Women in IT – Joanne Johnston

Next in our series of ‘Women in IT’ blogs is Joanne Johnston, Microsoft Licensing Lead at Phoenix…

How long have you been in the industry?

I have been working in the industry for 21 years now. Basically, all of my life since I left school!

What roles have you held?

Credit Controller

Sales Support – Public Sector & Voluntary

Account Manager

Licensing Specialist

Microsoft Licensing Lead

How long at Phoenix?

Of those 21 years, 18 of them have been at Phoenix.

What made you choose IT?

I was very young when I started working for a reseller. I was looking for a job that would allow me to earn a wage alongside doing a college course to gain some extra qualifications and I got that job working for an IT company.

It became very apparent to me from early on that this industry was an exciting one to get into. I didn’t really have an idea of what I wanted to do once I had left school and working at Phoenix, it just felt right. Having had previous experience working for another reseller in the Accounts Team, I knew this was something that suited the type of person that I am and the possibilities of being able to gain experience in other areas of the business was appealing to me.

When I started at Phoenix, straight away I met a company full of ambitious people. The atmosphere on the sales floor was always buzzing with people working on deals and phones ringing constantly. Even though I had no experience in Sales, I was keen to move departments and start dealing with customers.

There are lots of aspects to the industry that are very interesting, and I found it an exciting challenge to take on something that I had never done before.

Did you face any challenges when starting out in the industry?

My challenges were juggling a small child and working full-time as a single parent, which was exhausting at the time. I was very lucky that I had my parents on hand to help in that area.

Within the different jobs I did at Phoenix, it was learning all of the information that I needed to be successful. When I was in Sales as an Account Manager, you are a “Jack of all trades” and have to retain huge amounts of information.

Every vendor that came into the business to talk about their products had an expectation that you know enough information about them to be able to spot an opportunity and promote how good their products are. So, multiply that by the 100’s of vendors that we deal with on a daily basis and that’s a whole lot of information to take in! Not to mention all of the different types of licensing and agreements that you need to learn, pricing that you need to request for odd products nobody has ever heard of and then the order processing that needed to be done.

What changes have you seen in the industry and Phoenix over the years?

One of the biggest changes that I have seen, are in the way that products and solutions are now delivered to customers. Phoenix used to have a warehouse and shift boxes, which you can’t even imagine now. Everything is now either delivered electronically or hosted via Cloud Services.

There is a lot more engagement from Vendors and Overlay Teams to support Account Managers working on deals, which makes a massive difference. Working in partnership with Vendors and those people within Phoenix helps the Account Managers call on experienced people to support them, where they wouldn’t have necessarily had that in the past. Overlay teams didn’t really exist as much back then, so you had to do most of the work yourself and Sales Support were few and far between. When I did the job in Public Sector, there was only me supporting the whole team.

Another change has been about how we sell our products and services. Phoenix has never really been just a transactional partner as we have always prided ourselves on providing excellent customer service and after sales care, but we have shifted to become an end to end solutions provider helping customers deliver huge game changing projects.

What can be done to encourage more women into IT?

I think it’s all about getting out there and showing people what you can do. There are a lot of confident women out there who have a lot to offer.

I think it’s not just women but also the younger generation that we are trying to encourage to try out the IT Industry and by using platforms that they use, social media etc and by doing things like writing these blogs, we can show women that there are lot of us already in the industry and have been for some time.

One of the most daunting things when starting out in IT for me was the fact that I saw it as very much a man’s world and in some respects it still is. But that shouldn’t make women not want to join. If anything, it encourages me to want to succeed even more!