As part of our Women in TMT KNect event at Broadband World Forum, we sat with speaker Lisa Neale, Director, UK West, Business and Corporate Delivery of Openreach, where she tells us about her experience as an engineer working for BT.
I joined BT in 2002 as an engineer just after I finished my A Levels. I wanted to try out the world of work and BT offered me that opportunity. I didn’t consciously choose to pursue a career in telecoms – it was more a choice I made because I didn’t feel ready to go to university straight from school and I had no real desire to take a gap year or travel. I didn’t know that decision would play such a huge part in defining my career. Fourteen years later I’m a Director within one of the biggest engineering companies in the UK – Openreach.
Along the way I’ve held a number of commercial, business operations and large technical operations roles, most recently running all of BT’s telephony networks from the land lines in people’s homes to the latest IP collaboration services for large corporations located across the world.
Being in such a big technology business, we are all increasingly aware of the diversity challenge for the tech and engineering sectors. Only 8% of engineers in the UK are women, despite the fact that many girls study STEM subjects at school, which suggests that women are simply not choosing this as a career. A lot of the projects I’m involved in are about trying to address this.
Like many companies, Openreach believes that a good mix of people will help us to understand and serve our customers better. That means attracting and holding onto talented women is critical to our success as a business.
I wanted to give something back through volunteering and make a difference to these figures as it’s something I’m hugely passionate about. I had recently tried to recruit 60 apprentices and wanted to improve the gender diversity of the team, but there weren’t many females applying for apprenticeships in networks.
Speaking to some of the females we had in the team, they said they never knew about careers in technology and engineering. That set me on my quest to volunteer and inspire children and young people to share what I do – and tell them why I love it so much.
I’d also been influenced by the Tech Partnership Programme, which the CEO for BT Technology, Service and Operations introduced me to.
I’m now a mentor on our Step into STEM programme, which is helping to get more women into the sector, and I’m also involved with the the Government’s Ready To Work scheme.
There are a variety of roles for women to pursue within Openreach and the wider BT Group. Earlier this year, BT announced a new recruitment drive with 1,400 new graduate and apprenticeship roles. These are varied – from engineering to working at the iconic BT Tower on the latest developments in broadcasting.
We also offer traineeships for young people to gain valuable work experience to help them secure permanent roles.
And we work with other companies too – we’ve sponsored 50 roles on the IET Diamond Jubilee Scholarship, for which we’ve earmarked 50% of the roles for women.
Without more women in the industry, I’m convinced the UK will be held back from taking the lead in STEM areas and that will impact future growth, innovation and creativity.
We’re all role models, and I hope people reading this will share their story to help change perceptions of STEM careers.
Lisa will be speaking at the Women in TMT KNect event on 18th October at 13:00. Register your interest today and be part of our Women in TMT KNect Networking Initiative.