lauren riley featured

Inspirational Woman: Lauren Riley | Qualified solicitor, speaker and creator of The Link App

 

Keen to dispel the image of a stuffy solicitor, 29-year-old Lauren Riley is anything but. Recently strutting her stuff on BBC1's The Apprentice, the keep fit fan is the embodiment of today’s modern business woman and is determined to give the letter of the law a ‘facelift.’

She is a firm believer that today’s leading business women can be both professional and glamorous.

Head and shoulders
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

I am a qualified solicitor. I decided to specialise in family law as I wanted to make a real difference. I was prepared for being put through the mill emotionally, especially when dealing with cases involving children, but at times it can still be challenging. I also enjoy keeping fit and am particularly interested in nutrition.

Personally I love the flexibility. It usually means I work many more hours than my employed counterparts but the sense of achievement in each small step is very gratifying.

What inspired you to start a business?

In my everyday role as a lawyer I was constantly surprised by the amount of my working day which comprised providing fairly simple updates to a client. I would constantly hear the complaints of my colleagues about how frustrating this was to them. The Link App was born organically from the need of lawyers for more effective communication and of clients to be kept in the loop more during their cases.

You created The Link App; how does it work?

The Link App is the ultimate tool for busy law firms looking to thrive in an increasingly competitive market, improve customer service, save time and money, and increase productivity.

Ultimately, The Link App serves to increase productivity across the working day, by keeping clients ‘in the loop’ without the need for back and forth communication, freeing up valuable time.

It’s quick, easy, and efficient – ideal for busy law firms, and designed to compliment their existing system.

Once logged in, they’ll find all their clients listed alphabetically and can begin to see how The Link App will improve client management and the efficient running of files.

The Link App is designed to update clients on their case quickly, using our pre-populated list of standard case updates, or tailoring a message. For example, ‘drainage search back: no issues’ or ‘contracts exchanged at 10.30am, completion due in seven days.’

In turn, clients can use the ‘request a call back’ feature, prioritizing calls in terms of urgency. This allows law firms to speak to them at a convenient time, when they are completely focused on their case, maximising the value of time spent on the phone. Not only this, but cases can be accessed securely at any time of day, across desktop, phone, or tablet.

Ultimately, law firms save both time and money, making it easier to operate in a highly competitive market and providing an exceptional customer experience.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

Personally I love the flexibility. It usually means I work many more hours than my employed counterparts but the sense of achievement in each small step is very gratifying. The challenging part is definitely to strike the balance and step away from the laptop after late evenings and weekends. Honestly, I haven’t quite managed that part yet but helpfully in the future I will.

I think networking is really important. I see so many people doing it crudely, only showing interest in the CEO of a company etc. I think that you are always a representation of your company and you should foster relationships at all levels.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

I believe in setting aspirational goals. A ‘shoot for the stars’ approach and if you fail you still ‘land on a cloud’ mentality. Setting big goals with a touch of realism has been my strategy. Write them down and keep your overall goals in the forefront of your mind.

Take stock mentally when you can and do not be too hard on yourself. I try to find a mini victory every day, then, when I look back on the past six months, I almost can’t believe how much of what I set out to do has been achieved. A positive mental attitude goes a long way.

I think networking is really important. I see so many people doing it crudely, only showing interest in the CEO of a company etc. I think that you are always a representation of your company and you should foster relationships at all levels.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

I have entered the tech field from a legal background. This was always going to be daunting. I have always been honest that my strengths lie in my knowledge of the legal market and my ability to drive the company forward as opposed to the software development itself.

I have been very selective about who The Link App engages and so far this combination has been a successful one.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

So far my experience of this has not been entirely positive. There are many schemes out there and particularly at the beginning I reached out to a few of them. However I found that they were offering conflicting advice. I think having mentors is important, so I have mostly drawn inspiration from the people in business I respect .

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

I think networking is really important. I see so many people doing it crudely, only showing interest in the CEO of a company etc. I think that you are always a representation of your company and you should foster relationships at all levels. In my opinion people buy people and that’s where networking is so valuable. From what I understand of those who have wanted to do business with me, it’s because of the way I have presented myself.

I believe in setting aspirational goals. A ‘shoot for the stars’ approach and if you fail you still ‘land on a cloud’ mentality.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

I firmly believe you need the right team around you to achieve this. A positive working culture goes a long way. Reputation of the team and product is key to scaling. Once your brand is out there in many ways it can speak for itself. We have relied heavily on organic interest and referrals from existing users or advocates of our product.
>We are genuinely passionate about solving pain points for our clients through tech and we are told that shines through.

I believe in setting aspirational goals. A ‘shoot for the stars’ approach and if you fail you still ‘land on a cloud’ mentality.

I am already planning what I can give back, leading on issues I am passionate about like diversity and creating a business that cares.

What does the future hold for you?

I am so very excited and optimistic about the future. I have had so much positive feedback following my time in the media and this has been a source of inspiration to me. The Link App continues to grow and I learn more every day.

Lauren Riley is a qualified solicitor, speaker and creator of The Link App www.thelinkapp.co.uk, which is available for professional firms to communicate with their clients.

Find out more about Lauren here

Website: www.laurenriley.co.uk

Twitter: @misslaurenriley

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Ady Sevy featured

Inspirational Woman: Ady Sevy | Product Manager, Aquila Insight

 

ady sevyAdy Sevy is a product manager at Edinburgh-based data analytics company, Aquila Insight. With a background as a helicopter simulator instructor in the Israeli Air Force, Ady studied cognitive and computer science and also gained a Master’s degree in applied data science. She previously had product management roles in data analytics companies in Tel Aviv and New York.

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

I’m currently a product manager at Aquila Insight, an Edinburgh-based data analyst company. In the past, I’ve also worked as a helicopter simulator instructor in the Israeli Air Force and studied cognitive and computer science, going on to achieve a Master’s degree in applied data science. Before starting at Aquila insight, I worked in product management roles in data analytics companies in Tel Aviv and New York.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not really. It was more a case of looking one or two steps ahead and ensuring I had the qualifications to get to that point. I was aware that the industry was changing fast and hoped I would be able to gain the skills to fit myself into a relevant position.

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

As Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in her book Lean In, women are assessed according to their performances. That doesn’t sound so bad; except that men, in contrast, are being assessed by their potential. In the past, I’ve often had difficulties relating to this. For example, in one job I was promoted, but had a difficult time negotiating a salary increase to compliment this promotion and I first needed to “prove myself” in the new role. When it comes to job interviews, I sometimes find the salary negotiation extremely challenging for the above reason.

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

I start by defining realistic goals to myself for the day – looking at my calendar, my to-do list, and my upcoming deadlines. Later on in the day, I look at what I’ve accomplished so far and how my next day is looking. When it gets to the end of the week, I’ll try and plan a week or more in advance.

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

I wanted to develop my career as product manager, so I aimed for positions on this level. Aquila Insight seemed like a great fit for me and stood out against other data analytical companies as they put data and analytics at the core of their company. I also knew that the role would require analysis expertise, which, as I had a previous experience as an analyst and an advance degree in Data Science, I was sure I could bring.

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

No, but it would be great to find someone willing to sponsor me in the future.

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

I’d like to see quotas in place during the hiring process so that women are favoured intentionally.

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

It’s clear there’s a lack of female role models in the tech world. Perhaps if there had been more women in tech to look up to while I was at school, more girls would have gone into technology. We need to encourage females to choose science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) professions from as early an age as possible. For girls in primary school, it’s more important to keep activities hands-on, creative and fun – anything that will strike an interest with them. For older girls, offering scholarships or setting up coding workshops and events is likely to keep them engaged. I’m also a big supporter of coding workshops targeted for women, especially Rails Girls and Women who Code.

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

I would be able to reflect positively on the fact that I’ve only ever worked for companies where I’ve truly believed in their vision, mission or product. I’d be pleased to see that I’ve progressed through various roles and taken on various new responsibilities, achieved tangible change and been valuable to clients. Also, importantly, I’ve always promoted an ethical equal work place, ensuring that women are happy and comfortable at work.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

Eventually, I’d love to set up my own data analytical company or venture of that type - that would be a dream.

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marie francois featured

Inspirational Woman: Marie Francois | Tour Bus Manager, Memrise

 

Marie Francois, Memrise

Marie Francois, Tour Bus Manager for language app Memrise, is currently travelling across Europe as part of the app’s Membus project – a summer roadtrip adventure to collect micro-videos of locals across the continent using their language in context in order to compile the world’s largest video dictionary.

How did you get involved with this project?

I met Memrise’s CEO, Ed Cooke, at a concert. He told me he wanted to buy a double decker bus and go on a road trip around Europe to capture the diversity of languages (he didn’t have the bus yet, it was just bragging at this stage). I was not sure what he was on about exactly, but I knew I immediately wanted in, so I pitched myself for this job. I thought it was such a brilliant idea in terms of its innovative and fun approach to learning languages, and a great opportunity to work on a mission I would truly believe in.

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?

Definitely running a 1978 vintage double decker bus around Europe. You would not suspect the amount of things you have to look into, as well as not listening to the ‘non-dreamers’ who said this was an impossible mission. I quickly got acquainted with things such as European legislations and mechanical jargon, which are skills I never intended to develop.

This project also became the biggest problem-solving enterprise ever created. For instance, one week before starting the tour, the bus being too high for Europe, we got in touch with a crazy French guy in the Pyrenees who was supposed to remove the top deck of the bus, cut 5 inches, and then re-weld it back together.

Luckily we decided not to go with this option and took the risk to see how far it would go, and nine countries and 12 000 miles later, the bus is still standing! It was all worth it as it became our mascot, and got us a lot of attention on the continent.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Collecting 20,000 videos of native speakers, from 6,000 different people, with a team of 60 volunteers hopping on board. It has also been a privilege to get to know that many different people and places. We now have a great database of video content for the app for nine different languages, which I hope will motivate people to learn even more.

What has been your favourite place that you’ve visited during this tour?

Wow, Europe is full of gems so it’s a tough one, but Venice was a showstopper for me. One of our volunteers was a true Venetian (rare creatures) and showed us the local spots, which only made it more special.

Your bus is full of coders and scientists – what would you say to women or girls looking to get into these roles?

In fact, it just so happened that the Membus team has always consisted primarily of women so we’ve got to know quite a lot of female coders and linguists. I believe that tech is a fantastic progressive environment to work in, for whomever, and regardless of your role.

Memrise bus

Do you think that learning a language can help advance your career?

Absolutely. I think it shows a sense of curiosity, hard work (coz’ it ain’t easy) as well as open-mindedness. It also naturally opens more doors if you want to be sent on a mission or job abroad.

What tips would you give to women looking to learn a new language?

Having a goal helps me (a trip planned, a friend speaking that language, a desire to go live somewhere…) because the first thing you need to learn a language is motivation. I would say to use different methods to diversify your learning, such as movies, apps, books, and trips - obviously the most immersive the better. Every time you have an opportunity to practice, take it, and give yourself credit for trying. Everybody goes through the same frustrating feeling to sound dull and slow, but that’s the only way you’re going to improve.

Do you have any advice for our members with regards to their careers?

The thing I learnt on the back of this trip is to be spontaneous, take up challenges and take risks. When I first joined, I was not prepared for the grand scale of challenges and hurdles to cross to make this tour a success, but I learnt on the spot because I had to. It forges your character, so I’d recommend to anyone to put themselves in these kinds of situations. Although they may seem daunting at the beginning, they are highly rewarding in the end. And if you fail, fail fast.

To check up on the progress of the Membus tour, in the last leg of its journey, please visit the blog.


Ritu mahandru featured

Inspirational Woman: Ritu Mahandru | Vice President, Solution Sales, Agile Management, EMEA, CA Technologies

 

Ritu Mahandru is the Vice President of DevOps EMEA at CA Technologies.  Ritu’s responsibilities include designing and implementing the EMEA go-to-market strategy for application delivery.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  Ritu

Not in a structured way, I knew I wanted financial independence and wanted to travel – that meant I needed to work!

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

Looking back, there were several challenges, more so later in my career than earlier.  In the early stages of my career, I was just hungry for experience, I took every opportunity to enrich myself and learn different facets of a software business.  As I advanced more I needed to focus on other aspects of my self development, having the right experience and background was not always enough.  My way of dealing with them was to be brutally honest with myself about my shortcomings, and then work on them.  Living in denial is a challenge in itself.

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

Choose the timing, you have to be sure it is what you want to do and the time is right, invest time in your self-development and look for good role models and mentors who you can learn from, and always remain authentic.

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

People who show real passion and authenticity, they are key to building high performing teams with a common purpose.  People who show potential, and who want to really make a difference will always stand out, these would be key decision criteria for me.

 How do you manage your own boss?

I have 3 bosses!  My main boss is based in Switzerland, so the geographic distance does mean that we do not have the opportunity for impromptu discussions/meetings etc.  I have a monthly 1-1 with my boss and outside of that, we probably speak on the phone very 8-10 days, on an individual basis.  We have a number of scheduled ‘group’ touch points.  I make sure that he never gets any surprises, I keep him informed of key important changes/updates in my business. I also advise him early when I see a storm brewing, just to make sure he understands the rationale behind decisions I may take…so the key is regular communication.  I also try and make sure I provide my boss with an opportunity to gain insight into my team of direct reports, that is always important to build insight into my leadership style and also for succession planning.

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

For the last 20+ years, my work day has always started with my husband bringing me a cup of tea while I get ready for work!  I deliberately leave my mobile phone in the downstairs office, so whilst getting ready, I have no idea of the deluge of emails I have had overnight, and can think through my day.  If possible, I always try and have breakfast with my daughters before heading out.  Of course there are exceptions, especially when I am traveling and leave the house at 5am, but when I am home, I make the most of it!  My day when I am at home always ends with me reading my favourite novel before going to sleep,  I am an avid reader and find escaping into someone else’s world helps me sleep much better!

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

I believe before raising your profile, you should decide what you want to be known for – is it that you are a direct, straight talking person, or that you are great at building teams etc…decide what you want your brand to be, then live and be the brand, even when no one is watching!  Ensure you know your stakeholders well, map out the people you need to interact with to ensure you can be successful in your role and set up a regular cadence with them…the best way to raise your profile is to know your brand,live it, communicate well and be visible.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Yes – I was surprisingly impressed by how useful this was for me.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker?

External networking is very important – I would use the advice on raising your internal profile.  It is important to know what you want to achieve and want you want to present about yourself, otherwise a lot of time and energy can be spent without achieving any tangible goals.

What does the future hold for you?

I love working in the software world and seeing the change that technology brings to everyday lives.  I would love to see more women in tech and hope that events like these will encourage and make more young girls and women curious.  I would love to set up a social enterprise that does something for women in tech…that would be a great combination for me!


Emily Webb featured

Inspirational Woman: Emily Webb | CEO of MyLücke

 

Emily Webb, CEO of MyLücke, shares her entrepreneurial journey of launching a parking app after her frustration of trying to find pubic parking in Los Angeles.

What inspired you to start your business?

inspirational-woman-emily-webb

My inspiration to create change in the parking industry stemmed from my own frustrations as a new Angeleno. Daily routines were no longer simple tasks; it was an exercise in itself to find consistent and reliable public parking. As my life began to revolve around parking regulations in Los Angeles, empty driveways were calling out to me, and it seemed so intuitive to be able to park in the abundance of underutilized spaces while allowing people to generate passive income.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward of being your own boss?

The greatest challenge of being my own boss lies within myself. The passion, drive and expectations to build a great company is continuous, which is also the most rewarding aspect of being my own boss. I love the eagerness and hunger to succeed. It’s an incredible opportunity to be challenged by my own vision and be able to create opportunities and deploy executions while being surrounded by a team whose beliefs are aligned with mine.

What motivational tips can you give to our readers about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

I’m not a fan of the word ‘failure’. I think everything in life is a learning experience, and there’s a simple quote that helps me through my experiences: “you don’t know what you don’t know”. It’s not fair for oneself to feel failure when there is so much we don’t know about executing our visions. Every endeavor is unique in itself, and the sooner you can realize there is no universal formula for entrepreneurs to rely on, the sooner you can learn to stay focused on discovering and implementing the successes of a business model and feel confident about discarding the tactics that weren’t as effective.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

As co-founder of a startup, patience and execution has been the biggest challenge. There are so many aspects to building a business and sometimes, hard work doesn’t equate to immediate results. My passion and desire to build a great company are sometimes stronger than the reality we face in executing an incredible idea. Creating a strategic roadmap to lay the foundation and learn about our user base takes time. I have to remain stubbornly persistent throughout our execution, while bringing in the right talent at the right time.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

Mentoring the kids at Camp Start-Up has been an incredible experience emotionally. Providing a support system and helping kids believe in themselves and their visions reminds me of when I was younger and how grateful I was when I found people who believed in me. I feel so lucky to be a part of an entrepreneur’s revelation; that moment when they realize ‘yes, I can do this’ is priceless.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

At the end of the day, it’s all about people. Your family, friends, colleagues, associates, acquaintances. Be the best version of you, every day. Help people and don’t expect anything back. Network for the love of meeting people and wanting to be a positive contribution to society and along the way, surround yourself with people who believe in you and whose visions are aligned with yours. Ultimately, your dreams will come to fruition because of the people in your life.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

If you plan to scale a business, make certain all facets of technology and human resources are prepared. Also, find your traction channel and understand your users! Cash flow and human capital are key aspects to managing the growth of a business.

What does the future hold for you?

My future is this business; continuing to listen to our users and build a great company. I am so passionate about what we’ve built, every day is a blessing. Outside of business, I plan to live life and enjoy all that this world has to offer


Victoria Bastide featured

Inspirational Woman: Victoria Bastide | CTO, Lifesum

 

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

Inspirational Woman- Victoria Bastide | CTO, LifesumI am Victoria, CTO at Lifesum, one of the world’s leading health apps with over 16 million users, ba-sed in Stockholm Sweden.

I spent the last 20 years in tech companies, in various roles within the engineering organisations, as I hold a computer science degree. The companies were mainly located in the US, but I returned to my home city, Stockholm, in 2014. I spent 1998 to 2014 in Silicon Valley at startups, both big and small.

I’ve had a range of leadership roles within engineering organisations: product development, release engineering, building & operating large-scale infrastructure, quality engineering, and opening a branch office in Bangalore.

Currently, I hold the CTO position at Lifesum and as the CTO I lead the tech team at Lifesum, and am part of the company’s executive team.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, but maybe not in the same way that you would expect. I did not sit down and decide that my goal is that I will be a CTO of a tech company one day.

I have always been driven by learning new things, so the plan I had was to always take steps in my career that stretch and challenge me - as that is when I thrive.

What that meant in practice is that if I ever found myself at a crossroads, my strategy was to choose the things that I was not (yet) fully fluient in – even if that would have resulted in a ”lateral” move into the unknown, rather than a ”move up” in an area which I was already comfortable in. For ex-ample, taking the step from quality assurance, to managing infrastructure, to leading backend deve-lopers, to shifting to frontend, then from enterprise industry to consumer industry, and from web app development to a mobile development.

Also, I have very deliberately tried to move within the tech sector, managing teams that contribute to different elements. (Infrastrucure, DevOps, Backend, Front end, UX, Mobile, Web).

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

Yes, many challenges, all the time. Life at a startup is full of challenges, big and small, but I love them. I see a challenge as an opportunity to grow. As a former athlete I really believe in the “no pain no gain” approach.

If I am not facing challenges, or feeling at least some sense of “discomfort”, that is when I get worried. My biggest fear in life is to become complacent.

So basically, I will take any challenge, and think of it as a springboard for growth - that also helps me mentally deal with the stresses of the challenge.

For example, while I was at VMware we grew from 70 people to over 10,000. That was a tremendous challenge, the amount of people we hired and trained, while also writing and shipping pro-ducts in the meantime. I loved every part of that challenge.

Another challenge was when in my mid 20s I spent just over half a year in Bangalore, India, setting up the VMware Office. I was doing anything from racking up the servers, to setting up our test lab, to hiring and training the engineers, as a young woman from the US headquarters, in a completely new country and culture. That was a tough and super fun challenge.

Challenges can come in many shapes and sizes, but believe it or not, my switch from an Apple iPhone to an Andriod phone was the most challenging! It took me several weeks before I started to feel comfortable using an Android. But oh so fun.

When I tackle challenges I try to do it in a pragmatic and methodical way. First, I think of the worst case scenario - once you form that mental picture, you often realise that the worst case maybe isn’t even that bad. You basically give yourself a mental hook for the worst outcome, and once it’s defined, you stop worrying about it as much. And then you start working from the other end.

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

I am a morning person, up before 6 AM, and most days I start with 3 things: a big glass of water, strong coffee (like a true Swede), and a run. Running is my thinking and reflection time. And if I don't get a run in in the morning, I know I will have a hard time motivating myself to get out later in the day.

My day ends with doing a quick check of the calendar and the next day, what’s going on, and the important things I need to get done. Sounds so simple, but doing a checklist of the coming day really helps keep my stress levels low. (Then always just before going to bed, I take a quick peek at my 2 sleeping boys, that, if anything makes me appreciate life.)

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

As I mentioned, I am currently the CTO, Chief technology Officer, at Lifesum, a digital health startup. As the CTO I lead the tech team at Lifesum, and also part of the company’s executive team.

Following my years in Silicon Valley I moved back to Stockholm, where I was craving to work at a startup again. I wanted to work for a company that was creating something that I was really passionate about.

So when I got the opportunity to join the Lifesum team as the CTO in December 2015, the choice was one of the easiest ones in my career. A tech company, doing interesting things, and with a miss-ion to help people become healthier and happier.

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

I had several mentors, of various types. None of them through official mentor programs.

The first mentor I had was Thuan Pham, now CTO at Uber. We worked together at VMware. He took me under his wing, and we met every other week for quite some time. He helped me navigate through a lot of my early years as a manager. Having a soundboard that I could bounce ideas from was extremely valuable.

Then, during the years, I have had a lot of bosses, peers, and friends that I had great conversations with, both in terms of feedback and having very open discussions about my work situation, career, next steps, etc. I view those as mentorships too. Being open when asking for help and advice, and also giving that back to others.

Last but not least, I learned a TONNE from the members of my teams and they help my career as much as the ones mentioned above. Getting their insights, input, questions, and having open discuss-ions has really helped my career, as I get insight into other generations, other personalities, and other approaches.

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

A good balance between the number men and women in the tech workplace, so that there is no longer a discussion about being a woman in the work space.

(And by the way, amazingly at Lifesum we are over 40% women)

Tell us about your plans for the future?

Help building a great digital health company, that uses technology to help everyday people become healthier and happier.

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Michelle Hua featured

Inspirational Women: Michelle Hua & Marija Butkovic | Co-Founders of Women of Wearables

 

Michelle Hua - co-founder of Women of Wearables and founder and CEO of Made With Glove and Marija Butkovic, co-founder of Women of Wearables and Kisha Smart Umbrella share their career journeys and why they decided to launch Women of Wearables (WOW).

What inspired you to start a business?

Michelle Hua Women of Wearables
Michelle Hua

Michelle: When I was working remotely as a lawyer for the Western Australian Government in Manchester, I rented a hot desk at a co-working space. I was surrounded by other entrepreneurs and their passion for their business, their self determination and motivation inspired me to resign from my job and start my own wearable technology company, Made With Glove.

After 2 years, I met Marija at the Wearable Tech Show in London in 2016 (who is also in the wearable tech industry) and we co-founded WoW.

Marija: Same as my co-founder Michelle, I was working as a lawyer for 8 years, before tapping into startup world. It all started as becoming a startup mentor, tech journalist and when I started organising hackathons for Croatian startup community. I soon realised it offers me much more creativity and independence than working 9-5 in a stuffy office, so when I moved to London in 2014 I just knew I had to have my own business. It all started by co-founding Kisha, world’s smartest fashion tech umbrella and until today our umbrellas have been sold and shipped to more than 40 different countries. After realising potential of wearable tech industry and lack of women in it, my co-founder Michelle and I decided to start WoW and empower and support women who already are in this industry, but also those who still struggle where to start.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

Michelle: The greatest challenge in being my own boss is finding the time to do everything and be everywhere. Being a sole founder and CEO means you are the Chief Everything Officer. The greatest reward is meeting inspiring people every day, seeking new opportunities and being a STEM Ambassador especially to young girls. I have the freedom to make decisions according to my goals for the business and for the wider community.

Marija: Greatest challenge is wearing multiple hats all the time and managing my time effectively. Having multiple businesses and projects requires me to be super organised. The greatest reward is having my own freedom to do things when I want and how I want, being able to travel and work at the same time, which is a commodity not many people today have, and also making more impact now I have my own business.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

Marija Butkovic Women of Wearables
Marija Butkovic

Michelle: It is so easy to work “in” your business every day that sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back to work “on” your business. Every week, writing down your to do list and ticking them off as you go along helps you look back and recognize your achievements. This is a reminder that when there are failures, these achievements are little successes that will help you get to your end goal. They might be just enough to keep you going because running a business is hard. It’s difficult to see the successes when all you’re focusing on is getting to the end goal and questioning why you aren’t there yet.

Marija: I used to stress out a lot if I wouldn’t tick off all the boxes on my to-do list before. Not any more. Now I have more smaller goals and focus on not more than 3 things in a day. I also try to dedicate at least two days per week on actual working, which means no meetings, no events, just me and my laptop. Learning to say ‘no’ is very important, too. Not every opportunity is the right opportunity. When it comes to failures, I see them as part of my learning process, so I always try to understand what could be improved for the next time. Failures are okay if they make you stronger and bring you useful experience which can help you in the future.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

Michelle: Saying no is difficult because I don’t want to miss out on any opportunities or let anyone down. However, I’ve learnt that saying no means I can focus on my goals and vision for my business Made With Glove and for WoW.

Marija: I would say that finding a good team, especially co-founder, is crucial. There’s nothing worse than sharing your everyday office life and your work with the wrong people, and nothing better than knowing you can rely on your co-founder when it gets tough.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

Michelle: Being a sole founder and constantly making decisions is tiring. My mentor helps me gain perspective when I’m overwhelmed with so many things to do. I can build my own relationships and networks in the industry. The tech industry is male dominated so having a female mentor to guide me as I navigate this new industry is really helpful.

Marija: Although I don’t have a mentor, I have mentored many startups and individuals over the last few years and that experience actually helped me figure out what are do’s and dont’s in entrepreneurial world. I also read a lot, mostly business books which proved to be really helpful, too.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Michelle: Networking comes in many ways both formal and informal so always be ready to seek opportunities and make connections at any given time.

Marija: I always say that my biggest and most important asset is my network. Whenever you can, try to meet someone new and even if that person is not directly connected with what you do, there is always something you can learn from them.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

Michelle: Having a great support network is crucial as well as a great team who can help me scale and grow my business. It is only by having a great co-founder for WoW and staff that I can rely on to allow me the time to do the things that I’m better at. The real value is having a great team that I can trust to help me achieve my goals. Growth takes time and being patient and organized is key to planning for growth.

Marija: Scaling a business is harder than people usually think. We all read about those big business successes, but what people forgive is that overnight success usually comes after ten years. It’s better to go at slower pace and have a constant growth, than rush and then drain yourself. Prioritizing is very important, so finding the best team and then growing gradually is the best option, I think. Growth brings experience and wisdom, and we all must remember that business is something that never stops growing, and we never stop learning.

What does the future hold for you?

Michelle: I’m very excited about the future in particular for the wearables industry. It’s a new industry and being a part of that is very rewarding. I also have the opportunity to help shape its future through WoW because we are inspiring, supporting and connecting the current and the next generation women in wearables, IoT and AR/VR. Sharing it with my WoW co-founder Marija and my wearable tech assistant, Rachael makes the journey more exciting.

Marija: Many beautiful things, I hope. Wearable Tech, Fashion Tech, IoT and VR industry will grow a lot over the next few years, and being part of those industries enables me to shape not only my own future but also have impact on them. I’m a big advocate for getting more women into tech, which is the very reason I started WoW. My big passion is travelling, which I try to do whenever I can, together with my husband. Being an entrepreneur offers me that freedom, so taking the best from both worlds is what makes me truly happy.

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Charlotte Finn

Inspirational Woman: Charlotte Finn | VP, Programs - EMEA, Salesforce.org

 

Inspirational Woman Charlotte Finn EMEA director SalesforceorgCharlotte supports employee volunteerism and directs funding to areas like STEM education as well as helping non-profit organisations access technology.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I worked my way up the corporate technology ladder but I didn’t join the non-profit sector until a couple of years ago after I spent time working in South Africa. Both the organisation I worked for and the social and economic situation in South Africa were very different to anything I had experienced previously in the UK. The lessons I learned whilst I was there made me realised I wanted to work for an ethical organisation and to follow my passion for ethics and governance. So, upon my return to the UK I shifted my career to do just that.

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

The best thing you can do is listen. It’s incredibly important to listen to what’s on the minds of your colleagues and customers and to get an idea of their goals and challenges. If you can help them to succeed, then you will succeed too.

I also believe it’s incredibly important to create a transparent work environment – something which Salesforce as a whole is great at delivering. As a leader, it’s your role to develop a team environment where people feel comfortable speaking openly and challenging each other. By having a positive, communicative environment you’ll be surrounded by people who want to work hard and be successful.

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

People often say that this is a great problem to have but it doesn’t make the decision any easier – it’s horrible letting someone down when you know they’re just as capable as the other person. However there are a couple of steps I’ve taken in the past to help make that all important decision.

The first is to focus on the mission critical skills that are part of the job description. Although equally qualified, both candidates are likely to have a different balance of skills, meaning that after a closer look one candidate may be better suited to the role than the other, without detracting from the more poorly suited candidate’s individual skills. Secondly, gauge their enthusiasm. Which candidate appears more willing and prepared to move mountains to attend the interviews and find out more about the job and the team? It may soon become clear that one candidate is much keener than the other on the opportunity.

How do you manage your own boss?

Communication is key – you both need to understand how the other person works. If the relationship isn’t one of mutual respect and understanding then it just won’t be productive. Also, every boss is different so it’s important to understand which method of communication and discussion is the best for them.

This is one of the reasons why I think it’s important to meet on a regular basis. Not only does it help to strengthen your working relationship, but if any issues need to be discussed, it is much easier to sort them out in an open and honest way when you’re face-to-face with someone.

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

I’m an early-riser and usually get up at around 5.45am. If I’m working abroad and staying in a hotel I’ll normally try and squeeze in a 5km run before the day properly starts. Or, if I’m at home, I’ll be busy getting my son ready for school.

A day out in the field could involve a meeting with a voluntary partner like the Red Cross, or visiting one of the projects. I absolutely love to work with local communities. For example, I’m heavily involved in the BizAcademy programme which works with youth from under-resourced and low-income communities who want to learn about entrepreneurship. There have been instances where kids have walked in at the start of the week without talking or making eye contact, only to walk out at the end having come up with a sterling business idea and the confidence to articulate that idea with a winning smile.

If I’m in the office, I’ll sit down with the team to review which organisations are getting what funding, and why. It’s incredibly important that any grant I approve has a clear programme associated with it, with agreed objectives, activities and target impact.

A typical evening could involve playing catch up on emails, spending time with my son, or hosting a gala event. We hosted one last year where, instead of giving away goody bags, Salesforce made a donation per attendee to CoderDojo.

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

In today’s competitive market, simply being good at your job isn’t enough to help you get ahead in your career – you need to be visible. If key, senior people aren’t aware of you and your work then the reality is that you’ll miss out on getting involved in interesting projects – despite your capabilities and performance.

One thing that everyone can do is to speak up in meetings and put yourself forward for opportunities. It’s so important to find your voice as not only will it raise your profile, it will help to develop your self-confidence and get you feeling more comfortable at being the centre of attention. Women also need to challenge themselves more and remember that they don’t need to tick 100% of the boxes all the time.

Another tip is to find yourself a mentor. Mentors can offer invaluable advice on how you can get ahead in your career and get yourself noticed.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker

Networking is incredibly important – you never know who you’re going to meet and how they may influence your career later down the line. If you’re new to networking I sympathise with the fact that it can be a daunting experience but hopefully these three tips will help you to be successful:

Do your research – Learn about the community you will be meeting by researching them on blogs, websites and through social media. Also, try and get a hold of the guest list in advance and make a note of who you’d like to meet at the event along with who they work for, what they do and their accomplishments. Doing this in advance will provide you with some great conversation fodder and will make you look really switched on.

Work the room – one of the biggest mistakes people make when they first attend a networking event is sticking to the same group of people for the entire duration. It’s much better to try and have several warm interactions than being monopolised by one person. If you do need to get away then do so politely by saying something along the lines of: “That sounds like a really interesting project, I’m sure you’ll be highly successful. Anyway I mustn’t keep you as I’m sure you want to circulate the room.”

Set yourself goals – your networking experience will be much more productive if you go into it knowing what you want to achieve. Whether it’s connecting with a new business prospect, developing a customer relationship or simply making new friends you’ll feel a lot more focused when you arrive.

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Inspirational Female Entrepreneur: Kirstie Kelly | Co-Founder of LaunchPad Recruits

What inspired you to join a tech startup?

In my early career I joined a group of university pals who were building a tech consulting practice in the Home Counties. I watched them build a brilliant team, amazing product suite and a dynamic culture (although often a little left-field!) I was truly happy in the role and felt like a part of something exciting. I wanted that feeling again.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss/ the most senior female employee?

Kirstie Kelly - Co-founder of LaunchPadWill Hamilton (the founder) and I set out with a very clear view of the impact we wanted to achieve – helping organisations to hire great people who fit their culture. But second to that aspiration, we wanted to build a successful business that we'd be proud of. We're both hard on ourselves, and take our commitment to our investors very seriously – we're here to deliver them a return, first and foremost. So whilst my greatest reward is seeing the business grow, the biggest challenge is taking time to stop, look back and pat yourself on the back. There's no time!

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

Our Senior Team has all worked in corporate business, so know how it is to work in a structured, process and results oriented environment. However, we also knew that we wanted to avoid falling into the trap of developing policies for policies sake and wanted to eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy to be sure we remained truly agile, fast moving and reactive to the market.

We decided to take the principles of Gino Wickman's Traction to help us set structured goals, measure everything, and use facts to help tell the story of what to change. Using data to evidence success and failure helps to reduce some of the emotion associated.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

I'd love to tap into a network for coaching. Will is a part of the EO, Entrepreneur Organisation for Founders, and I'd love to find the equivalent for co-founders! I’m not necessarily looking for a Women in Leadership programme – more for a diversity of thought and ideas.

Informally, my network from the original tech start-up group have become my mentors. Now senior leaders in PwC, Deloitte and others, they've experienced both sides (corporate and start-up), and have seen me develop along the way too.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

I can't stress enough the power of your network, but it can be a challenging and intimidating thing to master. In fact, it's often dominated by very senior players.

Networking for me is all about open-minded connection and ‘give and get’ should be your commitment to every conversation. Give your attention, get some knowledge and offer a connection. Tell your story (even if it's the 50th time you've done that!) and don't try and sell. Smart people will already be considering how they might help you – just be your interesting self! And don't be afraid to keep in touch.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

Agility is the name of the game, in my opinion. Quickly find your niche or differentiation and get out there and sell. Often we see businesses with amazing concepts and products that don't understand how to build a sales function.

It’s worth remembering that your approach needs to be repeatable, so it’s helpful to use technology to manage your sales operation from the outset. A CRM system is essential.

You should also measure everything. The moment you can identify a pattern of customer behaviour then you can start to properly forecast growth and determine the level of investment you need to make to accelerate.

What does the future hold for you?

For LaunchPad Recruits, we're clear about the potential of the business, the IP we're developing and the customer appetite for a globally-minded partner. We're respectful about global growth and have seen some businesses get it wrong by not understanding the new geographies and sectors they are stepping into. Trying to conquer the whole of the United States at once should be left to Beyoncé!

For me personally, I have a huge sense of pride for the organisation we've built, although I wonder if we'll ever feel satisfied that the job is well done – probably when I deliver the return we've promised! At that point, I wonder whether Will and I will have a view of the next problem we want to solve.

We feel strongly about our quest to bring fair people decision making into businesses, so will no doubt try to think of other ways we could make a positive impact on the world. The options are exciting and endless!

Read other Inspirational Female Entrepreneur profiles by clicking here.


Inspirational Woman: Sarah Weldon | CEO of environmental and STEM education charity

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Sarah Weldon is the CEO of environmental and STEM education charity 'Oceans Project', an organisation which raises funds through ocean rowing and public speaking, to provide free, online education to some of the most disadvantaged young people in the world, including children who have been human trafficked, children orphaned through gender or disability, and children living and working on toxic rubbish dumps.

In May 2015, Sarah will row the length of the River Thames, before heading out to sea, in a bid to become the first person in the world to row solo around Great Britain. Sarah's 3000 mile, 14 week row, will take her along the same routes that the Vikings rowed one thousand years ago, providing the perfect opportunity to draw comparisons between the science, technology, engineering, and maths involved in building a boat, navigating, and surviving at sea in the viking age and the present.

For International women's Day 2014, Skype named Sarah as a 'Woman Changing the World Through Technology'. Sarah is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Wings Worldquest Flag Carrier, and Google Glass Explorer.

1. How do you set goals and stick to them and how do you celebrate success?

At school I was encouraged to set 'realistic' goals but they never excited me. School entered me into the lower papers for subjects such as maths, so the highest grade I could get was an E. When I got my results, I had top grades in everything, apart from maths. The school had inadvertently encouraged me to set my sights low, and in a competitive world this could mean the difference between being selected or rejected for jobs and studies.  It felt like the equivalent of entering the Olympic games and aiming for last place rather than the gold medal.  It made no sense.

That experience taught me to always aim for the gold medal, the best case scenario, the one in your perfect world. The higher you aim, the more exciting the journey, regardless of whether you make it to a podium position.  Once you have a goal that is 100% yours, create a list of things you need to do to achieve that goal.  Do they seem 'do-able' or do you need to bring in an expert to help you with it or to teach you new skills. The smaller your steps, the easier they are to complete and to feel like you are making progress. Celebrate every success, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem, and use these to motivate you towards the next step on the path.

I've found that the biggest challenges are often the best lessons to learn, and have ultimately helped to transform the project into something even more special. Embrace the challenges, and as my Publicist says, they make the story even more exciting.

2. How important are role models in inspiring successful women of the future?

Hugely important. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have passed any exams in school, had it not been for the inspiring female teachers who taught me the value of education as a passport to the future. When another human being gives up their time or energy and sees more in your future than you do, it makes you feel valued and want to try harder for them, even if you don't yet believe in yourself. It really means a lot.  In times of challenge, I find it useful to internalise role models, and ask myself 'what would they do if they were me in this situation' or 'what would they be telling me right now'. Role models help show us alternatives or behaviours that we aspire to in our own lives, especially when we see them overcome adversity or gracefully deal with losing a race, or tackling a new challenge.  We like to see them succeed, because if they can do amazing things, then so can we if we follow what they do.

3. You have dedicated your life to achieving success, what advice can you give to our members about staying focussed and managing time efficiently?

When I start to struggle with motivation, I change what I'm doing. If I'm struggling to come up with an idea, I'll often take a bath, walk the dog, or clean the house as that is when my brain starts to make all sorts of weird and wonderful connections. If a task is difficult and taking up too much of your time, leave it for a bit and focus on a task that is quick and simple, or more enjoyable so you get a sense of achievement. Then come back to the challenging task with a new energy and a can do attitude, and break it into manageable chunks. If you are struggling to maintain focus or to find the time there is usually a good reason, and sometimes just taking some time off can help you to get your motivation back, equally, if you find you always have an excuse for not doing something, you are probably afraid of some element of that task, and that is what is holding you back. Identifying those reasons, especially if its guilt or anxiety can often help to address the real reason that you are struggling to stay on task.

4. Have you had to overcome any setbacks to get where you are today? If so, what advice can you give to our members about overcoming challenges?

Be patient and be persistent. Sometimes great ideas take a long time to be accepted. I was recently speaking at an event with Sir Tim Berners-Lee who invented the World Wide Web, something which has revolutionised the way we live and work today.  I couldn't believe it when I heard that when he first put forward his invention, it was put aside for a number of years because it seemed like a ridiculous idea.  Likewise when penicillin was invented it spent 12 years on a shelf.  Had it been accepted earlier on, it could have saved thousands of lives during the war as soldiers died from infected wounds. If you believe that you have an amazing concept or feel passionate about your goal, then stick with it.  There were companies that I really wanted to work with, who turned me down year after year, but eventually ended up contacting me to be a sponsor because the time was now right for them and they had refreshed their strategies. Sometimes the timing just isn't right, but its always worth getting the 'no' from the decision maker, rather than the person on the ground who just quotes company policy at you without even reading your vision.  I've found that the biggest challenges are often the best lessons to learn, and have ultimately helped to transform the project into something even more special. Embrace the challenges, and as my Publicist says, they make the story even more exciting.

5. How important is it to take responsibility for your own development?

Absolutely vital. This is your dream, your goal, your baby. You brought it into the world and you know what you want for its future.  As with any parent, you learn through trial and error, and when you don't know what to do, you seek advice, through Google, phoning a friend, reading a book, or making an appointment with a specialist. Don't hide behind excuses, and be sure to focus on the things you are doing well at, not all the things you are doing wrong. Focus on the solutions not the problems and everything will fall into place soon enough. Take failures and challenges as lessons to learn from, and move forward.

6. What is the benefit of having a coach or a mentor?

I didn't have a great experience with business coaching, but that's because the coach wasn't the right person for me, and didn't understand the project properly, so I would leave each session feeling disheartened and annoyed at having wasted valuable time away from my work which I loved. I now work with a number of coaches and mentors on different aspects of the project, from mental strength coaching to business mentoring.  Each is incredibly valuable, and a good sounding board for dealing with any new ideas, as well as insecurities which might be holding me back.  I was incredibly nervous about speaking in group situations and on stage at first, but I've been working with an amazing lady called Alexandra Watson who has really helped me to to overcome my fears of public speaking. I now speak regularly as a way of bringing in funds for the charity, and am enjoying it now that I've started to relax more on stage.  Aside from being more confident at speaking on stage, this has had a knock on effect to how I view myself as a business woman, athlete, and as someone leading a large team of people, which has improved the way that the project runs as an entity in its own right.

The smaller your steps, the easier they are to complete and to feel like you are making progress. Celebrate every success, no matter how small or insignificant it might seem, and use these to motivate you towards the next step on the path.

7. How does your normal day start and end?

No two days are the same really, and because I travel a lot it can be really difficult to manage time, budget, and to have a structure or routine.  But being self employed means I do have the flexibility to set my own schedule. I always start off with a good breakfast and cup of tea, and depending how I feel or what the weather is doing, will either travel to the lake for a rowing session, or head straight to my desk to start on the admin. Most days involve teaching a class using Skype in the Classroom, but this depends on their location, so I'm sometimes teaching at 3am.  I prefer to get up later if possible, but to work until 2am or 3am as I find that there are less of the daytime distractions from emails and phone calls, but I always end the day with a snack, cup of tea, and reading a book or watching some catch up television. Otherwise my brain doesn't really switch off.

8. How do your let your hair down?

I'm a workaholic so I find it really difficult to take time off from the project, but that's the beauty of doing something that you love.  I'm always thinking about the 'what next' or what could be done better.  For me, my favourite things are spending time outside training on the lake or sea (outdoor swimming or on the boat), or talking with the students via Skype or on Facebook, catching up with what is happening in their life. Those are very relaxing activities and make me laugh the most. I don't have a TV, so to go to the cinema or watching movies is a real treat and often inspiring or uplifting to step outside of yourself for an hour. I like to explore new places, especially cafes and museums, and to go to new places with my little dog and spend some quality time with her.  When I'm with people in my work, or staying in youth hostels, I love it, but it can be very tiring, so I really appreciate the time when I'm on my own and quiet, relaxing with my cats or baking and sat in front of the fire. I really appreciate the home comforts.

9. What are your plans for future?

I've just had a birthday, so its a natural time for reflection on the year that was and my final year in my 30s.   I'm really looking forward to Christmas with my best friends, more so because I'll be flying out to Portugal straight after New Year, to row across the Atlantic Ocean to South America.  I'll only be home a short time before my main expedition, a solo row around Great Britain between May and September, following the Viking routes around our coast.  Its been three years in the planning so I'm super excited and just to get to the start line will be a massive achievement.  Right now its hard to fathom that I could well have 11 Guinness World Records by my 40th birthday, but I'm sure that will be my lot for ocean rowing, and by that time I'll be ready to settle down and let someone else take over, whilst I continue on the business side.  I'd like to think that I'll have more of a routine and stability by then as I'd really like to adopt, an ambition I've had since I was very young.

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