Building the future

Sarah Greasley is an Executive Architect at IBM. A widow, she tells how she manages a high-flying career with bringing up her two children.

Sarah Greasley understands better than most that anything can happen during a person's working life which might shift their priorities and how important it is for employees, employers and managers to take that into account.

An Executive Architect at IBM, she was widowed in 2004 with two young children, but has managed to keep doing a job she enjoys and to lead a team of over 50 technical architects and specialists thanks to her own talent and to IBM's support and flexibility.

Sarah has been at IBM for 28 years and joined their graduate recruitment programme as a systems engineer straight from university. She says she has noticed as she has risen up the ranks that there are fewer and fewer women she works with both as clients and within the IT sector.

She is keen to do what she can to encourage other women up the ladder and has a long history of leading women in IT initiatives, including through regular visits to schools. Her work has been recognised this year by the FDM everywoman in Technology awards where she is a finalist in the Inspiration of the Year category. The awards will be announced today.

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Over the last six years, Sarah has been going into schools to encourage more young people, especially women, to go into technology careers and talks about how technology can address environmental issues and create smarter cities, how technology can be used in different ways and challenges students to think about how technology will change their careers. She foresees people having more control over their careers and a much looser affiliation with companies, bidding for pieces of work over the internet and many more people working from home.

“This kind of empowerment message appeals to 18 year olds,” she says.

Flexible working
Sarah works flexible full-time hours during term time, adapting to clients' requirements, and comes in on additional days during the holidays which tend to be her quieter times work-wise in any event. She is also able to work from home.

She started her working career doing full time hours, but reduced these to three days a week for the three years after her husband died nine years ago. She also took six months' leave to focus on her children, now aged 13 and 18. "IBM were brilliant," she says. "They gave me the time off I needed."

Sarah was fortunate to have a nanny for eight years, from before her husband died. She kept her on through the period after her husband's death to provide emotional continuity for her children and because there was a lot of paperwork to do. "It was too much for them to lose two major people in their lives," she says. The nanny had her own child and moved away around two years ago, which was when Sarah moved on to her current flexible work pattern.

Sarah says returning to work helped her as it was an important part of her identity and provided something else for her to think about. "I needed that distraction," she says.

She says that her advice to women climbing the career ladder is never to assume what your priorities might be as they change throughout your life and never to think that just because you have taken time out to look after children you will never get back to work. "There is always another way," she says.

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