Ones to Watch in 2021: Yorkshire’s Inspirational Women in Tech

Our hand-picked inspirational Yorkshire women in tech to watch in 2021

Women in tech

When it comes to women making a name for themselves in tech, Yorkshire rarely gets any of the spotlight. But there are plenty of women making stellar contributions to the region’s thriving tech scene whose achievements deserve to be recognised. 

To mark International Women’s Day, we wanted to celebrate just a few of these Yorkshire tech wonder women. At Fruition IT, we believe it’s vital to highlight the great work happening in Yorkshire as we are committed to playing our part in encouraging more female talent to choose a career in the region’s burgeoning tech industry

In no particular order, these are our hand-picked inspirational Yorkshire women in tech to watch in 2021.

Anne-Marie Orange – Chief Information Officer, TransUnion

Based in Leeds, Anne-Marie joined TransUnion in 2014 as a Programme Manager and held several positions before joining the executive team as CIO in September 2019.

With 25 years’ experience in IT, Anne-Marie is a proven IT leader, with a proven track record of success in IT strategy and execution, optimising organisational structures and operating models, IT business delivery, product delivery, and establishing governance models to deliver enterprise capability.

Anne-Marie is also a strong advocate of tackling the gender imbalance in tech industry employment. She is actively involved in the Women @ TU networking group that was launched to help more women reach their potential in the tech industry and in doing so build a stronger and more diverse workforce. 40% of TransUnion’s executive leaders are women, compared to an average of just 5% across the industry.

For International Women’s Day 2020, Anne-Marie wrote: “The tech sector is currently facing a skills shortage that is being amplified by the lack of women considering a career in technology. At TransUnion, we believe workplace diversity is essential if we are to harness the most creative thinking to meet today’s tech challenges. 

“The sector needs to work hard to increase gender balance if we are to make real the promise and potential that exists”

Beth Gildersleve – Technology Director, Sky Betting & Gaming

After 12 years working for NHS Digital, Beth joined the Sky Betting & Gaming team based in Leeds as Head of Technology in 2017. 

In a little over two years - and with a stint as Head of Delivery for Sky Bet under her belt - Beth was appointed Technical Director in January 2020, assuming overall responsibility for the delivery, architecture, ops, service and engineering teams that run the company’s suite of betting and gaming apps.

Beth started her career at the Post Office, where she worked in non-technical roles such as customer support and training manager and resolution manager.  In fact, she first joined the NHS as a service manager and then worked as a programme manager for NHS Connecting for Health, and it was this that gave her the opportunity to join NHS Digital, also as programme manager.

Beth says her career path underlines how people with non-technical skills can contribute a great deal to tech leadership, which is a route to achieving greater diversity in the industry. 

She told the Lets Talk Leadership podcast: “I’m not a hugely technical person, and when people think of technology, they think of the developers, the people coding the programmes. But actually, service management is part of technology and delivery management is part of technology, and I’ve had that experience of managing teams and managing people.”

Natasha Sayce-Zelem – Head of Partner Engineering, Prime Video at Amazon

Natasha is another Yorkshire woman with a fascinating story to tell about her rise to the top in the tech industry. 

With a varied career path that has taken in TV production, marketing and even freelance photography - working with music acts like David Bowie and Rage Against The Machine, no less - Natasha has a formidable CV in digital delivery, first as Senior Technical Manager at BBC Digital, and then as Head of Technology at Sky.

Natasha is also the founder of Empowering Women with Tech, a Leeds based group that works to elevate, educate and empower women in digital, tech and science careers. In 2016, she was named one of the Top 100 Women Working in Tech by Business Cloud, and made Computer Weekly’s 'Most Influential Women in UK Tech' shortlist in 2018 and 2019.

In January 2021, Natasha was appointed Global Head of Partner Engineering for Amazon’s Prime Video - the branch of the tech giant that is responsible for worldwide distribution of the Prime Video application across streaming devices. It is a role that involves leading partnerships with some of the biggest tech device manufacturers in the world.

In the midst of all this, Natasha still finds time to speak and write to inspire more people to consider using their transferable skills to pursue a career a tech career, with a particular focus on promoting diversity. 

Rebecca Fitzgerald – Senior Manager Technology Delivery, Yorkshire Building Society Group

Rebecca is a driven and passionate financial services Transformational Leader with 20+ years’ experience in the delivery of strategic, enterprise change alongside operational management across a breadth of business services.

Rebecca joined YBS straight from school and in 2018 was appointed as the senior manager of technology delivery. Rebecca now has a team of over 180 people and is responsible for 280 corporate applications across a breadth of technology.

Rebecca’s motto is ‘be brave’ and she has shown this throughout her career. She naturally became a Project Manager and through the experience she gained developed into a Programme Manager and was responsible for one of the biggest mergers in YBS history. As a Programme Manager, Rebecca was able to understand how to lead technical people effectively and built herself a solid reputation.

Rebecca prides herself on her authenticity and credibility, something she has worked hard to protect and gain.

Rebecca’s career has naturally led her to become an advocate for diversity and inclusion and believes the best way to encourage more women into leadership and the tech space starts at home and school. Rebecca was influenced strongly through her upbringing, coming from a ‘tech family’ and gravitating towards specific teachers at school, she was encouraged to always have ambition and ‘to be brave’. Along with this support and her analytical and logical mindset it was a natural step for Rebecca to develop a successful career in tech. 

Anna Barsby – Founder and Managing Partner, Tessiant

Anna is recognised as one of the UK’s top CIOs, boasting a glittering track record of transformational leadership both in house and as a consultant. 

Having cut her teeth as a Programme Manager for Sainsbury’s, Aviva and then the FSA, Anna took her first C-Level role at TUI Travel, before being appointed CIO of Halfords and then Chief Technology Director at Morrisons Supermarkets.

Anna founded Tessiant in February 2020 with the goal of creating a management consultancy that focused on business transformation through the lens of recruitment and resourcing. 

Drawing on her extensive experience leading major digital transformation projects at FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 companies, Anna’s role at Tessiant has already seen her serve as interim transformation director of London department store and luxury food retailer Fortnum & Mason. 

Last autumn, Anna was appointed interim chief digital and technology officer of Asda, with responsibility for leading the transition of the supermarket’s IT systems from Walmart ownership following the takeover by EG Group and TDR Capital. 

Among a list of accolades, Anna has been ranked number 1 in the UK CIO list twice, in 2015 and 2019, and was also shortlisted for European CIO of the Year in the same years. In 2019, she was named one of the Top 15 Innovative Influencers in Retail.

Lorna Allen – CIO, StepChange Debt Charity

Lorna Allen has to rank as one of Yorkshire’s longest-serving female Senior IT Leaders, with a career spanning more than 20 years and covering an impressive range of business sectors. Among other things, she specialises in strategic vision and delivery, IT culture change, and ITIL-based service design and delivery.

It all started for Lorna back in 1988 when she joined the British Library - the same year the organisation opened its iconic St Pancras building in London, the largest UK public building built in the 20th Century. Lorna was based at the British Library North in Wetherby, and spent nine years as Infrastructure Development Manager, managing telecommunications development as the national library entered a new era.

Since then, Lorna’s roles have included a two-year stint as Head of Operational Service at Leeds City Council, where she was in charge of ICT delivery for 12,000 users. 

From there, she worked as Head of IT for a number of businesses, including Siemens VAI Metals Technology in Sheffield, where she had budgetary responsibility worth over £5m, not-for-profit healthcare provider Benenden Health, and finally financial services provider Hitachi Capital, where she earned her first C-Level role as Group Director of IT.

Lorna joined StepChange Debt Charity as CIO in 2019. StepChange offers free debt advice and support across the UK and as CIO, Lorna has an integral part in helping support 635,000 people facing difficulties with debt issues.

Wrap up

Yorkshire is a great place to be for women working in technology, with Leeds in particular serving as an up-and-coming tech hub for the entire North of England. We hope you’ve been inspired by these women to go on to do great things yourself this year. Feel free to get in touch to find out more about the many opportunities in tech, on 0113 3239730 or email sarah.pawson@fruitionit.co.uk

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