Sarah Armstrong-Smith – Microsoft: Breaking through the Age Barrier

Where do you work and your role title?
Microsoft – Chief Security Advisor


Get To Know Me
Favourite ice-cream flavour: Mint choc-chip!

Wrap up in the shortest sentence possible what your role means.

I work with strategic customers to help them evolve their security strategy and capabilities to support digital transformation and cloud adoption.

What is the interesting / challenging part of your work?

We are living in a period of rapid technological change. The events of COVID-19 have made companies re-evaluate their commercial strategies to open up new ways of working and collaborating on a global scale.

This presents a number of issues, as well as opportunities, and it’s the ability to help shape and evolve the future that makes my role both interesting and challenging at the same time.

What attracted you to choose a STEM field? How do you find navigating your career path as a woman in tech?

I have been fortunate to work for some very forward-thinking and innovative companies, that have enabled me to grow, learn and pivot in a number of directions.

My age was a barrier at the outset of my career

Being a ‘woman in tech’ has not been a specific obstacle, but my age was a barrier at the outset of my career, as I felt that I had to prove my credibility for my opinions to be heard. So when opportunities arose to join new projects or working groups, I actively volunteered for them.

I felt that it was important to widen my sphere of knowledge and expertise by having a career that touches upon a number of inter-related subjects such a business continuity, disaster recovery, cybersecurity, data protection & privacy and crisis management.

What is your biggest achievement that you are most proud of? How do you track and express your achievements in the workplace and beyond?

I was nominated as one of the most influential women in UK tech, and UK cybersecurity in 2018 and 2019, by my peers. It is very humbling recognition for something that I love doing.

It’s also important to reflect on where you achieved a positive impact on others and how you can build upon that.

People should feel proud of sharing and expressing their achievements as we need more role models in STEM

So, if someone has had a positive influence in your life, tell them and tell others!! 🙌💯

Who are your mentors or role models that helped you either directly or indirectly?

I have found most value in having informal mentors and coaching at different points in my career. I have done this by looking for people I admire in the industry, following them on social media and looking for opportunities to engage in areas of mutual interest. I tend to seek out people who are supportive and happy to give back.

Sometimes it’s just reassuring to have someone that can guide and steer you on the right path, as we can all stumble from time to time.

How do you think women can be game-changers in time of crisis?

I have been on the front-line of many major incidents! I have learned that you need to be calm and rational when responding to a crisis, which often means taking a step back and considering the big-picture before making a decision.

Often, when faced with a crisis, there is a pressure to try and resolve the incident as quickly as possible, which can sometimes lead to mistakes. It therefore pays to check facts, be methodical and consider the repercussions of any actions.

It’s about having diversity of thought and experience to get to the right decisions and outcomes as effectively as possible. So it’s important that we play to each individual’s strengths!

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader? Are there any technology resources that you would recommend?

I never stop learning – I’m like a sponge wanting to absorb information.

There are so many excellent technology resources, but I have found following certain individuals and companies on LinkedIn and Twitter incredibly useful as they share articles, blogs, podcasts and whitepapers. It’s also a great way of engaging in conversation and hearing different perspectives.

Of course there is also formal training and certifications, but personally I find a lot of value from listening to real-world experiences, and staying up to date with the latest thinking on a given number of subjects.

One of the positive aspects of COVID19, has been the accessibility of new and varied content, as conference organisers move online, and attract a wider audience.

It’s your day off. What do you do to relax?

I recently moved to the country and so there is nothing better than sitting in my garden with my dogs, enjoying a glass of wine. 🍷

I find it very therapeutic to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind and completely switch off. It’s important to recharge your batteries!

What advice would you give to your 21 year old self?

Don’t be afraid to take a chance, to put yourself forward, and to try different things. You never know where it may lead!!

What makes you RARE?

I have learned to embrace my inner Rebel and have a simple mantra – ‘do it right, do it properly, do it first time, with passion and integrity’


Want to know more about Sarah? Connect with her on LinkedIn

3 thoughts on “Sarah Armstrong-Smith – Microsoft: Breaking through the Age Barrier

  1. Sarah, I really like your cool and collected attitude, especially your advice about embracing the diversity of opinions when gathering the facts together!! I am certainly going to share this with my two daughters because you are definitely a role model!

    Like

    1. Hi Casey Michael Brazzil,

      Many thanks for your feedback on Sarah’s STEM story. I really appreciate your thoughts.

      Hope you enjoy learning from upcoming STEM Stories too, and share the STEM stories with your two daughters so that they have many more role models to look up to!

      Thanks,
      Tanisha Sharma
      Founder of SHEisRARE

      Like

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