Sarah Lambert knows that exposure to technology at an early age can make all the difference in whether young pupils can see themselves in those professions. That’s why she has taken her passion for cybersecurity into local schools in Welwyn Garden City, England, enthusiastically encouraging students to consider all aspects of IT. In this edition of our blog, Sarah describes the wide variety of technological roles that have helped to shape her own career.
How long have you been at PayPoint and what is your role?
Sarah Lambert: I moved to PayPoint, in financial services, as an Architect nearly 20 years ago where I was responsible for designing a diverse range of small to enterprise scale projects. Eight years ago, I became an Enterprise Architect delivering the Cloud, Security, and Data Strategy and providing architecture and information security support for a wide array of different initiatives, working across departmental boundaries.
How did you get started in the technology or payments industry? What led you to that career choice?
Sarah Lambert: My career started as an IT Developer within the Pharmaceuticals industry. When Glaxo merged with SmithKline Beecham, my experience in complex, high-volume systems relating to transaction processing, billing, and settlement put me in good stead to move to PayPoint, a leading branded payment collection network.
What is your proudest accomplishment in your career to date?
Sarah Lambert: Five years ago, based on my technology experience, and leadership capability, I was given the opportunity to lead the design of a new remediated environment by which PayPoint could meet Data Security Standards specified by the PCI Security Standards Council. Over the last five years, I have continued to maintain PCI Compliance and more recently extended my role to data governance activities for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), reflecting the impact of any relevant legislation, regulation, and external standards.
Do you notice a lack of women in technology? If so, why do you think that is the case?
Sarah Lambert: I believe women generally take the less technical roles of Business Analyst and Project Manager over roles of Developer and Tester. Women are good at communicating with business stakeholders, focusing on how the business can transform efficiency and working practices through effective IT platforms.
In my experience of observing pupils at local United Kingdom schools, this assigning of roles stems from the classroom. Children exposed to technology early, through gaming, seem more confident to increase their understanding in IT. Boys seem more confident with the technical side of programming and testing. When it comes to cybersecurity threats, they seem more interested in understanding how and why things work. They seem more naturally inquisitive. Girls like to help and support. Girls enjoy the puzzle solving in math but are taught IT separately. If the problem solving of math was combined with IT through data analysis or statistics in the classroom, it could make a difference. For me, I was fortunate to be able to discover this in my degree.
In your experience, does being a woman in your profession come with confidence challenges that you have to overcome, for instance doubting your own ability? How do you overcome it?
Sarah Lambert: In my experience, women tend to not speak out or put themselves forward at the risk of appearing incompetent. The right attitude helps to overcome this by being friendly, firm, accommodating, and efficient. Understand the dynamics of the team and work within them. Avoid coming across as defensive and aggressive.
I rose to the challenge by being thorough, consistent, knowledgeable, reliable, concise and focused. I didn’t try too hard to fit in and played to my strengths such as being sensitive and empathic. I help support and connect the team. I break the ice and help the team to relax.
Many women in the tech industry have felt their gender has affected the way that they are perceived or treated. Have you ever been in a situation like that? How did you handle it?
Sarah Lambert: During a recent restructure I relinquished my PCI accountability to a more general Risk and Compliance role. Although disappointed, I maintained a positive view that the change was for the good of the company and didn’t reflect badly on me. I looked for other opportunities and have since been given the responsibility of Data Office Manager for the management of Data Protection.
I am confident in my accomplishments and abilities, however the art of self-promotion and negotiation doesn’t come naturally to me. I think a man in my position would perhaps have pushed for a different outcome but I responded in the way that felt right for me and ultimately this resulted in me being able to continue to develop and grow by taking on new responsibilities.
What do you see – or hope to see - as the future for women in technology roles/payments industry?
Sarah Lambert: There is a huge demand for data science/analysis roles for inspecting, cleansing, transforming, and modelling data with the goal of discovering useful information, informing conclusions, and supporting decision-making. This role is an excellent fit for women entering technology.
Were you given any advice during your career that has stuck with you? As a result, do you have a personal mantra or a famous quote that you live by?
Sarah Lambert: Learn the difference between “urgent” and “important” tasks. “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks,” Winston Churchill once said.
What advice would you impart to other women about how to succeed in the payment industry or in a technology-based field in general? Is there anything you wish you had known?
Sarah Lambert: Recognize strengths and weaknesses. Train and gain experience early in soft skills such as presenting. Don’t forget that natural talents really help such as adaptability, perseverance, enthusiasm, inquisitiveness, and teamwork. Above all else, have fun.