25 Jul 2017
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Gemma Kirkman, Sodexo IT Careers

10 Years, 4 roles, 1 company… the Business Intelligence years

This is the 3rd blog instalment from Gemma Kirkman, business intelligence team lead – IS&T, Sodexo Service Operations.

After a wonderful 4 years as part of the development team, where I had managed my own global projects, improved ways of working within the department and mentored a junior member of the team, I was ready for my next challenge.

I applied for a business intelligence role advertised within my department which appealed to me because it offered the opportunity to widen my breadth of technical experience. It also would enable me to break into people management with line management responsibility for one person and presented me with an opportunity to connect with a wider set of people in the business.

This would be a new area for me so I did my homework, started shadowing the current business intelligence team and read up on the topic of business intelligence in general.

I was delighted that the interviewers were impressed with my passion and decided that I was the best person for the job. I quickly set about making my mark, learning about the new technical aspects of the role, getting to know the other person in the team who I would be managing and setting out a plan for my first 12 months in the role.

Unfortunately my time rising through the ranks within the department wasn’t without its challenges. A common hurdle experienced by graduates in technology and scientific industries is to demonstrate to their colleagues that they are sufficiently qualified and capable of taking on a managerial position.

Reflecting back on that time, I had moved to a more senior role and I wanted to see immediate change in the way my colleagues perceived me, but of course, it doesn’t just happen overnight. You have to demonstrate your leadership and influencing skills to your colleagues for an extended period of time, especially to those who have been with the company and working in the industry for a long time. Six months felt like an age to me, but of course to them it was barely five minutes.

At the time this was a huge challenge but I persisted, not only did I continue to demonstrate my professionalism and capability to do my job but I also proactively sought other ways to demonstrate my leadership skills. I spent a year as the office charity champion, organising events for the whole office, got involved in the rollout of company initiatives locally and joined the leadership committee for the company’s WomenWork employee network. Sodexo has four employee networks; WomenWork, Generations, Pride and Origins. These networks raise awareness of and seek to eliminate unconscious bias regarding gender, age, sexuality or cultural background. Being part of the WomenWork employee network leadership committee gave me strength and a real purpose and inspired me to take being a role model for women in tech further.

Outside of work, I spent a year as a Big Sister in a teen mentorship programme run by an organisation called Girls Out Loud. I was a mentor to a 14 year old girl with real confidence issues who was finding it difficult to decide on her career path.

It was these activities in addition to the delivery of a high profile project by my team that earned me the award of Employee of the Year 2016 for IS&T, earning me a spot at the company’s Star Awards which was a lovely way to end my 10th year working for Sodexo.

Gemma Kirkman and Team at the Star Awards

I feel that I have established myself a respected member of the department and have formed good working relationships with people who previously doubted my abilities.

There is no doubt that my time leading the Business Intelligence team has been a challenging one but one with a positive outcome where I have learnt a great deal. I am now aware that this experience is not uncommon in many industries, especially when you are fortunate enough to be able to progress to more senior roles within the same organisation, and in my case department.

My key message to anyone going through a similar experience, in a new role, needing to prove yourself, is to trust in yourself and remember all the decisions you’ve made in the past which have turned out for the best. Stick with it and give yourself more time, everything is transitory and time and perseverance can enable you to overcome anything.

If you find yourself in the position where you doubt the capabilities of somebody joining your team or department, give them a chance, there is never just one way of approaching a problem, their way might also work, or even be better.

So what is next? I’m always looking for the next new challenge and opportunity to use my skills and passion to make a real difference to people and communities, a core value and belief I am happy to say Sodexo shares with me, and I hope I can continue delivering this with Sodexo for the next 10 years and beyond.

Read Gemma’s previous blogs to find out how she began her career and about the developer years.

Click here to search our current UK & Ireland vacancies.


6 thoughts on “10 Years, 4 roles, 1 company… the Business Intelligence years”

  1. Well Gemma it was very nice and interesting to read your blog and to know that you have learnt to stick at whatever you want to achieve and that is what you have done. Their are many challenges in life and it is nice to hear that you have confidence and belief in yourself as your grandma and grandad used to say never say you can’t achieve just keep trying and you’ll find a way .

  2. Gemma even though your not my daughter I have to say how proud I am of you and your ability to confront all the challenges that have been put in front of you I really can’t see you backing away from anything that challenges you. Your a credit to your family and Jonathan who I know appreciates you being who you are and your attitude to life and work .so Gemma enjoy all the success that you have achieved up until now and knowing you there will be much more to come. Gemma don’t ever stop being the person you are because that is why you are loved so much.

  3. Congratulations on an interesting and thought provoking blog. I think you make a very good point that a “lack of confidence” is actually linked to a strong self awareness, and that by being critical of ourselves, we can identify our weaknesses and push ourselves to improve. There is no better feeling than taking on a challenge and making it a success but in order to do this I think you have to be prepared to fail. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the potential risk, and having a supportive manager, friends and family behind you can really make a difference to how failure is tackled and how the recovery is managed. Ultimately, if you have the confidence to fail then you also have the confidence (and the will) to succeed. All that is left to do is to define what you think of as “success”! I look forward to reading the next chapter in your blog!

  4. This is the brilliant lady who has kept our Raven system working since that Stephen MacMaster genius left some/many years ago. The system is business critical, and measures the performance of our Colchester PFI Contract key compliance monitoring methods, and determines and penalty deductions we might take on a monthly basis. And she has been great to work with resolving the conundrums that have sprung up over the last 13 years of running the PFI. Thank you for your terrific assistance.

  5. If you find yourself in the position where you doubt the capabilities of somebody joining your team or department, give them a chance, there is never just one way of approaching a problem, their way might also work, or even be better.


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