With over 13 years of experience in the recruitment industry, Paulina Laurie has a vast knowledge of technology and digital recruitment across the EMEA region. She is currently head of IT recruitment at Frank Recruitment Group, a global specialist IT staffing firm. Previously Chair of the company’s Diversity Matters Committee, Paulina is now head of the organization’s Women in Tech initiative, which she launched in November 2020. In this role, Paulina is focused on providing customers with expert resources in order to support and empower women tech professionals across the cloud space. She’s the first point of contact for businesses looking to expand their diversity and inclusion recruitment activities, and she also offers direct mentoring as part of the Mentor Me program.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Paulina shared her insights on the importance of community in driving positive change and fostering inclusivity, her career trajectory, the secret to striking a work-life balance, career milestones, words of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
Paulina, how do you view the power and significance of the community in driving positive change and fostering inclusivity? What role do you believe the tech community plays in supporting and empowering women in tech?
The importance of community is immense and cannot be overstated. Inclusion is about the feeling of belonging and being able to be yourself. When you can truly be yourself in the workplace, in your community, you feel empowered. In turn, this enables you to achieve your full potential.
Community is also a core component of allyship. In the context of gender inequality, this means men getting involved. Women advocating for their rights and equality is important, but we’re more successful when more men understand the issues and lend their voice, too. There are times when allies should pass the mic, but there are also times where they need to use their platform to uplift the message.
Solidarity is another area where community really matters as well. As women we have to lift each other up – which means shouting about successes, seeking out allies, and supporting, acknowledging and complimenting one another in our journeys. We have to stick together more!
Please brief us about your background and areas of interest. What promoted your move from sales to your current role?
In short, I would describe myself as: a psychologist by degree, Eastern European by temperament, a fashionista by heart, and a working mother with a strong work ethic.
I graduated as a Master of Psychology of Negotiation and Conflict in Poland. I came to the UK after graduating where the recruitment industry was already very well established in order to gain experience and expertise. Frank Recruitment Group is where I’ve gained most of my experience, but I’ve also had a chance to turn my ideas into businesses. My areas of interest are sales, business, tech, and women in leadership. My (maybe not-so-) secret love is fashion.
I am actually still in sales, within recruitment. My role is all about sales and advisory – I moved into our Women in Tech initiative to show our community of customers and candidates that gender equality is something we’re actively working towards and profoundly serious about at Frank Recruitment Group.
The standing of women in tech became especially personal to me after my first pregnancy when I was coming back to work and the thought of that re-adjustment process was a little scary. Your world changes and you’re out of touch for a year or maybe more – plus you can see that many companies are quite happy to let a woman’s career be derailed after they’ve had a child, with stereotypical questions around whether they’re really committed or still capable etc. etc. I had ten years of experience under my belt at that point and I still felt worried, so I know it must be similar for other women, and it’s something I would like to change.
Can you elaborate on Frank Recruitment Group’s Women in Tech initiative?
We’ve run Women in Tech at Frank Recruitment Group for a long time, and my focus over the last couple of years has been to raise awareness of gender inequality in the cloud tech ecosystems in which we operate. Our Tech’s Leading Women whitepaper is a case study of 36 chief information officers and chief technology officers, charting their journeys to the executive level. Our vodcast series likewise spotlights women leaders and delves into critical questions like allyship, widening the talent pool, and the significance of a CEO’s influence on a business.
In our day-to-day work, we advise clients on inclusive hiring, promotion, and retention practice, as well as the wider importance of gender-balanced teams. We also support women directly with advice and interview prep through our mentorship scheme, Mentor Me – which we’re currently in the process of expanding, so please look out for the new iteration soon.
What are the challenges when recruiting upper management and executive positions? Do you think there are enough opportunities for women in the tech field?
There are opportunities for women in tech – at least in theory, if not always necessarily in practice. It’s common to see companies with roles open to all, but without an inclusive hiring practice. A desire to hire more equitably is a start, but if your hiring, onboarding, promotion, and retention practices aren’t meaningfully inclusive, your efforts aren’t going to result in more balanced and more equitable teams.
As far as recruiting for those more senior roles, our own recent research has shown that there’s an experience gap of around three years between men and women in tech. What this means is that men have a de-facto head start when it comes to advancing to management and executive positions. Women have been under-represented for decades in tech and although things are changing, progress has been slow.
That disparity doesn’t, however, mean there aren’t women currently in tech at every level – there absolutely are. I’ve met so many women over the last few years so when it comes to those candidate shortlists, you just have to look! And I’ll add that it’s really crucial that businesses work to support the women they already employ so that those women can advance to more senior roles. Inclusion and equity matter at every level.
Could you share any key business philosophies or values that guide your decision-making process as a leader?
Manage individuals not teams: although businesses are made up of teams and departments, it’s vital that as managers we address our staff as individuals and always keep our one-to-one relationships in focus. This not only ensures your staff feel supported and seen, it also facilitates your team management as a whole because you gain a more comprehensive view of everyone’s unique traits and strengths.
Being approachable is a strength: this might seem obvious, but communication underscores absolutely everything in the workplace. Ensuring that your colleagues and staff feel they can communicate honestly means solving problems more quickly and ultimately plays a substantial role in the happiness of your teams at work.
Better to ask for forgiveness not permission: I’m going to hope my own boss doesn’t see this one, but we all know how easy it is for projects to get caught up in red tape or stalling with too many moving parts. Sometimes, if you see a way through or have a fresh idea, it’s worth pursuing and then reporting back. Hone your intuition and this gets easier and less nerve-wracking over time!
What one achievement or task in your career are you most proud of?
It’s not a single event, but I truly love to see the people I work with thriving and achieving their goals. This is a big part of what drives me in our Women in Tech initiative, and it’s a core motivator for me as a manager as well. It goes back to what I said before about solidarity, but thinking about our journeys in collective terms is really important – I want to see other women doing well at every level and throughout the tech space. And similarly, I’m proud of the work I’ve been a part of that has raised awareness of gender inequality, and the experience of it, in the cloud space specifically.
What is your secret to striking a work-life balance?
If there is a secret, I would like to know it! But I am a strong believer in the idea that you cannot truly be in two places at once. So, if you are at work, focus on work; when you’re at home, focus on family. And don’t forget about your “me time” either. You have to relax, recharge and above all, rest. Sometimes work will take over, sometime home will take over. I think you just have to make sure that when the crisis is over, you make up the time whether that’s for work, family, or yourself.
What do you think is the importance of role models for younger generations?
Visibility is so important. If you can see it, you can be it. If there are women on the board, you can visualize becoming an executive yourself. If working moms are thriving in the company and they manage a healthy work-life balance, you believe that you can do it too. All the intersections of gender and other marginalized identities are really important here, as the burden of having to be “the first” can be a major obstacle.
What would you advise the young women deciding to enter the tech industry?
GO FOR IT. Tech is a very lucrative and wide-ranging industry. There are so many great routes to pursue: you could become a software developer, a project manager, a consultant. Each of these roles utilizes different strengths and offers a different day-to-day experience. It’s never boring and tech continues to develop rapidly which keeps things fresh.
I would definitely emphasize specialization as well. The more you follow avenues into a specific niche and develop your specialist skillset, the more you’ll find yourself in higher and higher demand. And we’re really in a golden age of initiatives designed to support women into the industry so absolutely seek out mentorship programs, tech academies, and community hubs alike. Now is your time!