Published March 8, 2021
Talking to Angie Vaux, CEO and Founder of the Women in Tech Forum
Angie Vaux, Founder of the Women in Tech Forum, has had an amazing career in the technology industry and is a significant figure in elevating women in the workplace providing women in tech with a platform to develop, receive support and have their voices heard. From turning her passion project into a successful organisation to using mindfulness to enhance your professional self Angie shares with us her journey to success and how you can get there too.
“You can’t win trying to be somebody else, that’s the key thing to remember”
Angie, you have had an amazing career in the tech industry, what sparked your interest in technology?
I’ve always had an interest in technology from an early age. I got my first computer when I was eight years old and I used to spend my free time writing code and designing simple computer games. I’ve always been interested in the impact technology has on the world and our knowledge so when I went to university I decided to do a module called ‘doing business on the internet’. I’ve always had this curiosity and desire to make the world and business a better place and so it made sense that that’s where I would start my career.
You are the founder of the Women in Tech Forum, an amazing organisation that celebrates women in the industry, how did the organisation get started?
Women in Tech started out as a sort of passion, hobby and a desire to give back to the broader community. I started by running small roundtable briefings with groups of people and women from the [tech] industry and brought in senior female speakers. Very quickly, the events sold out and each event got bigger and bigger. It started becoming my full-time role so I decided to turn that hobby into a full-time business to help women accelerate and grow in their careers.
It’s so great that you had a hobby that has turned into this amazing organisation, and one that I’m sure had helped a lot of women in the industry.
Absolutely, it really makes a difference when you align your passion, your purpose, your expertise and combine them to be your business. I think that’s what I find really rewarding, helping people and giving back to the next generation.
You’ve talked a lot about mindfulness in your career, how has it helped you during the different roles you’ve had and starting the Women in Tech Forum?
Mindfulness has been an integral part of my career for the last fifteen years. Running a high pressured business unit and sales team means that you are constantly on the go, so mindfulness helped me to take a step back and manage the pressures and stress I was facing. Mindfulness is something you can take anywhere, I could be on a plane to New York and taking the time to take a mindful pause would really help me manage my stress. It helps me think clearly. If I have too much clutter going on in my head, it’s very difficult to strategise and look at different ways of doing things. By taking that time out, even if it just a few minutes, you can actually make a really big difference. It’s something that I practise every single day now.
Sometimes it’s about switching off your brain, and that doesn’t necessarily mean sitting and meditating, it could be going for a run, going to the gym or doing an activity you’re passionate about because it just allows your mind to rest. Your brain is like any other muscle, it needs to rest and recharge. So find something that you love to do and do a little bit every day!
“I think every step you take in your career that’s outside of your comfort zone is a big challenge, but it’s in those moments of discomfort that you grow”
How do you think we can incorporate the values of mindfulness into our careers and in particular leadership roles?
I talk a lot about the power of the pause. Mindfulness helps us to respond to situations rather than react mindlessly. I think we’ve all been guilty of receiving an email or something that has made us feel annoyed or anxious, typed a response and hit send only to wish we hadn’t have sent it. By being mindful you are encouraged to take that pause and plan your response.
I also think that mindfulness helps people be more productive. If you’re constantly running from activity to activity at some point your performance will start to decline. You don’t take that time to relax, take some time out and allow your brain a chance to switch off. Particularly now when we’re all working from home and jumping from video call to video call it’s important to create those moments in your day, even if it’s just having a 25-minute meeting instead of a 30-minute one, so you have time to reset.
Angie, you’ve had an amazing career working for the likes of Mimecast, SAP and TripAdvisor but what has been the biggest challenge in your career to date?
That’s a great question. I think every step you take in your career that’s outside of your comfort zone is a big challenge, but it’s in those moments of discomfort that you grow. One of my biggest challenges was moving from global marketing to actually running a whole business unit in a different country. At that point, I had no sales experience and all of a sudden I was running a large sales team, consulting, marketing and [providing] support which was a real step up and that’s where I really felt imposter syndrome as the people around me were so much more experienced. Making that leap was a big thing for me.
My advice to people is to go for those promotions that you think you may not fit the bill for because you will learn and you do know how to do the job, you just need to start. Also, make sure you get a good mentor that can help coach you through those transitional moments.
That’s great advice. It’s great that you mentioned imposter syndrome as it’s something that a lot of people experience and it’s only recently we’ve been able to put a name to those feelings of inadequacy.
Absolutely, 70% of men and women suffer from imposter syndrome throughout their careers. It is about finding those strategies to help you manage imposter syndrome or in some cases overcome it.
You and many women in business have described the technology industry as a bit of a “boys club”, what does that mean and how have you overcome that and made your voice heard in a male-dominated space?
The tech industry has historically been known as being male-dominated and continues to be, although it is changing. One of the challenges of being a female, particularly a female in leadership, is knowing how to behave in different situations. One of the things I did to fit in was dress like a man, behave like a man as I didn’t have any other role models other than males. To fit in, I sort of moulded myself on them and while it did serve me well for part of my career what you loose is your authenticity, your authentic self and winning with your strengths as a woman. You can’t win trying to be somebody else, that’s the key thing to remember.
I think that the environment we find ourselves in today lends itself much more to people being more authentic. You see people in their family homes, you see their children and their pets. You see a different side of people and it’s through those connections you build relationships. The key message is to be your authentic self and use the strengths you have as a woman.
“Decide what it is you want to do and go and find organisations and people who are aligned with your values and your vision”
We know more than ever that actions speak louder than words and we all need to be allies to those who are underrepresented, how can men be allies to women in an industry such as tech?
There’s a huge amount of things that men can do to support those who are underrepresented whether that be women or other underrepresented groups within an organisation. The first one is to champion women and share their successes. Women often downplay their successes in the workplace so if you’re a leader it’s important to showcase the great work you’re seeing from both men and women in your organisation.
The second is to sponsor and mentor women, sharing with them the unwritten rules of business. Taking time to help them grow in their career. You can also make sure you’re asking the right questions. Often when we help people, we feel that we have to fix then or that we know best but sometimes asking powerful questions can help such as “what can I do to help you?”, “who can I introduce you to?”, “what should I stop doing and what should I do more of?”. Using powerful questions and getting people to think about how they can leverage the people around them to help them grow in their career.
What advice would you give to women and girls who want to start a career in the tech industry?
Go for it! In the words of Henry Ford, whether you believe you can or you believe you can’t you are right. It all starts with that self-belief and that commitment that you can do it. Create a plan for yourself to be successful. Sometimes we put our successes in other people’s hand but you need to be open in your career, decide what it is you want to do and go and find organisations and people who are aligned with your values and your vision.
Watch the full interview here: