As the UK’s leading gift voucher, corporate rewards and Christmas Savings business, we want to turn our attention to recognising the incredible women in our company to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023.
International Women’s Day has said its focus lies with embracing equity – creating a fairer society by adapting services and policies to people’s diverse lived experiences. As a company, we also believe that equity is not just a nice-to-have – it is a must-have.
To celebrate a world where difference is valued and celebrated, we have invited five especially inspiring women from our company to talk about their experiences of work during their careers. Here is Suzanne’s story.
Suzanne Haycock loves working in tech and relishes the challenges posed by its relentless pace of change.
However, it wasn’t her first choice. And it was only thanks to a disappointing set of A Level results that she found the path to what has become a very successful and rewarding career.
“I wasn’t that happy with my A Level results and I didn’t get what I wanted to study at university … I went to Teeside Polytechnic [now Teeside University] to study for an HND in Business Information Technology. I did that for a couple of years … I liked solving problems.”
More than two decades and several jobs later, Suzanne is now one of Love2shop’s newest recruits joining as Head of Service Management (Technology).
She and her six-strong team play a critical role in the smooth-running of a business that has undergone significant technological transformation.
“We are the single point of contact for all ‘business as usual’ technology, making sure the existing services we offer are running smoothly.
“My team will log incidents or issues around the services we provide. This could range from user access to loss of a business critical service. We need to react appropriately depending on impact and urgency. We also need to ensure any change that is being introduced into the business carries minimal risk.”
After completing her HND, Suzanne joined Liverpool City Council as a field engineer for about four years.
“Afterwards, I did some training on databases learning SQL+ and then joined another business as a system network technician for 20 years.
“However, I didn’t want to be crawling under desks for the rest of my career! I wanted to do other things. I wanted to utilise my SQL+ knowledge so I sought a role in management information and for that, I needed to do a degree.
“Shortly after putting myself forward for a Masters, I found out I was pregnant with my first child but carried on with the degree. At the end of the first academic year, I took one of my exams – the next day I gave birth!
“I returned to work a few months later and continued with my Masters. I took on a business analyst/project management role and I used a project that I worked on as my dissertation.”
Among work sectors, tech in particular has a reputation for being very male-dominated. Despite starting her career more than two decades ago, Suzanne says she was fortunate in her early roles.
“At Liverpool City Council, I had a manager who was actually quite progressive for the time,” she said. “He believed there should not be any barriers to women in tech.
“And I didn’t necessarily find that for a long time. I think it was more a case of opinions outside of work.
“People might say, ‘Oh, you work in an office so you must be a secretary’ but when I told them it was IT they would ask ‘What does that mean?’ and they may then ask you to fix their printer.
“There are more opportunities for women in senior roles now. The culture of having more men at the higher level is less apparent than before. Personal attitudes have changed. I think women are less likely to say: ‘I don’t think I can step into that role’.
However, Suzanne believes that too few girls are drawn to STEM subjects (science, engineering, technology and mathematics) at entry level.
“Unfortunately, tech still doesn’t attract enough women,” she added. “I don’t understand why as it is so flexible and adaptable. You can often work from anywhere in IT.
“There are always new challenges in IT. There is never a case where something cannot be improved. It is constantly changing because you have to take notice of changes. You need to take on the opportunities to learn anything new you can.”
Now a mother-of-two, Suzanne is impressed with what she has experienced at Love2shop since joining the business.
“There is a lot going on at the moment,” she said. “This is a very, very forward-thinking business. Even though there are a lot of people who have worked here a long time, I haven’t come across anybody who isn’t willing to try something new.
“Everyone is very open to change. There is no-one who has said ‘Oh we did that years ago, let’s not bother’.
“I think the culture here is very collaborative. I can’t think of anybody I couldn’t just go to and have a chat with to ask them for their thoughts about something. People are very supportive of each other.”
What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you were younger?
That it is ok to say ‘no’. That you can be adaptable without being a doormat.
Best advice from a mentor?
To have confidence in my abilities. If I don’t know something straight away, I am able to figure it out.
What would you do differently if you had to do it again?
Take on more challenges or tasks that were outside of my comfort zone.
Biggest lesson learned?
Everything can be improved upon – don’t wait for things to be 100%.
What would you say to someone starting out?
Vary your learning opportunities. Before you specialise and find your niche, explore other things.