The sports-mad girl who muscled her way to the top of her industry
Deborah Vickers isn’t just using her brains to muscle her way to the top of her industry.
She’s using her brawn.
For when she’s not jostling for position in the male-dominated FinTech sector she’s letting off steam running, rowing or powerlifting.
Her drive to achieve in sport has even seen her appear on stage in the UK Bodybuilding Federation finals.
If you ask her what drove her to don a bikini and spray tan, the answer is simple: for the love of the game.
“I have always had a competitive nature and work ethic,” Vickers, who grew up in Cheshire and still lives there, explained.
“I am one of five children and have a twin sister, so there was obvious battle for position from an early age.”
A family which loved sport
It is her family’s common love of sport that cemented the aforementioned ‘love of the game’.
“I am from a very sporty family,” the 35-year-old said. “My parents were not pushy but very supportive of whatever I wanted to do. Running was my first love and I was a competitive runner for school and at county level, but never made it to national level because of injury.
“I would run all disciplines, sprints, 400m, 5k, marathons, you name it.”
Rather than bemoan her failure to become an elite sportswoman, Vickers trained as an England Athletics accredited running and assistant athletics coach, and is a guide runner to visually impaired athletes.
Although Vickers’ competitive running days are long-over, her desire to challenge herself refuses to wane.
In 2015, she trained to compete as a bodybuilder.
“I was training at a gym in Macclesfield and someone suggested I take it up,” she explained. “I dismissed it at first but then I’ve always liked a challenge and couldn’t pass it up. In 2015 entered two competitions and won them.
“Admittedly, people find bodybuilding unusual, with the bikinis and spray tans, but the show is just like race day. You are there to show what you’ve got. It was an amazing experience.”
It also has not stopped her tackling another traditionally male sport – powerlifting. As you would expect, she is quite brilliant at it and can deadlift more than twice her body weight.
The love of IT
Vickers’ motivation has always been applied to her career.
She discovered a love and aptitude for IT at school around the time when all the headlines were about the Millennium Bug.
“I remember at the time there was a lot of hype around the bug and it started up something in me,” she said. “I was also inspired by my IT teacher, Mr Archer. He was a really positive influence. I am drawn to positive people.”
Vickers studied computer science at Liverpool John Moores University, which included a placement at The National Gallery in London.
Her first ‘proper’ job was at Moneysupermarket.com.
“That was my first real experience of the sector being male-dominated, but that didn’t phase me. I started as an assistant to the IT support manager and spent several years there, cutting my teeth, learning my trade.”
Vickers rose up the ranks to IT manager reporting directly to the CEO and adored it.
After almost nine years she took the gamble to move on and spent the following few years developing her expertise in optimisation and product development, first with lastminute.com, Phones4u and DixonsCarphone and then Zuto.
Then, in 2015, Vickers took the chance to be part of a start-up as head of product for unshackled.com, a Manchester-based disruptive e-commerce business which lets consumers split the phone and the SIM purchase thereby saving money on expensive contracts.
“We started from nothing and built it from an idea,” Vickers recalls.
It was a great experience of growing something. We were a small but exceptional team. I had no doubt that we would be successful.”
Reaching for the top
Then came the lure of a new challenge, working as channel director at consumer credit comparison site MoneyGuru.com, based in macclesfield.
“Financial services is an overly complicated marketplace and consumers deserve better,” she said. “I strongly believe that consumers need support and help to guide them, and that we can do that and disrupt the ‘big four’ in the comparison market.”
Looking back over the last 13 years, Vickers admits there have been challenges trying to make her mark in such a male-dominated sector.
“It hasn’t been easy,” she said. “But then I don’t think anything worthwhile ever is. The fact that it was such a male dominated sector didn’t phase me.
“My experience has been that regardless of your gender, or who you are, passion and dedication will get you through. I work very hard. That passion and dedication is the same motivator in business than when I used to get up at 5am to train.”