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Meet a tech industry pioneer who leads by example

Paul Rubens | May 6, 2015
Microsoft’s Vice President of IT Strategic Enterprise Services Jacky Wright is more than her title suggests -- so much more.

And finally, she feels it's important to stay in touch with the cutting edge. "I like to connect with millennials and find out how they think," she says. "If you look at the average age of startups, they are not the same age as Jacky, so I need to do this to remain relevant."

How a young girl from North London ends up at Microsoft in Seattle
Microsoft's campus in Seattle is a long way from England's capital, which begs a simple question: how did she get into the IT business and end up at one of the biggest tech companies in the world? "For a young girl in North London, the chance to be exposed to technology wasn't there," says Wright. "But I was always quite competitive -- captain of the netball team, in the track and field team -- and that competitiveness played a part in my ambitions," she says.

"I also had a forte for maths, and that played into sciences and mathematics, and along the way I became more interested in technology. That drive helped me to achieve."

Was this achievement made harder by being a woman and a minority? Wright seems ambivalent about this. "Ever since I have been involved with technology there have been very few women, and slim to none black women. So it took a long time to overcome unconscious biases and for people to feel comfortable with me," she says.

"But there's also a surprise factor: 'a woman, and a woman of color, and she has delivered fantastic things!' That has helped me, and also helped other people understand that people who don't look like them can deliver. So I am a pioneer."

Does she feel that this is a burden -- that as a pioneer her success or failure will shape the attitudes of many people towards women, and black women in particular, in IT? "No, it's not a burden," she replies. "When you are a pioneer then all eyes are on you, so it is a responsibility you bear. You have to take that responsibility."

Wright's work/life 'integration' theory
Wright is a big believer in mentoring thanks to her own positive experiences with mentors. "When I got my first job I technology, I had a mentor who helped me navigate the IT culture, warned me about some of the pitfalls, and pointed me at the leaders I needed relationships with. That helped me greatly," she says. "So I do think that people like me should mentor others, and show people how to achieve."

She also has a keen desire to address social issues, using her position in the industry to right inequalities of opportunity when she can. "When I think of the lack of opportunities for underrepresented people, I think it is incumbent on people like myself to push to ensure they have the right opportunities in technology," she says. "So I think 'How can I utilize my influence to help an agenda such as this?'

 

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