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International Women’s Day – Sharon Baylay

International Women’s Day 2022

International Women’s Day (IWD), celebrated annually on 8th March, is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women all around the world. International women’s day has been celebrated for well over a century, with the first one starting in 1911.

This day is one of the most important days of the year to celebrate women’s achievements, raise awareness about women’s equality, and share stories of inspiring women.

Join us in celebrating just some of the inspirational women in our community and the empowering work they do for women everywhere.

Sharon Baylay

Non-Executive Director & Coach

Sharon’s 30-year career in the tech sector, backed by extensive commercial and marketing expertise, has been predominantly dominated by roles that have helped transform user behaviour through the utilisation and implementation of technology.

Most notably, Sharon has held board positions at Microsoft and the BBC.

Sharon received the Microsoft Chairman’s Award for sustainable innovation from Bill Gates in 2004 and has worked on the Executive Board at the BBC as Director of Marketing, Communications and Audiences.

Following these two major corporate experiences, Sharon decided to move into a more flexible career and became a Non-Executive Director and a coach.

“Pursuing a career in technology, science, engineering or maths is that it is a career that will be forever changing, always interesting, intellectually challenging, and incredibly fulfilling.”

Where did your initial interest in STEM come from?

“My initial interest in STEM was accidental actually. I started my first role in a computer reseller company as PA to the two sales directors. Within a short space of time my role quickly evolved to be part-time PA, part-time engineer, part-time sales administrator and part-time customer support.

I loved the variety of the role and I realised I had a real flair for the complexity of technology combined with an understanding of what the customer was trying to achieve. I hadn’t really had any previous experience of working in a technology business but have always been very grateful for this early belief in me and my potential to have given me this chance, which I grabbed with both hands.

I also realised that within a technology company there are many different roles that need to come together to build success and my personal aspiration was to follow a commercial and marketing route but steeped in the delivery of technology and that has continued to inform all of my future business choices since then.”

What is your current role/involvement in STEM?

“My current involvement in STEM is through the businesses that I now either Chair or sit on the Board of Directors on as a Non-Exec director. All of the businesses I work with have technology at the centre of what they do. Both DriveWorks and Unique X are software developers, FSP Ltd are digital transformation consultants, W.A.G plc is an international mobile and payments business and Restore plc has digitisation and data management as a core component of what we deliver for customers.”

Tell us a bit about your background and how you ended up in this role

“After my first few years in the computer reseller business, I was fortunate enough to be one of the very early employees of Microsoft Ltd in the UK. When I joined originally as an industry marketing manager, I could not have imagined that 16 years later I would be an International General Manager for MSN at Microsoft, running every country in the world that we operated in outside of the USA, and a winner of the Bill Gates Chairman’s Award which happened once a year and was only given to 7 employees – one employee from each division of the company.”

“Being at a company like Microsoft is like doing multiple MBA’s year after year. I learned many skills along the way that I would never have had the opportunity to do somewhere else.”

“When I left Microsoft I was asked to join the BBC as their Chief Marketing Officer and in addition I joined the Boards of the BBC, BBC Worldwide Freesat and Digital TV UK. I had responsibility for the marketing and communications of all content across all platforms be that TV, radio, online, news, and public relations and audience insights. I was part of the team that brought together BBC Salford and moved both my children’s marketing and sports marketing teams, as well as our digital and online content and audience teams to Manchester.”

“I had amazing corporate experiences at both these businesses but decided that it was time to move on and in 2012, I wanted to see what a more flexible career could look like by becoming a Non-Executive Director and a coach. I realised early on that my core proposition as an individual contributor was my digital, technology and marketing background, and this is what has led me to make many of the decisions that I have made subsequently in choosing the companies that I work with and for.”

What is your favourite thing about working in STEM? 

“My favourite thing about working with technology businesses is that every day is different and very often we find ourselves at the cutting edge of technology and what technology can deliver for everyday people and for businesses. It is, and always has been for me, the most fantastic learning environment and it has been a privilege to be at the cutting edge of technology for much of my career.”

“One of my most insightful learning experiences was running the digital set top box marketing and customer development programme for Microsoft in the late 1980s, when for many of us multi-channel TV experiences were only just in their infancy and we would never have dreamed of shopping or banking or texting or sharing content via any type of mobile or TV connectivity. The world has moved on a lot in the last 20 years!”

What advice would you give to young women interested in pursuing a career in STEM?

“The advice I would offer to any young women interested in pursuing a career in technology, science, engineering or maths is that it is a career that will be forever changing, always interesting, intellectually challenging, and incredibly fulfilling.”

“There will never be a dull moment and you will always be employed and employable! And, as we all get older and perhaps our priorities may change, it is possibly one of the most flexible careers for a woman that wants to combine a fulfilling business role with a busy personal and family life.”

What is the most important piece of advice you have been given?

“The best advice I have ever been given is to remember that we are in charge of creating our own future, no one else is. We are our own economic engines. Our greatest asset is our intellectual capability and our time and we need to value that and understand the value that has in the economy within which we participate. We can choose how we dedicate our lives and our time to the things that matter most to us and that fulfil our earning potential.”

“For many young women, and I was one once, often the hardest thing to do is to ask the question that leads to a promotion, or a pay rise, or leadership over big project or management of a new area or team. I would encourage every woman to always ask because if the answer is yes you will grow in confidence and continue to develop and if the answer is no that is simply another opportunity to ask why not, why not me, and what do I need to do to be able to enable you to say yes next time?”

“So – be bold, be brave, be confident and always always ask!”

Who or what inspires you?

“I’m inspired everyday by dedicated people. Over the last few years we have seen the most amazing examples of people who are true to themselves, true to their vocation, true to their cause and true to their vision. Right now we are seeing that play out in front of our eyes in the geopolitical environment that Ukraine finds themselves caught up in and I am sure that the leader of Ukraine never anticipated that his greatest contribution in his life will be to lead Ukraine through this crisis and in doing so he is undoubtedly having a significant impact on the rest of the world at the same time and really demonstrating what true leadership looks like.”

“I’m also inspired by founders like Glen and Maria at DriveWorks Ltd who have dedicated their lives to creating software solutions that help businesses transform through the implementation of their technology and that is why I chose to join DriveWorks Ltd as Chair and that is what I find inspiring when I come to work with my colleagues here at DriveWorks.”

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Join us as we continue celebrating international women in our community.