For Salt, a global digital recruitment agency’s latest Women in Tech interview, we caught up with our own Jacqui Barratt, Founder, Owner and CEO of Salt APAC, to talk diversity and advice on how to build your team and career.
The #SaltSessions Women in Tech #WiT interview series speaks with thought leaders from around the world to get their opinion and advice on how they have grown their career in tech and overcome challenges and adversity during their career.
Tell us about your current role and the most exciting part of your work
I wear lots of different hats in my role. Currently, I am tackling an exciting project called ‘Creating Futures’ – shaping and aligning our employee life cycle and journey globally. By getting the experience for our team right, they can, in turn, deliver the best experiences for our clients and candidates.
What has been your most career-defining moment that you are proud of?
Two moments stand out, without a doubt establishing Salt (now APAC) alongside my brother and our incredibly talented team in New Zealand in 2003 and being made a Fellow and Life Member of our industry in 2017.
What do you think we should be doing to encourage more girls to consider a career in tech?
I think a really simple approach would be to show all the roles considered within tech. We tend to always fall back into thinking about development and coding when there are simply so many roles within tech that girls may see themselves in and have greater appeal, e.g. Product Management, Project Management. If you don’t know what exists you can’t imagine yourself there.
What challenges have you faced in the workplace, especially your experience in male-dominated environments?
I have seen a lot throughout my career from sexual harassment to just downright ignorance and game playing. And harassment hasn’t always been gender-related. I remember my first board meeting in one particular recruitment company and the Chairman belittled me because I didn’t come from the private school sector. Other times I have been the only female board director and you get the tea duties, or emails headed Dear Gents…
I have always tried to do a couple of things to help me through: 1) assume the position – you were appointed for a reason, so have faith in yourself and do the job. 2) never waiver from your values. If you hold onto your values and let this underpin your own behaviours you will typically make the right decisions and call out behaviours that aren’t ok.
In your opinion, what is the biggest obstacle to women’s career progression?
Part of it is ourselves – we don’t believe in ourselves enough. When we get a promotion, we are so thankful for the opportunity we don’t renegotiate our packages and we just get on with it. Meanwhile, our male counterparts tell the boss how lucky they are to have them and negotiate a substantial increase and good on them because that’s exactly what we should do. Given we typically only apply for roles when we tick 80% of the job criteria and men apply when they tick about 50% we opt out before we opt in. Its why we suggest to clients all the time be mindful of creating laundry lists when you advertise you might be discounting 50% of the population before you have even started.
Who has been your biggest advocate/mentor in your career and why?
My biggest supporter and harshest critic is my partner – when someone knows you so well they know when you need a push and when you need a pat on the back. I might not always like what I hear but it always comes from the right place.
As an employer, what would you recommend to other companies regarding infrastructure to develop the best talent?
First of all, make sure you are assessing current talent to know what they do well and where their gaps are, this should be in line with what you need in your organisation so the development has a benefit for the organisation and the individual. How you develop an individual will depend on the skill and competency that requires development, is it mentoring – internal or external, is it involvement in projects across teams, is it an external course. I don’t think there is one size fits all to get the best outcomes. However, I do think we need to make sure the learning then transfers into the business.
In a management position, how have you found it best to promote and nurture women’s careers?
Lead by example – be visible so people can see anything is possible and let people know about your journey to get where you got to as there is no perfect path. Promote opportunities for women to speak, engage and develop – make sure they have a voice. Be available, be encouraging and make sure they know what they need to do to take the next step so it feels real.
What are some of the best and worst workplace initiatives you have seen/heard of to help promote diversity?
When my brother and I started Salt (now APAC), to be honest, we never started it with diversity in mind. We started the business by wanting to attract the best people in the market and if you do that, it’s funny how diversity naturally happens. There are some good practices such as ensuring a diverse interview panel, reviewing blind CV’s, establishing a clear diversity agenda so you tackle issues relevant to your environment. As we talked about at a recent event if you don’t embrace diversity for the simple reason it is the right thing to do then you will be forced to change as commercially, customers are demanding diversity.
Who is your modern-day hero?
Dame Vera Stephanie aka “Steve Shirley” I only found about this amazing woman this year (I know slow on the uptake). One of my colleagues, Morvern, shared her story with me and I was blown away. One because I simply was unaware of what she had achieved at a time where women in tech was not a phrase often spoken about and a woman founding and running a technology business was even more precious and rare. Today she is continuing to do incredible work and challenging life’s norms and all with a wicked sense of humour.
Any reading/website you would recommend to stay updated?
I love Tom Peters so check out his book ‘The Excellence Dividend’, Dr Adam Fraser’s ‘The Third Space’ and I subscribe to lots of blogs and love Twitter for sound bites.
What is your biggest stress reliever?
I love to paint and do it for pure enjoyment and hot yoga is just the best – desperately overdue.
Is there one piece of advice you wish somebody gave you at the beginning of your career?
I was very lucky my dad was an incredibly hard worker and I think early on I modelled his work ethic and then later in life an old boss who was a true visionary said to me the day you wake up and don’t love what you do should be the day you consider your next option. Personally, I say to people two things when considering your career
Don’t jump out of something because you are unhappy, jump into something because you are excited
There is a big difference. When choosing the right role for you, ask yourself will you be more marketable when you leave this role e.g. will you have more skills or new experiences that will increase your value? Hard to think about leaving a job when you are just considering starting but it helps you get clarity.
What job did you dream of when you were a kid – your Plan A career path?
A jockey till I discovered food, a professional rugby player till I realised not really an option back then and there is still hope that I could be a sports talkback host.
Fun fact about you?
I once was a lead singer in a rock band for one night 🙂
About Jacqui Barratt
With 25 years and counting, it’s fair to say that recruitment runs through Jacqui’s body and soul. Starting out as a consultant she worked for large corporates and Nasdaq listed companies before taking the plunge and setting up Salt in New Zealand in 2003.
Jacqui’s outstanding contribution to the recruitment industry has been recognised by her peers with a Life Membership and Fellow of the Recruitment Consulting Services Association. “It is an absolute privilege to do what I do, recruitment impacts on people’s lives every day. If we forget that people have a beating heart, we’ve lost what recruiting is all about.” This is why Jacqui is so passionate about working with organisations to drive the diversity and inclusion agenda. Finding practical solutions to bring diverse thoughts and experiences to achieve better outcomes for both individuals and organisations.
Jacqui most recently spoke at Campaign Asia-Pacific on diversity which can be found here.