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8 March, 2022

Sharon Hamilton's Interview with WeAreTechWomen #BreakTheBias

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Sharon Hamilton, MD of Eurofins Digital Testing 

1. Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role (this can include anything you are up to in terms of projects/initiatives – feel free to plug) 

I am UK Managing Director at Eurofins Digital Testing (EDT) and have worked in the software testing sector for nearly 30 years. Starting my career as a Test Analyst at Unisys, I held similar positions within a number of banking and financial services institutions, before moving into a Testing Services Director position with Sopra Group. There, I was responsible for heading up delivery of testing services to clients and managing test programs. 

I joined Edge Testing Solutions, in 2011, as a Service Delivery Manager before being promoted to Operations Director of Scotland and was then appointed as Managing Director, following Edge Testing Solutions being acquired by Eurofins Digital Testing (EDT). 

Aside from spearheading the company’s growth plans across every region in the UK, as UK MD for EDT, I head up and manage all of the testing services delivered by our three arms: Edge Testing Solutions, our software testing, Commissum Associates, the security arm, and our devices arm, Eurofins Digital Product Testing. 

2. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  

As I studied Business at London Metropolitan University, I always had the aim of managing a successful business, but I also loved the intricacies of technology and software so software testing came quite naturally to me.  

Early on I recognised software testing and quality assurance as exciting fields to be involved in, constantly evolving, so soondecided that they could offer me a job that keeps me challenged and engaged. What I love most about software testing, and my role with EDT, is the bright and enthusiastic colleagues and team here. We all work together to deliver world class services to provide solutions that meet our customers’ needs and answer any challenges. No day is the same and each day brings the ability to learn something new or have my views challenged., which is what I want – it’s such a rewarding career path. 

3. Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these? 

 A few years ago, one of the challenges involved in working in the software testing field would have been some companies’ perception of the value of testing. I’ve been in testing since I graduatedand along the way you see different companies in different journeys with their testing beliefs. That is changing with us all being more internet focused. Not a day goes by without some IT failure in the news where it’s clear that robust testing was not conducted, and the end result is quite dramatic on individuals or their business. 

While the perception of testing is changing, there is still a challenge of ensuring that companies give testing the right value and the right level of importance within their own organisation. However, with the advent of Agile and DevOps methodologies, projects have also evolved so that testers now work with and alongside the software architects, designers and developers. As a result, the boundaries between these disciplines is becoming increasingly blurred which offers testers a varied and exciting career choice.  

When I discuss my job with my teenage children, I can say with experience that my role as a tester is very creative and you get to work in an environment where thinking/problem solving is necessary and there is never a boring day! Each week you can be using a new tool or way of working. 

4. What has been your biggest career achievement to date? 

Managing the company through a global pandemic – I would like to think that we did this by communicating with colleagues and customers frequently, with integrity - putting the safety and wellbeing of our colleagues first. We were also able to provide job security, whilst minimising the impact to the financials as a result of the pandemic. 

5. What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?   

The support I have received at EDT and the space for me to perform my role and not be bound by time/hours/location. This has been demonstrated continually throughout my 10 years at the company and has meant that I have been able to raise my children whilst having a great job at the same time. While I have shown flexibility and adapted, this has very much been matched by the company.  

6. What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?  

There should be no difference between males or females taking up a career in IT, however sadly there are still fewer women in our industry.  Woman and girls need to be encouraged and educated that there are diverse roles in IT and we also need to ensure they have strong role models that they can identify with.  The whole industry needs to bear responsibility and present the job opportunities as gender neutral. 

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Zoe Pluckrose-Norman UK Head of People Eurofins Digital Testing 

EDT already has a strong C-level suite of women,and we actively recruit females for all roles across the business, from graduates to those who are considering a career change I have the pleasure of working with some fantastic females in my role as MD. Boglarka Ronto who heads up our Cyber team was recently appointed as board exec to the Council of Registered Ethical Security Testers(CREST). Kirsten Logue is the Operations Director for Edge Testing and has over 20 years of experience in testing and Zoe Pluckrose-Norman as our Head of People UK, completes our EDT management team – with 45% female representation on the EDT Management board.  

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Software Test Consultant Laura Walpole 

Across EDT we employ experienced female consultants and engineers in addition to supporting colleagues to grow within our business. Laura Walpole joined us five months ago as a Software Test Consultant after making the move from account management within the beauty/ cosmetics industry (typically a very female-dominated industry) to her current role here within the IT industry.  

Wanting to move from the beauty industry to a role within the IT sector, Laura faced some challenges, but she set her sights on finding a company that placed value on personal qualities, passion and potential over experience, which she found with us here at EDT. We focus on career development and training, which stood out to her straight away. During her interview, Laura told us that she felt we had a genuine interest in her journey and long-term goals.  

EDT has a 6-week training academy which consists of thorough training across all aspects of software testing to enable new employees to build their skills in various areas ranging from the fundamentals of testing to technical skills such as a programming using Java. We encourage employees like Laura to book online training courses to accelerate their skills and EDT employees must complete a minimum of 3 days training per year, which is incentivised via a bonus scheme, so our teams focus on their own development. 

Jessica Crosby is another recent recruit. She came to EDT with a strong track record of sales and business development in the software testing industries from her roles at Qualitest and Capita IT, and is now working as EU Sales Manager. She is responsible for ensuring that our UK, European and wider global clients’ requirements are met, but EDT has also given her the chance to train and develop her skills to create new opportunities for further career progression. 

7. Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome? 

My gender has never been an issue in what role I can do for the company I’m with now so I would recommend working with a diverse and fully inclusive company like EDT. The company has also allowed me to have access to great mentors/role models who I can learn from, as MDs should also continue to build their knowledge base and seek advice and help and insight from their peers to remain successful. 

EDT is just one company realising the importance of supporting people, whatever gender they are, to succeed in every industry. For example, we have an active gender diversity group that provides support to our team in the UK and internationally which both Jessica and Laura are actively involved in. 

Getting over any fear that it would not be possible to change career path due to your age or in choosing to take a leap of faith to chase your dream job is key – for everyone. There may be knock backs along the way, but I would encourage anyone who is considering changing their career to take the risk as it is never too late to make positive change for your future! 

8. What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology? 

Our parent company Eurofins’ CEO, Gilles Martin, has always expressed the company’s commitment to support diversity, in particular gender diversity. We want to ensure locally within our teams that we are supporting gender inclusivity (ensuring equality of opportunity to everyone), in particular to understand better the experience of work and any potential blockers to career progression/fulfilment for females/those who identify as a female. 

One of the aims of our diversity group is to listen to feedback but also take any action required, to help us continue to improve our already diverse and engaging approach to recruitment. We are looking to ensure inclusivity, by understanding any potential inequalities/ barriers, and how we address those. 

9. There are currently only 21% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?  

..Earlier in my career, I can remember being the only female in the room. Sometimes that still happens, which is surprisingbut things are changing. That’s not the environment at EDT though, which is great.  

Working with schoolsis the key approach, whereby we teach all children that they can achieve in any industry and are equally capable. 

Bringing businesses into schools and showing them different IT careers is so important. This needs to be solved via multiple channels and activities. At Eurofins, we are engaging with schools, colleges and universities to encourage IT as a career for all genders. 

10. What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc 

Women with an eye on working in the tech field should take advantage of every resource available for them to access, from listening to podcasts and attending networking events to signing up for conferences, reviewing potential company websites and going to conferences, to meet like-minded individuals. 

But when they have secured their new role, they should continue accessing those resources. At EDT, we offer all our employees, whether they are men or women, in admin or c-level positions, online training to keep them as up to date as possible. Software testing, like all other tech sectors, is constantly evolving so we all need to keep up with the pace of change to remain able to provide our clients and customers with the highest quality and level of service they expect from EDT. 

I think women looking for a career in the software testing sector can be inspired by the likes of Klaudia Dziubek. Klaudia applied to our company’s Academy straight after leaving secondary education in Glasgow and now she is a Certified Software Tester. After passing her ISTQB Certification Foundation Level exam in November 2020, Klaudia started writing her own blog called Testing Traveler, where she shares all of the knowledge gained during that syllabus and, since then, what she has learned by testing the web and mobile applications. This blog now helps encourage others thinking of a career in software testing.  

Other inspirational women in testing include Pavreen Khan, a Senior Quality Analyst Consultant at Thoughtworks, who is an international speaker sharing her stories and experiences in testing; Marie DrakeQuality Engineering Manager at Zoopla, and an online course instructor at the Ministry of Testing and Test Automation University; and Rafaela Azevedo, a Quality Assurance Automation Engineer, who has become a STEM Ambassador, a STEM Women Member and an instructor at Test Automation University.  

Anyone interested in learning more about technology and the women that currently work in various sectors can also check out this link to find ones that suit their career path: https://bestcompaniesaz.com/women-in-tech-blogs/  

There are numerous groups on LinkedIn which can offer support, guidance and inspiration including. Tech Savvy Women, The Female Lead, Bristol Women’s Tech Hub and Break the bias. 

International Women’sDay is a great opportunity to showcase our achievements, but also focus on the work still to be done. We in Eurofins will be supporting the#BreakTheBias Campaign with our selfie pics to highlight how individually we each will play a role to #BreakTheBias. 

 

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