Getting to the head of tech at Yoox-Net-A-Porter
Behind Rosemary's climb from Business Analyst to becoming one of the Heads of Technology, is a story about trading on reputation and learning to trust, all with two bambinos in tow.
In 2010, she joined then Net-A-Porter, coming from IT consulting. Her love of retail was her sign that she was in the right place. Back then, the team was just 50-strong so she touched the entire technology stack, which is worth spelling out. Warehouse systems, the Net-A-Porter website, product upload flows, the live chat and beauty product launches were just the beginning. By the time she became Delivery Manager, overseeing her first team of developers, she was thoroughly versed in the business.
How did you jump from Delivery Manger to Head of Tech?
I was out on maternity leave with my second child when my boss called to tell me his position was opening. I told him I was interested in succeeding him, so he spoke with HR and a few other stakeholders internally, and they agreed to hold the position open for me for five months until I came back. I still had to prove myself in the role, but I was grateful to have been given the chance, especially since I was away when the position became available. This was such a vote of confidence and support from YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP and the hiring managers. I'm truly grateful.
What was it like to manage your former peers?
It was a challenge, but my team was supportive of me. Managing managers is different because I can't apply my normal techniques. So trust is essential. If there's a problem, I still step in to help, but most of the time everything goes well, and I'm more of a sounding board to support their decisions.
What kind of profile is needed to work in tech?
We have a university scheme where we hire eight grads every year, but if we only recruit from computer science, we get 90% men. So we recruit from all disciplines. I interviewed an English major this year who learned coding in her spare time. If you've tried it and are passionate about it, that's almost enough, we can help you learn the rest.
How does a woman find her place in the tech world?
It helps to be confident and have the courage to speak your mind. Those that are coding today went to university 20 years ago, when there were even less women, so they already had to be willing to break the mold – otherwise they wouldn't be where they are now. The world is shifting though and today it's easier. Tech and digital roles are the future, and women interested in coding and who are specialised in these fields are highly sought after.
Did you need to know how to code to get the job?
Not so much as I needed to have an appreciation for the concepts and be able to pick up the new ideas and discuss them. Coding is at the heart of most tech roles. You have to like and want to code to be a developer. But there are also a lot of peripheral roles, like mine, like the business analysts, UX and web designers.
You've progressed about every two years. Is there a natural push to help people grow at YOOX NET-A-PORTER GROUP?
Definitely. We often give our people a chance they might not have had otherwise. I never planned to stay for ten years, but there's always been room to develop.
I was here six years before having my first child, so I obviously love it. When you come back from maternity leave and are balancing work and getting home on time, It's so important to know and feel that you're supported and valued by the organisation.
What's the glue that created that work-life balance?
Flexibility. No one is watching what time you come in and leave. This helps me do my job well and take care of my family. That I can benefit from it and am able to pass it on to my team is really important. When a leader sets the example, it encourages others to do the same.
Do you have a philosophy you live by?
My mantra is just get stuff done. A lot of people talk about how hard something is going to be. If so, then get started because otherwise we'll still be talking about it in six months. The other one is actions speak louder than words. What you do might not coincide 100% with the strategy, but you will already have a head start to reaching the objective.
What has been key to your success?
Expressing my ambition. Verbalizing what you want is halfway to making it happen. Opportunities come up unexpectedly and hiring managers need to know you're looking. It's about putting your hand up, as much as building a reputation for being reliable and exceeding expectations. You can't build it once the opportunity is already there. One of the reasons I got my new job as Head of Technology is because my manager and human resources vouched for me and my skills.
One thing people don't know about you?
I'm an open book. I just talk all the time. But you've probably guessed that by now.