills in this industry, and I want to encourage people to have confidence in their natural abilities and put themselves out there if they have an idea or are passionate about something.
What advice would you give to female entrepreneurs who are stuck on an idea?
Firstly, I feel very strongly about building a trusting network of people around you at all seniority levels. The people you work with, and see day-to-day, can be your best resources. You need people who take an interest in what you do and can provide you with regular advice and feedback. Whether this comes from a colleague, a friend, or someone you have just met at a conference, don’t be afraid to reach out. Most people are flattered that you asked them for their opinion! Over time, you can build a support network of people. They’ll compliment your strengths and achievements, but they’ll also provide you with honest feedback to help you progress.
Secondly, I think it’s important to have the courage to put yourself out there. Put your hand up and share your ideas. If you are stuck on a problem, speak up. By discussing the merits and pitfalls of your ideas with others, you can make tremendous headway.
What plans do you have for your business in the coming 12 months?
We have already made some great decisions this year, with our investments and M&A activity. On top of this, we’re being constantly recognised for the great work we do. Winning this year’s UK Cloud Award’s Best MSP is just one example of our strength and progress as leaders in the field, and these achievements will definitely accelerate our business growth.
This year is about using this springboard, continuing to succeed by putting our clients at the heart of everything we do, creating great partnerships and relationships and becoming even more successful. I’d like to see us showcasing more of our cloud computing expertise in order to influence organisations. We have the potential to become world leaders in our field, such as migrating to the cloud, and are well on our way to retaining the highest possible partner status with key cloud vendors and strategic partners by the end of the year.I’m genuinely excited to be part of that and really want to see where we can take the company.