As part of our commitment to developing careers and with the knowledge that we can gain valuable insights from each other, this week, in a series of interviews with top professionals in their fields, Megan Dack chats to Tracey Yarker, in a special International Women’s Day chat, focussed on women in technology.
Talk me through your background and journey in NHS Tech?
This year I will have been in the NHS for 30 years, I started my training as a radiographer back in in 1990. My career has taken me from many Radiography roles to Imaging Services manager for 11 years at Harefield Hospital. In 2017, I was asked to take a new role as IT Imaging Transformation Lead within the IT division. We were looking at new ways of working within the NHS, involving Cloud Technology and enterprise solutions. I did this for about a year and an opportunity came up to look after the clinical engineering teams, which involved all kinds of medical equipment and a critical care and anaesthesia information system, and that’s where I am today.
How big is the team you look after?
There are four different teams with about 7-9 people in each team.
It was International Women’s Day recently, how do you think days like this can help encourage women to get into tech?
For me it’s about inspiration and the knowledge that women can achieve great things. If you’re thinking about a career in senior leadership in technology, it’s important to know that it’s achievable and to have faith and confidence in yourself. One thing I’ve noticed is that there’s underrepresentation across both technology and senior management roles in the NHS. Yet the NHS is 70-80% women, so why is this? I think women have personal barriers, including me, and question whether they can be in that position or step up to do the next role? And that stops us, not all women of course, but it stops us from taking the next step or project, especially when you’re in a male-dominated environment. Having the courage to step up in that environment is difficult.
Throughout all organisations, there is a historical culture that it is easier for men to climb the ladder, the environment supports them to have more of a voice and project themselves.
Who inspires you or who has inspired you?
When I started in my role, I got swarmed with lots of emails inviting me to events and one of those was the Women of Silicon Roundabout. I’ve attended two years now and it instantly amazed me. Last year the speaker was Karren Brady CBE, which was a phenomenal and thought-provoking talk, it motivated me to do more and now I’ll be speaking there myself in June. I would definitely say it also had an influence on the women in technology initiative I’m looking to launch.
Have you read anything recently that you would recommend to women coming through the ranks?
One of the first things I probably read was Lean In, although now there’s a lot of literature out there about why we shouldn’t Lean In anymore. Part of the theory is about being like a man and leaning in at the board table, but I agree with today’s thinking, you don’t need to act like a man, why should we? We are who we are and we’re not going to bring balance by everybody acting the same way. With the internet, there’s a whole minefield of stuff out there, you have to evaluate what you are reading. One of the things I’m reading at the moment is Work Like a Woman by Mary Portas, which is very interesting, motivating and eye opening.
You’ve set up an initiative to help get women into technology (Women in Technology Initiative (WITI))- tell me about it?
There are three elements to it. The first one is the mentoring and coaching aspect of it, bringing senior leaders, all genders, within the trust to act as mentors and coaches, in order to build up a data base that allows us to pair people based on their requirements.
The second element is about personal and professional development, so the key barriers I previously touched upon, were having the confidence to question, ‘what if I can do that?’, so we’re attempting to build confidence, giving the ability to do presentations or speak up at meetings for instance. Professional development in technology areas or something they need to know for their career, be it servers or systems or apps, in the technical environment, how you administer different systems.
The final element is a professional social network which will help people to build up relationships, build up networks and allow you to receive answers to the questions that you’re stuck with in your day job.
This isn’t just aimed at women that work in technology but also the clinical women who have to be a superuser on a certain system or they’ve got to run it from the clinical side. This is important to me because I came from a clinical background and no one teaches you about technology, you have to do it on the job, so it’s about developing skills.
Finally, if you had one bit of advice to give to young girls looking to get into Technology what would it be?
Be brave, don’t be afraid to take the next step because you never know where it’s going to take you and to be honest, I never knew 5 years ago this would be where I would end up. You just never know where life is going to take you. Also, I suppose, stand up for yourself and what you believe in. This can be difficult, and it needs heaps of courage, you may not achieve it all the time and that’s okay too but if you can and it feels right then do it.
Anything extra to add?
The more and more we do, to bring women into these roles, is going to contribute towards delivering a more balanced environment and, certainly in the NHS, a more balanced service to both our patients and the clinical users out there.