International Women’s Day – Sylvia Ashpole

As part of International Women’s Day we interviewed our Senior Business Analyst Sylvia Ashpole about her role at Polaris and her journey as a woman in tech.

What is a Business Analyst?

It’s a role that sits between the business people and the technical people. My aim is to provide business efficiency, so I’ll work out what the business requirements are for a given problem and interpret them, so they provide the structure for a technical solution.

How did you get into tech?

I went into insurance straight after my O-levels – which tells you how old I am! And then a role in software development came up. At that time insurtech was in its infancy and wasn’t even a recognised term. It was very exciting to be part of the first wave of using technology to make broking easier.

How long have you been with Polaris?

Well, I started here in 1997. But when I had my daughter, I didn’t want to be working full time in the City, so for a few years I took a bit of a left-hand turn and set up my own upholstery and soft furnishings business. It had always been a hobby and I could do it part time.

I think everyone should run their own business for a bit – you learn SO much. But eventually it grew so big it got to the point where it stopped being any fun. I’m a real people person and I missed the camaraderie of the office and working as part of a team. So I decided to come back.

I knew the fundamentals of insurance wouldn’t have changed, but there would certainly be advances in technology, so I was a bit apprehensive. It turns out the processes were generally still the same just updated with newer quicker technology.

I’ve now been BACK at Polaris for nearly 4 years, and I still get excited about how tech can magically make things better – if it’s designed right.

Have you ever experienced any bias?

I’m a pretty confident person, and I’ve got a lot of energy. I think if that wasn’t my personality, in the early days I might have struggled a bit more. I did witness bias – but I didn’t let it get in my way.

Things have changed a lot since then – it’s so much easier now. You won’t be the only woman on the team, anymore, and that’s definitely made teams better.

What’s your advice for other women wanting to get into tech?

I think you need to look at the world and think ‘I can’ rather than ‘I can’t’. It’s surprising how far that gets you. You can take risks, change your mind, do a U-turn – and basically do whatever interests you. Be curious, ask stupid questions and always follow your nose!

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I’m dancing around at gigs, looking after my 2 cats, 2 dogs and 3 horses. My daughter competes at horse shows and events, so lots of weekends we’re getting ready, getting on the road, and getting some rosettes!