EP. 9 In Conversation With Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, President TechUK

Griselda Togobo from Novi will sit down with Jacqueline de Rojas CBE – named one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People In Digital Government to discuss effective digital leadership.


How do you forge a career you love? 

Networks are vital for women who want to move into leadership roles.

Building a network will help women become better known for their skills, according to Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK.

In conversation with Novi CEO Griselda Togobo, Jacqueline outlined how she’d made the move from tech company executive and board member of The Prince’s Trust charity, to joining the boards of several PLCs.


“Your network really matters, because understanding where these roles are, getting your brand out there so that you’re known for leadership, for technology, for advocating for diversity and inclusion, these are all things that boards really care about these days, along with people who are passionate and competent on the climate change area.”


Jacqueline acknowledged that networking has become more difficult since opportunities to meet in person have been reduced because of the pandemic. Digital networking, however, can be a good alternative.


“I actually think networking online is quite good, it’s quite democratised, you know your voice is equal online,” she told the Novi audience. “I think there’s a lot of people with a lot of time on their hands in this pandemic and so it has been easier to get to people that certainly I wouldn’t have spoken to before and I think that has helped. You do need a degree of courage to reach out to someone, because rejection or silence is the same as it would be physically.”


Griselda asked how she’d avoided losing her sense of self as she’d become more successful in business. Jacqueline said she’d learned a valuable lesson after she’d been passed over for promotion in 1999. A less experienced male colleague got the job and she was told that the company didn’t put women on the leadership team.

Jacqueline said it felt like a door had been slammed in her face: “The lesson for me there was be yourself, because everybody else is taken anyway, so just take up the best of your own capability.


“I think then I lacked the authenticity and the value system that now informs everything I do. I have three values, which are family, generosity and integrity but I only learned that about myself after I didn’t get that job.”


She said she’d learned to trust her values, which always show up under pressure.


“Just being me felt like a relief and a release but it took not getting that job to get there.”


Jacqueline had advice for how to work smarter during the pandemic, including freeing up time to meditate, walk around or exercise.


Her suggested coping strategies included shorter meetings:


“Fifteen to 20 minutes is perfectly fine. Do you know what, when you give someone 15 to 20 minutes of your time generally they‘ll start talking about the thing they really need to talk about straight away, rather than all the preamble stuff.”


She added: “Connect with people who bring you joy. I have learned that generosity and giving your time to something can sometimes make you feel so fulfilled.”


Jacqueline told Griselda how she’d dealt with difficult jobs and how life became easier once she discovered her values.


“I have had appointments that have been short and do you know I reframe them as projects and as learning. But sometimes, when you’re faced with a boss who does not share your value set, it crosses a line for me.”


She advised women in business to research their own values.


“When you find them, life becomes very clear because every decision you make is informed by them.”


Listen to what Jacqueline had to say about women and leadership…


[2:25] Why she decided to forge a portfolio career and how she joined a number of boards.


[7:44] How a difficult family background helped her build resilience.


[9:17] How she made the switch from being an alpha manager to a leader and why she made a conscious decision to be curiosity led.


[22:06] Why it’s important for leaders to be role models by leaving on time and taking breaks.


[25:40] How to make a success of a new role if you’re working remotely and why questions are your friend.


[26:56] Online working tips for anyone who’s burnt out and why blue screen glasses and old school phone calls can help.


[32:22] Her leadership lesson of the moment and how once you figure out your boundaries, life becomes easier.

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About Jacqueline de Rojas:

“If we are to thrive in our digital future, all our voices must be heard when designing technology. If not, we risk creating a world for the few and not for the many.”

Jacqueline de Rojas CBE is aPresident, techUK; President, digileaders; Co-Chair, Institute of Coding

Non-Exec: Rightmove plc | Costain Group plc | FDM Group plc | Business Advisor & Mentor at Merryck

Jacqueline is a passionate advocate for diversity and inclusion in all its forms. Passionate about redressing the gender balance via advisory positions at @TheYouthGroupHQ, @accelerate-Her and the @girlguiding association.

In 2016 she entered the @Computerweekly Hall of Fame after being voted Computer Weekly’s Most Influential Woman in IT 2015; she was listed on Debretts 2016 500 People of Influence and named in Europe’s Inspiring Fifty most inspiring female role models for 2017. Presented the 2017 Catherine Variety Award for Science & Technology.

2018 Women in Tech Award for Advocate of the Year acknowledging her contribution to diversity and #IB100 – Most influential BAME leaders in tech. Awarded the Digital & Technology Award at the Asian Women of Achievement Awards 2019. Included in World’s 100 most influential people in digital government 2019. Woman of the Year awarded by Women in IT Excellence 2019: 2020 Asian Tech Pioneer. Jacqueline was honoured as CBE for Services to International Trade in Technology in the Queen’s New Year Honours list 2018.

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