employee stories

Managing technical specialists, debunking stereotypes and taking opportunities


WORK180Nov 12, 2019

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Anna Gawne is a Product Owner at Global, one of the world’s leading Media & Entertainment groups. It is Europe’s largest radio company reaching 25 million weekly listeners. Anna leads a software development team responsible for streaming audio, catch up shows and podcasts. She never expected to work in Technology, but now leads a team of specialists.

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We talked with Anna about tips for your early career, debunking stereotypes and taking opportunities.

A Career in Tech

Anna joined Global in Commercial Scheduling from secondary school, scheduling radio ad breaks. As she gained experience over three years, she was promoted to management roles within Scheduling before discovering her interest in tech.

Anna’s first experience working in IT was a project determining new scheduling system requirements and specifications. That led to her becoming a business analyst, gaining experience assessing system user requirements and communicating these to the teams building it. Now leading a team of 9 software developers, Anna works with the business to clarify priorities and translate that into manageable chunks of work for the development team.

Early Career Tips

Given her interesting career path we asked Anna for advice to her younger self, and she gave us some helpful titbits,

  • “Be patient”. Anna started her first role eager to climb the ladder and wanting a promotion after six months, but now realises “I was setting myself unrealistic targets.” It takes time to gain experience which will support career growth.

  • “When you put in the extra effort it does get noticed”. Anna had felt her hard work was being ignored, however when an opportunity for promotion arose, she was top of the list and wished she hadn’t felt unnecessarily discouraged.

Anna believes that her hard work and curiosity laid the foundations in her career, later allowing her to gain success in her field.

Taking Opportunities That Arise

Anna has followed interesting opportunities and put herself forward for challenging new roles, supporting her career progression.

“I never would have expected to be scheduling ads on the radio. I didn't even know that job existed! I didn't expect to get into Technology, but I enjoyed it and it made sense because there's an element of creativity and a lot of teamwork.”

From the beginning of her career Anna worked to build a network throughout Global and was recognised for the impact of her work. She learnt how to use the scheduling system more efficiently over informal tea-room chats with an IT team member who, unbeknown to Anna, was quite senior. He later advocated for her to be taken on for her first IT project. She refers to meeting that IT specialist as a sliding doors moment in her life, “if I hadn't done that, I don't think I would have got into technology.”

Anna praised her Global colleagues for the support they have offered throughout her career;

“If you're motivated and want to learn, then they’re happy to help and offer advice. That's definitely been most helpful in my career in tech; learning from people more experienced than me.”

Managing Technical Experts

Leading a team of software developers without specialist knowledge in the field, Anna initially struggled with the idea of guiding technical experts. Over time she realised her role is more about building trust with people than understanding everything they do. To gain more confidence as a leader, she took an 8-week coding course and attained Agile practices certification.

The team is run using Agile principles; it’s cross-functional, delivering working software every fortnight. Collaboration is paramount and, “each individual member of the team is essential for the effective delivery of a product, we can't do it without one another.”

Anna’s job is to clarify business needs, budget and manage communications between the business and Technology to ensure they are delivering valuable software making people’s lives easier.

When asked what tips she’d give to someone moving into a role leading a technical team, she offered;

  • Listening is crucial to building trust. Communication is about both getting your message across and hearing what others say; “there's no way I'd be able to do my job if my team didn't trust me, and they wouldn't trust me if I didn't listen to them.”
  • Accepting and promoting feedback on your methods and style will allow you to learn how best to work with your team for optimal results.
  • Build supportive relationships. Anna works closely with the Technical Lead and finds their complementary skills improve team practices.
  • Encourage creativity within your team; “the principle of two heads are better than one works.”

She is not afraid to ask technical specialists to explain things to her in layman’s terms so it can be understood by anyone and demonstrates their own comprehensive understanding.

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Debunking the Stereotypes

Anna thinks strong stereotypes remain around working in Technology, of people working in dark rooms without talking or making eye contact, but it’s not true. She has found people to be friendly and helpful and enjoys working in Tech.

Stereotyping doesn’t help create change, and Anna would love to see more inspiring stories of women in Tech. People often comment on her being one of few women, but she says,

“It hasn’t held me back so far. My career as a woman in Tech has been a positive experience.”

Anna wants to encourage women to look beyond the statistics and consider careers in Technology.

“The best thing about Global is the people are really nice, super helpful, funny, very friendly. You get good feedback and they trust you; the level of autonomy in technology is unbelievable.”

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About the author

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