Kristel Kruustuk featured

Inspirational Woman: Kristel Kruustuk | Founder & Chief Testing Officer, Testlio

Kristel KruustukI began my professional career as a software tester, but quickly became frustrated with the shortcomings of traditional quality assurance (QA) and crowdsourced testing.

Despite my recognition as a top-level tester, I didn't feel valued. I realized that the pay-per-bug model didn't incentivize testers like myself to dig deep into the product, work collaboratively, and identify the most frustrating user issues. At 23, I quit my job as a QA tester, and along with co-founder Marko Kruustük (who is also my husband!), entered one of the world's largest hackathons: AngelHack. We took first place and used the prize money to build Testlio.

Today, Testlio is the originator of, and leader in, networked testing, supporting clients like Microsoft, Amazon, CBS, Etsy, Hotels.com, and the NBA (who collectively power over 1.5 billion users worldwide). The company has 80+ full-time distributed employees (Europe & US) and powers a network of 10K+  vetted, expert, professional testers in over 100 countries.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never. In fact, when I graduated from high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But thanks to my sister’s invitation to spend time with her in London that summer, I got to discover the tech industry. Namely, many of my sister’s friends were working in the IT sector and they influenced me to explore possibilities as well. They all told me that technology is the future and I’ll definitely find a role that would suit my strengths. I was also drawn into the industry because I knew that it would most likely allow me a measure of financial security.

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

Absolutely. I believe that anyone who has ever wanted to succeed has faced a lot of challenges. The only way to overcome them is to just keep experimenting and moving forward. You need to accept that you will make tons of mistakes and not everyone will always like your decisions. Over the years, I’ve learned not to punish myself when something doesn’t go as expected. I tell myself that I’m the best possible version of me at this point in time and my intentions are genuine – I always want the best for my team and our customers. Challenges make us better and stronger.

I’ve also been underestimated. There were people in the beginning of my career who doubted my ability to lead Testlio successfully. Well, I proved them wrong. Even though I eventually decided to transition from CEO to the Chief Testing Officer role, I am very proud of what I was able to achieve. Now, I can fully focus on the things that I love the most - working with our global network of software testers.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I can’t just go with one. So here are a few: winning worlds largest hackathon Angelhack. Being accepted into the best tech accelerator program Techstars. Being recognized in Estonia as Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Getting to work with inspiring testers from all over the world. Serving Fortune 500 companies.

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

Not giving up. Moving forward despite setbacks. Going against fears. Listening to our customers feedback and providing value.

I constantly hear people making excuses like for example constantly postponing their product launch because they are afraid that the first feedback will somehow impact their future or ruin their reputation. It’s important to understand that your product will never be perfect and ready, it’s just a constant process of improvements! If people give you negative feedback, it means that they care and want to see your product succeed. There’s a reason why they’ve come to you and not to your competitors.

So, don’t ever let that fear to fail hold you back.

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

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and find smarter people around you who are willing to support you when you go through this journey called life. :)

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

Unfortunately, there are still some very strong gender and racial biases in tech. Until companies consciously start focusing on hiring more women and minorities in leadership roles, and make their workplaces more inclusive, this will not change. In that regard, Testlio stands in stark contrast to most tech companies with more than 50% of our employees and leadership team being women and minorities. This is something I’m really proud of!

As a consumer, it’s also our duty to make sure there is more diversity around us. So for example when considering buying a product or service, I urge people to take a look at the companies’ websites and stories first – if there are only white men on the board or leadership roles, I would prefer to turn elsewhere and find a company that embraces and embodies diversity in all its shapes and forms.

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

Hire more women. Companies need to build more inclusive workplaces where women feel respected and appreciated. For me as a woman founder, diversity has never been a goal in itself, but I do feel that women feel more welcomed in a company where there are already a lot of us changing the world!

There are currently 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?

Have more women in leadership roles and have more women out there actively sharing their success stories. Too often, I’ve seen women with really cool success stories and backgrounds think their experiences don’t deserve any attention – they are either too modest, or afraid to put themselves out there. I think this also has to change. If we want change, we need to go out there and actively show the world that we are as powerful as any other person.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

One of the recent books I‘ve read and loved is “It’s about damn time” by Arlan Hamilton. A tech investor who went against all odds and has now invested into more than 100 tech companies. Her story is so awesome. She also has a podcast ‘Your First Million’, where she’s interviewing entrepreneurs.


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 Hamilton | Director of Compliance & Fraud, EMEA, GBG

Carol HamiltonAs Director of Compliance & Fraud, EMEA at GBG, the global identity data specialist, Carol Hamilton is responsible for growing and developing the group’s Fraud business.

Carol Hamilton studied (MMath) Mathematics and progressed rapidly at global technology giants BAE Systems and SAS, and is regarded as an industry expert on the fraud landscape.

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

I grew up in Birmingham and went on to study a Masters in Maths at the University of Bath. After various roles in rotation at HSBC, I joined Detica (which was subsequently acquired by BAE Systems) as a Business Consultant in the ‘Global Financial Service Solutions’ group.

I felt lucky to be in a growing part of the business at the right time and supported by a fantastic manager. I was ‘thrown in at the deep end’, travelling around the world to talk to different customers. I gained a lot of valuable insight and understanding in a short space of time and really enjoyed the richness of that experience.

During this time, I quickly developed a passion for fighting fraud – it is complex, ever increasing, and there are a range of societal issues that underpin it (e.g. terrorism, money laundering, people trafficking). I was really struck by just how devastating the impact of fraud was on victims. I could see how important technology was for organisations, giving them the power to disrupt the bad behaviour, and help people globally.

From there, I wanted to extend my learning and drive greater impact. I joined SAS to further develop my expertise in advanced analytics in fraud and compliance, and within a couple of years I progressed to be the Director of Fraud, leading a cross-functional team of experts in EMEA. This was a transitional point for me, as I started to lead and manage people on an international scale. It was hugely rewarding.

In November 2018, I joined GBG as Director of Compliance & Fraud, EMEA. It’s been a great opportunity to build on my experience and delve deeper into the identity data and verification side of fraud – which is increasingly important in our digital world. I really enjoy taking GBG’s leading technologies out to customers as well as working to drive sustainable growth in this key area, making a serious impact for the business. I am responsible for the overall development and execution of GBG’s fraud business across Europe, Latin America, Middle East and Africa.

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

I think, as many women can attest to, I can sometimes put my own barriers up. I’ve learned that projecting confidence is key, and it’s important to be aware of these learned behaviours and challenge them, so we are not holding ourselves back. For example, in the early days of my career, I didn’t apply for a promotion role as I initially felt, on paper, that I hadn’t sufficient experience. A male colleague strongly recommended I apply and I soon realised I could thrive in the role but I nearly lost out due to lack of self-belief. That experience motivated me to keep being ambitious, which has been important to getting me to where I am today, successfully leading an international team.

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

I think it’s been really important – throughout my roles – to be flexible and always look for opportunities to develop my expertise. For example, it’s been vital to keep up to date with the leading edge technologies to fight fraud and money laundering. As fraudsters continue to become more sophisticated in their methods and technology, both myself and my team actively research and test new technologies, such as machine learning, to continually improve our ability to stop fraudsters.

Another factor for success has been working with diverse teams. It’s so crucial to get a range of views and ideas, and this is something I prioritise within the teams I lead. I am proud to work daily with my global colleagues across the diverse EMEAA team, and our success is partly down to that international, cultural, age and gender diversity we have fostered.

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

I started out as one of few women studying MMath Mathematics at the University of Bath. Since then, it’s been an unavoidable fact throughout my career that I’ve been in predominately male dominated environments, often being the only female in a room - either in my own organisation or a customer’s. I’m rather used to this now but I know it can faze others. These experiences have shaped me as a leader as well as a colleague, so I try to actively mentor young women within the industry to give personal, applicable advice and guidance. I think it is important for women to support women in this way, to help continue improving the representation of women in technology.

On a positive note, during my career I have seen the role of women in our sector evolve and improve. It is important we continue to embrace more diversity in general in leadership to continue to break down any barriers and furthermore better our collective success; statistics show that diverse boards regularly lead to improved company performance.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In short, no! Following my maths degree, technology and consultancy was a good fit for my skills and interests. Once I had my springboard into consultancy at Detica, I soon found that tackling fraud was something I was incredibly passionate about, and that has propelled me to want to stay in this field and plan a longer career here.

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

Having two young children doesn’t leave as much time as I’d like to join networking groups! It’s a juggle and, where I can, I enjoy listening to the latest podcasts and reading books. Hearing stories of successful women and their journeys is really inspiring - it reminds me that anything’s possible and I can work to make a positive impact on the world.

I’d also recommend keeping an eye out for GBG’s new podcast; Connected Commerce: Business beyond borders. We’ve got some great speakers talking about the key topics and issues within the digital economy. Hopefully it will ignite your passion for this technology, which I have found truly rewarding in my career!


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: Mimi Nguyen | Co-Founder, Mana Search & Associate Lecturer of MA Innovation Management, Central Saint Martins

Mimi Nguyen

With 10 years in the industry and a background in tech consulting at Accenture and the Boston Consulting Group, Mimi Nguyen is the co-founder of Mana Search R&D Mana Labs and an Associate Lecturer of MA Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins.

Mimi is also a PhD candidate at Imperial College London, Faculty of Engineering and Royal College of Art. Mimi's research explores cross-functional remote teams and how we can increase creativity and innovation, as well as team productivity in a virtual world of work. The study on socio-cognitive aspects of online collaboration aims at finding a solution, leveraging natural language processing from machine learning, to improve the way we communicate and build better teams.

Mimi is also a podcast on ‘Searching for Mana’ - a progressive podcast celebrating leaders and founders in the tech and finance space.

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

I have a background in tech consulting at the likes of Accenture and the Boston Consulting Group and I am currently a lead of Mana Search R&D Mana Labs and an Associate Lecturer of MA Innovation Management at Central Saint Martins. I am also a PhD candidate at Imperial College London in the Faculty of Engineering.

My research with Imperial College London explores cross-functional remote teams and how can we increase creativity and innovation, as well as team productivity in a virtual world of work - the pandemic has presented some fascinating challenges for businesses!

I also often co-host on ‘Searching for Mana’ podcast which explores the ‘superpowers’ driving successful business leaders. I’ve always been interested in the characteristics of those who are pushing innovation forward.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

No, I was studying Quantitative Methods, which nowadays would be called Data Science, and had no idea this would become the sexiest skillset. I later went on to study Media Art at the University of Arts Berlin and Central Saint Martins - and again creativity, design and UX was not a hot topic among traditional organisations. Tech has exponentially changed the world we know and many roles did not exist 5-10 years ago, so I believe we need to be agile with our careers and willing to constantly learn and upskill ourselves.

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

When I was working in Poland, I couldn’t be promoted due to lack of an MA degree. But when I came to the UK, there was no requirement for one. I strongly believe that we should not be defined by certificates and papers. Similarly,  pure AI-powered recruitment solutions dry matching CVs with jobs specs would miss on many valuable talents.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Being a part of bootstrapping a search company that has organically grown whilst being pregnant was such a personal achievement for me. It is amazing to see how we’ve grown from 3 people in the flat to a great ambitious team in our office now in the heart of the City of London.

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

My Asian name is so complicated that you can’t tell from my resume that I’m female. Jokes aside, I believe in serendipity and inspiration from unexpected encounters. For example, I learnt prototyping after a coffee-machine conversation with one of my previous colleagues, which later led me to a Product Owner role in a game development company. Having the confidence to put myself out there and speak with many people created a butterfly effect of who I am now.

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

Don’t base your career on buzzwords like AI or Blockchain or Python but on analytical skill sets and a deep understanding of the area that interests you most. 10 years ago, Data Science jobs used to be in the Analytics Departments, AI used to be called Big Data, Python programmers used to use SQL and SAS languages. It’s a bit like when you speak Latin, you can quickly pick up French/ Spanish / Italian. As a mum, I will not teach my daughter coding but encourage developing her aptitude, analytical mindset and collaboration skills.

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

This is something I ask a lot of leading women in tech who we have on our Searching for Mana podcast and one thing that comes up is just our perception. Many women would not apply to tech roles although they have sufficient qualifications. We also tend to ask less aggressively for promotions.  However, learning from our female podcast guests like Charlotte Crosswell, Fiona Ghosh, Lara Gilman or Shefali Roy, and many more, women are leading in tech companies and that’s our inspiration.

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

One positive thing about tech is that it doesn’t require a degree from a university. In the age of MOOCs or online tutorials with open source and open innovation, everyone can learn new skills and connect to mentors without leaving the house. At my previous job at iwoca, we got a treehouse license, and I know a girl who became a Python master to excel her Credit Risk role.

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? 

Enforced numbers commitments drive the wrong attitude. We cannot sacrifice quality over quantity. Sometimes it looks like it is easier to be hired as a woman in tech teams because the company needs better PR.

For me, it should start with education. Supporting girls from the very beginning to be curious and not stigmatising STEM subjects would encourage more women to continue within this direction. Maths, physics, engineering is for everyone. Take an example of Ada Lovelace, the English mathematician from the nineteenth century, who is believed by some as the first computer programmer.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

  • Woman in Innovation is a fantastic space for networking and mentorship with inspiring female leaders.
  • Stackoverflow - whenever I get stuck, I ask the community. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you”!
  • Book: Pink Noises: Women on Electronic Music and Sound, Tara Rodgers - empowering book about gender and identity from the angle of women in electronic music and sound culture.
  • And lastly, our Searching for Mana podcast!

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


Maria Quevedo featured

Inspirational Woman: Maria Quevedo | Director, Code Club & Raspberry Pi Foundation

 

Maria QuevedoMaria has over ten years’ experience in senior leadership positions across the charity and private sectors.

In her role as Director of Code Club, she has focused on implementing innovative strategies to grow Code Club’s community of volunteers and venues, expanding beyond the tech sector to engage new and diverse audiences.

She leads a team with UK-wide and global capacity, encouraging them to explore creative approaches to increase and widen the programme’s reach.

Maria is also a Director at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a UK-based charity, leading Code Club. Code Club is part of the Raspberry Pi family and is a worldwide network of free, volunteer-led coding clubs for children and teenagers. The mission of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world. In 2019, the Raspberry Pi Foundation aims to raise £4.25 million to pursue its educational initiatives including online coding projects, free coding clubs, and volunteer support. They are only able to do this important work thanks to the generous support of their partners.

Please contact [email protected] to get involved.

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

My name is Maria Quevedo. I’m Code Club Director at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. Code Club is a global network of 12,000 coding clubs for 9- to 13-year-olds. These clubs are led by teachers, often with the support of volunteers, and we provide training, teaching materials, and support so they can help club members learn how to code and make their own games, animations, and websites. I lead a team of very talented people, working with them to develop the strategies for growth and engagement our community of volunteers and teachers.

Previously, I led educational programmes at a social business, and community projects in a charity working in one of the most deprived areas of London.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I didn’t! I trained to be a translator and for many years interpreted for refugees and asylum seekers in London. Then I worked as a journalist, became a researcher at a think tank, and soon ended up managing the team. It was in this job that I realised how much I enjoyed leading teams, and later I decided to use my skills in programmes I really cared about. Education is key to helping people in challenging circumstances, and I see tech education as one of the main drivers against inequality in the future. We should make sure all young people — whatever their gender or background — have access to learning how to make things with technology, as this will open up lots of opportunities and improve their life chances.

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

Almost three years ago, Code Club merged with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, and it was a very exciting and challenging time for everybody. It was great to join forces with another organisation so deeply aligned with our values and mission, but we had to navigate a huge amount of change. Both organisations brought amazing teams of people who supported this process with an open mind, and we all worked through it together, and very successfully.

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

We need to fight the stereotype that STEM is only for men, and increase the visibility of women who are already working in STEM. There are women from all backgrounds working in tech who could be great role models to encourage young women to explore STEM and pursue a career like they’ve done.

My heart sinks every time a woman says that tech is not for her! Why not? I was already in my forties when I joined Code Club, and my coding experience consisted of editing HTML text on a website 15 years previously. I’ve learnt so much alongside children and colleagues at Code Club, and now I can have a lot of fun with my son by coding  games and making animations. Everything is possible if you set your mind to it, so why not STEM?

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

I’ve mentored a social entrepreneur for the past four years. I supported her in developing the idea and in setting up and establishing a charity that provides cultural experiences to kids of low SES. The experience was very enriching for me, and I very much enjoyed supporting my mentee’s personal and professional development. I have also been mentored and found the experience really useful.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Settling in the UK. I came here from Argentina when I was 19, I spoke very little English and didn’t know anybody. It took a lot of determination to settle here and to grow professionally, and I’m very proud of everything I’ve achieved.

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

It’s been six years since Code Club started. We continue to grow steadily, and currently there are clubs registered in 25% of UK schools. There are over 5,000 clubs in the rest of the world, we’ve tested different approaches to expanding our reach, and my next challenge is to establish the right model to scale. We want a Code Club in every community in the world!


Martina Ratto featured

Inspirational Woman: Martina Ratto | Cognitive Scientist, MyCognition

Martina Ratto featuredMartina is a cognitive scientist  with application in real world settings such education and business.  She has used her skills in both further education and corporate training.

Martina now manages research projects for MyCognition, in clinical, education, corporate and local community settings worldwide. She also ensures that cognitive science feeds into all the company’s activities.  Martina has collaborated on projects with the Laboratory of Psychology and Cognitive Sciences at University of Genoa, IT.  She is also the co-author of several international scientific publications on cognition.

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

I'm Martina Ratto, a 29 year old cognitive scientist from Italy. Being a cognitive scientist means studying the human mind, how it works and how it can be enhanced in its functioning. I have got a background in philosophy, focusing my research in cognitive science, which is a fascinating, multidisciplinary field including psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, AI and anthropology, in addition to philosophy. I’ve always seen technology as a key for cognitive research, allowing us to better model, measure, interpret and enhance the functioning of our mind. I currently work in the MedTech/EdTech sector with a London-based SME, MyCognition, a world-leading company for cognitive assessment and digital therapeutic. As well as clinically investigating cognition, my mission is to bring cognitive research into the real world to help people and organisations to reach their full potential, such as in education and in the workplace. Digital technology allows us to stretch our arms and reach more people at the same time, thus escalating the benefits.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I see a career as any other important journey in your life: it is essential to make plans, but the best things that come are often unexpected. I tend to be a very well organised and planning-ahead person, but when it comes to my career, my plans are more about keeping multiple roads open and trying to feed them over time, rather than having a detailed fixed plan. No matter if those routes are not your priority today, they might become in 10 years, and it is good to be prepared for it. Therefore I never sat down and planned a route for my career, but I make plans and actions to leave several routes open. In the 21st century I believe it is a key skill to be able to stay flexible and change yourself according to circumstances. In my current job I play multiple roles at the same time and I don’t know which of these will develop most during my career – but I love it!

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

Following a career in an innovative sector can be an everyday challenge. Despite obtaining worldwide recognition and outstanding achievements, it is not easy for a MedTech/EdTech start-up to break steadily into the market and obtain investments. Innovation aims to be disruptive in creating new ways of living, but it also needs to be balanced and undisruptive for implementation in the real-word, and to be able to show proven benefits. It is an everyday challenge to make this happen, and this exposes you to the uncertainty of circumstances. You can face those challenges with perseverance, resilience and adaptability, allowing you to live with uncertainty and sail successfully through it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My own greatest achievement has been to become a member of the MyCognition team around four years ago. This means helping people of any age to improve their cognitive health - their ability to learn, to work and to stay independent. This includes children and adults with special educational needs, psychiatric and neurological disorders and long term health conditions. It means collaborating with international academic institutions and contribute to innovative research. Our technology has been reviewed as the best cognitive health app of the year by The Times and recognised as unique by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Being a key part of this is the greatest everyday achievement of my career so far.

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

I've always tried to build my own way, regardless of marked pathways or obstacles. Dealing with what you are passionate about makes you able to commit at your best and achieve success more easily. I was on a good MA degree course, but I wanted something more: I have personalised my curriculum with STEMs. There weren’t any Erasmus opportunities available in the UK through my university so I looked on my own for an Erasmus internship in cognitive science in London, and I got it, which is my current job. I think it is about not stopping where there's no route, but starting to build yourself the route you wish. But the greatest factor for success is to be surrounded by people who believe in you and support you on that way. I've been lucky enough to meet them.

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

Keep your mind open. As well as specialising in a narrow field, try to broaden your knowledge and expertise on a multidisciplinary landscape, also nurturing soft skills such as organisation, problem solving, ability to work in teams and to communicate effectively. 90% of problems are communication problems and without good communication skills you will not be able to express your talent and ideas, no matter whether your profession deals more with numbers and graphs than words. Do care about people, not only the ones around you, but also the ones beyond your work. Technology is a human product made up to help humans. Always try to deeply understand the human need you are trying to meet with technology, making a clear distinction between the purpose and the means you use to achieve it. Finally, stay curious about new things and never stop your lifelong learning pathway. Be prepared to be flexible and change your mind, absorbing inspirations from anywhere.

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

I believe there are still some barriers, and most come from society and education. You can see this mirrored in individual choices for different academic pathways: only a minority of girls still opt for an engineering, IT or data science undergraduate course, and the reason for this may sit on established stereotypes for technology roles in which most girls don’t see themselves represented. A way to overcome this barrier could be to change both the way girls represent themselves, and the representation of tech roles through education, starting from early years and primary school. On the one side, girls can be encouraged to undertake playful activities cleaned out from gender connotation, such as coding, robotics, brick building, problem solving and experimental activities. On the other side, the ‘human face’ of technology should be highlighted, thus encouraging girls to still nurture different soft skills which are not technology-related, but which can add value to technology advancement. Also tech roles that combine creativity, arts and human relationships with ‘hard science’ should be promoted, where a larger proportion of girls could see their aspirations represented.

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

I think the key is reducing inequalities, while promoting diversity. Any worker should be offered the same opportunities of employment and a career based on objective measures of competence and quality of performance, rather than gender. At the same time, company policies should encourage different approaches to work and promote gender differences, which can be an added value for divergent thinking, leading to innovation.

An obstacle to a woman’s career is often work-life balance: appropriate company policies allowing flexible timings, smart working and dedicated training programmes for returning to work after maternity leave can help women progress their career alongside their life plans. However, there are still women willing to commit most of their lifetime to their job, and companies should invest in them, allowing them to reach high responsibility roles and career rewards without prejudices.

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 make a spell, I would make a massive digital alphabetisation happen. Tech should not be dedicated to specialised insiders only, but be an accessible mean to improve processes for any sector. A large proportion of women working in other industries could become pioneers of new frontiers of the application of tech. I have sometimes heard women say, "I can’t do that, I'm not into tech". To me it sounds like, "I can’t speak, I am not into linguistics". Every woman in the future has the potential to be a 'woman in tech', thus enabling innovation in any sector they are into.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

To stay up to date with scientific research: take a look to the Science magazine https://sciencemag.org

To get inspiration from our pioneers: read a biography of Alan Turing (e.g. Alan M. Turing, by Sara Turing)

To get inspiration from the industry: listen to a podcast of a successful entrepreneurial story https://www.investedinvestor.com/articles/2019/9/25/capturing-the-outcomes

To meet likeminded people and join themed webinars: check for a local tech hub (e.g. Microsoft Reactor https://developer.microsoft.com/reactor)

To develop new skills: enrol to an overseas online course at https://coursera.com

To improve the way you think: read Thinking fast and slow by Daniel Kahneman and Executive Function by Keiron Sparrowhawk)

To nurture and maintain your mental wellbeing: try the MyCognition app. Free if you live or work in London at https://www.good-thinking.uk/resources/mycognition/

To explore new ideas in your free time: read a sci-fi short story from Exhalation by Ted Chiang

To change the minds of the next generation: share stories for rebel girls by Timbuktu Labs https://www.rebelgirls.com/


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 


Nicky Hoyland

Inspirational Woman: Nicky Hoyland | CEO, My Clever Group (MCG)

Nicky HoylandNicky Hoyland is CEO at My Clever Group (MCG) which includes DBLX and Huler.

A Manchester girl, raised by her inspirational single mum, Nicky Hoyland was working as a trainer at EE, saw a problem and came up with a solution. In a male-dominated industry she’s built a 6-figure business from scratch with a client list to be envious of. Her company exists to arm people with the technology to make positive and lasting change in their business.

Nicky is dedicated to revolutionising how we learn and shaping the future of the learning industry using the latest tech. Leading an award-winning team of now 50 brilliant people, she invests her time generously in each and every project, I guess some would say “walking the walk, as well as talking the talk”.

As a gay woman, now working with some of the world biggest brands she wants to use her platform to inspire young women around the world.

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

Hey, Im Nicky Hoyland, CEO at My Clever Group (MCG) which includes DBLX and Huler. Im a Manchester girl, raised by my inspirational single mum. My story starts whilst working as a trainer at EE, put simply I saw a problem and came up with a solution; and so DBLX was born. We create bespoke software solution for some of the worlds most forward thinking brands. In a male-dominated industry I’m so proud to have built a 6-figure business from scratch with a global client list and thousands of users of our platforms around the world. My company exists to arm people with the technology to make positive and lasting change in their business, something I have always been so passionate about. Im dedicated to revolutionizing how we learn and shaping the future of the learning industry using the latest tech. Leading an award-winning team of now 50 brilliant people, I invest my time generously in each and every project. I could talk all day about the amazing things our #CleverCrowd are up to. Right now we are working on the launch of a world changing SaaS product that launches in Jan 2021. Im so humbled at the overwhelming response we have had, we are hand picking some lucky people for Beta testing and you can register your interest here: www.huler.io.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I am ‘a planner’ and I journal every morning, setting myself mini goals for the day. But with my career I can honestly say there was no plan. I guess I never really had time to stop and plan. From a young age I worked 2 jobs and 60 hour weeks. My mum got ill and I had to learn very quickly to be independent and work hard for everything I wanted and needed. I never really planned to become a director or CEO. I simply had audaciously big dreams, nothing to lose and a burning desire to make a difference. All of my career decisions have been around following my passions and where I can make an impact. If you love what your doing, it wont feel like work and your output is so much greater, I tell everyone to find something they love.

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

The one thing I found challenging in my previous roles, was that sometimes I had to go against my views of what I thought was right for a user or solution. Often I wasn’t alone in my thinking but there were certain projects that simply had to go ahead – what  sometimes felt like a tick box or political exercise.

That was a challenge because when you are newer in to an organisation or career, there is an element of hierarchy and when someone says it’s the right thing to do, you can ofcourse share and state your opinions but theres only so many times you can suggest an alternative if someone keeps saying no. Sometimes HR and L&D projects can be seen as a tick box to the wider organisation rather than the right approach.

How did I overcome these challenges? I think in any job that you do, if you love what you do and truly believe in what you do - work doesn’t feel like work.  I would say if your feeling like your continually working on something that goes against what you believe in, it comes down to having to have a chat with yourself and making a decision to find something that supports your passions and values.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I feel so humbled and grateful for the many incredible milestones I have achieved throughout my career to date. This year DBLX turnover is over a million pounds. I employ over 50 brilliant people and help pay their rents and support their families. Throughout Covid we have financially supported local foodbanks and children with home schooling tech kits. I have over 500K users globally of a product I have built. But despite all of that… without any doubt, I am most proud of the day I made the decision to believe in myself and have the courage to leave the safety of a corporate job and co-found Digital Balance (now DBLX). Because it all goes back to that belief that I am worthy enough to make a difference and have a voice and drive change in a male dominated industry. I didn’t know it would work. I had no financial backing. I was raised by a single mum and had to provide for myself from an early age. Iv had to work for everything I have and starting my business was a huge risk. But I knew inside I had so much to give, my head was bursting with ideas and I wanted to drive change in the industry which it so desperately needed. So the only thing I feared more than leaving my job was not leaving.

All seven billion of us have a unique set of skills, talents, and personality traits. We’re all different, and that’s the beauty. The world needs more women to listen to their gut. Imagine the change we would see in the world! I had a nagging feeling inside of me for years before I acted on it. My only regret now is that I didn’t start sooner. Im incredibly proud I found the courage to start because it has already made such a huge impact on the industry, my life and others.  I've also found myself applying my leadership and company values in my personal life; having integrity and humility and not being afraid to try new things.  I have even taken to rock climbing – which I have found great for my mind and ‘switching off’.

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

Damn hard work. And a vision of what you want to get to and what you want to achieve. There is nothing that can get in the way of you achieving that if you have got your belief and  eye on the prize. Break it down in to steps and stick at it. I love a recent quote  I saw from @StevenBartlett “you wouldn’t plant a seed and then dig it up every few minutes to see if it has grown. Have patience, stop overthinking and keep watering your seeds.

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

The first think I would say is “Your doing great!” Women need to lift each other up.  My second tip is learn from other industrys. Digest as much information as you can – whether that’s podcacts, social media, newsletters, network, apps, books. There is so much free information out there just waiting for you, try to look at things differently from your own unique perspective, you have so much to offer the world.

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

Its changing. But yes. To be in a business that is predominately male or a meeting that is predominately male  is something we need to push through and overcome. Even at education level there are certain courses that are very male led, this view that ‘its not for me’ starts very young. As with anything, with diversity and inclusion, I don’t think its solely about women – its about everyone having a voice around a table regardless of gender, religion, education, sexuality, race, its about diversity across everything.

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

Other women have got to pull up a seat for other women.  Its not just about the seat that you have got around the table. You have a voice for others. Its about actively supporting people not just saying it, showcase the way. Companies need to be diverse in their outward appearance as a company and sharing their success.. Leaders need to be walking the walk. I take time out regularly dedicated to a meeting with just the women in my company to support and guide them. We have Q and As, learnings and lots of important conversations about raising their voices within the business.

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?

Its is not a magic wand. The magic wand is accepting that it isn’t one thing. Its continual. Its got to be a push from Every. Single. Person. Every job. Every employee in your business. Every single person that looks at a job advert, is onboarding, leaves the business. The push for equality has got to span all the way through.

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

  • Networking channels on linked in and dedicated time to supporting the connections you make there and their projects.
  • Must read books: How Women Rise by Sally Helgesen and Work like A Woman by Mary Portas
  • My favourite Expos:
    • Learning Technologies – We are actually exhibiting there in Feb -  come and say hello!
    • Unleash – we are exhibiting at the one in Vegas but they have some great events around the world.
  • I love a good podcasts: HR Social Hour, Inspiring Women by Media Zoo, HBR Ideas, I shouldn’t say this but… by Social Chain and Punk Rock HR

Discover more about Nicky here:


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.


Anisah Osman Britton featured

Inspirational Woman: Anisah Osman Britton | Founder & CEO, 23 Code Street

 

Anisah Osman Britton

Anisah Osman Britton runs 23 Code Street.

In 2012 Anisah won the Young Entrepreneur Festival in London, which brought together 150 of the best young minds in the country.

Since leaving school, Anisah has pursued internships around the world, learnt to code, worked as ops director for a corporate accelerator and started 23 Code Street.

Anisah believes there are multiple routes to success, and that students need to be shown all possibilities.

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

I’m Anisah, and I am the CEO and Founder of 23 Code Street, a coding school for all women where for every paying student, we teach digital skills to a woman in the slums of India.

After doing the International Baccalaureate at college, I interned in businesses around the world- an upgraded gap year, so to speak.

I then ran a company, which allowed students to earn some extra cash by doing odd jobs for individuals and companies. This is when i started to get into technology and began learning how to to code.

When I finished with that company, I went to work for a corporate accelerator called The Bakery. I learned loads about startups and corporates, and was lucky to be sent on a coding course which cemented my foundations and my love for web development.

I started 23 Code Street out of frustration at the lack of women with technical skills and understanding, and the effect this had on products and services. We need more representation across the board.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Ha! No. I thought I was going to be an actor/director/pilot/translator...I fell into tech. I didn’t plan it.

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

Of course! The biggest challenge I am currently facing is my health. I have Myasthenia Gravis which literally means grave muscular weakness, is a rare long-term condition that causes muscle weakness that comes and goes. It’s sometimes hard for me to get to work, and sometimes my eyelids are droopy which means I don’t want to be seen by anyone which is something I’m trying to overcome. I’m dealing with it by listening to my body, cutting out sugar, sleeping, and being more active.

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

Across the board equality. Simple. And technical skills. OK, I cheated.

How would you encourage more young girls and women into a career in STEM?

I would show them the vast range of things you can do in STEM- it’s not just about white coats, it’s not just about “hacking”, it’s not just about being a math professor- you can be a fashion designer, make up creator, an inventor, a games maker, a marketer, a business owner, a superhero...My point is, especially from my tech perspective, that having technical skills is relevant no matter what industry you are in. To encourage them, I would show them and tell them the stories of women and non binary people doing amazing work right now.

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

I think mentoring can be incredibly powerful. I am currently formally training as a mentor with the incredible organisation Creative Mentoring Network,  and have a brilliant mentee called Adora who wants to get into computer science which brings me so much joy.

I have a few people who I’d consider my mentors, but it’s not a formal thing. They have taught me tonnes and opened up doors for me, so they deserve that status. To their faces though, I call them friends.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Getting 23 Code Street past year 2 and having our own lovely office space in Clerkenwell.

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

My next personal challenge is to have a tech column. I’d love to write from inside the industry about what is currently happening in an accessible way. I’d love to interview people who work in the industry who are not necessarily the founders so there are different roles to aspire to.

In terms of 23 Code Street, we are going online and we are going global. Our next webinar course, which can be taken from anywhere in the world as long as they speak English, is a daytime course. I’m so excited to see who that brings through our (virtual) doors.


Juliet Bauer featured

Inspirational Woman: Juliet Bauer | UK Managing Director, Livi

Juliet BauerJuliet Bauer joined LIVI from NHS England, where she was the organisation’s first Chief Digital Officer.

Juliet is a Patient Governor for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and is a founding member for networking group, 10 Digital Ladies. Bauer has led the delivery of technology programmes across many sectors, including leading the Times Newspapers digital transformation. She holds a Masters’ in Business Administration from Columbia Business School.

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

I’m UK Managing Director of Livi, Europe’s largest digital healthcare provider. In the UK, we work with the NHS to provide millions of people with digital healthcare services at the touch of a button. Prior to joining Livi, I was NHS England’s Chief Digital Officer, where I overhauled the organisation’s patient-facing digital service like NHS.uk. I juggle being a mum to two young children.

My current job combines my knowledge of the UK healthcare system and experience in digital transformation. Livi delivers video consultations to millions of patients – ensuring they get the advice, diagnosis and treatment they need, when they need it.

I’m also a Patient Governor for Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

The key points in my career were the decision to do an MBA in the US, the decision to have children and my subsequent move into Healthcare, and then Livi.. Doing the MBA opened my eyes to the amazing global network and took me out of my comfort zone. Having young children alongside a high pressure job helped me understand what I want out of my career. Moving into healthcare gave me the opportunity to work on something I passionately care about and moving to Livi enabled me to combine all those (global, good work life balance, something I really care about).

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

Leading change and digital transformation at an organisation like the  NHS was a challenge.  There’s such potential for digital to transform the way we access and deliver healthcare, and my role was to show how it is an essential component to help drive innovation. The opportunity to drive innovation is vital, now more than ever - Covid-19 is making us rethink ways in which healthcare is delivered, and I believe it will accelerate the pace of change towards digital.

Whilst it has been critical to the UK’s response to Covid-19, I believe digital healthcare hasn’t yet gained the recognition it deserves. We’re working hard to raise awareness of the enormous benefits, whilst helping to ensure all patients – wherever they live, whatever their circumstances – can receive equal access to healthcare.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Waking up every day to see thousands of delighted patient reviews gives me huge satisfaction. Working for an organisation that genuinely believes people should be able to easily access healthcare and partners with NHS to achieve that, means a huge amount to me. 5 years ago the NHS saved mine and my daughter’s lives when I had a highly dangerous pregnancy and she was born extremely premature. To be able to work in healthcare as a hospital governor, then CDO of the NHS and now at Livi, is therefore hugely personally rewarding.

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

An absolute belief that without a brilliant and diverse team we will not achieve our goals. In all my roles I have looked to support women in progressing their careers and to increase the diversity of the teams I work with.

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

You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know that you don’t know everything and to build a great network and team so support you.

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

Women face barriers in almost all sectors. It doesn’t matter whether you work in healthcare or aviation, the decision to start a family is often a barrier to progression, and the burden of childcare in particular still disproportionately falls on women – very few companies offer equal parental leave policies in this country. Working for a company with HQ in Sweden has helped me understand how things could be better here. Women are more likely to face unconscious bias and be paid less than their male colleagues. From my experience, women are also less likely to negotiate hard for their salaries.

What’s more, women are underrepresented in senior roles, meaning there are fewer people to aspire to. I have had jobs where there were more people on the leadership team called Simon or Matthew than there were women. It's a very complex issue to solve, and requires a number of different elements to come together, but we’re heading in the right direction. As a woman in a senior role, I’m proud to be in the position I am in. But there’s more to do. I’ll always do my best to spearhead change.

What do you think companies can do to support career progress amongst women working in technology?

Companies need to be bolder in helping support women in overcoming barriers and taking the next steps in their careers. Employers must consider all their staff policies and ensure that the business is doing everything to level the playing field between men and women. This can be achieved through means such as parental leave, flexible working or creating mentorship schemes to springboard women into senior positions.

There are 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? 

How about free access to coding classes for all, women and men? When I was on bed rest for 5 months in my second pregnancy I did an online coding class and I have now often recommended this to younger women starting out. Regardless of whether you want to be an engineer, a basic understanding for all is very helpful.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

Throughout the last 10 years I have been part of women's networks like 10digitalladies, Onehealthtech or Witsend. They give huge support and learning through the inevitable peaks and troughs of your career.

Where do you envision Livi being in ten years’ time? 

I believe Livi will be at the forefront of a digitally integrated UK healthcare system and widely available to the UK population. Hopefully, we will be playing a central part in transforming the sector. In ten years time I’d like to look back on the constructive role we have played in ensuring that patients have greater access to medical services.

What do you think the best part of working for a digital healthcare company is?

Being part of something that is a lot bigger than just one firm – we’re helping transform the UK healthcare system and putting patients at the centre.  I’ve always found working in the digital sector to be really inspiring – you’re surrounded by innovators and I thoroughly enjoy working in that sort of environment.


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


Pooja Malpani

Inspirational Woman: Pooja Malpani | Head of Engineering, Bloomberg Media

Pooja MalpaniPooja Malpani is the Head of Engineering for Bloomberg Media. She leads the engineering team responsible for consumer media, marketing and data visualization.

This includes supporting Bloomberg.com, consumer mobile applications, smart television apps, other connected devices, as well as the systems that deliver market-moving news, data, audio and video to consumers and syndication partners. Her group also manages Bloomberg's marketing web sites, as well as various Bloomberg Philanthropies sites.

Prior to Bloomberg, Pooja was at HBO Digital Products, where she led the Purchase and Identity engineering teams for HBO Go and HBO Now. Her group was responsible for Subscription Management, including Auth, Direct Commerce and Partner Commerce across web, mobile and connected devices. Her group managed HBO’s streaming user services, including scaling for high traffic shows like 'Game of Thrones'.

Prior to joining HBO, Pooja spent 9 years at Microsoft, leading the engineering efforts on a variety of features for Skype for Business and Skype for consumers.

Pooja is an ambassador for women in technology and is actively involved in engineering initiatives related to diversity.

Pooja graduated from Indiana University with a Masters in Computer Science.

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

I have worked in technology for around 17 years, starting my career at a consulting firm, before moving on to product companies including Microsoft, where I primarily dealt with communications and streaming across products like Microsoft Office & Skype. I then moved on to the television network HBO, working on its subscription management platform - preparing it for high-traffic shows like “Game of Thrones” where the digital services got millions of concurrent hits.

About two years ago, I moved to Bloomberg to lead Engineering for its Media division. In my current role, I lead an amazing set of teams that are responsible for web and native mobile applications and supporting systems that deliver market-moving news, data, audio and video to our consumer audience, as well as syndication partners. My group also manages Bloomberg's marketing web sites as well as various Bloomberg Philanthropies sites.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes and no. I didn’t sit down at the start and plan out my career; there was no single trigger for me deciding on a particular course. In reality, it’s been a series of decisions and learnings about myself that have helped guide me from role to role.

Very early on, I’d deliberately pick roles and areas that I didn’t know much about, but knew they would expose me to a variety of new skills. It really taught me to feel like I could be left in any muddy pool and clear the water -- quickly building a reputation for leaving things significantly better than I found them.

Some larger decisions were more deliberate, I knew I wanted to feel a sense of ownership for my work, so I left consultancy to work in a product company. I also knew I really responded well to working in the same location as my manager, so I started to prioritise roles and teams where that was the case, as well as organisations that shared my own values. Naturally, this is changing nowadays since more people are working remotely and there’s more assurance of equal experience regardless of location. This is particularly true in the software engineering world, where the remote work scene is pretty fantastic.

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

We all face challenges in our careers. I have worked and built a great support system full of different perspectives throughout the formative years of my career.

Usually I’ve found solutions in tackling technical problems head on or by having hard 1:1s with leadership. Typically, I made sure I was talking to the right people at the right time. One time, I even made the decision to leave a team because our values and goals weren’t aligned and knew I would never feel empowered or satisfied in the role.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Helping other technologists succeed. I take huge pride in being a mentor and playing a part in other people’s successes. I’ll always continue to do this, as I find it incredibly humbling and rewarding.

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

I don’t think I can pick one thing, but here are three things I do: display enthusiasm, excellence, and empathy. Enthusiasm is hugely important to me. It helps drive passion into the day-to-day. Excellence is about making sure I’m giving my all to whatever I’m doing, no matter how small. Whether that means adding technical leadership or management excellence - it all plays a part. The third is empathy. It’s so important to be open-minded and empathetic towards customers, stakeholders, teammates, and even someone who is breathing fire down my neck to get something done.

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

Technology is so pervasive today. There are so many opportunities within the field that you can afford to be picky. Find an area of the technology world you feel strongly about, and your passion will guide you. Whether it’s electric vehicles, health tech, hospitality, media, space exploration, or insurance systems, there will always be something in an area that you’re interested in.

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

It’s a sad reality that barriers do exist for women in technology. I hope in my lifetime that these will fade away. When scanning a random meeting of engineers, the odds are that there are fewer women than men. This only gets more extreme as you go up the leadership chain. I find hope in the growing awareness around this issue and the fact that many companies are finally putting diversity, inclusion and an intersectional view on gender equality/equity front and centre in their business plans.

My advice to everyone is to acknowledge and challenge barriers to create an open, more inclusive workplace culture. Investing in programmes like connecting underrepresented groups with mentors and finding new ways to share opportunities fairly across the business can really help to diminish barriers.

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

Companies can rethink the way talent acquisition and talent programmes look. Businesses need to stop hiding behind the excuse of not getting enough women in the pipeline. As Melinda Gates said during a keynote at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, “Let’s change the pipeline”. There shouldn’t be one single channel for women, or even people in general, into the workplace.

Bloomberg has returner programmes, where women who haven’t been working for a while are supported back into working life. We have programmes where people from non-software backgrounds are reskilled, even upskilled, to get a foot in the door. Businesses need to look at those who are already working, what opportunities are available to them to move up or across to where they truly want to be. And if you don’t have enough role models, finding business initiatives into how to get more is essential.

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?

In discussions on this over the years, one idea always stuck with me. What if all the managers, VPs and other leaders across the business had performance-related goals tied back to which diverse talent they are training to take their place before they get promoted? This would breed a culture where role models and mentorship is baked into the KPIs of seniority.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Today there are so many voices out there. Podcasts, blogs and books are helpful, but it’s important not to get overwhelmed. It is all about picking and choosing what works for you and what is applicable to your own passion and unique circumstances.

Anything else?

For women and people from any underrepresented group thinking about getting into STEM, who are debating whether to pursue a career or not, do not be deterred by some of the barriers to entry. Take any issue in society and technology is usually there in some way trying to bridge the gap. It is bringing people together and making the world smaller. When taking a step into technology it can also open up possibilities to friends and younger siblings to see an open pathway. Rest assured that there will always be female technologists who will be very happy to advocate for women, wherever they find themselves in the industry.


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


Emma Horsfall

Inspirational Woman: Emma Horsfall | Digital Eagle, Barclays

Emma Horsfall

I’m Emma Horsfall, I’ve been working for Barclays for 14 years. My career at the bank began with me as an admin assistant, but I soon moved to work within the branch network and now working as part of the Digital Eagle team.

While working in the branch I signed up to become a Digital Eagle. This gave me the opportunity to help people – which is something I’ve always felt really passionate about. I specialised in teaching digital skills to people with disabilities and people who were unemployed and struggling to find work. To help them, I created work experience programmes, which helped to change the way employers look at employing people with disabilities. The programme was a huge success and remains one of my career highlights – seeing a group of people who are autistic or have Down syndrome thriving while working the line in a busy fine dining restaurant made me feel so proud.

Working in a branch, you get to meet lots of different people. I had a customer who came in weekly who is deaf. It felt rude talking to him via scraps of paper, so I took the plunge and signed up to learn British Sign Language (BSL) at night school, where I studied for two years. Word soon spread throughout the deaf community, and more and more deaf people came to our branch for support.

It was this work that caught the attention of the Digital Eagle team, and I was offered a training and development role within the team. My job is to teach a group of our Digital Eagles, based around the country, BSL and to create a learning module to help more colleagues learn the basics. The work I’m doing allows Digital Eagles, all over the country and in different roles, to better support our deaf customers and to help the deaf community boost their digital skills.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve never sat down and planned out my career. I got married and had children when I was very young, and although I wouldn’t change that, it put my ideas of going to university on hold. I’ve always had a passion to help and support people as much as I can, particularly those groups that tend to be forgotten or left by the wayside. Having a disability myself, I know how that feels – so that’s definitely propelled by career direction and the decisions I’ve made throughout my career.

Once my children hit their teens – my eldest is 21 now – I felt more able to concentrate on my own career and think about the work that was important to me. It was at this point that I started getting involved in more things at Barclays – like becoming a Digital Eagle. I also chair the Reach medical and physical focus group – which I’m incredibly proud to be part of.

 I’d still love to study and get a degree – but I can’t decide what to study.

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

There have of course been challenges along the way. No one’s life or career is completely plain sailing, but I feel it’s our attitude towards challenges that helps to shape us and the direction our career takes.

When my eldest daughter was 15 she was diagnosed with a blood condition. Later she chose a career as a pastry chef – which she loved. As a result of her condition she developed an issue with her wrists and after several corrective surgeries she needed to change the career she’d chosen. She was devastated and struggled terribly. On two occasions, she tried to take her own life. It was an incredibly difficult time for us all and part of my passion for helping people with disabilities comes from my determination to show her that living with a disability doesn’t need to hold you back in life.

I’ve had career challenges of my own. The perception that you must have a qualification to be successful has hindered job applications for me, often not even progressing to interview. But that teams loss is another teams gain and I won’t let their preconceived ideas of what success should look like affect my believe in my own ability.

When I was diagnosed with cancer my sickness record at work took a subsequent, inevitable hit. I wanted to continue to work as much as I could but that meant many short periods of absence on my work records. I felt it was important for me to continue to work, to show people in similar situations how hard work and determination could help them, and to make sure I was there to support them through difficult situations. I was often told that my illness would prevent me from progressing in my career, and that I’d be held back to have a least a full year without surgeries or time off before being allowed to apply or new roles. I’ve never let anything hold me back and continued to move forward with the same drive and determination I’ve always had.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m in the very privileged position of struggling to choose my biggest career achievement.

I suppose there’s a mixture of three things. As a Digital Eagle, one of the key programmes we work on is Code Playground, which helps children – predominantly in key stage 2 – learn the basics of coding. I put together a team of people to help me create a coding device that allows blind or partially sighted children to learn how to code just like their classmates. Learning to code is a huge part of future proofing children’s futures and I didn’t want anyone to be left behind. Creating the Megabit won me the top Women in Tech award in 2018, something I’m hugely proud of.

I’ve also worked as part of the transgender taskforce, helping to change the way that we identify and behave towards LGBTQ+ customers and colleagues. That work earned our team a diversity award in 2018. In that same year, I also won an award for my work as a business impact champion.

I’ve also had the pleasure of representing Barclays as part of a panel discussion at the Houses of Parliament on International Day of the Disabled Person to talk about my experiences, which was massive highlight.

Finally – I know this is technically the fourth thing - joining the Digital Eagle team became a coveted role for me, so being asked to be part of it is up there with my biggest achievements.

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

I put my success down to my determination to show my daughter that life can be amazing with or without a disability and that having a disability doesn’t mean being stuck behind a desk or sat at home. She’s now working, studying for a degree and happily engaged to a lovely man. She’s even started giving talks to parents whose children have also tried to commit suicide.

Knowing that the work I’ve done has inspired her to help people too has been a huge force continuing to drive me forward. The work I do has a clear and tangible benefit to people, from building digital skills and teaching BSL, you can see the difference it makes almost instantly, that’s incredibly rewarding.

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

My biggest tip for success is to never stop learning and never stop believing in yourself. Set your sights on what you want to achieve and just go for it. If you don’t know how, learn how. Pick up a book, go to ngiht school, search the internet, find the answer. We all begin knowing nothing. There’s no such thing as can’t. if you want to do something, you can find a way to do it.

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 will always be barriers to success for lots of people, but do you know what? You just have to prove people wrong. If you really want to do something, then put your mind to it and do it. Be the person who puts themselves forward and gets involved. It’s never crossed my mind that I shouldn’t do something because I’m a woman. And I would never let my gender dictate what I can and can’t achieve, because I don’t let my gender dictate what I’m capable of, I’ve noticed others don’t either.

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

I’ve been lucky to work with brilliant innovators, role models and leaders during my time with Barclays. Some have been men and some have been women, and I’ve learned something from them all. I do think Barclays stands out as a leader in its field when it comes to equality in general. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some truly inspirational female leaders in my time here who are paving the way for other women coming up the ranks.

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

If I had a magic wand, I’d give every woman the confidence to know that their gender can’t hold them back. I’d let them know – and make the believe – that there is a role for them in the tech industry. I think it’s that belief that’s holding us back, and so believing in yourself is the only way to accelerate the pace of change in the industry.  I think our ability to believe is affected by our experiences in life. I’ve never lived a life with stereotypical gender roles – when our children were little, my husband stayed home and I went to work – so it is easier for me to push through those barriers. But, belief is the key. Whatever your experience, keep going and know that you are strong amazing, powerful and capable humans and can do anything you set your mind to. Don’t look back, only look forward to what you’re going to achieve.


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