International Women's Day Feature: Fleur Parker
Happy International Women’s Day 2018! We’re thrilled to be marking this fantastic celebration by featuring some of TSG’s phenomenal female talent.
For this blog we’ve interviewed Fleur Parker, Group Applications Director at TSG. Fleur has worked at TSG for almost 15 years, beginning her career with us as Customer Service Director looking after the delivery and support of technology solutions for her region.
Having begun her career as cabin crew for British Airways, Fleur then seamlessly side-stepped into the wonderful world of IT, accepting a role at Menzies IT. Fleur quickly progressed in her role to doing pre-sales demonstrations and then moving to technical implementation projects working with technologies such as Sage, Pegasus and Dynamics NAV.
In this interview we look to uncover Fleur’s differentiator in the business world, her advice to women looking to work in IT and of course her thoughts on the representation of women in tech.
What was your first job?
Lifeguard whilst I was at college, although I ended up still working there when I had a full time job as well. The fun and social side was amazing and for a keen swimmer it was a great first job. My friend and I used to clock up 60 hours a week – it was definitely more than a job!
If you could pick up a new skill in an instant what would it be?
I’d have the skills and qualifications to be a solicitor.
Who’s someone you really admire?
Would have to be my Mum – she had a highly successful career and always worked hard to provide us with a nice life. She definitely instilled a strong work ethos into my brother and I. She and my step dad also spent days/hours driving me all over the country to swimming competitions supporting me and never moaned about it! A sport that also gave me some great disciplines for later life (takes some special/crazy to spend hours in a rectangle of water swimming up and down!)
What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?
I guess that comes from my Mum – tough love, always drilled into us to ‘just get on with it’. Although she did send me to school with chicken pox once (maybe a step too far, although have to admit to doing that to one of mine too!) and it certainly made us tough. The motto works in business and personal lives and it’s a phrase I always apply.
I joined TSG by acquisition from Accounting Answers back in 2005. I was lucky enough to quickly establish good relationships with the senior team at TSG and saw great opportunities on the horizon. TSG is a business that not only offers a vast but specific array of products that keeps things interesting but for me it’s all about the people. We are big enough to ensure the policies/processes/scale is there but actually, we still operate in a small business way when it comes to our people. The teams here get on and that’s absolutely key, for me I have always built teams and employed people that you can work with – if you get on, the business bit is easier.
How can we improve the representation of women in tech?
I think by nature operational people don’t tend to shout about success as perhaps our colleagues in commercials. It’s all about promoting positivity and this is a great industry to be in as a woman – get it right and the door is wide open.
What does a typical day at TSG look like for you?
Once the kids are sorted, it’s on to business (sometimes after an early swim or gym session). Generally, I have meetings pre-booked for the day – they could be a variety of face-to-face or using Skype/Teams that allows us to maximise attendees without people having to travel. Likely I’ll have at least one 1-1 with one of my Ops Managers and they are really key. We go through business but also it’s a general chat on how they are and indeed their team. Also likely, I’ll have a deadline of some kind, so aiming to work on that to ensure they are submitted on time. There will of course be adhoc escalations, people asking to ‘run something past me’, working on future plans etc.
The best thing about my role and actually true since I started all those years ago, is no day has EVER been the same.
What will be the number 1 technology trend in 2018 and why?
It has to be the continuation of cloud, although still it’s a buzzword banded around without people really knowing and understanding it. 2018 I am sure will see more and more businesses get knowledgeable (TSG of course can help here) and then start to make the transitions. As varying technologies adapt the cloud strategies, what business would want to be left behind?
What advice would you give to a young woman looking to make it in the technology sector or succeed in business in general?
Know your stuff! That doesn’t mean you need to know everything but find your sweet spot. You will feel confident and know that actually you have a lot to offer and can hold your own in those meetings where actually they can be tough going.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
What is your differentiator in the business world?
Getting to know the people. You will deal with so many different types of people and you need to gauge how to deal with them. It’s definitely not a one size fits all. By taking the time, you can get so much more just by knowing who you are dealing with. I’m lucky to have a fantastic team at TSG and it’s so important they feel supported, so go the extra mile and learn about the people.
You’ve been successful in business, what has motivated you to get to this point?
Early days I wanted to be different to others, be someone that was successful, someone that had an opinion and worked hard. Of course, as you then build your family, I always wanted to ensure no matter what, I took control and could provide the quality of life for my children. I’m a believer in a strong work ethic and kids need to see that Mum does work hard and that’s what we all need to do.
Tell me something that’s true, that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I’m a real believer that tablets and medication for low-level illnesses are just not needed. Let your immune system do the work, rather than popping pills for everything. Too many people reach for the packets for any little thing (tough love again in our house).
What has been the main barrier or opposition you have found being a woman in tech?
In the early days, I would walk into ERP customer meetings and you could see I was almost dismissed as a young (blonde) female. However as always, I saw this as a positive challenge and as soon as it was my turn, heads turned and tuned in and you know you have your audience. It’s just a shame you had to prove yourself rather than starting on an even keel.