PCR Woman of the Year blog: Marie Hughes talks about how important it can be to find a mentor in the workplace

Top tips for thriving in the male-dominated tech industry

Marie Hughes is an account manager at Hama and finalist in the PCR Woman of the Year event, which takes place in London on October 17th. You can find out more about the event and book your tickets here.

After World War II many Britons were sold the dream of a new life in Australia for only just £10. Over one-and-half million took up this enticing offer and we were among the last lucky ones and soon found ourselves in Perth Australia.

Being a £10 Pom had its troubles and after 10 years I returned to the UK with my now single father, I became a typical boomerang pom. Here is a snap shot of my life as a working single mother and the industry I find myself in today.

In what it seems was a ‘previous life’ I was a factory worker for many years and also a hair dresser. As a single mother and finding it hard to make ends meet it was no surprise that I found myself making the transition to sales and I have yet to look back.

Along the way, I picked up some practical tips for thriving in what is still perceived as a male industry.

1. Have thick skin and don’t get offended
It seems guys have a bond and you’ll need to gain their trust for them to be able to be themselves around you – without being reported to HR.

I have heard many revolting stories and have joined in as one of the lads. And as a result, I eventually became part of the team.

2. Acknowledge your strengths and use them
The first week of working in technology distribution I found that I was the only woman in the sales team. I knew what I needed and wanted to achieve so played on my strengths to get the job done. Keeping focused on the task ahead and saying thank you often worked for me.

To cheer on success, small and large and showing gratitude to a co-worker who assists goes a long way to help get to your goal.

One of the best ways to be grateful is to simply say thank you during the workday. Maybe to your manager for asking for your opinion, to a client for their feedback or to a prospect for responding to your email. It may seem like a little thing, but it’s amazing how many people don’t hear thank you. Plus, when it’s appropriate, I go one step further and cheer people on that have done something noteworthy. A “Wow!”, “fantastic”, or a simple “Congrats!” is good, positive stuff.

3. Find your mentor
Within the first few days I personally like to spend time with each colleague, introducing myself and finding out what their role is within the business. This is to find the mentor who will promote me within the organisation, who would have my back, and who would tell the rest of group (including the bosses) – how great I am and how much I deserve recognition, this is of course once I have achieved the goals set myself.

Unfortunately I have found it can be difficult to advance as a woman in a male-dominated workplace if you don’t get on-side. You do need to start building relationships with your boss and other senior leaders from the beginning, and pay particular attention to developing those relationships with the individuals who believe in you and publicly support you – they have always been my foundation to success at Hama.

In my experience I feel times are changing and hardworking tenacious women are being recognised for their achievements by offering new ideas, keeping things fresh, relevant and exciting.

Change is inevitable so this male-dominated workplace will soon be a thing in the past.

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