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Women in Leadership series, in partnership with IWD 2018

Lily McCann – Head of Data & Technology at Wavemaker


Originally from Russia, she moved to New Zealand at 18 and after graduating in Business Information/Business Systems she joined Telecom New Zealand – starting as a Database Development Analyst, within 3 years she had been promoted to a management position. Since relocating to London in her 20’s, she has built a successful career around data and tech within marketing services.

She is now Head of Data & Technology at Wavemaker and manages a team of 18 that covers Ad ops, Technical Consulting, Data Platforms and Data Innovation and therefore sees first-hand the challenges of developing a diverse team within tech. At home she’s one half of another team, parenting two children under 7 – so it’s fair to say that she has a good understanding of some of the challenges women frequently encounter when simultaneously building a career and a family.

Challenges of building a more diverse team ?

Lily has 3 women working in a team of 18 and along with many, would love to see greater diversity in the team. The challenge is a lack of women applying for roles –she estimated 1 applicant out of the last 20 has been a woman.

At the graduate level for roles in Ad Ops she suspects many choose roles within media that appear to be more “creative” and for the more senior technical roles – there just aren’t the candidates out there.

We talked about the issues surrounding job specs – in technical roles all too often the job specs are a list of abbreviations mixed with a confusing jargon filled description of what the job actually is. When  statistics tell us that women are unlikely to apply for a role unless they meet 90% of the job spec’s requirements, this is definitely not going to help.

Reasons to develop a career in technology ?

The tech industry as a whole has been waking up to the issues surrounding gender diversity for some time – and the key has to be attracting more women to consider a career in tech when still at school/university. Lily suggested two main motivators for women looking to develop a career in tech/data :

Firstly, careers in data and technology are less involved with hardware these days and there are many more roles that are focused on analysis, defining problems and developing solutions to address them. There needs to a raised awareness about the options within the sector to attract a wider pool of talent.

Secondly, you are not committing to one sector – all the skills you develop are easily transferable which gives you freedom to move across a variety of companies. Again, this is a question of promoting the benefits to attract more women to planning a career from college onwards.

(Oh, and people always need someone who is good with spreadsheets !)

Career Development and Goals

You don’t have to do it all by yourself !!  Look for mentors and key people who can help you; So many people focus only on achieving goals and less on finding people who can help them get there.

Other advice includes setting annual goals for professional development – something she has learnt to do more recently but wished she had done earlier.

Recognise “imposter syndrome” for what it is …..and remember that most people in leadership roles can experience it.

Getting a pay rise

Whilst a lot of the debate over gender disparity in salaries is concerned with systemic problems within major institutions such as the BBC – there is also an issue with many women’s individual approach to securing pay rises. Lily is firmly in the “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” camp – her response when we discussed this couldn’t be clearer: Ask for one !! If you want more money then you need to ask for it …if you wait to be given a pay rise you will end up getting paid less than others who are happy to push for more money.

Ask for More Money
Children and Careers

What came through during our discussion in regards to combining home and work was the need for flexibility from employers and for women to set boundaries on their time. Lily’s approach to managing her time involves setting a specific time that she leaves the office – and sticking to it !! Wavemaker adopts a PACED culture and the ability to work from home means she has the option to log on later ( but is keen that her team aren’t expected to respond to late emails )

Wavemaker is a great example of a flexible employer – not only is there flexi-time across the business but they have just announced 6 months fully paid maternity AND paternity leave – a great step forward for everyone.

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