Let’s face it, we can’t live without technology. From the moment the alarm rings in the morning, to the daily commute home, technology is ingrained in our daily lives – and has grown into probably the most influential industry in the world.
Despite the mainstream proliferation of technology, however, women are still woefully underrepresented in this field. LEWIS recognises that having inspiring role models to look up to is critical in fostering a curiosity for technology at a young age – and that not having them puts a barrier in the way of girls entering the technology field.
LEWIS recently pledged to PwC’s Tech She Can Charter, an initiative aimed at motivating young women to pursue careers in tech. Inspired by this, we will be launching the ‘LEWIS Muse’ series. Over the coming weeks, we will be featuring the real-life stories of women who have paved their own way in the tech industry. This series will showcase the inspirational women we work with, including LEWIS employees, clients and partners.
Where better to start than with Ruth Jones, Managing Director of LEWIS UK?
Many people think you need to learn everything there is to know about technology at an early age in order to be able to work in the industry. But that definitely wasn’t the case for Ruth.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bradford and went to run of the mill primary and secondary schools. For A Levels – commonly regarded as one of the most stressful times in anyone’s educational life – I studied Communication Studies, History and Sports Science.
Are the subjects you studied related to technology?
No, they didn’t have anything to do with technology.
And that’s just it. You don’t have to know you want to be in this industry from an early age. You can always learn about and grow to love it. That’s exactly what I did.
I’m the first to acknowledge that Sports Science hasn’t yet been much use in my career. But what I took out of History and Global Communications definitely was. The skills I learnt in these subjects are the tools I use on a daily basis. Understanding communication is key to what I do. Digesting information and narrative is useful in any job you might have.
What was your path after school?
The period after A Levels is always a key moment in anyone’s life. There seems to be a huge variety of options on offer: how do you choose between work, taking up an apprenticeship or going to university? I decided on the academic route. I went to Northumbria University where I studied Marketing Management.
The path to the top
It may seem like something your granny would say but it’s true: working hard and always looking to achieve the best results means you’re halfway there. And being a woman shouldn’t stop you aiming for the top.
What was your first job?
As a recent graduate working for technology-focussed public relations agency Johnson King, I rose to become an Account Manager in less than four years. That was my first experience of the technology industry.
What did you learn from this job?
I soon learnt that I couldn’t rely even on well-known brands to get noticed. Often these are the biggest challenge because people tend to feel they know the brand and there’s nothing more they think they can be told about it. This made me work harder to achieve better results.
What I was doing was thinking outside the box. I was always thinking about different ways to get noticed by doing something that went against the grain.
I did find Johnson King to be fairly gender-balanced; it wasn’t a primarily male-dominated firm. This is definitely key to allowing more women into the technology industry. The very fact that more women are seen in these roles allows others to aspire to be like them. This is a big step forward to achieving a more inclusive industry.
Where did you go to next?
After becoming an Account Manager I decided to move to a different public relations agency. I was given new responsibilities and managed a wide range of clients. This led me to becoming Head of Technology of a firm called Speed. I felt that all my hard work in the few years following graduation had paid off.
At LEWIS, I went from Head of B2B to deputy MD, and am now Managing Director.
Success at the top
“I question everything that we do – and am always trying to do better.”
For me order is important. Ensuring you have a structure in place which helps identify the information you need is paramount. I trust and rely on others to tell me if something important or noteworthy has happened in the business. No leader is ever going to know everything that goes on so having a reliable information chain is fundamental to any business’ success.
My job is totally client-facing, something that is very important. Otherwise you have no finger on the pulse.
How to overcome challenges
Early on in your career it’s possible that some bosses or senior team members may not believe that you have the technological knowledge to succeed. But Ruth has found that if they challenge you and you prove them wrong, they’ll buy in to your way of thinking.
What were the challenges you faced and overcame in this role?
I understand that the public relations industry can sometimes descend into being very ‘sales driven’. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Skills such as quick decision making and the ability to know when to have a direct conversation with clients are really important.
When margins are being squashed it inevitably puts pressure on people and even fellow colleagues get competitive. This can make some people feel uncomfortable – but it shouldn’t hold them back. My best piece of advice when you are confronted with a situation like this is: “Don’t be scared to give it a shot”.