Ruth South is Head of Graduate, Apprentice & Placement Programmes at Capgemini.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I chose to leave school at 16 as I wanted to progress my career in the world of work and back then programmes that combined work and education that are accessible today were not as widely available. Over the past 20 years I have gained a variety of experiences with a number of employers, roles and countries including the United States and France, which has enabled me to have an agile approach to my career and take on new opportunities and change readily.
I joined Capgemini ten years ago and during that time have had 5 roles in very different areas, including employee benefits and communications. Joining on a 6 month contract, I never envisaged that I’d stay for as long as I have. I chose to continue my career with Capgemini because the company has provided me with so many opportunities and championed my career and growth from day one, which has given me the confidence to get to where I am today.
My current role is that I lead talent programmes across the UK for a number of employee groups including graduates, apprentices and mid managers. This involves supporting up to 800 employees to realise their potential and provide the structure and tools to develop into the future leaders of the organisation. I love the variety that my role brings – it’s a fantastic, inspiring, fast paced area and one where every day is different.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
Not at all! During my career I have worked in a number of sectors including pharmaceutical, professional services and technology, and in multiple roles. Whilst I’ve never planned out my next career move, there has been one constant throughout – people. My real passion is supporting people to tap into their true potential and to make a difference to them personally – be that through the talent programmes we offer or by providing advice and guidance as a manager and mentor. It’s taken working for an employer like Capgemini to give me the confidence to pursue opportunities that have really stretched my skillset and as a result I’m currently in a role that I am truly passionate about.
What do you think could be done to encourage more women into tech and the STEM sector?
There definitely needs to be more awareness of the opportunities available as early as possible. Unbelievably it’s reported that children are ruling out careers by as early as 4, therefore limiting their opportunities and we as a country and industry need to respond to this by collaborating with government and schools to bring to life what STEM and tech careers exist and that it’s possible for any gender to have any career. Capgemini works across the UK with a number of schools to do just this through our Schools Outreach programme.
I also think that more programmes and networks to support women who are thinking of a career in tech but don’t know where to start would help to bridge the gap between confidence and possibility. Through our apprenticeship programmes I have seen some outstanding examples where women have joined our programmes throughout all stages of their lives to actively pursue a career in technology and this is hugely inspiring to see.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement to date has to be working in my current role. It has been the most rewarding 2 years of my career from a personal and professional perspective. It was a big change from my last position and I naturally was nervous about the move but for me it was the best decision I’ve made. I had no idea of how inspired I would be every day by our apprentices and graduates. Their insights, commitment, potential, confidence and the results they achieve are fantastic and the difference they have made to Capgemini is clear. Attending the first ever degree apprentice graduation in July last year with the full team that has led on this from the outset, through to the programme completion was also an incredibly inspiring moment.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
To have the confidence and support to take on new opportunities in brand new areas and not to hold themselves back. With the effects of the well reported imposter syndrome sometimes we are quick to put ourselves down and not think we’re capable of being outside of our comfort zone and taking a risk by going for an opportunity in a new area. As someone who has benefitted hugely from trusting a handful of people who know me and my skillset and have empowered me to make this type of decision, I have taken my career in a totally different direction and as a result I am doing a job that I love. I’d definitely encourage others to do the same!
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
My next challenge is to continue to grow our apprenticeship programmes, with the aim of reducing the impact the digital skills gap has, whilst also seeking new and creative ways for Capgemini make the most of the apprenticeship levy. In addition to this my ongoing aim is to promote the fantastic role models and results that apprenticeships deliver with the aim to increase awareness and reduce mis-conceptions that unfortunately still exist about this fantastic alternative career route.