Womens Engineering Society: Inspiring women as engineers, scientists and technical leaders

Role Models

Clare Porter

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Clare Porter

Biography

Clare says “Right now we have to be brave. We have to keep our heads above the status quo and have a vision of where we’re going to go.”

She continued, “What makes me so excited about this industry is that in a five-year time horizon, it will be fundamentally different, because of the people coming into the business, both from a user standpoint and a staffing standpoint. They will be fundamentally different than the people we have today. Trying to measure and judge and anticipate that is a big thing for me, looking at the digital natives.”
Crossing Picket Lines, Leading Change in Technology

“From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be an influential business manager – but I felt I needed credibility,” Porter explained. “And I happened to love production engineering. It’s the synthesis between technology and business.” Porter went on to study production engineering at university, specializing in manufacturing, production, and industrial engineering. She interned at British Aerospace and then took a job supervising 75 individuals in manufacturing for the company.

Porter emphasized that times have changed though – she recalled, as the first woman at British Aersopace to hold her job, crossing picket lines and generating nicknames. Not only that, but she was 24, while the average age of her colleagues was 40. “It was quite fun – and quite interesting,” she said. “I learned a huge amount about people and expectations.”
“I feel I’ve stayed very true to the principles I had when I was younger,” she said.

Eventually, Porter took a job in another manufacturing company, (this time an FMCG), and then moved into an operations role at Citibank, which was going through a expanding phase. “The company was looking to increase its management capabilities and was hiring individuals from outside the industry.” After working in operations for futures, fixed income, and FX at Citi, she went on to work for Bankers Trust (now Deutsche Bank) for eight years in operations and management.

Then she was approached by a software company for a product manager role, and moved to California with her husband in 1996. A year later, the company was bought by SunGard, where, she said, she has been lucky. “At some companies you can get siloed, but I have been able to move into different businesses,” she said.

She continued, “Currently as an SVP with Infinity [SunGard's initiative to transform some of its core systems and technologies], my role is to identify how we can adopt new technologies within a business context. My peers are technologists and my role is to look at it from a business perspective.”

“I think I have one of the best roles at SunGard, and I’m most proud of how I help the company put a stake in the future,” she said. “If I look back, there have been different hard parts throughout my career, like my engineering days. I’m really proud of how I have contributed to what management should look like, and that I was part of that change.”

Porter continued, “What surprises me about software is that we don’t have as many women as we should in the industry. There’s a problem with the filtering, considering how many girls are starting engineering in school and then in university, and how many are able to move up in the organization. I’m confused by it.”

But, she said, as the make-up of client industries change, she expects the software industry to become more diverse as well. She explained, “The investment banking business has been male dominated, and going to customer calls, you tend to reflect what the customer looks like. But now the customer is changing.”

She continued, “The customer expects us to look more like them, and we are asked to talk about diversity issues as part of the sales process. In the past few years this has become increasingly common with bigger customers. It started in the US, but has expanded to other geographies as well.”

“What I wish I had known when I was first starting out revolves around not being afraid to have no clear path,” Porter said with a laugh. “When I was younger, I looked at my career in steps. But when I recruit people, I say to them that there are no logical career steps. What you have to do to measure your career is look at each period of time. There are more options available,” she explained.

She also advised women new to the workforce to ask lots of questions. “People who are inquiring are the ones who get noticed. People respond to them. If you’re being too shy to ask questions, it does not generate confidence.”

She continued, “You’ve got to be confident about the skills you have. It continues to be true that women are not as confident.”
Women who are more advanced in their career should be equally focused on confidence, she said. She also emphasized the importance of networking. “It can provide reality checks, and let you know where new opportunities are. You have to make yourself visible, not just to your peers, but to the women just starting out. They need to see other people like themselves in the organization.”

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