A day in the life of Trudi BrookBy BT Ireland,
We spoke to Trudi Brook, Head of Project Management at BT Ireland, and lead of The Inspiring WoMen in Business Network at BT, on the importance of diversity within the organisation.
1. Where did you start your career and how did you end up working for BT?
Although my career guidance teacher initially suggested a secretarial or nursing course (as good careers for girls!), I chose instead to study Mechanical Engineering in UCD. Upon graduation, I joined an IT graduate programme with GEC in the UK and got into software development. That led to roles as a software consultant, first with Cara and then with Deloitte, where my role evolved into project management. In 2006, while looking for a new challenge, an ex-colleague from Deloitte approached me about a role at BT in the IT department. Since then I have had a variety of project related and people management roles that have allowed me to continue to develop and grow within the company.
2. As People Manager of Project Managers at BT, what does your job entail?
My team manages the deliveries of BT and third-party solutions to our customers. Project management is all about being on top of time, cost and quality metrics to demonstrate project control and ensure value. My primary purpose is to support my PMs to do their jobs effectively, efficiently and profitably. Together with Leo Hennessey, the other PM lead, I manage the demand, capacity and allocation of the team; set, manage and communicate the KPIs used to assess the team’s performance and provide support and coaching to each team member – while not forgetting the continuous improvement agenda! Also, as a member of Niamh Coll’s Delivery team I support internal and customer-focused initiatives to improve and develop the team.
3. You’re the People Network Lead of the Inspiring WoMen in Business group at BT Ireland, what is this group about and what is the primary purpose of the network within the company?
Inspiring WoMen was set up by alumni of a BT-wide development programme called TechWomen. We wanted to build a local BT Ireland group for networking, mentoring and knowledge sharing to increase career progression, rotation and visibility of our BT Ireland women. We aim to create an inclusive environment where women can thrive – while also involving our BT men in networking and sponsorship – hence the capitalisation of the M in WoMen. As diversity is a key focus for the network, we also build links with other BT People Networks, such as LGBTQ+ Allies and the Family and Carers Network.
4. What is being part of the network like and what does being involved entail?
Eilish Nolan, one of my colleagues in the network, recently summed this up very succinctly – being part of the network is “empowering”. We get involved, make things happen and ask others to do the same. When someone has an idea for something they’d like to see us do, for example, to organise a masterclass on CV preparation, we typically give them leadership of the idea with plenty of support to help make it happen. This has worked really well – people are passionate about their ideas but may not know where to start or who to approach to get it off the ground. We rotate the chair of our regular meetings to ensure everyone has a voice and to ensure new ideas can be aired. An ethos of diversity is at the heart of everything we do.
5. Has your mindset towards and experience of gender diversity in the workplace changed throughout your career?
I have always worked in male-dominated environments and have always believed that in the working world women can do any of the roles that men can and vice versa. At the beginning of my career, I naively thought that everyone thought as I did and that there was no longer a need for networks like Inspiring WoMen in Business. I didn’t realise that there was still a need to push for equality and gender diversity. While I’ve been fortunate and have always been able to work in areas I wished to and am prepared to push for what I believe I deserve, over the years I have come to realise not everyone has had the same experience. For example, I have seen multiple instances of women being talked over at meetings, women’s opinions being discounted, and women being told they are too emotional for their input to be taken seriously. I have also seen that women may not consider putting themselves forward for a new position or may hesitate to climb the career ladder unless they believe they are a perfect fit for a role. I have learned that if you are not prepared to stand up and push for change, things will just stay the same. I want to be part of driving change and I believe this is for the benefit not just of women at BT, but for BT as a whole. It is well documented that diverse organisations perform better that those with less diversity.
6. The Inspiring WoMen in Business Network has just reached its first year in operation! In your opinion, what has been the most significant development from the network since it launched?
Counterintuitively Covid 19 has had a positive impact on our network. We have held various events over MS Teams such as “CV and interview Preparation” and “Goal Setting in Turbulent Times” and we saw that a wider group of people across the business have been attending and benefiting from these. As they can easily be recorded and watched later, that has also helped to broaden our reach. One event that I believe struck a chord with many was a Q&A session with our sponsor, Shay Walsh, CEO. It was powerful to have him explain why he is our sponsor – he re-affirmed the network’s stance that we need men as well as women involved to drive the equality agenda, and that balance and equality make for better business.
7. Can you recommend any steps companies can take to ensure their female employees feel supported?
Step one is acknowledging that men and women are different and each bring strengths to the table – expecting women be clones of men is the wrong mindset to have.
Step two is asking female employees about their experiences and how they would like to be supported. Asking for their view sounds simple and obvious but it doesn’t always happen. Assumptions can be made without being validated and in some cases, women may not feel like they have a voice or that it being heard.
Step three is to have men involved too, at all levels – balance is important, and things won’t change if only women are involved.