We are delighted to announce that Alliances Manager Caroline Wilford has been shortlisted for a CRN Women in Channel Award 2020.

Caroline who looks after strategic relationships with vendor partners like Apple, has been entered for the Outstanding Returner of the Year category, having recently returned to the business from maternity leave.

She will join other IT leaders at a virtual awards show in October where the CRN judges will reveal the winners. It’s the first time the awards have been held online, following in the footsteps of other events and festivals which have streamed live since the requirements for social distancing.

Continue reading for an intimate Q&A with Caroline who reveals her personal story and professional background, and what it means to be a ‘woman in channel’ in 2020.

Tell me a bit about your background

I started in IT when I was pretty much fresh from school at 19 years old, working as Junior Account Manager looking after the not-for-profit sector for a software company. I then went on to become Business Manager and Campaigns Team Manager. I then worked at a radio station for a while. I wanted to make sure I was in an industry I loved and going into Radio made me realise I wanted to return and pursue my career in tech.

What is it that appeals to you about IT?

I think it was powerful to realise how much I missed it when I was doing something different. I love the tech sector because it is so fast moving. The industry changes day to day. It is important for me to stay focused and to keep my brain as active as possible. Trustmarque is a great place for that and my role in Vendor Alliances allows me to challenge, change and make a difference. From increasing revenue to finding solutions for our customers, working with vendors, customers and colleagues – it’s varied and fast-paced.

When did you join Trustmarque?

I joined Trustmarque in September 2018. At the time I interviewed, I was having difficulty conceiving and was about to start a 2nd round of intensive IVF treatment. When I joined, I found out 2 weeks later that IVF had been successful and I was pregnant with my little girl Evie. I was therefore working for just over half a year before I went on maternity leave.

Fortunately, Trustmarque has always been understanding of the journey I’ve been on and I am grateful for that. When you are going through IVF, you never know if or when you will get pregnant and I didn’t want to put either my family or my career on hold. After maternity leave, I re-joined just before the XPO North event in November 2019. That was the first time I had a night away from my little girl and that was hard as a new mum.

Tell me more about your return to work

It has given me a whole new appreciation of bringing up a child and working. It is certainly more of a challenge coming back and restarting your career because there are so many changes in the Tech industry, plus team changes and organisational changes. However, I was given good challenges like onboarding new vendors such as Apple. That allowed me to stretch my knowledge and start a fresh. Because it was entirely new, I am not looking back at what had been done before and copying previous business plans.  It is all about new relationships and a fresh approach.

From a parental perspective, I value my time with Evie so much it’s important to me to have the right balance of quality family time alongside my career. I am very lucky to have also had wonderful support from my husband Alex.

How has the lockdown affected your return to work?

During lockdown the number of different hats you wear during the day is incredible – getting up and driving to nursery, then dashing back home and into work mode. It is a tough transition. You need different versions of yourself to be able to do things well.

But we also saw that behaviour with both mums and dads. Men have been impacted just as much and it is great to see responsibility shared with dads having their children join them on video calls. Whether people have children or not, we’ve had a more personal glimpse into each other’s lives which has allowed us to work better together as a team.

What is it like to be a ‘woman in channel?’

Generally, it isn’t easy starting as it is predominantly men in the industry. Getting yourself heard and having any sway can be a challenge. And that can be even more of a challenge after having a break. Because technology moves so fast.

However, I think Trustmarque and many of our partners are very aware of equality and diversity. We’re actively engaged in Black Lives Matter conversations, for example. I don’t feel that as a woman coming back to work that I have been disadvantaged. Trustmarque is driving equality and giving women an equal chance of success. Maybe 10 years ago, that was a different story across the industry.

What does it mean to you to be shortlisted?

It means more to me than I realised. The CRN Women in Channel Awards are such a big thing and when I look at the caliber, it is the elite women in the industry. I feel honoured to be alongside some fantastic colleagues. If I can go all the way that would be fantastic, but I am proud to get this far. Either way, I am confident about what I can achieve in my career. It is important to me that Evie sees men and women as equal in the workplace – that means the most to me.

Finally, any tips for anyone interested in IT? 

I would say to any woman and especially young women who may worry that they don’t have the right background, that’s rubbish.  If you have something about yourself, good work ethic and communication skills, then there could be a role in IT for you.

Working in IT I feel empowered. Every day I am working for the business but also for my family.

We wish Caroline the best of luck for the CRN Women in Channel Awards 2020

We’re in IT together.

By Katherine Murphy, content enthusiast