Meet Sarah Fergusson

Meet Sarah Fergusson, General Manager Technology – Retail B2B. Sarah shares how data creates knowledge, the importance of dreaming big and what moments make her the proudest.

What inspired you to pursue a career in digital and technology?

It wasn’t a deliberate choice; more a series of learnings and pivoting to work I enjoyed. When working in management consulting in my early 20s, I was facilitating strategic planning sessions with boards, designing operating models and building scorecards. I found myself building Visual Basic applications using Excel to solve challenges for businesses that did not have optimisation tools. This led to a technology degree, then finding my groove in delivery, as I love seeing something through from end to end.

Did you have a role model or mentor who support you when you first started your career? What was the impact of that?

Yes! I worked for someone early in my career, who taught me it was ok to dream big – in fact that I should – and whether I reached my dreams or not would be up to me. I still check myself against his advice to make sure I am not holding myself back.

Over your career is there a particular achievement or moment you are most proud of?

I couldn’t pick just one moment; there have been many. I have really enjoyed lots of very challenging opportunities and been fortunate to work with many incredible people. The moments I’m most proud of are, when as a team we’ve surprised ourselves by achieving and overcoming a challenge that looked really impossible to initially solve.

Shell Energy is a proud bronze partner of the 2024 Women in Digital Awards, and category sponsor for the WID Data Leader of the Year award. We work in an industry where data is integral to so many aspects of our day-to-day work. Can you tell us about the role data plays in our business and why we’re so passionate about it?

You can’t make informed decisions without data: What can we achieve this year and how will we measure success? Which initiative is the right one to deliver value? Which lever should we pull to drive performance? This is true at all levels of the organisation. With data comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes influence. To be successful in a leadership position in any scenario requires influence.

Do you think it is important for women to be in leadership roles to empower the next generation of females in STEM?

I think this is true for all disciplines and environments, not only STEM. So much of our learning comes from observing others. When I worked in banking, we had a ‘bring the kids to work’ day, and a colleague brought his daughter over to meet me. He told me he really wanted her to meet a strong female leader. That moment was so interesting to me – to hear others thought of me that way. It really ratcheted up the feeling of responsibility for me to follow through on it! Women are more likely to hold themselves back, often with a list of reasons that they can’t do something. Seeing women leaders succeed can inspire others who might have the same life circumstances, or list of doubts.

In a fast-paced industry, how do you balance learning new skills and staying on top of new tech trends with your workload and your team’s needs?

I’m a work in progress. I don’t seek balance; I work based on priority so it can be swings and roundabouts for me. My team comes first, then I try to focus on one thing at a time. In my team at Shell Energy, we protect a couple of hours each week for learning and development.

Why should women nominate themselves or another incredible woman within the digital industry for a Women in Digital award? What is the positive impact that being nominated for or winning a WID award can have on your career?

Whenever I meet someone who has been awarded an industry recognition, I immediately think this person has conviction, is bold and resilient; they understand value and are highly regarded by others. Everyone wants to work with great people. Nominations are now open for the Women in Digital awards. Don’t miss the opportunity to ensure your colleagues are recognised for their contributions.

Finally, what advice would you have for someone looking to pursue a career in STEM? Or for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Just start! Our team has grown a lot in the last couple of years, and it is difficult to find female candidates – probably less than 10% of applicants are female. Make connections, build relationships, and find opportunities to learn new things. For those who are interested in a senior leadership path, recognise it is actually really hard work – so do the work and back yourself. Create opportunities to be seen, this could be through building your network at work, or making an impact through a high-profile outcome.

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