Making A Career Change To A Technical Role with Capgemini
CASE STUDY: Julie Clark, VP Head of UK Cyber Security at Capgemini
Julie Clark, Vice President Head of UK Cyber Security at Capgemini, tells us more about her transition from a non-technical to a technical role, and how she’s worked to push past her impostor syndrome and share her skill set to develop and grow her team.
Julie has been at Capgemini for seven years having started as a Project Manager. She is a working mum with two children: one thirteen, one fifteen - a husband, and two dogs.
Can you share your journey from making the transition from a non-tech role to a tech role in Capgemini?
I’ve been involved in project management in IT for a very long time now - coming up to 15 years. I was at HP for 20 years, before joining Capgemini as a pure project manager, and I always say you don’t have to be technical to be a pure project manager. Then I started to get more involved in some of the Cloud transitions so I started learning more about that - still completely non-technical. And then, just over a year ago, my boss at the time asked me to consider the take-over of the technical team and cybersecurity.
I was sceptical at first since I knew very little about cybersecurity but my boss said “You know everything there is to know about everything else. You’ve just got to learn the technical piece…”
As scary as it sounded, he had the faith in me to be able to do this. I have learned so much since taking on the technical team and growing it. Taking the opportunity, especially as a female in that environment, has been really refreshing and I’m really glad I’ve done it.
It’s been a real journey of discovery for me in my own ability and having the confidence to be able to do that.
What skills have you acquired in your role that you didn’t have previously?
I’ve learned about what cybersecurity means and that’s been really insightful because my understanding of cybersecurity before joining the team was predominantly around fear and the issues that would occur if we didn’t do the technical cybersecurity stuff. I’ve gained knowledge on how making sure that we’ve got environments that are secure by design can help and grow our clients’ confidence in the IT that we’re delivering for them. We can shape all those conversations that we’re having with customers about technical delivery.
I’ve learnt how a SOC (Security Operation Center) works, how we support our customers on a daily basis with threat hunting, vulnerability management, identity and access management, privileged access management, and how we help and design all those pieces of work that will ensure that they are safe moving forward.
What was the most challenging part of this transition?
I think one of the most challenging aspects is being able to talk to somebody that is really technical - someone that is cyber through and through. You cut them in half and it says “CYBER” like a stick of Brighton rock. It’s having the confidence to say to them: “I’m not going to understand everything you say, but talk to me in layman terms and we’ll work it out”.
And, actually, you do understand more than you think you know! It’s the fear factor of making yourself look stupid. That’s been quite a hard thing for me to say “It’s OK not to know everything…”. And you can’t know everything! That’s why you have the specialists around you that are very technical to help you with those deficiencies that you might have. That’s been a really interesting part of the journey. It’s getting to know the people that do have the expert knowledge and believing that it’s OK that you don’t have all the expert knowledge.
What you are describing sounds a lot like imposter syndrome which some research has shown is common with women in tech…
I suffer from impostor syndrome massively and always have. If my boss ever says to me, “I need a conversation with you…” my first reaction is “What have I done wrong?”, not “What have I done right?”.
And I think, especially females - and don’t get me wrong, a lot of men suffer from impostor syndrome as well, but it is more common in females - it’s accepting that that’s OK. I never knew that it even existed, impostor syndrome. I thought it was just me being unconfident. It wasn’t until I started to think about going for the promotion in Capgemini that I realised - or other people helped me realise - that it’s quite normal. And if you look at females going for promotions or a job, they will look at a job description and go: “I can do 90% of that, but I can’t do that 10% so I won’t apply…”. Whereas, if you look at men, generally, and I’m not saying this is all men because it isn’t, they’ll say: “I can do that 70%, I’ll apply for the job.”
That’s why I think, especially in the tech world there’s nothing to be afraid of about having a go. What’s the worst that can happen? At the end of the day, if you want to try something…try it. When my boss offered me this technical role he said “Well, if it doesn’t work out we’ll find you something else, but I firmly believe that you can do it.” The fact that he had that belief in me gave me that safety net, and he was absolutely right. Because I can do it and I am doing it, and I’m learning so much. Had I not been given that opportunity I’d have never thought of going into that role.
What has been the most rewarding part of your new role?
Getting to know different types of people. I believe technical people are very clever and being able to work with them and learn more from them has been really fulfilling. Being able to help them, too, by sharing what I have to offer, taking my project management skills and my people skills into their technical world, and helping them develop in ways they never thought about.
A lot of technical people are under the impression that often they don’t have the people skills, I’ve noticed whilst we’ve been sharing our strengths and our weaknesses. Individuals have grown massively over the last year since I’ve been involved and it’s been a wonderful time. Maybe having someone not-so-technical leading their team has an advantage.
Can you share 3 tips for someone who is interested in transitioning to a tech role, who may not have a tech background? And also one idea on how to get started?
- I would say my biggest tip would be: Don’t be afraid. Having a go at something new is so inspiring and so rewarding. You’ve probably heard this before, but if you “fail” at something - and very few people ever actually fail - it’s the “First Attempt In Learning”, so F-A-I-L. If you try something and you’re not as successful as you would like to be, and, generally, it’s the pressure that you put on yourself, it will lead to another opportunity anyway. If you really think you want to try something, try it and don’t let anybody put you off!
- Build a network around you for those in the role that you would like to go into whilst you’re in a different role. Talk to your managers, ask if you can do 50/50 in another team, ask for a mentor or a technical mentor to help you think about what you want to do when you do make the leap.
- Do some self-learning on the subject beforehand. Listen to podcasts, find out as much as you can about what you want to do, and reach out to people. LinkedIn is there not just to find jobs, but people will help you. I think that’s one of the great things about human beings. They’re very happy to help people. If you want guidance or support, generally, if you ask, people will help you. It’s having the confidence to say: “I’m going to reach out to that person and see if they’ll talk to me.” Have no barriers; the barriers are generally created by you and not by anybody else.
And one action…be positive. Just do it. The chance is in your hands. One of the great things about working at Capgemini - and I feel very lucky that I joined Capgemini, is we are a real people company. We don’t make laptops, we don’t make printers, we don’t make Coca-Cola, we don’t make fridges…we make people. So if you ask for help, if you tell somebody that you need something or that you’d like something or that you want something…they will, generally, reach out and come back to you. Just ask, have the confidence to ask, and know that you can do anything that you set your mind to.
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