After 30 years working in the Telecommunications Sector, Helen Marshall joined Yodel eight years ago and is now their Chief Information Officer. Her remit was to deliver IT transformation change for colleagues, customers and clients.
In that time, Helen has built an award-winning team delivering unprecedented levels of service availability, which enables front-line colleagues to focus on delivering our customers’ and clients’ promises. Her team has been recognised for their innovation, winning several awards, initially for their Cloud Platform, and more recently for Agile working and continuous delivery to develop Yodel’s Digital Platform and Apps.
Tell us a little bit more about your current role and project?
The Yodel Digital Platform includes a Driver App used by all drivers and couriers, providing tour-optimised navigational data, to deliver a transparent delivery service to all our clients and customers; a digital portal that gives clients access to all of the information they need to track and manage their parcels in the Yodel network and a consumer app that allows customers to interact with their delivery by keeping customers up to date with their delivery including a two hour delivery window and delivered images. These externally facing systems are all underpinned by robust internal systems to enable us to measure and monitor compliance.
The next exciting stage on our digital journey is to build a digital portal for our Contact Centre to provide one version of the truth across all of Yodel and its partners.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I didn’t. In fact, my journey into tech was an accidental one as I wanted to do work in hospitality, but my parents had other ideas.
I started working when I was 14, making and selling traditional ice-cream, in a family friend’s business, which started both my passion for feeding people, and my work ethic, as they were very long and incredibly hard but rewarding days. Following on from my ice-cream selling days, I worked in the hospitality industry and wanted to continue my career in this line, until my parents asked me to “get a proper job”. This was what led me to start working in Telecommunications and after gaining experience in Engineering, HR, and IT, I decided to specialise in IT because it was what piqued my interest the most. I have to say a huge thank you to my parents because that was the best career advice I ever received.
Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?
Definitely. When I took on the role of CIO in February 2020, I had no idea what the next few months would hold. Thankfully, at Yodel, we were already five years into our digital transformation journey when the pandemic hit, and this made it easier for us to adapt new strategies during the lockdown. Even though we were seen as an essential business, our IT teams had to shift to working remotely and it made it initially difficult to collaborate as our key objectives changed daily depending on government guidelines. We had to work at pace, adapt very quickly to change, and multi-task but we made it and the transition was seamless
What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
Being CIO at Yodel has been a really big achievement for me in my career, especially as I’ve supported several CIOs in the past – it’s pretty special. However, my greatest achievement has been seeing the well deserved recognition of the Yodel IT Team winning the British Computing Society, IT Team of The Year Award, which is a testament to their hard work and the amazing technology solutions they’ve delivered that have transformed our business. Working with a really intelligent and supportive team is a rewarding experience and we have evidence of that.
What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
Attention to detail. To deliver World Class Service you have to challenge every incident to ensure it doesn’t happen again, and to deliver business and digital transformation you have to focus on the small details that make the biggest difference to your business, and you only understand that by being immersed in the detail.
What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?
It’s important to constantly educate yourself. We live in an ever-changing world, where landscapes are constantly changing, especially in tech. New technologies such as AI are taking over and in order to thrive in a technology savvy industry, we have to make sure that we are well informed and equipped to help our businesses progress through any changes. My Digital journey started with the rollout of the first PCs, the first email solution and the first browser, which is a world away from the technology we deploy today, so it’s essential to keep learning.
What barriers for women working in tech, are still to be overcome?
I think it’s all about changing mindsets on what careers are meant for men or women, and this starts from the root – in schools. Thankfully, young girls have many role models to look up to as we have a lot of women thriving in tech roles, even in traditionally male dominated industries. We have some great women in our IT team at all stages of their career, and it’s noticeable that the number of women choosing a career in IT is increasing.
What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?
Companies can invest in young women by creating programmes to attract women in STEM which could involve offering mentorships, internships or work experience, and giving talks in schools that are led by established women in tech. It’s important to show them role models and that they can achieve their dreams working in tech.
In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?
Again, it starts from educating schools about the need for diversity in tech but most importantly we need to see more women with technical skills in leadership roles. Visibility is key for younger women who are thinking about STEM careers so they can avoid being influenced by the already established societal biases.
What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?
I would say do what works for you to keep learning and developing. There is no right or wrong way to develop and grow as we all prefer different methods. One Ted talk I always recommend to young women in Tech struggling to be heard and find their place is the Amy Cuddy, Fake it until you become it talk and the art of the Power Pose!