Meet the woman from Leyland who is a vice president at an international bank
Although many people consider IT to be a male dominated sector, one Lancashire woman has shown that it just takes a bit of initiative to build a global reputation and land a top job with an international bank.
Rachel Ryan, 49, is First Vice President and Global Head of IT Asset Management at Danske Bank, and winner of last year’s “ITAM Project of the Year” award by the ITAM Review, and a board member for the non-profit campaigning group, the ITAM Forum.
Living in Leyland, she is a world-renowned public speaker and thought leader in the sector and all this was achieved in contrast to the majority of her peers who took the more traditional university or software developer route.
She retains her broad Lancashire accent and has carved an outstanding career by accepting challenges despite her own doubts, and remaining focused on very specific goals.
Rachel grew up in Langho in the Ribble Valley and left school at 16 to go into sales joining Simonstone-based Time Computers - a big player in the personal computer market in the late 1990s.
Having some sales experience, but importantly a thirst for knowledge, Rachel eagerly trained in IT, learning fast because the end users she was selling to always asked a lot of questions and so a breadth knowledge was needed.
After a year out to work as a nanny in the US , she joined a Standish firm working in a niche department around software licencing. Rachel said: “I was a licencing specialist, and Fujitsu in Warrington were looking to build a team of licence consultants.
“During the foot and mouth outbreak (in 2001) Fujitsu needed people to do networking - cabling installations, routers and switches. Working with large accounts such as Ministry of Agriculture, retail and banking services, I became software operations manager.
"I did a secondment into procurement and then had the opportunity to do my software asset management accreditation. That was an up and coming thing in those days, as many customers were asking for this service.
“They wanted to mange the range of software they were using, compared to the licences they had got.
“At the time, a lot of the software vendors were beginning to do major audits and that’s where a lot of the big revenue came. By then I had followed the full life cycle for software from sales to recycling, so I was ideally placed for moving into software asset management.
“I was interviewed by the ISO board for standards for ITAM and was quite scared about going in with all these asset management experts and give a talk on what I had done, But they were amazed that I had managed to get so much experience, practical experience.”
In 2010, she was approached by Astra Zenica to be their first global asset manger. “It was around then that I went to a software advisory board conference and listened to all the speakers and I thought wouldn’t it be great if that could be me in a few years time.
"I have always been a firm believer in that if you take risks they will pay off. I knew that if I wanted to progress in my career I would have to do something different and take some risks. I was lucky enough to be asked to go to Berlin and present. That first presentation was a bit like walking the green mile. I was so nervous, but I did it.
“I had always felt that being northern, people would always hear the accent and think I was not credible or qualified. But when you are out in Europe the accent is actually seen as endearing.
“Perception is reality and that’s something I have had to learn. I did find I my career sometimes companies would not take me on because I was not from London. I have had to go over and above to prove myself. Unless you are showcasing on a regular basis don’t expect anybody to know about it.”
I put myself forward for various programmes to help others and ended up nominated for the Inspiring Women’s Awards in Manchester.
"From that I did conferences and talks on ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’. This is one of the things I have always tried to do, to push myself despite whatever worries you might have."
After ten years she decided the time was right to move on once more and won the position of First Vice President at Danske Bank.
She said: “IT Asset Management works really well in the financial sector because of the high level of regulation. It is really important. We have to be able to prove where all our assets are and what we use them for. The outcome is, that we save a lot of money, millions.”
Software, she explained, tends to get deployed and forgotten in companies, which means a firm could be paying out for licences it does not often use, or when it comes bundled in packages, pay for items it never uses. Cutting back on this waste provides a surprising amount of savings for firms large and small.
She has travelled all over Europe in her career. Her team is based in Vilnius Lithuania, the HQ of the bank is in Copenhagen, she regularly travels to London and she has just acquired a team in India.
"There is that side of it which is brilliant. You get to meet people from other cultures and learn about different lifestyles. I get to go to a lot of conferences and events.
"IT is not just for developers. There is so much to it. I am not a super technical person. It's around processes, improvements, being able to project manage well, service management and people management. You don't have to have a degree in IT, I don't, there are accreditations you can learn along the way.
"Development is a very specific area of IT. You don't have to be technical for a career in that field. What I learned was to take opportunities when offered and that I started to do really well when I became authentic to myself.
"Some people think its wrong to be too bubbly, or to have a sense of humour or to be too Northern, but that's not true. You don't need to be a corporate robot. Be yourself, but keep putting yourself forward and try new things to keep developing yourself. If you do, good things will happen."