Episode 4: WERKIN with Jacqueline de Rojas on being positively deviant
‘At a certain point in my journey…I realised that collaboration and connection was a better way to get the best out of my team, and frankly, to give people space to be amazing.’
Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK, knew early in her career that she would have to go about things differently than her colleagues in the predominantly-male tech industry. ‘If I was going to find a shorter route to success than males that I was competing with, I’d have to do things a little bit differently. Getting the best out of people was definitely the shortest route to success for me.’
A shorter route to success doesn’t mean an easier one. Jacqueline discusses the challenges, role models (good and bad), and lessons that shaped her journey in Hayley’s latest interview. Having overcome a difficult upbringing, De Rojas ultimately decided that sharing her story could serve to unlock the potential for somebody else. As part of her personal mission to encourage young people to pursue STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) careers, De Rojas found that her story resonated with many of the girls she engages with through her role as head of techUK:
‘They need to know that possibility lives outside of [a difficult upbringing]. People like me, people like you, people in our industry, male or female, can just reach out a hand of generosity and make a difference and shorten their routes to success, which is so important.’
Sharing her story has become a form of mentorship, although she did not herself find mentors until later in her career. Instead, much of her career was shaped by turning setbacks into new pathways. She recalls a particularly poignant fork in the road in response to discouraging comments, ‘I can either become invisible, stay invisible or I can show you how amazing I can be.’ She has chosen the latter time and again, particularly in helping others to do the same.
‘Simply, diversity means better productivity. We can create better business outcomes by creating a diverse voice around the meeting table.’
Looking forward, an openness towards learning and change will decide the future of tech. De Rojas envisions ‘a world where we’re all participating and not standing by watching it happen. That motivates me. Tech is a really great space to play and experiment and also get it wrong.’ In this sense, tech serves as both a tool and a means to create a more inclusive world. ‘We have to be very mindful of a digital society we want to create…We then have to think about ethical algorithms that run them.’ These are some of the issues that continue to fuel De Rojas’ lifelong learning and leadership.
To find out who Jacqueline picks up the phone to call when things get tough, what today’s leaders can learn from a UN hostage negotiator, and the virtues of positive deviance, listen to the full interview iTunes or SoundCloud.