Shirlayne Dunwoodie

We had a chat with Shirlayne to find out why she’s been with us her whole career, how we supported her as a full-time working mum, and how our customers adapted overnight during the pandemic, with our help.

What is your role at BT and what does a ‘day in the life’ of Shirlayne look like?

I am the UK Sales Director for International Markets within Global, so my team looks after large global corporate customers who are headquartered in the UK. My role as a leader is to help create the right environment for them to be successful, which means setting the strategy and making sure my team are equipped to help their customers be as innovative, sustainable and efficient as possible. The diversity among our colleagues and customers is great: we have a range of customers, industries and backgrounds – there is never a dull moment. I get to work with colleagues all around the world, from New York to Europe to Singapore… We are very collaborative in trying to achieve the best we can for our customers. During the pandemic, we helped many customers make an almost overnight switch to home and flexible working. Since then, we have helped customers embrace a new world of flexible blended working. There has been a step change in automation and digitisation which brings further demand for our core offerings: customers are always asking for the next future innovation to help them remain competitive within their own markets. I love getting out and meeting customers myself, seeing how technology helps them conduct their business and focusing on what they’re trying to achieve to understand how we can best serve them.

What impact does your work have on our customers?

My team and I work with colleagues around the world to sell solutions to customers whilst providing a local touch. I am often meeting with CIOs, CFOs and other senior executives in our customer organisations to discuss their proposed investment in a new technology which will help them achieve their business goal. There are not many roles which give you access to C-suite executives across a range of industries, so it is an honour to have this role. With the increase in IOT (Internet of Things), and Digital Industry Solutions and the ever-increasing risk of cyber-attacks, our solutions all have Security embedded into them which enables our customers to meet their commercial goals. Our solutions also help customers be innovative, get to market faster and ultimately improve their profits. I’ve had various customers write to our CEOs over the years about how I’ve helped them deliver a critical project – e.g. retailers delivering a new online platform for their busy Christmas trading period, banks wanting new ways to engage with and stay relevant to customers even with less branches etc. It is really exciting to be on the cutting edge of discussions about how technology can enable new business models or ways of working. I’ve previously won our Presidents Club award for a ground-breaking deal, as my customer wrote to the CEO on what a difference I had made to their business. 

You’ve been at BT for 26 years and have become a Chartered engineer, Chartered marketer and you are now a sales leader. How has BT supported your personal development throughout your career?

I joined BT as a fresh-faced graduate with a degree in Engineering from Oxford University. I didn’t really know what the career options were, and at 22 I didn’t really know then what I wanted to do. However, I knew I wanted to make a difference as a business leader. I have seen many colleagues leave to get the training or experiences they thought they needed from other companies, but I have found BT has so many different teams and opportunities that I have been able to get all of that internally, having several careers, without ever needing to leave. When I joined BT, I was doing a technical role, before becoming a Chartered Engineer, then moving into Product Management. I spent several years doing my Chartered Marketer training and exams which took longer than expected due to pregnancy and maternity leave, but I got there in the end! Over the years I’ve completed numerous internal and external accreditations and am currently studying online for an MBA which has been really insightful. BT has always had a wealth of training both internally and externally and a commitment to personal development. I’ve always told my teams that BT will support them to be the best “you” that you can be. 

How do you think attitudes have changed towards women having a career and being a parent? And what has BT done to support you and your parenting responsibilities?

In my time working in BT I’ve had 3 children within 3 years. I’ve seen women in a variety of industries struggle with part time working and childcare, with many choosing to give up work when they had children. Personally, I have always remained full time and was very grateful that BT enabled me to combine being a great worker, whilst being the best mum I could be. BT is a supportive, caring employer with many flexible options for women including job sharing, part time and flexible working… but I’ve always preferred to continue full time and manage my own work-life balance. I’ve mostly had brilliant bosses who have been supportive of this, especially when my children were younger and needed me at home more. I’ve managed to balance my personal and work commitments, starting work earlier or working later in the evenings so I could attend my children’s school events. As long as my work was completed to a high standard, and my customers were praising me, I didn’t need to be in an office 9-5 to do this. It also worked for the company as 26 years on, here I am still here as I appreciated this flexibility and didn’t look to move to another company. BT also has a great women’s network  - including some fantastic male leaders who have done a lot to make their area more women and parent friendly by scheduling meetings later in the morning so mothers and fathers can do the school run. The pandemic has been a great normaliser in making everyone realise that we are human beings and family members as well as workers, and a great employer is someone who lets people be both. I think that support is what encourages people to stay for longer and give their best at work. 

What would you say to someone considering joining the sales team at BT?

I would say go for it! BT is a great company, and as we announced recently, BT Means Business. Sales is great career option as it goes to the heart of our business and that of our customers. It is one for people who want to get involved and make a difference! Understanding our portfolio options, how they can be put together to help our customers and being able to influence portfolio and finance teams on how to price deals is really energising. It’s a pleasure to be able to sell such strong offerings. 

We have fantastic propositions as BT and are regularly in Gartner’s magic quadrant and other surveys as being a leading global provider. We work with so many partners and suppliers who are also bringing new skills and experiences to the table. Having the chance of working in a global company with multinational corporate customers is really exciting, as you get to work with people internally and externally all around the world, and experience different cultures and ways of working together. It also makes it easier to work with our customers with the same international challenges. Now the pandemic restrictions are easing, there are loads of opportunities to travel and even move jobs to other countries. Sales in BT is a fabulous career in itself but can also be a launchpad to a global career in many other parts of BT, due to the experiences and the senior customer interactions we have.

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