Sally Nursten, CMO, ITHQ – Disrupt by Distology Episode E04

Podcasts | Posted: 30-09-2022
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Perceptions and Stereotypes in the IT Channel


Welcome to this month’s episode of Disrupt! In this episode, Hayley sits down with Sally Nursten, to discuss her journey into tech, transferable skills and perceptions and stereotypes in the IT industry.

Sally Nursten Chief Marketing Officer ITHQ

“Knowing how to try, fail, and try again, over and over and over again … you literally fall over, pick yourself up of the floor and have to do it all over again.”

Sally Nursten began her career as a ballet dancer, training relentlessly at The Royal School of Ballet and Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance. After a career-ending injury, Sally swiftly moved into production where she worked as a runner and soon became the assistant producer. Finding a love for media, she has worked in a variety of media roles, such as writing for Big Brother, PR and marketing consultancy. Sally is now the chief marketing officer at ITHQ an award-winning tech solutions company.



Discussion Points

  • Intro [00:00 – 00:30]
  • Sally Nursten’s path into tech [00:31 – 02:30]
  • Transferable skills: ballet dancer to working in the media [02:31 – 04:44]
  • First job: fake it till you make it [04:45 – 05:46]
  • What drove Sally to learn media? [05:57 – 08:00]
  • Which of Sally’s past skills has helped her in business today? [08:00 – 10:09]
  • Ballet, tech or media? [10:10 – 13:02]
  • What does a CMO do on a day-to-day basis [13:03 – 14:19]
  • Perceptions of women in the tech world [14:20 – 25:42]
  • Calling out behaviours in business [25:25 – 27:59]
  • Tips on staying authentic and being truly authentic [28:00 – 31:43]
  • Who inspires Sally the most [31:44 – 33:30]
  • What advice would Sally give to her younger self? [33:31 – 34:55]
  • Favourite pub snack? [34:56 – end]


Notable Quotes

Sally: I never had any aspirations or ambitions at all to work in technology, in fact when I was a teenager all I wanted to do was become a ballet dancer, which is what I did … typing up a CV with a typewriter in the library is about the closest I got to technology.

Hayley: I don’t think anyone’s route into technology is typical, honestly speaking. I think what we find is that technology is everywhere now, a lot of people are tripping and falling into it.

Sally: [On transferable skills] There was certainly never any question of tenacity or grit. They are two things that ballet definitely teaches you. It’s just hard work from start to finish. They say you’re only ever as good as your last performance … it’s relentless.

Sally: [on joining production/media] I just wanted to be part of that production family … that feeling of being in a show is just the best feeling in the world … and I could see production as being like that but in a different way. In some ways much better because there was no pressure of performing anymore.

Sally: [On working in production] Everything about it was just tech yourself. I love the challenge, I love the not knowing and figuring it out actually.

Hayley: I don’t like planning more than 2-3 years ahead because I love not knowing what the future holds, and if I did know what the future held, I’d probably just die now. That’s a bit morose, isn’t it?

Sally: [On transferable skills from ballet] Knowing how to try, fail, and try again, over and over and over again … you literally fall over, pick yourself up of the floor and have to do it all over again.

Sally: Sometimes you wake up in the morning as a dancer and think, I’m not feeling it today, and those can be your best days! They end up being your best days.

Hayley: [On perceptions of women] I was on a stand with a male colleague, we were introduced to the CEO of a software business, and he made a direct line to my male colleague – almost ignoring me … there was an introduction ‘This is Hayley the CEO and founder of the business’ and his whole demeanour changed … and it really pissed me off quite frankly.

Sally: I’ve been called out in a meeting where there were only men, and me. It was just a product demo, it was fairly straight forward and then halfway through, the person holding the meeting said ‘We should take a break because poor Sally, her brain’s on fire’.

Sally: We should be hiring based on qualities, it’s about bigger things than a qualification in tech … it’s much bigger than that, because in any case, we don’t know where the technology is going.

Sally: If you create a culture of zero tolerance to anything like that, a true meritocracy, where nobody is raised above anybody else for any other reason other than what they do and their performance and how they conduct themselves. Then you are automatically starting to solve a problem. We just need all the businesses to do that.

Hayley: I don’t think I was ever happy being authentically me until probably the last 5 years.

Sally: Once I got into the real corporate world, I was worried I was too authentic. Do I give away too much? Should I have a bit more of a mask? … I just found that I couldn’t do that.

Sally: [On advice to younger self] Stop sweating the small stuff. However hard you think you’re working, you can always work harder. Don’t give in. Be braver.

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About Disrupt
Disrupt is a podcast where host Hayley Roberts, CEO of cybersecurity distributor, Distology, is joined by guests to challenge the stereotypes in the IT industry and highlight the innovative ways businesses are working and overcoming these issues. And generally just having a good time being disruptive!

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