Bindiya Vakil

Inspirational Woman: Bindiya Vakil | CEO, Resilinc

Bindiya Vakil

Resilinc CEO and co-founder Bindiya Vakil is credited with bringing supply chain risk management into the mainstream.

Bindiya has helped transform the way that global organisations approach supply chain visibility and risk; driving them to shift from reactively addressing catastrophic supply chain events to putting preventative solutions in place through monitoring, mapping, and planning. She is a founding member of the Global Supply Chain Resiliency Council and a member of the Advisory Board of MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

Vakil holds a master’s degree in supply chain management from MIT and an MBA in Finance. She was named Supply & Demand Chain Executive’s inaugural Woman of the Year and has appeared on nationally syndicated TV, radio and print media speaking on the topic of supply chain resiliency.

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

Since gaining a master’s degree in Supply Chain Management from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2005 and an MBA in Finance, I have worked as a practitioner in high-tech supply chain management over the past 20 years with companies including Cisco, Flextronics and Broadcom.

In 2010, I founded Resilinc with the purpose to strengthen global supply chains, making them resilient, transparent, sustainable and secure. Through our technology-driven solutions, we create an ecosystem where organisations have unmatched visibility into their supply networks and can collaborate with their suppliers in a transparent environment.

Additionally, I am the founding member of the Global Supply Chain Resiliency Council and I also sit on the Advisory Board of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics.

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

When raising money to start Resilinc, there were many factors that could have stopped me from being successful, including being a female founder in a male dominated sector. However, I think my biggest challenge was actually getting people to buy into our concept and the importance of investing in supply chain risk management. We’d had the financial crash of 2008, a major tsunami, and other global events that caused disruption, but supply chain resiliency still wasn’t up there at the board level as a mission critical consideration. It still took the pandemic to really make people wake up and realise the paralysing impact of a disrupted  supply chain.

Fortunately, we had a strong belief in the immense value of  our product, which ultimately turned the many No’s into a Yes. Ultimately, we found the industry leaders and change agents that believed in our ability to create a ‘Gold Standard’ for supply chain mapping, monitoring, visibility and collaboration. I will forever be grateful to all my seed, venture, and angel and institutional investors who believed in me and the team at Resilinc.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Beyond actually making Resilinc a reality and securing the funding we needed it would have to be changing mindsets around supply chain resiliency and what is possible.

Trying to convince people that there really was a better way for companies to build resilience in the supply chain was no easy task. Our vision for a collaborative, open relationship between suppliers and companies built on shared information and systems attracted significant scepticism. Fortunately, with a few key organisations coming on board and forward-thinking suppliers open to sharing information, we were able to prove those in doubt wrong.

In fact, by the start of the pandemic some of our original sceptics were glad of the decade of mapping, insights and data we already had under our belts. I remember one investor saying to me ‘Bindiya, if there hadn’t been a Resilinc in 2020, someone would have had to invent it’.

What top tips would you give to a woman who is trying to excel as a technology entrepreneur?

I would say to anyone, male or female, trying to forge a career in technology to live for the Yes’.

Pitching out your idea and trying to secure investment to get your business off the ground can feel like a never-ending round of rejections. I was told by a learned friend who’d been through the same process to expect 30 No’s before getting a Yes.

As it turned out, I went way beyond the 30 mark, even the 45 and 60 mark before getting my first Yes. Of course it was tough and there were times I felt like giving up, but if you have belief and conviction in your proposition you just keep going. I knew Resilinc was viable, I just had to knock on enough doors to find the right people who understood what I was trying to do and were as excited by my vision as I was.

I guess the learning here is not to let someone else define your path, don’t let someone else’s No stop you from achieving your goals. Keep going till you find the Yes’s.

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

I think oftentimes the barriers people face in achieving their career goals can be self-imposed. It’s so easy to lose faith and give yourself ten reasons why you can’t do something rather than focus on why you can and should and how you’ll seize the opportunity.

Technology is a good example of where people are often quick to find excuses for not trying something new. In the pandemic we had no choice but to get on board with remote working technologies and make it work. Now we’re wondering why we didn’t do it sooner and are reaping the benefits of less business travel and a better work life balance.

It comes down to how you look at things – rather than seeing a barrier, see an opportunity,  you might just surprise yourself.

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

Surrounding myself with a hugely talented team of people who share my passion for Resilinc’s vision and solutions has been a huge part of my success. Some of my most valued advisors and team members have been with me since day one, diligently working away to share our vision. Experiencing the highs and lows with me along the way.

On the really tough days, we’ve been there for each other. When one team member feels like they’ve had enough, another will pick them up. There were times in the early days where I felt overwhelmed, but the support and inspiration from my team kept me going. Without them I wouldn’t be here and nor would Resilinc.

Heather Black

Inspirational Woman: Heather Black | CEO, Supermums

Heather Black

Heather is the founder and CEO of Supermums. She is mum of two little girls, lives by the sea in East Sussex whilst working remotely.

In 2010 she became an accidental Salesforce admin for her non-profit and loved it so much she decided to upskill as a Salesforce Consultant in 2012 helping other non-profits to implement a CRM. She realised her career path could work for other mothers so she launched Supermums in 2016 to bring more women into the sector. As a consultant she has overseen over 700 Salesforce projects and now enjoys upskilling talent in Salesforce consultancy and coaching skills.

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

I am currently CEO of Supermums which empowers women to launch and accelerate their career within the Salesforce eco-system. For the last 20 years I have been passionate about supporting people to achieve their potential in careers and businesses, having worked as an Economic Development Consultant, CEO of a Business and Career Coaching Company, Salesforce Consultant and now the Founder, Trainer and Coach of Supermums. I am a single mum of two young girls and we live near Hastings, East Sussex. I decided to pivot and become a Salesforce consultant when I had children and now I inspire other mothers to follow in my footsteps to achieve a flexible, well paid career. Supermums is now a team of over 20 people globally and have trained over 800 people virtually from all over the world to relaunch their careers.

When and how did I relaunch my career in tech?

I was previously running a business and career coaching company for young people, and due to political changes in the UK we lost the majority of our funding streams. I had to pivot in my career at the same time as wanting to start a family and move out of the city. I had to consider my options and explored what a career working with Salesforce could offer me. I had implemented Salesforce CRM for my own company and after skilling up in the product as an end user, I realised that my business coaching and management skills were very relevant and transferrable skills for helping other organisations implement a CRM system as a business analyst.  I decided to pivot and become a freelance Salesforce CRM consultant for non-profits helping them to redefine and implement new management processes and systems using Salesforce.

What are challenges have you faced juggling motherhood and a career?

The biggest challenges of working flexibility are managing your boundaries and time. When you work from home it can be difficult to motivate yourself to step away from your desk, to do exercise, to make time to go out and to stop working. Being strict on time management and how to spend our time is really important. To overcome the mum guilt of working and knowing that you are trying your best. Every quarter I have to review my calendar and routine and ask how I can live out things differently to feel more fulfilled.  Even though I had stepped into what was an inevitably ‘flexible well paid’ career, I still found that I had burnt out as I hadn’t managed my mindset.

What type of mindset do you need to achieve your ambitions?

Having hit burn out, I worked with a coach to rebuild and rewire my mindset. I now teach my own trainees about having an Ambitious Women Mindset. This model focusses the mindset on goal setting, managing energy levels, mobilising relationships, setting and maintaining boundaries, building confidence and realising impact. Having gone through my own learning experience I feel these are the core components we should keep in sight and manage day to day to keep ourselves happy and fulfilled.

What support have you accessed to help you achieve success?

I invest a lot in coaching, mentoring and training as I believe its important to learn from others and to keep pace with innovation and developments within the sector I work within. It’s important to invest in yourself to become confident, an expert and credible in what you do.

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

There are 5 connections I suggest people make when they are planning to relaunch their career. Work with a career coach on your obstacles and goals and an industry mentor to help review and reflect on your application of learning. Have a peer support network around you to motivate and encourage you, talk to recruiters to help you land your perfect role, and learn from expert authorised trainers to build you up.

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?

Attracting more women into tech is all about raising awareness and educating them about the possibilities. Once you have landed your job in tech then spend time sharing your stories with others to inspire them to seek out a new career. Most of our referrals at Supermums come through word of mouth with friends, family and colleagues sharing their stories with others.

Supermums logo

Inspirational Woman: Kelly Singsank | Director of Product Marketing, m3ter

Kelly SingsankKelly is the marketing lead for m3ter, a tool that helps companies capture their true value by deploying and managing usage-based pricing.

Prior to joining m3ter in 2022, Kelly was at Salesforce for 6 years working across San Francisco and London, and most recently led the Product Marketing team for the UK and Ireland.

She has worked across a breadth of roles including sales, customer success, and product marketing at RelateIQ (a startup which was acquired by Salesforce) as well as Oracle.

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

A bit about my background… I grew up in California just outside of San Francisco, and so was surrounded by the tech world with Silicon Valley, as well as both of my parents having successful careers in tech. I always loved science, so I followed my passion and studied Environmental Science at university. But the familial pull to tech was magnetic, and after graduating I fortuitously started my first job in Sales at Oracle. While it wasn’t the original path I envisioned, I instantly fell in love with technology.

I’m very grateful for the path this launched me on - from then joining a startup, RelateIQ, to experiencing an acquisition by Salesforce, where I ultimately spent 6 years (including a move to London with the company!), before taking the leap back into the startup world at m3ter.

After meeting the m3ter team, I had an instant pull to the people, the growth opportunities, and the product. The culture the Founders have built is supportive, fun, and challenging. It’s exciting to be part of building something incredible from the beginning. In my role today, as the first marketer, my top priority is product marketing - building out our messaging, defining our content strategy, and working with the product and sales teams to build and sell the product. Over time my role will evolve as we focus on different areas of marketing.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the beginning, definitely not. I had a steadfast desire to go into science or medicine, but as I progressed through University my feelings waned. I decided to move to San Francisco, and that’s really what set me on my path in technology. At RelateIQ I had the opportunity to explore different roles and see what I enjoyed the most - from Business Development, to Customer Success, and ultimately finding what felt like home in Product Marketing.

After the acquisition, I moved into Salesforce and started to become much more intentional about my career. I landed on a great team in San Francisco, and was able to really build out my PMM toolkit there. My longer term ambition became to eventually return to a startup, but I knew I had so much to learn at Salesforce that I didn’t want to leave until I gained more experience and was at a level to build a team wherever I went. I pursued a move to London with Salesforce for international experience, and ultimately led the Product Marketing team for the UK & Ireland.

I’ve now realised my goal of returning to a startup as the first in-house marketer, and I’m excited to see what is next for me in my career journey. My goal is to become a CMO, but what’s fun about a career journey is learning more about yourself and what you enjoy with each step, and that process will never stop.

Why did you take the leap from a big, established tech company to a startup that had just emerged from stealth?

There are so many great parts of working at a big technology company - the ample resources, training, big budgets, established processes, brand recognition, and more. What appealed to me about m3ter was the chance to be a part of the founding team. Every decision you make and project you progress has a tangible and significant impact on the business. You also get direct exposure to more parts of the business; I now have the opportunity to lead other marketing functions beyond product marketing. I was invigorated by the chance to do all of this.

What challenge in the market is m3ter solving? Why did the vision excite you?

The product is leading a category that is new and will change pricing for SaaS businesses forever. After meeting the m3ter team, I had an instant pull to the people, the growth opportunities, and the product.

m3ter launched from stealth in February with $17.5M in seed funding, and I joined soon after in August. The Co-founders are repeat entrepreneurs who had previously built and sold a company to AWS, and they experienced the exact problem we’re solving for at their previous company - when your product is priced based on how much your customers actually use it (rather than a flat license fee), it’s incredibly challenging to accurately and efficiently bill for this. With m3ter, we help SaaS companies to intelligently deploy and manage usage-based pricing (UBP).

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m going to give 2 answers here! First, my move to London was both a big professional and personal move. Moving to a new city, let alone a new country, with no friends as an adult is honestly quite scary. But I wanted to push out of my comfort zone, and the last 4 years here have been transformational. I’ve had experience meeting and working with people from across the world, learning about business in a new market, and the travel across Europe isn’t so bad either!

Second, I’m incredibly proud of the team I had the opportunity to lead at Salesforce. The role of a people manager has been my favourite job yet. I loved building close relationships, learning about what made each person tick, and seeing them grow into their roles and thrive. We were able to achieve a lot of amazing things together.

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

The answer to this question will be different and unique for every woman. I am personally very grateful that I have not felt restricted or limited in my career thus far because of my gender. That being said, unfortunately there are many women who have had the opposite experience.

One of the most actionable ways we can continue to uplevel the women around us is to mentor and coach them. Mentorship is such a powerful tool, and with more women AND men offering to mentor females around them, I really think we can all do better, more inclusive work.

From a personal experience, my career would not be where it is today without mentorship from a variety of individuals across companies and roles. I have a former manager who has become an invaluable mentor. He has helped me navigate every step of my career, been a steadfast advocate, and is a safe space to discuss challenges and opportunities at work. He says he’s gotten just as much out of the relationship as I have, and has become a big advocate for equal representation at the table.

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

I am early enough in my career that I’m going to share tips based on what has worked well for me personally. But, there is no one-size-fits-all, and this list could go on!

  • Be yourself - Life is too short to pretend to be someone else. It’s exhausting and unsustainable, and frankly, it won’t work long term. People like to work with people who are authentic. So be kind to the people around you, earn their trust, and be yourself, and in return you’ll deliver better work and will have fun while doing it.
  • Network and invest in relationships - Networking is so key to advancing your career, finding new opportunities, building mentors, and more. Develop and invest in these relationships over time - not just when you need them for something. You’ll be amazed at where the power of a great network takes you.
  • Deliver work you’re proud of - It’s about how you do things that matters. Delivering high quality work will help you with promotions if you’re where you want to be, and with transitions if you want to make a shift. It’s much easier to be an advocate for someone who takes pride in their work and you can trust, no matter the task!

Catherine Mandungu

Inspirational Woman: Catherine Mandungu | Founder, Think RevOps

Catherine Mandungu

Catherine Mandungu is the founder of Think RevOps, a company that began as the pandemic brewing.

She realised the revenue operations market was booming, especially within the tech industry, and therefore wanted to explore what is largely an untapped market within the UK and Europe. Finding a foothold in an often-unexplored area is difficult, but Catherine knew she could become a pioneer.

Firstly, tech does not need to be scary!

Being a woman in a tech based career doesn't always mean you are a coder or have to code. An appetite to learn about and to understand tech, sincere interest for innovation and a curious mind for the future is a good start within itself. Personally, I was interested in working in the tech industry when I was 10 or so, because of the mere fascination I had with Microsoft Word back then. As a result, I ended up working at Microsoft, which was quite a full circle moment for me.

There are more men in this industry, and few female role models, but I believe this shouldn't hold women back either. If there are not enough female role models in this space, you can find a male role model to inspire your journey. Having passion is a motivation within itself, and you can still come a long way learning from the opposite sex, then you can become a role model yourself. I have always had male mentors in the tech industry, and I believe this has helped shape me into becoming a strong female entrepreneur.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role (this can include anything you are up to in terms of projects/initiatives – feel free to plug)

I was born in Congo, DRC, and then largely raised in the Netherlands by a single mum of four girls. Coming from a working-class background has given me an ambition for a better life and to help others. My mum is my biggest drive and motivation. Once I decided to move to the UK to study, there was no stopping me, and I worked at Microsoft, Amazon, and Adobe.

Working for large corporations was not my plan, as I always wanted my own business. Therefore, it seemed natural for me to move into the tech start-up and scale-up space.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I didn’t have a detailed plan. I just knew at some point I would start my own company because that was always a goal for me. In the meantime, I knew my trajectory was going to be to work with amazing global tech companies as well as startups, and learn as much as possible before I pursued the next step.

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

I have definitely had a time in my career where I wasn’t sure whether I was still on the right track. I was doubting my trajectory and whether I even liked what I was doing, which in hindsight, is such a natural part of growth.  I was standing still not moving backwards nor moving forward, it was a real period of limbo for me. However, it was one of the pivotal moments in my life where I had to make a change, and that has brought me to where I am today.

I was able to overcome this challenge in my career, by first understanding me. What was the core of this feeling and thinking I was having? Once I could understand this, I was able to change my direction, and enforce positive influences into my environment. This understanding that I  have the cards in my own hands was revolutionary, as I realised the control was within my own hands. Having the power to make your own luck and to create your own dream scenarios is entirely powerful and was imperative to my journey as a woman in tech.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Starting my own business and helping over 20 tech startups across UK, Europe, US and APAC to streamline their go-to-market processes was really profound for me as I began to realise the domino effect that I could have on others' success. I am also incredibly proud of my drive revenue growth as a 1-women operations, especially as a black woman who is often at the table with white male leaders, who often, unfortunately, have the dominance in most situations.

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

Self belief. If there is one thing I am good at it is to have an immense self belief that I can do anything I set my mind to and that I will succeed. Positivity is key to pushing yourself, there is an art to being confident that you have something to give, and knowing that you are worth it makes a huge difference to your outlook. Don’t give room to self doubt and negativity, and always practise a positive mindset on a daily basis. Negative thoughts can feel overwhelming, but grounding yourself with self belief can make all the difference.

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

Firstly, my top tip would be to don’t ever stop learning. Especially in the tech space, things are always moving, so you need to ensure that you are keeping up with what is current and what is on trend.  I also recommend finding a mentor, someone who in your space that you can look up to and learn from. As I said before, it doesn’t have to be a woman, just someone that you trust, and someone who you think would enrich your progress. Lastly, it is important that you take what you learn and put your lens on it. I recommend joining a tech community, although it can feel overwhelming, it is invaluable, because you are surrounding yourself with like minded people and you can get a greater understanding of what others are doing within the space and what you can do to set yourself apart.

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

Today the tech industry is absolutely open for women to work in this space. A lot of companies are creating those opportunities, because they are realising how important it is to have a diverse and welcoming workspace. Sure, there might still be work to be done, however, at some point it needs to be up to you. As individuals, we create barriers for ourselves, and women tend to not always think immediately about going into tech as a possibility. If they do, they tend to let things such as imposter syndrome stop them from going after what they want. Therefore, it is essential that workplaces strive to make tech an accessible space for everyone to join. So yes, there is still work to be done, but if you have the desire and the want to join this growing community, then there is always an opportunity for success.

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

They can show that in their own company they’re appointing women in leadership as well into techy roles, then they can advertise and showcase this to the world. It is essential that we give women a platform and then celebrate their successes. I also think that companies should always create an ambassador program for women in tech - starting to enrol university students to these programs. By harbouring positive relationships from the offset, young women and professionals can realise that this isn’t a scary time but rather an exciting one. It is essential that we educate the market about those tech roles and make it accessible for women. Finally, I would create more mentorship opportunities for women so that they can have a greater grasp on the trends and the movement of the industry, enforcing opportunities to collaborate and work with others within the space.

There are currently only 21 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 think that you need to start early in order to really make a change. Young girls today need to be educated, and they need to grow up with the understanding that taking the tech path is possible, exciting, and a necessity for making a change. Empowering young girls is essential to enforcing future progression. I also believe that schools and universities should have a tech curriculum and teach young girls about tech roles, to make it a wider known concept. For example, why not having a coding class as early as first grade, to establish foundations for girls to progress into a career that was often unavailable for many women. Being taught something early on normalises and encourages behaviours, so why is that any different for a male dominated industry?

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

I recommend that all women working in tech join communities such as the tech women global advocates. These communities are pivotal in meeting like minded individuals, and they allow you to mingle with women you otherwise would not have. It is so important to have a sense of community within your workspace, especially for those beginning as a one woman business, like how I did myself.

Tessa Peters

Inspirational Woman: Tessa Peters | Founder & CEO, Been There

Tessa PetersTessa Peters is the Founder & CEO of the charity Been There, and she’s incredibly inspiring.

Taking her own personal battle with bulimia, she’s transformed her experience to create a pioneering new support system that is helping people across the UK who are struggling with body image issues.

Having built an app that connects a community, Tessa has teamed tech with real and relatable Mentors who support, empower and listen to those in need. Tessa’s mission is to encourage self-acceptance and self-worth in everybody. Here, she explains how she came up with her vision for Been There and made it a reality.

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

I’m 30 years old and from Buckinghamshire.  If I’m not working, I’ll usually be found on my bike or playing sport. One of my biggest passions is operating the charity I founded that supports people battling body image issues, called Been There.

Been There provides free, confidential support for people aged 18 and over via a custom-designed app. We have created a safe and secure platform to connect those in need with vetted, trained Mentors (all of whom have experienced issues with negative body image).

The charity is still relatively new but we’re growing at pace and I’m so incredibly proud of the work we are doing. It was a vision inspired by my own personal journey with body image issues and my desire to speak to someone who had been through something similar and inspire hope that recovery is possible. With every person who joins our community, either to seek or show support, it evolves and becomes even more impactful.

I started my career working on a yacht as a sous/crew chef, which I did for six years, whilst struggling with an eating disorder. While at my lowest point battling bulimia, I realised that I never want anyone to feel the way I did – alone, ashamed, scared, judged and deeply unhappy in my own skin.

I came up with the idea of Been There during a solo walk in August 2019 and it was probably the first time my mind had been quiet in a long time. Once I’d created the concept, I started developing it and figuring out how it would work. There was a lot of trial and error. At the same time, I had taken a new job working for a Formula 1 team in hospitality, so I was scrambling for opportunities to invest in the charity around a demanding day job.

To lead my start-up, I wear many hats. I am involved in everything from fundraising to marketing and recruitment to Mentor management. I’m developing our brand and outreach programmes and I also do 1-to-1 mentoring in and outside of the app. As many other Founders may have experienced, it is a varied, demanding but highly rewarding experience.

How did you turn your vision into a reality?

Every opportunity I had, I would vigorously scribble notes and devise plans. I felt like I was shooting in the dark, trying to work out the right steps to take, when I had no idea what I was doing.  I had to decide whether I wanted to create a business or charity and learn how to understand technology. I sought help from people and did extensive research.

To help build up funding, I went back to work on a yacht in the short term until I had saved enough to launch the charity. Then, in June 2021, I quit this job, and committed to working at Been There full-time.

I asked for a lot of advice along the way, and if I didn’t know something, I would find someone who did and contact them. This unparalleled advice from experienced leaders and kind-hearted people, helped me shape Been There and take it forward to the support system it is today.

Here we are one year in, and we have developed an app, vetted and trained 10 founding Mentors and launched a pilot with universities. We’ve tested and trialled the service to make sure it’s effective and accessible and we continue to gather feedback to shape the future of Been There.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I suppose in some respect, yes. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to have my own business. I have a notes section on my phone titled ‘ideas’ and every few days or so, I’d have something new to add to the list. None of my ideas felt right, until this one formed and I decided to aptly name it Been There.

Body image issues were a problem in my life that I wanted to solve but I would try and tackle it while I was in the thick of my eating disorder. No matter how hard I tried; I couldn’t find a solution. It felt like something was blocking me. I then had an epiphany that this was because I hadn’t healed, and I needed to help myself before I could help anyone else. I sought out support from Eating Disorders Anonymous and through this I found my wonderful Mentor.

Helping people struggling with body image issues and eating disorders is my deepest passion and purpose. I don’t want anyone to feel alone or ashamed. I want everyone to feel able to accept themselves for who they are, where they are and what they look like. Seeing the charity now, and the impact it makes, it feels like it was always meant to be.

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

Taking the plunge to leave my well-paid job and take a leap into the unknown, running Been There on a full-time basis, was probably the biggest challenge. The lack of financial security and uncertainty of my future felt scary, but I knew this could be the start of something potentially life-changing for others, so I launched myself into it with vigour and determination.

A charity like this needs all your attention but, in the early days, I found myself picking up jobs in the events industry again as it offered that financial security. The trouble was, I was making myself so busy that I wouldn’t have time to complete the tasks I wanted to progress for Been There.

It scared me to commit to the new role entirely, knowing that I wouldn’t have any income and starting from nothing, but Been There was the concept that I was most passionate about, that I would talk the most about and that I knew the world needed. So, something had to change.

I managed to overcome the barrier of fear, and ride the bonkers world of start-ups, by having an incredible support system. Having people who are willing to invest in you, guide you and listen is invaluable. I was incredibly fortunate to have a kind partner who took the risk with me and paid for the roof over our heads, reducing the immediate financial worry for me. Emotionally, my family, friends and people in the industry offered a wealth of advice, support and encouragement.

What advice would you give to someone starting out on their own career or business journey?

Firstly, talk to people and don’t be shy about sharing your vision. When we decided that Been There would mainly focus on battling body image issues, I immediately called The Body Image Clinic in Harley Street. Thomas Midgely answered, and I told him my plans. He set up a video call immediately, offered his support and told me that there was a colossal influx of people needing help in this area.

Hearing his perspective cemented my belief in what I was doing and helped provide clarity as I developed my mission with my four incredible Trustees. Having extremely credible individuals in the industry advocating my idea gave me strength, courage and motivation to continue.

You also need to keep the faith. I believe that if you’re meant to do something in life, and you can visualise it clearly in your head, that is what you are meant to do. If you can believe in this vision and articulate it with passion, you’ll be able to take others with you. That type of drive is infectious!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Launching Been There and giving people the opportunity to find relatable, beneficial support. Seeing the questionnaire responses and testimonies that we receive from our community really does blow you away.  I recently met one of the Mentees and seeing first-hand what Been There has done for her was astounding, emotional and solidified the beneficial impact of the service. It actually makes me well up as I type this.

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

My insatiable determination. I have a very good work ethic (granted, maybe too enthusiastic at times) but people see that and have supported what I’m doing. I have a lot of self-belief and I know that I can do anything I put my mind to. I’m lucky that finding motivation, grit, and resilience feels second nature to me but I understand it’s not like this for everyone.

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

Always build yourself up with self-belief. As long as you believe you can do it, everyone else will, and if they don’t then it doesn’t matter, because it’s your own path, no one else’s. Stand strong in your power and take on any challenge. There will be closed doors along the way but you can handle them, you can get back up and keep going. You may not ‘know’ how to do something straight away, but with self-belief and determination you know you can learn it. There are of course times when you self-doubt or need to ask for help, but by having a good support system around you, you can achieve anything.

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, particularly as in some industries it’s still believed to be easier to hire a man as they may not take as much time off for family. However, society is changing and we need to keep up with our business practices and not make outdated assumptions. Otherwise, we’ll risk missing out on talented people.

I’ve also come across those who think men are stronger in many ways too, when women can clearly have the same resilience and strong work ethic. Unfortunately, I think we just have to keep proving that mindset wrong and celebrate the shining examples we have of women in tech.

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

I think this starts from an early age, at school, making tech more known and accessible as an option for a career path for girls. We also need to give women the opportunity to lead in the industry, as generally we don’t have enough women leaders in tech. If there were more female tech role models and more opportunities, this may inspire younger generations to enter the field.

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’d love us to have, and celebrate, more women leaders in the industry for females to feel encouraged and inspired by.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I mostly read lots of personal development books, I think it’s important to be self-aware and empathetic towards others. I can recommend ‘Come As You Are’ by Dr Emily Nagoski and ‘Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe’ by Laura Lynne Jackson.  The podcast ‘The Diary of a CEO’ also has some great content and allows you to learn from other leaders.

Inspirational Woman: Zdravka Dzhaleva | Senior Software Engineer, Paysafe

Zdravka DzhalevaZdravka Dzhaleva is a Senior Software Engineer at Paysafe in Sofia.

At work she is passionate about code and process quality, tackling and analysing product requirements. Zdravka enjoys implementing both client and server - side tasks. In her free time, Zdravka practices Latin dancing at different festivals around the world and hosts dance classes.

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

I am Zdravka Dzhaleva and I am a Senior Software Engineer at Paysafe.

My career journey started in a quite different direction from tech. During my high school years, I used to love maths, which is why I chose a master’s programme in civil engineering. After graduating I started working as a civil engineer, designing the steel structures of artificial climbing walls. My initial plan was to gain some knowledge in the that field which would eventually help me in pursuing a career as a building designer, but that obviously didn’t happen! I was then given the opportunity to become a project manager, responsible for several international projects.

In just one year I learned so much - what I’m able to achieve and what satisfies me in a job, but most importantly, I also learned what I don’t want for my career. I was ready for a change, and it didn't take long until I decided to make it happen. Recommended to me by a friend, I applied for a transition course for civil engineers wanting to pursue a career in software engineering. The ideal applicant was described as a ‘maths lovers with civil engineering education’, which sounded perfect! I joined the course in parallel with my project manager position and it only took me a few weeks and one inspiring and motivating teacher to realise that software engineering would turn into one of my biggest passions. Therefore, I decided to leave my job and focus entirely on coding.

As well as switching my career path, I also took up a master's degree in project management for IT projects. Diving into an unknown domain meant starting almost from the bottom again, but my project management experience, my interest in maths and my analytical thinking helped me follow this path. Through the following years I grew from a person who was solving beginners’ problems during the tech course to the software engineer I am today.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The early days of my career were a bit chaotic. I knew what I was good at, but I had no clue what industry would suit me best. That is why I decided to follow the trial-and-error strategy and give myself time to explore, observe and reflect upon what was working for me and what wasn’t. Making the switch between two different  career fields helped me gain an insight into the path that would inspire me and support my professional growth.

Once I discovered my true interests, it became easier for me to be more strategic in setting my career goals. Studying a second master’ program in project management for IT projects has greatly benefited my career. It’s helped me gain a broader overview of the whole business process, from analysing and understanding business requirements, crafting them into technical solutions and seeing the final product in the hands of the customers. This knowledge was crucial for my career growth.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I would be lying if I said no! The main challenge was always the fact that I’m a woman in a field dominated by men. Before switching to tech there were situations where I was not given the same tasks and responsibilities as the men at the company in similar roles. Speaking out on why that was the case was not always welcomed either. As a result, I was challenged with even harder duties, but I think this experience pushed me to look for something greater and better for myself.

I fell in love with tech as soon as I made the jump into the industry, but that passion came with even more challenges. I had to learn not only the coding itself, but also the tech terminology, processes, and at the same time I had to keep up with the fast-paced dynamic of the industry. Looking back now I can say that everything was worth it and while the challenges haven’t disappeared, the way I tackle them has definitely changed.

The tech journey wouldn’t have been the same without all the inspiring people I met, who helped me grow, gave me their support and motivated me to continue pursuing my dreams. Even though women are underrepresented in the tech field I found supportive women communities in my company and at conferences such as the Women of Silicon Roundabout.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Whenever I am asked this question, the first thing that always comes to my mind is switching my job field completely and starting a career in tech. It has had such a profound impact on every aspect of my life.

I can honestly say I love every aspect of my job, from how it makes me feel to the way my brain works when I’m solving a coding problem or analysing the requirements for a new feature. My current role at Paysafe allows me to go beyond my basic needs and be a better person - participate in charity initiatives, support my family and friends, give dancing classes just for the pure passion of dancing and bringing joy to other people.

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

One thing that has been affecting my confidence throughout my journey, is thinking that I should be perfect at what I do to be worthy of expressing my opinion, asking for a promotion or putting myself forward for  new projects. I missed opportunities because I didn’t think I was the best person for them, and it took me a long time to comprehend that not knowing everything about something doesn’t mean I shouldn't give it a try.

So, my advice for my younger self would be to be more forgiving of myself, focus more on what I’m good at rather than on what I’m not good at, and dare to try something out.

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

Mentoring is a powerful tool that helps you tackle problems easier and guides you through your professional or personal journey, and can speed up your career development. I always wanted to have a mentor, but I haven’t found the right person. Of course, there are women I admire and follow, but having a personal connection with such people is crucial and is the part I value the most.

I recently joined a ‘speed mentoring’ event organised by our team at Paysafe and it helped me see that the challenges I face on a daily basis are common problems and mentors have also experienced them during their career . Hearing that I’m not alone was a relief for me and motivated me to further explore the possibility of being guided by a mentor in my career journey.

Thanks to my passion for dancing, I stepped into the position of a mentor. Recently I decided to build on it and started teaching classes for women to empower them through dancing. My goal during classes is to provide them with a safe and friendly environment where they can improvise, share feedback, improve and grow together while enjoying music and movement. My future plans for this project are to keep developing it and create a network of women who support each other.

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

In the light of the recent acts of violence and oppression against women across the world, if there is one thing I could do to accelerate the change it will be adjusting the laws. We live in an era of incredible technological advancement and yet we struggle to provide women equal rights. Somewhere Alexa is switching the lights on in an apartment, but in another country women aren’t allowed to pursue education. Autonomous cars are driving on the streets of European countries, but in other countries women can’t open a bank account. The Internet makes all information accessible within seconds, but what do we do for all the countries obliging women by law to obey their husbands?

Levelling up the laws in every country so that they are equal  for men and women could be the first step towards Gender Equality. We shall all have the same human rights and opportunities.

While nearly nobody has and should have the power to change the laws of a country single-handedly, we can all contribute with our actions to a more gender-equal society and mindset.

Sarah Gilchriest

Inspirational Woman: Sarah Gilchriest | Global Chief Operating Officer, Circus Street

Sarah Gilchriest

I’m 47 years old and currently live in East Sussex with my husband and daughter. I come from a working class background, having been brought up in Luton by my Indian mum who worked as an Aviation Engineer at Luton Airport, and my English-Irish dad who worked as a train driver.

Looking back, I think the experience of growing up as a mixed race girl, first at a predominantly all-white primary school and later at a multicultural all-girls secondary school, taught me very early on the benefits of diversity and the importance of celebrating what makes us all so interesting and unique. I was lucky that my parents instilled a strong work ethic in me from an early age. Starting from my Saturday jobs at the local hairdressers, a ladies clothes shop and the local pub - I was quick to learn the value of a hard day’s work and am a firm believer that you can make your own luck.

For the past seven years I’ve helped to lead the international expansion of Circus Street, the only specialist provider of online training in digital skills, specifically designed for global enterprises. I originally joined as a marketing consultant in 2016, when there were only a roomful of us here, before moving up to COO three months later and then Global COO.

What I love about my role at Circus Street is that it allows me to focus on what I love - helping people to develop and thrive. We do this by creating an award-winning, people focused culture, based on our values of empathy, ambition, inclusion, and collaboration. We have a strength based approach to development, allowing our people to thrive in the workplace, while also being honest about our weaknesses. I believe if you allow people to own their development conversation you create a culture that allows people to be authentic and succeed.This is all amplified by our suite of constant clear communications, which celebrate our success as one team, by praising our people who make our business grow.

This people centred approach has delivered exponential growth for Circus Street. We now deliver digital upskilling in over 150 countries used by over 600,000 learners from enterprises around the world, including some of the world's biggest brands such as Nike, Adidas, Hershey’s, P&G, Coca Cola and more.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly. For me, it was very much an organic, fluid process. I’m from a media sales background, so the initial plan was to try and keep my first full time job!  After many years and a lot of hard work I was lucky enough to land my first role as the publisher of Marketing Week.

Owning a P&L for the first time felt like a real privilege and allowed me to understand the differences that could be made to a business by making insight based decisions. I quickly realised that a common excuse for lack of progression is based around the approach of  “this is how things have always been done”, which is not a recipe for success. As a business leader I believe your role is to create a safe environment for people to use tools available to them now to complete the same and new tasks in a better way. After reinvigorating the MW brand, I was given the role of Publisher Director for the entire Marketing and Creative portfolio at Centaur Media Plc where I assumed overall responsibility and managed a team of 70.

During this time, I came to realise my passion for delivering great leadership and the difference it makes in terms of overall commercial results. For me, a great leader is a coach, not a dictator. It’s about applying a people-focused, personable approach that inspires and empowers people, and helps them to shine on their own while working as part of a team.

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

With over 25 years’ experience in managing high level corporate operations, there have most certainly been a lot of challenges along the way.

During my time in the publishing field I experienced first-hand the inevitable impact of digitalisation on the traditional print business model, and how an innovative and agile approach allows business to deliver a more connected and therefore valued service to its customer.

The pandemic was another time that we had to deal with this transformation, and from a business perspective it was a challenging time for many. At first some of our customers said that they needed to freeze all training budgets, which as a self funded business was a concern.

However due to the unprecedented increase in use of digital channels, our training at Circus Street became a business essential.

When talking to our customers, their employees urgently needed to be upskilled to maximise the benefits of the digital revolution. This is not only about how they used e-commerce, but understand the data this delivers, the updated ways of working this enables and the increased profits that can be achieved. As a leader you cannot ignore the benefits the digital revolution could give your business. Business modernisation is the most important topic for any C Suite of a global enterprise business. Upskilling their global workforce allows their teams to accelerate quicker than ever before, and not be left behind.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Undoubtedly, I consider my contribution to Circus Street’s rapid global acceleration my biggest achievement to date. Since joining in 2016 we have seen headcount multiply over five times and revenues grow from £3.5m in FY17 to £13.3m in FY22 at a CAGR of 30%. Over the same period, EBITDA has gone from a loss of £0.1m to a profit of £4.4m, improving the EBITDA margin from a loss of 3% to a profit of 33%.

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

Being humble and realising we are all human is certainly core to my value set. I am a people person. I love being amongst people, getting to know people, learning about different people’s views, cultures, ways of working. Being amongst people is where I thrive and I guess it’s this that has helped me to develop and maintain genuine, meaningful relationships both with the teams I’ve led, the clients I have worked with and the vendors we have partnered with. I think that all too often leaders can get lost in strategy, figures, forecasts and take their eye off the mark when it comes to their biggest asset – their people. Investing time in your team and creating a motivational, authentic and lifetime learning environment in my view is key to success.

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

Never be afraid to ask questions. Especially in the tech sector, it can be all too easy to fall into the trap of nodding along with everyone else in the room out of fear that your question might sound stupid. From my experience, so long as you ask with integrity and listen to the answer, people don’t mind answering questions. It's important to remember, after all, that none of us have all the answers to everything. This is an imperative business skill for finding out more and enabling you to accomplish your role better.

I’d also say don’t feel marginalised if everyone around the table is different to you. Being a mixed-race female from a working class family, they’ve been many times I’ve found myself in meetings with people from completely different backgrounds with different personalities than my own. But I haven’t let it put me off. In fact, I think this has been key to my success. Even when working with incredibly talented tech people, I have always been sure to get to grips with the overall business case. If I haven’t understood it, I’ve kept asking questions until, as a business person, I’ve felt I can fully justify an investment to other people in the organisation. In this way, even if you’re dealing with the cleverest person in the room, don’t be afraid to question, negotiate, put yourself forward and use your skill set. It’s about never underplaying your part in overall delivery in what tech can do - even if you’re not the person putting in the system or writing the code.

It’s also important to have empathy. In fact, this is a key value at Circus Street. For us, it’s about respecting and listening to one another to work better as one team. If we have failed, we’ll always view it as a team issue to be tackled as a collective rather than a departmental issue. Also I think it's important to be real. I’m a wife, a mum, a daughter, a sister, and the owner of two demanding dogs! By genuinely being who I am and being quick to let everyone know I’m a person too, helps keep everything in perspective.

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

Yes, but it’s not just for women working in tech but women working in general. The fundamental issue is that women are generally more likely to take time out after having a baby, which could impede their career progression. At the same time, a lot of women will also oversee a lot of the responsibility for running the household, childcare arrangements and the like. Then we have the ‘always on’ culture today, along with the pressures of social media. It’s a lot and can be incredibly overwhelming, which it’s why it's so easy to see why so many women lack confidence and feel like they’re running on empty. We need to talk about this more, work together to help solve these issues and ensure we look after our physical and mental health as priority.

At Circus Street, half of our leadership team are female, and I believe a key part of this is because we offer such a supportive, inclusive workplace for all, including those who are parents and have families.

In my case, I have a daughter with a medical condition which means I may need to spend periods of time in hospital. What’s really comforting is I know my team will support me, and, if needed, help if I am unable to be present and I’d do the same for any of them. This approach is so important to me and fundamental to the success of our business.  I love my work, it’s my passion, but none of that matters if I don’t get to be part of my family.

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

I think we need to do more. Much more. More targeted recruitment, more focus at educational level, more coaching and mentoring, more gender-neutral training. We need to have a diversity and inclusion strategy that delivers now.

For this to truly happen it’s also important to curate an open, inclusive culture which recognises and celebrates all of us.

At Circus Street, we have an incredibly diverse workforce with over 26 different languages spoken across our team. We are exceptionally proud of our award winning culture that cherishes our mix of backgrounds. We celebrate lots of different religious festivals and host things like family days in the office. We have a huge focus on Wellness, as we believe that this allows our people to build up reserves that they can use when life’s stressful times hit. Food is a big commonality for us too, and we regularly eat together and share our favourite recipes from around the world.

We also operate a flexible hybrid working model. This allows real flexibility for all of our teams, but importantly we also come together as a group on Circus Days, which we host twice a month. This is really important for us in terms of curating a culture where everyone is talking to everyone. While there are many pros of remote working, it can be all too easy for certain, more introverted personality types to hide in the background and not reach their potential. For us, part of working at Circus Street is having relationships across different departments, sharing ideas and expertise, getting passion out of your work - much of which goes beyond a video call.

There are currently only 21 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?

A common belief is that the lack of available women to staff these sorts of positions starts in the classroom, with girls traditionally discouraged from entering what are perceived to be more ‘manly’ occupations and therefore less inclined to enrol in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM) subjects. While this is slowly changing, it has impacted the ratio of females entering tech so far. For me the answer starts at school, as we reframe how kids view STEM topics and allow these to be made more relevant, enlightening and engaging

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Even if you’re operating in tech, it’s important that you educate yourself about the business side of things too. From the Financial Times to the latest McKinsey reports, don’t be afraid to  educate and inform yourself with the latest business trends, drivers and issues. This will help you understand how your day to day departmental objectives and outcomes deliver value to your business.

I’d also suggest looking for a mentor and increasing your network. There’s lots of mentor schemes available now and, if in doubt, if you have somebody even in mind – just drop them an email or note on LinkedIn. What’s the worst that can happen - they say no?  I think what’s great in this industry, especially in the female community, is we understand just how challenging it can be and there’s a real aptitude to help others on the start of their journey. Reach out, get in contact.

Inspirational Woman: Dr. Patricia Gestoso | Global Director, Scientific Support & Customer Operations, Dassault Systèmes

Patricia Gestoso

Dr. Patricia Gestoso is an award-winning inclusion strategist and technologist with 20+ years of experience in digital transformation with a focus on client service, artificial intelligence, and inclusive and ethical design of technology and workplaces.

Patricia is the Global Director of Scientific Support and Customer Operations for Dassault Systèmes, a Fortune Future 50 tech corporation. She is the founder of Gestoso Consulting, which helps leaders to leverage DEI into their organizations to reach untapped markets, boost revenue, increase reputation, and attract and retain talent. She is also a board advisor to We and AI, an NGO with the mission of making artificial intelligence work for everybody.

Key success factors in her career have been the ability to engage disparate stakeholders in problem resolution and bring a unique perspective to complex issues. She has built business relationships with customers around the globe working in pharma and biotech, chemicals and high tech, and CPG and automobile.

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

I am an award-winning inclusion strategist and technologist with 20+ years of experience in digital transformation. I wear three hats. I’m Global Director of Scientific Support and Customer Operations for Dassault Systèmes, a Fortune Future 50 tech corporation. I have my own business as inclusion strategies helping leaders to leverage diversity and inclusion in their strategy, so their organizations reach untapped markets, increase innovation, and attract and retain talent. Finally, I’m the lead DEI advisor of We and AI, a British NGO with the mission to make artificial intelligence work for all.

My background is in chemical engineering. I also hold a B.Sc. and an M.Sc. in Chemical Engineering and a Ph.D. in computational chemistry. It was during my M.Sc. that I fell in love with computers programming. I wanted to do research but I didn’t like the lab so when I had the opportunity to use finite elements - a very well-known computational approach in engineering - to study oil recovery for my master thesis, I didn’t think it twice. For my Ph.D. and post-doctoral fellowship, I continued using computers – this time atomistic simulation – to study properties of materials.

Through my career as head of support, contract research, and training, I have worked with Fortune 500 companies, governments, and academic institutions worldwide to build, deliver, and maintain virtual solutions. I have also led the acquisition integration of the support operations for two companies, and I am a member of our technology and support committees.

Until 2015, I was very focused on my career progression, but then I hit a ‘bump’ in my career path which made me reflect on the kind of outdated leadership that tech promoted.  At about the same time, I also realised that fantastic women that had started with me in tech had either quit the sector disappointed by the lack of promotions or been given unappealing jobs when they came back from maternity leave. That prompted me to found the first gender employee resource group at the company I work for and later to co-found the Tech Inclusion Partnership, a joint UK initiative with DEI advocates from Accenture, Dassault Systèmes, IBM, Microsoft, and Siemens.

I have carried out research on the impact of COVID-19 on professional women’s unpaid work and the factors accounting for the low representation of women in leadership positions in tech companies. My efforts have been recognized with the 2020 Women in Tech Changemakers award and I have appeared on the ​2022 longlist of the most influential women in UK tech.

I have also created the Ethics and Inclusion Framework©, a tool to help designers to identify, prevent, mitigate, and account for the actual and potential negative impact of the services and products they create. The tool has been featured in peer-reviewed design journals.

I am a cultural broker with experience living in 6 countries – 3 continents- and  building collaborations with nationals from 50+ countries. This has given me a broader exposure to the benefits that digital technology can bring to individuals, organisations, and communities, as well as the unduly burden imposed on those that lack access to it. That’s why I’m very keen on my work as a public speaker on the topics of inclusive and sustainable emerging tech products and workplaces.

This year I have two very special projects.

First, together with Fionnuala O’Conor, I’m writing a book on How Women Succeed in Tech Worldwide. Our first step is asking those women what has made them stay in our sector and what they need to thrive in the next 5 years. I’ll be immensely grateful to your community of women in tech for completing this short survey about lived experiences at work.

It’s important to mention that our definition of tech in the survey is broad - women working in any function (R&D, HR, services, finance) in the tech sector (software, hardware…) or in tech-related functions (e.g. IT, cybersecurity…) in other sectors.

My second project is equally important to me. This fall I launched 3-month program aimed to help women and people from underrepresented groups to get their next career promotion.

Later in my career, I immensely benefited from mentoring and coaching. Both have been incredibly useful and I wish I would have prioritized them earlier in my career when I spent a lot of effort and time trying to figure out everything by myself. For that reason, I’ve mentored and coached women and people from underrepresented groups in tech for years that as a result have gotten to their next career opportunity.

This program is the result of all those years of experience as well as state-of-the-art research on the challenges of underrepresented groups – e.g. “being the only one” – and how to tackle them.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I don’t think I could ever have planned the career I have now. For starters, when I studied Chemical Engineering, I didn’t even know that there was something called computer simulation of materials, let’s not even talk about the customer operations or the DEI roles. That’s why it’s so important to be curious and learn about other sectors and roles.

Let’s say I don’t have a lot of empathy for my future self. Mostly, I’ve planned the next move in my career thinking that I’d like that forever.

When I started in Chemical Engineering, I was living in Venezuela so I thought I’d work for the National Oil Company. During my M.Sc. I felt research and teaching at the university was my calling, so I went into pursuing a Ph.D. But then, I became disenchanted with academia and I looked for a job in a commercial company. And so on.

Personally, I believe that it’s good to have some goals in your career whilst remaining flexible to experiment and open to new opportunities.

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

Yes, I faced internal and external challenges. I’ve discussed some of them in interviews as well as my career promotion myth series on LinkedIn – you can get a copy here.

Working in male-dominated environments where stereotypes about outdated models of leadership were the baseline created a sense that I needed to fix myself if I wanted to progress in my career. That included devaluing some of my strengths – collaboration, creativity, customer-centricity, and systemic thinking.

That also meant to feel I needed to work 200% more to get considered for a promotion as a way to reassure management that I was worth betting on. That is, I needed to provide proof where others only needed to show potential.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I was not raised in the belief to be proud of my achievements. Rather, that as soon as I had accomplished a goal, I should go for the next.

In the last years, I’ve put more effort towards savouring my wins but it’s not easy after decades of indoctrination. Unfortunately, I found this common among women within my networks.

I think my biggest career achievement to date is to be able to inhabit multiple career identities simultaneously. Since I remember, when people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer always was 4 or 5 different things. Even when it was time to go to the university my problem was that I wanted to study so many different things: Engineering, law, literature, history, chemistry…

For years I felt the “grown-up” thing to do was to focus on one area. As I started my DEI advocacy journey in 2015, that changed. As I began to embrace other identities - fiction and non-fiction writer, community builder, app developer, researcher, keynote speaker, coach, mentor, inclusion strategist, business owner – I realized that I rather than diminishing my credibility as Head of Scientific Support, it strengthened my professional profile and made me a better leader.

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

Believing in the value of my ideas and my work. Throughout my career, I have had a lot of moments of being “the only”. The only woman, the only foreigner, the only engineer, the only non-native speaker, the only person without HR background talking about DEI... That has been very taxing.

Also, I’ve spent too much effort and time delivering further proof of my skills and competencies whereas other men were given plum projects only based on their potential.

What has kept me going is the belief in the value of my distinct skills, experiences, and achievements.

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

Be curious about technology in the broadest sense. For example, invest time reading about trends in emerging tech, how different sectors use technology, business models, or customer experience.

Be flexible. Technology is constantly evolving. From the tools we use to how we interact with them. In tech you need to keep learning and adapting to be at the top of your game.

Be a system thinker. Through digital transformation, technology is going to underpin all sectors. To make technology work for everybody, technologists need to have a deep understanding of the impact on individuals, communities, organisations, and society. Technology is not neutral and before we build and deploy it we need to assess the benefits and the risks for the people and the planet.

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

I do because even if tech has a futuristic veneer, the ways of working and the examples of leadership and success are either anchored in the past or don’t match with data. More specifically,

1.- Removing the limiting beliefs we have about work. We have internet, we use planes to travel, and we developed vaccines for covid-19 within a year. Still, tech is adamant to preserve as standard the 5-day workweek of 40 hours introduced by Henry Ford a century ago for his car assembly factories. We need to move away from the binary full-time/part-time and embrace a diversity of working patterns (job-sharing, compressed week…).

2.- Discarding toxic leaders. In tech, we have become addicted to praising leaders that move fast and break things, that can berate and abuse employees if that justifies an earlier product launch, or that take unwarranted risks in the name of scaling. That kind of leadership is incompatible with workplaces that are inclusive, equitable, and reward the value women bring to the business.

3.- Putting the money where success is. Female-led startups receive less than 3% of the overall funding, even if they are more likely to be successful and deliver higher revenue – more than twice as much per dollar invested - as per Boston Consulting Group.

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

Whilst I don’t want to disregard that is necessary to put effort towards attracting women, we’re not focusing on attrition enough. More than 40% of women in tech leave the sector after a few years. And that has not changed for years.

Technology companies need to understand two things. First, that the lack of women in leadership positions is a systemic issue – as I demonstrated in the systems map I developed - and there is no magic bullet. Second, the reasons women leave their organisations. Unfortunately, few companies act accordingly.

I see conformism (the belief that women leave because they have children), deflection (blaming the lack of pipeline for women’s attrition), band-aids (point initiatives such as one-off career fairs), and magical thinking (hoping that the situation would improve on its own).

Organisations need to make the progress of the careers of women working a technology a priority. They need to ask themselves, what do I need to do to attract brilliant women in their 20s and keep them until they retire? And that’s much more than thinking about maternity leave. It involves mapping the journey of a female software engineer until she becomes CTO, or a woman joining as tech sales manager and reaching the VP level. Mapping those journeys will uncover the blockers in the organisation and provide insights on how to overcome them.

There are currently only 21 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?

Dispelling the myth that tech is only coding. Tech is so much more than that!

Look at my case. During my first year of engineering studies, I had the option to study computational engineering – the one demanding the highest grades - but I went for chemical engineering because although I found coding an interesting activity, I couldn’t see the practical application, unlike chemistry.

It was not until coding became the means to an end – research – that I saw the value. Moreover, although it’s been many years since the days when I was writing and compiling code every day, I still do very interesting work in tech.

We need to learn to sell tech to women beyond programming. Let’s focus on the problems tech solves rather than how they are solved.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

In 2018, my self-concept as a diversity and inclusion advocate took a big hit. I discovered that the books I read were typically written by White, able, American, heterosexual cis-men. I was appalled at the homogeneity of the voices to whom I was paying attention. This discovery prompted me to launch a two-year public challenge to keep me accountable for the diversity of the authors I read. You can read my journey here and here. I wholeheartedly recommend everybody to do an audit of what they read, listen, and watch.

I’m very interested in ethical and inclusive technology. I recommend “Atlas of AI” by Kate Crawford and “Data Feminism” by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein for a critical look into the materiality of technology and our beliefs about the objectivity of data. “Act as a leader, think as a leader” is a very provocative book by Herminia Ibarra about how leaders need to be more playful with their identity.

The self-coaching book for women “Playing Big” by Tara Mohr was a life-changer for me. It was instrumental in embracing my identity as a writer and business owner as well as removing limiting beliefs such as that I needed a “certificate” to work on DEI.

As for podcasts, I listen to “The Good Robot”, which explores what feminism can bring to the tech industry and the way that we think about technology.

I enjoy the newsletter Femstreet,  a weekly digest of posts by female founders, investors. and startup operators geared towards web3. Other newsletter I like is AI Ethics Weekly, that offers a good summary of thought-provoking articles about AI ethics.

Finally, I recommend my website where people can access research, tools, articles, and keynotes by me on the intersection between DEI and leadership, tech, and the workplace.

Inspirational Woman: Kate Arkless Gray | Content Editor and Strategist, YunoJuno Social Freelancer of the Year

Kate Arkless GrayKate Arkless Gray is an award-winning content strategist and has been named YunoJuno's Social Media Freelancer of the Year 2022. 

She has 20 years multi-media experience, ranging from a role with a commercial space company to developing Al Jazeera’s first audio strategy and podcast pilot. Kate is also a committed advocate for diversity and women in STEM and passionate about pursuing her dream of going into space!

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

Goodness – I always struggle with how best to describe myself since I’ve had quite a varied career and I’m happy to turn my hand to a variety of things. I guess the key theme throughout has been communication, and in particular, translating complex science or technology into understandable and engaging content.

I’ve always been interested in science and how it impacts society, but I realised whilst doing my genetics degree that I far preferred telling stories about the science and thinking about real-world applications, to staring down a microscope at fruit flies. (Fly labs smell pretty bad btw – trust me.) I ran the student radio station during my finals and realised how much I’d always loved radio. I began freelancing in radio stations and then did a broadcast journalism postgraduate diploma.

Since then, I’ve tried to combine my love of science with my love of storytelling, working at the BBC Science Radio Unit, the Wellcome Trust, and as Head of Communications for a private space company. Just over a decade ago I met an astrobiologist from NASA at a conference where I was producing some outreach sessions. Meeting him made NASA/space “real”. Previously I hadn’t considered space as an industry that people like me could work in. It’s hard to explain. It wasn’t that I had considered it and ruled myself out, but it hadn’t even occurred to me to consider whether it was possible – much like applying to Cambridge. If it weren’t for my chemistry teacher encouraging me to do so, I don’t know if I would have even thought to try. I laughed when he first suggested it, but he changed my life, and in the same way, meeting Dr Chris McKay made it “real” and the NASA pin he gave me started my space adventures. I do my best to share my stories make space “real” for other people now. I think that is so important, and you never know whose life you could change.

At the moment I’m freelancing with a content agency, partly because I enjoy the variety of work – one day I’m writing financial education material for school children, then next I’m writing about the 40th anniversary of the Falklands conflict for Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance programme. The other reason is that I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and the agency were good enough to both keep offering me work, and be understanding and flexible when I had to have surgery, and radiotherapy. It’s been a tough year, so I was amazed and delighted to win the YunoJuno Freelancer of the Year Award. I’m not often proud of myself, but I give myself a pat on the back for that.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In a word, no. Sometimes I wonder whether I should have, perhaps I should have chosen a career that had a more linear progression path, but I enjoy too many different things and I didn’t think I wanted a job where you start after university and retire 45 years later.

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

Yes. Many. Some internal, some external.

I went to an all-girls secondary school, and they always had such belief in us, and I naively thought that sexism was something in history, and that it wouldn’t really affect me. I was wrong. What made things worse was that even when it did affect me, I didn’t think it could possibly be sexism, because that was something from the past, right?

I’ve never been a confident person (though I’m getting better at pretending!) and I had imposter syndrome way before I knew there was a name for it. That meant I thought that if I wasn’t doing well, it must always be my fault or failing, not sexism or a toxic workplace. That was quite harmful.

Sometimes I would work and work to try to get recognition that was never going to come or attempt to solve impossible problems. Things have to get really bad before I realise/accept that it is not me that’s the problem, and on occasion, they have. I’m getting better at spotting the warning signs and trusting my spidey senses about these things now.

I’ve also found it hard when I have been the first person to do a particular job in a company or organisation where people don’t understand your craft. “Oh – it’s just Twitter, we’ll get the intern to do it” – that sort of thing, it can be very devaluing. The problem is if you do something well, and make it look easy, people assume that it is easy. Like audio editing – done well no-one even notices it, but the second it is done badly, everyone can hear it.

What has been your biggest career highlight to date?

When I worked at the Wellcome Trust we helped get the law changed to enable further research into mitochondrial donation and allow licensing of the technique if it was shown to be safe. Mitochondrial donation can allow women with faulty mitochondria (the “batteries” of our cells) to have a baby free of devastating mitochondrial diseases.

It was fascinating and exciting because progress in science had out-paced the law, and it needed updating to allow further research to be done. Watching the bill move through the House of Commons and House of Lords, and finally getting approved was amazing.

I love that I get to share my passion for space exploration on Sky News. As a radio person at heart, the idea of being on camera was terrifying, but I heard a TV producer explaining why they didn’t have more women experts on air, and they said, ‘we want them, but when we ring women, they often say ‘it’s not my exact area of speciality’, whereas men just say ‘yes’”. It stuck in my head, so the next time Sky rang me I just said ‘yes’ - and I can’t have been too bad because they keep inviting me back!

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

I work hard, I care about what I do, and I am always keeping my eyes open for useful connections and opportunities. There is some truth to the saying that you can make your own luck. I’ve worked incredibly hard to build up my networks and keep in touch with people. I used to think that if you were helped by someone in your network, then it was ‘cheating’ or having an unfair advantage, which it often is – but if you were the one who worked hard to create those connections, rather than be born into them, then I think it’s okay – especially if you help others break into those networks and have a place at the table.

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

Don’t put limits on yourself or talk yourself out of trying for things you don’t think you’re good enough for – it’s frequently women who underestimate what they can do, so give it a try, what’s the worst that could happen?

Don’t take on more than you should, or burn yourself out, not for anyone. I learned this the hard way.

Ask. Politely. Don’t be pushy, but sometimes you just need to be brave enough to ask for something in order for it to happen.

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

Yes, sadly there are. Some of it is down to showing young women what is possible, and helping them have confidence in themselves, but importantly, we need to ensure that workplaces are welcoming. I can’t remember who it was who suggested the idea of having a feminist-in-residence in companies to help them understand what needs to change, but I’ve always liked that idea.

We need to look out for each other and encourage men to be allies, to recognise and call out the common microaggressions like talking over women or restating their ideas and taking the credit.

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

There’s a whole lot of research into the language that is used in job adverts, and it would be great if more companies took notice of that so as not to dissuade women from applying if they don’t think of themselves as “exceptional” etc.

Companies should consider invites to speak at conferences and find out if the panel is going to be diverse or not. All-male panels are so common there’s even a word for them – “manels” – and there is no excuse for it now.

If the moral case for equality and diversity isn’t cutting through, companies should at the very least recognise the financial benefits to having a more diverse set of people in the positions of power.

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?

If I had a magic wand I would want to see true diversity in all areas of companies instantly! But if it’s not quite that powerful then perhaps a microaggression buzzer that would sound every time a microaggression took place.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Check out things like Ada’s List, the community around Ada Lovelace Day (fingers crossed Suw gets funding to make it happen again), and look out for events related to your specific field. I find Twitter an amazing tool to help me keep up with industry news and events, and get a feel for communities that develop around certain topics. I also like to do what I can to support organisations like Women in Science and Engineering – they do great work.

It’s not so much a resource, but my top tip if you’re speaking at a conference, or just attending a conference, is to wear something colourful. Something that will stick in people’s minds even after they have heard 11 talks in a row. That way, even if they can’t remember your name, they will be able to find you in a crowd of dark suits, to ask you something, or to introduce you to someone else you should meet. By making it easier for them to find you, you avoid missed connections, and you never know what they could bring.

Inspirational Woman: Joan Mulvihill | Digitalisation and Sustainability Lead, Siemens Ireland

Joan Mulvihill

Digitalisation and Sustainability Lead for Siemens in Ireland, Joan Mulvihill is at the forefront of driving technology adoption in Ireland for over a decade.

Having previously held the positions of CEO of the Irish Internet Association followed and Centre Director for the Irish Centre for Cloud Computing, Joan’s current role in leading digitalisation for Siemens’ customers builds on her deep commitment to and understanding of the needs of Irish business to create sustainable value.  With her colleagues at Siemens, Joan believes in collaborating with customers in the leveraging of collective domain expertise, creative thinking and problem solving to realise solutions that transform businesses and create a sustainable future.

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

I’m the Digitalisation Lead at Siemens in Ireland, working across Ireland and the UK. I’d best describe my role as the Digitalisation Coach as my job is not to have all the answers but rather to ask the right questions. Our clients who plan their digital transformation journeys often want to focus on the ‘digital’, but I believe it’s all about the journey and the roadmap.

You must be clear about where you are going and why. There are so many things that can distract you, you need to have a defined end goal and staging posts to stay on track. And you need to know the ‘why’ to keep going when things get hard.

The ‘digital’ piece is the vehicle that gets us to our destination. We select it once we have a sense of the terrain, duration and speed. I work closely with my digital industry colleagues who have the most incredible fleet of digitalisation tools and years of experience and skill in their configuration.

I’ve been working with change for my entire career, more by accident than design. It wasn’t until the late noughties that I found myself in the technology sector as the CEO of the Irish Internet Association. It was incredible to see all these feisty start-ups disrupting markets and competing and obliterating long established corporations. It was an exciting time, and I was hooked.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely not. I have truly flaneured my way through the past 30 years! To flaneur is to progress without any apparent sense of direction while being secretly attuned to the streets we walk in covert search of the aesthetic and adventure. In that sense, my career has been accidental and opportunistic. I’ve always been attracted to roles with decent humans trying to do exciting things. There was no grand plan.

I spent my earlier years in retail, manufacturing and professional services but the second half has been in tech. For many years I prided myself in the fact that I’d never worked in the same type of job or even the same industry twice.

Wandering down the technology road has truly captured my imagination and secured my attention for the longest time. It’s because of the expansive empowering reach of it all. Once you work in tech you are in the business of possibility and change.

There’s a lot of talk about women in particular experiencing imposter syndrome. I’m no different but being an imposter for me has always felt like an advantage. I am never hampered by the accepted norms and conventions of a sector or business, so my mind stays free to bring new perspectives. I have no interest in being an expert and besides, people generally remember the imposter in the room and what they had to say!

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

I was made redundant in October 2008 at the start of the financial crash. That was a challenge! But looking back, I learned more about myself and who I was as a leader in those 12 months of unemployment than from any other period in my career. I will never regret it happening to me.

If you stay open and attuned to the world, unexpected paths bring us to where we are supposed to be. I found my purpose that year, professionally and personally, and I realised that what doesn’t kill us doesn’t make us stronger. It simply reveals to us how strong we were all along.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I used to call 2013 “The Year of the Gong” because I won some pretty cool and prestigious awards that year. While it’s lovely to get that recognition and I appreciate it greatly, I don’t know what single thing I’ve done to deserve them. To be honest, I think given the total absence of a plan, the fact that I have a career at all is an achievement in itself – I will concede to being proud of my curiosity, creativity and adaptability that have allowed me to take so many interesting twists and turns.

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

That’s a super question because it forces me to consider how I measure success. I don’t need to be the most important, powerful or highest paid person in the room to feel successful. I just need to be in any room where there are decent humans trying to do exciting things.

The major factor in achieving that has been surrounding myself with decent humans as much as I can. There are so many good people in the world. My advice is to find them, spend time with them, listen and learn. Nurture your network and that way when you are confronted with an obstacle, when one of you finds the solution to the big problem, together great things can be achieved.

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

Technology will constantly change. Smarter people will see to that. I think to truly excel in a tech career hinges on staying curious about what is coming next and importantly, keeping an open mind about the merits of it.

Not everything new is better. Technology makes anything possible but just because we can do something, doesn’t mean that we should. As technology evolves at pace, we need more leaders with technological understanding as well as societal sensibility who can make those sound judgement calls.

My feeling is that the future is going to be more human. Once we have roboticized, automated and programmed all that can be roboticized, automated and programmed, the only thing left for humans to do will be that which is intrinsically human: creativity, intention and purpose. If you want to have a standout career in technology in the future, start by knowing what you stand for.

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

To say no is to betray the women who are experiencing barriers right now. While it is not my lived experience, I do believe and know that there are barriers. But, I think being somewhat established before I came into tech eased my path.

The world cannot dismantle centuries of conscious and unconscious bias with a few years of equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) policy. We are making progress, but we could accelerate things by borrowing more from the start-up disruptors’ playbook in overcoming barriers. The reality is that industry is tackling ED&I from an old paradigm change management perspective which is generally slow. We might benefit from moving a little faster.

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

We cannot be what we cannot see. I need to own the fact that not only am I a woman in a largely male dominated industry with quite a bit of bro-culture but I am also nearly 50 years old in a largely millennial dominated industry. If even the most celebrated Hollywood stars think there are no parts for women over a certain age, my guess is that this generation of Silicon Valley women are feeling the same.

The barriers to getting into tech are not what they were but companies need to show young women that they can progress and that their careers can have longevity. If younger women need to see what their future can look like, then I personally need to show up for them. I take this responsibility seriously.

There are currently only 21 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?

Set up our own companies and reverse the stats? I said earlier that we’re taking an old paradigm approach to this kind of change. We should think more like disruptive start-ups. Entrepreneurs don’t go to work for large organisations and try to change them from within. Start-up founders see how they want things to be done differently and they do it themselves. They don’t seek approval from the top down, they generally build from the bottom up – by understanding what their customers really want and giving it to them in a better way. A magic wand? Support more women founders to build organisations right from the start.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Read books and listen to podcasts that have absolutely nothing to do with tech. Tech is only interesting in so far as it solves problems in the real world. So, spend as much time in the real world as you can. Spend time on a farm and wonder about where our food comes from and how the planet works. Study anthropology or just people watch and think about how humans function. Listen to what Monica Parker from Hatch Analytics has to say about VUCA, then go for a walk and experience a moment of real ‘awe’. Attend whatever events or gatherings you can and seek out conversations with the decent humans, not the just the important ones (although there are some very important people who are very decent too!). And go to and read some fun stuff written by the best humans I know.