Inspirational Woman: Michelle Roberts | Director of Partners, Ensono

Michelle Roberts colour headshot

Michelle is the Director of Partners at Ensono, where she is responsible for the Hyperscale Cloud partner relationships, as well as the management of its market strategy globally.

She has a wealth of expertise in sales and relationship management, having previously worked for Attenda and Rackspace.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m the Director of Partners at Ensono, a leading global provider of managed hybrid IT. I am responsible for the development of Ensono’s Hyperscale Cloud partner relationships, as well as the management of our market strategy globally.

Outside of work, I have three children, and I’m an Olympic weightlifter!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In short, no – it’s nothing like I imagined. I think there’s a select few who have their career mapped out from an early age – most of us follow a number of twists and turns to get there.  I actually wanted to be a graphic designer or an architect, but my career now couldn’t be more different. However, I really feel that the “artistic element” of my personality has helped me a lot!

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Being a female in a technical role can sometimes be a bit lonely. As I’ve moved up and across into more technical roles, my network of fellow-female colleagues has diminished, and it’s been a while since I’ve worked in a team with women. Quite often I’m the only woman in the room and it can be daunting. However, most of the time there are bigger challenges to deal with, so it’s not something I expend much energy on.

The transition from individual contributor to a management role has been another notable challenge. I’m a proactive do-er and letting go of tasks can be quite difficult. Delegating them out isn’t second nature, particularly if I don’t see things moving forward.

But really, I think that my greatest challenge has been combining my career with motherhood. Juggling three children with a full-time job is tough and I’m not sure many people understand the constant pull in every direction and what it takes to give 100% to your job and your family. It takes resilience, drive, and lots of late nights to perform well. There’s always this underlying guilt that you haven’t given enough to one or the other – even though you have – so you work twice as hard. That’s why I think that working parents are an untapped resource, which some organisations are just not attuned to.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

While the progress over the last few years for women in the workplace has been beneficial, some of that progress has actually been detrimental. Salary disparity and the difficulties of promotion for women are now being recognised – and I applaud that – but the presence of women in the workplace has now become slightly contrived. For instance, are women being invited to those senior meetings for their contribution, or the impact they will make? Or is it because they are the token woman in the room, or because it will make the company look more diverse?

I want things to be normalised to the point where #WomeninTech is no longer a debated topic, and frankly, I’m bored of hearing it myself. Let’s accept that there have been problems in the past and move on. Simply, businesses need to have a plan for how to address the diversity issues and how to counteract cognitive biases. Yes, there are still pockets of inequality in wider society, but that takes time to eradicate.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

When I was younger, I didn’t realise the value in mentoring – in someone analysing your behaviour and your methods. But, I’ve realised more recently in my life just how critical mentoring is to the success of your career. Having someone there who wants to help you – someone who is willing to talk critically and honestly – is enormously beneficial. Mentors can equip you with tools and tactics to deal with situations differently or help you get the most out of your work relationships by viewing them from a different angle.

I also believe life skills and experience can be far more significant than your education in your career, and I’d like to see more organisations delivering mentoring programs in the workplace and schools to build on the exposure people get outside of academic training.

How would you encourage more women and girls into a career in STEM?

It is crucial to start from the ground up, by nurturing talent. School-age is where we can start to make the greatest impact on young women’s choices. Girls are sometimes not aware of technology career choices and can fall into the belief that science and technology are male domains. However, that perception can be changed quite easily.

Identifying skills that young girls have and helping them to understand how to apply them to different environments is one way forward. Giving children different experiences and letting them choose those that they’re most interested in, or comfortable with, is another.

Educators should champion the status of women in STEM professions to give real-life role models for the next generation. Schools could invite successful women in technology to speak in front of children, and teachers could celebrate the achievements of female pioneers and female leaders in every day lessons.

Social media is also worth considering. For teenagers in particular, it’s something that can be used to foster interest in different careers and to normalise STEM careers for women. Youngsters are spending more than 70% of their time online, so we need to get the popular role models vlogging! The more successful women we have talking publicly about their journey – whether in real life or online – the more confidence young girls will have to enter the field.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Every day is an achievement. I’m becoming everything that I wanted to be. I’m not sure I knew what went on behind the scenes for a successful businesswoman, but I guess I am one. I’m a Director at a successful company that’s going places and I have achieved a lot in my time. As Ensono continues to grow, hopefully I will follow, and help lead its trajectory.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

At some point, I would like to give something back on a personal level, using everything I have learnt. I have been very fortunate in my career, but I have also worked very hard for it, which is something I can share. I want to offer my knowledge and advice to women with personal challenges and women who are yet to start their professional careers. Women have something major to offer the workplace.

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