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Máiréad Cullen

IT Director (CIO), Vodafone

Not many women realise the opportunities a career in STEM can bring. One woman reveals how a love of maths took her into the world of 5G.

One of the factors that increasingly draws women into engineering is the multiple choices of career it offers. Máiréad Cullen is a case in point. She is the IT Director (CIO) of Vodafone and unlike many of her female peers who became interested in the area, she knew she wanted to work in engineering right from the start. “I was interested in the maths side of it. I didn’t understand exactly what a career in technology involved at that point, but I loved maths and the logic of it.”

Her school did not exactly encourage her into a career in engineering per se, but it encouraged her interest in maths, with some teachers acting as role models. This has led to her communicating her passion for STEM in a number of different ways. “I talk about what I do to colleagues internally,” she says. “Externally, I have taken part in outreach programmes to schools. We make it clear the possibilities of what people can do in the industry: a STEM career sets you up for variety and flexibility in a fast-moving area. I have had a very varied career, moving from 2G to 5G, operating in Networks and in IT domains.”

Great variety in work opportunities

Máiréad is keen to emphasise the variety involved in what she does: “No one day is the same. There are lots of exciting things always cropping up. I have never been bored.” And has she been concerned that the industry is so male dominated? “I’ve been very lucky to work in organisations that have been diverse and inclusive,” she says. “I’ve been fortunate not to have experienced significant bias over my career.’’

Máiréad mentions the many paths to take within a career in STEM – technical, management, within small companies and corporations – and the fact that diversity is increasingly important as it helps companies attract the best. She benefitted from mentors over the years and in 10 years time sees herself as a champion for the industry. She is proud her company has played a part in spearheading diversity and inclusion. “At Vodafone, diversity and inclusion matters during all phases of a career including recruitment, promotions and returning from breaks’’ she says. “For example, we have an advanced maternity policy, whereby for six months after returning to work a parent – male and female – can work for four days but get paid for five. We ensure our employees get support.”

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