Spotlight Series: Helen Bowyer of IBM

January 7, 2013

Welcome to our Spotlight Series!

This feature focuses on inspirational women that have achieved professional success in their industries. Each woman will have a featured blog post here at S&L and are available to engage with followers via Twitter. We’re grateful for the dedication that these women have towards supporting women like them and look forward to sharing what we’ve learnt with all of you!

Today, we are pleased to put the Spotlight on Helen Bowyer, Emerging Technology Services manager at IBM.

 Helen Bowyer’s continued success at IBM shows young women that academics can open even the most illustrious of doors. Excelling in maths early on, Helen decided to follow what she was passionate about and study both that and computer science at the University of York. “What attracted me to York was its academic reputation,” says Helen, “and its placement scheme which I felt was a key aspect of getting a good job as a graduate.” Her hard work paid off and a placement at IBM turned into a full-time position with its Emerging Technology Services team.

Now as a manager, Helen is involved with fundamental research in partnership with the MoD, the US Army Research Laboratory and academics in the UK and US. During quieter periods, Helen works on her ‘incubator project’, which focuses on translating spoken word into British Sign Language. She has also recently been recognised as one of Management Today‘s Top 35 women under 35.

“[I felt that York’s] placement scheme … was a key aspect of getting a good job as a graduate.”

Helen’s advice to early career women is to “pick an area that you are good at as well as something that you are interested in or are already passionate about.” She also says that women should “be honest in interviews and say what you want out of a job.”

Rapid Fire Q&A with Helen

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up? How is it similar or different from where you are now?

A: I’m not sure I really knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. Horses have always been my passion but I couldn’t really see how I could turn that into a successful career. Maths was my strongest subject at school but after trying some accountancy work experience I knew that wasn’t for me. Computing was always something I was interested in at home so it seemed a good area to explore and luckily for me it seems to have worked out well.

Q: What do you like about the industry you’re working in?

A: Working with Emerging Technologies means that I am constantly challenged to keep up-to-date and come up with new ideas. I really enjoy the idea of not knowing what I’m going to be working on in the future. I’m also lucky enough to work with some very talented and innovative people.

Q: What or who is your motivation?

A: I think the projects that I have found the most motivating have been those that solve a real problem out there in the real world – knowing that my work really makes a difference to people.

Q: How would you define success?

A: For me, success is about finding a balance in life. I want to be successful in my career and also in my life outside of work. Finding the balance is the challenge – putting enough focus and effort into work to enable me to keep moving forward, having new and varied challenges and working with interesting and motivating people. Time away from work is often spent training on the New Forest, I compete in endurance horse riding events. This means I often ride in the afternoon and then work in the evening to make the most of daylight.

Q: What is your favourite quote?

I have a couple of favourites.

The past is an illusion, like trying to hold smoke in our hand. The future is nothing more than a gift not yet received…but today, anything is possible.” ~ Mark Rashid


“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” ~ Judy Garland

Don’t forget…

If you have questions for Helen, let us know on Twitter or Facebook!


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