Alia Shafir featured

Inspirational Woman: Alia Shafir | Head of mobile QA, Bloomberg

Alia ShafirAlia is the head of Mobile QA and the unofficial Chief of Staff within Engineering at Bloomberg in London.

She previously led engineering teams who built collaboration systems and in her early days managed data protection for an investment bank. She’s passionate about improving how we work and excel both in the world of testing and beyond. She believes the secret to success lies in good communication, a positive attitude and our ability to relate to one another. She likes to build things, solve puzzles and drink red wine, sometimes all at the same time.

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

I have a Business Degree with a concentration in Information Systems from Washington State University. Having started in business at university, it was really where I had my first light bulb moment for technology through an “introduction to coding” class I took. I really understood the logic and process of technology as a tool to create things and solve problems.

From university, I took a more traditional route into business via banking and consultancy but always had an interest in tech. After working for an investment bank for several years, I was offered an opportunity to run an engineering team and fully make the jump into tech. It was a bit of trial by fire and - while I made loads of mistakes - I learned a lot. I loved it and never looked back.

I joined Bloomberg eight years ago, starting in New York with a data visualisation team and ultimately moved to London where I am now - Head of Mobile Quality Assurance (QA) at Bloomberg responsible for software testing.

When I first took on the Mobile QA challenge, it was daunting. I had no background managing QA teams specifically.  In order to prepare, I spent a lot of time talking to other QA professionals, my team, my peers and asking a lot of questions. I read as much as I could find, watched videos and presentations from experts in the QA field. I focused on where we were and where testing was evolving in order to put a transformation plan in place.

Four years later, we have completely reshaped the way we do QA for Mobile at Bloomberg.  My team transitioned from manual test analysts to automation engineers and rolled out a testing framework they created using open source tools. They have developed solid technical skills and now write code as a primary part of their day. Their efforts have had a massive impact on the business as we now can test our software more frequently and with more consistency than ever before.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I have never planned my career, which I know sounds bizarre.

My career has taken a lot of interesting turns over the years, not because I have actively planned the direction, but because I have remained open to opportunities. My goal has always been to find or create interesting work, to surround myself with smart people and find ways to have an impact. I never thought about career progression in terms of titles or hierarchy. That doesn’t mean I’m not ambitious, but that ambition manifests itself in seeking new information, finding new ways to do things, and constantly trying to improve.

An example of this is when I transitioned into technical roles. I wanted to have a role in technology, but I didn’t know exactly what it could be at the time. So, I focused on meeting and talking to as many people as possible to figure out my capabilities, what was interesting and how I could get there.

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

My biggest challenges today stem from two things. 1) Because I don’t have a traditional technical background, I need to work a bit harder to make sure I understand the problems we encounter and consequences of the decisions I make. It’s surmountable, but it’s effort all the same. 2) Despite my outward confidence I still feel intimidated on occasion. I’m often the only woman in the room, I don’t have a technical background, what could I possibly offer that’s better than someone else?

It turns out, there are a variety of skills that help make you successful: skills like communication, systems thinking, logical reasoning, negotiation, and empathy. So, while my non-technical background might put me at a disadvantage at first, it’s not the thing that will hold me back. All the things I need for success, I have today and just need to remember to use those skills. I’ve found that the higher you move into management, learning to effectively communicate is a secret weapon I continue to hone and employ as often as I can.

Over the years, I have learned being a developer and becoming a manager of developers requires a completely different set of skills.  Despite this, I still feel an underlying pressure to prove my technical prowess to do my job based on the cultural norms in today’s tech world.  Perhaps that will continue to evolve as we see more people like me enter this domain.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It’s really hard to think about my own career achievements without thinking about the teams that helped define these moments for me. Because truly, at work, we’re part of an ecosystem and we don’t succeed alone.

Looking back, some of my favourite times were the hard moments where success wasn’t guaranteed. While at Deutsche Bank, my team helped open a near shore development office in North Carolina. We started with a small crew in a construction site. No running water, no formal offices. None of us had ever taken on a challenge like this before. Over the next 18 months, we built the site to 160 engineers, created the operational functions and trained everyone in Agile - before Agile was mainstream. I made mistakes, I learned, and we created something bigger than ourselves. It was exhilarating.

I also often think achievements can be found in the small moments, the breakthroughs you get rallying a team behind an idea or selling a new idea to your biggest critic. For example, my team at Bloomberg knew we needed to make the shift from automated to manual testing. We landed on an open source framework we could modify and implement. It involved learning Python and gaining other technical skills we didn’t have yet. It also meant convincing our development counterparts that not only could we become a more technical team, but we could roll out a system that actually made testing more efficient and effective. We succeeded by communicating our plan and executing on it, asking for help when we needed it and learning along the way.

When you are a leader, it’s in those moments when the decision isn’t obvious you still need to choose a path anyway and keep moving forward.  It’s these moments that really define your character as a colleague and as a leader.

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

Having a growth mindset has taken me further in life than any other skill I possess. I like to focus on what’s possible and where I can have an impact. I spend time learning and feel strongly that I can figure out solutions to just about anything I encounter. Having this attitude changes your entire approach to solving problems and it also changes how you interact with others. I’m open to possibilities, I’m open to being wrong and trying again and I’m listening for ways I can learn from others. Continuing to try new things, without the fear of not getting it right the first time, has paid off in so many ways. I enter most problems thinking I can do this, it is just a matter of figuring out how. 

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

Remember that at its core, technology is a tool to be used to solve real problems. Problem solving is the real job and tech is the way in which we get to do that job. If you shift your thinking to that perspective, you start to realise that there are also other tools you can use to solve these problems alongside the technology and how you wield those tools that will help make you successful.

This is why when we interview people at Bloomberg, we don’t just ask them to code, we ask them to talk the problem through, to show how they use communication and logic. Can we understand their main points? Do they listen to us in return and ask thoughtful questions? Do they exhibit a willingness to learn and experiment? How does the problem they are solving create customer value? These are all skills I see in outstanding candidates and these are the kind of people I love working with day to day.

The best developers I’ve worked with over the years have continued to grow their own written and verbal communication skills. They care about solving problems and they take time to establish rapport with colleagues. They listen, they engage, they iterate on solutions to achieve the best result. These skills aren’t unique to the technology world but are sometimes overlooked in favour of the technology itself. My advice s to make sure you have a solid foundation in technology but also focus on soft skills that will help you communicate effectively. 

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 fewer barriers to women in tech than there were 10 or 20 years ago. But we still do not have enough women leaders to act as role models for the younger generation. I know many companies are actively working to change this balance, but it will take time. Embracing and celebrating a variety of leadership and communication styles will help accelerate this transition.

I hope after this tumultuous year, a shift towards flexible working for both men and women will also help encourage more women to join technology companies. This isn’t a problem companies can solve alone as there are societal pressures that put the burden of family on women more so than men. Even women who choose not to have children are impacted by this imbalance. As a society, we have chosen to celebrate long working hours and time away from the home as symbols of modern-day success. Although men often feel the pressure to perform and provide, women won’t engage at all if they know they can’t meet the demands of those extended hours. If we create a working environment that supports flexibility for both genders and doesn’t stigmatise it, we will encourage more women to enter the workforce at all levels.

Lastly, through my own experience, I know that building and maintaining a professional network is important. I’ve read networking accounts for half to 80% of all hiring. This means we are more likely to hire people we know and like, not strangers. It’s very easy to interact with people who are similar, who share the same education, upbringing, work experience.  We can do better. I think we can challenge ourselves to expand our networks to include others from diverse backgrounds. I believe if our networks contain a variety of people, our hiring will follow suit.

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

Companies can create more flexible roles for both men and women and must ensure these roles have a defined career path and are fairly considered for promotion. In practise, this means not penalising women for choosing a flexible role or, taking this one step further, encouraging men to do the same.

I often hear that it’s hard to hire qualified women leaders because they are a scarce resource. I struggle with the word “qualified”. There are many ways in which to succeed in a job. I wonder if some skills are overvalued for these leadership roles. Are we rejecting candidates because they don’t meet a set of impossible criteria because they come from a different background or have followed a different path? I would challenge companies to think critically about what they mean by “qualified” and start to hire with diversity (in all aspects) in mind. A diverse leadership team will have a massive impact on their ability to hire and retain future generations of technologists from all backgrounds.

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

Promote more women into leadership roles. Not only will they provide a different voice at the table, their seat at that table means there’s a path for all women. This in turn will help attract the younger generation of women to join and provide a stronger support system for these women when they get there.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

My recommendations for women are the same resources you’d recommend for men. Find blogs or newsletters who write in a style you connect with and on topics you care about. One thing I would passionately encourage is networking.

As a woman and mother, I feel pulled in many directions and these out of work-hours events are not a frequent option for me. So, it’s about making time for networking in a way that works for you, just like you would to go to the gym or your hobbies. That means going to lunch or coffee, or agreeing with my partner to watch the kids so I can make it to an evening event. There are many ways to do this both internally and externally and some organisations like Women in Agile London regularly run phenomenal networking events. The Lead Developer has a collection of in person and online workshops and often hosts conferences during the day. If you can find these events locally, you will build connections with interesting men and women in our industry.


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


Inspirational Woman: Debbie Ashton | Founder & SVP, Strategic Customer Experience, FinancialForce

Debbie AshtonAs a founder of FinancialForce my role is to ensure FinancialForce’s customer experience is best in class.

I look to continuously innovate to deliver moments that matter for the FinancialForce customers, employees and investors. I engage with many customers directly to understand their journey with FinancialForce, and gain feedback and insight to ensure they are maximising the value they receive from the FinancialForce solutions. My position is a global, cross functional role specifically directed to make the FinancialForce customers wildly successful and drive advocacy.  When I started FinancialForce in 2009 with the original CEO & co-founder, I ran the Engineering, Success and Support teams.  I created the Customer Success discipline at FinancialForce, ensuring a customer centric mindset was built into the company's DNA. Over time I built & ran the Product Strategy, Product Management, Product Marketing and Software Engineering teams globally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly. I was driven by setting goals and targets with things I wanted to accomplish by certain ages. Such as I wanted to have a role which enabled me to travel the world, which meant I needed to go into either consulting or sales type roles. Both of which I’ve had experience with.

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

Yes, one of my earliest career challenges was when I was on maternity leave and our company had just gone through an acquisition.  I realised how important it was to have a support network in place. I was able to go back to work quickly because my dad was retired and he helped with my baby’s childcare when I returned to work. I then moved my home back to the same street I grew up on, five doors down from my mum and dad so it was easier for them to help look after the children, take them to school etc. This gave me the flexibility to travel globally for my role. Moving close to my mum and dad was one of the best decisions I ever made.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has to be starting the FinancialForce business and growing it to nearly 1,000 employees, nine offices and 1,400 customers worldwide.

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

I think my ability to see the strength in the people around me, to create relationships and build teams leveraging people’s unique strengths. Coupled with my desire to continually improve myself and the areas I’m working on an ongoing basis.

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

Do not give up, set targets and goals and then strive to achieve them. Do not allow people to settle for anything less than your dreams. Also I think it helps to find a mentor, someone who can guide you and help you make the right decisions within your role or career.

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

I do think there are barriers for women working in tech. There are not enough female CEOs in technology, or female board members. I do think the board room lacks diversity, whether that is gender diversity or race diversity. I think these barriers can be overcome through continual discussion and raising awareness about the problem so that more and more executives who are decision makers can drive the change that is needed.

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

Companies need to have a diversity and inclusion policy in place that makes everyone regardless of who they are, what backgrounds they have, gender, race, feel equally involved in and supported across the business. This can be initiated through education, starting a Diversity & Inclusion committee like we have at FinancialForce, and ensuring that there is a recruitment and hiring process that supports diversity. Then celebrating the differences in the cultures, backgrounds, etc. as an organisation.  I work very closely with our Chief Legal Officer who heads up our Diversity & Inclusion programme and we aim to support the progress of women working in technology.

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

I think encouraging more women to choose computer science courses at school, and then continuing to encourage that path for University or College degrees. That is how we will drive more women into the industry, it all starts with the education early on in their journeys

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Understanding about the new technology trends and innovations that are being released all the time through news articles from research companies is a great place to start.


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


Aline Krebs featured

Inspirational Woman: Aline Krebs | Game Artist, Voodoo

Aline KrebsAline is a 2D/3D Game Artist for Voodoo Berlin, where she creates concept art and both in-game and production assets.

With a passion for 3D environments and all things colourful, Aline has produced artwork for mobile games such as City of Love: Paris and Partouche Casino Games, alongside working as the solo artist for Steam and Switch game BAFL - Brakes Are For Losers. After being introduced to video games by her parents at a young age, Aline made the decision to enter the games industry as a teenager, teaching herself the skills she needed before securing a diploma in graphic design and attending Enjmin to study games and interactive digital media.

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

I’ve been working in the video games industry for about four years now, and I love it. I'm currently a 2D/3D Game Artist for hyper casual mobile games developer Voodoo, working on their current and upcoming mobile games. My role is pretty diverse; I create 2D art to help the team conceptualise an idea, alongside developing 3D art that will be included in the final game.

Before joining Voodoo I created and ran my own business, Homecoming Studio, with my partner, where I worked as an outsourcer on multiple projects from video games to classic graphic design work.

It was my parents, my father in particular, who encouraged me to follow my dreams and find a career that I loved. He wanted me to have the choice of career that he didn’t have, and he’s been incredibly supportive of my decision to enter the video game industry.

I’ve always had a passion for video games, drawing and DIY in general, and I'm happiest when I’m creating something. That can either be something I’ve made on my computer or on paper

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I always knew I wanted to work in the video games industry as an artist. I remember being 14 and having an appointment with a guidance counselor when I was in middle school. She helped me decide what I wanted to do during high school, and that set me on the path I’m on now.

When I got to high school, my teachers unfortunately didn’t really know enough about video games to be able to help me too much, but I didn’t let that stop me. I knew I wanted to work with video games so I worked towards a diploma in graphic design and taught myself some additional skills, before attending Enjmin to study games and interactive digital media. 

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

I faced my biggest challenges while running Homecoming Studio. I was mostly unknown to the industry, so it was a constant challenge finding clients to work with. The journey to making Homecoming Studio successful was a long one, and sometimes I had no projects on the table and therefore no money coming in.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I wanted to give up on several occasions because I lacked the confidence in my own skills and abilities. But in one final bid to find success, I set myself the challenge of learning a new skill, and not long after this, I secured my current role with Voodoo.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Definitely joining Voodoo about a year ago. The studio lead, Sophie Vo, had seen my profile and portfolio on the Women in Games France website, and contacted me directly on LinkedIn asking me to join a new team they were building in Berlin. It was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t turn down, but at the same time it was quite scary.

I was born and raised in the south of France, and the role with Voodoo was in Berlin. I didn’t know anything about the city or the German culture, and I’d never worked in an international environment, so it was a big challenge.

The difference in language and culture was something I also needed to overcome, and with the pandemic I had to get to know my colleagues online, which was a new experience for everyone. In an office environment you get social cues from body language and can talk more directly to people, but all those things are removed in a virtual environment so you need to communicate differently and, as an introvert, it can be even more challenging to be vocal.

One of the things that helped us get to know each other better was setting up a Discord server. We used this to talk to each other throughout the working day, as well as using it for things like cheese tastings and, of course, gaming sessions. This really helped with the language barrier too, as having regular conversations on Discord helped with picking up slang and other intricacies of the language so I could communicate better with my colleagues.

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

I’ve been really resilient and never gave up, even when things were really hard and quitting felt like the only option.

Facing adversity, it can be tough to face reality and move forward. There was a long period where I didn't have a paid job, but during those times I always worked on improving my skills and remaining optimistic.

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

Always follow your dreams. If you think you have something to offer the industry, do whatever you can to be a part of it. It can be exhausting and challenging, but follow your heart and you will make it.

Don't pay attention to those who say you are not good enough either, because it's simply not true. Understanding your value as a person is incredibly powerful, and will give you the much needed resilience in what can be an incredibly tough industry.

Also, make sure you’re constantly networking. Connect with people in the industry, champion your work and share your tips. Be a part of events and meet new people.

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

There has been progress, but there’s always room for improvement.

The first thing I want to see more of is female role models in the industry. There are plenty of success stories from men, but similar profiles of women are much less prominent. One of my role models is definitely Audrey Leprince. She runs her own company, The Game Bakers, and she created the Women in Games France branch with Julie Chalmette. Jessica Rossier, founder of WARDENLIGHT Studio, is also an inspiration to me, particularly when I was running my own company.

It's also really important to educate people. It may be a male dominated industry, but there’s plenty of room for women too. Just because women are a minority right now, that doesn’t mean our ideas are less valuable. In fact, bringing more diverse ideas into the industry will lead to more diverse technology and products, reaching a much wider audience. You need to make games for the audience, not just for yourself, and that includes women.

There’s also a mentality that’s still ingrained in society that just because you’re a woman, you deserve less. That’s simply not true, and we need to keep fighting to make sure our voices are heard.

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

It’s simple; trust women. It's really important to encourage women when they take initiative, and also let them speak. I still see a lot of women, myself included, who stay quiet during meetings because it can be difficult to share ideas in a masculine environment. It's so important to encourage them to take the rightful place they deserve.

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

Introduce more role models. By showing off the stories of successful women in the tech industry, younger women will realise that the industry is open to them and they will be more inclined to work in it. When you have relatable role models, you stop seeing that invisible barrier to entry and you see the diversity the industry has to offer.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Try to attend as many networking events related to your area of expertise as possible. Many of these events will be online right now, but a good place to start from a broader industry perspective would be somewhere like the Game Developers Conference or the Women in Games conference. For those looking to go down a more artistic route, like myself, make sure you’re meeting people who do something similar. Share ideas and get inspiration from the work of those already working in the industry.

I also strongly recommend reading Women in Gaming: 100 Professionals of Play, a book about awesome women who work in the video game industry. The No Clip YouTube channel is also a great source of documentaries all about the video games industry.


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


Inspirational Woman: Carol Miu | Chief Product and Analytics Officer, PeopleFun

Carol MiuI am currently the Chief Product and Analytics Officer at PeopleFun, where I am a product leader and data scientist specializing in free-to-play mobile games.

PeopleFun is a top mobile games studio based in Dallas, Texas known for creating popular word games such as Wordscapesand Word Stacks, which have both skyrocketed to the top of the charts in #1 and #2 in the Word Games category.

Prior to joining the gaming industry, I was a university marketing lecturer and an economic expert in antitrust, intellectual property, and consumer law. Outside of PeopleFun, I’m taking night classes in astrophysics and performing gravitational wave astronomy research with the University of Washington Bothell as a member of LSC (LIGO Scientific Collaboration).

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I didn’t have a linear path to where I am today. When I was young, I wanted to be a paleontologist and in the 5th grade, I wrote that I wanted to be a “businesswoman” in my class yearbook, so I had wanted to explore multiple career paths even as a child.

My late father always emphasized to me that learning never stops in life. When I first became a manager in 2007, I realized that the lack of a growth mindset was the biggest barrier to success. I saw that people who thought “my learning is done” had difficulties with new tasks that require learning new skills, as tech often does. This inspired me to embrace a growth mindset, which focuses on managing for continuous growth, and I’ve brought this leadership approach with me as I continued in my career. I set high, yet achievable, goals that encourage people (myself included) to find their ‘frontier of learning’ so they are continuously reaching beyond their comfort zone and learning new skills.

Fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to experience roles in many different fields. I have been an economics litigation consultant, marketing lecturer, data scientist, product manager. Gaming has always been a huge part of my identity, and I was a Finalist at the 2010 Nintendo Wii National Championship.

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

Finding self-fulfillment has helped me overcome challenges in my career, which for me means always learning and producing value. I strive to be a generalist who sees the big picture and manages an interdisciplinary team and I want to maintain my technical skills as a specialist.

There are several ways I meet this challenge. First, I never wait for people to tell me what I should be doing. I create my own tasks, both strategically and tactically, by observing and assessing what the company’s goals should be and how to achieve them. I also look at what I need to learn to become a better leader, what my direct reports need to learn to grow their careers and contribute more to the company, and how we can improve the collaboration between different teams or colleagues from different disciplines.

Second, I love mentoring others. One of the best ways to produce value for a company is to grow its people. I enjoy working with colleagues across different fields in mobile game development on growth mindset, communication, and career development.

Third, I assign individual contributor work to myself to keep my skills sharp. I directly manage a dozen employees, but I spend 10 to 20 percent of my work time on my specialized technical skills. During holiday weeks when many team members are away from work, I cover their roles on technical work and it feels good to know that I can keep up, even though most of my work is managerial.

Fourth, I have my friends and my hobbies. We can’t expect that everything we have to do at work is exciting and glamorous. I keep my life balanced, fun, and interesting through finding fulfillment across many areas of my life, not just in my work. There’s a lot of hard work and perseverance required to improve the process, and technical work can seem repetitive at times, but all this work and fulfillment in your personal life is necessary to grow a company.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Growing the team at PeopleFun! I was the first employee on the Product team and built a team of product managers, data analysts, and user researchers from two to 12 employees, while tripling company revenue in just two years. Employing growth leadership challenged the team to innovate beyond their individual disciplines, which inspired the creation of new events and features for our players.

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

Having a growth mindset. If I’m too comfortable and everything is easy, I’m probably not learning. I love to be challenged -- to be on the frontier of growth where I’m a bit uncomfortable because there are things I don’t already know and I’m working hard to level-up fast.

How do you maintain a work-life balance? Is there such a thing?

Yes, there is such a thing! People sometimes mistake work-life balance for life over work (or work over life) but it can be difficult to find balance if they are thought of as two separate things. I need both my career and my family to feel whole — I have a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son, and using a growth mindset and servant leadership in my personal life helps me function as a mom.

We’re all at home together during the pandemic, so my husband and I trade-off managing the kids’ virtual learning and activity schedules from piano lessons to ballet class to reading and math. A couple days per week, I’ll take a 30-minute break during my workday to cook lunch with my kids — they love that quality time with Mom, plus learn a life skill (they’ll need to cook for themselves one day!).

My kids have already become huge gamers and are my little helpers since I’m working at home right now. My daughter loves Wordscapes, especially our new Butterfly Event, and my son loves Blockscapes. During weekends, I’ll spend a few hours in the evening preparing for the work week ahead but most of it is family time. We’ll watch a movie, build something together, go to the park, go for a drive, cook together, and/or engage in a special activity such as going to the dinosaur drive-thru.

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

To excel in the mobile gaming industry, understanding your player base is one of the most important pillars to building a successful game. Don’t just make a game that you want to play, but make a game that your players want to play.

No matter what industry you go into, it’s important to proactively learn skills on your own rather than waiting for someone to teach you. Becoming a structured thinker and strong communicator helps you develop frameworks for solving problems, improve your communication skills and collaborate on a multidisciplinary team.

Your career path doesn’t need to be linear as long as you are learning and growing. I’ve switched industries several times and within gaming, I’ve had friends switch from design to production to product management which has helped them evolve their career. If you can be flexible, yet persistent, it will help you realize there can be many solutions to one problem and put you in a better position to help the team better execute.

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

Yes, there are long-standing social stereotypes that can seep into the workplace. More often than not, men are judged by their potential while women are judged by their outcomes. However, it’s important for men and women to be judged equally on both attributes, not just one over the other.

Seeking out mentors and advocates who will be honest with you can help you better understand the areas in which you need to grow and overcome social stereotypes in the workplace.

Continuously look for ways that you can challenge yourself -- take a leap and volunteer for important initiatives at your company even if you’re not sure that you will succeed. If you’re 100 percent sure you’ll succeed before you even try, then the task may not be challenging enough. Always be at the “frontier of learning” where things feel a little uncomfortable, but that means you’re challenging yourself and learning new skills -- which will help you break more barriers in the long-run.

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

Set high expectations for all employees, regardless of gender, and embrace a culture of ownership. It’s also important that leaders reflect on diversity, equity, and inclusion in their own companies and offer equal access to leadership coaching on communication and strategy. This, in turn, provides employees with a more equitable share of voice within the company.

What is the best leadership or career advice you’ve received?

One of my mentors told me to optimize for effectiveness, not likeability. I’m being paid to drive business results for the company, not to win Miss Congeniality.

What resources do you recommend for working in tech?

I recommend checking out these books, podcasts, and sites to deepen your knowledge on mobile and tech:


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


Inspirational Woman: Rachel Booth | Co-Founder & Senior Product Manager, Mettle

Rachel BoothRachel is Senior Product Manager and Co-Founder of Mettle, the business account backed by NatWest. She is a Chartered Management Accountant with seven years’ experience in banking, specialising in corporate and SME businesses.

After four years at NatWest, Rachel turned her attention to developing fintech propositions and played a leading role in establishing Mettle within NatWest’s growing digital innovation arm.

Rachel has taken on a range of roles since Mettle’s inception, including designing the initial business model, setting up its customer operations and servicing model, and delivering Mettle’s core product to market. Rachel currently leads on the development of Mettle’s accounting and bookkeeping solutions and customer onboarding solutions. She has a deep knowledge of digital onboarding solutions, coupled with training in advanced customer due diligence, financial crime and anti-money laundering regulation for small businesses.

Rachel is passionate about creating and delivering solutions that respond to changing customer needs in a rapidly changing fintech industry.

Rachel was recognised in the Women in FinTech Powerlist for 2019.

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

I’m a Senior Product Manager and co-founder of Mettle, the business account backed by NatWest. I’m also a Chartered Management Accountant with seven years’ experience in banking, specialising in corporate and SME businesses.

After four years at NatWest, I turned my attention to developing FinTech propositions and played a leading role in establishing Mettle within NatWest’s growing digital innovation arm.

As a co-founder of Mettle, I’ve been involved in driving the product strategy and shaping the Mettle culture since day one. Understanding our customers and the challenges they face is vital to being able to develop user-focused outcomes and it’s something that I’m passionate about.

I’ve taken on a range of roles since Mettle’s inception, including designing the initial business model, setting up its initial customer operations and servicing model, and delivering Mettle’s core product to market. This resulted in me being awarded the Rising Star award for Women in FinTech Powerlist 2019, something that I’m incredibly proud of.

Customers are my passion point. Creating and delivering solutions that respond to changing customer needs in a rapidly evolving FinTech industry is incredibly rewarding.

I currently lead the Valuable Proposition team at Mettle and am responsible for delivering the strategy and direction of the team in the context of the wider Mettle vision. Some of my accomplishments include enabling in-app, end-to-end onboarding in minutes, and allowing our customers to share transactions in real time with their accounting software – which has turned out to be one of our most popular features.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I do and I don’t - I try to have a long term view but make sure it's deliberately vague enough that it doesn’t restrict the here and now. I also spend time throughout the year working on my personal development plan to identify what I would like to do more of and the direction I want to take my career.

A very inspirational colleague of mine once suggested that I use holidays like Christmas to reflect on what I want for the following year. I’ve been doing this for several years now and found it really helps - I keep a journal because I love to write my thoughts down and use this to reflect on what I have, haven’t and would like to do.

A word of caution I would give is that you can’t predict every career move you might make - and you shouldn’t either. When I reflect on what I’ve done to date, more often than not, the opportunities have arisen because of the circumstances around me. I think what is better is to continue to push yourself and never stop learning. That way, when those opportunities do arise - probably when you least expect them - you’ll be ready to take them.

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

When I was 7, I was diagnosed as dyslexic. I had struggled with reading and writing, and was below where I needed to be for my age group. However, I was lucky enough to have support throughout my childhood to manage this. I learned strategies and techniques to help me, which ultimately allowed me to go onto university and then study for my accounting qualification. I’ve used these strategies throughout my career.

I do still struggle with some daily tasks - I often mix up words, regularly have to read things several times, and can sometimes take longer to process new bits of information. Because of that, I often struggle with extreme tiredness, which can be particularly challenging when you are trying to grow your career.

I’ve learnt over the course of my education and career to take a lot of notes,  even if they are just rough. This helps me reflect and recap on aspects later down the line. I’ve also learned to be more visual in how I communicate and digest information.

I’ve only very recently have had confidence to tell colleagues about my dyslexia because I’ve always perceived it to be a weakness, and the thought of others knowing might mean I miss out on opportunities. However I’m pleased that since doing so, nobody has treated me differently and I wish I’d communicated this earlier in my career.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Co-founding Mettle has to be my biggest achievement.

I’m proud to have been involved in driving the product strategy and shaping the culture since day one. Being part of creating a new proposition that specifically serves the audience that it’s intended for is highly rewarding. Mettle truly leads industry innovation by focusing on this growing liquid workforce and smaller end of the SME scale, which traditional banks have been unable to do.

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

I’ve never stopped learning. I ask questions regularly, I’m intrigued about things and I always want to expand my knowledge. This has given me a better understanding of different situations, contexts and domains which have allowed me to participate and contribute to new roles and responsibilities.

I would challenge everyone who starts to feel they’ve stopped learning to think about what they could do differently. Regularly thinking about how you could learn something new within your role, or a new role, across the networks you participate in and in your personal life. This way you will be able to constantly evolve and be motivated to achieve your goals.

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

It’s important to really know the industry. Within FinTech for example, it’s crucial to be up to date on the key industry players and trends as well as ongoing discussion around innovation or regulation. Immersing yourself within the industry will help you to excel as your awareness of key opportunities and challenges will be valuable to tech businesses.

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

Yes, barriers still exist, it’s a historically male-dominated industry. However, the female tech market is growing with greater investment into products designed for women, by women.

I’m happy to see there are ever-growing opportunities for women within tech to grow their careers, develop innovative products and contribute to business success.

Bumble has just announced its plans to go public, making its CEO the youngest female to ever lead a company to IPO, along with its 73% female board members. I’m excited to see this progress within the industry and hope to see many more success stories in the near future.

While funding for women-led FinTechs is currently very low, Goldman Sachs recently revealed that businesses with women at the top have stronger financial value for shareholders and attract greater talent.

Therefore, creating a company culture and environment that attracts more women into roles should be a huge priority for the whole tech industry as the benefits are hard to ignore.

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

As many remain working remotely due to the COVID-19 restrictions, childcare is obviously a major barrier for many. Rather than marginalising mothers, working with female employees to achieve a more flexible schedule will provide multiple benefits for women as well the business. Collaboration and innovation happen when employees are engaged, motivated and feel invested in. Tech businesses should be looking at how they can support female careers and be more flexible to their external circumstances.

Companies should invest in the recruitment process and listen to their existing female employees to understand the key considerations they should have front of mind when supporting female careers.

As a female co-founder, I’m passionate and excited about helping to break barriers, and ultimately help build a more diverse business from the ground up.

At Mettle, we know that having great equality and diversity within the industry is hugely important, so that our product and proposition ultimately resonates and reflects the customers we serve. We also have a hugely successful female CEO, Marieke Flament, who is dedicated to diversity and equality within Mettle, and ensuring it remains forefront in the minds of senior leaders across the wider technology and financial service industries.

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

If I could wave a magic wand, I’d definitely change the industry’s perception of women and ensure that investors and leaders realise the huge untapped potential that greater inclusion of women within tech can bring.

We are seeing progress being made slowly, but certainly not fast enough by any measure. I’d love to be able to draw greater attention to female pioneers and innovators to provide aspiring women in tech with female role models and examples of success.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’ve listed a range of resources below - some aren’t specifically aimed at women, but have all been recommended to me by the Women at Mettle as helpful resources.

Podcasts:

  • Tim Ferriss
  • How I build This - Guy Raz
  • Work Life with Adam Grant
  • CTRL ALT DELETE by Emma Gannon

Books:

  • Radical Candor by Kim Scott
  • How to Fail by Elizabeth Day

Reports:

  • The Kindness Economy by Mary Portas

Radio:

  • TED radio hour:

Online news:

  • Tech Crunch
  • Femstreet

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


Inspirational Woman: Ekaterina Voronkova | Tech Entrepreneur and Advisor

Ekaterina VoronkovaEkaterina has 8+ years of experience in digital technologies and she is alumni of Deloitte Digital UK where she led large-scale digital transformation for private and public sector clients.

Before joining Big4 she founded and sold her own successful eCommerce business and launched several eCommerce for multibillion retailers from scratch on one of the most challenging market with 11 time zones with same-day delivery capability for some of the regions. Throughout her career she did a lot of advisory work and mentoring for various startups in Russia, Belorussia, USA, UK working in FinTech, RetailTech, eCommerce fields with AI, RPA, Digital Twin technologies. She is now continuing her advisory work and building her own start-ups that promise to disrupt UK tech market.

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

I graduated from Top-5 Russian University MGIMO with honours and hold BS in Commerce and MS in International Economics. After graduation I wanted to use my knowledge in Commerce to create a new product on the market and founded a start-up, a pioneering premium merchandise online-store in Russia in 2011. Russian eCommerce market was emerging at that time and there were no benchmarks, so I had to invent processes from scratch, including technical integration of eCommerce platform, tackle logistics etc. I ran it for almost 5 years brining innovative ideas that became eCommerce industry standards and successfully sold the business in 2015.

My expertise was recognised by multibillion euro retailers that invited me to build their eCommerce presence in Russia. As a Head of eCommerce, I helped them to successfully launch from scratch 5 online-stores and developed their marketing strategies.

In parallel to my work, in 2017 I started advisory work with several digital technology start-ups. For example, I helped one of AI-based RetailTech start-up to develop a back-end logic to process 40 key data points and give recommendations to its customers about the clothes they are likely to buy (the core idea of the start-up is to give recommendations on sets of clothes a person would most likely like using AI technology). It was a crucial point of the success of the start-up.
Another example would be the help I provided to one of the start-ups that was soon after acquired by ServiceNow – the company I saw among those supporting WeAreTechWomen community.

In 2018, I got a job offer from Deloitte Digital UK and moved to London after living all my life in Moscow. I had no fear to move (a lot of people asked me if I had any  ) though I had just a couple of people I knew there. Instead, it was a real excitement for me, and I knew that in the UK I would be able to unlock my potential to the fullest!

In Deloitte Digital I worked on large-scale projects for public and private sector clients delivering solutions in RetailTech, FinTech, eCommerce with technologies like RPA, digital twins to name a few. I am not a programmer and was always responsible for delivery of innovative digital platforms and applications or for ideation and business logic for those. The most recent project I had was for the largest public sector client and connected with a delivery of a digital platform enabling key workers to register for Covid-19 tests using RPA technology behind it.

I have now left Deloitte Digital to pursue my own start-up ideas. One of the start-ups I have founded and developing now, Easly, a SaaS eCommerce platform, is designed for grocery retailers, and utilises AI, ML personal recommendations, speech recognition technology for voice-based search, camera product scan technology, NLP and RPA technologies as well as the latest GPT-3 technology. It is truly innovative, and I strongly believe that it will disrupt UK RetailTech and revolutionise online shopping experience. Another one is an online-platform selling online-courses aiming at changing people lives for the better.

I still continue on with the advisory/mentoring for some of the start-ups and really enjoy it. I feel real joy in helping people and driving technology sector.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not always. I founded my first start-up and was making my first steps in digital while experimenting. Also, technology sector was just emerging in Russia at that time in 2011. I got clear about my future career after I launched eCommerce for several multibillion retailers on Russian market. I understood that I want to expand my experience and learn about other technologies. I realised that I enjoy creating something new, solving challenging problems, innovating. I started advising/mentoring some of the start-ups and joined Deloitte Digital to get experience with various technologies and projects. Now I am planning to continue my advisory/mentoring as well as put in life several of my start-up ideas.

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

When I worked with retailers, I launched eCommerce for, I had to convince absolutely non-technical top management to take a certain direction. It was quite difficult as in Russia bias about women in technology are even more obvious.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I like to think that there were several career achievements equally important to me:
- set up my own business and created industry benchmarks not knowing anything about technologies when I started
- launched eCommerce for multibillion retailers on the most challenging market
- created several innovative solutions on the UK market for public and private sector clients

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

I am a real fighter, I never give up and I try as many time as needed till I finally get what I want. It is difficult to fail, but what is important is to accept the situation, reflect on the it and take another chance. Another thing (sorry, in my case there are usually two things that are major factors) is the people. If you want something, open to communication and help people they will always want to support you and it could be a key to fulfil your dream

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

Read about new technologies, solutions, start-ups, make connections with people in technologies, not to be lazy to help others. It is not about university you have graduated (though Harvard, MIT and Stanford are hands down the places of power), but the experience and knowledge you get as technologies are constantly evolving. Technologies are about innovation.

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

I can see some bias with regards to women working tech and women leaders. I think the best solution will be to help each other out, be one supportive family. It is not easy to excel when you are alone and stay apart from others. Ladies who are just starting their career in technologies or women wanting to make a career change will be much faster progressing if we can tell them about our experience. Books, formal lectures, etc. are good, but what is most valuable is the experience.

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

These could be women communities, competitions for women, special nominations, etc. Equity should be introduced in place.

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

I think not all women know how fun it could be to work in technologies and that you don’t need to be of a very technical mindset. There are a lot of creative roles, so technologies are not only about programming. Moreover, not all the founders of successful start-up worked in technologies before they set up their companies. I would have made women aware of that.


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


Inspirational Woman: Dr. Elina Naydenova | CEO & Co-Founder, Feebris

Dr. Elina NaydenovaElina Naydenova is a biomedical & AI engineer, with a PhD in Machine Learning for Healthcare Innovation from Oxford University.

She is the CEO & co-founder of Feebris – a company whose AI-powered platform enables carers & community health workers to detect health conditions early.

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

I trained as a biomedical engineer at Oxford University and was initially exploring developing machine learning solutions for cancer imaging. Looking for opportunities to impact global health, I had the privilege of working in the medical device group at the World Health Organisation, where I became obsessed with a wicked problem that has been one of the biggest challenges in global health for decades – childhood pneumonia, the number one killer of children under 5. I could not accept that a perfectly treatable disease would still take the lives of nearly 1 million children every year. So I made it my mission to get to the root cause and develop a solution to this problem. This involved doing a PhD in Healthcare Innovation at Oxford University, where I focused on developing machine learning techniques for early diagnosis of childhood pneumonia in community settings.  Today, I am the co-founder and CEO of Feebris, where we develop AI-powered solutions that enable the early detection of disease and deterioration in community settings. Our vision is to help build a world where no one suffers from treatable conditions simply because they cannot access a doctor.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t have a definite step-by-step process in mind, however  I always have had a strong sense of what my direction of travel is – to help to improve healthcare through innovation. I have always aimed to create and uncover opportunities that will equip me with the breath of insights and skills to realise this purpose.

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

I have been repeatedly told that I am not supposed to have ideas, but that I am to help others realise theirs in different education institutions, work environments, in different contexts. I have learned to derive motivation from proving people wrong by being painfully persistent.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date has been taking Feebris from an idea to a growing business. I find it immensely humbling that my passion for transforming access to healthcare for some of the most vulnerable people in society has inspired others, and we now stand strong together on a mission to build technology that prevents avoidable suffering.

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

Being able to dream big and visualise success. For anyone from an under-represented group trying to achieve success in a field they are not expected to, it’s incredibly important to be able to be able to visualise the world you want to build. If there are very few examples of people like you achieving success in your field, imagine yourself at the top of that mountain and what that would mean for others like you that want to climb it.

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

Technology is a tool, don’t make it your mission. Focus on solving real problems using technology but never be married to the tool and how exactly you use it. This will make you excel in a product environment, this is what differentiates an innovator from an engineer.

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

There are even greater barriers for minorities. There isn’t a silver bullet for overcoming these barriers – representation across the sector is important, embedding diversity in an organisation’s DNA is important, practicing empathy across the organisation is important… But the under-representation starts much earlier, in classrooms and lecture halls, so to really transform the make-up of the industry society needs to bring up boys and girls with the same dreams and expectations.

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

Invest in mentorship within the organisation. This is important for all team members, but for women in particular it can help break some ingrained societal assumptions, nurture self-belief and encourage diversity.

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

We need to re-write the script girls inherit from society from an early age. We need to bring girls up with the belief, and expectation, that they will be engineers, managers and business leaders in tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I wouldn’t recommend tech-specific resources. Own the problem you are trying to solve, be the expert in the problem. Beyond that, Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast is worth a listen.


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


Lena Reinhard featured

Inspirational Woman: Lena Reinhard | VP, Product Engineering, CircleCI

Lena ReinhardLena Reinhard is VP Product Engineering at CircleCI, the leader in continuous integration and delivery for developer teams.

In her 15+ year career, she’s been building and scaling high-performing engineering organisations and helping distributed teams succeed, starting with her own startup to corporates and NGOs.

Lena is an acclaimed international keynote speaker on topics like leadership, DevOps transformation, and organisational scale, at conferences such as O’Reilly Velocity, The Lead Developer, CTO Summit, and QCon. She is passionate about helping teams increase their effectiveness and business impact, and scaling culture for organisational performance and health. Lena enjoys spending time in books and in nature, and always strives to learn something new, currently focused on how to play the piano and keep houseplants alive.

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

I have a background in Finance, Arts, and Media, but have always gravitated towards leadership. My first tech job was for a small SaaS startup. It was intended as a short-term copywriting gig and turned into a role as Marketing and Key Account Manager. Around a similar time, I started contributing to open source projects, and shortly after co-founded my first software company and became CEO. I started managing distributed, fast-scaling engineering teams, quickly realising that I really enjoyed this work, and that it was a good match with my prior experiences and cross-functional background.

I’ve built and scaled high-performing engineering organisations and helped distributed teams succeed ever since, now as Vice President of Product Engineering at CircleCI. In my current role, I lead our globally distributed and rapidly growing Product Engineering organisation. I am ultimately responsible for accomplishing our business goals and delivering software to our users effectively, timely, and with high quality standards – and for building an thriving organisation to help us achieve these goals.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t, and if you had asked me 15 years ago, I would never have expected I’d be where I am today. How many careers really go ‘according to plan’? My first formal leadership role was as CEO of the company I co-founded. I’d been consulting for the founding team with research and assessments towards the founding process and business setup, and one day, on the way back from lunch, they asked me whether I wanted to become a CEO. I thought about it and said yes.

My first formal engineering leadership role was more of a transition than a conscious decision. I’d been brought into the organisation as a consultant to get the team’s delivery into a better state and ended up taking on team leadership and scaling shortly after. Situations like this where the scope of my role and responsibilities rapidly expand almost over night have occurred many times in my career, and have always been exciting.

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

When starting out, I learned a lot of hard lessons. I had to lead largely intuitively and in reactive ways, due to the intense nature of the work and environment I was in. It effectively meant I did not have a good sense of what it takes for others to be effective in this role and work, and what sustainable frameworks and structures I can build to help my teams be successful in the longer run. This put a huge strain on myself, as well as my ability to delegate effectively and build out better structures for the team.

A former colleague once told me - after we moved into different roles - that I didn't understand what made me good at this work, which meant I was not able to bring it out in others either. It hit me hard. I had to learn how to delegate effectively, as well as invest in developing leaders around me to be able to run teams and organisations more effectively. Part of the biggest job of being a leader is to pull people up from all around. Remaining a critical part of a technical system leads to a feeling of importance, but actually is a terrible sign. The thing that tickles our ego the most is the sign that we’re not doing as well as we could; and to me, that’s the essence of what leadership means in a nutshell.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are a lot of achievements that I’m very proud of: My first conference talk, my first keynote, being invited to speak at a conference; co-founding a company and becoming CEO; all the teams I got to build and scale rapidly; getting a job I really wanted and getting promoted. Any of those accomplishments were big leaps for me at the time and thinking about them still fills me with great joy.

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

The foundation of being a good leader relies on building trust-based relationships. Here are a few ways that have always helped me get there:

Ask questions. This is one of the most powerful tools of an effective manager. The basis for managing well is listening, observing, taking note of what motivates your teammates, and digging into the responses to your questions.

I usually gather questions before I meet with my team members one-on-one so I am prepared and can guide the conversation toward understanding them better. Asking questions helps you adjust your leadership style to the individuals on your team. It also ensures that they feel understood and heard, which are important pillars of inclusion and belonging.

Connect to the bigger picture. Creating an impact is an excellent motivator, so make sure the members on your team understand how their work helps users or supports other teams. While goal-setting frameworks like OKRs can help with this, it is also crucial to align initiatives with higher-level goals and connect them clearly with user value.

Give feedback. One of the best things you can do as a manager is to support your team members’ growth. Give feedback regularly to help them understand where they are and how they can grow – by course-correcting where needed and setting new goals in areas in which they excel.

Also, managers need feedback too: Don’t forget to ask your team for feedback regularly, on big and small things, so you can also adjust as needed.

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

Look for role models. Finding people whose career paths you want to take inspiration from can be a really good thing, especially now that there's a more diverse group of people than there used to be in the past. Mentors can also be a crucial source of inspiration, experience, support and knowledge. With remote working, it makes it even harder to find one, so take a look into webinars, virtual events and LinkedIn to scope out mentors. Look for someone who you believe you could learn from, reach out with a specific request and reason why you’d like for them to be your mentor.

Staying curious and constantly learning is also important. The industry is evolving really fast and that can be quite a lot to process sometimes. There've been a lot of critical movements over the last couple of years, especially in the DevOps space, as well as other cultural shifts, and many people are still working to make this industry better, more inclusive, and more diverse every day. Stay curious and stay connected to the broader industry and to developments in the space.

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

The tech industry has come a long way, but it doesn’t exist in isolation: in the same way as our societies aren’t equal to people of all genders, we can always do better. As a white woman, I have a lot of privileges, and I’m especially happy to see more women of colour and non-binary people enter our industry, many of whom have faced many more structural issues than I have. Companies need to treat diversity and inclusion as an ongoing learning process, which means listening and learning; this is true for everyone, and especially all of us who have more privileges. Leaders need to consciously think about how they evaluate applicants during hiring process, as well as their existing staff: think about the tasks they are giving employees i.e. where there are any discrepancies in how they are managed, the diversity and inclusivity of their teams, and whether all individuals have an opportunity to be heard and equal opportunities to succeed and thrive.

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

Hire women; train, mentor and coach women; sponsor women; promote women. After all, it’s about ensuring that all your employees get the same opportunities to succeed. In the UK alone, 90% of women experience imposter syndrome at work. Different people have vastly different experiences in the workplace, and it’s important to understand those and build systems and structures that support everyone in their different experiences. Mentorship programmes that provide support and professional guidance, can help in maturing skills and developing confidence.

There is currently only 17 percent 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?

Increase the number of women in leadership roles.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Brené Brown: Dare to Lead: “Leadership is not about titles, status and power over people. Leaders are people who hold themselves accountable for recognising the potential in people and ideas, and developing that potential. This is a book for everyone who is ready to choose courage over comfort, make a difference and lead.”

Reply-all podcast: A podcast about tech, the internet, but also on modern life.

HBR’s Women at Work podcast: Expert interviews, and hosts sharing their own experiences, as well as practical advice.

I attended and spoke at LeadDev several times and have gotten a lot of learning out of those events, highly recommended.

HBR guide to managing up and across: It’s a skill that can transform your career, and this guide has a ton of information on managing into all directions, and how to develop the skills to do it well, highly recommend.

Kerry Patterson: Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Good on communication when things get tough.

Lara Hogan has a great newsletter, and her blog is a great resource for leadership-related content

Julie Zhuo: The Making of a Manager. Very good primer on management if that’s a path you’re curious about or interested in.


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


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

Elise Connors

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

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

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

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

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

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

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

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

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

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

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


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


Caroline Lewis featured

Inspirational Woman: Caroline Lewis | Sales Director, Tiger

Caroline Lewis – sales director at Tiger

I’m Caroline Lewis, and I’m the sales director for Tiger – a workplace data analytics organisation.

I’m proud to be the company’s sales director – driving forward an eight-strong sales division. But while sales is my specialism, I also work closely with all of the different teams and departments across the whole of Tiger – working collaboratively to ultimately grow the business and build upon our strong reputation within the industry.

I have over 20 years’ experience in the industry, but my passion for tech started when I decided to study a computing and informatics degree at the University of Plymouth.

After graduating, my first job was in a customer tech support role at Tiger. I then swiftly progressed into the sales area of the business, due to my combined business and technology skillset. Tiger is a company which really fits with my own personal values. Aside from the inspiring technical developments, it offers lots of support and development for its people, which makes it a positive and rewarding environment to be part of.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Honestly, no. When choosing my A-levels, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I enjoyed STEM subjects, and I liked the idea of working in business. Looks like I was on the right track after all!

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

Flying the flag for women in a predominantly male-dominated industry has its challenges!

In my early twenties, I remember sitting down in board meetings – where the c-suite representatives were all men – and having to demonstrate my ability to not only hold my own in the room but to understand technical discussions.

I quickly discovered the importance of having confidence in your own skillset, but also knowing when you do and don’t need support from colleagues with more experience.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There have been several key milestones for me.

Of course, I’m proud of being Tiger’s sales director, but not because of the desire for seniority, rather it’s about all the years’ positive experiences, successes, wins, and hurdles overcome which have got me here. Being able to use this knowledge and experience within my own team to help them develop, grow and ultimately be more successful, is a hugely rewarding process.

Also, a specific achievement that springs to mind is having been awarded Tiger’s ‘Salesperson of the Year’ title for four consecutive years. This is given to the team member with the best revenue performance for that financial year – something I’m extremely proud of.

However, alongside being recognised by my fellow colleagues, it’s always very rewarding to see how our technology makes a difference to our customers – helping them to interpret their data so they can make better decisions, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.

Ultimately, I’m proud of the reputation Tiger has in the marketplace and the relationships we have with customers, partners, and the wider UC&C space. We don’t stand still – which makes it a great place to be!

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

Great parenting – mine have been a big influence in my life.

I inherited my passion for STEM subjects from my dad, and my self-belief and drive – stubbornness! – from my mum.

From an early age, my parents encouraged my brother and I to enjoy learning and developing an interest in a plethora of subjects – there were never any barriers or boundaries to what we could do. And this confidence in my capability to do anything I put my mind to has stayed with me.

However, finding a company which possesses this same ethos has also played a pivotal part in this success – it was fate.

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

To believe in yourself, be determined and surround yourself with people who have this same positivity – don’t listen to the doubters! Finally, find a job that interests you – it’s important to retain your passion and excitement for your chosen field.

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

The barrier is often other people’s mindsets. That’s why it’s important to work with, and learn from likeminded colleagues, coaches and role models plus look for a company which has the same ethos you do.

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

Ultimately, this has to come from both sides of the fence – the company and the employee – with women being confident and believing in their capabilities.

However, the firm should have a level playing field and open mindset when hiring new candidates – they need to be conscious about how they’re presenting themselves. For example, are the culture they promote and the job descriptions they write authentically inclusive? If so, this may go a long way in attracting more female applicants.

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

The change has to come from an early foundation. I’d push the importance of STEM subjects in education and ensure that all schools and colleges had positive role models with encouraging attitudes towards women in tech careers. I always remember my maths tutor laughing at me for wanting to do a computer science degree, and that shouldn’t happen.

What is your favourite thing about working in the tech sector?

The ability to be part of an industry that can challenge the norm, influence change quickly and inspire everyone with new ways of working.

What do you think will be one of the biggest tech trends in 2021?

While 2020 saw businesses having to react quickly by setting up remote workforces or accelerating their home-working capabilities, this year it will be all about those same companies catching up with where their tech investments have rapidly propelled them.

All this will take place alongside analysing what worked well and not so well – to inform future business decisions, regarding people, productivity, and efficiencies. And workplace data will play a vital role in achieving this.

Last March, Microsoft Teams’ users increased by 12 million in one week, while Cisco reported 6.7 billion minutes of meetings on one day. And one of our clients had voice data volumes increase over threefold between February and March.

Now, companies will be figuring out how to harness all this intelligence.

In the age of ‘dispersed workforces’ – all sat remotely behind a webcam – business leaders will want to know more about how line managers are looking after their teams, whether employees are engaging with the new tech, and if there are any staff wellbeing issues, and more.

But having the data to know if staff don’t have their cameras on for every video call or send high numbers of instant messages to colleagues, can help to identify any issue and remedy it. Whether it’s because they’re lonely, they’re having technology issues, or there’s a training need – organisations will need this insight at their fingertips.

But crucially, everyone needs more access to the data that’s relevant to their team. This will be the key in helping individuals to better help staff, collaborate and enhance productivity – benefitting the entire company.


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