Jeanette Carlsson

Inspirational Woman: Jeanette Carlsson | CEO of newmedia2.0, Founder & Chair of Tech Nordic Advocates


Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am Danish/Swedish by birth, born in Copenhagen to a Danish mum and Swedish father, married a brit and now a dual Danish/British citizen. Educated to degree level at the University of Copenhagen (BA Hons, first class, English Language, Literature and Social Sciences), then moved to London, completed a B.Sc Hons 2:1 in Economics from UCL, London, followed by an MA in Economics, jointly from the University of Copenhagen and UCL.

I started my career as an economist working for the European Commission in Brussels – on the implications of economic and monetary union, as a matter of fact.  Fascinating

I’m ultimately not a public sector person, however, so when offered a job as a strategy consultant at what was Coopers & Lybrand, I moved back to London and commenced my career in the private sector, pretty much from the beginning in the tech space, and from Coopers & Lybrand to a senior role in a mobile telco strategy boutique, then back to what had by then become PwC Consulting, focusing on telecom/media convergence. PwC then got acquired by IBM, where I ended up spending 10 years, first as leader of IBM’s global communications sector think tank; then as leader of the European big deals business in the telco space, then establishing IBM UK’s digital consulting practice, earning me a place at IBM’s top talent programme and a place at University of Oxford ‘Said’ Business School, paid for by IBM.

From IBM, I was headhunted to become EMEA MD of an American marketing analytics business – a SME and stepping stone to becoming an entrepreneur.

On the verge of massive digital/tech disruption, and hearing clients express a need to understand what digital/tech was doing to their businesses, and how they could capitalise on the new opportunities created by digital/tech, I founded – innovation and growth partner to pioneering clients.

In parallel, I co-founded a digital learning progamme for young people in London, earning me my Honorary Fellowship at Ravensbourne (digital media/innovation university), and place on the Connecting Tech City Advisory Board, alongside Russ Shaw, which became the start of the discussions about taking Tech London Advocates to the Nordics, which ended with me me founding Tech Nordic Advocates in 2015.  Right now, in addition to running newmedia2.0 and Tech Nordic Advocates, I lecture on Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Warwick, am business mentor to startups at Aston Business School’s and other accelerator programmes, and tech/smart city advisor to the Danish Ambassador to the UK and the Danish Foreign office.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did in a sense but then changed direction. I am out of a family of linguists. So started life pursuing that at university. I then discovered my business and entrepreneurial gene and switched to economics and business. Following my time at the European Commission, I guess my ‘plan’ was to join a corporate, as that would give me a sound grounding in business, platform for my career, and also ‘look good on my CV’. Now I think there are many more ways to build a career than to join a corporate first. Indeed, I experience how some corporates struggle to attract top young talent (millennials), who sometimes aspire to slightly different things than what is offered by the typical corporate environment.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I don’t think many people go through a long career without challenges. I guess for me, my first challenge was building a career in a very competitive industry (tech) in a ‘foreign’ country and then in London, which is huge and where I didn’t really know the movers and shakers.  So I had to use my unstoppable drive and determination to build contacts and networks and always ensure I was as good as or even better than my competitors, as I was ‘foreign’, understand exactly what was required to land the ‘right’ jobs and perform to the very best of my ability in each role, to help me land the next role and ‘get noticed’. Another key challenge has been transitioning from the corporate to the SME/ startup and entrepreneurial world. Very different cultures and modus operandi. I dealt with that by talking and listening to people, including entrepreneurs and startup/SME leaders, to understand them and ‘life’ in their startup/SME world, reading books by entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses etc.

Finally, there is no getting round the fact that building and maintaining a successful career as a woman in tech isn’t easy (see below), and even harder if you want to combine that with motherhood –  you can ‘have it all’ for sure, as I have, but you can’t have it all all of the time.

And you need to be able to deal with the nagging feeling/bad conscience that most ambitious, professional women have that you are not ‘doing justice’ to either your kids or career all of the time.

It’s all about compromises, and working out what works for you and your family and striking out the right balance – and of course having a partner to share the responsibilities with. No one size fits all. There are many models. You have to work out what’s right for you and your family. Luckily, the world of work is much more flexible these days, if some way from perfect, and as more women ‘come up the ranks’/become entrepreneurs, hopefully it will continue to improve

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I am lucky that most days in my working life are different, due to my various hats. Most days, like for most people, start with going through emails, before heading into meetings and calls with clients, targets and my teams.  I travel a lot in the UK and across the Nordics and Baltics, and attend a lot of business and social functions, which adds a lot of spice and business to my life too. I work long days. If home, and if I have no functions/socials, my days end with following up on the days’ calls/meetings or preparing the next days’. If socials/ functions or travelling, I spend time with clients and networking.

Tell us about Tech Nordic Advocates and its aim.

As I say, Russ (Shaw) was keen to expand Tech London Advocates (TLA) beyond the UK, and so we got talking about taking TLA to the Nordics first. So I set up TECH NORDIC ADVOCATES in November 2015, headquartered in Copenhagen. In a little over two years, we have built Northern Europe’s largest – and only pan-Nordic/Baltic – tech leader network of 700 startup/scaleup founders, entrepreneurs, ​investors, mentors, accelerators, corporates and policy makers, working together across the five Nordic and three Baltic countries​, with a home in the leading tech hubs in all Nordic and capitals, to stimulate Nordic and Baltic tech sector growth. Our mission is to grow the Nordics/Baltics into a leading global tech/startup hub. Our vision is to be the leading platform and driving force for Nordic/Baltic tech sector collaboration and growth and bridge to other global tech hubs through our Global Tech Advocates family.

Tech Nordic Advocates are growing rapidly. We are keen to talk to tech leaders from startups to corporates with an interest in the Nordic and Baltic tech scene. So please get in touch by emailing: [email protected]

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Mentoring is extremely important. Giving and receiving from bosses, peers and people who report to you – 360 degrees. My experience tells me that us women in particular look for role models we can emulate. A woman – or man-  we can identify with and use as ‘mirror’ to inspire and motivate us, and give us confidence that ‘it can be done’. Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to have several mentors both within the businesses I have worked within, to ensure an understanding of the corporate environment I worked in was built into the mentoring process but also – very importantly – mentors outside my work environment, to ensure independence/neutrality from my corporate environment/politics.

I was on the female top talent team at IBM, and as such lucky enough to be mentored by mentors both inside and outside the business, male and female, which is really important for both mentor and mentee.

I have also mentored many people myself over the years – younger female professionals at IBM, male and female mentees since, and have always been very active in women in tech  communities, to give younger women in tech that role model. I am also a professional business mentor at several business school and accelerator programmes etc.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Ensure there is better alignment between policies and on the ground behaviours in business: most organisations today have (‘the right’) equal opportunity/diversity/inclusion policies in place. On the ground behaviours, however, are sometimes very different. With even the best policies in the world, it can be very hard to change ingrained on the ground (male) behaviours. Putting it bluntly… men choosing men for their teams, salary increases or promotions.

Not because they are necessarily or inherently sexist..but because we humans tend to go with what we know best… being crude…guys know how guys operate .. so why give yourself the challenge of picking a woman, even if on paper, she is as good if not better than the next male. What is needed to address that is inclusion of men in diversity initiatives, as opposed to taking women away from the office on ‘away days’ to teach them how to deal with men, without any men in the room ‘to practice on’ and team with, so the men can learn what challenges women face, when dealing with men, and women can learn more about male work behaviour and male experiences of working with women.. in other words mutual education. Only that way can we translate policies into action

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

In my personal life, raising two children who are now healthy, happy teenagers doing extremely well, while pursuing a super business professional career. In my professional life, a few things make me feel a little proud:  I guess as I say building a successful career in ‘another country’; being picked for the IBM female top talent programme, which also helped me earn my place at Oxford University business school, sponsored by IBM; making the transition from corporate to SME/startup; founding and growing two businesses; and being invited to Buckingham Palace in recognition of my work for the London startup sector

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have set up two businesses now – a commercial business and Northern Europe’s largest tech leader network – My focus now is to grow both of those, and help newmedia2.0 clients and other businesses I work with as mentor grow.

In terms of the future, I hope to show the younger generation – in particular women - through my continued actions and achievements that if you have talent and relentless drive and determination and focus, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you have what it takes, don’t let anyone stop you. Go do it!

Do you have any advice for women working in technology, that you wish someone had told you?

I won’t be the first to say this but women still make up only a small proportion of the tech sector, in particular at senior level.  Thriving in the fast moving tech world, where only the best survive and succeed is tough.

So in addition to having talent, confidence and unstoppable drive and determination are crucial, whether you are a man or a woman.

At more junior level, it’s harder to have that confidence as you haven’t yet achieved so much. So if I had my time again, I guess, I wish someone had told me to actively seek mentors and advice from key people from the very beginning. Having someone you trust - male or female -  ask advice of and listen to on your journey, who has been there is super valuable, and helps you build confidence. Be bold, ask people for a 15 min coffee. Most people will say yes. And the tech space is actually very good at and increasingly open to that. And finally, don’t think too much about being a woman – be a person and just do it!

Gemma Young featured

Inspirational Woman: Gemma Young | CEO & Co-Founder, Settled


Gemma Young, Settled

Gemma is passionate about technology's potential to radically improve people’s lives.

She’s on a mission to erase the anxieties that overshadow the joy of buying and selling a home. For well over a decade, Gemma’s been immersed in the online world, with experience that includes one of the UK’s first digital agencies and - back in its early days - Google. During her time at Google, Gemma worked across Silicon Valley, Europe and Africa.

With her experience both on the front line of digital, and previously as an estate agent, she’s leveraged some the most innovative technological advances in her drive to reshape the home buying and selling experience, creating Settled.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I have been involved with Internet businesses for well over a decade and am passionate about improving people’s everyday lives through technology. After graduating, I ventured into the world of estate agents, where I spent some time before moving to work for one of the UK’s first digital agencies. I subsequently joined what was (back then) a ‘start-up’; Google, where I stayed for many years working across Silicon Valley, Europe and Africa.

Having been on the front line of industries being transformed by the Internet, and having seen the shortcomings of the estate agency model, I saw the opportunity to leverage technology to reshape the home buying and selling experience and, together with my Co-Founder and brother Paul Young, I created property transaction platform Settled with the dream of making moving a home easier for everyone.

What inspired you to start Settled?

I spent time working in estate agents in my early career, so I’d seen ‘under the hood’ of the model. I understood processes and how things fit together and I’d always paid close attention to the industry - kind of waiting for someone to come in and truly improve it. But, years on, the fall through rates were the same (1 in 3 homes which go under offer don’t end up selling) and, with all the advances in technology - I could see the solution.

I thought about this for some time and then, one day a friend of mine turned up at my house in tears. She’d lost out on the house of her dreams after battling legal and financial processes for months. At that moment, I decided I was going to go for it. I left my job at Google and started building what today is Settled.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

As individuals, unless you know what you want - your career progression becomes a set of steps you take which hopefully get you closer to your true character and values, and that was certainly the case for me.

My journey took me through roles in real estate, digital technology and when I was at Google, I got really close to how technology could be used to solve big problems - I loved its potential.

Alongside all this, increasingly I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I’d always been drawn to businesses where consumers, rather than businesses, call the shots. I do feel truly grateful I’ve taken risks and followed this passion. It’s not been easy, but I’m so excited that Settled can continue to play a part in the digital transformation of what is considered to be one of the most stressful times in our lives and, that hopefully, one day people will feel moving home is purely joyful, not stressful - that it’s just Settled.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

One of the most important things I have learnt is resilience. Over time, setting up a business is hugely challenging. But it’s truly the belief in what’s possible, in the mission and purpose of what myself and my team come into work for everyday that keeps us going.

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

I wake up around 7am - hit the snooze button so I can give myself 10 minutes to go through new emails and to check up on the day’s plans. On my commute in, I’ll either listen to a business book on Audible or write emails and respond to questions. Then it’s normally either a coffee at my favourite café across the road from my office or a breakfast meeting to start the day.

My evenings are normally dinners with friends, industry events and, of course, nights in switching off to everything with something trashy on Netflix.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I love spending time with techies or people who get excited about the future - how the world will change through technology and pushing the boundaries on innovation.

I’m lucky enough to, overtime, have come into contact with other entrepreneurs, some of whom have become dear friends. Their support, experience and openness to glasses of wine and sharing ideas is something I’m deeply grateful for.

I often reflect and wish I’d had more people around me in my very early journey so now, I do make the time to spend with early startup founders. I can often relate to their challenges and, I hope, through sharing my experiences, I can help them to avoid or cope with some of those challenges.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

The world and its workplace have evolved over the years; its structures have equally developed meaning that, naturally, certain values and expected behaviours have evolved.

I’m less interested in looking back at the reasons why - I believe more progress comes from looking forward. We’re at a time where we should understand and unpick these things more deeply across race, sexual preference, gender and many other facets.

From a gender perspective - women aren’t under represented at board level just because they’re not as capable. There are multi-faceted and deeply structural reasons for this - such as women having the biological responsibility of child birth and subsequently, being the most likely party to have the onus placed on them for childcare. We need to think about how do we work with this and understand these differences? Because, more understanding of these pressures will benefit businesses and society in the long run.

What advice do you have for an future or budding entrepreneurs?

Solving a problem that’s really meaningful to you, that other people need the solution to and that’s close to your individual values and strengths.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Since our launch, we’ve worked hard to develop a technology and service that feels quite different to conventional methods in real estate. We’ve empowered customers and it’s been hugely rewarding to see how this, along with the technology and applications we’re building, has had a direct impact on how successful a transaction is. We’ve already cut the time it takes to buy or sell in half and we’ve vastly reduced the likelihood of a home falling through.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I believe moving home shouldn’t be one of the most stressful things we do in our lives. I want people to be able to move around the world more easily and I plan to make sure Settled becomes synonymous with the perfect home move for buyers and sellers.

Mivy James featured

Inspirational Woman: Mivy James | Head of Consulting, National Security & Defence / Enterprise Architect, BAE Systems


Mivy James

Mivy James has been an IT professional for over 20 years.

She is the Head of Consulting for National Security and Defence and Deputy Head of Global Consulting for BAE Systems Applied Intelligence. Mivy advises government clients on large technical transformation programmes and also has responsibility for over 150 consultants within NS and Defence.

Prior to joining BAe systems Applied Intelligence in 2005 she worked for several international systems integrators and corporations.

Mivy started her career as an analyst / programmer after completing a degree in Computer Science and Maths and soon moved into technical leadership and system design.
Mivy is passionate about technology and particularly keen to encourage women to follow careers in the IT profession. She is the founder of our gender balance network at BAE Systems striving to support and encourage more women to have careers in this field.

Outside of work Mivy's time is largely consumed by entertaining her three year old son.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m the Head of Consulting for National Security & Defence at BAE Systems and an Enterprise Architect. As Head of Consulting I’m responsible for about 150 consultants, all based in the UK. I do technical consulting myself as well as having leadership responsibilities.

I started my career as an analyst / programmer having graduated in Computer Science & Maths, over time my responsibilities changed to focus on system architecture / design and leadership eventually leaving coding behind (which I do miss). The systems have become larger-scale and more strategic over the years and I now often provide technical and systems engineering assurance rather than producing the design myself.

I’ve been at BAE Systems for over 12 years having worked for a number of different systems integrators prior to that, including doing a couple of overseas projects in The Netherlands and Switzerland.

A couple of years ago I founded our gender balance network as I wanted to be part of the drive for change to increase the number of women in tech.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew that technology was my calling so I never considered another field, apart from the occasional day dreaming of becoming a professional athlete. In the early part of my career my main concern was ensuring that I was familiar with the most current programming languages and environments, I certainly never expected to have people management as a large portion of my job and didn’t even know what consulting entailed. So I can’t say that I have ever made rigid long term plans but instead have a set of characteristics that I need my work to fulfil such as being challenged, keeping my technical knowledge current, having the opportunity to continuously learn and feeling useful. I am certain that I will always want to continue solving complex problems where technology is part of the solution.

Every few years I take stock of where I am and how I feel about my role, and work out what changes to make given the opportunities that I’m aware of in both my own organisation and wider industry, along with the aspects of my role that I want to do more and less of. I like to always feel that I’m challenged and have developed my skills.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

A couple of times I have realised that I am in a role that is a poor fit for me. It can then be really hard to work out how to get back on track, especially as this situation can be damaging to one’s confidence. There’s a pattern which means that it takes me a while to notice, then I go through a phase of feeling worried that I’ve plateau’d or got out of touch before making a conscious effort to realign myself with where I need to be.

Interestingly, I then find myself more confident than before as the things I’ve learnt (the hard way) during poorly fitting roles have developed my skills. For example, I once tried my hand as a project manager and very much felt I’d lost my way technically, worrying that I would struggle to get a role as a senior architect again. I didn’t struggle and in reality those project management and line management skills meant my leadership ability improved enormously and that the role had been a valuable learning experience.

There’s an additional challenge that women in technology face which can drive some specific behaviours. There’s such a stereotype of what someone in tech looks like and those that don’t fit it can have their technical capability underestimated. It’s rather draining to know that often when first meeting people they will be surprised at the extent of one’s technical skills and / or be patronising. I am always conscious that I need to work harder than my male peers to demonstrate my credentials early on and often still be met with some scepticism.

I am also very aware that I am an ambassador for all women in tech and therefore put myself under enormous pressure not to let everyone else down, if I make a mistake or present myself badly then I am reinforcing the gender stereotype. For example, when I first started work a male colleague observed that I was much better than ‘Jane’ – the other female programmer he had worked with recently. The only thing that Jane and I had in common was our gender. I started coding when I was 9 and did computer science at university whereas she had only just begun her training. It seemed odd to me that the comparison was made but it was an early lesson in how one woman is expected to represent all.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Mentoring is essential to everyone’s career development. It can be ad-hoc for a specific development point or an ongoing relationship with a role model.

At BAE Systems we have a formal career management structure in addition to line management. I also look for advice from a few mentors when I need specific advice. I provide both regular career development advice and ad-hoc mentoring to people inside and outside of my organisation. I aim to get people to consider growth opportunities both within and outside of their current role, making them aware of opportunities they may not have otherwise known about such as speaking at conferences / leadership meetings or contributing to white papers. I work out people’s strengths and listen to their aspirations and look to tie these up with things that need to be done across the organisation. I am a big supporter of helping people develop their own networks and build their personal brand, something I think is particularly important for women in a male dominated industry.

I also often get consulted on potential gender specific issues and coach people on how to best deal with them.

Getting better (and perhaps cheekier) at seeking out mentoring for my own development is one of my key goals for myself in 2018. I am getting more comfortable with developing my own personal brand i.e. taking a bit of my own advice.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

There are lots of initiatives to encourage more girls into STEM careers as well as women in leadership development programmes. All of these are very important but they won’t succeed without widespread #HeForShe in today’s workplaces. My belief is that although we’ve come a long way there is still much to do to overcome unconscious bias before we can achieve true gender equality. We’re certainly a long way from having a level playing field since men and women’s achievements are typically measured differently. I could answer at length but instead I really recommend “The Delusion of Gender” by Cordelia Fine, which explains how deeply embedded neurosexism is. My dream is to achieve a true meritocracy, where every person’s capability is valued without unconscious bias.

How would you encourage girls or women into STEM and careers in technology?

The most important thing is for society to stop telling girls what they can and can’t do and what they are or aren’t interested in. It’s so frustrating to hear sweeping generalisations about what motivates girls. Boys’ and girls’ brains aren’t so biologically different that girls are hardwired to like all things pink and have an aversion to maths. There is absolutely no proven scientific research to back these things up – these opinions are simply down to sexist thinking even though very few people will admit it. I have had difficult conversations with people who don’t realise that gender stereotyping *is* sexism, let alone appreciate how limiting it is for everyone regardless of their sex.

Secondly, girls need to be able to see role models both in real life and fiction. This has to start from when they’re babies: books aimed at tots that only depict women as carers and firefighters as always male are dated and unhelpful. The snag is that by asking women in STEM to put themselves out there as role models we’re asking them to pay a “woman tax”: undertaking an additional responsibility that we don’t ask of their male peers. This is important activity and needs to be valued by employers. Women need to receive recognition for taking on these responsibilities otherwise such role models risk having slower career progression, rendering their efforts counter-productive.

Finally, tech traditionally has an image problem that isn’t helped by mainstream media. If a child draws a picture of someone working in tech it’s very likely to be a bespectacled, bearded white man. In reality the tech industry is very cool and there are more an more jobs that have technology at the heart of the skills needed. It’s the responsibility of those of us in the industry to present ourselves as role models to mitigate and change this stereotype. For example, I enjoy very technical work and yet I do get to communicate with clients most days: there’s a common misconception that all technologists never leave darkened rooms to interact with the outside world let alone wear a killer pair of shoes.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Every time I solve a new problem or learn something new I get a great sense of achievement. The wonderful thing about working in technology is that things never stay still and there’s always something new to learn. The more concern I have when I start tackling the problem (for example, thinking this is the one I won’t be able to do), the greater the satisfaction I get by solving it.

I have worked on small-scale yet very complex systems and thoroughly enjoyed the sheer geekery of them, to mind-boggling large enterprise-scale systems. The more complicated the better for me, for example working on the technical aspects of a multi-billion pound business case.

Recently I have overcome nerves around public speaking, having agreed to speak on panels at industry events in front of hundreds of people. A few years ago I would have really shied away from doing anything like that so it’s a personal achievement that I’m proud of.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My immediate challenge is to ensure that I continue to progress my career without leaving the technical aspects I enjoy behind me. The more senior I get the less hands-on I have become, this isn’t intentional. My personal brand is very technology focussed and I want it to remain that way.

Monique Breen featured

Inspirational Woman: Monique Breen | Chief Information Officer for International Gas, Structured Products and Treasury at BP


Tell us a bit about your role at BP

As Chief Information Officer for International Gas, Structured Products and Treasury I oversee all aspects of technology and systems strategies in service of the individual business priorities. I manage over 100 people and am accountable for applications deployed across Europe, North America and Asia. My remit includes delivering critical business outcomes, including multi-billion dollars’ worth of daily payments across the BP Group, 24x7 scheduling and balancing of gas and power with Europe’s Transmission System Operators and compliance with financial regulatory requirements.

The key responsibility of my role is to continuously - look for technology improvements through high performing teams and partners, ensuring the business has a competitive advantage in the marketplace and industry where traditional business models are being disrupted.

What does a typical day look like?

Every day is different! This is one of the things I love about my job. I often find myself spending time with business teams helping them to solve issues, figuring out what data is lacking, finding gaps in user experiences and how to expedite the onboarding of new products into our systems There may be days where an operational incident might consume some or most of my day – from a systems interface issue to dealing with the impact of a hurricane!

I also spend time reviewing my team to ensure it is operating at an optimal level and delivering a strong performance within defined parameters, including budget and headcount. This may involve attending recruitment fairs, interviewing candidates and coordinating meet-ups to encourage the sharing of domain knowledge and gaining external perspectives via guest speakers.

The best part of my day is when my team demonstrates some of the innovative solutions they are working on – whether it’s a new app or an external customer facing product that showcases the best in class design.

I am collaborating with some external partners to provide industry and leading-edge solutions, I frequently check-in with them to further the development of these initiatives.

I go home having been intellectually challenged and rewarded from the day’s achievements in a fast-paced yet friendly work environment.

What is digital transformation all about?

To me, it’s about solving for the needs of a business or consumer much more comprehensively than we could do before and allowing us to put into practice business models that seemed inconceivable. Digital technology makes it all possible.

What does this mean in practice?

Funny you ask that, as I’m writing this from a cottage in Norfolk I’ve rented through AirBnB. It wasn’t so long ago when it involved a set of arduous tasks such as rifling through several sites finding somewhere suitable on my available dates, getting in contact with the owner using another channel, searching for references and paying through a BACs bank payment or cheque. Now I’m able to do with a few taps on my mobile as I commute into work.

How does digital transformation impact BP’s working environment?

From a productivity perspective, we can remove redundant time-consuming processes through robotic process automation and machine learning to predict system behaviour and minimise downtime. We can connect with our colleagues across the globe more closely using new collaboration tools. The cloud offers us scale and flexibility and comes with innovative solutions that we can purchase off-the-shelf.

The expectations of our internal business are continually being raised because of their experience as consumers in their personal lives, like Amazon and Netflix. This means we need design products with the user at the centre, ensuring they are made available on multiple devices, accessed anywhere safely and at any time. We will be adopting artificial intelligence more and more to drive better and faster business decisions leveraging extensive sources of data. To that end, we are always looking to upskill our staff as well as attracting the best talent in the market.

Why is it important to get more female technologists into our business?

There’s been a lot of research to prove how it makes good business sense, but to me it’s much more obvious than that. If you think about it, we deliver our products to women as well as men inside and outside BP, and in fact to all types of diversity. In our data-centric world and the infusion of artificial intelligence, any biases in source data could lead to prejudiced decision making. In short, why would I want a product targeted at me as a woman to only be developed by men? We should capitalise on all of the available talent and ideas in the market.

How do we support this?

We start early with schools – through community partnerships and encouraging girls to consider STEM based subjects. We can’t solve this challenge alone, but we want to play an active role in growing the female talent of the future.

We explicitly target women in our recruitment process: by making sure we reach a diverse talent, by ensuring that we have mixed candidates at interview (even if this means delaying the recruitment process), and by championing agile working practices across the business.

Andrea Pennington featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Andrea Pennington | Author, mentor & TEDx speaker


Andrea PenningtonDr. Andrea Pennington is an integrative physician, acupuncturist, meditation teacher and conscious communication specialist.

She is also a #1 international bestselling author, highly acclaimed 2x international TEDx speaker, invited professor at the University of Monaco, and mentor for the Global Institute for Extraordinary Women.

She has also written or contributed 10 books including Time to Rise, and her latest book , I Love You, Me! explores her personal journey from depression to real self-love. Follow Andrea on Twitter @DrAndrea

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am an American living on the French Riviera running a global media company. My background is as a holistic medical doctor (US trained & licensed) with a focus on positive psychology, sex education and neuroscience.

Because I have worked simultaneously in health journalism (with 4 years as the Medical Director & Spokesperson for the Discovery Channel with appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CNN, LUXE-TV, and more, I have represented global brands in the luxury and lifestyle space for 20 years.

I now help healers, coaches, and therapists bring their message and products to the world through the media in my role as the Managing Director for Make Your Mark Global.

Growing up I felt like a misfit, having so many interested and being very sensitive (and psychic!) and I hid my battle with depression for nearly 2 decades. Once I gave my first TEDx “Become Who You Really Are” I decided that I had to be true to my real self. I was shocked to find out that many other people were also feeling depressed and stressed due to living a lie, or not sharing their truth.

Personally, I’m now on a mission to help millions of people break free from depression and anxiety to live as their Authentic Self with the Real Self Love Movement.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I definitely loved science and biology, and since my mother was also a medical doctor, I thought I would follow in her footsteps. The truth is I would have preferred to pursue a career in the arts! But my father insisted that being an actor or musician wasn’t a guarantee that I could support myself. And I got the sense that the arts were frivolous.

But now, working with both the media and psychology with a focus on conscious communication, I believe my career and life mission are perfectly aligned! I no longer regret not pursuing the arts right out of high school, but it certainly wasn’t planned!

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

It has always been a challenge explaining what I do. People like to put others into a box, it makes it easier to understand them. But I have many passions and many talents that haven’t always seemed obvious to others.

I tried to put myself into little boxes, or I would hide certain aspects of my personality or work to try to be accepted. But that proved to be too limited and ultimately contributed even more to the depression I endured.

When I finally reached my breaking point I was desperate for relief. I prayed that God would take my life and that’s what led to a breakthrough. My depression was ended when I had a spiritual ‘out of body’ experience, and all of the anxiety disappeared.

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

Since leaving the high stress life in America I start and end my day with quiet time for meditation and reflection. I lived with the influence of societal ‘noise’ for so long, that I cherish my time to become still and mindful of what my heart and soul really desire for my life.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Along my journey I’ve met some amazing people who’ve mentored me and really saw the truth of who I am. It has dramatically added to my confidence and my ability to stand in the truth of who I am.

Now I offer mentoring for those who want to share their work or their message with the world because there is a lot of old programming to get past. And being able to mirror back to my mentees the brilliance and unique gifts I see in them is my way of paying forward the gifts of confidence my mentors gave me.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

I would encourage women to embrace their femininity -- even in the workplace. I feel that as we’ve denied our emotions to try to be more masculine or to prove we could do things as well as men, we’ve lost a bit of our edge. By tapping into our intuition, feminine energy and poise, we don’t have to prove anything, we can stand alongside men and women in our full power.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My greatest achievement to date is to raise my daughter with the freedom to express who she really is. She is not hampered by any of the doubt, fear or impulse to conform to the expectations of other which I had. She loves life and is bold enough to express herself already -- which makes me so happy!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m now inspired to share my personal story along with the 5-step Cornerstone Process for building Real Self Love which is outlined in my book, “I Love You, Me!”

I am committed to supporting, inspiring and empowering others on our collective mission to heal holistically, love wholeheartedly and, live authentically. My vision is to impact 1 million people in our global community of heart-centered, soul-inspired, conscious change makers at Real Self Love.

Carla Raven

Inspirational Woman: Carla Raven, Social Strategy Director at SHARE Creative

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m the strategy director at marketing transformation company SHARE Creative, which harnesses data and technology to create best in class strategies and campaigns for its clients. I head up the strategy team which is the umbrella for all paid strategy, analytics, insights and data science disciplines. In a nutshell, in my role, I, along with my team, bring together fragmented data sources to help brands use data to inform the bigger brand objectives and solve business challenges (whether this be audience segmentation, market sizing, etc). I work very closely with the creative strategy director to help inform and deliver the creative campaigns and strategies.

My background is Psychology, statistics and analytics and I call upon these skills within my current role.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was always fascinated in human behaviour and it is still my biggest passion point today.  I actually started out working on research projects within public health and then migrated over to the marketing industry. I truly believe that Psychology, data and research is the gateway into marketing and believe that the principles of this, when applied correctly, are what create truly ground-breaking work

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Yes, my biggest challenge was moving = into marketing after six years of working in public health. I felt like I had to prove myself and learn a whole new industry, but once I had entered the marketing industry, I knew it was the right thing to do!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Yes, I have a mentor currently and I would always be open to mentoring others. I think it’s really beneficial. -  A mentor provides guidance and gives you a sense of reassurance whilst also challenging you when you need it.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?


It would be to make sure that all women feel totally supported juggling home and work life. This can happen in a number of ways from introducing flexible hours, work from home days and staggered return to work after having a baby. If a standard is set from the top down, then this is hugely helpful in distributing cultural expectations of what is and is not acceptable company wide. It is one of the most difficult things to juggle work and have a family for both women and men, so any workplaces that adopt a flexible, supportive and “no judgement” policy is a winner in my book! As a mother myself, it’s a topic that’s very close to my heart.

How would you encourage young girls or women into a career in STEM?

I think it’s important for women in STEM to attend talks, take part in discussions, provide advice in publications and generally make themselves available to the next generation of talent to raise awareness for the types of opportunities in the field. A key part of what I want to do is to break down the barriers females feel they face when entering into more traditional male roles.

More and more women are entering studies and careers in analytics, tech, data and mathematics, and this is no surprise to me. When I was studying at university 80 per cent of my classmates were female which was interesting considering a third of the degree concentrated on research and statistics – modules that are culturally often associated with men.

I believe that the appetite is there, it just needs to be nurtured through increased awareness of opportunities, empowerment and confidence.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Developing and working on SHARE Creative’s RAPID proposition. This is an audience demographic product that goes beyond audience demographics using psychographics in order to further understand how to effectively target each audience set. We use region, attitudes, personality, interests and demographics to fully understand each audience segment, how they live their life, and what they respond to. Brands use these insights to engage with consumers in a meaningful way. We took this product to market earlier this year and have already implemented it fully with one brand, which helped them shift their market position.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I would love to design and release more products to take to market. At SHARE Creative, we have just finished putting together a market sizing product and I am now looking into what our next product can be based on market needs!

I really believe that measurement and analytics will become a focus point next year too. I would like to nail how we measure dark social and allow our agency to adopt an “everyone is an analyst” approach through one, centralised command centre. I also believe that there is a lot that can be done around forecasting trends and want to work on helping brands to mitigate risk better through effective use of statistics and data.

If you cannot already tell, I am very passionate about using data to help brands solve business problems. I believe that there is a huge appetite and need for this, so my main focus now and into the future will be not only using data, but taking how we use it to the next level in order to continue to help brands realise their potential!

Nancy Doyle featured

Inspirational Woman: Nancy Doyle | Occupational psychologist & CEO of Genius Within


Nancy Doyle

Nancy Doyle is an occupational psychologist and the CEO of Genius Within, specialising in the workplace support of adults with neuro-differences. 

She is featured in the BBC’s series Employable Me, the first episode of which aired on Monday 27 November.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

My first real job was working with young people who had learning disabilities and mental health needs. Whilst studying for my bachelor’s degree in Psychology I moved into recruitment, initially providing emergency back-up support for bank care workers and home helps. My first real crack at sales management was when I opened a new branch for the company and we turned over a million in our first year! However corporate life was not for me. I find it very constricting, so I became self-employed in 2003 whilst completing my Master’s in Occupational Psychology. I have delivered welfare-to-work projects, both client-facing and with recruitment and training leadership roles. I have delivered cultural change projects and became a neurodiversity assessor, workplace disability coach, as well as training coaches. I became a parent to twin boys in 2006 and kept my consultancy alive with the support of a long time collaborator and mentor, Caitlin Walker, with whom I was a co-director of Training Attention Ltd for 6 years. In 2011, both my children started school and I thought I would have more time on my hands! (Ha ha). I realised that doing 2-3 day consultancy projects away from home wouldn’t work anymore, so I started Genius Within, the aim being to do the projects near home and subcontract those that were farther away. By 2012 we had 25 associates delivering for us, in 2013 we had 52, 2014 we had 75, 2015 we had over 100! We now have over 100 associates and also 35 members of staff.

We provide full UK coverage for disability assessment and coaching in the workplace, focused on neurodiversity and hidden disability, including the impact that long-term conditions such as MS have on our thinking ability. We also provide personal development and vocational counselling to people who are in prison and unemployed. As the company has grown, so has my role. I went from being a practitioner psychologist, to a team leader of associates, to a head of service to a managing director and now a CEO in 6 years. It’s been one hell of a ride and I have had to learn whilst delivering constantly. In my current role, I supervise a team of Directors and Heads of Department. However my passion is campaigning, service innovation and building relationships and partnerships. I think what we do is vital for social inclusion and economic progress and equality.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, but it has had the same theme running throughout it. I believe that human communities work best when they embrace difference, and that people are happiest when they are valued and able to be productive, in whatever form that takes. We need to move towards a society that places human value as equal to economic value. I feel as passionate about social injustice and reduced opportunity now as I did when I was a teenager but I’ve used my work to get better at creating a clear, operational and valuable alternative.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

I face challenges every day. I love challenges. Problem solving is my favourite activity – how to adapt to market changes, looking for new ways to bring practical support in disability inclusion for businesses, finding the right delivery model for tight government budgets that produces long-term results without compromising integrity – it’s a challenging world I thrive on that. My main difficulty day to day is ensuring that as Genius Within grows we address the pitfalls of small to medium growth – cashflow, systems failures – whilst avoiding becoming too labour intensive, too admin focused and losing our cool.

Our internal company value is to practice what we preach, to walk our own talk and stay transparent, listening. We have associates and front-line employees on our board, we are planning an employee shareholder scheme, we regularly seek feedback and try to operate as coordinating hubs rather than a pyramid management structure. It’s really hard and sometimes I get it wrong. But staying congruent to our values is the only way to ensure that Genius Within is a company that I am proud to work for.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I am often blessed with mentors from different places. Debbie Beavis mentored my first management career and I thank her daily for the lessons she taught me. Likewise, my Chartership supervisor Malcolm Ballantie gave me the direction and confidence to practise as a psychologist. I seek supervision from talents, world class coaches Penny Tompkins and James Lawley and my PhD supervisor, Almuth McDowall has taught me how to write, think and evaluate at a master level. I have mentored several psychologists in their early career, and hope that I have instilled a strong value of placing client needs first and having professional integrity. Mentoring is learning at its best, we thrive when we are exposed to role models who we can learn from vicariously and who can support us while we practise and develop.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Be bossy. Own it. I’m not bossy, I’m the boss. State what you want to have happen clearly and loudly and to hell with anyone that tells you off for being direct. Let’s take back the control and stop waiting for people to give us the space to talk – ain’t never gonna happen. A study of the language used in appraisal feedback in Big 4 accounting firms revealed that the word bossy did not appear once in men’s feedback, though it was present in women’s. My first ever school report said “Nancy is a sociable child, but can be a bit bossy”. Would that be written if I were a boy? Or would I have trainee leadership skills?

I’ve been blessed with almost exclusively female mentors who weren’t afraid to speak up, I stand proudly among them and use my innate bossiness to advocate for my employees, my associates and our clients.

How would you encourage more women and young girls to choose a career in STEM?

Get rid of pink lego. Lego is just lego. The pink and blue social conditioning starts early and it is far worse now than in was when I was a child, though some things have changed for the better. Watching 80’s movies with my kids is eye opening. Do you realise that the opening scene of Ghostbusters is the older Physics professor trying to seduce the very young blond student? It’s outrageous. The Bechtel test revealed the terrible lack of female role modelling in movies, the Symon’s test revealed the same in Business Management schools. We need to see people like us doing things we want to do – these subtle messages affect girls and boys from a very young age. I was so good at maths in primary school that I completed the course work for Key stage 2 when I was 9 and I was sat in the corridor by myself to work on problems while the rest of my class were taught. However by the time I was 16, maths was my only C at GCSE. How did that happen? No one told me to stop doing maths, but I received more praise for writing and drama than I ever did for maths. I have recovered my maths ability through scientific research and learning to drive a set of management accounts, but how could we have prevented this? On the plus side, we really do have some amazing role models now. In my boys’ primary school one of the governors is an engineer – she used to take the maths brain kids out for stretch lessons, thereby engaging their skills and role modelling being a competent maths female. Things like this make all the difference.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Last year my husband and I took our children out of school for a year and we went to live in Vermont, USA, where I am a dual US citizen. We wanted to travel, enjoy the kids and stop the treadmill for a while. We saved enough to live on for a year, rented the house and cats and just left with one suitcase and a bicycle each. It was very hard to plan, arrange and let go of the business reins (even though I did stay in touch quite regularly) but it was, without doubt, the right for us to do. We spent the year skiing, hiking, we took a 12,000 mile road trip and learned more about each other than we ever would have done with protected ‘family time’ at weekends. We challenged ourselves to let go of our safety net and head off into the great unknown and met a lot of amazing people along the way.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I have two marathons to finish – one literal and one metaphorical. I am running the London Marathon to raise money for Tourette Syndrome research, a very difficult conditions as shown in the amazing story of Ryan in this year’s BBC Series, Employable Me. I wrote a literature review paper for the British Psychological Society this year and discovered that despite a similar prevalence to autism, Tourettes receives about 1% of the same research funding. I am also in the last year of my PhD at City University of London and the write up will be a marathon. However, this will bring me to my next challenge, which is to continue researching and closing the evidence gap that we have around disability inclusion. For neurodiverse conditions, most research is about diagnosis and brain scanning – all very interesting but doesn’t help line managers, employees, or businesses decide how to help neurodiverse people achieve their potential.

My role on BBC’s Employable Me

I took part in the BBC2 Documentary series, Employable Me, to highlight the hurdles people with disabilities face and the amazing talents that can be overlooked if assessment is based on what is not working well, what people can’t do, what needs fixing. My company runs in-work coaching and assessment support as well as employability-focused groups for people with neurodiversity and mental health needs. Our positive assessment techniques draw out the sometimes exceptional qualities of our clients. To overlook these talents is frustrating for the individuals and detrimental to any future employer who is missing out on available skills and dedication.

Helen Wylde featured

Inspirational Woman: Helen Wylde | Managing Director, Bringme


Helen Wylde

Helen Wylde is the UK managing director of Bringme, a Belgian digital solution to sending and receiving parcels at home and at work.

With a varied and extensive background in business, marketing and tech, ranging from banking to telecoms, entrepreneurship and leadership, and now onto Bringme, Helen is an inspirational woman leading the way for women in tech.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I am the Managing Director of Bringme UK - the intelligent Smart Locker service for residential buildings, University residences and Corporate businesses, currently doing a BREXIN and opening up the UK to our innovative IoT products and services.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes when I hit 25 and realised if I didn’t have a proper plan I wasn’t going to get anywhere! I put together plans A, B and C. Needless to say these have changed many times! I now normally review where I am and what I need to do next in terms of skills, qualifications, experience and networking about once a quarter.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Yes, many, from getting the right experience and skills to get to the next level, through to people who I had to persuade I could deliver. Someone once told me I was “tenacious in the face of adversity”, and I have hung onto that as a good mantra for my career. I am also lucky in so much as I have had many exceptional and inspirational bosses who have coached me through my more challenging experiences and a great support network of family and friends who seem to believe in me!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I haven’t had a mentor and I truly wish I had! I sincerely believe in mentoring as a concept and do have various relationships where I am mentoring. To me it is a privilege to be asked to do this, after all, this is the way to build future talent for UK plc.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Actually, it’s a great time to be a woman at work. I think if was to change anything it would be to make women more confident in their ability - you really can do anything if you put your mind to it - but most importantly be true to who you are, and work hard!

Sulinna Ong featured

Inspirational Woman: Sulinna Ong | VP Artist Marketing at Deezer


Sulinna Ong is Vice President of Artist Marketing at Deezer.

Inspirational Woman: Sulinna Ong | VP Artist Marketing at Deezer Ms. Ong is responsible for leading Deezer’s Artist Marketing team globally and setting its strategy and working directly with labels and managers to identify opportunities that will appeal to content creators and music lovers. Ong brings 16 years’ experience of pioneering global marketing strategies in the music industry, as well as directly managing major artists; coupled with stints marketing leading edge software, AI and robotics products.

Following her studies in music at Western Sydney University, Ong joined Sony to work on the world’s first consumer robot product, AIBO. She later moved to London where she joined SonyBMG as International Marketing Manager, Artist Development, winning the Music Week Best International Marketing Campaign for Il Divo. After a stint on Kasabian’s management team she moved to Live Nation Artists as Director of International Marketing & Artist Development working with the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Jay Z and Roc Nation and then on to become CMO of award-winning music video app Youdio.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I was and am a “planner” but I’ve had to learn how to do this in a productive fluid way. In the earlier stages of my career I had a very rigid view of what I thought “success” looked like, it was an unrealistic plan of rapid promotions with no failure along the way - it was one upward trajectory on a graph with no dips. And of course I learned quickly that real life doesn’t work that way. I thought that what I needed to do was simply work harder than anyone else and all would come and roll out smoothly but the world of work is not a straightforward meritocracy and life is unpredictable and full of variables out of one’s control. You have to learn to roll with the punches and not be too attached to a “perfect” version of what you think your career should look like.

I’ve had to let go of a lot of assumptions and accept that there will always be peaks and troughs and that, when you experience failure (as cliché as this will sound), it can lead to deeper understanding and emotional maturity that grounds you for success later down the line. I’ve also come to understand that “timing” has a lot to do with success.

When I think about the roles I want to hold and the companies for which I want to work, I assess where I am currently and my skillset, to identify the gaps. Then I figure out what I need to do to bridge that gap. I think it’s important to have a realistic view of your skills and experience and do a health check regularly. I don’t take anything for granted.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

There will always be challenges along the way, especially if you want to succeed. If you aren’t being challenged on a weekly or even daily basis you aren’t pushing yourself out of your comfort zone enough. There’s no magic formula for dealing with challenges because, by their very nature, they are always new and different. So stay flexible, learn as much as you can about stuff you don’t know, and don’t be afraid to ask others for help or advice.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a leadership position for the first time?

Firstly, a leadership role is comprised of two parts; the “leadership” side and the “management” side. Aren’t these two things the same you may ask? Well no, they’re not. A good leader needs to inspire the people under them, have a vision and be able to impart it; but that has to be coupled with the ability to execute - to organize and manage people to achieve real results.

Also taking a leadership role means taking accountability for a team and having to make the right decisions, even when they might not be the most popular decisions.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

Qualifications aren’t just certificates on a piece of paper, it’s everything that a candidate brings to the table including their unique life experiences. From that point of view there are never two equally-qualified candidates. One way or another, someone will always be ahead of the pack. The trick is to keep an open enough mind to recognize that.

How do you manage your own boss?

I respect the fact that my boss has limited time and is busier than I am, with a lot of people vying for his time and attention, therefore I ensure that I’m as efficient and as prepared as possible for our one-on-one meetings. This means knowing exactly the topics that need to be discussed and what I want to achieve out of the short time we have together - whether that’s feedback, sign off etc. I send a list of talking points to him ahead of our meeting so there’s a structured agenda. It’s also important to take into account your boss’s approach and work personality and how often they like you to communicate with them, some individuals prefer more regular check-ins and detail and others prefer a general overview - you need to quickly ascertain where they sit in this spectrum and adjust and calibrate accordingly.

Additionally, I ensure that if there are any significant developments, that my boss is the first person to know and that he is informed directly by me. I never want my boss to be put on the spot without the right information and updates at hand regarding anything that my team and I are working on.

Be as pre-emptive as possible. Don’t wait to be told what to do - look at what’s needs doing and start delivering it.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I’m not a morning person and I know it’s fashionable at the moment to say “I get up at 4am and go for a run then have an egg white omelette and green tea” but that is absolutely not true for me. My job involves a lot of late nights and gigs, so I frequently get to bed late, but still have to get up next morning for meetings. So the day may start with an early product meeting in the office (aided by coffee!) and end with a meeting at a venue for a gig.

One of the things I enjoy about my job is that my days vary so much from one day to the next. I regularly have to go meet with artists, artist managers and record labels about their work and music, maybe in a recording studio or at the record label. I travel a lot for work visiting our offices in other countries and also speaking at music and tech conferences worldwide.

I have to listen to and keep up-to-date with an enormous amount of music so I have to carve out time in my day every day to listen to music from the latest up and coming talent to the biggest global superstars (and everything in between). I also spend a lot of time working with the Deezer app, and looking at data analytics and speaking to different teams to spot trends and see what songs our users worldwide are liking and listening to. Working at a music streaming company means being right on the borderline between music and technology, so my day needs to embrace both.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Get to know as many people as possible in an organisation across different departments. Spend time talking to everyone (whether you work closely with them or not) to understand what they do and to get insight into their goals and the problems they face. I see a lot of people having lunch with the same group of people every day and, whilst we all have people at work we are closer to and get along with on a personal level, you need to break out of these habits and get to know people outside of your direct circle.

You not only learn an incredible amount about others but they also get to know you. If you don’t take the time to get to know others, why would you assume they would take the time to know you?

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked for people who did mentor me but this was not in a formal “I’m mentoring/coaching you” kind of way. I worked for them and was allowed to watch them negotiate and I paid close attention to how they wrote, how they explained things, how they negotiated and learned an immense amount just by observing them. On top of this, these people took the time to show me how I could improve my own work whether that took the form of correcting me when I made a mistake, telling me clearly if something I was doing wasn’t at the right quality level or that I should push myself further to raise the bar even higher out of my own comfort zone - all of which I was grateful for as it made me better at what I do.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker
  • The best networkers I’ve seen in action are people who truly have an interest in getting to know others and connecting people to one another, not for their own personal gain, but because they think the introduction will be beneficial for the other parties. This means they create a network of people who genuinely like and respect each other, and they are included in that. What goes around comes around.
  • When you’re at a function “networking”, give the person you’re talking to your full attention - that means being fully engaged in the conversation whilst you’re having it. Don’t talk to someone whilst also having one eye on the rest of the room scouring for someone else who may be more important to speak to. This is incredibly rude and people know when you’re doing this. It leaves an awful impression. Don’t be that person.
  • Don’t just network up, some of the best leads I’ve had have come from the most unexpected places and people.
What does the future hold for you?

At the beginning of this interview I said that one of the lessons I had to learn was not to over plan and create rigid expectations, so whenever anyone asks me this question I drill down to the essence of what it is I really want and enjoy - and that’s working on innovative projects that allow me the opportunity to do my best work with people who I can learn from and respect.

Lauren Kisser featured

Inspirational Woman: Lauren Kisser | Director, Amazon Prime Air


Lauren Kisser is a Director of Amazon Prime Air, a delivery system from Amazon designed to safely get packages to customers in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles, also called drones.
Lauren Kisser
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I was exposed to computers and technology from an early age and by the time I finished school, the internet was really starting to take off. I knew I wanted to be part of this revolution and took my career in that direction. My first job was with a small marketing firm where I oversaw the technology that supported the business. I quickly developed an enthusiasm for using technology to solve customer and business problems. I wanted to learn more so I left the company to study business leadership and technology at grad school. I then put my passion and education to work by driving security and compliance initiatives for Disney and Washington Mutual, a bank. This led to my dream job at Amazon – where I’ve now been for over ten years. I joined the Prime Air team about three years ago.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve encountered the challenges most people face in their careers especially when it comes to balancing work and home life. I’m a wife, mother of two and a passionate career woman so finding time to prioritise everything I love is always challenging. My job is demanding, so I’m lucky that I have an amazing support system at home. My husband and I constantly focus on making sure that our priorities are aligned. Communication is the key to success in balancing family and work life. We always talk and ensure we’re on the same page and I think we have been very successful in that.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

The first thing is to have confidence. I think this can help anybody achieve anything. For me, confidence comes from playing to your strengths and not trying to be someone else. If you try to be someone you’re not, it’s uncomfortable for everyone. So it’s important to know your own voice and be confident in what you’re bringing to the team. As a leader, I look for opportunities where I can help others develop their skills. This makes for a stronger team.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

At Amazon, we have leadership principles which we use every day, whether we’re discussing ideas for new projects, deciding on the best solution for a customer’s problem, or interviewing candidates. Beyond that, I base my decision on who could have the most impact, not just in my department but at Amazon as a whole. For me it’s important to know if that person can add a spark or be a catalyst within the organisation and also be able to motivate others.

How do you manage your own boss?

It’s really about looking around corners, determining what their needs are going to be and getting ahead of that. I love problem-solving, so for me, managing my boss means identifying solutions to resolve potential issues they might face. Sometimes I don’t know the answer, but if I can spot the issue ahead of time, I can come up with a solution and provide recommendations.  It’s important to be on the front-foot as much as possible.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

Being based in the U.K., my day usually starts by scanning emails to see what’s come in overnight from our teams across the world. This helps me determine what the priorities are for the day. Once I’m up to speed, it’s breakfast with my husband and kids before starting the obligatory school run.

At our Amazon Prime Air office in Cambridge, I sit down with my team and assess what support they need for the day ahead. I also do a quick assessment of issues that might need resolving tomorrow and think about possible solutions.

Like a lot of working mums, when I get home, my attention switches to the children and getting them ready for bed. After this, I might enjoy a glass of wine with my husband while we chat about our day and then have another quick scan of my emails before bed.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations

Try to find one or two things where you can participate and deliver results but be intentional about it and don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s important to be focused and take on a few key initiatives.  Find opportunities that give you visibility within your organisation to say “hey, I’m working on this and these are the results” and share them across the organisation.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

My current coach is training me to ask more questions and to resist jumping to conclusions. I’ve learned to stop and get more information when I find myself saying things like “my assumption is” or “I guess.” These are triggers for me to ask for more details.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbie networker?

I understand networking doesn’t come naturally to everyone and can be rather daunting. My advice is to plan ahead. Before attending a networking event, think about what you want to get out of it.  Is there a specific challenge you need help or advice on? If so, use this as an icebreaker. Have a couple of questions in mind and don’t be afraid to approach people.  Everyone is in the same boat! Networking helps build skills and change perspectives. The best piece of advice I received is that people love talking about themselves so start with a simple question such as, “What challenge are you currently taking on?”

What does the future hold for you?

I’ve worked at Amazon for over a decade and truly believe in how we are solving complex problems for customers, making their lives easier and building great teams in the process. I want to continue to be a part of that journey and use my experience to coach and mentor others.  I really think that’s where I can have a big impact.

Tell us something about yourself that would surprise people

I am super proud of taking part in a challenge to raise money for breast cancer research. I summited three of the highest peaks in the state of Washington (Mt Rainier, Mt Baker and Mt Adams). Each climb was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I raised over $20,000. I’m now thinking of taking on the UK-equivalent by participating the Three Peaks Challenge!