When Nikki Beckett, chief executive of NSBRetail Systems, entered the IT industry in 1979, she had no idea that she would end up founding her own business and win the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award.
In fact, Beckett didn't even intend to stay in the IT sector for very long. "I joined IBM, actually as a short-term role, as I had intended to go onto university and study law," she explains.
"I thought I would do it for at most a year, but I absolutely loved the technology. I thought, gosh, this is the future of the workplace. The use of computers in the workplace was just big listings and print-outs at the time, although at IBM we were early users of e-mail."
Beckett, now 38, joined the finance department, but was on a programme that meant she moved around different departments within the company, including an 18-month stint on learning how to program software.
She stayed with Big Blue for 15 years, before founding her own company, retail technology solutions provider NSB Retail Systems.
An Australian entrepreneur called Peter Johnson loaned Beckett £300,000 to set up NSB, with the proviso that if she paid back all the money within five years, he could have 55% of the shares but if she paid it back within a year, he would receive only 25% of shares.
She repaid it in the first year and since then the company has gone from strength to strength. NSB started with 18 employees, but it has now grown to support a workforce of over 500.
Beckett thinks the key to her success is knowing what a customer needs, understanding how the technology can achieve this and creating a team that shares that belief. It was this outlook that won her the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year Award. "The judges said they chose me because of my charismatic and inspirational leadership skills," she explains.
Beckett would like to see more people go for their dreams. "I think it is important that there are entrepreneur role models. If you look at an ordinary person like me, you can see that you can be successful - it just means lots of hard work and a very strong belief in yourself.
"More people have to try in this country, otherwise we will have technology dominated by North America for the next decade as well. There is no lack of talent here. In fact, if you go to America, you see that a lot of people in the IT industry there are British."
This was first published in July 2000