Juliet Ward – Operations Director
Girls Don’t Do Technology
Education in girls’ grammar schools in the late 70s did not cater for a desire to follow a technical path.
Apparently, it was only for boys, and I was strongly encouraged to think about becoming a lawyer, a dentist, an optician maybe even a doctor.
Needless to say, as a somewhat stroppy opinionated teenager in whose parents had installed a belief that anything is achievable this did not make for a happy school life.
I had made up my mind that if I could not ride horses for a living then I was going to be a computer whizz.
So Now What
I ended up leaving school at 16 with a few ‘O’ levels under my belt feeling pretty disillusioned.
I tried a few different things none of which I had any enthusiasm for and at the age of 18 decided to go to college to do some ‘A’ levels. I chose Maths, Computer Science and Electronic studies.
I was the only girl enrolled in the second two.
Whilst I was waiting to start college I took a job in a factory lab making gas detection equipment and one day one of my colleagues came in saying a notice had gone up on the staff information board advertising a role for a trainee programmer.
All you needed was a few basic ‘O’ levels (tick) and to pass a programming aptitude test to get an interview. Egged on by my work mates I thought why not give it a go as it may at least give me an idea of whether I had the correct mindset for programming.
Amazing Opportunity Number 1
As luck would have it the test was right up my street and I passed with flying colours, probably the only thing I have ever passed that way and after an interview I was offered the job of trainee RPG programmer.
I was being paid to learn the very thing I had wanted to do … Result.
The first part of the training involved 3 to 4 months of courses at IBM in Basingstoke and that was that… my IT career was off and running and I progressed up through junior programmer to Analyst programmer and team leader.
In the early 90s we decided to start a family and although I returned to work after my first child I quickly realised that I was missing too much being at work.
I decided to take a career break to be at home with my young family and loved every minute of it.
I Need A New Kitchen
At the end of the 90s my poor kitchen was desperately in need of a makeover, well the whole house actually.
My youngest child was starting school, so the answer was to get back to work.
However, 7 years is a long time in IT, lots of things had changed beyond all recognition. I was very nervous that I would not be able to cut it.
On a night out with some of my friends from my old team I mentioned that I was thinking that maybe I was going to start looking.
One of the guys worked for the then named “Kingfisher Associates” and said he would ask them to consider talking to me if any roles came up. I went home and more or less forgot about it as I thought why would they want someone who had been out of the game for that long.
A few weeks later I received a call from one of the directors asking me to come for a chat. I was terrified.
When I had left programming the disk cabinets were the size of a washing machine and the IBM system 38 was housed in a fully climate-controlled room the size of a double garage. Massive printers coughing out pages and pages of prints for every department and great big tapes you had to hand spool onto the tape drive and change every hour to do the back up.
Kingfisher had an AS400, the system 38 replacement – in a server room under the stairs that was the size of a desktop PC. Those years had also seen the explosion of the internet, another terrifying concept. I was so scared I offered to work for nothing to start with whilst I worked out whether I could do it.
Needless to say, it was like I had never left within a week.
Over the next 14 years I became more and more involved with our biggest customer learning everything I could about their business so that we could provide the best service.
I still had that desire to solve things for people. I began doing more solutioning, analysis and design but still liked to get dug into some programming on occasions, if it was easy enough that is.
Amazing Opportunity Number 2
In 2013 the owners of the company offered me and another colleague the opportunity to complete a management buyout. I can’t say I had been expecting it, so it was a shock and after the first meeting where they put this to us, Richard (my colleague) and I went and sat in the pub and just stared at each other. We hadn’t known each other for that long but we decided we had to give it a go.
It will be our 10th anniversary this year and it has been an amazing 10 years. The people who had been our colleagues supported us and became our employees and we have a great team that we have fun with both in and out of the office.
I still get a kick out of providing good IT solutions and although my business partner was chosen for me I could not have picked better myself.
My chosen career has allowed me to fulfil a childhood dream in to live in the countryside with endless space to walk my 3 dogs, ride my horse and spend time with my 2 gorgeous grandchildren.
It also allows me to travel to see my son who lives in the US.
It was totally the right path for me and how I wish THEY could see me now.
Apparently, girls don’t do technology it’s a boys’ job!!!!
Juliet WardOperations Director – KFA Connect