Women in Resilience Spotlight: Sev Cokayne

  • 12 Dec 2019

Sev is a business continuity, crisis management and emergency management specialist with experience in both private and public sector organisations across the U.S., Europe, Middle East and Asia. This includes extensive global experience in the design and operational readiness of enterprise resilience programs as well as command and control centres from definition of requirements through to design, implementation, training, testing and full integrated management across multiple agencies.

What brought you into the industry?

My father worked for the UNDP and so I was raised in multiple developing countries across South East Asia and Africa. I’ve seen and experienced first-hand my share of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, civil unrest and poverty and wanted to do something about it.

How did you reach your current position? What challenges did you face?

Stubbornness, determination, proactivity and working my ass off to find opportunities to grow and get better.

Challenge: Starting in this field once I left university was difficult, especially getting my foot in the door and standing out of the crowd in the sea of CVs of capable, knowledgeable and experienced candidates. 

Overcoming the challenge: Volunteering overseas, ringing every local authority emergency management team and offering to support any work for free, attending resilience events and networking, reaching out to professionals on LinkedIn whose career path I strived to achieve and reached out to them for advice on how to get there, seeking opportunities to contribute to thought leadership, and building a CV that showed passion not just a work history. 

Employers can’t train or teach you passion for this industry. However, they want the best and most capable candidate for their team. If that’s you, then you need to show them why you stand out from the rest and what makes you special.

Which specific skills do you think are needed to become a leader in your field?

Experience and passion! 

I have met excellent leaders you have fallen into this line of work and not have a degree related to these field, and excellent leaders who have PhDs in this field. The difference between them and everyone else is their passion for this line of work, their desire to grow in this field and their willingness to get stuck in and build their acumen and knowledge through experiences. 

Do you think that the BCI WiR initiative will influence our industry? If yes, how?

YES! This is a platform and advocate for further diversity in this field and the benefits it can bring to employers. It’s a sounding board for women to learn and share from each other on how to be successful and overcome challenges. It’s an awareness and education campaign for employers to encourage diversity in their workforce and attract the right talent. It’s a growing network that will act as an influential presence in markets, sectors and industries to change old thinking and culture.

Tell us how you will personally contribute in the WiR group?

•    Thought leadership
•    Mentoring
•    Encouragement and support
•    Sharing knowledge and networks
•    Being your cheerleader
•    Hugs

What changes would you like to see in the profession?

Diversity in the workplace. I have been the only woman in a team in all but one employer on my CV. Thankfully the benefits of diversity is being more recognised by employers in the industry, but we still have a lot of work to do!

In your opinion, why should more people be joining the resilience community?

Because there is a growing need. Our risk and threat landscape is rapidly changing and becoming more complex with higher impacts and frequencies. This has been evident in the increase in resilience related roles and employment in the market over the years. However, we need to look at building resilient cultures in communities, organisations and cities towards these threats and risks. Educating and empowering people to take ownership and leadership in their own resilience will build a stronger resilience community.