Interview: Caroline Shrader, one of Fujitsu’s future LGBT leaders

"Be comfortable with who you are because only then will you see what you can really do"

The Financial Times’ list of the top 30 future LGBT leaders was recently released, and Fujitsu’s Caroline Shrader was one of the leading lights who made the cut. We caught up with her to find out about working at Fujitsu, supporting LGBT employees and her favourite bits of tech.

Here’s how it went.

Hey Caroline! Please introduce yourself.

Hi, I’m Caroline Shrader and I am on the Project Management Graduate Programme at Fujitsu UK&I.

Congratulations on making the FT’s list of future LGBT leaders. Can you tell us how Fujitsu encourages and supports LGBT employees?

Our LGBT staff network, Shine, has been in action for over two years now and has given LGBT employees the chance to participate in a wide range of activities that contribute to their personal and professional development, such as role model training and Pride.

We’re involved with advising the Diversity and Inclusion agenda at Fujitsu, which develops employee policies and the responsibilities of line managers. We really do influence the decisions that impact us and I think that’s incredibly important and is evidence of Fujitsu’s commitment to diversity.

What kind of gender split do you have at Fujitsu at the moment? How are they working to hire and keep women?

Women represent 23% of the workforce at Fujitsu, with a goal to increase this to 30% by 2020. This goal was set by our gender network, Women at Fujitsu, which was awarded ‘New Network of the Year’ by Inclusive Networks. Fujitsu has recognised that we need to do more to improve gender diversity and they are taking a holistic approach by looking into the culture here and not just focusing on new hires. It’s no longer an excuse to say there just aren’t enough women applying for these roles – we need to look at why that is and make proactive steps to make our roles more appealing.

Fujitsu at the British LGBT Awards

You’re a Project Manager in a tech firm – can you tell us a bit about what your job involves?

Using the knowledge and expertise of my team, I create planning and tracking tools to ensure that we are meeting milestones for our customers, whilst mitigating any risks and staying on budget. My background is not in technology and I quickly found that I needed to develop this knowledge to identify and overcome risks and plan effectively.

What other careers did you consider? How and why did you go for this one?

When becoming a philosopher looked less and less likely, I became interested in social policy and completed a MSc in the topic. When it came to looking for a career I did look into a couple of roles in policy research, but these roles – often internships in central London – wanted two to three years of experience. Unfortunately many graduates don’t have this experience.

I made my decision based on what I felt would cater to my skills and as I am a super organised analytical problem solver, project management seemed like a perfect fit. My involvement in D&I at Fujitsu has offered a great outlet for my interest in social policy and I feel like I am making a real difference.

What are the best and worst bits of your job?

I still find it fascinating to see it all in action – to go down to the comms room and look through the racks and know my work will have an impact on end-user experience. You could easily get stuck behind a laptop all day as a project manager but when you get up and get on with it – that’s when you really see things happen.

The worst bit is probably the fact that you’re rarely the subject matter expert and so rely on other people to be honest about their progress. There have been a couple of times where I’ve had to ask other team members to grill someone on their progress because I just didn’t understand enough about the topic to ask the right questions.

If you could give your younger self some advice, what would you say?

What you don’t know, you can learn. What is most important is to be comfortable with who you are because only then will you see what you can really do. Stop worrying that you feel different to other people and cherish those you connect with. You still get spots at 28, but you’ll learn to live with them.

What are your must-have apps and gadgets? How do they make your life easier?

A lot of my friends and family live abroad so Skype, Whatsapp and WeChat are always on standby. I love to learn new things and spend hours trawling through topics on Memrise. I was also recently given a Sonos as a wedding present, which I use to enter my front door as if it were a wrestling ring.

What are you most excited about at the moment? (In terms of your career, technology, the future – whatever’s got you fired up)

A new phone as Christmas is coming (the end of my century-long phone contract). I’m really excited about the Nexus 6P. Go team Android!

Main image: Fujitsu