Shakar Jafari featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Shakardokht Jafari | Founder & CTO, Trueinvivo Limited

 

Shakar was born in Afghanistan, but she and her family were forced to move following the outbreak of war and loss of their home when she was just six years old.

After six months of travelling, they arrived in Iran as refugees. It was here that Shakar discovered her passion for nuclear physics, radiation and the science behind its medical applications.

This passion was truly put to the test when Shakar’s father was diagnosed with cancer. During the months before his death, Shakar promised him that she would try to make a difference to the lives of other people with his condition. Shakar is now the Founder and CTO of Trueinvivo Limited, which with support from Innovate UK has developed a radiation detection system for cancer care that aims to save lives, money and offer a better quality of life to patients.

In addition to securing her first - and quickly second - investors, in 2017 Shakar expanded her team with four new members. In January 2018 Shakar received a prestigious Womens award from the Afghanistan government and a recent meeting with a director could lead to a film biopic.

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

My name is Dr. Shakardokht Jafari, I’m originally from Afghanistan but I now live in Surrey with my husband and two daughters.  When I was just 6 years old we were forced to leave Afghanistan after war broke out, after fleeing we arrived in Iran as refugees and it’s here that I discovered my passion for nuclear physics. After studying in Iran I travelled to the UK and it’s here – at Surrey University - that I did my PhD. I now work as a clinical scientist in the Queen Alexandra Hospital and Associate Tutor and visiting researcher at the Surrey University, but I’ve also started to commercialise the outcome of my PhD research; TRUEinvivo Ltd. It’s through TRUEinvivo Ltd. that I’ve developed a radiation detection system for cancer care that aims to save lives, money and offer a better quality of life to patients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, I planned my career, but more interesting things and challenges have occurred along the way and I have changed my path many times!

For example, I’ve always been passionate about science, but I only really started thinking about applying my knowledge to cancer care after my father became ill. You never know what will motivate you to change your course; it could be success, or sadness, or wanting to make a difference to the lives of others.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Thinking about my answer to this question I have to pause, to consider which of the many, many challenges that I’ve encountered should be explained?! I think the most significant ones are those connected to the getting to, studying and settling in the UK, especially coming from Afghanistan. Of course, financial difficulties and the constant challenge of achieving a workable balance between family life and work, are high up the list.

How has Innovate UK helped your journey?

Innovate UK contributed vital funding support towards TRUEinvivo Ltd, the mentorship and marketing support they’ve provided have also helped us gain broader recognition and know how to take the next step. After Innovate UK’s support, quickly followed by a second investment in 2017, I was able to expand my team with four new members.

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

I would provide free child care in the workplace. Even in Afghanistan there is free kindergarten in the workplace, so women can return to their careers very quickly. They can visit their children and breastfeed during tea breaks and lunch times, which is so convenient.

What advice would you give to someone looking to start a business/ become an entrepreneur?

Just do it! And, get a good mentor. A good mentor will not only point you in the direction of the next step, but they can inspire you to take it, too.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without doubt, staring to turn my PhD into a something that will have a real impact.

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

My next challenge is to make our business fully functioning and, ultimately, to take the technology I’ve developed to market. This could seriously improve quality of life and the treatment of cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.


If you’re a female entrepreneur or innovator and want to find out more about Innovate UK’s Women In Innovation competitions then please visit  https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/204/overview for more information.


Inspirational Woman: Cheryl Stevens | Director for Shared Channels Experience, DWP Digital

Cheryl StevensI have been a proud civil servant for 20 years, undertaking a variety of leadership and transformation roles in both HMRC and DWP.

I have been in my current role as Interim Director for Shared Channels Experience since April 2020.  Shared Channels Experience is an exciting addition to DWP Digital. We aim to lead the transformation of simplified experiences for colleagues and customers driven by life events and other user needs, regardless of channel or service line. This will enable safe, efficient, inclusive and consistent journeys across DWP. What a mission that is!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t plan anything until I came back to work after my first baby, about 10 years ago. Up until that point, I’d had a number of roles within the Civil Service and whilst I enjoyed almost all of them, I couldn’t have said what I wanted to do or where I wanted to be other than I wanted to remain in the Civil Service. When I had that break I think it gave me the opportunity to focus a bit more and I decided that I had 3 passions in a work sense:

I had to truly believe in the mission of the department that I worked for. I believed in lifting children out of poverty in HMRC Tax Credits and now in DWP, the biggest welfare reform in a generation with a compelling mission to support people back into work quickly, improve the quality of people’s lives, and provide a vital safety net through difficult times. I’m proud to be part of that.

Leadership is very important to me. I thrive when I can make a difference to people around me, lifting people up, watching them excel and creating an environment where everyone can be at their best.  Of course you can do this without having a big team of colleagues, but I think you can truly be the difference in a senior leadership role.

Finally, the subject had to be interesting to me. There have been so many times I could have thrown my hat in the ring for a promotion but didn’t because the role just didn’t excite me and I knew that would destroy my soul.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Lots, but not as many as others. I will always be hugely grateful to those women in technology that went before my generation. I was thankfully at the tall end of that real wave of change, though was still tough trying to be heard and listened to sometimes and often being the only young female in the room was a bit daunting. Believing in myself to keep going was probably the first real sense of resilience for me. We have come a long way but we are not quite there yet.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

At work, it has to be my MBE. I was awarded it for my work in lifting children out of poverty by redesigning the processes for vulnerable customers and encouraging take-up of tax credits. As a new ‘benefit’ administered by HMRC it wasn’t always clear to those that needed us most that they were entitled.  They were also often our hard to reach customers, so we set up a programme of outreach, literally standing in supermarkets and attending galas and events to make people aware that they were entitled.  It was amazing to see the relief on their faces when we were able to help. That time in my career was really special and the MBE recognising the effort just topped it off for me. I also learned so much about what it’s really like for the most vulnerable in society. Trying to make that better has been a theme throughout my career.

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

Mentors and sponsors. I have a massive drive and believe I am capable but I know I would not be where I am without those 5 or 6 people that have really guided my career and really championed me – lifting me up when it mattered.  I took opportunities because they gave me the confidence and provided assistance. That kind of help was invaluable and without it I’m not sure I would have taken some of the opportunities.

I mentor and sponsor a number of people, it’s really important to me. Someone described it as ‘not pulling the ladder up behind you’ and I think that’s a brilliant analogy.

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

Attracting women into tech roles needs much more effort because as a nation we haven’t quite moved away from ‘boy and girl’ jobs. Don’t get me wrong we have come a long way and I know a few female teachers of tech that really encourage that take-up, but there is more to do. I can only speak for where I work but DWP Digital is pretty gender balanced, with more women in senior roles than ever before so those barriers are lowering in some sectors certainly.

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

Authenticity, empathy and realism will be your most powerful leadership traits.Be yourself always.

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

My next challenge, albeit an exciting one, is delivering the ambitions we have in DWP Digital and Shared Channels Experience. We have so much already that is making a big difference and the plans we have for the coming year or so just excite me. I can’t wait to see what difference we can make to citizens and colleagues; it will be an amazing achievement for all involved.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.


Kerrine Bryan featured

Inspirational Woman: Kerrine Bryan | Award-winning engineer & founder of Butterfly Books

 

Kerrine Bryan

Kerrine Bryan - an award winning black female engineer and founder of Butterfly Books.

Kerrine has gone on to smash many glass ceilings to become respected in her field.

She was shortlisted in Management Today’s 35 Women Under 35 for notable women in business and, in 2015, she won the Precious Award for outstanding woman in STEM. Kerrine is a volunteer mentor for the Institute of Engineering & Technology (IET) and is an avid STEM Ambassador. It was while she was undertaking talks at various schools across the country for children about engineering and what her job entails that she became inspired to set up her independent publishing house, Butterfly Books.

In response to this, Kerrine published a series of books (My Mummy Is A Scientist, My Mummy Is An Engineer and My Mummy Is A Plumber) as a means of communicating to children a positive message about all kinds of professions, especially STEM careers, that are suffering skill gaps and diversity issues. The fourth book in the series, My Mummy Is A Farmer, launched last month - August 2018.

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

I’m a chartered electrical engineer.  I’ve worked in the oil and gas industry for 12 years in London, after which I took a two year career break to have my daughter before returning to work 4 months ago into a new role, new company and new country. I’m now a lead electrical engineer for WSP, a global engineering and professional services consultancy. Based in New York, my role is a mixture of technical, project management and business development work. I’m currently working on some exciting power generation projects including cogeneration, energy saving studies and renewable power.

Alongside my brother, Jason Bryan, I’ve also set up Butterfly Books, a children’s book publishing company. Together, we have co-authored a series of picture books targeting children aged seven and younger, which communicates positive messages about all kinds of professions, especially STEM careers that are suffering a skills gap. I think it’s important to provide diverse and positive role models for children at an early age where misconceptions about jobs can develop early. With the books we’ve created, like My Mummy Is A Scientist, My Mummy Is An Engineer, My Mummy Is A Plumber and My Mummy Is A Farmer, we want to challenge gender stereotypes and instil in children a belief that they can be anything they want to be, irrespective of sex, race and social background, if they work hard enough to make these dreams come true.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I do sometimes set myself five-year career goals, but this can be restrictive. Personally, I like to take on opportunities as they arise and try out new things. Over the years, I’ve learnt that you might discover that there are areas of work you didn’t previously know much about, but – after gaining a bit of experience – you find out that you actually enjoy it, and this in turn can then change your goals. I think it’s always good to plan, but you have to be amenable to flexibility and change because life can be unpredicatable. So long as you are heading in the right direction of your career and personal goals, the path in which you take – which may be wrought with challenges and set backs – can equally develop you with the skills you need to become a better business person.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Working in a male dominated environment brings its challenges.  My first role as a lead electrical engineer a few years ago proved to be a steep learning curve; my team comprised entirely of men, all of whom were older than me. I definitely felt like I had to prove my competency and worth more than a ‘typical’ (read ‘male’ and ‘senior’) engineering team leader would, but the experience helped me to grow professionally as a manager, team leader and person within a short space of time. Ultimately though, I received a lot of support from my male peers who respected me for succeeding in a career in which there are very few female engineers. They understood that the career journey for women like me couldn’t have been easy, and to make it through the barriers was an achievement worth acknowledging. Given that there is still a lot of work to be done to stamp out bias and prejudice in the workplace, not just in male dominated careers but also in all kinds of workplaces, I’d say I’ve been quite lucky. Of course, it shouldn’t be about ‘luck’. In order for these challenges to dissipate, society needs to reframe notions about what work equates as ‘a man’s job’ and what work equates as ‘a woman’s job’.

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

I think that mentoring is essential for professional development. To receive guidance and support during your professional journey – not just from the outset – but even as you become successful and more seasoned in your field is hugely valuable. I think it’s easy to buy into the idea that we’re the finished article, as there’s always room for self-improvement. Even CEOs need mentoring to a certain degree.  I’ve been a mentor to many early career professionals for over 10 years, and have also been a mentee, so I understand both sides of the dynamic. It’s important to have someone who can challenge your thinking, encourage you to self-reflect and bring out the most in you so that you can fulfil your potential. With this new stage in my career, I will now look for a mentor to guide me in achieving my new career goals.

What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?

I want to see an increase in the rate of change of diversity within careers and particularly within STEM careers where there is a huge skills shortage. I hope to eventually see diversity at all levels that is proportionate to the diversity of the society. Progress is being made, but the job will be an on-going one. It starts at the grassroots – encouraging children through education to believe that the world is their oyster and that they can work to be whatever they want to be – and it ends with responsible employers doing all they can to diversify their workforce, not necessarily just for moral gain (although that’s important) but because the figures show that it makes economic sense.

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

Providing flexible working arrangements for parents (and that means granting this to both the mothers and fathers) after they have had a child is so important in positively changing the opportunities for women at work. For too long, motherhood has often been a choice that professional women make to the detriment of their careers. This is reflected in the way many corporate organisations shape maternity and paternity leave arrangements; these inherently infer that it is the woman’s job to stay at home with the baby (at least for the first year anyway) while the man brings home the bacon. This ingrains further misconceptions and prejudices, which sees working mothers demonised for putting their careers ‘first’ and stay-at-home or flexibly working dads as non-committal and unambitious. Motherhood is one of the keys reasons why we don’t see as many women entering male dominated work, and that includes STEM careers. Until parental leave is seen as of equal importance and a job that requires the presence of both mother and father, and so long as employers continue to remain inflexible in supporting employees who are parents, we will never see progress in equality happening half as fast as it needs to in order to invoke meaningful social change.

For me, the ability to work flexibly was a huge factor in me deciding to go back to work after having my daughter. Creating flexible working arrangements also strengthens the respect between the employer and employee. Work is important, it can give us a sense of worth and purpose, but an individual should never be made to feel that they have to choose between success in career and paying the bills versus bringing up the family when both are so important.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

This year I became a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).  IET Fellowship recognises the high level of experience, knowledge and ability attained during an individual’s career. The appointment will now provide me with the opportunity to shape the future of the engineering profession through the IET’s expert panels, events and discussions.

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

I hope to be able to help shape the future of engineering in a positive way and also do all I can to encourage diversity in professions, with my children’s books being one of the resources to help make that change.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.


Inspirational Woman: Dr Shruti Kohli | Lead Data Scientist, DWP Digital

Dr Shruti Kohli I am Dr Shruti Kohli, currently working as a Lead Data Scientist in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

I am standing on a strong foundation of my education credentials which include PhD in Computer Science, with over a decade of professional experience in both the private and public sectors encompassing a variety of roles.  My work experience spans across academia and industry, leading digital transformation, data innovation, leadership and culture change projects.    Being from a research background it’s in my DNA to be more curious and understand things from a 360-degree view. Since transitioning from academia to industry,  I’ve been looking for ways to implement my learning to create a tangible difference. My current Civil Service job provides an opportunity to use my data learning for social good.  And that’s the purpose that keeps me motivated to serve the department and people across the UK.

I also lead DWP’s Innovation Lab. This includes horizon scanning, and identifying the data and technology in the external ecosystem that can help the department to innovate and improve their services. As we speak I am working on a couple of interesting data-driven projects in the lab, one of these is a programme to understand use the of synthetic data as a data-sharing tool.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have always taken a proactive approach towards my learning and development which I’ve brought into every workplace.  I create new opportunities for myself and accept every opportunity that comes my way.   Being an academic in the past has given me a good appetite to learn quickly and share. I have always taken the initiative to enrich myself by using Civil Service learning, attending professional training such as the Oxford Leadership Executive program, and doing technical certifications to be a step ahead.   My career developments have come a long way through receiving and giving mentoring, leading data and tech-driven projects, and building relationships.

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

In one of roles during my early days of my career, at a certain time I was making multiple errors in my deliverables, and it took me a while to understand what was going wrong. I consulted my mentor, who helped me to develop practice to say ’no’ more often.  I was in a hurry to take on more projects to grow quickly, but at the same it was hampering my creativity. I had an open discussion with my manager, looked at my bucket list and agreed on priority projects which created a win-win environment for everyone.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

If I had to single out one, it would be my PhD degree.

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

Learn to unlearn.

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

Dream big, grow your network, have a mentor at every step of your career. Humility and strong will is a solid combination. Don’t forget to pull up others to grow.

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

The number of women reaching the boardroom has risen significantly in the last few years. Organisations have also begun to realise the benefit of inclusive growth.  Yes, I agree, there is gender gap in the technology sector, and there’s a big role to play for schools to promote STEM careers more to women. But there’s also the opportunity to use industry touch points to create interest in students at the early stages.

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

Coaching and mentoring sessions always play an important role.

There is currently only 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?

School have the magic wand, where they can promote STEM subjects to girls at early stages of their career.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Start something even if it’s small, that’s the first step to success. Pick two technologies, and if they complement each other, that’s the cherry on the cake. Listen to webinars, do projects, engage in short courses to open up your horizons. Networking is the key, so join in with meetups and hackathons.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here. 


Tara McGeehan

Inspirational Woman: Tara McGeehan | President, CGI UK Operations

Tara McGeehanTara McGeehan was appointed President of CGI’s UK operations in January 2018.

In May 2019, to capitalise on market synergies, the Australia Business Unit was added to the UK Operations, forming the UK and Australia Strategic Business Unit. As President, Tara leads a team that brings all of CGI’s end-to-end capabilities and industry and technology expertise to clients across these regions.

Tell us a bit about yourself

As President of CGI UK and Australia operations, I lead a team of over 5,500 professionals and consultants across two continents. Aware that I lead a multi-national and cultural workforce, I am passionate about diversity and encouraging young people and women to enter the technology industry. I enjoy contributing to our business as a thought leader and being part of a team which delivers on the most complex programmes.  I endeavour to model CGI values both internally and externally.

What are the biggest challenges facing young professionals in their careers today?

As we, optimistically might I say, near the end of the pandemic, it is clear that the digital economy will drive a lot of recovery. This is tech’s chance to lean in as a growth sector to drive young people and women into the industry and help businesses through to the other side. We have the opportunity to channel young people into the world of tech, particularly those who are struggling to find a fit for their degrees or qualifications and get their first job. The long-term career progression of our young professionals depends on it as we strive to make up for lost time, especially as for many, they may have only had a limited time in the office or none at all. I remember how important socialisation was during the early years of my career, and it was critical in fostering my approach to business and colleagues. Being in the office was an introduction to working in a generationally diverse environment and is where I learned to work and build relationships with people of different ages and backgrounds. Whilst we all hope that working fully remote is a temporary situation, it is pertinent to reflect on the affect this may have had on the mental health of young people in the long term. I believe it’s the duty of senior professionals to help young people make up for lost time in the workplace by diversifying and teaching all that we can.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievements to date include challenging the norm and pushing back against convention in regard to how women work in the technology sector. I’m also proud to have worked with the teams at CGI to initiate our own ethnicity pay gap report, which came about after talking to employees from minority backgrounds about how we could better support them and initiate change. Other initiatives I have overseen with the team have also helped to prevent bias and aim to increase inclusivity, such as encouraging people to include phonetics in their email signatures. To build on this, we are also looking into the development of a shadow board, which will be a diverse group of people discussing the same topics alongside the CGI board to see if they reach the same conclusions. This will give us a well-rounded perspective from people of all backgrounds to foster trust at all levels at CGI.

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

I believe that consistency and fairness have always been the cornerstone of success. I have been able to build successful working relationships by being reliable and assuming others will be reliable too. My belief is that you need to be consistent regardless of age, gender or schooling and you need to know that you will get the same answer regardless of who you are. To me, fairness needs to underpin everything; these are principles which I carry throughout both my personal and professional life.

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

The digital economy, as I’ve mentioned, will act as a force to drive a lot of the nation’s recovery. An element of this will be the drive to funnel more talented women into the industry. You can see that in some ways, the pandemic has aided in the levelling out of the sector, giving flexibility to those who wanted to balance work and home life and reduce the role of presenteeism. With this at front of mind, the tech industry should be working to actively encourage and foster an environment where older women who want to get back to work after having a family want to join. After all, we know that flexible working is conducive to productivity – having a family isn’t a hindrance and should never be seen as one.

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

I believe companies can support progress and the careers of women by having complete transparency and objectivity. This is ultimately down to taking the time to listen to your employees. Prior to the pandemic, many women were put off by the idea of a career in tech, thinking it would involve longer days, or more travelling - all of which meant an encroachment on family life. Now there is no need to choose between being home for the family or doing a two-hour commute. I feel strongly that this accessibility to the workplace will reflect in the number of women putting themselves forward for promotion or entering the tech sector.

Currently, women make up just 17 per cent of the workforce 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?

Accountability will be vital to accelerate the pace of women in tech. As a sector we need to be having serious discussions around subjects like the gender pay gap, and encouraging businesses to be accountable is the only way we are going to progress. It’s unacceptable that the government said businesses don’t need to publish their 2020 results and this will not aid in diversifying our industry, especially post-pandemic.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Staying current is so important, so I always make sure I’m reading a book relevant to my field, listening to a podcast, or following websites. Although these are valuable, the most significant resource is networking. Women are notoriously poor at networking, so getting better at that would benefit us all. After all, knowing people means you’re more likely to get better opportunities. When I was first starting my career, I made sure to join local women’s networks. There are some great ones out there, either near you or relevant to your role that are worth joining.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Inspirational Woman: Olivia Sweeney | Aroma Chemicals Creative, Lush

Olivia Sweeney

Olivia, from Reading, has always been interested in sustainability and wanted to work for a company passionate about the environment.

Working for Lush and sourcing and creating their chemicals in a sustainable way has given Olivia the power to make a difference. Olivia is now an Aroma Chemicals Creative Buyer, sourcing and creating the natural and synthetic chemicals for fragrances of Lush’s soaps, bath bombs, shampoo bars… and everything else! She still gets to travel abroad, across Europe, Brazil and the USA to find the best materials and ingredients.

One of Olivia's projects is figuring out the best way to process waste banana skins, not only getting the perfect banana smell, but in a sustainable and responsible way. She has helped to created a banana facial cleanser that will now be on shelves worldwide! She looks for ways to save energy and water in the making process while also making sure that the ingredients she works with are ethically sourced and cruelty free. For Olivia, chemical engineering means you can end up creating anything based on your own curiosity. Engineers are part of the modern world and help make dreams become reality with their problem-solving skills.

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

I am from Reading originally, and after changing school to study my A Levels in Double Maths, Chemistry, English Literature and Music, I attended Edinburgh University to study an integrated in masters in chemical engineering. I have always wanted to work and contribute to the green sector and been interested in science. These two streams came together during my studies from internships when I looked at membrane carbon capture, investigation into the possibility of a production site becoming energy neutrality and researching biofuels for my masters thesis.

Since graduating I have been working at Lush helping to maintain and improve ethical and environmental standards of the aroma chemicals we purchase.

Since 2017 I have been working to increase diversity in Engineering – I was selected to be part of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s This is Engineering campaign, aimed at encouraging young people, from all backgrounds, to consider engineering careers, and since then have had a lot of great opportunities. I have spoken on Woman’s Hour, Radio 5 Live, spoken at UK Black Tech events, and Edinburgh and Nottingham University events, been part of a Make the Future event with Shell and managed an interactive workshop at New Scientist Live. I am hoping to continue this work with the support of the Royal Academy of Engineering and other bodies.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never really formally planned my career, I am just starting though, so that might come. University was just something that I was always going to do, it wasn’t really a choice. I knew I wanted to study something in the sciences and something practical to help build a career, and Chemical Engineering fitted with both that as well as my A Level subjects – it was not planned. Again, my first job was not a ‘plan’ - I needed a job after graduating, I have student loans! And after the drudgery of a few graduate scheme interviews I decided that wasn’t for me. I always wanted to do something in the field of sustainability, so looked for companies who were working in that field and found my current job. I think I should try and do a little more planning for my career going forward – I have been given so many opportunities in the last two years and I want to make the most of them.

I would love to be able to strike out on my own one day, and that takes planning!

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

I am relatively fresh into the working world, so haven’t faced too many challenges yet. I think the first hurdle was getting a job, which is always a hard, horrible, stressful time leading up to graduating. I overcame this by taking a little bit of a different approach. I decided not to be funnelled into a graduate scheme. I chose to look for companies that I agreed with and believed in and then find jobs from there, and I ended up with the role I have now.

I think the next challenge I am facing is wanting to run before I can walk. A lot of things come with time and experience, and those are two things that I am currently limited in. I am struggling with itchy feet, having been ‘stationary’ for two years. Throughout my life everything has been done in year chunks, this is first time I have been in the same place for two years, and without a plan dictated to me by academia – it is a funny feeling, and it is hard to know whether it is something to overcome or give in to!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I developed a banana ingredient from our waste that went into a globally launched facial oil.

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

That is hard to say! I think a passion for my work. I want to be part of building a regenerative future for all. It is an urgent, exciting goal that allows me to be creative and think like an engineer, but also engage with social issues.

I have got to meet people from all over the world who are doing much more amazing work than I could ever dream of so that drives me to keep pushing forward.

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

I think being a little bit stubborn is always a good thing. Hard work is always important, but I think that should be tempered with the pursuit of other passions.

Finding what you are passionate about and pursuing that is a great way to excel in a career, listening and learning from the world and your peers is important, but that doesn’t mean that they are right, or there is not a better way – having the confidence to challenge and build something new and your own is vital to keep progress diverse and representative.

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 barriers, they are different for different groups of people and they have changed and moved in the last 20 years. Continued engagement is key to overcoming these. Building confidence and belief in younger generations is one method of attack, but also changing minds of establishments to allow the new wave to have a clear upward trajectory. Ultimately, we need to work to build a society where the childlike belief that anything is possible never disappears. At the moment we are focussed a lot on data and outreach, but that is not where we want to be in five years’ time.

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

I think at the moment a lot of companies are really working to get a diverse group of people in the door. But it is really important to provide effective support within a company to allow women to continue to grow, learn and reach whatever goals they have. If women come in and then leave disheartened this could do more harm than good for encouraging others into the field.

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?

I would create a better support system for women within the industry so they have a better sense of belonging, acceptance and are afforded the best opportunities to grow and develop in conjunction with there personal life to prevent the loss of great talent. And to provide a great image reflected back to younger generations to encourage yet more uptake.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Finding your community, support network, mentors and peers is really important for success.

This is Engineering Day (6th November) was launched by the Royal Academy of Engineering to raise awareness of what an engineer is and showcase the breadth of careers available in the profession. Visit www.thisisengineering.org.uk


Bruna Capozzoli featured

Inspirational Woman: Bruna Capozzoli | Head of Creative Content, On the Edge Conservation

Bruna Capozzoli

Bruna Capozzoli is Head of Creative Content at On the Edge Conservation, a digital not-for-profit working on the preservation of our natural world.

She is also a digital specialist who directs, produces and develops content that resonates with audiences in meaningful ways

Bruna has shifted her activities by engaging in purpose-driven projects committed to deliver positive impact on and off screens. She joined On The EDGE Conservation as Head of Creative Content and is the creator of the new On The EDGE YouTube series.

Bruna is a feminist and part of the LGBTQ+ community. Her continuous interest and engagement in social and political issues resonate across all her professional activities.

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

I’ve been a digital content creator for over seven years and my day-to-day role is to find ways to engage young audiences on the online platforms where they hang out, such as YouTube.

With OTEC, I have created the world’s first virtual YouTubers for kids. Each character is a lesser-known endangered species who vlogs weekly about their life, just like a human blogger, but at the same time they engage kids about the importance of biodiversity and the protection of our natural world.

I’ve had a varied career – from starting as a theatre actor in Brazil where I was born and grew up, through writing and directing short films, until now managing and developing my own content series. Each role has been creative in its own particular way.

Within the digital kids and family arena I have worked with well-known brands such as Angry Birds, Talking Tom & Friends and Playmobil, as well as smaller IPs that were starting to build an online presence. My main responsibility was to translate each brand’s identity into engaging, original YouTube content.

In January last year, I decided to leave my position as Creative Director at the commercial production company CAKE / Popcorn Digital, to focus instead on helping purpose-driven projects and organisations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

For sure! As a foreigner entering the UK’s highly competitive creative industry, the challenges were huge.

Understanding what it is exactly you want to do in this sector is also tough – there are so many avenues to go down. I was fortunate enough to experiment and work in fields that really matter to me.

When I started out, the digital space was new and evolving. In each of my roles I learnt a new skill which opened up fresh opportunities.

Overall, I definitely plan my career, but this doesn’t mean that things always go the way I think it will. I knew the field I wanted to work in was very competitive and that I needed patience and hard work to constantly improve my craft.

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

The virtual influencer project I am currently working on at OTEC is probably one of the most challenging I have ever done because it really explores uncharted territories in digital and animation.

In creative content production you need to monitor and understand consumer trends, while also staying on top of the most cutting-edge technology and emerging digital platforms. It’s extremely challenging, but you have to be comfortable with not knowing everything and instead having the drive to learn.

Good communication and the confidence to ask questions are important skills to have.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Measuring career achievements is always about perspective. At the time, each little step was such a big accomplishment. From getting my first job in media, all the way to being responsible for an entire content series. It’s important to celebrate every phase.

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

I am very conscious that I had a privileged start to my career. My parents supported me during my studies in Brazil and the UK. Without their help and loving support, I wouldn’t be where I am now.

When my career started, instead of not understanding something and making mistakes, I’d always ask questions, do extensive research and learn more – never having the mindset that what I knew was enough.

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

For women specifically, I would say that it is important that we own our space, feel comfortable speaking up and add our point of view. Tech isn’t always a field that is particularly welcoming to women or designed to help us succeed, but that is changing.

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

I think that it would be fair to pose this question to the male counterpart instead and ask them to reflect on what they can do to eradicate the ‘Boys’ Club’ culture that can be quite pervasive in this sector.

It can be exhausting for women to take on the responsibility of educating men on this matter, on top of the ownership and challenges of the job itself.

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

It’s very important that the actual decision-makers - those in positions of power - are representative of different genders, ethnicity, social backgrounds, disabilities and sexual orientation.

Sometimes, the lack of representation in top positions is a deliberate choice, which perpetuates bias.

There is currently only 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?

I would definitely make sexual harassment and discrimination vanish once and for all, so women could feel comfortable to exist at their fullest in the workplace. This would be an important first step to allow female professionals to achieve their complete potential.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There is an amazing book which really changed my perspective on the tech world and added so many new questions and points of view to my experience: Lean Out, edited by Elissa Shevinsky.

This book helped point out a lot of issues and systemic barriers which I was experiencing and keeping inside  me – almost as abstract feelings. I could only overcome them by identifying them and understanding that my experiences were shared by many others.

I also follow Lesbians who Tech, a community of LGBTQ women, non-binary and trans individuals working in the world of tech, they are a great resource.

Click here to see On the Edge Conservation’s Virtual YouTubers in action


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here 


Inspirational Woman: Elise Connors | Director of Marketing Client Services, Happy Cog

Elise Connors

Elise’s expertise is in crafting complex digital strategies, with a focus on Conversion Rate Optimization.

With over 13 years of digital marketing experience, she’s passionate about sharing her extensive knowledge with others who are interested in starting their careers. As Director of Marketing Client Services at Happy Cog, Elise is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the agency’s digital marketing (SEO, Paid Media, and Analytics) strategy and execution on clients like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Adelphi University, and Lonza. When not busy with work, Elise is a fan of theater, poetry, and okay, yeah, also reality TV.

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

I’m a 13-year veteran of the digital marketing industry. I started out in SEO and worked my way up to learning everything from there. After a few tours around several marketing agencies, I landed in a Director-level role at NYC-based Happy Cog. There I lead the digital marketing team, which consists of Paid Media, SEO, and Digital Analytics practitioners.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Well, I planned to be a corporate attorney. (smile)

When that didn’t work out, I let go of the need to plan. As I mentioned, I started in SEO and just picked up new skills from there as I had projects to work on. It’s what turned me into this “Jill of All Trades,” if you will. I’d venture to say that’s served me well.

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

The biggest challenge is being a Black woman in an industry that, like most industries, is dominated by White males. Getting people to take you and your ideas seriously is not the easiest job in the world. That meant I had to make a conscious effort to find places where my voice would be heard and possibly even amplified. It was also helpful to surround myself with people who looked like me. That was a mission of mine in 2018 when I founded Black Folks in Digital, an organization that exists both to help Black digital professionals connect with others in the industry and show young Black professionals that a career in digital makes good financial sense.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are honestly too many to list. If I picked a “biggest,” that could diminish the value of the other experiences I’ve had. I feel like every achievement, every rung of the ladder I’ve climbed, I’m stronger because of it. My life has truly been the greatest example of the butterfly effect.

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

The biggest factor has been surrounding myself with people who believe in me. Certainly, I am a quick, independent learner, but I only thrive in environments where I’m supported. In environments where I don’t have that support, I’m definitely not going to bring my best self to the table.

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

Don’t be afraid of uncharted territory. You’ll find the biggest, tastiest fish where there are no other lines. You never know when the smallest opportunity could be a pivotal moment for your career.

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

There are certainly barriers, and until we dismantle the patriarchy, I don’t see that going away any time soon. However, as women, we can be change agents for other women. Stand up for equal pay. Stand up for equal hiring processes. Just stand up.

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

Listen. Listen to women’s experiences and don’t gaslight them on the backend of them sharing something and being vulnerable.

There is currently only 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?

Get more women in leadership roles. We don’t just need any seat at the table. We need the decision-making seats. And even further, we need women who are supportive of other women in those decision-making seats.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Together Digital is a great organization that offers the opportunity to connect with women across all different career paths in tech. Also, scour Meetup for your local area (once the pandemic is over, that is) to find opportunities to meet people in person. Nothing beats a face-to-face connection.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here


Cecilia Harvey

Inspirational Woman: Cecilia Harvey | Chief Executive Officer, Hyve Dynamics

Cecilia Harvey - CEO of Hyve Dynamics (1)Cecilia Harvey is the Chief Executive Officer of Hyve Dynamics. With over 20 years experience in finance and technology, Cecilia is an advocate for responsible technology leadership that seeks to inspire, elevate and disrupt global businesses and communities.

Graduating from Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Cecilia Harvey was soon captivated by the energy of Wall Street and the lure of a career in banking. After working her way up in the banking industry, her roles have since included being the COO of Citigroup Markets and Securities Services Technology, and positions with Morgan Stanley, Barclays Capital and IBM.

Cecilia’s recent achievements include being featured in Forbes Magazine in 2019 as a leading lady in technology, a 2018 WeAreTechWomen TechWomen100 winner. Cecilia is also the founder and chair of Tech Women Today, a professional organisation focused on connecting and advancing women across various areas of technology.

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

If you would have told me that I would have a career in technology I would have told you that you were absolutely crazy. For the last 20 years I’ve been working in banking and technology. Today I am the CEO of Hyve Dynamics, a sensor technology company. As a child I l played chairman of the board with my barbie dolls and I was practically attached to my Commodore 128 computer so I guess it was inevitable that I would one day be the CEO of a technology company.

After I graduated from university (Wellesley College) I worked in Fixed Income Derivatives origination at Lehman Brothers in New York.  Although I was on the trading floor, technology was the foundation of capital markets businesses. Trading systems, electronic trading, eCommerce, and data were all critical to the growth of capital markets businesses.  So very early in my career I was learning how to think strategically about technology in order to grow a business. Eventually I moved onto roles at companies where I was managing global banking technology programs.

I’ve held various roles in large organisations that have helped to prepare me for entrepreneurship and understand how to run technology as a business. Being the COO for markets and securities services technology at Citigroup which was a tech organisation of over 8,400 people globally, over 1,000 systems across over 50 sites is an example of previous roles that helped me to understand how to run technology as a business. You are working in a highly regulated environment and need to focus on governance, risk and controls, budget efficiency, and people management.

Also in previous roles, I engaged with various vendors that were often tech companies. Large banks partner with and make strategic investments in technology companies. So in my previous roles I saw the good, the bad and the ugly in regards to tech start-ups and scale ups.  I witnessed strategy, management and client service that worked and did not work in terms of them receiving investment, getting the sale and building strong relationships. I saw the growing pains and challenges of those tech companies.

Eventually I worked directly with tech start-ups and scale-ups. My combination of large corporate and tech start-up experience prepared me to be the CEO of a technology company. So my journey was very unique and that experience was priceless.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never planned my career, I planned my life. I wanted to design a life that I loved and my career was a small component of that life. I created my own definition of success. My definition of success was not according to what the industry or others defined as “success”.

Ultimately whatever job I chose had to align to the type of life I wanted to live or else I knew I would leave that role. So designing a life I love is about being the best version of myself.

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

My biggest career challenges started with me and ended with me.  I overcame them by learning how to get out of my own way.  I learned to focus on things I could control and to be accountable for where I went wrong. I had the power to decide if I was going to let various distractions get in my way. Those distractions included fear, doubt, naysayers, toxic work environments and toxic people. These distractions were not the challenges. My ability to tune out these distractions and move forward was the challenge and once I learned this I realised there is no challenge I cannot overcome. It’s not the water surrounding the boat that sinks the ship. It’s the water that gets in that sinks the ship.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Becoming the CEO of Hyve Dynamics has been my biggest career achievement to date. I recognize in this position as a female technology founder I have a responsibility to be a force for change in the technology industry and to be a role model for other women and specifically black women aspiring to have careers in technology.

One of the reasons why I feel so privileged and passionate about being the CEO of Hyve Dynamics is to be leading an organization that is focused on healthcare equality and saving lives though medical remote monitoring.

As a sensor technology company, our sole focus is optimising our patented sensor skin technology and improving the precision of the data that is wirelessly collected in real time from the sensor skin. Hyve’s sensor technology is addressing issues such as the COVID 19 pandemic and making basic medical care accessible to all. Being the CEO of a company that is truly delivering “tech for good” and leveraging this platform to be a force for change has been a significant career achievement.

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

Iron sharpens Iron. A major factor in achieving success has been having a strong personal and professional support network. I am so blessed to have an amazing family and friends that keep me humble and grounded.  Also professionally I have worked with talented individuals and teams that have helped to keep me sharp.

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

Overall,  people need to create options for themselves:

  • Have your “Career Emergency Kit” ready: (a) names of 3 headhunters, (b) updated CV, (c) linkedIn Updated, (d) alerts set up for open roles at various career site.
  • Interview even if you are happy with your current role: Interviewing keeps you sharp and allows you to connect with people. You understand what hiring managers are looking for and you keep pace with what is going on in the industry. Also peolpe may remember you for roles that may open in the future.
  • Understand the difference between sponsorship vs. mentorship: Find sponsors that are key decision makers that will refer you for career opportunities.
  • Know Your Worth: What is the salary for someone in your role and with your level of experience? If you are not getting paid the market rate salary, what are you going to do about it?
  • Don’t stay in a bad situation: Go with your instincts. If you feel you are not in a place where you will progress, recognise your power and start exploring your options.

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

Focus on what you can control and influence. For me the ability to overcome barriers involved me thinking of ways of how I strengthen myself to jump over those barriers or find a way around them.

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

  1. Powering Your Pipeline - Build a diverse talent pipeline and provide the pipeline with the right resources and support to prepare them for promotion opportunities and to successfully fill future leadership positions.
  2. Invest in and sponsor female technology founders - Having more female founders will encourage more women to enter the technology industry.
  3. Diversify suppliers -  Support economic inclusion of technology suppliers with diverse leadership. Companies should ensure they are working with suppliers that have diverse leadership.

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?

More investment and sponsorship for female technology founders.

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

Resources for remaining relevant. Reinforcing your network with individuals that can provide knowledge on career opportunities and industry trends. These types of resources keep you relevant and and ready for new career opportunities.

How would you describe what it means to be a tech leader?

For me being a tech leader is about being a force for change and demonstrating responsible leadership. The days of not being accountable for the impact of your technology on the general public are over. The days of being hands off are over. The days of being silent on social issues are over.

This is not just for technology. However because tech is such a fast growing industry and because technology has such an impact on everything we do as individuals, businesses and societies it is important that leaders are responsible in terms of how they evolve their tech and lead their teams.

We can no longer have this naive optimism about technology.  Can your technology be potentially cause harm to the general public. If so what are you doing to mitigate that risk?

Also it terms of leadership,  it’s not just technically and operationallly are you doing the right thing but also socially and environmentally. The same way we push the limits in terms of what our technology can do, we need to push from a social impact perspective in terms of how we as tech leaders can navigate our organisations. With this type of leadership, those are the companies people will want to work at. Those are the companies that clients will want to do business with.  Those are the companies that will lead the industry.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here.


Inspirational Woman: Laura Baldwin | President, O'Reilly

Laura BaldwinLaura Baldwin began working with O’Reilly in October 2001 as Chief Financial Officer and added Chief Operating Officer to her responsibilities in October 2004.

She became O’Reilly’s first President in March 2011 and is currently responsible for O’Reilly’s businesses worldwide.

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

I started out in banking, which is where I learned how to marry my math skills with process and business. From there I transitioned into roles in cash management and finance. It didn’t take long for me to understand that finance is really telling the story of the operational decisions made every day in service of the business—and I’ve immersed myself in the business operations of every company I’ve worked for. That personal curiosity around business decision-making and strategy development led me to my current role at O’Reilly. I first joined the company as CFO, where I intentionally led the team through an operational decision-making lens. That resulted in promotions to COO and then president.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t plan my career, per say, but I always knew I wanted to be in a leadership position. When I was 29 years old, I remember thinking, “I want to be a CFO by the time I’m 35.” And it happened when I earned the title with Chronicle Publishing. But the rest of my career path has really been a combination of my love of numbers and my natural curiosity.

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

I’ve faced my fair share of challenges throughout my career. But one significant one that comes to mind was taking the reins of O’Reilly from the company’s iconic owner and CEO, Tim O’Reilly, in 2011. Tim built the company from the ground up, and for 33 years it served a community of technology and business visionaries with its educational books. At the time, print publishing—an industry that has slumped at pace with the internet’s rapid growth—made up about 75% of O’Reilly’s revenue. I knew that to succeed we’d need to build a new paradigm for bringing our editorial instincts to market. It was imperative to transition to an audience-first approach and build out new capabilities such as video, newsletters, and training courses. We developed a path to become a true media company, which secured our current evolution into a digital learning organisation. As time would prove out, it was ultimately the right decision. But it wasn’t a popular one at the time, and it faced much pushback by employees all the way up to my peers on the executive team. But my career journey has taught me that the numbers tell the story, and we did what was right for the business. Even when it wasn’t easy.

This would prepare me for another tough business challenge that came last year at the onset of the pandemic. In March 2020, we made the difficult decision to shutter our live conference business, which drove almost $40 million in annual revenue. As was the case with our transition from publisher to media company to online learning platform a decade prior, we had to weigh what was working presently—and decide what would put O’Reilly in the best position to serve our learners now and in the future. While this was an extremely difficult decision, both personally and professionally, it enabled us to create an innovative solution through a new virtual conference series. Despite the uncertainty of 2020, we achieved 24% year-over-year sales growth in new business across our enterprise learning solution. Again, we did what was right for the business even when it wasn’t easy.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve long been an advocate for promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and I’ve worked my entire career to elevate and promote talent when I saw it—and in tech that includes women. That’s why 49% of the O’Reilly senior team (director level and above) is made up of women; a number far above the North America average of 29% per catalyst.org.

But given the horrific events over the last several years—and the trenchant demands being made to meet them, including from the Me Too, Black Lives Matter, and Stop Asian Hate movements—it’s clear we still have a very long way to go. From both a social and humanitarian standpoint but also from a professional one.

In 2015, O’Reilly created a diversity and inclusion scholarship program to help people from underrepresented communities more easily attend our events. We made a concerted effort to improve the diversity of our lineup of experts at our conferences, and within two years 30% of our keynote speakers were women. Within five years 100% of speakers at our virtual open source event were women.

When our in-person events were shuttered we still wanted to ensure the O'Reilly community remained welcoming to everyone. So just this month we announced a new scholarship program to provide access to the O’Reilly learning platform to help people from underrepresented groups stay on top of technology trends and set them up for career success. What started as a move to abate the “brogrammer” culture that was proliferating in Silicon Valley at the time has evolved into a more critical call to action to change the face of technology for good. These initiatives are ones I’m proud of, and they’re some of the best ideas I’ve brought to the company.

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

I’ve been very fortunate to have great mentors throughout my career, but the one who affected me the most was Kathy Franzen, CFO of Giorgio Beverly Hills in the mid-eighties. I watched her navigate the company’s all-male executive team with grace and dignity, and she never deferred to the male leadership in the room as I had previously seen women do in the workforce. Instead, she challenged them—which made them and everyone else around her better. She gave me opportunities because she saw potential in my hard work; she elevated those who earned it. I learned how to lead and grow talent simply by watching her, and she was shaping my career without even knowing it. She taught me early on to have a voice and not be afraid to use it.

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

To excel in the fast-paced tech industry (or really any field), you need to be a student. You simply can’t cultivate progress or innovation without the desire to learn. Find out what tools and resources your company offers to help you build skills. If there aren’t any existing solutions in place, propose some options to your managers or the HR department to help your organisation promote a culture of innovation. There are so many ways your company can invest in its talent, from learning platforms and virtual event passes to online certification programs and even local college courses. Encourage them to do so. Because when companies provide ways for employees to learn, they strengthen their own business position and gain a competitive edge. And when you take initiative to advocate for yourself and your coworkers, it demonstrates how much value your ideas can add to the organisation. Imagine what your businesses could accomplish by arming its entire workforce with the ability to learn on the job? It’s invaluable.

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

There are absolutely still barriers for success for women in tech, and in order to fix it we need to start at the root cause. The problem people have with women in tech doesn’t start at tech companies—it starts in third grade when little girls are told that math and science is hard. It starts when assertive little girls are told they’re being bossy but assertive boys are told they’re being leaders.

We have to stop this rhetoric and start encouraging all kids to pursue STEM careers—and it’s so important for them to learn these disciplines at an early age. But our education system is falling behind. If we want to create tomorrow’s tech leaders, it needs to get up to speed immediately. Fortunately, there are resources that are addressing this challenge. The Goldilocks Coding project, to give one example, is a unique method that uses the story of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” to engage students in different stages of the technological problem-solving process. Students can design structures for Goldilocks to build to replace items that she broke, and work through a coding project that guides her path to reach the bears’ home. Resources like this need to be available to all kids very early on in their schooling to have the greatest impact.

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

Put simply? So much more than what’s being done currently. Companies need to give women a voice and support it. Really listen when they speak up or ask for something, and encourage them to go after what they want aggressively. If you’re a woman working for a company that doesn’t offer that kind of support, find one that does. You’re not different from men in tech—you’re just as smart and capable, and there are companies that want your perspective in their conversations. On the flip side, companies need to take a deep look at their organisations. How many technical workers or leadership roles are filled by women, and what can they do to increase those numbers? At O’Reilly, we’re constantly looking for ways to foster the next generation of talent. I’d advise all businesses to dedicate the time and resources to do the same. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary and it’s the right thing to do.

There is currently only 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?  

Waving a magic wand to fix the face of technology would be nice, but it’s going to take dedication and hard work to change an industry bias that has persisted for years. To accelerate changes that need to be made, I’d encourage all organisations to first acknowledge the problem, then address it head-on—starting with supporting elementary school education and continuing all the way up to leading global technology companies. Offer more resources, access to learning, and mentorship to help women climb the ladder and break through glass ceilings. Arm them with the skills they need to succeed, and celebrate lifelong learning and curiosity. Make a firm commitment—backed by numbers—of how you plan to increase the representation of women and people from other underrepresented groups in your company. We all have so much to gain from a more diverse technology industry. Now we just have to work together to make it happen.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Of course I’d have to say O’Reilly offers a great selection of videos, books, tutorials, live online training courses, virtual events, interactive learning scenarios, and certification programs to help tech professionals build new skills and reskill. This goes beyond providing the tools and learning materials on a subject; we’re actually helping businesses and individuals understand why certain trends or technologies are important and how they’ll shape our work and personal lives. We’ve dubbed this the “O’Reilly Radar,” and it’s built into the DNA of our entire organisation. We provide a learning environment that helps people put this technology-driven world into context and sheds some light on what’s possible to give them a more focused outlook for the future. Most importantly, we’ve made a commitment to increase the diversity of our course leaders and speakers to 40% this year, so learners from marginalized groups—like women—can see themselves represented in positions of leadership in the tech industry and elsewhere.

Regardless of where you go for your learning resources, I encourage women to be voracious learners, not just of tech but of our world.

I’d encourage women interested in O’Reilly to explore our new diversity and inclusion scholarship, which will award 500 recipients with a free membership to our learning platform for one year. Applications are being accepted now through May 15. You can learn more here: https://www.oreilly.com/diversity/scholarship.csp.


WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here