Spotlight on Women in Tech: Andrea Perrot

10 August 2020

Sean Robinson

Women in Tech,

At License Dashboard we are, and always have been passionate about creating and maintaining a diverse place of work. One of our employees has been working with the Women in Technology Community by building a space where women can support each other, share advice and work to narrow the gender gap.

We asked some esteemed women within the IT industry to tell us a bit about their experiences within the workplace. Here’s what Andrea Perrot, a Freelance Licensing Specialist and Trainer, has said:

When did you first start in the IT industry and what drew you to it?

1999 and to be honest I never planned to go in to IT. I started in the fashion industry in London after uni in luxury horology and then the buying office for ladies soft accessories. A friend told me about their job at Computacenter and they were paid five grand more than me, which in your mid twenties is loads! He said why don’t you move hard drives and computers around the country rather than hats, scarves and gloves? And off I went. It was also an exciting time in IT as it was just before the Y2K panic and after a year of being a sales administrator dealing with the investment banks in the City, I realized that Microsoft licensing was something I enjoyed and importantly understood. Off I went to that team and the rest as they say is history!

As a woman, have you faced any challenges within working environments?

Absolutely. ‘ In the early days and I was a lot younger then, some old school IT people didn’t want to accept that a young female who didn’t take life too seriously knew more about something so detailed like licensing than them. Licensing is such a dry subject, so I’ve always approached things with a positive attitude, maybe I should have appeared more serious and dour, but that’s just not me. I’m not technical, but I really enjoyed that I had found a niche and by doing it day in day out I really started to know my stuff. I also specialized in Public Sector, so most people liked the fact I focused on a niche within a niche. There was a dramatic year when Microsoft got rid of upgrades and introduced Software Assurance and actually any negative vibes disappeared as we all had a common goal to plan and implement sensible licensing arrangements. Licensing has got a good blend of male and female, so maybe I was lucky – there are some areas in IT still largely male environments.

Maybe I should have appeared more serious and dour, but that’s just not me

It’s now well known that a lot of industries have been highlighted due to pay gaps between men and women, do you think this is the same within the IT industry?

I don’t have first hand experience of that, I’ve always been driven to achieve and enjoy the associated bonuses or financial rewards. I’ve been lucky to work for companies who reward their specialists and experienced staff. IT is one of those industries where you need skills to achieve and several times I’ve provided guidance to girls who want to look at careers in tech. I may not be able to code, but I can explain many areas within IT and if you have the skills or find a niche, you will get rewarded for it. I’m now a freelancer, so I control my income to a certain extent.

In recent years there has been an influx of women in all workplaces, but it’s not equal to men, I read somewhere that men are 30% more likely to be promoted to a managerial position than women. Why do you think this is and what can organizations do to prevent discrimination and maintain equality when looking at hiring, salaries and promotions?

I’m probably the last person you want to answer this! More than a decade ago I was part of a team who won a significant contract in the public sector and I had to build a team to manage it. I did enjoy that time, but I decided to demote myself as I missed being with customers and doing that frontline licensing work! Having said that, some of my best managers who truly inspired me were women and if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What resources and support are available for women in IT?

I know there are forums and groups specifically for Women in business or in tech. I’m a member of the British Computer Society, they have a Women’s Group and reward inspirational women with the annual Ada Lovelace award. I do enjoy seeing what they do and learn from some of their activities. I haven’t actively been part of any other groups, mainly my own fault finding the time. Having said that, I have provided my time to my careers day to give talks to girls about tech and I believe the support and resource should start at that early stage to get them thinking. Most of my support has been informal with my friends in the industry, many of whom become friends and we can’t help ourselves talking shop when we meet. That ongoing friendly support within the industry I think often gets overlooked.

What’s the biggest lesson you have learnt as a woman in technology?

Just be yourself! I don’t wear power suits or feel I have to be all corporate and serious. I believe my approach to life and work has made me who I am and why my work relationships last for many years. One of my closest friends was originally a customer from 20 years ago!

Just be yourself! I don’t wear power suits or feel I have to be all corporate and serious.

What is your favorite part of working in the IT industry?
IT is really good at the fun side of work, particularly if you work hard. I’ve been so lucky to have been included in high achiever holidays and back in the day the software company trips were amazing. I love travel, so this does pander to my wanderlust. I remember attending an awards ceremony in Manchester and meeting the legend that was Tony Wilson just before he sadly passed away. Too many memories to list.
What’s the biggest professional challenge you have faced and how did you overcome it?
There have been two. Firstly in 2008 I was involved in an accident and broke my back, I was off for many months and coming back to a management position was hard. My confidence had been knocked from not being in work for so long, but it also gave me the time to reflect and it was at that point I decided to step back from management. Loads of fake news was going around the industry particularly from the recruiters helping to find my replacement and I needed to be strong. It’s the first best decision I made. The second was more recently. I had a birthday with a zero a few years back and having spent most of my career being away from home because my work took me up and down the country, I decided to reclaim my time. I also decided to go back to uni and do something fun, so I needed that flexibility to be part time – I accept it may have been a midlife crisis. Making the decision to leave full time work to be a freelancer was terrifying and exciting in equal measure. It hasn’t been plain sailing, but that has made me stronger and I love the life I now have. Initially people just saw me disappear from the traditional LSP world and some people joked that I’d retired! Anyway, the gamble paid off, I’ve been nicely busy around my university studies and been fortunate that I’ve been kept busy during this time of Coronavirus. My gamble paid off, as this month I got a first class degree!
Do you have any advice or words of wisdom to women starting out in the IT industry?
Yes, go speak to people and get information first hand. I’ve had friends of friends who have asked me to speak to their kids and been grateful of guidance based on reality and an insight in to the highs and lows. I think it’s important to be honest with young girls, they’re not stupid and the honesty helps them prepare for potential challenges. I’d also say if they are going in to a technical branch of IT, there is loads of free online training out there! Also, even though I now have two degrees and quite traditional with my education, I’m a big fan of the apprenticeship schemes. The majority of my knowledge has come from on the job training and learning from those around me. There are loads of tech companies with amazing apprenticeship schemes.

Keep an eye out for the next blog in the Women in Technology series and if you would like to take part, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Sean is a pioneer of SAM with over 20 years’ experience in software licensing compliance. He developed our industry leading, software asset and license management tool, License Manager, delivering SAM services to some of the largest companies in the world.

Sean Robinson

Further reading