On the latest episode of the Alan Turing Podcast in partnership with Boss Digital, James is joined by award-winning entrepreneur, Sonya Barlow. Sonya is the Founder of the LMF Network and best selling author of Unprepared to Entrepreneur. Sonya is passionate about implementing change through her work as a Diversity and Inclusion Coach, TEDx Speaker, LinkedIn Changemaker 2021 and BBC Radio Host.
“So I’m a woman in technology, whatever that means. And why I say whatever that means is because I never put those labels or identity metrics on myself. When I started in the technology world other people did and slowly you start to feed off those labels and what then happens is that you start to play on the biases that others have, that society has manifested, that your family and your friends around you are contemplating, and you start to feel that you are less than or different. And my story in that sense is I’ve worked for a number of technology firms and I’ve always felt out of place. But also I’ve found myself conforming to their standards, to what suits them, to what the norms are in technology. I myself am quite an energetic, ambitious, confident person. I think out loud. Want to get my hands dirty. I want to give everything a go, and I think technology has a space for that but not necessarily where I was working and so that was a really difficult period for me.
I wasn’t aligning my skills accordingly. I wasn’t motivated to go into work and yet you get paid so much money that you’re like you have to show up every day. And unfortunately, a number of times now the companies that I worked for and myself have decided to part ways. And when you part ways under those circumstances, you don’t necessarily know what your next step is.
The way that I really overcame that period of burnout and being sick was going back to the foundations. What makes me happy? What am I passionate about? What are my skills and my drivers? And what can I do that somebody else possibly can’t do? And then I went to look for jobs and tried to align them with projects, jobs and careers that really incorporated those skill sets rather than go for the titles themselves.”
“As a consequence of the pandemic more and more individuals are wanting to work from home. So hybrid working research shows that over 60% of us want to work from home. And yet when we’re talking about diversity & inclusion that itself brings on challenges and biases. Whilst this is a great opportunity for many people, there’s a flip side to that. Research has shown that over 50% of us feel that if we aren’t in the workspace itself. we will be overlooked for progression, for promotions, for appraisals, and that itself is proximity bias.
The second challenge is as a consequence of hybrid working, more people are feeling lonelier. So the stats a few years ago were 1 in 5 people were lonely, but the stat now is somewhere between 1 in 3, so what are we doing to create remote working relationships and social capital without being Zoom fatigued or online all the time?
And then the third is career options and the future of talent. The next generation are looking for value-led organisations, ethical organisations, sustainable organisations, but most importantly, organisations that want to and are ready to support them in their learning and their growth because the truth is, anyone and everyone now can start a business from their bedroom. They can make money by selling things online, be that on Etsy or Depop or eBay, and they can create online courses and have passive income, or you can become a content creator.
So I think to answer your question, what does the future of work look like? The future of work looks like more dependence on technology. It looks like companies and individuals having to balance hybrid working with building relationships and that sense of belonging. And it looks like content creation as a working model, and that itself will disrupt the marketing, influencer, PR market because the reality is that you can get the engagement online by doing the work yourself, and so how are companies that are financially or were financially dependent on that model, how then do they progress into the future? That’s what I would say from a working standpoint right? and from an employer standpoint from a technology standpoint.”
“If you’re listening to this thinking, “what can I do?” It’s about, 1 acknowledging what your working style is, 2 going and sharing that with other people and 3 listening to one another and learning from each other and making sure that you’re adapting small things like incorporating lunch breaks so no one has meetings or having Fridays as a no meeting day, or making sure that any virtual social is within working hours and that it’s inclusive. Speak to those young professionals – and I keep using the word young, I don’t just mean by age but experience – who are overwhelmed by the number of options they now have and just give them a helping hand. Let them know it’s okay, that you’ve got them that you want the best for them and take them on that journey with you.”