Paula Tinkler featured

Inspirational Woman: Paula Tinkler | Commercial Director, Chemoxy International

 

Paula TinklerPaula Tinkler is Commercial Director at bespoke chemical manufacturers, Chemoxy International.

Based in the North East of England, Chemoxy is looking to create more jobs, has plans for further expansion and is seeking acquisition opportunities to add value to its core services. Paula is working hard to help Chemoxy achieve these goals, and was appointed Commercial Director in 2015.

Before joining Chemoxy, Paula was an Electrical Engineer and expert in Process Control. She held key positions in a number of other leading companies such as Lucite and Mitsubishi.

Originally from Northern Ireland, Paula gained an MEgn in Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

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

I am currently Commercial Director at Chemoxy International in Teesside. Originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, I moved to the North East of England after graduating from Queens University where I studied Electrical Engineering. I have one daughter and together we share a passion for horse riding.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never – I took every opportunity I was offered and never worried about what would come next. The role I am in now is the first one I have ever sought and this time I asked the CEO directly for a job because I found the company so inspiring.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

There have been some tough challenges along the way but I have always had a strong network of colleagues who can offer advice and listen as I think my way through the obstacles.

How have you thrived in a male-dominated industry?

The small percentage of women operating in the European Chemical Industry stand out, particularly at conferences and sales exhibitions so that can be an advantage. In reality if you grew up liking maths and physics in the 1980’s you were always in a male dominated environment so my generation in STEM careers know no difference. In ICI, where I started, female engineers were strongly supported and encouraged so I feel I have been very lucky.

Do you have a typical workday? How does you start your day and how does it end?

I start at 0830 and work until probably 6pm. The day starts with a chat with the CEO about what is exciting and what our next big challenge is. The day finishes when I have wrapped something up – I can’t go home in the middle of something it drives me mad. Chemoxy support flexible working so if I get frustrated or lose inspiration I take a longer lunch hour and head to the gym.

Tell us a little bit about your roles and how they came about?

I started as an engineer which I loved and I travelled the world in this role, even spending 14 months in Taiwan and making a desperately sad attempt to learn Mandarin Chinese.

However, I quickly caught the bug for commercial and moved first into a sales role and then business management. Prior to joining Chemoxy as Commercial Director I was Global Procurement Director in Lucite and was lucky enough to travel to China, Japan, Singapre, Taiwan and the USA .

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I had a fabulous mentor when I joined ICI and he helped me navigate my first few years in work and helped me complete my Chartered Engineering qualification. I currently manage a team of ten staff and mentoring skills are critical to help people development.

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

I have been very lucky with all of my jobs and the teams I have worked in and so I couldn’t point to any one change I would have liked. However, when I had my daughter I was very glad of a long maternity leave and a part time return to work. My employer was fantastic and I would wish that for all young women.

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

I think exposure to STEM projects and challenges up to Year 9 are critical. In addition I think getting young women into the workplace to see what the environment is really like is helpful. When I was 17 I joined a Women Into Science and Engineering event which included a tour of a shipyard, a telecom factory and walk around the local uni – I fell in love with it straight away.

How do you juggle your career and your personal life?

Just like everyone else.

I was once told you cannot balance modern careers with a personal life the best you can do is manage your energy – I think if you find an inspiring job which you thrive on managing the energy required for both parts of your life is much easier.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I am still really proud of taking a secondment in Taiwan when I was 25, but my move to Chemoxy International after 24 years with my previous employer is very significant to me. I took the step of moving from purchasing back into sales & marketing and from a large company to an SME – I am proud to have made such a good decision.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to be part of Chemoxy International’s success. We have a super team here and truly invest in people through professional development and programs like Better Health at Work. If through growth we can create new jobs that would be a huge achievement I could be proud of.

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Amanda Johnson

Inspirational Woman: Amanda Johnson | Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer and Mentor

 

Amanda Johnson is a Virtual Assistant (VA) Coach, Trainer and Mentor.

Amanda Inspirational

She works with new and aspiring VAs and experienced VAs to help them build their businesses. Immediately prior to this, she was an award winning VA having launched that business after 23 years’ military service, where she had been a Logistics Officer. Married to Andrew, who runs his own business and mum to James (age seven) and Jacob (age three).

 Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career was planned out in as much in that I retired from the Royal Navy after 23 years of service and decided to set up my own VA business. Being typical military, I did lots of research and then trained with the Virtual Assistant Coaching and Training Company on their VA Mastery Course, within 18 months, implementing those same skills and beliefs enabled me to become Runner Up in the VA of the Year Awards 2014 – Southern Region.

At the end of 2014, I became a VA Coach, Mentor and Trainer and the proud owner of the very same company I trained with, at the start of my VA career. For me this was a natural progression and linking back to my military days.

My time in the military equipped me with the organisational skills, determination and discipline to live life to its fullest potential – and nowadays I believe I inspire the VAs I train to have those same beliefs and standards to

So did I plan it – well yes, but the timings were probably out by about two to three years!

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

Coming from a military background and not a corporate background, there was a huge business learning curve, ex-military are often “in-service” people, you give them a problem to sort and they go out there and sort it, which is great when you are in “do’er” mode in your business but not when you are being the CEO. I have a degree in business management but its nothing like working with a real business. However, I have worked with some amazing clients in my VA business, learning from them as I have gone on – at the same time as investing in my own professional development – working with a Business Mentor / Coach and Mastermind Group where necessary.

Learning social media was also a massive thing for me – in 2012 I was adamant that I wasn’t going to do it – three months into being a Business Owner, I found I loved it and not only that – it was critical to the success of my business. Here I am five years later and would not be without it (although I try to have digital detox times!)

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Leadership is always an interesting debate, especially when you approach it like I do with a background of 23 years military service. But for me, its worth remembering “It’s not about you” – it’s all about the people you manage and lead!

How do you manage your own boss?

As a Virtual Assistant, I worked with multiple clients and multiple needs and really it’s a juggling act but that’s why I loved what I did – no two days were ever the same. Now as a Virtual Assistant Coach, Trainer and Mentor – I work with individuals who are looking to leave working for someone else and set up their own businesses or take their businesses to the next level. Which is very rewarding.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

In addition to running my own company, I am also a wife and mum to two children – so although I am one of those naughty people who checks her emails and social media before I get out of bed in the morning, my morning routine is taken up with getting two children, showered, dressed, fed, watered and at school by 08:20! Once all that is done, then I can walk into the office and be prepared for the day

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Be you, be natural and be awesome. It’s about getting noticed for the right reasons by the right people.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I am constantly learning, developing and growing.  I have two business coaches/mentors for different strands of my business and I am also part of a Mastermind group of successful Business Owners. This support has been critical to helping me grow my business – being able to discuss issues and decisions with people who are not part of the day to day running of my business and who hold no emotional attachment to is – has been so powerful.

It is important to know you are trying to achieve with it.

My own business is now built upon offering these core services,

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker.

I don’t think I can do just three top tips – sorry. These would be my top seven tips:

  1. Build relationships – don’t go networking to sell to people, go to make connections and build relationships.
  2. Remember it takes time to get to “know, like and trust you”
  3. Ask questions!
  4. Listen don’t just hear what people are telling you!
  5. Be authentic and be awesome!
  6. Have a strategy, know why you are networking and what you are looking for it to achieve for you. That can be as simple as build relationships, but if you don’t know why you are doing it and don’t have a desired outcome then you are just going for lunch or a drink! It has to be part of your overall plan.
  7. Follow up and connect with people on social media.

With the Virtual Assistants I work with, I recommend they become a networking tart for the first 90 days of their networking experience. There are a lot of serial networkers out there, and you want them to get to “know, like and trust” you and for them to get familiar at seeing you – so that they get comfortable introducing you to other people in their network. Be that person they think of, when someone says “Do you know a…..?”

What does the future hold for you?

Creating exceptional VAs and helping to generally raise standards in the VA industry is a passion of mine and that will be where I continue to focus my efforts.

In March 2017, I was voted Best VA Training Provider 2016 in the UK in the PA_Assist Members Voice Awards which was a huge accolade for me – what has been even better is to see the people I work with go on and win industry and business awards for themselves, which to me demonstrates the value I can add to working with them. So the future, is all about continuing to do what I already do helping more take that brave leap into self employment, or helping others to build their businesses further.

One thing, I am working on and very passionate about is training military veterans and military spouses – military personnel have a fantastic transferable skillset and that’s something that a lot of small business owners are seeking out. People also forget that we often ask our military spouses to give up their careers to support their service partner – what I want to be able to do is give our service spouses the opportunity to have a portable career that allows them to feel valued, financially independent but to have a career that they love.

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Denise Hudson Lawson

Inspirational Woman: Denise Hudson Lawson | Advanced Solutions Architect at Pluralsight

 

Denise Hudson Lawson is an advanced solutions architect at Pluralsight. Here she shares her career journey with WeAreTheCity.

Denise

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

I help enterprises develop talent and acquire the digital, technology and cyber security skills they need to drive their businesses forward. Before this, I was the Head of Online Services at the Houses of Parliament where I headed up a new parliamentary service to develop and deliver a portfolio of online services to over 7,000 government staff.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve always had a deep interest in tech but I never really had a career path in mind. At school, girls weren’t typically encouraged to study computers which meant I navigated my own way. Independent learning, self-belief, and building a network of mentors, peers and champions has been key to my career development.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Being a woman in tech often comes with its challenges. Back in the 80s if you applied for a role or a promotion, marriage and children would often be brought to the table. I’ve been at board meetings before where male colleagues would be discussing a technical topic like networks and infrastructure. People would assume I’d have no idea what they were talking about and they’d try to explain the concept to me.

It felt great to return with the proper definition and this gave me the nickname ‘The Don’t Assume Woman.’

To combat situations like this, it’s always important to have integrity and faith in your own ability. My tips for women struggling with diversity at work is to find an employer with a strict diversity policy and remember it’s fine to be feminine in the workplace, but remember, you don’t have to hide behind it either.

Do you have a typical workday? How does you start your day and how does it end?

At Pluralsight, I work from home but getting up and having a coffee is as typical as it gets. On a weekly basis, I can be visiting clients and prospects across multiple European cities or speaking at a leading technology or cyber security event. One thing I always try and stick to is having my lunch at 1pm and fitting in at least half an hour a day for independent learning.

Tell us a little bit about your roles and how they came about?

I heard about the role at Parliament through a friend. Similarly, with Pluralsight I knew my current boss from networking events at the Learning and Performance Institute where we’d catch up at conferences or over the occasional glass of wine. It’s important to keep in touch with interesting people you meet throughout your career as you never know what opportunities this might bring in the future.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I absolutely love it. People often confuse mentoring with coaching and I’m a fan of both. Mentoring is all about using your experience and knowledge to help an individual achieve their potential. As a mentor, you can guide them, help them avoid pitfalls and offer your expertise. Coaching is more subtle, it’s about signposting and helping them find the answers themselves.

I’ve been a mentor throughout my career and during my time at Parliament I mentored around 20 people over six month periods.

I’ve also mentored outside of work, one lady I mentored felt put down and lacked general confidence. Since then, she achieved a promotion and even received a national award. It’s very rewarding and it’s important for women to pass on their knowledge and help each other.

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

For women to start believing in themselves and to stop saying ‘I can’t’. If a woman wants to apply for a job, she’ll see 10% of the role that’s outside of her skill set and this can stop her in her tracks. In most cases, a man would still apply.

For promoting diversity at work, government departments have it nailed. Individuals are celebrated, there are communities of practice, awareness weeks and diversity groups put in place. Whereas in the private sector, this can often be overlooked. The workplace is slowly starting to change and some of the big banks like JP Morgan and Credit Suisse are doing a great job as are organisations like PwC and Shell. The technology industry is also changing, we see more women in the press, females on boards and stars from the dot-com era are Ladies in the House of Lords.

How would you encourage young girls into STEM careers?

We need to break down what STEM actually means and have role models in each of those sectors. For a while now, STEM outreach mainly focused on coding but there’s so much more you can do with STEM. Some girls are put off by coding, so it might be better to ask the question: Do you like drawing? Why not try out graphic or game design? STEM isn’t just about maths, building an engine or code.

For girls to understand what’s out there, companies should hold more open days and promote great initiatives like ‘Take your daughter to work’ day.

We’re making STEM more accessible but more can be done to showcase the different STEM career paths that are out there for young women.

How do you juggle your career and your personal life?

Planning and working for an understanding organisation. If you need to drop out for a moment and do something important, you should be able to. It’s essential to have the support and trust of your workplace and colleagues. As a rule, I also try to be offline by 7:30, unless an international call or something pressing crops up.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Surviving in this industry! Every time I take on a new role, I look at it as an achievement. Highlights include heading up my own department in the Houses of Parliament and winning CLO of the year twice.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

To carry on working, to be happy and healthy. I want to continue to help other people every day in what they do, be a good role model and give back to society. I’d love to continue talking at events, and to see the smile on people’s faces when I help them achieve their learning needs.


Jane Whitgift featured

Inspirational Woman: Jane Whitgift | Founder of Whitgift Security

 

A qualified information security professional and engineer, Jane Whitgift started Whitgift Security three years ago and works with SMEs to protect their businesses online.

Jane Whitgift

Previously, she worked at BP for over 20 years in a range of IT roles before becoming Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for pieces of the global business in 2005.

Based in London, Jane is actively involved in mentoring and encouraging women in STEM professions with a range of organisations including ISACA and the British Computing Society (BCS).

Before moving into IT, Jane qualified as an engineer at the University of Sheffield.

Tell us a little bit about your roles and how they came about?

I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands and as a child my parents referred to me as the ‘little engineer’. I went on to study engineering at university and from there got a job as an engineer at a time when they were moving to computerisation. I was interested in the interface between engineering and IT, going on to study this as part of a computing degree. After joining BP in an IT role I moved into security and never looked back.

Have you noticed a gender imbalance in the IT industry?

On my engineering course I was one of the three women on a course of 30 students. The numbers weren’t much better when I moved across to IT.

ISACA recently published some research on women in technology and I thought one of the most frightening statistics was that the proportion of computer science degrees awarded to women today is roughly half that of the proportion awarded in 1984.

I had always hoped that the numbers of women coming in as graduates was getting better but I learned that in big global organisations the number of women coming into IT departments is still low.

What is your experience of mentoring? How useful is it?

During my time at BP there were a couple of powerful ladies who were extremely supportive and encouraging. I started mentoring myself in my early 30s as a facilitator on a ‘springboard’ initiative for women in business support, encouraging secretaries to look at where else their careers could go.

Since then I’ve been an active mentor – from taking part in graduate recruitment panels to mentoring my children’s school friends. Some of them are starting to work at big corporates and have been looking for insight into networking and increasing their visibility.

I’ve also been involved in more formal mentoring programmes for women at ISACA and now BCS. Having networks like this is so important – not only for support but for career opportunities outside of your organisation. Many posts are filled before they’ve even been advertised due to these networks and the connections people have.

How do you juggle your career and your personal life?

One of the biggest challenges of my career was having two children. They were only at school from 9 to 3.30 for 34 weeks of the year, so what do you do for the rest of it? By the time they were 8 and 10 we had au pairs and nannies but it was often a tense relationship.

I decided to go part time and had a very understanding employer. I did that for ten years whilst taking on three roles at work – change management, site security coordination and business continuity. It kept me sensibly busy!

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I reached the top of my field, sitting in the BP management team for ten years. Since starting my own business, I’m really pleased that I’ve so far managed to get three organisations through the government-backed Cyber Essentials scheme and helped to make their security much more resilient.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’m now building a portfolio career, volunteering and working with professional organisations. As part of this, I’d really like to encourage more women into STEM careers.

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Claudia Dreier-Poepperl

Inspirational Woman: Claudia Dreier-Poepperl | CEO and Founder of Calldorado 

 

Claudia Dreier-Poepperl founded Calldorado in April 2016 to solve the number one problem for Android app developers around the world - how to make money from apps with low user activity. 

Prior to founding Calldorado, Claudia worked with a wide range companies including T-Mobile and Mobile Entertainment Forum.

She also founded adaffix, a caller ID solution for mobile network operators, in 2008. She is a veteran of the mobile industry and would be able to share from her experience of working in and starting a business in the highly competitive mobile industry.

What inspired you to start a business?

I saw a business opportunity and the time was right. A combination of my years of experience in the mobile space and the ongoing growth of the app industry created something of a perfect storm. I had to seize the moment.

There was also the desire to run my own company and be in charge of my own agenda. There’s nothing better than knowing that you are the master of your own fate.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

You get to create a business from the ground up – build the product, find the right team, launch it, get customers and everything else. There is something very satisfying about that. Especially when it all goes very well and you get to see people actually using a product that was once just your imagination.

Leadership can be a lonely position as the buck always stops with you.

In many cases, you are solely responsible for the success or failure of your company. That can be challenging sometimes but the joys of watching your dream come to fruition more than makes up for that.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

Dream big. Have clear milestones and map out every step. Success and failure are often very close so don’t let the bad times get you down.

See anything that looks like failure as an opportunity to do it better next time.

Create a winning mentality across your business and make sure you celebrate when you reach your goals. However, don’t rest on your laurels. Always push yourself and your team to be better than what you are.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

Finding the right people can be tricky. First of all, you want to find the right co-founders. It took me some time to find them but they were the right choice. Mathias Schroeder and John Lisek are the best partners I could imagine and we’ve built three amazing businesses (adaffix, appsbuyout, Calldorado) together.

Secondly, when the business is growing very quickly you want to keep the culture and the vibe. But that becomes increasingly difficult as the team grows. We have grown to 53 people within the first year in Calldorado and that has not been without its challenges. I am very happy with the team we have today.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

I never had a mentor.  It’s been a case of learning and gathering experience through my career to a point where I felt confident enough to go out on my own.

Mentors can be important and very useful but sometimes there is no substitute for experience.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Networking is everything. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people that you wouldn’t necessarily meet as part of your daily routine and it presents you with opportunities that you might otherwise not have.

Who you know is important in business and networking gives you the opportunity to meet many potentially useful people.

They might not necessarily be relevant instantly. But you never know who will be relevant to your business in the future.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

You need to know your market, the other players and what position your company realistically takes. Without this knowledge, it would be near impossible to know how to scale your business.

As the old saying goes, failing to plan is planning to fail. Planning is essential and must be according to the resources you have available. If you are operating on limited resources, conservative planning is essential to make sure you are not over-stretching yourself.

Measurement is also important. You have to live by the numbers. It helps keep your feet on the ground and avoid living in a non-existent financial reality.

Finally, make sure you are good at raising money or making money. Or both.

What does the future hold for you?

We hope to win more awards like the 2017 Red Herring Top 100 Europe Award which highlighted Calldorado as one of the most promising businesses in Europe.

As one of the fastest growing ad-tech companies we have built a business with substance and longevity, and we hope that the time, effort and energy that has gone into what we have today will bring even greater results in the future.


Lynne Collier featured

Inspirational Woman: Lynn Collier | Chief Operating Officer UKI at Hitachi

 

Lynn Collier is the Chief Operating Officer UKI at Hitachi. Here she shares her career journey with WeAreTheCity.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the beginning, honestly no, but I believe it’s like anything in life, if you have a view on where you’re going you’re more likely to reach your destination. The key is not just having a plan, but working towards it, seizing opportunities as they come up and also being flexible.

Over the years, it’s fair to say that I’ve taken some sideways moves in terms of job opportunities, but that has given me a breadth of experience that has become particularly useful in recent years as I’ve taken on more senior positions. It’s good to have a plan, but it’s also good to adjust it as you move forward and different opportunities present themselves.

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

Like most people I’ve faced challenges and frustrations along the way, and one thing I’ve learnt is that self-awareness is absolutely imperative to dealing with them. Knowing why you’ve found yourself in that challenging position will go a long way to helping you find your way forward. If you make it a habit to appreciate and listen to feedback, then what you choose to do after that is entirely up to you, but at least you have a picture of why things are the way they are. It is also key to tap into your network and build a community of people that you can interact with when challenges arise.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

The first thing is to recognise that, while a leadership role can be very daunting, once you get into it you discover just how exciting and rewarding it can be. To get there, you just need to be confident in your own abilities and your perspective on the business, and be clear about the value you bring to the role.

It’s also really important to avoid trying to be someone that you’re not, and be authentic in your style.

Don’t be afraid to seek input from your peers, management or mentor if you have challenges or concerns – because that’s what they’re there for.

No one has all the right answers, but consulting your trusted network and sounding people out will help you to get the input and feedback you need to make the right decisions.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

As well as the explicit skills and experience to fulfill the role, I always investigate other attributes such as attitude and whether someone is a good cultural fit for the team – which I believe are equally as important. Just because someone looks right on paper or has the right credentials, doesn’t mean they are going to fit in with the team culture or have the drive and enthusiasm to make the job a success. In an interview situation, the passion and drive that people demonstrate is key.

How do you manage your own boss?

I can answer this very simply: it all comes down to open and regular communication.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

The one thing I like about the role that I have today is that it is varied. No two days are the same, but typically I am an early riser. I always arrive in the office early and check emails, read documents or prepare presentations. Once the day begins in earnest, it usually involves meeting colleagues or external contacts, running through a sales engagement, facilitating a workshop or even presenting industry forums. At the end of the day I try to schedule some time to ensure I’m following up on my agreed actions and preparing for activities for the rest of the week.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

When I emigrated to Australia, I was given great advice from a relocation consultant I worked with, which was to “always be a joiner”. What she meant by that was to be visible and be engaged, because – particularly as women – we need to overcome unconscious bias and manage our personal profiles.

You need to ensure it’s not just your immediate team or your manager who know who you are and what you stand for, but that the wider community know as well.

Don’t be afraid to showcase your successes, because no one else will do it for you.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have benefitted from both coaching and more formal mentoring in the past. It’s about continuing to seek input and opinions from those whose values you share, and from role models for certain skill sets and behaviour. I think increasingly in business, with adaptive change being the key for so many companies, there are a lot of people with whom you can engage informally and I continue to do that too. It’s also important to give back. I do a lot of coaching and I am a mentor for people both within Hitachi and outside.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Whatever you do, wherever you are in business and in your personal life, networking is crucial. It is an activity that requires care and attention. You need to be proactive and engaged through social media in various community and special interest groups; attend industry briefings and relevant events; and keep connected face-to-face.

As the saying goes: “Make new friends but keep the old, for one is silver the other gold”.”

What does the future hold for you?

I’d like to think it’s full of amazing opportunities and I believe it is. It holds the opportunity to work in a changing and dynamic organisation like Hitachi, be part of social innovation projects and look at how we can harness the art of the possible to help students in school to take advantage of STEM subjects and develop their careers. I think most of all, it’s about breaking free from preconceived ideas about how business is done, the impact technology can have in society and the role women can play in the world; it’s about being able to embrace new challenges with innovation and exciting solutions.

 


Inspirational Woman: Claire Mitchell | Software developer and computer programmer

 

Claire Mitchell is a software developer and computer programmer for a range of clients.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company
Software

I’m a developer creating software for a range of clients in a fun, central London office environment. Since I started coding two years ago I’ve become very involved in startups, which has fueled my passion for the industry. I love putting new products together and have found that working in technology has brought out my creativity. It’s great to be part of a community of people who love doing the same thing.

Outside of my day job, I am also involved in several initiatives including Node Girls, a series of workshops which teach women how to do back-end coding, with events taking place regularly across London. I’m also working on a fashion start-up project called Mode For Me which is a crowdfunding platform for emerging fashion designers.

We realised that people graduate from fashion courses all the time and don’t have the money to produce full collections, so the idea is that they can post products on the website and then third parties can offer funding against collections they like. It’s a great way to offer opportunities to new designers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve had an interest in computers for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t really something I thought I would do for a living until about two years ago.

I had originally planned to be a civil engineer following university, but after moving to London I found the startup community full of people who loved their jobs, with many of them working as developers.

I knew I wanted to work in startups so it sounded really appealing to me, but the only jobs going were for developers or people in marketing. I started learning to code on my own using various online resources, and was accepted onto Founders & Coders, a free coding boot-camp in London, and that launched me into my career..

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

I loved studying science and maths when I was at school, but they were definitely male dominated subjects. There were maybe 30 girls on my degree course in a year of around 170 students. But I never let that put me off. I’ve been lucky enough to combine that passion with the science skills I learnt through my degree in engineering. It’s led me to where I am now, working with really exciting startups to bring new digital products to life and I find myself being inspired every single day by what I’m creating.

The challenges I faced have also meant I’m now committed to encouraging girls to continue studying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) subjects at school, and not be discouraged by thinking science isn’t for girls. There are so many interesting and fulfilling careers they can pursue with a STEM background, including software development like me, which will be the most in-demand in 2023. That’s why I am a role model for EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious programme, to show girls in an engaging way what a career in STEM could be like for them.

I would love for the tech industry to be as diverse as the UK population and for it to become more accessible for minority groups.

Free coding education is something very close to my heart, so it would be great to see more teaching initiatives and tech meetups being organised across the UK.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I always start the day with a coffee at my desk and I have a ‘stand up’ with the rest of my team at about 10am, where we discuss what we achieved the previous day and what we’re planning to tackle over the course of the day. I work for most of the day at my computer, coding. My job mostly involves breaking down big problems into smaller, easy to solve issues and then solving them with code. In web development, there’s a good mix of different skills required, from design and styling, through to creating and applying logical solutions to problems, so there’s always something varied to do.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Some advice that was given to me was ‘always continue learning.’ As a developer, it’s a particularly relevant piece of advice because everything moves at such a fast pace. If you’re not learning, you’ll be left behind. I use this as a measure for myself – if I’m still learning then I know I’m making progress.

What would be your top tips for women looking to pursue a career in tech?
  • Find a community that will help you. I would not be in this position if I was always trying to do things on my own. I made friends and found other like-minded people and we have since worked through problems together and encouraged each other along the way.
  • Keep learning. Set yourself a list of things that you want to know. It doesn’t matter how fast you tick the boxes, just take the steps (however big or small) to crossing them off your list.
  • Look online. There are ways of learning how to code without having to pay a fortune. There are many paid courses that are beneficial but if you are strapped for cash, there are plenty of free options too.
  • Give it a try! I have friends who studied languages at school and gave up maths as soon as they could, but now they’re excellent developers.
For girls who feel STEM subjects aren’t for them, what would your advice be?
  • Stick with them. Having STEM qualifications can help open doors to interesting and stimulating career opportunities in future and you can learn lots of transferrable skills, too.
  • Learn to code at school. Coding is a powerful skill in this increasingly digital world and will only become more important as we come to use more and more technology in our working and personal lives.
  • STEM is creative. You don’t need to work in the arts to enhance your artistic sensibilities – coding can be really creative too, and the same can be said for many STEM careers.
  • Think about the bigger picture. Look beyond the language and the syntax and think about the overall picture of what you can achieve with coding. The possibilities are almost endless.

 


Kashmir Cooper featured

Inspirational Woman: Kashmir Cooper | EMEA Channel Director, Elo

 

Kashmir is Elo’s EMEA channel director, reporting directly to Maarten Bais, general manager, EMEA.

Kashmir Cooper

In this position, Kashmir will be responsible for managing Elo’s distribution and driving the company’s strategy with pan-European partners.

With a track record in driving sales through channel and distribution, Kashmir will play a key role in aggressively pushing Elo revenue growth and building out a more enhanced channel partner programme.

Prior to joining the Elo team, Kashmir held the role of director of channel partners and strategic alliance at Displaydata. In that role she was responsible for leading and managing a team handling channel partners around the globe.

Kashmir holds a degree in Business and Finance from The University of Westminster.

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

I’m Channel Director for the EMEA region at Elo, a global leader in touch screen solutions and the inventors of the original touchscreen. In my role, I’m responsible for four pan European distributors that send out Elo’s wide range of digital signage and point of sale touchscreens.

My background is mostly in sales – when I was 16, my Dad passed away and my mother and I ran a market stall together just outside of London. It’s here that I learnt the basics of sales, inventory management, distribution and stock rotation. Before joining Elo I worked at Xerox, a company dedicated to finding new ways of working, for eight years.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – at university I studied business and finance and then went on to qualify as a financial advisor. I didn’t enjoy the job though, so decided I needed to change career. I knew I wanted to be a senior executive, since it’s always been a personal goal, and while I was at Xerox, I was lucky enough to be put forward for a senior leadership programme. Here, I got to learn about the different departments of the business and was fortunate enough to receive plenty of career advice.

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

I’ve found it can be hard to know what kind of jobs are available if they aren’t traditional sales roles, so there have been times where I’ve not had the job security I needed. For example, I once took on a distribution role (a maternity cover position) and even though the role was really complex, hard work and only temporary, it taught me the intricacies of distribution and I fell in love with the world of distribution.

Throughout my career there have been times where I’ve not felt challenged enough – mainly due to the fact that I’m a woman. Although women are in the minority within this space, this has only ever been a door opener for me. Women need to realise that technology is in fact, a very welcoming industry for them!

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

I honestly don’t have a typical working day! As Channel Director, you need to be capable of dealing with very little to no structure, as well as no beginning or end to the day. It can be very challenging but it means my day is always varied and interesting. Working with teams across various time zones means I have to be prepared to deal with issues that have been going on long before I’ve even woken up!

Tell us a little bit about your role and how did that come about?

I gained my role as Channel Director at Elo after being head hunted. I have a reputation within the industry and see myself as a brand…Some people might think this is odd, but it works. I look after our four pan European distributors by helping them with purchase advice, stock and inventory. It can be a balancing act from time to time when making sure I am fair and equitable towards all four, so trust and integrity are two important words for me.

There’s a heavily analytical side to my job, which involves looking at sales forecasts, projects, new products, end of life products and carrying out global inventory analysis. I also work closely with our product managers and our marketing department to ensure that productions on promotion have enough stock.

Have you ever had a mentor or a sponsor or anyone who has helped your career?

I’ve had several mentors or sponsors throughout my career, often thanks to seeking them out myself. Xerox was a sponsorship environment - you needed a mentor in order to succeed there. Russell Peacock, who was president of the global technology delivery group, took me under his wing and let me try out life in several different roles, which was really beneficial.

As my career has progressed, I too have enjoyed mentoring the next generation of talent and helping them to accelerate their careers – it’s really fulfilling and rewarding.

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

It would be great to raise awareness of the diverse variety of roles in technology for women – I don’t think there’s enough in place to highlight all the possibilities and when we think of a sector, we tend to think of the more traditional or obvious roles. My role is traditional, but not all career paths are so clear cut. The impact of digital has seen to that, along with new technologies. There are plenty of specialist jobs, such as ‘head of digital’, that simply wouldn’t have existed about five years ago.

How would you encourage more women into STEM/ the digital industry?

In my opinion, STEM roles lend themselves to women’s strengths as they’re constantly evolving and on trend. You need to be organised, methodical, flexible and able to problem solve. That’s why it’s so important to make women aware of what an exciting industry it can be. A good way to do this would be for technology companies to have open days, where they can show who they are and what roles they have on offer to the next generation of tech talent. By 2020, half of the work force in the US alone will be millennials, so we need to find more ways to attract them to any industry, especially those that fall around STEM, and with a particular focus on women.

On a personal level, I think it’s important for me to be a good role model and provide advice and guidance for women wanting to push their careers forward in a largely male world.

If you were to look back in five years, what would you see in terms of your achievements?

I’d hope that I’d helped to add value and had an impact on growing the Elo EMEA business, to the partners, as well as increased the success of our point of sale and touchscreen technology. I’d also like to see that I brought in a new generation distribution team to continue to carry out our role in the overall Elo team.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

I’d like to continue to be sponsored, develop my career, skills and experience in order to become a future leader. I’m only three steps away from CEO level at the moment, so I’m planning to step up my ambition and desire in order to eventually get to that point. I’m also open to Non Exec roles but saying that, I’m very comfortable in my role right now and I really enjoy it. It doesn’t feel like work when it’s something you love!


Tara Swart featured

Inspirational Woman: Tara Swart | Neuroscientist and CEO of The Unlimited Mind

 

Tara Swart is a medical doctor, neuroscientist, award winning author and the CEO of The Unlimited Mind.

Inspirational Woman- Tara Swart | Neuroscientist and CEO of The Unlimited MindShe also lectures at MIT Sloan in the USA and does a bit of advisory work for businesses in the wellbeing space. She travels a lot and always tries to take in some art, fashion and exotic cuisine as a reward for all the hard work!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career has actually evolved over time – I started out as a doctor for seven years before I moved into consultancy and set up my own company that offers high-level coaching, speeches and team development based on neuroscience. My day to day job now is so varied that I don’t think I could ever have accurately predicted it – as well as being a leadership coach I travel all over the world lecturing and speaking, and I am co-author of the book Neuroscience for Leadership: Harnessing the Brain Gain Advantage. I also undertake research and studies into areas which particularly interest me, for example I have recently launched a study into the mental resilience of journalists, whose job I consider to be particularly stressful in a similar way to perhaps, A&E doctors or soldiers.

What made you decide on a career in science? Have you ever faced any gender discrimination?

I have always been a scientist at heart and I studied science and medicine at both Kings College London and Oxford University. I wish I had known 20 years ago what I now know about the way our brains work, and my ambition and passion is to help as many people as possible learn how they can train their brains, and adapt their habits to maximise their potential.

In terms of my gender, I am very sure of what I stand for and I enjoy maintaining my femininity in all aspects of my life, but attending a school with 60 girls and 600 boys at the age of 16 probably helped me to cope with the male-dominated environment that the worlds of science and business can sometimes be!

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

Starting my own business certainly had it’s challenges, as is often the case for anyone who takes this entrepreneurial leap. This was not least because the application of neuroscience to leadership is not something that has really been done much before, so I did not have many reference points to look to. I had to be more flexible in my thinking than ever before! A big thing I learnt is that if you are willing to ask for help it is incredible how much people will help you.

I found using mentoring and coaching extremely helpful as well as maintaining my supportive personal relationships.

These shouldn’t be underestimated – you need good people around you professionally and personally, to hold you accountable to being at your best as well as give you perspective. Building and nurturing a relevant network was also vital to my success.

It has been hugely rewarding seeing the business grow and take off, and the balance and variety in my life is great – there is no “typical” day. I find myself all over the world, in London, New York, Boston, Jo’burg or Cape Town and can be doing anything from speaking at conferences, brain profiling and monitoring stress and resilience using wearable tech, coaching on meaning and purpose or finding mindfulness techniques for busy executives and leaders. I do find that the jet lag is sometimes difficult to deal with. Fortunately I have a number of neuroscience-based solutions to help manage that, including keeping hydrated and fasting on the flight and rest days after longer trips.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

We all know how important it is to eat a healthy breakfast but people aren’t often as aware of the benefits that certain types of food can have for your brain health specifically. My favourite brain friendly foods are eggs, avocado, nuts and seeds, melon, salmon and olive or coconut oils. I also take magnesium and omega oil supplements for resilience. I only have 1 caffeinated drink per day and I drink about 2 litres of water. I designed a brain food juice for Imbibery London called Mind Mylk and that is almost a breakfast in itself for days when I’m in a rush!

I practice mindfulness by either yoga or meditation depending on time availability. Kicking off your morning with just a 12 minute mindfulness meditation can be a useful way of focusing your brain to make the most of the day ahead.

In my spare time I enjoy theatre, ballet, art galleries and reading, so I often spend time on these or with family and friends during the evening. At the end of the day I try to avoid looking at emails or my laptop, or indeed any device which emits blue light, for an hour or so before bed so that I can get some undisturbed sleep. This is crucial for our memory, IQ level and prevention of certain diseases like dementia, which can be caused by build-up of protein plaques and beta amyloid tangles that are cleaned out of our brains while we sleep.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Networking is probably one of the most important things you can do when building a business. To me it has always been about taking an interest in and listening to other people rather than trying to sell something. It’s also a great way of meeting like-minded people and is particularly important if you are self-employed or don’t work for a big multinational company with a ready-made network of contacts.

With an abundant attitude, networking can boost your confidence and actually make you feel less stressed!

Building strong, supportive and trusting relationships helps to release oxytocin, which is a hormone that suppresses the release of cortisol (too much of which can cause us to feel stressed).

How would you encourage other girls or women into a career in STEM?

Encouraging and empowering girls to pursue sciences at school to GCSE and beyond is key. To do that we need to promote and inspiring teachers and better publicise women’s achievements in science, tech and engineering so that pursuing a career in these sectors seems an achievable and rewarding option. The ability of the brain to begin to catalogue information cements properly during teenage years, meaning intelligence develops the most during this time, and teenagers are also very impressionable, so there needs to be more of a focus on systemic encouragement of careers in science during early adolescence particularly. Science and tech are super interesting and can be used in so many different careers, be potentially lucrative and are a great way to meet interesting people. The old fashioned ideas about careers in science need to be blown out of the water!

What does the future hold for you?

I want to use my knowledge and experience in the field of neuroscience to help as many others as possible better understand how their brains work, so that they can get the best out of them. My leadership coaching practice is focused on using tools like brain profiles to track the ability of leaders over time to manage stress, regulate emotion and retain information, to improve not only their mental resilience, but also the impact their personal performance has on their business. I want to keep expanding my business, but I also want to go further, by more widely disseminating simple, pragmatic neuroscience-based messages that change the way in which people work, helping them to live happier and healthier lives. I’m currently developing a range of products including an App around mental resilience and keeping our brains healthy, tailored to different stages of life and giving us better responses to big life changes.

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Yasmeen Ahmad featured

Inspirational Woman: Yasmeen Ahmad, Lead Data Scientist | Teradata

 

Yasmeen Ahmad holds a PhD in Data Management, Mining and Visualisation, has published several papers internationally and has experience of speaking at International conferences.

She has recently been recognised as a top100 data and analytics leader by DataIQ.

1. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Had I planned a career, I would most likely be in another location today, possibly interacting with people from a field unknown to me and carrying out a list of tasks using knowledge and experience gained through a different career progression.

Planning my career is not a task I have knowingly ignored, it is a task I have always found challenging. With the exciting marketplace, disruptive trends and rapid progression in science and technology, there is an abundance of opportunity that I could not have dreamed of even a year ago. When I studied at University, the data science field did not exist. It was not yet a concept, let alone a set of courses that could be studied.

I am fortunate to say that the roles I have undertaken in with my career have been positions that were new by design and in multiple cases, roles that have were created to fulfill a new requirement that never existed before. The unknown has made my career exciting.

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

Challenges are a part of everyday life. When working in a rapidly changing and advancing field, it is inevitable that there will be challenges to overcome. I have had to overcome obstacles throughout my career, from becoming the first Data Scientist recruited into Teradata, to building a team from scratch, to more recently defining a strategic vision, developing new go-to-market strategies and implementing new operational models. Every step of the way, I feel fortunate to have had new challenges that I observe as an opportunity to grow and learn.

Vital to overcoming these challenges has been strong leadership and mentoring. It has been key to seek out individuals who could support me through the ups and downs, providing their external perspective and experience.

3. What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Be brave. You will never be ready for your first leadership position, you will be challenged by new and complex situations you have not dealt with before. In many cases there will be no right answer, you will be required to make difficult choices but the key is remaining authentic and true to your values.

Avoid the trap of becoming just a manager, organising and co-ordinating teams. Go beyond management to leading with a vision. To be a success, you must complete tactical tasks and activities everyday, but to become a strong leader you must set yourself additional goals that help you be strategic for long-term impact.

4. When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

The candidate with most passion, motivation and drive. This candidate will go above and beyond what they have been asked to do and bring their own drive to the role.

Passionate candidates are always challenging themselves to continuously learn and grow. They do not work the conventional week. They spend time thinking beyond the tasks they are assigned to and find novel ways to add value. These are the people who not only have a positive impact on the business but they also have a strong influence on the team, lifting and inspiring others and setting a high standard of execution.

5. How do you manage your own boss?

Interaction with my manager is key to my success. During my career I have chosen to work for people who inspire me. These are the people I know will push me to better myself and I will learn a great deal from.

I am very open and honest with my manager, ensuring I discuss the key challenges I am facing, what I am trying to develop in my team and practice area, as well as discussing the upcoming risks. By ensuring that I share these details with my manager, I am able to leverage their experience and advice.

In most cases, my manager has had years more experience, understands the politics of the organisation and is adept at people management. I can leverage this insight to perform better.

My manager can not help me, if I do not ask. Furthermore, a constant and consistent dialogue means my manager can help guide and course correct, ensuring the activities I do align with the global aims of the organisation.

6. On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I like to get up early – I can get more work done with an early start than I can often complete all day once the calls and meetings start. The morning gives me time to gather my thoughts and do my most creative work.

My days are not usual, my career has involved a lot of travel. On average I am on the road five days a week: flights and train journeys, a team across different timezones, a multitude of global customers to work in partnership with.

This means there is no typical end of the day. However, I do like to make sure I get some me-time to take a walk in a new city, go to the gym, wind down from a hectic day.

7. What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations

If you are working towards the strategic goals of your organisation, pushing the boundaries beyond what the business is doing today, then you are guaranteed to raise your profile.

Working with my team, I like to highlight the successes we are creating and where we are being innovative to do so. I highlight people who should be a role model to others. Hence, strive to be that role model.

8. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Coaching and mentoring comes in many different shapes and forms, both formally and informally. I have benefitted from both.

Do not simply look for mentors in your field of work, look beyond to people who can inspire, help advise you through the difficult challenges and have a genuine interest in helping you do well.

My mentors have helped guided me, often giving their unbiased, external perspective on situations that provides clarity in complex situations.

9. Do you think networking is important and if so, what three tips would you give to a newbee networker

There is something to be learned from every new person you meet and networking provides you the opportunity to meet people from a diverse range of backgrounds with a wealth of experience.

It can be daunting to introduce yourself to new people, hence prepare upfront for networking events. Understand the audience you will be meeting and think about a few conversation starters and questions you can you use to initiate conversation.

Listen to what others have to say and do not dominate the conversation. Listening is a key skill to understand what people are passionate about. If you can engage people on their passions, you will connect and create a memorable conversation.

Remember to follow up. A successful networking event will include meeting many individuals who may be able to help you in the future, but networking is just the start. Follow up with people, reminding them of who you are and letting them know you are available and keen to engage further.

10. What does the future hold for you?

It is one of the most exciting times to be involved in data and analytics. There is a huge amount of potential and untapped opportunity. I am looking forward to an exciting future. I do not know where I will be or what I might be doing in the coming years, but I know that if I follow my passion and continue to be creative and innovative I will be somewhere unexpected beyond what I can imagine today.