The Head of Client Platforms at IG Group articulates her story and how we can empower difference in the workplace
BY MYGWORK, IMAGE BY MYGWORK
Isabella has long been someone that chases a win and looks to grow as a person. Now she is chair of the diversity and inclusion network at IG Group and is involved in their LGBTQ+ network, IG Open. Growing up in the UK and Europe, she was a competitive hockey player and played in the premier league, the super league and as part of GB’s development teams. That backdrop of facing opposition and having to dig deep within yourself has shaped Isabella since she began playing at the age of seven.
“In sport, you are very competitive, and you also do get used to losing. You become quite comfortable with failure, and that is definitely character-building. Conversely, there’s the elation from winning. It has always been apparent to me that if you work hard, you and your team can succeed. Sports shows you that you’re only as good as the work you put in.”
That work ethic, alongside her passion for sports, was instilled from a young age. “My dad came from a working-class background. He worked extremely hard to get a scholarship and double first from Oxford. He was also really involved in sports and got me into hockey when we moved back to the UK.”
At seventeen years old, Isabella decided that it was time to come out to her family and friends. Her parents were supportive, as were her friends, but she did experience some setbacks. “Coming out, I was fortunate enough that I was established within the hockey world, so didn’t hugely affect my game. However, I did experience some discrimination. It was invaluable to have my team’s support and the community around me.”
Isabella also had a mixed response from her wider family and friends. “It was a 50/50 response, and it wasn’t particularly easy. It probably took about five years for it not to be mentioned in a negative way, although both of my parents were very supportive from the outset. I came out in 2005 – before equal marriage was legal in the UK – and it was hard. Public displays of affection in a same-sex couple were not easy at that time. I experienced microaggressions and got called derogatory terms.”
After those initial years, society has become more accepting. Isabella has always been out at work and hopes by doing so, she can create an environment that’s accepting of all individuals, irrespective of differences.
Nonetheless, when that challenge had subsided, there was another one she had to face. While working her day job and training for over twenty-five hours a week for her hockey teams, Isabella suffered a severe back injury.
“The remedial operation went wrong. I ended up with a very severe infection and a major haemorrhage, which nearly killed me. I had to deal with unimaginable pain and learn how to walk and function again. I now have an ongoing disability as a result.”
Isabella’s wife was her fiancée at the time and was there by her side looking after her as she needed full-time care. “Family and friends were also a huge support. You don’t realise how much you need others until you are in that situation. It was like experiencing bereavement; the person you were before and the person you are today are two different people.”
Isabella’s ethos is that you can get through anything if you are willing to try. “I’m comfortable being uncomfortable. At times in my life, I haven’t had an option. Experiencing severe injury and losing my father to motor neuron disease are terrible moments of adversity that teach you to cope and build resilience because you have no other option.”
Where Isabella started her career is very different to where she is now, both on a personal and professional level, and she maintains that hard graft and applying yourself can lead you anywhere.
“I studied sports science at Loughborough, worked in project management at Ford and then traversed across to become a software engineer.” Now her role as Head of Client Platforms at IG, she puts her success down to her hard work earlier in her career, which gave her the opportunity to work in software engineering in the first place.
“You don’t have to be a software engineer to go into tech. The sidestep in my career saw me be one of the first developers working on the Ford Pass application. Then I co-founded a parking app with Ustwo called GoPark. As a co-founder, I have a European patent for the app. Again, it is all down to hard work. If you are willing to apply yourself and work hard, then you can do anything.”
Another professional tip that Isabella has is to set extreme and what may seem like outlandish goals. “I don’t set simple goals, and often I will set myself something ridiculous and move forwards from there. With women, particularly, we can sometimes talk ourselves out of positions, and I’m all about not putting barriers up; enough exist already. My story isn’t an easy one, but because of all the adversities I’ve faced over the past two decades, I’ve ended up here.”
For now, Isabella is looking to the future, focusing on delivering the best in class platforms for IG Group clients and has recently completed her Executive MBA.
“I want to drive awareness that all of our experiences are unique,” she explains. “The growth of business and culture has created an intricate tapestry of difference in the workplace. I am a woman who is gay, dyslexic and disabled. However, as a white woman, I have a very different experience from a black woman – that is just factual. In a 100-meter race, we don’t all start from the same place. Advantages and disadvantages stagger us behind or in front of one another. Only when we are fully aware and empower those differences will real inclusion and equality exist.”
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