Women in Tech: Interview with Libby Kelly, Director Cpl Technology

Cpl Technology has been recruiting across all IT industries for over 20 years. Over that time the technology sector has changed massively, not least in terms of diversity and inclusion.

Lately, the spotlight has been put on the lack of gender equality within the industry and businesses are beginning to look for ways to narrow the gender gap. The recent Women in Tech awards was created with this idea in mind and with an aim to attract women into the Technology space.

We spoke to Libby Kelly, Director of Cpl Technology, about what it’s like to work within the technology recruitment space in Ireland and her thoughts on women and diversity in the technology industry.

What is your background? Can you tell us how you started working with Cpl technology?

After college and a few “I don’t know what I want to do” courses, I went travelling and on my return home I knew I had to settle down and get a career.

I interviewed with Cpl for a Sales role with a client and having met several recruiters I was hired by Garret Roche, to be a contract mainframe recruiter where I worked on the upcoming Y2k and Euro projects.

Being before the “just google it” days I had to call a friend in IT to ask him what the hell a mainframe was as I was clueless. Even so, it was a fabulous few first years in Cpl.

Can you describe your current role – what’s your typical day to day?

As a working mum, I am very thankful to work for a company that values a work-life balance, so I split my week up to allow me to drive the kids to school 3 days a week. It’s so important I have that time in the morning with them. It grounds me as to what is most important in my life.

The rest of the week I start early so that I avoid as much of the 3 -4 hour commute as I can. Recruitment is a very reactive job and so I try to get through important and urgent emails/calls first thing so that I can spend the rest of my time working with my team (there’s nearly 30 in the Cpl Technology team), my MD and our clients.

My role is heavily focused on guiding the team through day to day challenges and ensuring targets, KPIs and our clients and candidates are getting the very best out of us.

As a non-tech tech person, what advice would you give to those who’d like to get involved in the industry but don’t have the technical skills?

Don’t be afraid of Technology. I don’t have a degree in Technology but I am dealing with Technologists day in day out. I know what my strengths are, and just as importantly my weaknesses. What I don’t know, I ask for help in.

In the first 6 months of my role as the Director of the Technical Recruitment team, I had to lean on our Tech specialists to get to grips with all the areas we recruit for. After my initial foray into mainframe, I had specialised in Project Management and Consultancy for 15 years so this it was a completely new area for me.

I needed to be credible with our clients – and my peers – so I had to seek that help and guidance (and a tech dictionary) to help me in the early days. Whilst I am not an out and out Techy now I can definitely hold my own in a tech conversation.

What’s your experience of gender balance within technology, have you or your team experienced issues finding suitable female technology candidates for jobs?

It is a very real problem, just 7% of women occupy STEM positions in Europe. We have clients crying out for female technologists and if you are female with a Tech degree you are almost guaranteed a job.

Cpl is working with schools, colleges and the Government to drive the STEM agenda, girls need positive role models and to feel that technology can be a very real and progressive career for them.

Progress has been made but we have a long way to go. It’s a well-known fact that gender diverse organisations have garnered much more financial success as a result. I am honoured to be amongst several women in Cpl holding the more senior leadership positions in the business, but we have had a great role model in our CEO to pave the way for us.

As a working mum, what advice would you have for working women who are struggling to strike the balance? Do you think the culture of late nights and always “being on” within the tech industry is changing?

I only ever worked 3 days a week but have increased my days as my kids have gotten a little older and as my seniority in the business has grown. It’s not easy to juggle it all but I am lucky to have a very understanding husband who whilst having his own very successful career helps equally in the running of our house and bringing up our kids. I couldn’t do it otherwise.

He always knew my career was important to me and so has always had my back. My advice is to not be so hard on yourselves, I think working women and mums are very tough on themselves.

What we are achieving inside and outside the house is nothing short of amazing. Looking back just one generation, having trained for years my mum had to legally give up her work as a midwife as soon as she married.

I believe some of those a little greyer around the edges have not found that balance and are “on” a lot more than younger generations. Recruitment, for men or for women, is never a 9-5.30 job, candidates in particular often only email/call after hours so we do need to be available.

I would love to say I turn my phone off at 6 pm but I don’t. Millennials are very focused on the work-life balance and I admire them for this – they are starting as they mean to go on.

What trends are you noticing in the tech recruitment industry now? What do you see being the next big disruptor in the space?

HealthTech and the data behind it. There has been a huge growth in this space with developments in interpreting data, health devices and devices to remind patients of appointments, prescriptions refills etc. I’ve also noticed an improvement in the accessibility of IoT into the every day, while the demand for Data Science candidates is still huge.

What is the biggest lesson you have learnt over the years?

First, attitude is everything. I am such a big believer that your attitude can open so many doors for you. Secondly, always be kind. Business must go on, targets must be met, and some decisions can be very hard but being kind is always important.

How does Cpl technology stay current in a constantly evolving industry?

We hear about a lot of the new projects and technologies our candidates and clients are working on so we are ahead of the curve on a lot of occasions. We also have to constantly innovate in our ways to find the best tech candidates. Cpl is also the first agency to introduce AI to improve our candidate matching abilities and it’s a phenomenal tool, a real game changer

What is the best thing about working within the technology recruitment space in Ireland?

It’s very fast paced. The market has never been so competitive and good candidates have never been in so much demand. I am leading the biggest, and best, Tech recruitment team in Ireland and they really are a fantastic group of people.

They are great at what they do, they’re also great craic and we mind each other. It’s important in a sales environment that we work well together – contention only causes distraction from the job at hand.

Role models and promoting women in technology are important parts of encouraging the next generation of women to engage with STEM subjects, who would you say is your biggest professional role model?

Rather than calling out one woman, I would like to say my colleagues here in Cpl. In particular the women and working mums who are juggling so much but equally being very successful in the office and bringing up well-adjusted kids. It’s not easy and I think we’re all role models.

Cpl Technology

Over the years we have established strategic partnerships with clients across all IT industry sectors, from startups to large internationals.

If you are working within the Technology sector in Ireland and would like to speak to one of our specialists about hiring, outsourcing or current workplace trends please get in touch.

Technology Careers

If you are interested in a new career within the technology industry you can view all live tech jobs on cpljobs.com, alternatively get in touch with Libby Kelly, libby.kelly@cpl.ie or Lisa Holt, lisa.holt@cpl.ie