Kirsty Maxey featured

Inspirational Woman: Kirsty Maxey | Joint Managing Director, Teamspirit

 

HS_Kirsty Maxey

Kirsty Maxey is Joint Managing Director for Financial Services and Fintech specialist agency, Teamspirit.

She is dedicated to transforming both consumer and B2B brands by creating innovative solutions that deliver measurable success.

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

With over 20 years’ experience in marketing communications, I started work as a graduate trainee with SunAlliance, specialising in marketing and communications. At the height of the 1980's boom I helped to market the first pet insurance, Pet Plan, in the UK before moving into publishing with The Scotsman Publications, where we launched the first Scottish Sunday newspaper called Scotland on Sunday. I then went on to set up my own digital marketing consultancy in Scotland advising a diverse mix of clients.

In 2000 I came back to London, working in advertising with Teamspirit, and currently work with a broad range of financial clients helping them transform their brand experience for the better. I love creating innovative solutions for clients that deliver measurable success. I believe our key strength lies in making our clients’ visions a reality by building them a strategic understanding of consumer behaviour and desires, in order to deliver transformative brand experiences.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t, but I always grabbed at opportunities as they came along. My motto is say yes and then work out how to do it! I was once offered a job which came with a car, the interviewer asked if I could drive and I said yes. I was offered the job and then had four weeks to learn how to drive – and I did it!

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

Setting up my first business was a challenge, it was the start of the dotcom boom and we were helping clients’ set-up their first web experience. We started off with no money, no clients, no office and no colleagues and you have to wear a lot of hats, but that taught me that anything is possible with a little time. 25 years on, that business is still going strong.

Helping companies and businesses transform is always challenging, and cultural transformation in particular, is always painful if its going to really work.

The best way of dealing with it is to plan for all eventualities, keep trying and failing, but always moving forward, stay open to challenges along the way and keep communicating. As my gran always said, nothing great ever happens without some pain.

Do you have a typical workday? How does you start your day and how does it end?

I wake up early at 5.30am and I’m always ready to go. I like to cycle to work and you can get across London really quickly at 6am, the roads are all clear and its actually a real treat to cycle past all those amazing landmarks. Once in work I have a quick shower and breakfast and I’m at my desk by 7.30am. That’s when I get my best thinking done and get myself organised for the day. The next 8 hours will consist of a mix of meetings with the Creative and Planning teams to catch-up on new ideas and insights for our clients. Presentations to clients on how we can transform their brand experience for their customers. If I’m lucky I’ll get away at 6.30pm and cycle home but several times a week we will be out networking at industry events or catching up with colleagues. We have a brilliant team and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Ideally I’m in bed by 10pm and fast asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Have you ever faced sexism in the workplace? How did you respond/deal with this?

I’ve worked in some very male dominated environments in financial services and publishing and in the 80s and 90’s they were still very sexist. There were no women on the Boards and very few in senior management positions. In fact, there were still rules then that women had to wear a skirt and heels! In those days, the easiest approach was just to ignore it and plough on regardless, now I would call it out.

How would encourage more women and young girls into a male-dominated career?

By showing them just how much fun they can have and how liberating it can be. In a male dominated world, women can really stand out, they are often the ones who will encourage more collaboration and bring creativity to their thinking, which is what the world of work needs more than ever.

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

I have mentored many people, men and women over the years – it is a brilliant opportunity to pass on your knowledge and hopefully fire-up the next generation of boundary breakers! But it is also very inspirational for me working with young, bright people who have lots of ideas they want to share too.

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

I would give them the confidence to speak up and share their point of view. We are really lucky at Teamspirit and ensure that there is a 50/50 split from the Board all the way through the company. And we encourage everyone to have their say and get involved.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Jumping out of an aeroplane for the first time, on my own, was really scary. But I think helping to build Teamspirit into the no. one integrated specialist financial services agency in the UK, a company that celebrates diversity and one that has helped many careers get started.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I hope that I can inspire more people and women especially to be the best they can be and give them a platform to be brilliant.


Rachel Grigg featured

Inspirational Woman: Rachel Grigg | Co-Founder & Managing Director, Voodoo Park

 

Rachel Grigg is Co-Founder and Managing Director of digital agency Voodoo Park.

She works closely with the CEO and CTO to direct the company’s creative vision, strategy and growth.

Rachel Grigg

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

When it comes to tech I’m entirely self-taught, having initially started out in the arts. Although it didn’t take me long to realise that tech was my thing. My first job in the sector was at a small company analysing text messaging. Over the years I worked my way up the ranks, via a series of roles – account manager, marketing manager, innovation manager. I was at Vodafone, initially in the (at the time entirely new) internet services team, where we worked on the first ever iPhone launch.

That was awhile ago! There were lots of firsts, I helped create the first ever data bundles and launched netbooks and mobile broadband dongles into the consumer market . I’ve been working in digital for 15 years now, so I got to experience the digital revolution from the inside, particularly in relation to mobile. Voodoo Park is my second MD role. I’m working on our expansion, strategy and innovation. It’s all about understanding our brand, looking at who we are in the market, and ensuring we expand in a grown-up and sustainable way for both ourselves and our partners.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, never! I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist, that was my first specialism. But when it came down to it I was always most interested in the tech aspects of it, for example the newest camera or latest imaging equipment. Archaeology involved some great technology, but stuff like that was slow to develop in that sector, which I found frustrating. So, I drifted into my first tech role, the SMS job, and immediately found it fun and exciting. But truthfully, I fell into that, there was no plan. I just knew I liked tech. That’s how it often is with genuine passions, it always pays to follow your instincts.

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

Yes, lots and lots! I think working in tech and digital companies constantly challenges in multiple ways every day. I became an expert in technical delivery. That involves one challenge after another because new digital things will inevitably go wrong when they first launch. You’re working for high profile customers that want everything yesterday, and you have to make sure your crew stay motivated, enough to get them through the long hours that project delivery involves. In those situations, team morale is so important.

Staying directly involved in all aspects of a project is the best way to overcome those types of challenges. Of course, being a woman in the sector brings its own challenges, starting with often being the only woman in the room. I am finding my challenges are becoming fewer in terms of customer delivery, and are now morphing into business challenges. At Voodoo park we are passionate about ensuring we have as diverse a culture as we can in order to challenge our way of thinking and challenge the way the world has been run in business for as long as anyone can remember.

Do you have a typical workday? How does your start your day and how does it end?

The only real constant is getting up and getting my two boys off to nursery! After that I’ll probably come home, have a cup of tea and write out my to do list, cross-checking it against the day before. I love a good list! Then a daily call with the team, at Voodoo Park we’ve really embraced remote working. This means constantly exploring new ways to stay in touch with each other. Then I’ll work my way through my list, I seem to be making lots of calls at the moment. I am working a lot on strategy, so a chunk of my day consists of doing quite a bit of good old fashioned thinking.

I also make sure I take my YooDoo Time, this is for all our guys to take two hours a week in work time to do something to improve their mental health or physical well being. I close off my day speaking to the team, getting the boys and then chilling out with them before bath time. I go into London for meetings a few times a week, but mainly I’m based at home, which massively suits my lifestyle. I think giving people that kind of flexibility empowers them, which in turn leaves them motivated to work. At Voodoo Park we really encourage it, and find it works really well for us as a business.

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

I’m a big fan of it. It’s a really positive thing to help people to develop and when done right both sides get so much out of it. I do think it’s important that the people are well matched though, otherwise it’s not mutually beneficial. I’ve had a couple of mentors over the years, one of whom was a very senior guy at Vodafone, and personality wise we matched perfectly. It was quite early on in my career and he was absolutely brilliant. However, sometimes it can be more about them than you, and that can be difficult. I have unofficially mentored others in the past, and we’re in the process of kicking off a mentoring scheme ourselves with the STEMettes organisation.

How do you think we can encourage more women and girls into a career in STEM?

It’s such a difficult problem to solve. There is a lot of work on this going on right now, it’s a big discussion point, which is obviously great to see. We need to focus on making girls know it’s accessible to them, and requires a perception shift. It’s not something that is going to change overnight, regardless of how much effort we all put in. Women and girls need to be given the confidence to give it a go and not worry about initial failures, the very nature of the sector is all about testing hypotheses. For that to happen we need to change how we teach in schools, and sometimes even how we’re raising our girls. Encouragement, access, and raising awareness all have a vital role to play, but real change is going to take time. At Vodafone all the buildings are named after inspirational tech figures, and just recently they changed some to be named after women for the first time. That’s a massive sign of change and it was great to see.

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

From a personal point of view (and I do of course understand this doesn’t apply to everyone), but for women that have chosen to have a family and go back full time, flexible working really is the most important thing. Many women really want to continue their careers but a lack of flexible options hold them back. We need to create environments that help them to feel free to return to the workplace, in a way that works for them. This applies to men as well, it’s an issue for families in general. Help with childcare would of course also have a big impact.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My current role. I’ve worked on some amazing product launches and deals in the past, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter before anyone had heard of them, but my current role has enabled me to realise what I’m capable of helping a business to achieve. I have definitely been pigeon-holed in the past and as a result been frustrated and made mistakes. But I have learnt from them and I am now able to now push Voodoo Park forward, helping us all to achieve our goals, utilising all my experience and referring to all the challenges I’ve overcome, it’s a really rewarding experience. I feel like it’s an achievement to have got where I am. The way Voodoo Park genuinely embraces women in tech, and give me so much genuine autonomy, rather than paying lip service to it, are more things to be proud of.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’d like to help more businesses to reach their potential. And more women. Personally, I genuinely feel like I’m reaching my own potential now, and I’d love to encourage others to do the same. My dream would be to move into an advisory role, for companies specifically and women more generally. I still learn new things every day, and looking at ways to harness the knowledge you accumulate to help others is always rewarding. For now, I’m focused on making Voodoo Park a big success story. Then I can convey how we did it to others. Failing all that I’d settle for running a B&B in the French countryside, cooking up a storm with my own wine cellar!


Inspirational Woman: Claire Canning | Renewable energy research engineer taking a three year industrial placement at EDF Energy

 

Claire Canning graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Marine and Environmental Biology. She is currently undertaking a three year industrial placement from EDF Energy.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company
claire

I graduated from the University of St Andrews with a degree in Marine and Environmental Biology and then went on to do a Masters in Conservation and Biodiversity, where I developed a particular interest in marine conservation and the effects of climate change on global biodiversity.

I have always had an interest in offshore renewable energy technologies and how they interact with the marine environment, so this coupled with my Masters experience paved the way for me to embark on a three year research project with EDF Energy, working as a renewable energy research engineer.

Offshore wind research is exciting because the industry is still relatively new and everything I’m doing is supporting its future development.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I had a love of marine mammals from a young age, and taking biology and chemistry at school allowed me to pursue that passion at university. I’ve been able to combine my childhood interest in marine biology with research into offshore marine renewable energies and how they interact with the environment. The development of offshore marine technology is so interesting, and with cleaner and greener energy sources becoming so important, it’s very exciting to be part of.

Pursuing STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) can open the door to such a diverse range of careers and working environments and I never let anything stop me from pursuing those subjects myself. My advice to young girls today would be to create their own opportunities and not let the fact there may be more boys taking a subject hold them back if they have a passion for something.

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

I’ve been very lucky with my career path to date and haven’t come across too many roadblocks. I have received a tremendous amount of support from EDF Energy and my university to help me success, and both have helped to build my confidence. As with my experience at school, I would say that there currently aren’t enough women working in my field – sometimes I’m the only woman in the room. But I’m passionate about what I do and so it’s not something that bothers me day to day. I can see it would be something that could put young girls off pursuing STEM subjects at school and careers in later life.

Currently only one in five people working in STEM is a woman, so I think it’s really important that women who are currently working in STEM industries do what they can to encourage young girls not to close the door on the amazing careers they could have in the future.

I’m currently a role model for EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious programme which puts a spotlight on the under-representation of women in STEM related careers. As part of the programme we have created a virtual reality video which I feature in alongside a structural engineer and a coder, showing young girls some of the most in-demand careers that will be available to them when they start working. I love that I’m able to show how exciting my job is in a really engaging way, and hope it will be inspirational to young girls currently at school.

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

I mainly focus on research for my PHD, studying the effects of corrosion and marine growth on offshore wind turbines. I am always challenged to think about how the design and construction of offshore structures are affected by corrosion and marine growth and it’s my job to come up with possible solutions.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

 A piece of advice that was given to me was to always be proactive. Don’t sit and wait for somebody to offer you what you want – create your own success.

My dad was, and still is, a huge role model for me as he came from a far less privileged background and is probably the hardest working person I know.

He has worked every day of his life to make sure that me and my brothers had all the opportunities he didn’t have. I think it’s him that really inspires me to challenge myself and has encouraged me through every step of my PhD.

I am also very lucky to have two female academic supervisors working with me on my EDF Energy research project who are experts in their fields and I find hugely inspirational. They provide me with the support I need to stay motivated.

What would be your top tips for parents looking to encourage their children to continue to study STEM?
  • Encourage them to keep their options open – by studying STEM there will be endless career options available to them. There are endless opportunities to develop new skills and gain experiences in a wide range of working environments when working in STEM.
  • Encourage them to find the best career for them, not something others think they should do, but something that will suit them and allow them to explore their passions.
  • Support them in making the subject choices they need to pursue their chosen career but don’t tell them what to do.
  • There is no such thing as a “girly” subjects and engineering isn’t “just for boys” so don’t allow them to let silly stereotypes get in the way of something that they want to do.
What does the future hold for you?

The best part of my job is the research, the travelling and the fact that I know that what I’m researching, is going to make a difference in the future. Having the opportunity to travel the world and present my research, working with like-minded people, is something that I have loved since starting at EDF Energy. Working collaboratively towards a future with cleaner energy is something I feel passionately about.

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Paula Tinkler featured

Inspirational Woman: Paula Tinkler | Commercial Director, Chemoxy International

 

Paula TinklerPaula Tinkler is Commercial Director at bespoke chemical manufacturers, Chemoxy International.

Based in the North East of England, Chemoxy is looking to create more jobs, has plans for further expansion and is seeking acquisition opportunities to add value to its core services. Paula is working hard to help Chemoxy achieve these goals, and was appointed Commercial Director in 2015.

Before joining Chemoxy, Paula was an Electrical Engineer and expert in Process Control. She held key positions in a number of other leading companies such as Lucite and Mitsubishi.

Originally from Northern Ireland, Paula gained an MEgn in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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

I am currently Commercial Director at Chemoxy International in Teesside. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, I moved to the North East of England after graduating from Queens University where I studied Electrical Engineering. I have one daughter and together we share a passion for horse riding.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never – I took every opportunity I was offered and never worried about what would come next. The role I am in now is the first one I have ever sought and this time I asked the CEO directly for a job because I found the company so inspiring.

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

There have been some tough challenges along the way but I have always had a strong network of colleagues who can offer advice and listen as I think my way through the obstacles.

How have you thrived in a male-dominated industry?

The small percentage of women operating in the European Chemical Industry stand out, particularly at conferences and sales exhibitions so that can be an advantage. In reality if you grew up liking maths and physics in the 1980’s you were always in a male dominated environment so my generation in STEM careers know no difference. In ICI, where I started, female engineers were strongly supported and encouraged so I feel I have been very lucky.

Do you have a typical workday? How does you start your day and how does it end?

I start at 0830 and work until probably 6pm. The day starts with a chat with the CEO about what is exciting and what our next big challenge is. The day finishes when I have wrapped something up – I can’t go home in the middle of something it drives me mad. Chemoxy support flexible working so if I get frustrated or lose inspiration I take a longer lunch hour and head to the gym.

Tell us a little bit about your roles and how they came about?

I started as an engineer which I loved and I travelled the world in this role, even spending 14 months in Taiwan and making a desperately sad attempt to learn Mandarin Chinese.

However, I quickly caught the bug for commercial and moved first into a sales role and then business management. Prior to joining Chemoxy as Commercial Director I was Global Procurement Director in Lucite and was lucky enough to travel to China, Japan, Singapre, Taiwan and the USA .

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

I had a fabulous mentor when I joined ICI and he helped me navigate my first few years in work and helped me complete my Chartered Engineering qualification. I currently manage a team of ten staff and mentoring skills are critical to help people development.

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

I have been very lucky with all of my jobs and the teams I have worked in and so I couldn’t point to any one change I would have liked. However, when I had my daughter I was very glad of a long maternity leave and a part time return to work. My employer was fantastic and I would wish that for all young women.

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

I think exposure to STEM projects and challenges up to Year 9 are critical. In addition I think getting young women into the workplace to see what the environment is really like is helpful. When I was 17 I joined a Women Into Science and Engineering event which included a tour of a shipyard, a telecom factory and walk around the local uni – I fell in love with it straight away.

How do you juggle your career and your personal life?

Just like everyone else.

I was once told you cannot balance modern careers with a personal life the best you can do is manage your energy – I think if you find an inspiring job which you thrive on managing the energy required for both parts of your life is much easier.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am still really proud of taking a secondment in Taiwan when I was 25, but my move to Chemoxy International after 24 years with my previous employer is very significant to me. I took the step of moving from purchasing back into sales & marketing and from a large company to an SME – I am proud to have made such a good decision.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to be part of Chemoxy International’s success. We have a super team here and truly invest in people through professional development and programs like Better Health at Work. If through growth we can create new jobs that would be a huge achievement I could be proud of.

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Jane Whitgift featured

Inspirational Woman: Jane Whitgift | Founder of Whitgift Security

 

A qualified information security professional and engineer, Jane Whitgift started Whitgift Security three years ago and works with SMEs to protect their businesses online.

Jane Whitgift

Previously, she worked at BP for over 20 years in a range of IT roles before becoming Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for pieces of the global business in 2005.

Based in London, Jane is actively involved in mentoring and encouraging women in STEM professions with a range of organisations including ISACA and the British Computing Society (BCS).

Before moving into IT, Jane qualified as an engineer at the University of Sheffield.

Tell us a little bit about your roles and how they came about?

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and as a child my parents referred to me as the ‘little engineer’. I went on to study engineering at university and from there got a job as an engineer at a time when they were moving to computerisation. I was interested in the interface between engineering and IT, going on to study this as part of a computing degree. After joining BP in an IT role I moved into security and never looked back.

Have you noticed a gender imbalance in the IT industry?

On my engineering course I was one of the three women on a course of 30 students. The numbers weren’t much better when I moved across to IT.

ISACA recently published some research on women in technology and I thought one of the most frightening statistics was that the proportion of computer science degrees awarded to women today is roughly half that of the proportion awarded in 1984.

I had always hoped that the numbers of women coming in as graduates was getting better but I learned that in big global organisations the number of women coming into IT departments is still low.

What is your experience of mentoring? How useful is it?

During my time at BP there were a couple of powerful ladies who were extremely supportive and encouraging. I started mentoring myself in my early 30s as a facilitator on a ‘springboard’ initiative for women in business support, encouraging secretaries to look at where else their careers could go.

Since then I’ve been an active mentor – from taking part in graduate recruitment panels to mentoring my children’s school friends. Some of them are starting to work at big corporates and have been looking for insight into networking and increasing their visibility.

I’ve also been involved in more formal mentoring programmes for women at ISACA and now BCS. Having networks like this is so important – not only for support but for career opportunities outside of your organisation. Many posts are filled before they’ve even been advertised due to these networks and the connections people have.

How do you juggle your career and your personal life?

One of the biggest challenges of my career was having two children. They were only at school from 9 to 3.30 for 34 weeks of the year, so what do you do for the rest of it? By the time they were 8 and 10 we had au pairs and nannies but it was often a tense relationship.

I decided to go part time and had a very understanding employer. I did that for ten years whilst taking on three roles at work – change management, site security coordination and business continuity. It kept me sensibly busy!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I reached the top of my field, sitting in the BP management team for ten years. Since starting my own business, I’m really pleased that I’ve so far managed to get three organisations through the government-backed Cyber Essentials scheme and helped to make their security much more resilient.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m now building a portfolio career, volunteering and working with professional organisations. As part of this, I’d really like to encourage more women into STEM careers.

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Inspirational Woman: Claire Mitchell | Software developer and computer programmer

 

Claire Mitchell is a software developer and computer programmer for a range of clients.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company
Software

I’m a developer creating software for a range of clients in a fun, central London office environment. Since I started coding two years ago I’ve become very involved in startups, which has fueled my passion for the industry. I love putting new products together and have found that working in technology has brought out my creativity. It’s great to be part of a community of people who love doing the same thing.

Outside of my day job, I am also involved in several initiatives including Node Girls, a series of workshops which teach women how to do back-end coding, with events taking place regularly across London. I’m also working on a fashion start-up project called Mode For Me which is a crowdfunding platform for emerging fashion designers.

We realised that people graduate from fashion courses all the time and don’t have the money to produce full collections, so the idea is that they can post products on the website and then third parties can offer funding against collections they like. It’s a great way to offer opportunities to new designers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve had an interest in computers for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t really something I thought I would do for a living until about two years ago.

I had originally planned to be a civil engineer following university, but after moving to London I found the startup community full of people who loved their jobs, with many of them working as developers.

I knew I wanted to work in startups so it sounded really appealing to me, but the only jobs going were for developers or people in marketing. I started learning to code on my own using various online resources, and was accepted onto Founders & Coders, a free coding boot-camp in London, and that launched me into my career..

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

I loved studying science and maths when I was at school, but they were definitely male dominated subjects. There were maybe 30 girls on my degree course in a year of around 170 students. But I never let that put me off. I’ve been lucky enough to combine that passion with the science skills I learnt through my degree in engineering. It’s led me to where I am now, working with really exciting startups to bring new digital products to life and I find myself being inspired every single day by what I’m creating.

The challenges I faced have also meant I’m now committed to encouraging girls to continue studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects at school, and not be discouraged by thinking science isn’t for girls. There are so many interesting and fulfilling careers they can pursue with a STEM background, including software development like me, which will be the most in-demand in 2023. That’s why I am a role model for EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious programme, to show girls in an engaging way what a career in STEM could be like for them.

I would love for the tech industry to be as diverse as the UK population and for it to become more accessible for minority groups.

Free coding education is something very close to my heart, so it would be great to see more teaching initiatives and tech meetups being organised across the UK.

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

I always start the day with a coffee at my desk and I have a ‘stand up’ with the rest of my team at about 10am, where we discuss what we achieved the previous day and what we’re planning to tackle over the course of the day. I work for most of the day at my computer, coding. My job mostly involves breaking down big problems into smaller, easy to solve issues and then solving them with code. In web development, there’s a good mix of different skills required, from design and styling, through to creating and applying logical solutions to problems, so there’s always something varied to do.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Some advice that was given to me was ‘always continue learning.’ As a developer, it’s a particularly relevant piece of advice because everything moves at such a fast pace. If you’re not learning, you’ll be left behind. I use this as a measure for myself – if I’m still learning then I know I’m making progress.

What would be your top tips for women looking to pursue a career in tech?
  • Find a community that will help you. I would not be in this position if I was always trying to do things on my own. I made friends and found other like-minded people and we have since worked through problems together and encouraged each other along the way.
  • Keep learning. Set yourself a list of things that you want to know. It doesn’t matter how fast you tick the boxes, just take the steps (however big or small) to crossing them off your list.
  • Look online. There are ways of learning how to code without having to pay a fortune. There are many paid courses that are beneficial but if you are strapped for cash, there are plenty of free options too.
  • Give it a try! I have friends who studied languages at school and gave up maths as soon as they could, but now they’re excellent developers.
For girls who feel STEM subjects aren’t for them, what would your advice be?
  • Stick with them. Having STEM qualifications can help open doors to interesting and stimulating career opportunities in future and you can learn lots of transferrable skills, too.
  • Learn to code at school. Coding is a powerful skill in this increasingly digital world and will only become more important as we come to use more and more technology in our working and personal lives.
  • STEM is creative. You don’t need to work in the arts to enhance your artistic sensibilities – coding can be really creative too, and the same can be said for many STEM careers.
  • Think about the bigger picture. Look beyond the language and the syntax and think about the overall picture of what you can achieve with coding. The possibilities are almost endless.

 


Kashmir Cooper featured

Inspirational Woman: Kashmir Cooper | EMEA Channel Director, Elo

 

Kashmir is Elo’s EMEA channel director, reporting directly to Maarten Bais, general manager, EMEA.

Kashmir Cooper

In this position, Kashmir will be responsible for managing Elo’s distribution and driving the company’s strategy with pan-European partners.

With a track record in driving sales through channel and distribution, Kashmir will play a key role in aggressively pushing Elo revenue growth and building out a more enhanced channel partner programme.

Prior to joining the Elo team, Kashmir held the role of director of channel partners and strategic alliance at Displaydata. In that role she was responsible for leading and managing a team handling channel partners around the globe.

Kashmir holds a degree in Business and Finance from The University of Westminster.

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

I’m Channel Director for the EMEA region at Elo, a global leader in touch screen solutions and the inventors of the original touchscreen. In my role, I’m responsible for four pan European distributors that send out Elo’s wide range of digital signage and point of sale touchscreens.

My background is mostly in sales – when I was 16, my Dad passed away and my mother and I ran a market stall together just outside of London. It’s here that I learnt the basics of sales, inventory management, distribution and stock rotation. Before joining Elo I worked at Xerox, a company dedicated to finding new ways of working, for eight years.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – at university I studied business and finance and then went on to qualify as a financial advisor. I didn’t enjoy the job though, so decided I needed to change career. I knew I wanted to be a senior executive, since it’s always been a personal goal, and while I was at Xerox, I was lucky enough to be put forward for a senior leadership programme. Here, I got to learn about the different departments of the business and was fortunate enough to receive plenty of career advice.

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

I’ve found it can be hard to know what kind of jobs are available if they aren’t traditional sales roles, so there have been times where I’ve not had the job security I needed. For example, I once took on a distribution role (a maternity cover position) and even though the role was really complex, hard work and only temporary, it taught me the intricacies of distribution and I fell in love with the world of distribution.

Throughout my career there have been times where I’ve not felt challenged enough – mainly due to the fact that I’m a woman. Although women are in the minority within this space, this has only ever been a door opener for me. Women need to realise that technology is in fact, a very welcoming industry for them!

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

I honestly don’t have a typical working day! As Channel Director, you need to be capable of dealing with very little to no structure, as well as no beginning or end to the day. It can be very challenging but it means my day is always varied and interesting. Working with teams across various time zones means I have to be prepared to deal with issues that have been going on long before I’ve even woken up!

Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?

I gained my role as Channel Director at Elo after being head hunted. I have a reputation within the industry and see myself as a brand…Some people might think this is odd, but it works. I look after our four pan European distributors by helping them with purchase advice, stock and inventory. It can be a balancing act from time to time when making sure I am fair and equitable towards all four, so trust and integrity are two important words for me.

There’s a heavily analytical side to my job, which involves looking at sales forecasts, projects, new products, end of life products and carrying out global inventory analysis. I also work closely with our product managers and our marketing department to ensure that productions on promotion have enough stock.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

I’ve had several mentors or sponsors throughout my career, often thanks to seeking them out myself. Xerox was a sponsorship environment - you needed a mentor in order to succeed there. Russell Peacock, who was president of the global technology delivery group, took me under his wing and let me try out life in several different roles, which was really beneficial.

As my career has progressed, I too have enjoyed mentoring the next generation of talent and helping them to accelerate their careers – it’s really fulfilling and rewarding.

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

It would be great to raise awareness of the diverse variety of roles in technology for women – I don’t think there’s enough in place to highlight all the possibilities and when we think of a sector, we tend to think of the more traditional or obvious roles. My role is traditional, but not all career paths are so clear cut. The impact of digital has seen to that, along with new technologies. There are plenty of specialist jobs, such as ‘head of digital’, that simply wouldn’t have existed about five years ago.

How would you encourage more women into STEM/ the digital industry?

In my opinion, STEM roles lend themselves to women’s strengths as they’re constantly evolving and on trend. You need to be organised, methodical, flexible and able to problem solve. That’s why it’s so important to make women aware of what an exciting industry it can be. A good way to do this would be for technology companies to have open days, where they can show who they are and what roles they have on offer to the next generation of tech talent. By 2020, half of the work force in the US alone will be millennials, so we need to find more ways to attract them to any industry, especially those that fall around STEM, and with a particular focus on women.

On a personal level, I think it’s important for me to be a good role model and provide advice and guidance for women wanting to push their careers forward in a largely male world.

If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?

I’d hope that I’d helped to add value and had an impact on growing the Elo EMEA business, to the partners, as well as increased the success of our point of sale and touchscreen technology. I’d also like to see that I brought in a new generation distribution team to continue to carry out our role in the overall Elo team.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

I’d like to continue to be sponsored, develop my career, skills and experience in order to become a future leader. I’m only three steps away from CEO level at the moment, so I’m planning to step up my ambition and desire in order to eventually get to that point. I’m also open to Non Exec roles but saying that, I’m very comfortable in my role right now and I really enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like work when it’s something you love!


Yasmeen Ahmad featured

Inspirational Woman: Yasmeen Ahmad, Lead Data Scientist | Teradata

 

Yasmeen Ahmad holds a PhD in Data Management, Mining and Visualisation, has published several papers internationally and has experience of speaking at International conferences.

She has recently been recognised as a top100 data and analytics leader by DataIQ.

1. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Had I planned a career, I would most likely be in another location today, possibly interacting with people from a field unknown to me and carrying out a list of tasks using knowledge and experience gained through a different career progression.

Planning my career is not a task I have knowingly ignored, it is a task I have always found challenging. With the exciting marketplace, disruptive trends and rapid progression in science and technology, there is an abundance of opportunity that I could not have dreamed of even a year ago. When I studied at University, the data science field did not exist. It was not yet a concept, let alone a set of courses that could be studied.

I am fortunate to say that the roles I have undertaken in with my career have been positions that were new by design and in multiple cases, roles that have were created to fulfill a new requirement that never existed before. The unknown has made my career exciting.

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

Challenges are a part of everyday life. When working in a rapidly changing and advancing field, it is inevitable that there will be challenges to overcome. I have had to overcome obstacles throughout my career, from becoming the first Data Scientist recruited into Teradata, to building a team from scratch, to more recently defining a strategic vision, developing new go-to-market strategies and implementing new operational models. Every step of the way, I feel fortunate to have had new challenges that I observe as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Vital to overcoming these challenges has been strong leadership and mentoring. It has been key to seek out individuals who could support me through the ups and downs, providing their external perspective and experience.

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

Be brave. You will never be ready for your first leadership position, you will be challenged by new and complex situations you have not dealt with before. In many cases there will be no right answer, you will be required to make difficult choices but the key is remaining authentic and true to your values.

Avoid the trap of becoming just a manager, organising and co-ordinating teams. Go beyond management to leading with a vision. To be a success, you must complete tactical tasks and activities everyday, but to become a strong leader you must set yourself additional goals that help you be strategic for long-term impact.

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

The candidate with most passion, motivation and drive. This candidate will go above and beyond what they have been asked to do and bring their own drive to the role.

Passionate candidates are always challenging themselves to continuously learn and grow. They do not work the conventional week. They spend time thinking beyond the tasks they are assigned to and find novel ways to add value. These are the people who not only have a positive impact on the business but they also have a strong influence on the team, lifting and inspiring others and setting a high standard of execution.

5. How do you manage your own boss?

Interaction with my manager is key to my success. During my career I have chosen to work for people who inspire me. These are the people I know will push me to better myself and I will learn a great deal from.

I am very open and honest with my manager, ensuring I discuss the key challenges I am facing, what I am trying to develop in my team and practice area, as well as discussing the upcoming risks. By ensuring that I share these details with my manager, I am able to leverage their experience and advice.

In most cases, my manager has had years more experience, understands the politics of the organisation and is adept at people management. I can leverage this insight to perform better.

My manager can not help me, if I do not ask. Furthermore, a constant and consistent dialogue means my manager can help guide and course correct, ensuring the activities I do align with the global aims of the organisation.

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

I like to get up early – I can get more work done with an early start than I can often complete all day once the calls and meetings start. The morning gives me time to gather my thoughts and do my most creative work.

My days are not usual, my career has involved a lot of travel. On average I am on the road five days a week: flights and train journeys, a team across different timezones, a multitude of global customers to work in partnership with.

This means there is no typical end of the day. However, I do like to make sure I get some me-time to take a walk in a new city, go to the gym, wind down from a hectic day.

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

If you are working towards the strategic goals of your organisation, pushing the boundaries beyond what the business is doing today, then you are guaranteed to raise your profile.

Working with my team, I like to highlight the successes we are creating and where we are being innovative to do so. I highlight people who should be a role model to others. Hence, strive to be that role model.

8. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Coaching and mentoring comes in many different shapes and forms, both formally and informally. I have benefitted from both.

Do not simply look for mentors in your field of work, look beyond to people who can inspire, help advise you through the difficult challenges and have a genuine interest in helping you do well.

My mentors have helped guided me, often giving their unbiased, external perspective on situations that provides clarity in complex situations.

9. Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker

There is something to be learned from every new person you meet and networking provides you the opportunity to meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds with a wealth of experience.

It can be daunting to introduce yourself to new people, hence prepare upfront for networking events. Understand the audience you will be meeting and think about a few conversation starters and questions you can you use to initiate conversation.

Listen to what others have to say and do not dominate the conversation. Listening is a key skill to understand what people are passionate about. If you can engage people on their passions, you will connect and create a memorable conversation.

Remember to follow up. A successful networking event will include meeting many individuals who may be able to help you in the future, but networking is just the start. Follow up with people, reminding them of who you are and letting them know you are available and keen to engage further.

10. What does the future hold for you?

It is one of the most exciting times to be involved in data and analytics. There is a huge amount of potential and untapped opportunity. I am looking forward to an exciting future. I do not know where I will be or what I might be doing in the coming years, but I know that if I follow my passion and continue to be creative and innovative I will be somewhere unexpected beyond what I can imagine today.


Hannah Pretswell featured

Inspirational Woman: Hannah Pretswell | Software Test Engineer at Scott Logic

 

Hannah is a Test Engineer at Scott Logic, a UK-based consultancy delivering high quality software to clients in financial services, the public sector and healthcare.

She is a graduate in Character Animation from Teesside University, as well as a STEM Ambassador, and spends much of her free time drawing, painting, dancing, and climbing.

software
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company

I’m a Software Test Engineer at Scott Logic, a software consultancy specialising in solutions for financial trading, and it’s a fantastic place to work. We sit in an open plan office, which makes working in an Agile environment so much easier.

I sit with my team of three developers, just a stone’s throw from the other testers in the office. It makes fostering both a project community and a test community ideal, and we often share information and tips during the work day.

Did you ever sit down and plan your journey to becoming a software tester?

Becoming a software tester has been an interesting journey for me, and it’s definitely not something I planned. I studied character animation at university, and as a way to get my foot in the door of the games industry, as I’m a keen gamer, I landed a job as games tester. This was my first ever experience of testing, and I fell in love. I figured that if games need testing, other software would need testing too. So I researched what I needed to become a software tester.

I was overwhelmed and underqualified, but thankfully I’m not one to give up easily. I taught myself basic HTML/CSS and JavaScript and created a very simple, 90s-esque website with some of my artwork on it. I studied the difference between Agile and waterfall software development methodologies, and what black box and white box testing were.

In doing this research, I had shown potential employers passion and interest, which is an important part of being a software tester.

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

Unfortunately, software testing isn’t something that really gets taught anywhere. If you do a computer science degree, then you might briefly touch upon unit testing, but you won’t study it anywhere near the level required for most testing jobs. If you really want to be a tester, my advice is to be proactive.

Unlike software development, where you can sit down and learn a language and build something, if you don’t have something to test how can you practice?

You could learn automation testing, pick up something like Protractor.js and find some Angular websites to write tests against, but that doesn’t tackle the issue of sapient testing.

If you aren’t currently in a testing job, I’d advise reading, and getting involved in the testing community. I’d recommend Explore it! Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing by Elisabeth Hendrickson, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and, An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald Weinberg (this is actually the first testing book I read).

You should also participate in conversations on social media, and join local testing or Agile development meet ups. There are two main Slackchats I love: ministryoftesting.slack.com and testersio.slack.com.

And I recommend reading blogs by James Bach, Michael Bolton and Katrina Clokie. Follow them on Twitter too, along with anyone else who has interesting conversations about testing. You can learn a surprising amount in 140 characters.

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

The biggest challenge that I face is that I don’t have a background in code. New projects generally mean new technology, and though picking that up might come easy for someone with three to four years computer science experience, it does not come easily for me. I spend a lot of time learning, and I’m thankful that I really enjoy learning (if I could stay at school forever, I would) which helps me pick things up quickly.

The real challenge comes down to Google. It is so difficult to search for things on Google when you don’t actually know what you’re supposed to be searching for! Thankfully this is easy to overcome - simply ask for help. You can’t learn if you can’t hold your hands up and admit you don’t know something. Suffering in silence is detrimental to both you and your company.

If you want to progress as a software tester, it’s a constant learning process. Like any job in technology, things are constantly changing.

There’s always a new bit of tech, or a new process to be used. The benefit of staying at the forefront of the technologies and ideas is that you get to try things out before other people.

This means you get to build an opinion, which you can then share. This builds up not only your knowledge as a tester, but your reputation too if you write blogs and share your insights on social media.

Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring? Do you feel this is/has been important to your professional development?

I’ve never been officially mentored as such, since the way Scott Logic’s test team works is we all help each other out. However, the company is in the process of rolling out a new internal coaching programme. Up to now though, I guess I could say that everyone I work with has been somewhat of a mentor. They have all been integral to my professional development, helping me with different test ideas, helping me figure out personal projects to pursue, or helping me get my head around different technical languages.

I have taken part in being a mentor myself, and that opened up a lot of opportunities. I’m involved with the STEM Ambassadors, and over the last year I’ve been involved with many school activities; either practice interviews or giving talks to young students about my role in testing. I signed up for the Newcastle University mentorship program, and was partnered with a second year student who was considering testing as a career choice. This led to the problem of the lack of internships for testers, which I took to our test lead and head of development and within a few months we welcomed our first test intern.

What does the future hold for you?

I’m looking forward to all the future projects I get to be involved with, since every project requires a different approach to testing and new challenges to overcome. I would like to garner enough experience and knowledge to be able to consult with businesses and help them perfect their testing within their organisation.

I also hope to carry on with my work with STEM Ambassadors and help inspire a new generation of people to pursue a career in technology. I believe kids should be informed of as many career options as possible, so they can make more informed decisions as they get older. I also hope to show, courtesy of my odd background in animation, that if you do make an “incorrect” choice somewhere along the way, it isn’t the end of the world. If you have enough drive and passion you can succeed in anything you want.


Tamara Chehayeb Makarem featured

Inspirational Woman: Tamara Chehayeb Makarem | User Experience (UX) Design Lead at Scott Logic

 

Tamara is a User Experience (UX) Design Lead at Scott Logic, a UK-based consultancy delivering high quality software and UX design for clients in financial services, the public sector, and healthcare.

She has worked in Beirut, London and New York, and designed desktop, tablet and mobile web applications for Fortune 500 companies.

Tamara User Experience

She is a strong advocate of design thinking as a methodology, and shares her thought leadership on Medium and on her company blog.

You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

What has been your career path like? Did you ever sit down and plan it?

I started with a basic plan of the things I wanted to achieve in my career, but I made changes along the way. I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at the American University of Beirut where I studied the fundamentals of typography, colours, layout, iconography, and illustration. I then applied my skills working as a graphic and interaction designer in Lebanon, designing using both Arabic and Latin alphabets for multilingual users.

I wanted to move to UX Design and to work in a bigger market with more opportunities, so I moved to New York. There, I earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Design and Technology from Parsons, the New School for Design. I then worked in New York designing web and native applications for clients primarily in e-commerce, healthcare, and banking. I got to manage teams across multiple offices in the US and abroad, for clients such as Microsoft, so it was a lot of responsibility but I enjoyed the challenge.

I got married and moved to London. Two years ago, I joined Scott Logic where I‘ve been designing web applications ranging from trading platforms to financial tools, analytics dashboards and intranets. Throughout my career, I’ve tended to set myself broad long term goals. I then set short term targets to ensure I keep track of my progress. I‘ve made some alterations along the way, and they’ve worked out well.

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

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is having to rebuild my network each time I moved, and to find ways to maintain the networks I built in the past. I‘ve lived in four countries, so starting again is something I’m used to, but establishing a network and a profile in a new location is a slow process. I’ve had to attend a lot of events to meet new people.

How important is networking in the technology and software industry, and in particular to your role? What three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is not just about meeting new people and raising your profile. It can also help you get feedback on your ideas, learn from others, and find opportunities for work and collaboration.

My three tips to a newbee networker would be to:

  1. Find the right events
    If you’re searching for interesting events to attend, Meetup and Eventbrite are a good place to look. Find networking events that are relevant to you, and try to attend one or two a month.
  2. Be bold
    If you’re nervous about approaching a person at a networking event, chances are that person feels the same way. You lose nothing by being friendly and introducing yourself. Make the first move.
  3. Follow up
    If the conversation is going well, exchange contact details and follow up after the event. Even if there isn’t an opportunity for collaboration at the moment, it might come up later.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

It depends on what phase in the design process I’m in.

During the user research phase I lead UX workshops, so I spend the day collaborating with a team including designers, developers, project managers and stakeholders. Ideating, sketching, and prototyping would be typical.

In the design phase, the core of my time is spent creating wireframes, mock ups and prototypes. The rest is divided between meeting with clients and the team to ensure the project is headed in the right direction.

In the last stages of the design process, I create style guides, provide specs to developers and test the build to ensure the design has been implemented as envisioned.

I also join our business development team in meetings with prospective London-based clients to introduce them to the UX practice and our process. The range of responsibilities that I have is one of the things I enjoy most about my role, as it makes each day different and offers new challenges.

What are the best elements of your role, and the most challenging?

With the rise of new technologies like smart watches, virtual reality goggles and smart cars, UX Designers need to quickly adapt to change and acquire new skills. We sometimes have to design for technologies with no precedents to look at. This is challenging but also exciting for me. It means I can play a great role in setting the trends for new technologies.

Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring in your career, either formally or informally? Do you feel this is/has been important to your professional development?

I have not had any formal mentoring or coaching, but I have had informal advice from the people I’ve worked with. It’s important to think about both internal and external obstacles that prevent us from achieving our career goals, and coaching can help with that. At Scott Logic, we’re in the process of rolling out a new coaching scheme, and I’m looking forward to participating in that.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a career in UX Design?

My advice to someone considering a career in UX Design is to recognise that teams are multidisciplinary so their technical background is likely to be a strength. The UX team at Scott Logic includes designers from a variety of disciplines, including product design, animation, graphic design, software development and interaction design. I think that’s a great asset because cross-discipline collaboration allows each of us to bring a new perspective to the design thinking process.