Penny Rae-Byford | Farsight Consulting
In Penny's world, tech meets transformation, blending fearless ambition with authenticity and guided by kindness. As a tech enthusiast and transformation expert, she pioneers online platforms for iconic events like Race For Life and spearheads large-scale transformations at Cancer Research UK. Penny's secret to climbing the career ladder is to boldly ask, stay positive, and embrace continuous learning.
A beacon for aspiring female leaders, she urges authenticity and celebrating uniqueness. Skipping the traditional academic path, she advises the next generation to explore diverse routes, embrace failures, and own their journey.
To Penny, diversity is a blend of varied perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences shaping better outcomes. In her daily life, she champions kindness and is also a yoga teacher. Namaste to that!
Tell us about how you initially got into the transformation / tech space?
In my earlier career I was always interested in seeing how we could use technology to increase efficiency and speed things up, I always wanted things to be done quickly and with less manual effort. I remember working with the development team building the first ever website and back office system for Race For Life, we were moving everything from manual postal entries to online (I’m showing my age there!) It felt revolutionary at the time and what back then we would have called RAD Rapid Application Development, but for me I was just working with the programmers to reduce the effort from my team to do manual data entry of hundreds of thousands of ladies who wanted to take part in an event and raise money for cancer.
My first real transformation programme was at Cancer Research UK, for me this was still ‘just change’ but on a bigger scale with more stakeholders to consider, with much bigger benefits but also more risk. I loved the challenge and the scale and learnt so much from other experts who done large scale transformations before but also just by throwing myself in and learning as I went.
You enjoyed a number of promotions over your career, how do you think you stood out vs the crowd and achieved these time and time again?
Don’t be afraid to ask, I think for at least 70% of my promotions (certainly in my earlier career) I saw an opportunity, stated my case and asked for it. I was quite fearless, what’s the worst that can happen they say no, I am no worse off. I think that helped show people my appetite for the promotion and also a positive attitude whilst also being clear on what I still needed to learn and develop.
What advice would you give to aspiring female leaders today?
Be authentic and be yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others and try to emulate their intelligence, knowledge, expertise, or style, be proud of what you have to bring to a particular company, project or role. People will value the authentic you.
You didn’t go to university, do you think this had any impact on your journey and what’s your advice to the next generation?
In my early career it didn’t bother me at all, I worked hard, pushed myself and got so much experience, by the time some of my friends had left uni I had a really great job had done further education whilst working and didn’t have any student debt which was a bonus. Once I started to move around and consider more senior roles I did have a period where I would be embarrassed about the fact that I didn’t go to uni and I might never know if I wasn’t considered for some roles because of it. But I re-claimed it and used it as a positive message. I have a 15 year old daughter and my advice to her and any other young people is that there are many ways to be successful and many routes to find your path especially when you are young try out a few different things to see what works for you and don’t compare yourself to anyone else’s paths, that’s theirs to own, you own you.
What would you say to your younger self if you could meet her today?
You go girl, stay confident, don’t let others hold you back and don’t be afraid to change things that are not working out. Life is there to be lived and experienced, breath it all in.
What does diversity mean to you?
Diversity for me means lots of different people from lots of different backgrounds with many different experiences all having a perspective to bring and something to offer and that together diversity will bring a better outcome. Sometimes I can get frustrated and overwhelmed with the injustice, unfairness and quite often discrimination in the world. How I choose to address that is to make a difference in the space in which I operate and what I can influence in my every day to day.
What is your favourite quote?
“Be more kind to yourself, be more kind to others and be more kind to the planet” Its not a famous quote, it’s my own mantra and I say it every day and at the end of every yoga practice (I’m a yoga teacher as my side gig).