Openreach appoints new Partnership Director

Former graduate Laura Whelan shares her story in support of the #BalanceforBetter campaign

Laura Whelan is Openreach’s new Partnership Director covering the East of England and South regions, strengthening relationships between the UK’s largest telephone and broadband network and local stakeholders.

She’ll be working closely with policymakers, council representatives and business leaders as Openreach ramps up work to make “full fibre” Fibre to the Premises (FTTP) broadband available.

As part of Openreach’s ongoing support of #BalanceforBetter, the International Women’s Day campaign, Laura is this week telling her story of a five-year journey from graduate to Regional Partnership Director.

Laura said: “I’m really looking forward to being the link between the many exciting things that Openreach does and our partners across the two regions. We work closely with a lot of the councils already through our work to make superfast broadband available and I look forward to extending that work even further.

I joined the company as a graduate in 2014 and at the time I would never have imagined learning and doing all of the things I have done so far. I’ve been fortunate to build my professional experience in a number of different parts of the business and before taking on this new role, I was leading the Fibre Cities programme.

One thing that’s always consistent is the day-to-day variety of the role. I meet a wide range of people – internal and external – and I like to get out in the field with our engineering teams, to understand the challenges they face. It helps me talk to them and our customers about what we’re doing as a business and the important role they play.

I’m passionate about how Openreach is trying to improve diversity and inclusion at all levels. There’s no denying that there’s lots more to do across the industry and that’s why campaigns like #BalanceforBetter are important. You can question yourself sometimes, particularly as a relatively young person with no previous engineering experience. But I’ve been fortunate to see strong female role models within the company – at all levels from engineers to senior executives – and I’ve also had many male sponsors who’ve supported my career and development so far.

I’m also involved in some great networks of women across engineering, technology and business, for example the Women of the Future Alumni network.

And with Openreach recruiting thousands of fibre engineers this year, Laura has this advice for females considering a career in engineering:

Do it! Don’t be put off if you’ve not worked in this type of industry before. All of my roles have been about problem solving and finding ways around issues so I would say attitude is everything. If you want to learn you’ll be successful whatever your background.”

Balance for Better is a year-long campaign, which encourages everyone to show their support for a gender balanced world, using the hashtag #BalanceforBetter. Openreach announced its support in March, when the campaign was launched to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Openreach remains committed to building a workforce that reflects our diverse communities and we’re working hard to attract more women into our workforce. Last year our intake of female engineers was higher than previous years and we want to continue to encourage women to take up careers in engineering and tech.