In Her Shoes: Berni Roberts | Transition Director, Capgemini

“The difference is that Capgemini really wants to live its values, and this for me is a unique quality in an organisation.”

Who am I?

In Her Shoes- Berni Roberts | Transition Director, Capgemini (F)I grew up in the Lake District, the third of four children, and left home at 18 for a gap year with a major oil and gas company. I then completed a degree in Biochemistry, perfectly preparing myself for a career in IT by working with substances as deadly as cobra venom! I was a research scientist for the same oil company after university, and then moved into sales and marketing for one of their suppliers – a role that took me to Switzerland.

I returned to the UK when I became pregnant with my first child, as I knew I wanted to carry on working, and nannies weren’t really available in Switzerland then. I carried on working through a very varied career in sales and marketing, with the main principle being that I would never say no to anything exciting!

Moving into transition work

I took up a post as a management consultant with a large IT company, where I was bridging the gap between the worlds of business and technology. With this company, I moved into transition work through a hugely challenging programme. I realised I loved this type of work, and it’s what I’ve been doing ever since.

All the way through my career, I’ve greatly enjoyed change, being part of change and bringing creativity to change. I always think about how I can resolve each challenge in the best possible way.

My typical work day

There’s no such thing as a typical work day for me, and I absolutely adore that – I get bored when things are the same!

As women, we are multitaskers, and that really works for me in this role. I spend a lot of time travelling abroad, so when I’m back in Britain, I need to work out how I can slot everything in. If I’m working from home, I sometimes think: “Oh I’ve got two minutes between calls. Right – put the kettle on, throw another load of washing in, make a cuppa, and then back on the phone!”. These calls are as varied as my workload; sometimes bid preparation meetings, working through brochures to present to clients, or team calls.

Planning my career

I haven’t planned my working life. Throughout my career, interesting things have manifested themselves and I’ve taken the opportunities where they’ve arisen. It’s all about the appeal of the job – I had 11 different roles with my last employer, and I know that I have as many opportunities within Capgemini. As long as an organisation can offer me lots of variety, then I know I’ll be happy.

Managing my development

I’ve always spent a lot of time developing myself outside work. Some things I’ve done might not seem essential for my roles: for example, I’m a Neuro-Linguistic Programming master practitioner. In fact, though, I find myself drawing on tools and techniques learned in my leisure time while working on bids and transitions; everything I do adds to how I deliver on the job. You have to have soft skills to succeed in this field: being able to engage and bring people with you is very important.

I would like to aim high within Capgemini to be a VP, so I am going to be prescriptive in terms of my development now. It sounds like a cliché, but networks are hugely important when you want to progress, especially in a new organisation. Every time you move, you leave behind the reputation you’ve built, so you have to accelerate that process in your new organisation.

Highlights so far

I’ve experienced a really helpful environment here, and a genuine desire to support people. When I joined, I made a point of contacting a lot of people and introducing myself – you ask people if you can have some time, and the answer is always yes. Two days into my role, I was working on a new deal, and rang one of the other transition directors to ask for advice. They were so helpful and knowledgeable, and provided such useful advice.

The difference is that Capgemini really wants to live its values, and this for me is a unique quality in an organisation. It’s reflected all the way to the top, as well. Paul Hermelin, our group chairman and CEO, presented at a meeting I was in a couple of months ago, and he sat and talked to us as peers; he’d obviously taken the time to think about what he wanted to say.

Best thing about working here

There’s absolutely no doubt – it’s the people!

Support that I value

IT, tools, processes – that’s all valuable, but the people are really what makes Capgemini special. Starting at a new company can be a lonely experience, and it can be hard to get face-to-face time with people, but that just wasn’t the case here. I’ve felt genuinely supported by wonderful people throughout.

What’s next?

I want to deliver something really significant. For me, delivery is the way to cement a brilliant reputation in a new organisation.

Advice to new joiners

Look for people who inspire you, and find a way of working with them.

And finally….

A balanced workforce, in terms of gender and other dimensions of diversity, brings richness to what you can achieve as a team. The world is full of different people, and having that same balance in a team means you can achieve fantastic things.

I’ve always felt lucky to have an exciting and challenging career, and its not always been easy. Due to personal circumstances, I was the breadwinner for my two children, so work was a means to support them – but for me it’s always been a passion too. Initially in my career I was conscious of being a woman and a mother and I felt I had to constantly prove myself. I might have been up all night with the children, but I still needed to be in first and be better at what I was doing than my counterparts to get to where I wanted to be. I feel less like that now and I also feel that organisations have changed and woman’s needs as mothers are recognised now.

As women, we’re often less inclined to believe in ourselves than our male colleagues are, but I’ve seen the amazing things we can achieve so many times.

Read more In Her Shoes profiles here.

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