Fiona Phillips, Agilisys HR Business Partner, has been shortlisted for the Team Leader of the Year: SME category at the Women in Tech Excellence Awards 2021. We asked Fiona about her career so far and her advice for others looking to join the Tech industry.
Tell us about your current role and what motivates you. What has been the driving force behind your career strategy?
It’s a cliché when it comes to HR, but as an HR Business Partner my role really is all about people.
I joined Agilisys in 2002 and as the business has grown, I’ve had some fantastic opportunities to develop my career. This has been especially true when we have taken on new business, and I have supported individuals and teams to transfer to Agilisys.
While our HR processes have changed over the years, the way that people feel before a transfer remains the same and a key part of what I do is to help people adjust.
It can be exciting – joining a new business brings new challenges and opportunities – but it can also be a bit daunting. That’s why I work closely with those transferring, becoming the face they know, the person that they meet with to discuss their ambitions and talk through any concerns.
After the transfer, I remain part of the team, supporting my new colleagues to settle into a new workplace culture. That, I think, is the secret to success: being visible, forming strong relationships, and developing trust.
I’ve also taken on the role of driving our wellbeing agenda and seeking opportunities to make a positive impact across the teams and communities we serve.
Our work is guided by community outcomes – working with technology to make a positive difference to the lives of others. As a result, community is a key theme in our Agilisys Belonging Strategy. So, for me, setting objectives to give back to the community is hugely important.
Personally, I’ve taken on a mentorship role to university students and recent graduates as part of Fast Futures – a programme delivered by Avado designed to help young people achieve their ambitions. Agilisys has empowered me to do this through flexible working arrangements, which mean I can give time to support the programmes that matter most to me.
Describe your most significant achievement as Team Leader over the last 12 months?
To suddenly find yourself working remotely has been challenging for almost everyone. But it’s been particularly tough for those teams who’ve spent years being predominantly office-based and who are used to seeing one another face-to-face every day.
To stay connected and be accessible, I made sure I was visible – joining virtual team meetings to check in and reach out. This enabled me to support colleagues struggling with changes and uncertainty, setting up time to speak one-to-one. This assured them that they had someone to talk to, no matter the issue. This is a practice we’re continuing, even though many teams are returning to offices, albeit as part of a hybrid working model with some days working remotely.
Responding to COVID-19 also meant supporting managers to find new ways to stay engaged and connected with their teams. So, I took time to coach line managers on remote management and nurturing relationships with their teams.We set up weekly meetings – often covering business and local updates, but sometimes leading to out-of-hours online social events such as team quizzes and virtual coffee breaks.
Providing one-to-one support to so many employees and senior leaders has probably been my most significant achievement this year - helping to foster our Agilisys culture, and enabling colleagues to continue building strong and trusting relationships.
What one achievement or task in your career are you most proud of?
The work that I do to support wellbeing has to be my proudest achievement.
The starting point for me began years ago, when a young woman struggling with her mental health reached out to me for help. At the time, I was someone she could talk to – someone to listen and support as a colleague – but I lacked the skills and expertise to help her beyond that.
So, I researched the tools we could use as a business to offer help to our colleagues – to people who might be struggling behind closed doors, to our peers who might not want to reach out. Armed with my research, I got the backing from the business to set up an Employee Assistant Programme (EAP) providing support in a variety of areas, including confidential face-to-face or telephone-based counselling.
Today we’ve extended our offering far beyond the EAP to include a full Wellbeing Hub, also offering Mental Health First Aid training courses to people who wish to support – or be supported by – colleagues.
I was among the first in the business to complete the learning, and from this we’ve established and grown our Mental Health Champions group. Comprising colleagues across Agilisys, we extend support to people in the business, and offer independent guidance to managers and HR colleagues.
The last year has been very challenging and many of us have felt moments of uncertainty, anxiety, and loneliness. So, being able to support our team through that, doing the right thing, and making a difference – that’s a real motivator for me.
What is your top tip for someone looking to start a career in IT?
Don’t let your age put you off starting a career in IT.
It’s no secret that diversity in the tech sector is crucial. A range of skills, capabilities, and experiences is what enables us to represent the communities in which we live and work – and to make a difference.
At Agilisys, we’re privileged to have the opportunity to speak in schools and colleges about the variety of careers in tech. But this message is equally important for older generations – for those who are looking for new opportunities to start their second career.
Having spent years working with teams transferring into Agilisys, I know that making a change requires courage – and compassion. Change can be difficult. That’s why, whether returning to work after a period of absence, or simply seeking a new role and challenge, it’s important to find an organisation with policies in place to support you.
More now than ever, organisations are implementing and extending flexible working in the workplace, and empowering employees to make the right choices for them. I hope this shift will bring more diverse skills and experience to the industry, with everyone celebrated for what they achieve along the way.