Sally-Anne Lawrence | Swift Strategies

Sally-Anne Lawrence | Swift Strategies

In our pursuit of celebrating exceptional women in tech, we are honoured to introduce you to Sally-Anne, Delivery Director at Swift Strategies, whose story is a testament to the dynamic and diverse roles women play in the world of technology.

She shares insights into her career, and is an advocate for a more inclusive approach to technology education, currently undertaking a programme with Birmingham City university to mentor students, and emphasises the need for broader curriculums that not only focus on programming but also explore various roles crucial for successful delivery.

In previous roles, Sally-Anne often found herself to be the only female at the table, and shares her experiences and insights on making spaces more inclusive for women in tech. She believes in addressing biases constructively and challenging stereotypes to create a more balanced and welcoming environment.

Throughout her career Sally-Anne has learnt invaluable lessons as a working parent in a leadership role, with collaboration and kindness being her guiding principles.

Hi Sally-Anne, thank you for taking the time to speak to us. Firstly, please can you start by talking me through your position at Swift Strategies?

Hi Bella, thank you for including me in this series of blogs for amazing, inspirational women!

I am the Delivery Director here at Swift Strategies, I focus on delivery for our clients. I support the teams and deliver programmes myself too. We are focussed on digital; data and technology transformation and our key motivation is working with our clients supporting them to achieve their goals and vision.

Tell me about your story so far. How did you get into the world of tech?

I actually have a degree in technology from Liverpool University, although I wouldn't describe myself as technical; I take a common-sense approach to technology and always ask my teams to explain things to me. After I graduated, I worked in resource management at IBM and then Serco Solutions where I moved into Programme Management Support.

I then progressed to the world of contracting which led me to work across government in project and programme management roles. I have often been asked to fix things and ‘knit the fog’ to deliver IT and change; translating stakeholder requirements into delivery approaches and plans.

I worked with Nathan (Founder of Swift Strategies) in the past and joined Swift Strategies in September 2021, becoming the Delivery Director in May 2023! I am loving my new role and Swift Strategies is a great place to be!

If you weren’t working in the wonderful world of tech, what do you think you would be doing instead and why?

Crikey that is a difficult question, I love technology and my job! I would have to say a job in travel as I adore holidays. The best place I have been to is South America; I loved Buenos Aires! I would love to go to Japan and New York (can’t believe I haven’t been!).

You have achieved a lot in your career so far and mentioned the importance of mentoring and finding ways to help graduates to get started in their career. Tell me more about this.

This is something I feel really passionately about, I remember graduating from university and thinking ‘what now?’. There are so many different jobs out there that you never knew existed and you don’t really know what they mean!

I am just starting to support the Birmingham City University mentoring programme to help students with some key skills, advice and guidance for their careers once they have graduated. If I can help build at least one person's confidence and pathway into the first stages of their career I think this is a win, and hopefully more if I can help!

You have a degree in I.T yourself and mentioned curriculums not being broad enough to encourage young people, especially young women in schools, to pursue careers in tech. How could curriculums change to promote D&I in tech? 

The current GCSE and A-Level for IT and Computer Science is programming heavy and is in the main taken by boys due to the technical nature of the course. Wouldn’t it be great if these also explored working in an agile team, covering all the other roles needed for successful delivery; business analysis, user research, product and delivery management, testing etc. This would provide a more rounded accessible qualification and promote an appreciation of all the qualities and roles needed in the work environment.

When I took my A-Levels my mum moved us to a large mixed 6th Form College from an all-girls school, it was quite a shock! She was keen for us to transition to an environment more like University

You are a working Mum yourself. How does being a Mum enrich your work?

Being a mum keeps me grounded, one minute you can be running a multi-million-pound programme and the next you are on the school run watching the kids play sport and dealing with what is for dinner! There is always a bigger picture, and the key is being able to step back from the detail and focus on the things that matter the most, I always encourage my teams to do the same.

Your position is people oriented, and you mentioned being good at reading a room and understanding individuals. Why is it important to have female leaders with “feminine” qualities such as empathy?

For me it's about understanding why people are acting in a certain way, what makes them tick and how to get the best out of them. Getting to know people is key so you can support them when they need it, the more you give the more you get.

You mentioned that throughout your career you have often been the only woman at the table. What has been your experience around this and what can be done to make spaces more inclusive for women in tech?

I am often in technical meetings that are male dominated, this has never worried me and I am happy to ask the ‘silly questions’. I have experienced people not responding directly to me and speaking to the other technical people in the room, I simply addressed this in a polite way. For me its about making these observations and calling them out, not being afraid to challenge constructively, we are all people after all!

What are your proudest achievements (personal and/or professional)?

I have two girls who I am proud of every day!

From a work perspective there are lots of things; the delivery of a Change Programme transitioning 1500 users to new IT systems and kit that went really well was definitely a highlight for me!

Any last words of inspiration?

Collaboration and kindness (to yourself and others) are key

Interviewed by Bella Snell