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Inspirational Woman: Sheila Flavell | COO & part-owner of FDM Group

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sheila-flavellTell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role (eg what you studied, school, where you grew up)

I grew up in a small town outside of Glasgow in Scotland, where some of my family members still reside. I’ve enjoyed 25 years in both the public and private sectors of IT, completing both an MA and an MBA, whilst raising my family. I am the COO and part-owner of FDM Group and played a leading role in the flotation of the company on AiM, before taking it private again in 2010 and then re-floating on the LSE in 2014. I am passionate about diversity in the workplace and spend a lot of my time spearheading FDM’s Global Women in IT initiative in Europe, North America and Asia.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, to be honest. The only constant in my life seems to be breaking the norm! I started my career working in the Police Force in Glasgow and was one of the only women patrolling the streets back then. After that I spent over a decade working for an Arabian Airline in the Middle East. Although that was a long time ago and IT is obviously a very different industry, I am still one of the few women working in the tech sector and one of the even fewer women on the Board of a tech company listed on the London Stock Exchange.

If I could change one thing for women in the workplace it would be equal pay. We still live in a world where many women earn less than men for doing the same job, which really is disgraceful.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve faced many challenges along the way. Working in male dominated industries all my life has taught me that you don’t have to prove you’re as good as your male counterparts, most of the time you have to prove that you are better and have to work even harder just to be seen as equal.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

An ideal day starts with a warm black coffee and ends with a chilled glass of wine! Ha, If only! For me every day is different depending on what geography I’m in. The one thing every working day has in common for me is waking up to hundreds of emails despite where in the world I may be.

Tell us a little bit about FDM?

FDM is a professional services provider, with a focus on IT. Currently, FDM is one of the fastest growing companies in Europe and the UK’s leading IT graduate employer. We bridge the gap between academia and employment by training, employing and placing graduates on client sites worldwide. Through the FDM Careers Programme, we transform graduates and ex-forces personnel into successful IT or business Consultants.

Working in male dominated industries all my life has taught me that you don’t have to prove you’re as good as your male counterparts, most of the time you have to prove that you are better and have to work even harder just to be seen as equal.

What are you hoping to achieve with your Women in Technology programme?

Through FDM’s Global Women in IT initiative, we aim to increase the number of women working in the sector by promoting, training and placing more female IT Consultants onto our client sites. FDM has selected circa 20 Female Champions internally to showcase role model behaviour, support other women and mentor those in need. I personally mentor many of my management team and they do the same with others. Through the Global Women in IT initiative we have managed to increase the number of women at FDM to 25% as well as circa 50% of the management team being female. This is way above the industry average.

Do you have any tips on how to manage a demanding job alongside raising a family?

In my opinion there is no specific recipe for success in order to achieve this, because different strategies work for different people. From experience, something has got to give; it’s about what that will be and how much of it. Managing the balance and prioritising where necessary is essential.

The only constant in my life seems to be breaking the norm! I started my career working in the Police Force in Glasgow and was one of the only women patrolling the streets back then.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

I’ve never had a mentor unfortunately. Having one may have saved me from making many mistakes in the past! However, I’ve had several sponsors at work that would have happily put their reputation on the line for me. I think it is crucial to build strong relationships and most importantly to lead by example so that people see the value that you add to the business.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

If I could change one thing for women in the workplace it would be equal pay. We still live in a world where many women earn less than men for doing the same job, which really is disgraceful.

If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?

I think I would be proud of my achievements. Completing an MA and an MBA, whilst working full time and looking after children is not easy. Being recognised as Corporate Leader of the Year at the 2012 Cisco everywoman in Tech awards and being named one of TechCityInsider’s top 100 remarkable people that make digital London tick was an honour. Last but not least, contributing to the impressive growth that FDM has experienced over the past 20+ years makes me very proud. 

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