01 Mar International Women’s Day – Meet our own Wonder Woman!
It’s International Women’s Day on Thursday 8th March and to celebrate the impact and achievements of women in business, we sit down with our own Business Development Director, Rosie Whelpton to discuss her rise in the digital sector, her goals for the future and what equality really means to her.
First of all, let’s hear a little bit of background about how you started in your career, when did you leave uni, where did you study and what did you study? What was your first job?
When I left school, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do and where I wanted to work, so I made the decision to study a subject that I enjoyed, I was good at and that would also leave lots of doors open for me when I graduated in 2012.
I, therefore, chose to study English Language & Literature at Northumbria University and decided towards the end of my degree that the world of digital was something I wanted to move into. I applied for some internships and spent the first 6 months following uni in Marketing/PR intern positions at an award-winning office space provider and a national PR agency, where I gained rapid experience in both sales and marketing roles before landing my first permanent position in a business development role at the start of 2013.
I was then approached to join the Geonet team in early 2014 as a Business Development Manager and it was a perfect new challenge so I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by. It was a big step up from my first job and came with plenty of highs and lows, but I stayed focused and 18 months in, I was absolutely delighted to be made a Director and begin to properly work alongside Mike and Jonny to really drive Geonet forward.
Tell us a little bit about your role, what you love about it and the elements you don’t
Every day is different for me which is what makes my job so interesting, there is literally never a dull day! Some days I can be out and about in back-to-back meetings and events, and other days I can be at my desk preparing proposals, presentations, briefs, reports – and more.
The beauty of being a multi-service agency dealing in all sort of sectors is that all of our projects and clients are different too. One morning I could be chatting to a global engineering firm about a site redesign and bespoke software development, and then in the afternoon, I could be meeting with a local college to discuss a new mobile app to improve their communications with staff, parents and pupils. No matter what the requirements or outcome may be, providing a solution that changes the way our clients are working for the better is always a pleasure.
I also love the team here – it’s safe to say that the current gang is absolutely the best we have ever had – and our ‘work hard, play hard’ attitude ensures that whilst we are always extremely focused on delivering the very best results for our clients, there are always plenty of laughs along the way.
It’s obviously a fairly high-pressure role which has the odd less enjoyable days I suppose, but hard work always pays off as far as I’m concerned.
How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?
I was fortunate to grow up in a very supportive home that kept me focused on achieving good results and securing a good career. My father has been extremely influential in a lot of my work-related choices and decisions, having run a successful business of his own or worked at Director level ever since I can remember. I suppose I have kind of inadvertently followed in his footsteps in some ways as he has previously been a BDD too and has always worked in marketing/sales roles, so he has absolutely helped me along the way.
I was also lucky to have been introduced to Geonet at a time of change (thanks to the previous Head of Sales, Antony Lewis, who put me forward in the first place), where I was able to join a young team which was led by two owners who were so devoted and invested in making Geonet a success, and supported the staff in every way possible.
In terms of ‘how,’ I am a big believer that lots of hard work, going above and beyond to do your job to the best of your ability and being absolutely dedicated to the company you are working for will always end in recognition. Always look at the bigger picture as well as the task at hand.
Digital has been known as a very male orientated sector to work in, how has it changed over the past few years for women?
I’d say that it is still fairly male-orientated as a sector but it has definitely shifted to having more women in more senior roles; I know a number of other agencies in the region who have women within the senior management team which is fantastic to see and it can only be beneficial to an organisation to have this diversity to bring different ideas, visions and opinions to the table. There is definitely more equal opportunities for women to progress and really make their mark in the industry, regardless of gender.
What challenges have you experienced in your career as a woman? How did you overcome them?
When I was looking to secure my first full-time role, I went for a number of interviews for marketing positions across different sectors, some of which I’d say are historically even more male-dominated than digital. For one of the opportunities where I’d been unsuccessful following the final interviews, I heard at a later date on the grapevine that another candidate was selected over me because he was male and ‘would be a better fit for the industry’.
I’ve experienced a lot of preconceptions and have lost count of the number of times someone I’ve just met at a networking event has presumed my profession and got it completely wrong! I’ve found though that rather than taking offence, it’s much better to just explain what I actually do and what Geonet offer, and this tends to leave a much more lasting impression which has ended up working out as a real positive on a number of occasions.
What advice would you give the current crop of women that are now looking at their first employment opportunity, either as a graduate or apprentice?
I’d advise them to really think about where they see themselves long-term, try to choose an organisation where they feel a real fit with the ethos and values, and always focus on working hard to achieve their goals and ambitions. I’d also advise them not to be afraid to move on if they feel they’ve gone as far as they can within a certain position/company, and if ever given the opportunity to be thrown in at the deep end to go for it – how else do you get the opportunity to really show that you can swim and not sink?
If you could jump in a time machine and change one thing about your career what would it be and why?
Honestly? Nothing. Everything I have done up until now has been the reason I have progressed onto the next thing and I have met some amazing people along every step of the way.
Best bit of advice you have been given and by whom?
When debating in great detail over whether or not to take a bit of a risk with something, my mother told me that you often regret the things you don’t do far more than the things you do. Although I’d never approach a situation recklessly or without proper thought (I can be quite indecisive and a bit of an over-thinker at times!), it’s a piece of advice that has always stuck with me and certainly proved true for me so far in my career.
Very topical, but what does gender equality look like for you?
For me it’s pretty simple; equal opportunity regardless of gender identity without limitations set by prejudices and stereotypes. A person should not be favoured over another person due to gender; their ability to do a job is all that should affect their progression in the workplace.
Finally, what does the future hold for Rosie Whelpton? Where do you see yourself and the business in a year, 5 years, 10 years time?
We’ve got big goals and ambitions for Geonet over the next few years, and our ultimate aim is to be the go-to agency in the North for companies looking for a ‘proper’ digital solution that will fulfil requirements and goals in the long-term. We want to grow but never lose the close-knit vibe we have as a team, and of course, continue to be able to cope quickly and easily with the demands of our clients. We will definitely be opening more offices and employing more GeoBots along the way…. Watch this space!
- Chris, Digital Marketing Manager at Geonet Solutions: Formidable, Funny, Passionate (about Geonet!)
- Olly, Lead Developer at Geonet Solutions: Motivated, Focused, Professional
- Andy Hume, Group Sales Manager at SSC Laser: Focused, Driven, Intelligent
- Erika Marshall, Marketing & Communications Manager at Nifco: Passionate, Energetic, Knowledgeable
- Richard Pavlou, Group Business Development & Operations Manager, Stone Technical Services: Thorough, Tenacious, Driven
- We saved the best for last, Jonny our Creative Director, needed more than 3 words… One in a million…