Named Computer Weekly’s most influential women in UK IT 2015, Jacqueline de Rojas is a believer in smart partnering & tech that makes life easy. She is a champion for women & diversity in technology.
In one of Jacqueline’s first management roles she was told that the company she worked for ‘didn’t put women on the leadership team’. Today, however, Jacqueline is a leading digital executive and a firm advocate of the importance of boardroom equality for successful businesses. She dedicates much of her time to encouraging and empowering young women to enter, remain and lead from the front in the sector, either in the boardroom or in more technical roles.
An international executive at mobile workspaces company Citrix, Jacqueline has been employed throughout her career by global blue-chip software companies to accelerate growth by pulling amazing teams together who can operate under pressure and extending their reach through smart partnerships.
Holding a number of board and advisory positions, she serves as a non-executive director on the board at Home Retail Group PLC focusing on the digital agenda, is a board advisor at Digital Leaders and lends her support to the technology group of the 30% Club to encourage more women on boards.
Away from her day-to-day role at Citrix, Jacqueline is the president techUK. Her presidency focuses on the ambition for the UK to seize its position as a digital nation of significance. She believes that to achieve this, all geographies and demographics across the UK must be included and we must strive to equip our country with the very best infrastructure and supportive business legislation possible. Above nothing can be achieved unless the UK tech industry attracts and retains talent from right across the diversity spectrum.
Amanda: Hi. This is Amanda Alexander and you’re very welcome to the Inspiring Women Interviews podcast. Interviews are with female leaders and female role models who advocate helping all women to achieve success.
Today, I am really delighted to be interviewing Jacqueline de Rojas. Jacqueline is VP at Citrix. She’s also non-executive director of Argos and Homebase and HRG. She’s president of techUK. Jacqueline is a believer in smart partnering and in technology that makes life easier. Really importantly for today’s interview, Jacqueline is a fantastic champion for women and diversity, particularly in technology.
In one of her first management roles, Jacqueline was told that the company she worked for, now get this, “didn’t put women on the leadership team.” I’ll be asking Jacqueline about that in just a moment. Today, however, Jacqueline is a leading digital executive and she’s a firm advocate of the importance of boardroom equality for successful businesses. She dedicates a lot of her time to encouraging and empowering young women to enter and to stay and to lead from the front in the technology sector, whether that’s in the boardroom or in technical roles.
She is an international executive at the mobile workspaces company Citrix, and she’s been employed throughout her career by global blue-chip software companies to accelerate growth by pulling fantastic teams together who can operate under pressure and extend their reach through small partnerships. She holds a number of board and advisory positions. She serves as non-executive director on the board of Home Retail Group PLC focusing on the digital agenda. She’s also board advisor at Digital Leaders and she lends her support to the technology group at the 30% Club to encourage more women on boards.
Away from her day-to-day role at Citrix, Jacqueline is the president of techUK. Her presidency at techUK focuses on the ambition for the UK to really grab its position as a digital nation of significance. She believes that to achieve this, all geographies and demographics across the UK must be included and we have to strive to equip our country with the very best infrastructure and supportive business legislation possible. Jacqueline believes that ultimately nothing can be achieves unless the UK tech industry attracts and retains talent from right across the diversity spectrum. As if all that wasn’t enough, this year, Jacqueline was named Computer Weekly’s most influential woman in UK IT.
Jacqueline, wow! I would love to start asking you about that time when that company said to you, “We don’t put women on the leadership team.” Welcome. Thank you for being here today. Tell us about it.
Jacqueline: Thank you very much, Amanda, delighted to be here. Yes, it has been a bit of a journey, my career, in a good way. About the time when I was told … I went for a promotion. It was promotion for a country manager position. I was running a very big team; hundreds of people and hundreds of thousands of dollars, actually millions, hundred millions of dollars. I was up against a male counterpart who was running a region which was significantly smaller; I’m going to say 20 times smaller. I thought, “Okay, this is mine to lose,” but actually, when I got to the point of decision, I was told, “We don’t have women on the leadership team.”
I heard that and I thought, “Okay, well, I’m out.” It wasn’t petulant out, it was a … I couldn’t look for the miracle here. I’ve always been a big believer in when something bad happens and, to me, that was pretty devastating. I’ve worked a long time to become the person I’d already become. At that point, not to get the top job was crushing. However, I guess the miracle was that at least they told me that I was never going to make it there. It gave me an opportunity to reframe it as a learning experience and go and find a new opportunity somewhere else, which I did very successfully. I’m grateful for that.
I have to say, looking back over my shoulder the person they did choose did not last very long. Some years later, many years later, I went back in a very big leadership position because they came looking for me. There was poetic justice in that. I’m not mad about it. I think we will all, as women in a male-dominated industry, have inflection points where there’s a fork in the road and we have a decision to make. I would say walk tall, don’t let your head go down because there is definitely opportunity out there if you can see it.
Amanda: Thank you. I love your expression “Look for the miracle.” When we’ve talked before, I think that’s something that you’ve said that served you throughout your life, look for the miracle, isn’t it?
Jacqueline:It is. I have a very funny story because I have a very beautiful 23-year-old daughter who is actually not in technology, she’s in musical theatre. Very confident. We only had one rule when she was growing up, which was you may not have a tattoo. Of course, with my NLP training now, I should have known that I was programming her to have a tattoo, of course. She went on her first holiday abroad. She came back and she said, “Mom, I got some good news and some bad news.” I said, “Okay, give me the bad news.” She said simply, “I’ve broken the rule.” I said, “Oh gosh, right. Okay, well, where is it?” I thought it’s going to be in her forehead or [inaudible 00:06:49] where she couldn’t hide it if you needed a serious job.
Actually, she had it on her foot, the side of her foot, in beautiful italics. She said, “The good news is, is that it’s something that you taught me and something that I hold very dear and I live my life by.” She’s had him scrolled and inscribed on her foot, “Look for the miracle.” I am delighted to have brought it on, but so be careful what you wish for and be careful how you’re programming your children because they do exactly what you tell them to do.
Amanda:What good programming. I think I could accept that tattoo on the side of the foot, “Look for the miracle” on it.
Amanda:How did you start your career? You’ve talked about what happened when you came up against that attitude of “We don’t employ women at senior management level.” You went elsewhere, but that was obviously some way into your career when you’re going for promotion. How did you start?
Jacqueline:I did a European business degree in Germany and I did it in German, so the thesis was written in German. We have to learn French at the same time. I’ve done A-level French and German at the time, so I was fairly able to communicate, but not finding myself then, and then finished my degree and came back to London and realized that I needed to earn some money. Of course, my ambition, my dream, had always been to do something like, and I’d always thought I would be reading the news on BBC at 06:00 doing something dramatic like declaring peace or maybe even war these days, but that wasn’t to be.
I was offered a role as a technology recruiter, so recruiting talent into tech industry. After about two years of that, I decided that selling a product that talked was quite complicated. I went to work for my best client which was a company called Synon and I worked for them. That was my entree into software and I have been in the industry ever since. A software executive in a company selling AS400 computer-aided software engineering, so a complete different outcome to be BBC newscaster I had huge ambitions to be.
Amanda:You’ve been in technology for how many years now?
Jacqueline: Twenty-seven and a half.
Amanda: When you started your career where you arrived in technology unexpectedly 27 years ago, did you create goals and did you have anything in mind like, “Yes, by 2015, I want to be voted most influential woman in IT and be VP of Citrix,” obviously not so specific. Did you have big goals, big dreams, big ambitions?
Jacqueline: The tech industry has moved at such a pace that it’s hard to set goals that far out. Three years in this industry is a long, long time and the landscape changes all the time. I have been so excited and blessed to be in an industry that has had such changing horizons, opportunities and has created massive ambition in me, but almost without the need to set huge goals because there are always crushing timelines. There’s always innovation, which says, “We’re going to try something extraordinary next” or “We’re going to create impact for people that has huge business change implications.”
I haven’t had to create enormous goals, but what I have done is, looked at my values inside, what I want and how I want to achieve what I achieve. I’ve looked at the things that have been important to me as I’ve moved through my journey, so looking after my family whilst holding very frenetic job schedule has been something I’ve had to really work hard at. I think having a personal life and trying to achieve work-life balance is also fairly complicated in a job as demanding as any of the ones I’ve ever had. I think part of that is because being in a male-dominated technology world, I felt the need. I don’t know if everyone else feels the need, but I have heard it said. I have felt the need to prove myself much, much more than my male colleagues.
I’m not sure is that my innate fear of failure which is my biggest driver. I really felt that pushing myself harder than my colleague, proving to myself, actually, and perhaps to my family that I was worthy even though I’d followed a path, which was perhaps not so expected. I think people expect their children to be doctors, nurses, teachers, whatever. I’m not sure technology exec was in the list of things that my parents expected of me. That was a big proving journey for me. I think the goals and ambition piece came from a different direction, not from the ones that the business would set for me but ones that I would set for myself and mostly personal.
Amanda: Proving yourself and pushing yourself has always been the driver rather than anything external.
Jacqueline: It has and I think that’s because I came from a very humble background. I was in a broken family where my mother left her Chinese husband … I’m half Chinese … when I was eight and I acquired a new stepfather, who I didn’t particularly like at the time. I think it’s always tricky to come into that world of “happy families,” in inverted commas, and try to make that work. I remember at the age of O-levels, GCSEs today, I have my letter with my results slip and my stepfather is a very … I’m going to say very humble man from Yorkshire. He definitely didn’t have huge ambition X on me as well, and he asked me what was in the envelope. I said it’s my O level results.
He said, “Well, what’s in that?” I said, “I don’t know,” so he opened the envelope for me and I got rather good results, a lot of A’s. He said the words “What are you trying to do, show me up.” I wasn’t really sure, as a 16 year old, what I was supposed to do with that. In my later years, I wonder whether he was being sarcastically humorous which actually would fit with his personality. At the time I didn’t take it like that. I thought, “I’m actually going to have to figure out whether I want to have no ambition like him or whether I was going to take a different path and say, ‘I’ll show you how amazing I could be.’”
Actually, I thank him for that opportunity and reframed it as where I could definitely see my path changed dramatically. My ambition and energy changed enormously in terms of what I decided I was going to achieve.” I think, again, it was an inflection point where I made a decision to definitely become a different person and change the direction of my life. I talked to him about it subsequently and he can’t remember that moment. I think he probably won’t be, none the least sarcastic, but I think hormonal teenagers take it differently.
It’s quite shocking as a parent to have that feedback. I think he was shocked that I’ve taken it that way. I now, think, “Gosh, we’ve got to be very careful as guardians of the children that we look after.” What we say resonates very differently with sometimes how they receive it. That’s true of people that we work with as well. It’s a good learning point and I am grateful for it, but it definitely, definitely colored my journey, in a good way.
Amanda: Yeah, and it’s interesting that you colored your journey in a good way because it’s the offhand comments, and as you say your stepfather can’t remember saying it, that could be responsible for a whole heap of self-limiting beliefs.
Jacqueline: Oh my gosh, yeah. I’ve got plenty of those, by the way, but it did make me feel, “Right, okay, what can I do with this?” Sometimes life is about an attitude in approach, isn’t it? I think we can either look at the industry or the family that we’re in as a, “Gosh, in my lot it is not so great” or we can look at it and think, “Okay, where is the opportunity in here? Where is the miracle?” That’s how I chose it to be. For me, it has definitely enabled me to achieve bigger and better things. At the very least, it made me feel better about things that could have been quite dark.
Amanda: Yes. Yes, the attitude or approach really rings true. There’s a quote by Albert Einstein and I came across again just yesterday. I wish I had it in front of me and he says, “Whether you see the …” I’m misquoting here, “Whether you see the world as …” I can’t remember if it was a safe place or a dangerous place, colors your whole life is the most important thing about how your life will be, which reflects your philosophy about looking for the miracle.
Jacqueline: Yes, definitely.
Amanda:Jacqueline, you said before that rather than goals you looked at your values and my spidey senses went, “Oh, values, a woman after my own heart,” because I believe very much in helping people to really look at their values and I believe that our goals, our intentions, flow from those once we get clear about our values. I’m really interested to know more about that and know how you reconciled having a family, looking after your family, and having that work-life balance, personal life with the other Jacqueline who needed to push herself and prove herself and have this in innate fear of failure within a male-dominated world. Big question, but, essentially, how did the values help with that?
Jacqueline: Enormously. I don’t know how I could have got through without them actually, because I looked at what I was about, who I was, and what I stand for, and I had a Catholic upbringing. There’s a lot of self-reflection when you are asked to go to mass a lot or church a lot. I’m not a religious person actually, but I think I have something spiritual in me where I like to feel very centered. We talked before about yoga or meditation and they’re very close to my heart too. On the point of reflection, what my values are, I got three. One is integrity and that has served me well throughout my entire journey both family and work. I think, without that, I lose my moral compass and I’m dead, I feel. As though if there’s ever a difficult decision to make, then integrity is always a big guiding stuff for me, so that’s important and that served me well both in business and at home. Transparence is hugely important.
The second one is family. Family, for me, is family at home but also with my extended family, which is my team at work or my community. I live in an amazing village called Taplow where we have a very, very strong community spirit. I love that, need that, and I celebrate within all of those communities.
Then the third one is, which I feel extremely strongly about, and that’s generosity. I think people have been extremely generous to me on my journey. I think that in technology, and especially for women in technology, for the rest who have been lucky enough to get to a position of influence, then sending the elevator back down is really important. Just look over your shoulder and see who you could reach out to and help just a little bit on their journey or even just give them a word of encouragement or offer them a connection that you can make to someone who could help them. All of those things make an enormous difference to somebody else and might cost you nothing at all. I would just urge people, women and men in our business, to think about who they could help and who they could acknowledge.
We have a little thing inside my own leadership team at Citrix where they are asked to acknowledge at least one person a day. It’s a nice generous thing to do and I believe that’s good karma. If you put it out there, then you’ll get it back as well. That’s why winning that award, the most influential woman in IT, in UK IT, was really exciting because it gave me an opportunity to have a platform where I could share those values and I could offer to shine a light on the issues of women in tech. We only have 16% of women in tech in the UK and we need to do better at that. We could have more profitable businesses with more women in technology, that’s proven, and we could have a larger talent pool which we definitely need.
Amanda: Oh, so many questions and nodding here for me as you’ve been talking. I love that metaphor of sending the elevator back down. I think I’ll make that for the podcast show actually because it says it in such elegant language which is what I’m doing here, which is interviewing people like you who want to see all women succeed. Thank you for that, thank you for that. I’m with you on that. I believe that serving other people and serving other people from a place of love, and to use your value, through generosity does come back. I believe it can be used as a marketing technique not in a cynical way but simply by just saying, “I’m just going to focus on helping other people” and it will come back. I’d like to hone in on the 16% of women in technology. Where does that figure come from?
Jacqueline: Yeah, so there are a lot of studies and most of … Well, actually, it’s probably an average of a number of different studies and you can look at it whichever way you like. There are, for example, studies which say there are 23% of women in boardroom positions now. That’s from, I think, the Davies report called for more women in the boardroom. If you look further down in the ranks, we do rather poorly in middle management. We have quite a lot of women in lower paid and lower class roles. We just don’t have them at the top in the leadership positions or the middle management positions.
That’s where we really need to focus. We need to focus in a way that isn’t just tokenism, we also need to make sure we’ve got strong commitment to succession planning, so that we have women to fill women’s shoes, if you will, when they move on as well. We’re a fairly fast moving technology industry so people do move around and that’s right. We need to keep women in a succession plan at the top table because, let’s face it, inclusion is definitely about being in the room, but diversity is really only achieved when you’re at the table.
That’s why I think it’s really important to have leadership positions and women filling those because they also define rules in businesses, like, for example, I’m very lucky to have a great HR team, a human resources team, here at Citrix where we can do things. Like we can change job descriptions for engineers or we can change that to problem solving as an example. There are little things that can be done by men or by women, but to encourage more women into the tech sector. I think if we have more women leaders, we’re more likely to beget more women down in the industry because we tend to recruit in our own image. That’s important to us if we’re going to make a difference to those numbers.
Amanda: Having the role models there for women to see that they can aspire to.
Jacqueline: Yeah. Good point about role models. We need role models at the top. I, of course, I’m the twenty-seven and a half year old veteran in this industry with gray hair. However, we do need cool young women in the industry to attract other cool young women into the industry. I’d like to see more of that, more of those role models too.
Amanda: Where do you think we are going wrong? Because I know that the technology industry has been losing women for many, many years. There have been so many initiatives to try to address that. It seems that we still haven’t got it right. I was one of those women who dropped out years ago.
Jacqueline: Right, it’s tricky. We have an affordability issue for sure. I think women and child care, women in the tech industry or women in the industry in general and the affordability of child care, it’s a question, “How do we do that?” I think we need to keep asking that question and figure out how we ensure that child care is both the domain of women and of men, because women’s issues are also for men to solve, and perhaps we also need to include a lot more men in the debate. We do sometimes, but I find that I operate and work in a male-dominated environment, but then I go and talk about women’s issues mostly in a female-dominated environment. I think we probably need to switch that balance on the conversation. I see that happening, by the way, in some places. We need to almost have a “bring a bloke” initiative when we talk about women and women’s issues.
Then, I think there is the how do we encourage young girls and women to make technology decisions about their education choices when they’re at school. There are lots of organizations doing lots of great work. As president of techUK, we find lots of organizations and we try and join the dots on those organizations so that we can amplify that message. I go into schools and I talk to young girls. I think, though, going back to our earlier conversation, they probably want to see cool role models who have made it at age of 24 which is much more … They need to see that’s much more within their grasp rather than the 27-year journey that I’ve made. They’ll probably see it too far out.
Amanda:Perhaps we need not just role models like you, but role models who are perhaps just a couple of steps ahead.
Jacqueline:Yeah, I think so. Also, we glamorize in films and TV, we glamorize a lot of young men. I think maybe we need to think about some technology based role models in some cool movies and TV programs. I think Lisa Simpson is about as cool as it gets right now, all the Simpson.
Amanda: She’s cool at playing the saxophone, isn’t she?
Jacqueline:There’s nothing wrong with that. I do think we can up our game in that area. Think about this: If we said, “Our ambition is to create the most successful football team on the planet,” we’d be scouting for talent at age eight and we’d have league tables to shine a light on the talent that rose to the top and then we’d be selling them for millions of pounds as they transfer across football clubs. That’s what we would do. That’s what we do, do.
If we then said, “Okay, we are going to create a digital nation of significance,” what’s the plan? Because at the moment the plan is, “Oh, let’s wait until they turn out of university at age whatever or we stumble across them as we’re going to recruiting mode,” but we don’t have anything where we really are highly organized in terms of catching, creating, retaining, nurturing top talent in tech. I would say that there’s lots of pin-pricks of ecstasy. There are lots of people doing some really great things and we need to amplify and organize ourselves as we would if we were creating an outstanding world-class football team.
Amanda: Amplify ourselves, just bringing back that from what you said before into what you’ve just been talking about, about doing this early and getting organized, bring a bloke, getting men talking about in inverted comma women’s issues as well, is there something we need to change to do that? Because, quite often, I think men feel it’s not that place or they feel threatened, and they often feel that it’s, “Well, we’re going to go down the positive discrimination route. I’ve got no chance and this is all just about promoting women to take a typical kind of bloke response.”
Jacqueline:Yeah, and do you know what, I totally understand why that reaction is there. I personally am against quotas. I personally believe you absolutely need to recruit the best person for the role with the best skills and the best cultural fit. For sure, I would never go against any of those values. On the other hand, should we have balanced short lists for talent that we’re reviewing when we make those decisions? I think we need to work a bit harder at getting those more diverse talents list together which are inclusive rather than “Let’s go for proximity hiring of people that we know.” That’s where I think we can make a real difference.
Now, does that mean that the talent pool is a problem? Yes, it does. We still have an extremely small pool of talent, but I believe women are out there. I think we need to find them. I think we need to encourage employers to change the way that they write job descriptions. I also think that we, as employers, can do more in our cultural shift to make it easier for working women with families to engage in the workforce. To me, that is all about flexible working. I truly believe that work is not a place, it’s where you are.
I read only this week in the news that we’ve got people traveling into London for two, two and a half hours each way because housing is so expensive. I think there’s a balance between is it really an issue with housing and housing prices or is it that employers have a culture of needing to see bumps on seats before they feel you’re being productive? I think we need to just create a balanced work flex for working is an accepted practice and that remote working means that we can include people who have access to broadband but live in the middle of nowhere.
That means that the talent pool is instantly enlarged or it could mean that we are also including disabled people in the talent pool. It could mean that we’re including working parents in the talent pool who couldn’t afford that travel time before. A good flexible working and a cultural shift in employment practices is also really important in this debate.
Amanda:Yes, I do and it’s about focusing in on people rather than one specific type of people is what you’re saying.
Amanda:Or all people together. You said that … Just going back to not being in favor of coaches. It’s about however getting balanced talent list. I think you were talking about writing job descriptions and tweaking the way that they’re written, that kind of thing. Is getting the balanced talent list about getting the higher percentage of people in that list in the first place so there is more chance of having the balanced candidates come out at the other end?
Jacqueline: Yes, I think it is. I think also part of what I’ve been doing over a number of years is to get my network of fabulous women in front of headhunters and speed date them into each other because headhunters know who they know, which I know is an obvious thing to say, but there is a small group of execs and we all get off at the same jobs and all interviews for the same jobs and tap, tap for this or for that. There is also an enormous layer of talent which is coming through and which is invisible unless we make the introductions. This comes back to generosity, which is that people in positions where they have influence and are connected to headhunters.
We opened up our contacts to the headhunters. They would find amazing people and be able to get the next generation of talent into executive positions. That way, we can all make a difference at grassroots level. Some of this doesn’t have to be Big Bang planet checking stuff, but by everybody opening up their contact list in a responsible way, then I think we, recruiters firstly, would be opened up to a whole new world of possibility and opportunity with people that they haven’t met before.
Amanda:The layers of talent that you’re talking about, is that generally the middle management layer of talent who don’t necessarily have the connections with the headhunters?
Jacqueline:It could be. It could be middle management. It could be just people who have been working so hard in the job that they’re doing that networking is number 3, 4, or even 10 on their list. They’re just not connected in. It’s for me sometimes to say, “I really think that you should meet so and so,” or even just make the connection on LinkedIn. I think this will be a good connection. You would be amazed how many times that I do that, that people say, “Wow. Gosh, I didn’t know that that person existed,” and they have got big jobs on the back of it. In technology, it is not unusual for people to be so busy that networking is at the bottom of their list.
Amanda: Oh yes, yeah, not just in technology. This is a conversation I have with a lot of my clients when they’re talking about changing jobs is literally not having the time to network. LinkedIn is a great resource now because it doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to turn up at a networking event.
Jacqueline:Yes, exactly. I love it because it makes life so easy and transparent. I think those connections, again, it costs nothing, but it is a nice generous act of “That role isn’t good for me,” and it’s very easy to shut down the conversation at that point. You could then just add one little sentence, “But have you thought of X, Y and Z,” and that makes a big difference to the outcome of that, generally, or career inside the business.
Amanda: Jacqueline, the people that you might help through your value of generosity, if you were to give them some advice on how they could initiate that process of seeking support from people like you. I guess there’s a courage piece here, about being courageous in asking … A lot of people are very concerned, particularly women, really, about asking for help. What advice would you give them?
Jacqueline: Well, if I see that, I sometimes just send them a LinkedIn reference because it’s interesting how confidence boosting that can be. I will say I think often when I say to someone, “Have you thought about this kind of role?” They would say the words, “I don’t think I’m good enough for that kind of …” which I think is always interesting. Just having a five minute conversation about, “Are you kidding me? Let me tell you what I see.” If you take the time to reflect back the amazing things that they’ve already achieved and you mirror in a career that they’ve had or the things that they’ve achieved, I think it’s actually sometimes like shocking. Again, it goes back to just take 10 minutes just to give someone a little nudge in the right direction. You’d be amazed about the outcome of where self-worth can get to. I mean I know because my self-worth has always been pretty rock bottom in terms of, “No, I’m not worthy. I can’t take that. Why would you think I can do that?”
I even remember having my first managing director’s role and I thought, “Oh god, I’ve got the role now. What on earth does a managing director do?” Of course, you have all of that self-doubt. I think just being there and sometimes fielding a call from people when they meet someone to talk to that isn’t their direct line manager just gives them a little bit of confidence boosting. I think those things make a big difference. Just look at what you’ve achieved. List out what you’ve done and then reflect it back off. Or have someone, ask them what they see when they look at you. Not in an arrogant way, but just who do they see. I think you’d be amazed at the reflected opportunity that people can see in you and how that can boost your confidence.
Amanda: Yes, hear, hear. That mirror, it makes such a difference. As you say, it just needs to be the five minute conversation that, as you say, “Are you kidding? Look at this. This is what I see.” “Well, yeah. I never thought about it that way.”
Jacqueline: Yeah, yeah. I think it’s also important … Managing manager is awkward. I spent a lot of time with senior people or even people I report to. I always make sure that I acknowledge what a great job they’ve done. I think it’s interesting. The higher up you go the less you hear it. It’s really important to also make sure that you’ve got that acknowledgement going on senior levels because that’s where confidence can sometimes get lost. It’s a lonely place at the top for all of us.
Amanda: You mentioned acknowledgement before as well and you set these in Citrix. You have something where people do an acknowledgment once a day. Did you all do it in front of each other or is it just a habit that’s ingrained?
Jacqueline: No. No, and it’s not monitored. It is an invitation actually to think about your people and retention. What is the top? What’s top of mind when people say, “This is what I like about working with you at Citrix”? It’s about having interesting things to do and feeling acknowledged. Money is kind of number five; it’s not number one. Part of creating that family culture is about how are you acknowledging people in your team. That literally, it’s an invitation from me to my direct reports to say, “Who have you acknowledged today?” I got an email back yesterday saying, “Oh this is what I did just so you know.” They just want to share it because they felt really good in terms for what they got back from it.
I think it’s really interesting. I had another one where someone had been here for 10 years and we celebrated that and then there’s this whole acknowledgement thing going on email, which is lovely. It makes a difference to someone’s day. It color’s your journey in a really good way if you have that acknowledgment. Believe me, I think it makes such a difference in confidence and also why people want to work with you.
Amanda: Yes. Yeah, it makes such a difference. What about acknowledgment of yourself and self-promotion? I even hesitate to use the word “self-promotion” because the connotations are so negative, but I think it’s so important. What do you think?
Jacqueline: I’ve re-framed that because I’m rubbish at acknowledgement with myself. I’m really, really not very good at receiving that. I’m also the person that doesn’t particularly like getting Christmas presents, but I’ve actually created a way of receiving them in quite a gracious way, but I find it painful on the basis that I think I’m not very deserving and I’d much rather give than get. I imagine that might be something fairly common amongst women.
On the self-promotion side, I re-framed it which is, “Okay, what can I use this for? What will this platform give me?” When I am acknowledged for anything or given that platform to speak like the Computer Weekly influential woman in IT this year, I have used that as a platform to shine a light on women’s issues, how we can get more diversity across the business, why it’s a good thing, how much difference can we make to getting more women into tech and creating that enthusiasm for diversity. I think, for me, by reframing it, by reframing self-promotion as a platform for influence and making a difference, I reconciled myself to that in a way that’s okay for me.
Amanda: It’s a really positive flip of serving other people, of using that to, again, come back to giving back and living through your value of generosity.
Jacqueline:Yeah. Absolutely. How can we find a way to shorten the time to success of other women? Some of our journeys have been so tortuous and so ridiculously backward in terms of un-thoughtful leadership that there has to be a way in which women can challenge, in a good way, without leaving too many dead bodies around them, I think. Also, just by figuring out what is the shortest route to success and how do you maintain, how do you take everyone with you. I really believe that that’s a very interesting way to not just go on the same journey, but to find a more efficient way to get there faster.
Amanda: You used the phrase just before unhelpful leadership and it just sparked a thought in my mind that I just like to ask you something, because this comes up a lot for my clients and because I’ve just had a conversation this morning with somebody. I hear so many stories of women dealing with so-called unhelpful leadership. I think it would be really useful to get your take on this. If a woman is ambitious about her career and she loves what she’s doing, but she is in a position where she feels that she’s in … and I’ll use example from the conversation I had earlier this morning … Perhaps a toxic work culture or with a toxic colleagues.
She feels stuck because she has got the one part of the equation right with the flexible working where she is and she feels that if she looks elsewhere, she will say goodbye to the flexible working she’s built up through loyalty through her current company, but things are getting to such a point, such a burning point that it’s having an impact on her health in the current working environment. I ask this because it comes up so often that, “I can’t leave because …” These high dream factors are ticked here, however, this is just horrible. How would you help someone like that?
Jacqueline: Well, I don’t have the solution to everything but I’ll tell you what I would do. I think that I would decide what was most important to me. I think there’s two sides of it. One is perception and one is reality. That is that I never do anything that I don’t want to do. It might be uncomfortable but I don’t tend to operate in an environment that I would consider to be toxic. Now, having said that, this one’s quite tricky because if you are a person that looks for tricky things, and I’m going to use an analogy. If I said to you, “Just look around the room and look for the color red.” Then all you see is red things.
I wonder whether because sometimes we expect things to be red that then that’s all that you see. I think there is one layer of filter we possess, and this may be controversial, one layer of filter we possess, if you’re looking for toxicity and you’re looking for those examples, then you will see them a lot. There is one part of me that says, “Okay, just make sure that you can also see the non-toxic things.” Maybe look at the color blue following that analogy. Maybe you need to see some blue things and that might give you some balance. That’s the first thing, so look at it in a balanced way, I would say.
The second thing is that there are lots of companies who offer flexible working, whatever that means to you. I definitely am a believer that great idea is going to die in the boardroom and thrive in the coffee shop. I’m flexible working all the way. I am sure that if you’re brave enough and you mentioned the word “courage” earlier, that looking outside, once you’ve got your filter right, looking outside is not a bad thing to do anyway if you feel that all you can see is too much red and toxicity. I would have a look outside. The world never revolves around one company. It doesn’t. I think there must be opportunity out there. I think in that case if toxicity is right, for me that would be a very short journey to looking for another role.
Now, having said that, should that be the case? The answer is no but there are times when you have to make a decision which is right for you. I think if health is suffering, then I wouldn’t stay a moment longer.
Amanda: Yes, I agree. I’m really glad I asked you that because you’ve echoed what I’d said and it’s just lovely to hear it from you as well. I guess you’ve probably, as part of your NLP studies, come across the science between behind the filters of the reticular activating system. In other words, once we decide I’m going to buy a red mini, we see red minis on the road everywhere.
Jacqueline: Yes, exactly that. As humans, we are very good at mostly at looking for red, i.e. toxicity, and it’s a massive reprogramming job to look for the miracle.
Amanda: Absolutely. Jacqueline, you’ve given us some really tempting things that I’ve got to ask you about. You said earlier in the interview that you had some … What did you say? … Plenty of self-limiting beliefs and you said that you’ve always had to think about self-worth and self-deserving.
Jacqueline: Yeah, definitely. I think when I was younger, I’m half Chinese I mentioned earlier, and I went to school in a Catholic school. Everyone else was Irish-Italian or Polish, but all very white and I didn’t have dark hair, dark long plaits, and certainly didn’t have a surname that everyone made fun of. For me, that was a big survival world going on right through until I was 18. That made me feel very … I think it gave me a big feeling of low self-worth. I know at certain points in which I thought I’m going to engage, I’m going to excel. I was very into … I’ve got six gold medals at Irish dancing, can you believe, but that’s my Irish Catholic school upbringing. It’s hard to be that girl collecting a gold medal when you’ve got two long dark plaits and everyone else has got ginger ringlets.
Fitting in and surviving was pretty tricky. I think that’s probably where that’s stemmed from. Of course, everyone else seemed to have lovely whole families and I didn’t have that either. Fitting in and my early upbringing, these probably are my biggest survival context and that’s where the low self-worth came from. Now, having said that, has this served me well? The answer to that is absolutely yes, I would not swap it and I would always look back on my childhood and say, “It was a good journey for me.” Was it a school of hard knocks? I think it was. There was a lot of growing up very fast, very young. I loved school; I loved every minute of it. I had some challenges and struggles on the way, but they have served me well in my business world, so I can definitely hold my own and I’m probably at my best when I’m in a corner.
Amanda:Do you think back when you’re in the corner, too, “Well, if I can survive that school with my long, dark plaits, I can survive this”?
Jacqueline: Oh gosh, yeah. Yeah, this is child’s play at this point.
Amanda:What do you do to look after yourself and to gently handle the self-worth issue? I guess not just how you rationalize that in your mind, but what habits do you have that help you on a daily basis?
Jacqueline: Perhaps, I have some visible things I do. I’m up early. I’m a very early bird. I go to bed early too, by the way. I’m not superwoman so I do need like seven and a half.
Amanda: Tell us what time you go to bed and what time you get up.
Jacqueline: I’m up at 5, but I would be in bed at 09:30. I love that. In the morning, and sometimes is up earlier because of lights and things, but my favorite time is with my husband. He’s a teacher of yoga for special needs children. He was in the tech industry so he’s built and sold four companies. With him, I have that special moment in the morning where we meditate together, so we just find our balance. That could be anything from five minutes to an hour depending on my day. After that, we do a little bit of yoga or if I’ve been for a run, sometimes I run about three miles a day, five times a week, something like that, then I’ll do what we call stretching, but it’s really yoga.
Then I’m off out the door. He makes me some juices. We’re a big green juicing family, and off I go to work. I feel very nourished and very looked after. That’s where I get my balance and my strength from. That’s my morning habit. Then my children are my regular little fixes. I have a 23 year old, 25 year old, and now a 28 year old who keep us busy at weekends. We’re very blessed to have them very close to us, so that’s what we’re like as a family.
Amanda: Lovely. Your morning routines, you are up early and then meditation, yoga, running. What about your evening routines?
Jacqueline:Evening is all about communing, I suppose eating with my husband and talking about the day. We also have five dogs, so they need a little bit of attention and then we go to bed. There isn’t a whole lot going on there and I don’t do email in the middle of the night. I switch off, but I am on it first thing in the morning.
Amanda: When you say you’ve on email first thing in the morning, is that after your meditation and exercise or would you do that the first thing?
Jacqueline: Yeah. No, depending on the time of the quarter, so we have some imperative timing as we go through three-month cycles. As we get to the end of the quarter, sometimes things come in that are super urgent so I might have a quick look. I try not to because it means that I ruin the moment of meditation. What’s going to happen in the day rubbed with my sleepiness as I come out of my night? Definitely, the ideal scenario, which happens earlier in the quarter, is that I don’t look at my phone.
Amanda: Okay, yup, that sounds sensible advice. Jacqueline, I have so many other questions that I want to ask you, but I’m very aware of time. I’d like to just ask you one last question. What does having it all mean to you?
Jacqueline: Gosh, that’s a fabulous question, I love it. Having it all means, to me, it means having my family first, and that’s I love, of course, my children and my husband and my dogs and all of the extended family that we have, but also it means having my team around me and I hold my team very dear too. They are very loyal and very accomplished. I learn from them all the time. Having it all means that, for me, from the people perspective first, is having great people around me. At work, it’s people around me who can operate under pressure, and at home, it’s about having kids who are doing what they love and having a husband who also does what he loves. We are very supportive in our accomplishments. To me, that’s having it all.
Having the roles that I have: president of techUK and Citrix and the board roles that I have, to me, that’s about … I mean that’s my playground. I really enjoy what I do. I don’t find it stressful. I feel that I can really get into my stride with all of those different roles and juggling those means that I put quite of a pressure on my amazing assistant, Lona. She’s part of the family partnership too, so having it all means I can do it all with help from the team that is absolutely amazing. That’s both family and work, so yeah, I’m in a great place.
Amanda: Wow, what a wonderful answer, and you went straight back to that core value of family, people.
Jacqueline: Yeah, definitely my number one.
Amanda: Well, mine too. Jacqueline, thank you so very much for being here today. Thank you for talking to me and thank you for sharing and for putting your generosity here. I know that this interview is going to be so helpful to so many people. Really, hand on hat, thank you very, very much.
Jacqueline: Thanks, Amanda. I’m very grateful to you for giving me the opportunity and giving everybody the opportunity to share their lives, journeys and thoughts with other people too. Great that you could shine the light on that.