Cisco everywoman in Technology Awards: The winners’ stories

The winners of the everywoman in Technology Awards 2012 have been announced. Find out why they won

The IT sector has celebrated the UK’s most talented women working within the industry for a second year through the 2012 Cisco everywoman in Technology Awards, which was held at The Savoy in London.

The winners were selected by a panel of judges from within the IT industry, based on a demonstration of excellence within their field and for acting as role models to future generations.

What it means to win

Leader of the year winner Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer at the FDM Group, said her win offers proof to every hard-working and passionate woman that females can succeed in a male-dominated industry.

“Barriers only exist in your mind. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams,” she said. 

Flavell put her win down to her “wonderful team”. Despite FDM previously entering for several business awards, she said this was a first for entering a personal award. 

She described her career path as “one of many twists and turns”. 

The winners

Entrepreneur of the year: Olga Kubassova, founder and CEO, Image Analysis Ltd

Innovator of the year: Mandy Chessell, IBM distinguished engineer, master inventor, chief architect for InfoSphere Solutions, IBM

Inspiration of the year: Gillian Arnold, director, Tectre

Rising star of the year: Laura Earle, executive communication manager, services, EMEA and Russia, Cisco

Team leader of the year: Kirstin Duffield, CEO, Morning Data Limited

Leader of the year: Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer, FDM Group

2012 Woman of the year: Vin Murria, chief executive officer, Advanced Computer Software Group plc

“I started in the Glasgow police force, which gave me focus, resilience and discipline. I then spent 12 years in the Middle East working for an Arabian airline, which gave me independence. I went to university and gained a Masters, which gave me the academic qualifications I needed. I got into technology from there. I’ve taken something from every job,” she said.

Flavell was the first employee to join FDM in 1991, later leaving, to then rejoin in 1998. She was part of the flotation team in 2005, and a key member of the team which bought the company back in 2009.

Under Flavell’s guidance, FDM has progressed from one office in Brighton to a network of nine offices across the UK, Europe, the US and Asia Pacific. 

She has five children – her two daughters both joined FDM after graduating from university. “Steph looks after our New York office and Alex runs our Hong Kong operations. They each set up the offices themselves. I am very proud of them both,” said Flavell. 

She joked that if FDM ever opened an office in Timbuktu, her reason would be to get rid of more children.

Inspirational women in IT

Flavell also launched FDM’s academy programme, which has helped springboard careers for more than 3,000 graduates worldwide. Due to this success, FDM was awarded the Best Technical Graduate Recruiter and Best Graduate Training Programme of 2010 at Archant London’s National Graduate Recruitment Awards.

Barriers only exist in your mind. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams

Sheila Flavell, chief operating officer, FDM Group

Flavell's marketing and recruitment managers nominated her for the award. FDM’s global marketing manager, Nabila Salem, said Flavell is a true leader and an inspirational woman in the technology industry. 

“She has been instrumental in FDM’s international expansion and global success, and has played a pivotal part in championing women at FDM," said Salem. "She has been the driving force of our Women in IT campaign, and acts as Senior Female Champion, offering advice and support to females at FDM.”

2012 Woman of the year Vin Murria thanked her late father for bringing her over to the UK when she was child. Since landing on UK shores, Murria has racked up 20 years’ experience of publicly listed companies and private equity experience, focusing particularly on the software sector. She launched Advanced Computer Software Group in 2008, which provides patient management software solutions.

Olga Kubassova, founder and CEO of Image Analysis Ltd, was awarded Entrepreneur of the year for her abstract concept of algorithms, which she used in software to treat arthritis and other inflammatory diseases in its early stages. Kubassova’s team of 25 has a turnover of £1m.

IBM engineer Mandy Chessell, winner of Innovator of the year, has 54 patents under her belt, and is currently spearheading an initiative to create software design pattern language for information integration.

The amazing women taking home awards really highlight the diversity of opportunities that are available in the IT sector

Maxine Benson, co-founder, everywoman

Gillian Arnold's Inspiration of the year award was "well deserved", according to many who attended the awards. Arnold is passionate about supporting and encouraging women in technology, through such initiatives as her Woman Network. She has also chaired the Woman in IT Forum for Intellect and sits on the board of BCS Women.

Laura Earle won Rising star of the year for being responsible for the development and execution of the communication strategy for the global team across Europe and emerging markets at Cisco. She also started a "reverse mentoring" programme, a corporate social responsibility report to engage 4,500 employees, and the first I&D blog.

Kirstin Duffield has managed to triple the turnover and client base of Morning Data Limited since taking the reins, hence why she was awarded Team leader of the year. She also invested 3% of the company’s turnover to improve the working environment of employees and provided external training for all team members.

Anything is possible

Commenting on the awards, Maxine Benson MBE, co-founder of everywoman, said: “The amazing women taking home awards really highlight the diversity of opportunities that are available in the IT sector – whether within corporate organisations, charities or through setting up their own tech start-ups.

“As many women are re-evaluating their career choices, today’s inspirational winners show that anything is possible and that technology is an industry that embraces its female talent. We congratulate them on their achievements, and hope their success will encourage others into the sector.”

One of the judges, Maggie Berry, managing director of Women in Technology, said: “Women currently make up less than 20% of the UK's IT workforce, so we are delighted to be working with everywoman again to uncover some of the hidden female talent in the UK's technology profession through the 2012 awards programme.

“We want to actively champion the women who are already doing great work in this sector and who, through these awards, will become inspirational role models for a future generation of female technologists.”

On sponsoring the awards, Phil Smith, CEO of Cisco UK and Ireland, said: “Cisco is delighted to be title partner of the 2012 everywoman in Technology Awards. These awards are a fantastic opportunity to recognise and celebrate the achievements of women who are at the forefront of implementing and applying innovative technologies in their respective industries.”

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