WCT Board Director Emma Parkinson on unconventional pathways to tech

For this month’s profile, we spoke with Women in Communications and Technology’s newest Board Director, Emma Parkinson of HPE. Emma shared her career journey with us, as well as insights on embracing your unique skills, pursuing sometimes unconventional pathways, and goal-specific mentoring.

Emma grew up in Georgetown, Ontario, and lives today in Grimsby, Ontario with her son Ben and husband Darren. After starting her career as a flight attendant, Emma opted for both feet on the ground and accepted a role at Bell Mobility, as a call center agent.  From there, she took on multiple different roles, including marketing, multiple IT department roles, and a move to software product management. Despite this path, it was not until she took a role at HPE in Vendor Management, which gave her the chance to combine her customer support experience with learned technology skills, that Emma realized she had become a “woman in Tech.” Emma is now leading teams in Technology Service Delivery at HPE, and exploring the beautiful Niagara region in her downtime.

No matter what industry you’re in, the journey often changes the destination. Emma’s career path illustrates the not-always-linear entry path to technology that many WCT members know to be true. Emma shared with us that at the beginning of her career, a well-constructed plan was considered necessary to move forward—but she quickly learned that progress isn’t always logical. “A mentor once told me that sometimes to move forward, you need to back up,” Emma said. “Lateral moves, some of them not what I considered my ideal role, gave me my greatest opportunities to learn and grow.” Ultimately, relying on her own unique skills brought her to the technology industry and Emma is now working to bring more women into her team at HPE by continuing to think outside the box. “I believe that we need creative and new ways of thinking about roles, and how they can be re-imagined to capitalize on the unique skills that women bring to the workplace, instead of trying to fit a new generation of women into existing, traditional jobs,” she shared.

At WCT, we know that mentorship is one of the best ways for women to advance their careers. In Emma’s career, flexibility and being open have been critical to her mentorship experience, both as a mentee and a mentor. She has sought out mentors who could help her support a specific goal, need or strategy, leveraging those mentors to connect with others who could help her achieve a different goal. “Being open to providing and receiving different styles of support gives us the opportunity to develop a more robust view of ourselves, our capabilities and our opportunities,” she shared. As a mentor, Emma continues to value goal specific mentoring, with a frank and personal style. “Unstructured, open and transparent conversations allow me to speak and share, and promote dialogue that flows naturally, which often allows me to break down barriers, and ‘get real’,” Emma said.

We asked Emma what her advice would be to her younger self, just starting out in the workforce.

“People will remember not the specific work you do, but the enthusiasm and the attitude with which you do it,” she said. “While the results are important, it is your perseverance, your attitude and your humility which catch the eye of those who absolutely need someone just like you!”

Thank you, Emma, for sharing your story with us!

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