Inspirational Woman: Louise Maynard-Atem | Innovation Specialist, Experian

Louise Maynard-Atem

Louise Maynard-Atem is an Innovation Specialist at Experian.

She began her professional career on the Civil Service Fast Stream, where she was tasked with implementing data and evidence-based policies across the health and defence sector. Joining government immediately after academic research allowed her to work on projects of national significance including NHS four-hour target analysis, funding of specialist hospitals, and major defence contracts for the armed forces.

Her current role at Experian allows her to drive a culture of innovation and agility, using new data sources to develop products and services that will increase financial inclusion and create more value for consumers, with a focus on emerging markets.

Louise is a vocal supporter of STEM education and has worked for many years as a STEM ambassador, encouraging young people to pursue higher education and careers within the industry. More recently, given the increasing under-representation of young girls pursuing further education in STEM subjects, she has taken on the role of volunteer and mentor at the STEMettes charitable organisation, helping inspire the next generation.

Off the back of her role in corporate innovation at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, she decided to start her own company – The Corporate Innovation Forum – which provides a community of best practise for those working in corporate innovation teams. She described this as a career defining moment as it was the first time she’s had the responsibility of developing her own data community from scratch.

Louise also holds an undergraduate & PhD focused in Materials Chemistry from The University of Manchester and lives with her boyfriend in London

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

My name is Louise Maynard-Atem and I often describe myself as a recovering academic, as that’s where I started my career, but it probably also describes me quite well as a person. From a young age, I’ve had my nose in about 3 or 4 books at any one time. I’ve always had a voracious appetite for learning and that continues to this day – I’m currently studying for an executive MBA, as well as teaching myself to code.

I spent a number of years as a material science researcher, after studying chemistry at university, and since then I’ve worked across both public and private sector, primarily in healthcare and defence. I now work in Experian’s global innovation team, developing new data-driven solutions and attempting to solve particularly pernicious problems linked to financial inclusion.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did, in fact I plan and re-plan my career regularly to this day! My friends will be the first to say I love to plan, and my career is no exception. At school, I decided I wanted to win a Nobel Prize, so I worked backwards from there and figured out the steps I would need to take to get me to that end goal. I largely didn’t deviate from that plan (apart from a brief flirtation with going into investment banking, in 2008 of all years) until my late twenties, when I realised that I’d been blindly following a plan I made as a teenager and it wasn’t what I wanted in life anymore. It was at that point that I reframed the situation and started to think more about the impact that I want to have on society, rather than the specific job I want to do. I realised there were a number of ways that I could achieve that impact, so I started to make a career plan with the intention of frequently revisiting it to ensure that it is still aligned with the impact I’m seeking to have. I probably revisit my plans multiple times throughout the year, but tend to only make major adjustments once a year.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Absolutely. I’ve had a variety of different roles across different industries, which can often feel like you’re starting again from the bottom rung and have a long climb ahead of you. However, I’ve realised that going into a new area is an opportunity to not only learn new skills, but a great chance to apply the things that you already know to new situations. I’ve discovered that so many of the skills that I’ve learnt in one field/industry are incredibly transferable to any other; so, moving from academia, to government, to various parts of the private sector has actual given me a completely unique view point that has actually been a USP rather than an hindrance.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Career-wise, I’m probably most proud of the external recognition I’ve received for the work that I’ve been doing. Last year I was named as one of the Top 50 Women in Engineering, and earlier this year I was named as one of We Are The City Rising Stars. It’s such an honour to be in the company of other great women who I respect and admire, and also be given a platform to share my journey and experiences with others in the hopes that it may bring some benefit to them.

Outside of my work, I’m particularly proud of my involvement with a number of charities that drive participation in STEM subjects and higher education for under-represented groups. Education has always been a huge passion of mine, as I feel it’s a phenomenal enabler for so many opportunities in life; any work that I can do to ensure that the broadest range of people have access to such opportunities will always be my proudest achievement.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I think it’s been a willingness to speak up whenever I need to; whether that’s to ask for help when I need it, to challenge something that I don’t agree with and offer my own perspective, or to volunteer for a new project. I think my willingness to change and adapt to new surroundings and challenges has helped me move forward at speed – I’m very uncomfortable with getting comfortable, so as soon as I feel like less challenged, I’ll throw a spanner in the works and change things up to make sure I’m still pushing myself.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Technology is ever-changing, and the pace of change only seems to be getting faster so my main tip is to ensure you’re always keeping abreast of those changes and keeping your knowledge as up-to-date as possible. I believe we should all be life-long learners, and nowhere is that more relevant than in the technology sector.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I think progress has certainly been made, but there is still a long way to go, you only need to read things like the memo from a Google employee about the suitability of women to certain roles to know that we’re still a long way from parity. How do we overcome this? Well it’s going to take a considerable shift in mindset – we need to have really visible examples of women working in and succeeding at every level of the tech sector, and this needs to be normalised. In the short term we need to keep shining a light on all of the great work that women are doing in technology, but the ideal end state is a time when women being equally as successful as men in every sector isn’t newsworthy, it’s just the norm!

What do you think companies can do to progress the careers of women working in technology?

The first thing companies need to do is understand what the specific barriers are for women within their organisations. That may well be a lack of flexible working, lack of shared parental leave, toxic environments that disproportionately affect women – but it needs to be an investigation into the factors affecting each organisation, rather than just copying trends/policies that other companies are implementing.

I also feel things like mentoring and reverse mentoring programs are vital to help people at all levels of the business see the world through a different lens and get an alternative perspective on situations that you can’t experience first-hand.

Perhaps the most important thing that organisations can do is create a safe environment for people to voice their issues, and actual commit to making changes rather than just paying lip-service to these issues.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

If I could affect only one area, it would definitely be the pipeline of talent coming into the technology sector as I feel that’s the only way to achieve sustained growth and eventual parity. We need to target young girls and women, and encourage them from as early a stage as possible to pursue the full range of careers, including all aspects of STEM, so that they’re not closing themselves off to opportunities before they’ve even begun to explore the possibilities ahead of them.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Getting out there and meeting/talking to other women in the industry is invaluable. I’ve yet to meet other women in tech who aren’t keen to help each other whenever and in whatever way they can – we just need to put ourselves out there more and not be afraid to ask for help or advice. Not every person will be able to help you, but they’ll more than likely be able to point you in the direction of somebody who will.

Organisations like We Are Tech Women, Women in Technology, Women in Tech UK and Women In Data are have fantastic resources, events and growing communities which provide a great start point for women looking to grow their networks. In fact, I’ll be speaking at this year’s Women in Data event, which is something I am extremely excited about.

I would also say to those that work in organisations of all sizes; take advantages of the internal networks within your organisations, and if there isn’t one up and running already, don’t be afraid to start one yourself.


Ada Lovelace featured

Inspirational quotes: Ada Lovelace | The first computer programmer

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace was a mathematician and writer, known for her work on Charles Babbage's proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.

Lovelace was the first to recognise that the machine had applications beyond pure calculation and published the first algorithm intended to be carried out by such a machine.

As a result, Lovelace is regarded as one of the first computer programmers.

Today, marks Ada Lovelace Day - an annual event celebrated on the second Tuesday of October. The day began in 2009 with the aim of raising the profile of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), and to create new role models for girls and women.

In honour of Ada Lovelace Day, WeAreTechWomen take a look at Lovelace's most inspiring quotes!


"That brain of mine is something more than merely mortal; as time will show."

"If you can't give me poetry, can't you give me poetical science?"

"I never am really satisfied that I understand anything; because, understand it well as I may, my comprehension can only be an infinitesimal fraction of all I want to understand about the many connections and relations which occur to me, how the matter in question was first thought of or arrived at..."

"Religion to me is science and science is religion."

"The more I study, the more insatiable do I feel my genius for it to be."

"Your best and wisest refuge from all troubles is in your science."

"The science of operations, as derived from mathematics more especially, is a science of itself, and has its own abstract truth and value."

"Imagination is the Discovering Faculty, pre-eminently. It is that which penetrates into the unseen worlds around us, the worlds of Science."

"Mathematical science shows what is. It is the language of unseen relations between things. But to use and apply that language, we must be able to fully to appreciate, to feel, to seize the unseen, the unconscious."

"As soon as I have got flying to perfection, I have got a scheme about a steam engine."


Alice Skeats featured

Inspirational Woman: Alice Skeats | Senior PR & Communications Manager, Nextdoor

Alice SkeatsAlice Skeats is the Senior PR & Communications Manager at Nextdoor, the UK’s largest and fastest-growing private social network used by more than 16,200 neighbourhoods in the UK.

With ten years experience in PR & Communications, Alice has a wide range of knowledge and experience spanning both the private and public sector. Prior to Nextdoor, Alice spent five years working in PR & Communications in policing, in roles at the City of London Police and FACT. She’s previously lead a national campaign on fake beauty products to raise awareness of the dangers of counterfeit cosmetics and electrical items, which went global.

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

My name is Alice Skeats, i’m the Senior PR & Communications Manager at Nextdoor and was born and bred in Southend-on-Sea. I have over ten years of experience in PR and Communications, the majority of which is in the public sector, particularly policing and crime; including two years at the City of London Police leading PR for a police unit dedicated to combating fake goods and piracy and three years in the film/TV industry protecting the creative rights of film/TV studios.

I’ve always been passionate about where I live and have always wanted to work for an organisation which makes a real difference to people's lives and so when the role appeared at Nextdoor I jumped at the opportunity. Nextdoor encompasses so many passions and values I feel strongly about. Nextdoor’s main aim is to help neighbours build stronger, safer and happier local communities. Having lived in Southend-on-Sea most of my life (minus the three years I spent studying at University in Hull) I have seen how a vibrant community can help a town and its residents thrive. I began my career working in the press team at Southend-on-Sea Council and so I witnessed first hand the amazing people in the community working to bring Southend together. Local communities are at the heart of Nextdoor and I love the fact that every day I am surrounded by inspiring stories of UK neighbours who are using the platform to make positive changes in their communities. Technology, particularly social media, more recently is getting a bad name. We are a nation of smartphones, tablets, and multiple social media profiles - we are more connected than ever, but are in fact more disconnected than ever. What I love about Nextdoor, is that it uses technology and social media to combat exactly this. It is all about creating real human connection. On Nextdoor you connect with your neighbours and can get to know them online, to develop meaningful relationships offline.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I remember being at school and not knowing what career path to follow but I knew I didn’t want a ‘traditional role’ that the careers teacher would have told us about. I have always loved building strong connections and working with people from all different walks of life and different ranks. I am the person who strikes up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. Whether it’s on a train, walking to the shops or in a public loo! Whilst at university I spent one summer working in the press office at Essex Police which gave me my first taste of PR and I never looked back.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

A large part of my career has been working in very male-dominated environments. As a young woman, this can sometimes seem daunting, however, my advice would be to always remind yourself of your value. You were hired for a reason; your knowledge and expertise. Self-assurance in yourself and your abilities are so important in such environments.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am a strong believer that no matter how old you are or where you are in your career, you are always still learning and so I look forward to many achievements still to come in the future. However, some of my favourites so far have to be landing my dream job at Nextdoor, being a spokesperson for the film/tv industry on the BBC’s The One Show on a piece about piracy, as well as launching and running a campaign on the dangers of fake beauty/electrical goods which hit the front page of the Daily Mail, and was also featured in every national UK paper and national TV and radio.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Always pushing myself that one step further. I recently watched Brene Brown’s documentary Call to Courage which is centred on pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I believe not staying within my comfort zone and always striving for success and progression has certainly helped me in my career.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Keep yourself updated with the latest tech news and trends. Also be open with your manager about what you want to achieve, where you want to be and how you want to develop. A member of staff who is eager to learn and go the extra mile is always the greatest asset to any team.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

We’ve come a long way but the STEM/Technology sector is still under-represented when it comes to women. There are some amazing people and organisations championing girls and women to join the tech industry. We need to do more to highlight the exciting and varied roles within the sector at a much earlier stage and continue to push things like internships, women in tech talks and mentorship programmes.

What do you think companies can do to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I feel really lucky to work for an organisation where women are so well represented. Our CEO, Sarah Friar, is a real champion for women in business and STEM and we also have a high number of women in leadership roles. At Nextdoor we also have a regular speaker series, profiling interesting and inspiring women across all industries as well as women’s network which is always looking at ways to provide additional support and development to staff.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I think the key is to show people that STEM supports so many sectors. STEM roles can support all industries from fashion to film-making. By raising awareness of the varied roles and pushing this into the education system early on via mentorships, events & special programmes.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I personally don’t stick to tech specific events or resources. I love a good podcast. My favourite podcast is The Guilty Feminist and funnily enough, the latest episode was all about Women in STEM. If you haven’t listened to the Guilty Feminist or that episode go check it out. It’s a great podcast that discusses a wide range of topics from feminist marriage to women in science. Our CEO also holds the most inspiring events for women called Ladies Who Launch. I would recommend anyone looking to network or just simply to be reawoken with ambition and motivation to attend. I went to the Belfast event last year and have come away with a network of mentors, advisors but most importantly friends.


Jennifer Bainbridge featured

Inspirational Woman: Jennifer Bainbridge | Structure Trade Finance Analyst, BP

Jennifer Bainbridge

Jennifer Bainbridge originally started to study Veterinary Medicine, having wanted to be a vet her whole life.

However, she dropped this after a year as she wasn’t enjoying it, and instead chose a liberal Arts and Sciences degree at the University of Birmingham in Economics and Chemistry. During university, she took part in the ‘Women in Trading and Finance’ programme run by BP, which led her to apply for BP’s Finance and Risk Graduate Programme. She’s now a Structured Trade Finance Analyst at BP Integrated Supply and Trading in London, working with emerging tech.

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

My name is Jennifer Bainbridge and I am currently a Structured Trade Finance Analyst in BP’s Supply and Trading division, however I am moving roles to Commercial Development in October. I’m on the graduate rotation programme at BP, which sees me doing three year-long rotations.

I was born in the UK but spent my childhood in the Middle East before returning to the UK where I have been since (except for a year abroad spent in Australia). I graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2017 with a BSc in Liberal Arts and Sciences (Chemistry and Economics).

I would describe myself as a confident, bubbly, and extroverted person, who likes to be challenged and work in a fast-paced, team-based environment. In that sense, my roles have been and are perfect for me as they combine working with people and relationship building with problem solving.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did but what I do now versus what I planned is very different!  I always wanted to be a vet until I went to university and found out it wasn’t for me. So, at the age of 19, I was back to square one, trying to work out what I wanted to do.

I started business and management as they seemed like useful, transferable subjects. Shortly into the course, I realised that business was too easy. I missed the hard sciences like chemistry that I’d studied at school. My tutor at the time, who was an economist, said to me “since you’ve got a maths background, why not combine them and do economics?” So I did, ending up with a double major in economics and chemistry, which led me into Supply and Trading at BP.

What has been your biggest career challenge so far and how did you overcome it?

The learning curve going into trading in the energy industry was extremely steep. I had to learn very quickly and felt like a duck out of water at the beginning.

At times I felt a lack of confidence and was daunted by the sheer scale and sums of money traded in the energy industry. However, my co-workers in my first role were extremely supportive and always happy to answer questions. That support continued into my next role and has helped me to develop fast and become comfortable and confident in what I do.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Being able to get stuck in straight away in my first rotation and being given responsibility was key. After some initial training, I had my own book, commodity area and group of traders to manage. I really appreciate the trust I was given by my team; it’s something that has been a huge factor in my professional development. Being trusted is hugely empowering, as it makes you feel good about yourself and that you add value. This was repeated in my second rotation and I think the sense of accountability and job satisfaction has really helped to push me and my development.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology or finance?

My main pieces of advice would be to get stuck in, ask questions and take every opportunity to build your network. Particularly for people who are at the start of their careers, it’s important to get involved in as much as possible as the best way to learn is by doing.

Do you believe there are still disparities regarding the number of women working in tech?

Looking at the finance and energy industries where technology plays a huge role, you do notice that the workplaces are male-dominated. It’s particularly noticeable on the trading floor where you see very few women. However, it does vary from team to team and women are becoming better represented in leadership roles. It will take time for the disparity to reduce but I do think it is improving.

The lower number is partly due to the perception of the role. A lot of people make a judgement about whether their personality type would suit a tech, trading or finance environment. Therefore, they may apply to more ‘traditionally female’ roles. I think a lot of stereotypes still exist around the working environment which is definitely one of the reasons for the continuing disparity.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Someone said to me once, “do you think that females didn’t make the grade?” To which I said, “no I think that they didn’t even apply in the first place”. That is where the problem lies.

It is essential to encourage female graduates to apply from the offset. Getting girls interested in finance and STEM at a very early age is the only way you are going to support great careers for women down the line and even out the numbers. Getting them into various businesses and showing them what the working environment is really like is very important. I don’t believe you can just show them one office, it’s about proving that many of the stereotypes they believe exist, don’t.

What practical things can we do to support the careers of women in finance?

It is crucial we show women and young girls that there are opportunities for fantastic careers in technology. Holding female-oriented events is one way to do this.

An example is the ‘High Tea at BP’ event that I attended whilst at university. Females from STEM backgrounds came to find out more about BP and participate in assertiveness and body language workshops. It was great for me to network, find out about roles and simultaneously develop key skills for the workplace.

I believe we need to go further still and target the next generation of women in STEM. I think a lot of companies have very good programmes around supporting women once they start their careers, but many fail to attract women in the first place. At BP, we have events which focus on showing women, particularly those at school and university, what a trading and finance environment looks like. They can be mentored, visit the office for an afternoon or a week and get to hear from a range of people from across the organisation. I think it’s important for them to meet people both at the top of the organisation but also those starting out so they can see how their careers might progress. For many, hearing about A Levels, university and first jobs is more relevant, and they see themselves in those people. It can sometimes be hard when you meet a woman in a leadership role to relate to them as they are quite far down their career journey.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I’d definitely say it is important to stay up to date with news in general. I listen to the news every day on the radio and receive newsletters from publications such as the Financial Times and Reuters.  Another thing is to build a network (not just women) who you can go to for advice and support. They don’t necessarily need to be mentors or those more senior, some of the best advice I’ve received are from fellow graduates and those early in their careers.


Inspirational Woman: Rashi Khurana | Vice President of Engineering, Shutterstock

Rashi Khurana 1Rashi Khurana is Vice President of Engineering at Shutterstock where she oversees the front end E-commerce, Platform and Mobile engineering teams.

Since joining Shutterstock in 2016, Rashi helped lead three teams through a technology transformation, all the while managing day-to-day operations of delivering a quality product to customers. Rashi is passionate about managing teams of engineers to deliver above expectations everyday and building resiliency into all initiatives.

Rashi earned a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, she worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Hailing from India, Rashi moved to the United States in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, she worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Rashi has also spoken on “Business as Usual While Revamping a Decade of Code” and recently took part on a tech women’s leadership panel.  Her speaking engagements include 2018 Wonder Women Tech, 2018 SXSW, and 2017 DeveloperWeek.

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

I am Vice President of Engineering at Shutterstock, where I oversee the front-end E-commerce, Platform and Mobile engineering teams. Since joining Shutterstock in 2016, I have helped lead three teams through a technology transformation, all the while managing day-to-day operations of delivering a quality product to customers. I am passionate about managing teams of engineers to deliver above expectations every day and building resiliency into all initiatives.

I moved to the United States from India in 2007 to pursue a master’s degree in Information Technology and Management at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Upon graduation, I worked at Orbitz in Chicago for seven years—before moving to New York City.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career of choice when I was 12 years old was teaching. I thought about going into politics — I wanted to be an officer at the Indian Administrative Services at one point of my life, but nothing would have come close to the growing and learning that has come my way with the choices I have made.

The Indian education system is largely a rat race to get into the top colleges in India for undergrad, such as the Indian Institute of Technology. I decided that path wasn’t for me, which meant dropping out of my ongoing physics and mathematics preparation courses to get into those colleges. I knew I had to be comfortable with this decision so it would not lead to future regret. And as destiny has it, it was one of the best decisions I ever made, to go to undergrad in a part of the country that did not speak my language.

This was my first experience of being out of my comfort zone. Having schooled at an all-girls school, here was my first exposure to the tech field that was heavily male dominated. In my class of 60-plus students, there were only 6-8 women. I learned operating systems, database designs, algorithms, C, C++, Java and more.

My parents always pushed me to consider life outside of my comfort zone. I had already done three internships at tech companies in different parts of India during my summer breaks. That expanded my horizons into Perl, Tcl/Tk, XMLs and SOAP and Visual Basic. I even played with Amida handheld devices and worked with socket programming for them when tablets were not a big thing.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Because the industry’s so heavily male-dominated, I think the biggest challenge is that women have to put in that extra effort, and the extra onus in proving ourselves; that we deserve it and yes, that we are fit for it or can do it. We put great pressure on ourselves.

One big challenge is the superfluous attitude about women in tech and women in general. I’ve noticed that a woman’s body language is judged very quickly. ‘Does she have confidence, or does she show confidence at the time she’s in a meeting?’ Studies have also shown that women have to use a certain way of communication. For example, when you want to get something and you’re in a negotiation, you may not be able to say, ‘I want this.’ You need to use the word ‘we’ more than ‘I’ to negotiate some of those conversations. If the world was a little more balanced, that extra onus and the self-inflicted demand of always being on top of your game and carrying the burden to prove something would fade away.

Another challenge is we don’t raise our hands. We don’t ask. When I was an engineer fresh out of college, two years into my job and I was coding all day, I received a brief email from my manager at that moment. That email said, ‘Rashi will be going to London with the Head of Product and Head of SEO.’ I jumped out of my chair and I ran to his office. Because I thought it was a mistake, I said, ‘I got this email. I think it’s a mistake.’ My manager said ‘Well, you don’t want to go?’ I replied, ‘No it’s not that I don’t want to go. But you have tech leads on your team. You have senior engineers on the team. Shouldn’t they be going first, before I get that opportunity?’ And he said, ‘End of discussion. You’re going.’

This was a long time ago. But it was a turning point for me, for my career, for my life. I realised he had confidence in me that I didn’t have in myself. I didn’t know what confidence meant until that moment, because I’d never thought about it. And that was a turning point. So, I think the first, most important reason for women not being successful is that we are conditioned to put ourselves second. So, when an opportunity even comes to us to lead, we sometimes shy away.

To be successful in STEM, we need to understand that success is not built alone. You could put in your hard work. You could believe in yourself and have the confidence in yourself, but until you have the right advocates who believe in you, it’s still hard to be successful. As you grow further in your career and you really want to be successful, sponsorship comes into the picture more.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am most proud of the network of people I have built. One of my managers once told me, “No matter what code you write, it will be out of the window in less than five years. What stays with you is the network you build, the people you meet.” This has definitely struck a chord with me. When I think about my career and consider new opportunities, I think first about the people I am working with.

The products we build are heavily influenced by the people in charge and the camaraderie we create. People matter the most in any industry and if we can embrace the goodness of the people, we can deliver anything we wish for. I am very proud of and connected to the teams I manage, and that enables me to do a better job at work, too.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

We need to embrace the fact that we’re women. Even to be at the table, we have to be ourselves. So, my biggest factor for achieving success is being myself. If you are trying to fake it, or if you’re trying to mimic somebody else, you can only do it for a short period of time. Don’t try to be the man. We bring different things to technology, our way of thinking, our problem solving is different. Instead of trying to be a man, we must discover our own way of being heard. When a man wants to get attention, he may pound his fist on the table and get attention. And we may not be cool with pounding our fist. That’s okay. We can use our voice to be assertive and still get attention. There may be one or two meetings where you do not get your eye contact, or your voice is not heard the way you would have wanted. But then, be yourself and be persistent about it and keep speaking up. Keep saying what you want to say, because if you don’t say it, how will anybody hear it? And once they hear it, they will know you have information to offer. You have something to say which nobody else thought about.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have a very different take on mentoring. I don’t think you can have one mentor who can fill all the gaps – you have different people with expertise in different areas, so you need to have a network of mentors rather than just one. I always make myself available for anyone that wants a chat and I like to make them feel comfortable that they can pull me aside. At Shutterstock, we have a Women in Tech group where we can talk about our industry and work out how we can inspire each other, have each other’s backs and recognise our skills. We also bring in inspirational women to talk about their story and give advice e.g. Deirdre Bigley, Chief Marketing Officer at Bloomberg.

For me, I was very lucky that I had that support system at home – I didn’t have to look outside for mentors when I was growing up. My mother has a science background and my father has a mathematics background, which inspired me to follow in their footsteps. My parents did a lot of shaping of my mind when I was young and when I needed that support.

Similar to mentoring, I was sponsored by my previous boss. That’s where I first understood what it meant. He would not shy away being in a room with people of different levels saying that, ‘Hey, I believe in her. And I’m going to let her lead it her way.’ Just being able hear that said aloud vocally, it does wonders to you as somebody is putting their trust in you and you don’t want to violate that.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I once attended a session where my former CTO was speaking to 400 women in tech. The title of that forum was “Women in Tech: The male perspective.” He described this scenario where he asked a woman he managed to lead a part of his organisation and she politely refused, saying she didn’t think she was ready. He told her that if she wasn’t ready, he wouldn’t risk his organisation under her leadership. We need to learn to have confidence that we’re ready and trust that when someone calls upon us to lead, we’re capable of doing it.

We are moving forward, but we hit some setbacks and obstacles along the way. I believe people want to be fair, but to favour individualism and moralism over tribalism will require a shift in mindset. The good news is that people are talking about it. The difficulties arise when the discussion sometimes is not rooted in the right ideals.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

I’d make sure I don’t hold myself hostage to my thoughts of not being able to do something. If you have a good support, there are many touchpoints that you have with people, especially the one-on-ones you have with your manager or your skip-levels and colleagues. First, I’d make sure the direction I want my career to go in is clear. Know that ‘This is my career and I’m driving it. Nobody else is going to drive my career for me.’

I’d then ask myself, ‘What do I want out of my career?’ If I want something out of it, I must make sure that other people are aware of it. And then we work together towards it.

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

I want to make sure that we are creating more diversity but prevent D&I initiatives turning into box-ticking exercises. Being a woman engineer in NYC looking for a job isn’t too difficult, because many employers are actively looking for you. But does that mean a better candidate loses out? My thought is – it’s the end goal that’s important. We need more women and diversity (I’m just taking women as an example here) so that the products we build are catered to everyone and there is equal room for expression and entitlement. As a society we have stereotypes that have existed for so long, it’s dis-balanced. We are in a hard place where we are desperately trying to fix it, so the future generation does not have to deal with this gap.

One way of fixing this is to correct our education system as I think it is too influenced by the norms of our society. When we hand a barbie doll to a two-year-old girl and a superhero to a two-year-old boy, we are setting the tone for what to expect – there are different places for them in society. That continues in school with the courses that are offered and who studies what. We need to talk to girls about science, the universe, technology, and let them build things with Legos at an early age to pique their interest in science. No more doll houses for them, they need to be playing with transformers!


Charly Lester featured

Inspirational Woman: Charly Lester | Co-Founder & CMO, Lumen

Charly LesterCharly Lester is co-founder and CMO of Lumen.

Lumen is the first app-only dating platform for over 50s.

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

I'm co-founder and CMO at Lumen - the dating app for over 50s. We launched last September, and already have over 1.5 million users worldwide. Six years ago, I fell into working in the dating industry when my dating blog '30 Dates' went viral. I ended up working at The Guardian as their dating editor, then at Time Out as their Global Head of Dating. My first business - The Dating Awards - launched in 2014, an industry awards for the online dating industry. The Awards started in the UK, then spread to Europe and the US, making me one of the leading voices in the sector. After 4 years running it, I had tried and assessed most dating apps and websites out there, so when my co-founder suggested we launch a dating app for over 50s, I jumped at the chance to create a product which directly tackled the issues I knew consumers faced on other apps.

I run all of Lumen's marketing, and a huge part of that is tackling the way society views over 50s. It’s a demographic people haven't designed apps for before and they are extremely undervalued and misrepresented. I spend a lot of time trying to make our brand and our advertising as 'pro-age' as possible.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Haha, never! I did Law at university, a Masters in Broadcast Journalism and then I went into banking (after a few gap years travelling!).  What I love about my career is that it has shaped itself, and I have ended up designing a role for myself which suits me down to the ground. As I look back at what has got me to the position I'm currently in, there are so many skills I picked up from other jobs which are so useful to my role at Lumen. We've launched the app in five countries so far, and every time we launch, I have to do interviews on live TV. Who knew my TV journalism experience would come in so handy?

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

When I launched my first business I didn't have any female friends who ran companies. I didn't know anyone else who had taken on that risk, and I can genuinely remember really doubting my abilities.  There were lots of ups and downs involved with running a business for the first time, but I wouldn't change any of it because I learned so much along the way and realised what I'm capable of. Probably the biggest challenge was other peoples' preconceptions and fears. My own parents died when I was a teenager, but my friends' parents have often worried about my decision to step away from a 'traditional career path' and take risks. There have been many times when they haven't really understood what I was doing, and have told me as much. I had to learn to understand when to listen to other peoples' concerns, and when to take them with a pinch of salt.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Appearing as a judge on the final of The Apprentice when one of the candidates designed a dating app was a pretty big career high. I also spoke at the Oxford Union in a debate about the existence of true love (my debate partner was the creator of Love Island!) - probably the most daunting evening of my life! And thanks to Lumen at least three couples have already married, hundreds live together, and hundreds of thousands of people have met - that's a pretty amazing feeling to know you have quite literally changed someone's life.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I always break things down into small steps. In my spare time I run ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons, and a huge part of that is breaking something huge and unmanageable into small steps. I know how to pace myself, and I never let the final goal daunt me. That's the same attitude I apply to business. No matter how slowly I'm moving at times, I'm always moving forward.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Find mentors you admire and trust. When I first started working in the technology team at Time Out, Ellie Ford was Head of Innovation. She is one of the most inspiring women I know, and about 10 years older than me - Ellie is so intelligent and I learned so much from her. Knowing who to go to to ask vital questions - including what to do with my career when my role was made redundant - was a huge part of my career progression, and five years later I can still hear her words of advice.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

When I look at the teams at Magic Lab (Lumen's parent group) there are still departments which are heavily male, despite us trying to hire as equally as possible. Women and equality are really high on the agenda, however tech companies still need to have women in the hiring pool in order to employ them. Part of the issue is educating women that certain roles are for them just as much as they are for men. The barriers start right at ground level - treating little boys and little girls exactly the same. Making them understand no hobby is gender-specific, and neither is a specific career. And then helping women to ask for progression and the salaries they deserve when the time comes for that.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I was at a talk recently by Caroline Criado Perez and she was saying that it's not just a case of getting women to ask for the pay rises or promotion they deserve - if that's not the way most women behave, why not adapt the way pay structures and promotions work to better accommodate female ways, instead of accepting the 'male way' as the norm.

There needs to be total transparency in all companies about peoples' salaries - this is where our 'Britishness' has let us down - because the women still bear the brunt of our desire to be discreet and not talk openly about money.

I also think we need to be more flexible with work arrangements, not just to accommodate working parents returning to work - but also to get the best out of people. I for one know I get far more done working on my sofa at midnight, than I do sitting in an office at 8am.

There is currently on 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Teach coding to all children from age 11 - mandatory. My dad was a computer programmer and I am so gutted I didn't learn to code from him when I was a kid. It is such an incredibly valuable skill and would certainly change a lot of women's job options after school or university.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I've just finished reading 'Invisible Women' by Caroline Criado Perez. That, and 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg, is impossible to read without stirring up your inner feminist! I used to try to attend a lot of Women in Tech events, but now I also try to encourage as many women to attend events for everyone.  There is nothing more depressing than turning up at a tech conference, and seeing a panel of all white men on a stage.


Didem Un Ates featured

Inspirational Woman: Didem Ün Ates | Senior Director, AI Customer & Partner Engagement, Microsoft

Didem Un AtesFollowing her Electrical Engineering and Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Didem started her career with management consulting at CapGemini and Motorola.

After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, Didem continued her career at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY) and British Telecom in London, UK.

Her passion for technology led her to join Microsoft’s Information & Content Experiences Group where she and her team signed c. 1,500 partnerships across 60 markets. She held other business development and partner management roles as part of Microsoft Accelerators and the Business AI teams. In her current role, Didem is focusing on scaling Microsoft’s SaaS AI solutions such as Dynamics Customer Service Insights and Virtual Agent.

Didem has 20+ years of multinational leadership experience in business development, management consulting, and product management in executing international roll outs, implementing new market entries, and building new revenue streams from disruptive technologies in EMEA, APAC, and LatAm.

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

Following my Electrical Engineering and Strategic Management studies at the University of Pennsylvania, I started my career at CapGemini and Motorola. After graduating from Columbia Business School (CBS) in 2005, I continued at Greenwich Consulting (now part of EY) and British Telecom in London, UK.

My passion for technology led me to join Microsoft’s Information & Content Experiences Group where my team and I signed c. 1,500 partnerships across 60 markets. I held other business development and partner management roles as part of Microsoft Accelerators and the Business AI teams. In my current role, I am focusing on scaling our SaaS AI solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics Customer Service Insights and Virtual Agent.

As part of my Diversity & Inclusion and STEM related social impact work, I have been leading a global volunteer team to host ‘Girls in AI’ hackathons and bootcamps to increase female participation in AI/ML technology sector worldwide. I am including a few videos and blogs for those who might be interested in replicating these events or collaborating in future ones:

Videos:

Blogs:

Podcast:

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Of course. With every job or team change (which happens roughly every 12-18 months), I re-evaluate my path and potential career options following my latest move. I check my thinking with my mentors and trusted advisors every 3-6 months.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

As a diverse talent and immigrant working mother in tech sector, ‘career challenges’ have simply been part of life. As such, I do not even label such situations as ‘challenges’, ‘problems’, etc. I visualize the lotus flower during these periods – it grows in the smelliest, muddiest, most disgusting waters but is still able to be beautiful and to radiate positivity to its surroundings.

So whenever I face such a situation, I ask myself: “How can I raise a lotus flower in these circumstances? How can I turn this situation upside down and make it an advantage (as opposed to a hurdle) for me and my career so I land in an even better place?” I think of these incidents as potential spring-boards rather than handicaps or crises. If one takes the time to look inside and think creatively, there is always a solution.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have been fortunate to make notable financial and business impact to all my employers and teams in terms of scaling disruptive technologies, generating new revenue streams, launching new products and markets, expanding partnership ecosystems, etc.

All of these achievements, especially when they involved building new teams and creating win-win solutions, have been fascinating and extremely meaningful for me.

The most fulfilling and rewarding achievement in my mind though, has been with my recent volunteer work on ‘Girls in AI’/ ‘Alice Envisions the Future’ bootcamps and hackathons, where I lead a phenomenal team of volunteers at Microsoft to host these events globally. We have successfully demonstrated how effective and impactful these hackathons and bootcamps are, so now numerous teams in the company are scaling these efforts worldwide. If we can improve that terrifying – and declining - %12 diversity figure in AI/ ML to a more acceptable figure, I will be a very happy person. 😊

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Perseverance combined with hard work.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Think of the Lotus. See challenging situations, people, projects, etc. as opportunities for growth and think about how you can use them as spring boards, as advantageous opportunities to progress in your path.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Sadly, the answer is ‘of course.’ I would strongly recommend the book Brotopia for a comprehensive study of these barriers and potential mitigations. My humble view is we should start by enhancing diversity in our sector so that barriers can actually be un-earthed and acknowledged. If 90% of the workforce does not ‘see’ any barriers or ‘feel’ any of the pain, you have a much steeper mountain to climb. Sadly, 10%’s pain and the negative consequences in the business are misinterpreted are ‘just noise.’

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

We have to work on both sides of the diversity and inclusion equation.

On the diversity side, the key is to ensure diverse talent has hope of career progression and plenty of job opportunities. On the inclusion side, we need to ensure they feel included and treated fairly when faced with discrimination, bias, etc. so that they can survive and stay in the organization.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Education system – inspiring girls, especially 7-18 year olds, to embrace and make the most of technology regardless of their passions. In the end, even if you want to be a dancer or artist, you will be a better one if you know how to use technology. We have to land this message and enable girls to be digital natives as well.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Trainings:

  • Public speaking training – the best quality you can afford…
  • Coding trainings, AI hackathons/ bootcamps, online courses (Please see the blog for details)

Books:

  • Brotopia, Emily Chang
  • Playing Big, Tara Mohr
  • A Life of My Own, Claire Tomalin
  • Inferior, Angela Saini

Podcasts:

  • Women in Tech, Marie Wiese

Abi Mohamed

Inspirational Woman: Abi Mohamed | Co-founder, Community Growth Ventures (CGV)

Abi Mohamed CGV

Coding pro Abi Mohamed cofounded Community Growth Ventures (CGV), an angel firm which sets out to invest underrepresented founders, in 2017.

The 27-year-old software engineer has a Masters in Information System Management from De Montfort University and builds websites for government bodies including the Ministry of Justice.

An advocate for getting more girls into tech, Mohamed volunteers as an Instructor for Code First: Girls and recently also became a VC scout for Backed, a €50m community-driven seed-stage VC fund.

The tech leader has also been called out as a changemaker by publications including SciTech and the Evening Standard.

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

I was born in Sweden, but grew up in Leicester and I've been interested in tech since school - I loved making websites and learning about networks and databases.

After my Masters, I became a software engineer for city councils and government bodies. That really appealed because I felt I was creating something amazing for the public for everyone to use.

Most recently I started Community Growth Ventures to invest in entrepreneurs and the founders from diverse backgrounds across the UK.

I’ve always been a big advocate of ‘tech for good’ and creating a more sustainable world, but right now, because of the pattern matching landscape, not everyone can be involved. Generally in investment, for you to be backable, the investor themself has to see themselves in you, or to have seen someone who looks like you IPO.

For people of colour, if you don't fall in those categories, you're seen as more of a risk. And most VCs or angels won't take that risk because of their unconscious bias.

That's the reason I stepped in.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I picked my undergrad I felt a lot of pressure from my family to put tech on the back burner and study economics. After that, I worked in retail, but still really wanted a career in tech.

So then I just asked myself two questions: ‘What do I enjoy the most?’ and ‘What will get me the most money?’ Answering those questions lead me to my Masters.

You should follow your heart, find things that make you happy and people that make you feel comfortable. Doing that meant starting CGV came naturally, by being in the right places at the right time.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

The biggest challenge I’ve faced came about when I was working for the government and I felt  a lot of ageism. I know I’m young, but I also look way younger than I am, and I had an issue with a colleague who had a similar role but was much older.

He didn't respect what I was inputting and he kept dismissing me, saying I should just listen to him. I felt undermined and like he didn’t respect my voice as part of the conversation.

I raised the issue with the scrum master and we ended up having this mediated open circle conversation about our feelings. I feel like, after that conversation, they could see that I was not the problem. I was able to move teams and they realised it was him.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Everything we’re doing at CGV. At first, we invested 26K (round included another co-investor) and now planning to invest again in another company. We are currently planning our angel syndicate.

The biggest achievement so far has been proving the concept with our portfolio company hair care brand Afrocenchix, showing that CGV showing that can invest in and help underrepresented founders.

After our participation in their angel round, they were able to win more money from the WeWork Creator Awards, and they had the opportunity to work with Backstage Capital, a big VC company in the US. From that, they’ve been able to expand their team with three successful new hires.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?  

Keeping a positive mindset. I always say to myself, whatever happens, happens for a reason.

I think that increases your chances of success because a positive mindset attracts positivity.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology? 

I journal everything.

When you wake up, write down three achievable goals. They could be simple things like go to the gym, or make a healthy breakfast. When you come back from work say what you've actually achieved too, so can see your progress.

Sometimes we all have bad days, and it's easy to forget how much you've achieved in the last six months or one year. But having a journal that allows you to flick back into the past and remind yourself ‘I am great, I am still in this journey of growth’.

I also try to do quarterly updates on myself: one in public (on Medium) where I publish my ‘Abi’s Tweet Highlights’ and a private one looking back over my journal where I think about the stuff that did or didn't go well and what I could improve.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

I think there are still massive barriers. There's a barrier for entry, where people outside of tech don't know how to negotiate their way in. But then, even when you’re inside it’s easy to feel stuck.

In my experience of the government side, there's still a lot of old white men who don't see the bigger picture. In my early career, I felt so, so lonely and didn't know who to speak to.

If you don’t see leaders in senior positions who you can identify with and aspire to, there's no clear journey or blueprint on how to move forward. That can be confusing and demotivating.

Progression can be a long waiting game unless you know the right people to talk to.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I have mentors in the VC space who are giving me advice and helping me grow, but I’d like to see more employers supporting in-house mentorship too.

We don’t need more outside organisations that pump out mentors, this should be naturally happening within our industries. To do that we need to teach and inspire senior staff to always look out for the people coming in.

Getting staff to meet across levels can be as simple as setting up clubs or events outside work (that don’t always revolve around sports or the pub).

There is currently on 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry? 

I would make payroll transparent.

We all know about the gender pay gap and that we should be paid the same as our male counterparts, but for that to happen we need more transparency.

When you go into an interview, you should have the ability to ask ‘how much does a person like me get paid?’ without using guesswork.

If you don't pay people equally, you are devaluing your company. Your female staff won't strive, they won't learn and they won't do their best work.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc? 

The best meetup I have been to is at Google for startups; there's a breakfast event that happens every month called #POCTech. That’s where I started my entrepreneur life three years ago.
My favourite podcast is called Techish and it's a show that talks about tech in general with lots of fun pop culture references.

And books, I’m honestly just into so much sci-fi. I've just finished The Forever War by Joe Haldeman, which is about aliens and black holes and other futuristic stuff. I don’t want to give too much away but it really is one of the best books I’ve ever read.


Rebecca McKelvey featured

Inspirational Woman: Rebecca McKelvey | Founder & CEO, In2ScienceUK

Rebecca McKelveyPrior to co-founding in2Science, Rebecca was a Teach First teacher and Head of Science at an East London-based school for four years.

Her experiences during this period brought to her attention the extreme lack of information on and opportunities to pursue STEM careers for students who come from poor backgrounds.

In 2010, Rebecca decided to set up in2Science to bring this issue to light in the UK, with the intention of supporting young people from low income backgrounds to progress to university to study STEM degrees and ultimately progress into a professional STEM career.

Since its inception, in2Science has supported thousands of UK students. Each year, Rebecca receives 1,000 student applications to join her programme. To date, 75% of her participants progress onto STEM degrees.

Looking ahead, Rebecca has ambitious plans to expand across the UK in the next five years. Her ultimate goal is to bring diversity to the STEM sector, enabling children from disadvantaged backgrounds to pursue their academic and professional dreams, as well as support the country’s growing problem of a lack of STEM professionals.

Rebecca holds a PhD in neuroscience from the University College London.

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

I am the CEO of In2scienceUK, a charity with a mission to improve social mobility and diversity in STEM. Following my degree, I completed the Teach First graduate programme, taught for two years at a school in Walthamstow and then progressed to Head of Science at the same STEM specialist Academy.

I taught young people from year 7 to A-levels; many of who were from low income backgrounds and despite being very intelligent, weren’t progressing to university or realising their potential.  I subsequently left teaching after four years and began studying a masters in neuroscience. Seeing the lack of diversity in research and the fact that some of the amazing students I’d encountered were never going to access such a career compelled me to set up in2scienceUK during my master’s, and I ran it as a side project during my PhD.

The programme works by enabling 17-year old students from poor backgrounds the opportunity to gain work placements in a STEM setting, working alongside STEM professionals and in turn, increasing the likelihood of them being interested in attending university and a career in STEM. Participants also get access to high quality information and guidance on university and career pathways as part of the programme. We support over 350 young people a year from low income backgrounds, predominantly in London, Oxford, Cambridge and Exeter. In 2020, we are expanding to another region which we’re incredibly excited about and will be announcing soon.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely not. Planning out your career is something that’s incredibly difficult for anyone, particularly in this day and age. You’re still learning about yourself, what you enjoy doing and what you really excel at, on top of a thousand other things. Plus, there are jobs that exist today and probably in the future that weren’t a consideration years ago; the world of work is moving very quickly.

There are limitless jobs in technology and the broader STEM sector for example, and quite often, students I encounter are completely unaware of the diversity of STEM careers, so the need for constant education and awareness is crucial.

I initially believed a career as a teacher would be my path. However, the realisation of the lack of opportunities for students from low income backgrounds to gain high quality information and STEM opportunities has taken me in a completely different direction as the Founder of a non-profit. My focus now is on driving more awareness of STEM and helping students believe in themselves and follow a path that may not have been previously accessible to them.

Most importantly, following your heart and passions tends to steer you in the right direction of your calling; certainly in my case, but also for the students I see go through the programme who may not have realised they have an interest to be a video game designer, automotive engineer, or perhaps go in to space one day!

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

At the end of my PhD I was at a career crossroads and unsure if I should follow a research career or take a leap of faith in setting up in2scienceUK. I followed my heart as I really wanted to make a change in the UK and help bright young people from low income backgrounds achieve their potential and have the same opportunities as everyone else.

Thankfully, the desire to make a difference in this area is shared by so many others, and I was blown away by the appetite from research volunteers, academic institutes and corporate partners to be involved. Even programme alumni have come back to volunteer during their studies because they’ve experienced first-hand, the benefits this experience can afford. It’s that collaboration which has seen us grow so exponentially and the success stories coming out of the programme seek only to inspire wider participation. So, despite the initial hard work, it’s very rewarding to want to go further in making this programme as accessible as possible.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Expanding in2scienceUK outside of London. There are a lot of charities operating in London which is great as there is a clear need, but research shows that poverty is worse and opportunity less outside the capital. Facilitating over 1000 STEM placements for our students was also an amazing feat for us and a milestone we want to keep building on through continued regional expansion.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

It’s hard to say. There’s always more than one factor as to why something or someone becomes successful. We wouldn’t be a success if we didn’t have the passion and hard work of the research and STEM community and volunteers who have come together to support our cause. Since 2011, we have worked with over 800 volunteers from STEM researchers in academic settings.

Our charity really made the leap when we started to partner with the likes of Roche, UCL, and NESTA. The support and engagement from a variety of organisations has been incredible, and as we continue to grow, we’re continuing to lock in more and more partners to support even more students across the UK.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

The obvious thing is to build your professional network. There is such a wealth of information and expertise available through industry events, mentoring programmes and membership organisations, to name a few. Beyond this, staying on top of the latest trends is important, particularly for such a fast-moving sector which continues to revolutionise the way we work and live. Following businesses or individuals on social channels such as Twitter or LinkedIn is a great way to get short, snappy insights on particular sectors or themes. LinkedIn is also great for group conversations whereby you can often pose questions or prompt debate among like-minded individuals and start a conversation. Finally, never stop learning. I don’t think anyone, regardless of how established they are in their chosen profession, ever gets to a point whereby learning new things isn’t valuable.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Women make up 49 per cent of the British workforce, but just 19 per cent of the digital tech workforce, so there is still work to be done. That said, I do think we are generally more aware of this shortfall and better at understanding the barriers to entry. We’re seeing more proactivity from the sector as a result, such as Mastercard’s Girls4Tech STEM education platform, which aims to reach out to one million girls globally by 2025. Ultimately, we need to get young women to be motivated and excited by the professions that a career in tech affords. Encouragingly, the recent A-level results demonstrated the number of girls taking science A-levels has overtaken boys for the first time in history, suggesting that we are seeing a shift in uptake among girls.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

They should do two things. First, promote women. Be deliberate. It is likely that when two individuals attend an interview, they will both be very smart and hard working. If you are an organisation where men outnumber women in the top jobs, promote the women.

Second, as a mother of two children under the age of five, flexibility is king for me. I would only work in a role where I can be flexible regardless of the salary or other perks. I work hard, I put in the hours, just not always between 9-6. I’m writing this at 22:15 on a Wednesday night and I think flexible working is becoming the increasing expectation from people in the modern age.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Technology in early years primary education needs to improve. I would have every primary school teacher trained to deliver a creative and engaging technology curriculum which includes coding. Then every young person (regardless of gender) would be engaged and skilled.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

LinkedIn is fantastic for connecting with like-minded individuals in the tech space, as is the likes of Tech City UK and Tech Nation. Codefirst:Girls is a social enterprise which delivers free education to young women across the UK to increase the number of women in tech. I think it depends on the stage of your career and your preferred method of getting information, but the reassuring thing is there is an abundance of information and a vibrant community out there dedicated to ensuring the number of women in tech continues to prosper.


Inspirational Woman: Veronique Barbosa | Co-founder & COO, Flux

Veronique BarbosaVeronique Barbosa is co-founder and COO of Flux, the bank-linked receipts platform.

Veronique was listed as one of Forbes 30 under 30 Europe in 2018.

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

I’m the Co-Founder and COO of Flux, a digital receipts and rewards platform working with the likes of Just Eat, KFC and Barclays with many more to come soon. We’re solving the problem that in 2019 we have no way as customers to easily track what we buy, we can see the payment but not what we buy. A bit more about me I’m Brazilian, French and American but consider London to be home. Before Flux, I was employee #4 at Revolut and headed up partnerships with a focus on driving user acquisition. I helped take the company to 400,000 users before setting out to start Flux. I was also an investment banker in my previous life at Morgan Stanley in London for several years and very honoured to be named Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Depends how you define career, I’ve never planned the entirety of my career but I have followed some advice given to me a while ago to plan your career like the Chinese plan their economy in five years stints. I’ve found that super helpful and way less overwhelming than thinking about “the rest of your career”.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Oh definitely! I whole heartedly believe success is defined by how you handle failure/challenges. It’s part of the life of a startup and fortunately/unfortunately the norm. I think realising it’s how you deal with the obstacles is actually the definition of ultimately how you succeed was key to overcoming those moments.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Deciding to join Matty and Tom to start up Flux!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I always hesitate when success is attributed to where we are now, it still feels early in our journey to claim that word. A major factor of getting to where we are today has been perseverance.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Solve problems from their core elements and break them down to bite size chunks. My cofounder always says there’s only one way to eat a white whale and that’s one piece at a time.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes depending on the company culture and sector I think there can be. That’s a very tough question and one many women have tried to address! This will sound controversial but I think the first steps is recognising those barriers, understanding them and then working around them is the first step to get to your goals. The next step is working to break down those barriers but so many of them are deep rooted in sub conscious bias of others that it’s a much longer term path.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Encourage and enable flexible working for future parents, not just women, and nip any biases that creep up right in the bud. Shining a light on the incredible diversity you already have in house is also a big plus.

There is currently on 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

If I could wave a magic wand I’d make sure that 70 per cent of computer science classrooms at universities around the world would have women in them. The lack of women in software engineering is really shocking. We’ve come a long way when it comes to business roles in tech but have so far to go in engineering.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Sheryl Sandberg Lean In and the Girlposs podcast/instagram.