MotherBoard – feat. Duniya Moore, interim CEO at Helastel

We caught up with Duniya Moore, interim CEO at Helastel as part of our ‘MotherBoard’ content series.

The purpose of our ‘MotherBoard’ content series is to highlight incredible working mums within tech & data, as well as businesses that are supportive and progressive within their approach to creating more inclusive tech & data teams for women.

Amber @ ADLIB: For some background information please can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Duniya: I’m a wife and mother of two children, seven and five. I’m from Wales and have always lived in Newport, which I love as we are always surrounded by lots of friends and family. That’s something really important to us all – our children are very social and love people.

I’ve worked at Helastel for four-and-a-half years as a CFO, and have recently taken on the position of interim CEO. I love working here – it’s exactly the challenge I want and need. It helps that the team is so great – we work hard and are very ambitious.

Prior to this role I took a three-year career break to have our children, following an eight-year stint  at Vista Retail Support. I was FD for the last three years with them.

Amber @ ADLIB How have you managed to build a successful career, whilst also embarking on motherhood and what challenges have you faced?

Duniya: I am a very determined person! Originally, when my husband and I discussed getting married we talked about starting a family quite quickly after. However, once married we realised that we were still having too much fun to settle down and start a family and decided to wait.

For me, that turned into something else over time. I realised that it was important to me to focus on building my career prior to starting a family and set myself a goal of becoming a Finance Director. I felt that once I had achieved this, I could have a family with some reassurance that I would be able to return to a senior role once I was ready.

Choosing to start a family can be a difficult decision for women building their careers. It’s a personal choice for everyone. I chose a particular route and was very fortunate that everything worked out as planned, but that could have easily not been the case.

Taking a career break to focus on my family definitely made it more difficult to get back into the workforce, and on my return it took time to build my confidence back up.

I was fortunate enough to find the perfect part-time role at Helastel which enabled me to get back into working life (starting at two days per week). However, myself and the management team at Helastel quickly realised that the role was much bigger than that and after around six weeks I increased to three days and shortly after that up to four days per week. I still work four days a week and while it’s a challenge maintaining a sensible work/life balance, I’m very lucky that Helastel are so supportive of that.

Amber @ ADLIB: Can you tell us a little bit about how you found pregnancy, going on maternity and returning to work as someone working within the tech industry and is there anything you wish you had known in hindsight?

Duniya: I found my pregnancies very tough! I suffered with sickness, with both of them, every day up to the day my children were born.

During my first pregnancy we were fundraising at Vista Retail Support, which was a very intense and demanding process. There were times when I would need to rush to the toilet suffering from an episode of sickness, then compose myself and present to a group of potential investors.

I didn’t really experience ‘going on maternity’ due to the fact that my plans worked out so beautifully. My first born arrived about three weeks before the fundraise completed and I took the decision to leave the company at that point. I held share options in the business which generated enough income to support my career break without the need to compromise our lifestyle

The planning for my second child also went according to plan and she arrived two years and two days after my son!

I wish I had known other women who were working whilst pregnant, as it always helps when you can share experiences with others who are going through similar circumstances.

In hindsight I look back at how long it’s taken me to get back to the same levels of confidence I had prior to having my children. Being out of the day-to-day working environment for a long period of time can impact you in different ways. I didn’t have the comfort of returning to a position where I knew my colleagues, job or even the company. 

Amber @ ADLIB: Can you tell us about the team at Helastel and how they have embraced flexible working? 

Duniya: The team at Helastel have always been very supportive of the fact that I’m a mum. I joined working two days a week and I now work four days a week even after my appointment to interim CEO.

During my time at Helastel, we have introduced a company-wide flexible working policy allowing the team flex around start and finish times. More recently, like many in the wake of Covid-19 we now offer all staff the option to work from home. We are working on our hybrid working plan at the moment in order to support the team in the ‘new normal’ environment.

Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think the government needs to do to support mums more to make it easier to balance a career and parenting? 

Duniya: Increase maternity pay. It’s something that can be a huge blocker for women to even start thinking about starting a family. There also needs to be more support around childcare arrangements, which are hugely expensive.

Amber @ ADLIB: As individuals what do you think our short-term and long-term goals need to be to create a fair and equal workplace for everyone?

Duniya: Achieve more diversity in leadership roles. Where companies are able to, they should look at enhancing maternity pay for the organisation. I’m delighted that we’ve reviewed our maternity support at Helastel and now offer enhancements to the SMP rates.

Amber @ ADLIB: What do you think is important for businesses to look out for so that future mums of tech can be fully supported?

Duniya: It’s important businesses communicate well with the whole organisation to better understand the challenges working mums face, and create parent networks so they can feel supported by others going through the same struggles. Returning to work can be one of the biggest challenges for working mothers, so a clear plan to integrate mothers back into the organisation is key. Businesses should further ask if there’s any additional support requirements or flexibility that might make working life easier. It’s also essential businesses review maternity policies and make sure they both are up to date and provide the most support the organisation is able to. Additionally, understanding the impact that the pandemic had on parents – home schooling was a killer! The mental health impacts of that are still being felt and so checking in regularly with working parents is key.

Finally, businesses should be keeping an eye out for women with potential and support them into leadership roles, regardless of family status. Positioning more women within leadership roles means issues around maternity will naturally be moved higher up the agenda.

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Amber Rowbottom