Inspirational Woman: Melissa McBride | CEO & Founder, Sophia

Melissa McBrideMelissa McBride is a mum of three and has 16+ years' experience as a teacher.

She’s held various senior roles in London, Canada and the Middle East and became one of the youngest headteachers in the country (at age 29!). After a ‘Sunday morning crisis moment’ over the Maths homework of her own daughter, she left her successful career and set up her own business.  She is the founder of an Edtech app Sophia has been recently featured on Channel 5.

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

CEO and Edtech startup Founder of the UK’s first on-demand App for Private Tuition, Mom of three!  Doing my best to wear a cap and tiara at the same time.

Canadian Trained Teacher - came to the UK in 2005 to teach.  Joined Thomas’s Battersea in 2006 where I developed my teaching career as a teacher, Head of Department and Head of Year.  In 2012 I was appointed to my first Headship as Founding Head of SW London Independent School and went on to open as Founding Head of Primary a British International School in Dubai. In 2016 I supported the opening of King’s College, Doha before returning to the UK to work as Project Advisor to the CEO of a Global Schools Group and leading a 6m pound expansion project as Headteacher for one of the Group’s Independent Schools.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Full disclosure - I never wanted to go into education. At least not during the years leading up to and including my undergraduate degree at University. My mom constantly told me that I would be a great teacher and I told her constantly I'd never go into Education. But I’ve always been an ambitious, ‘what’s next’ person.  Even in my high school days, I worked as a coach and leading was what I was good at. Leadership and team development have become my special skills and I attribute much of my success in my career to building excellent teams.  I can’t say I’ve ever planned out my career, and I certainly would never have seen myself as a Co-Founder and CEO of an EdTech company, but I’m a big believer in ongoing learning and seeking new challenges in order to grow.

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

From wrong turns, U-turns and searching for new routes - all of these experiences have shaped my career.  I try not to look at challenges as a failure, more as opportunities for learning.   I’m a big believer that everything happens for a reason and if you have a creative positive mindset and surround yourself with a great team, any challenges can be overcome.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’ve been fortunate enough to feel like I have had many achievements.  Being appointed as one of the youngest Independent founding Headteachers in the UK when I was 29 and taking that school to ‘Outstanding' in our first inspection was one of the highlights in Education.  CoFounding an EdTech startup has been another exciting journey.  To lead from the front and bring best practice in safer recruitment in Education to an unregulated private tuition market is fast-paced, challenging and exciting. Seeing the first client book our services and receiving the excellent feedback on tuition sessions  has been a huge highlight after more than 18 months of hard work to make it happen.

’Safety of children’, a topic which seems to be everywhere, yet nobody had thought about the lack of regulations in the private tuition sector. This is something which Sophia, your brainchild, aims to change. How did the light bulb moment come? 

The idea for Sophia actually came one Sunday morning when I was sat at the breakfast table trying to help my daughter with her Year 5 Maths homework. You would think that my background in education would have put me in good stead but the reality is you don’t fully understand the stress and pressure that is put on our children until you experience it first hand with them. Needless to say that particular incident ended in a tantrum and tears (mine and hers) as I was not able to ‘teach her in the way she understood’.

So as with many people, the best ideas to start your own business come from your own personal struggles. What did concern me when I began to investigate private tutors was the lack of regulation. I realised that this sector lacked the Safer Recruitment Process used in schools. Therefore a private tutor working 1:1 with children in their own homes does not need to be suitably qualified or verified with professional references!

So my main aim with Sophia was to deliver the regulations that we expect in our education services replicated in the private tuition sector: Enhanced DBS Checks and Insurance (Public Liability and Professional Indemnity).

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

My ability to develop great teams.  Leading from the front, making people feel valued and developing their skill sets.  I always attribute my success to the hard work and involvement of the people who have worked alongside me to make our vision a reality.  Strong leaders are those who can mobile their team and build trust.

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

My top advice would be to be open to learning, ask questions, admit when you don’t understand and never be afraid to ask for help.  Be willing to be a lifelong learner and don’t be afraid to get into the weeds to develop your understanding of unknown tech areas.   You don’t need to be an expert, but it helps to have an understanding of the concepts or flow of your design strategy.  Do your research and take your time when making tech appointments; if you get it wrong, own up to it, but take a decisive call and then find the person you need in order to be successful.

Also, being agile is extremely important. What’s exciting about technology is how fast-paced it is and you need to be constantly adjusting to the current climate and market demands. Say for example now, with everything happening around Covid-19, many children, students and parents are looking for ways to minimise disruption in their education and reduce stress from future assessments. Sophia has now launched 1-1 online tuition for clients in London and the wider UK. This wasn’t our initial plan at all, but we’ve identified the need and had to adapt quickly.

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 is always room for talented people; male or female.  Tech requires you to wear many hats, draw loosely and plan widely.  Women are often experts at multitasking and managing multiple relationships required in tech.  I think we are well-suited to this industry and now that the door has been opened, it’s up to us to go through it and change the dialogue of gender equality in tech.

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

So many groups are setting on diversity and gender groups - it’s not about just women in tech, it’s about all minority groups being represented. Starting at the school level, companies can begin to change the narrative amongst children and students regarding opportunities for girls and boys in tech. Breaking gender stereotypes is an opportunity to provide role models and guidance on career opportunities in tech fields.

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?

Provide more opportunities for girls to be introduced to tech from a young age.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Networking events are great, but it’s hard to beat great books which outline the experience of fellow women in the industry.  Join a blog, follow LinkedIn pages of tech women in tech.

Inspirational Woman: Katie Jansen | Chief Marketing Officer, AppLovin

Katie Jansen

Katie Jansen is Chief Marketing Officer at AppLovin. AppLovin gives mobile game developers of all sizes the ability to publish, market, and grow their businesses.

Katie joined AppLovin in 2012 and has since been named by Business Insider as one of the most powerful women in mobile advertising. She was previously Vice President of Marketing at PlayFirst, a mobile gaming publisher acquired by Glu in May of 2014. Katie is an advocate for women in tech and workplace equality. She serves as a marketing advisor to organizations including Women 2.0 and Women in Wireless, and mentors women in technology.

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

I’m Katie Jansen, Chief Marketing Officer at AppLovin, a mobile games company that fuels many of the world’s most popular mobile games and game studios. I have been at AppLovin for more than seven years, and I oversee the marketing and creative services team. Since I’ve been here for so long (AppLovin is only 8 years old!), I have seen and helped drive a lot of positive growth within the company. In addition to the teams I run, I’ve also been fortunate enough to help establish AppLovin Cares — a group of employees across all our offices committed to giving back to the community through volunteer hours and donations.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Nope. While I did take time to consider my next moves, I never had a master plan. I found that by working on what I was passionate about, finding great companies and people to work with, and taking time to network and consider my next leap, good opportunities usually popped up. Early on, I started in biotech because it interested me, and then I made a move to online games. Obviously, that’s not a typical transition, but this was 2009 and social games like Farmville had just taken off. I found the convergence of players to this new platform and all that marketing could do with it fascinating. Very quickly that led to mobile games taking off, and now I can geek out on how mobile is driving an economy that didn’t even exist when I first started out 15 years ago. As a marketer, mobile is perfect for me because it moves and evolves to provide so many opportunities to connect with consumers, and my team and I can constantly be thinking about the next best way to engage.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Every job has its challenges. I’ve grown over time not to consider challenges as obstacles, but rather as learning opportunities. One easy example is AppLovin’s accelerated growth — this  always made for interesting changes along the way. I was the first in marketing and now I run marketing and creative services, a team of over fifty people. Determining the best way to grow these teams in a way that contributes to our hyper growth was not always easy or obvious, but it’s allowed us to build a very efficient, skilled and outstanding team who have delivered outstanding results.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My greatest achievement has definitely been growing the team at AppLovin into the successful marketing and creative services engines that are humming along today. Many of my team members I have today have been with me since the very beginning and it’s a real blessing to not only work with them, but see their growth along the way. I count success here as having the confidence to let these teams get on with the day-to-day and let them take a first stab at solving challenges and overcoming obstacles.

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

My success is directly correlated to the overall success of my team, the managers I’ve had during my career and my peers. My ability to surround myself with a nimble team that is efficient and effective at their jobs has helped me grow the team and the business at AppLovin. At AppLovin every executive is a “working” executive. We are involved in larger business decisions and dive deep on product, design and marketing campaigns. I work to not only lead the team but really be a part of it.

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

Tech is a constantly shifting space, and companies are always pivoting and looking to make a big splash in their respective industries. Be ready to bring new ideas to the table, and be okay dropping a project to pick up something else as a backup. A sense of urgency that isn’t overwhelming is key. And, with a lot of smart people in a room comes a lot of options. Don’t be afraid to take and give constructive feedback. A mentality I always look for when hiring is that hunger to grow and learn. I want to make sure that my team is always looking to iterate and improve on what they last completed.

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

The technology industry has come a long way — even during my relatively short career in this space. This is evident from top to bottom — we have more female leaders now than ever before, and young grads entering into the tech world have less barriers. However, we still have a long way to go. Continuing to give women opportunities to grow their careers and learn from leading are guidelines I like to infuse into the AppLovin culture. This is why I helped found an internal group for women at AppLovin. This group specifically focuses on introducing our employees (mostly female join, but anyone is welcome) to businesses founded or run by women. We’ve had the founder of popular clothing brands, the CEO of a franchised spin studio, and various female technology CEOs come share their story and answer questions about their journey.

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

Offering women and men equal pay is an essential place to start. As is continuing to remove bias in the hiring and promotion process. While representation of women at board level is improving, there is still a lot of work to be done. Ultimately, women need to support other women. Women need to find more ways to engage, help and mentor other women in our industry, and help pave the way for growth. Companies should also try and offer networking opportunities geared toward women gathering and sharing advice and increased education and workshops — whether in the organization or via outside resources.

Currently, 17% of women are working in tech. If you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I’d like to see more companies increase adding more women on their boards. Transparency can only help shine the spotlight on how companies can really improve. In 15+ years I am still seeing few changes made toward leveling the gender disparities represented at the board level. Equilar looked at the 3,000 largest U.S. publicly traded companies, and only about one in five board members are women. One in ten had no female representation at all. As an individual, I think there are small actions that business leaders can take that will net a big impact. Whether it’s offering to be a mentor, thinking beyond the traditional means of hiring at entry level, or going into schools to educate the future workforce on your industry and the potential career opportunities.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I read a lot — my favorite books for women working in tech would include The Moment of Lift (Melinda Gates), Dare to Lead (Brene Brown), and Because Internet (Gretchen McCulloch). When I’m in the car, I listen to a range of podcasts but for industry-related content like This Week in Startups or Mission Marketing Trends. When it comes to inspiring others, I recommend the Girl Geek X events, because of its global reach and accessibility.

Inspirational Woman: Patricia Keating | Executive Director, Tech Manchester

Patricia KeatingPatricia Keating heads up Tech Manchester, a non-profit organisation funded by British hosting firm UKFast, which supports early-stage technology companies and is the internal lead on Diversity and Inclusion within UKFast.

Tech Manchester provides tech-focussed businesses with a host of support initiatives including intensive educational workshops, a structured mentor programme, PR and comm’s support and soon a media centre and workspace incubator space through UKFast.

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

I am currently the director of Tech Manchester, an incubator for early stage tech startups in the North West. We deliver a full programme to support new businesses. This includes a mentoring programme and a full programme of workshops and events. I host FastForward, a weekly podcast which offers tips and advice to early-stage tech founders and focuses on telling the real stories of what it’s like to start and grow a business. Tech Manchester also delivers social mobility career programmes for women through Tech Equity.

Although my current role is all about helping the North West tech scene to thrive, I am a relative newcomer to the tech industry. I didn’t do any digital qualifications at school and left university with a degree in sport science. In 2017, I was offered the opportunity to head up the Tech Manchester programme. The timing was perfect; I had just made the decision to close the concierge business I was running. I packed my bags in Belfast, made the move to Manchester and hit the ground running.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Despite leaving university with a degree in sport science, I realised that I had no intention of using it vocationally. Instead I started working in a sales role and fell in love with it. At that time in my life there was no grand career plan. Until my mid-thirties I only ever looked three to five years ahead. For me, it was about acquiring the skills and learning best practice for what I was doing, whether that was searching out the best sales training course, which I found by flicking through the Yellow Pages, or investing in my leadership and management skills. As long was learning and developing it didn’t really matter what industry I was working in.

Now I have I have a longer-term vision for the future, but the principles remain the same. My 18-year plan is to achieve a non-executive portfolio by the time I am 60 years old to allow me to leave full-time employment and blend a mix of paid and pro bono part-time roles. I am currently working on gaining the appropriate skills and financially planning to allow me to achieve my goals.

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

Facing redundancy three times the first five years in the corporate team at Regus brought challenges. The destabilisation of my financial security was extremely difficult. If you have been through redundancy you know that feeling. On the third redundancy round I lost my position and to make matters even worse, on the very same day my then husband was also made redundant.

These events pushed me sideways. I applied for an immediate role within Regus to manage the business centres in Northern Ireland. I secured the role, however, it came with new challenges of managing under-performing teams and assets. I had no experience of how to positively manage or coach a team that wasn’t meeting its job requirements and I was given no support or training. I was left to figure it out on my own and what resulted taught me a valuable lesson.

My vast lack of knowledge in this area saw me accused of bullying and as a result I lost team members. I quickly realised if I wanted to be a good manager, I would need to improve my leadership abilities. I embarked on my leadership journey with the Chartered Management Institute and the Institute of Directors. I went on to I build a new and happy team and 18 months later the business centres were turning over a profit.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without doubt it has to be the Tech Manchester programme.  The opportunity to have such a value-driven role and the resources made available to me by UKFast allow us to do some incredible things. In three years, we have supported 500 companies through almost 100 events and workshops. We have trained 200 mentors and created 190 mentor partnerships. Tech Manchester now has the largest mentoring programme for tech businesses in the North West. It’s also incredible to see the reins of all our programmes and initiatives now firmly in the hands of my colleague Nicola Ellis. I recruited her in May 2018 and it’s wonderful to see how she has grown and developed both professionally and personally.

Handing over much of the day-to-day responsibility of running Tech Manchester has allowed me to invest time into helping women to qualify as Linux administrators. 18 women have been given a £9000 training opportunity with guaranteed job interviews with UKFast on completion of the course. These women are from some of the most under privileged wards in Greater Manchester, three quarters of them are from an ethnic minority background for some English is their second language. The part-time course is wrapped with holistic professional and personal skills development and pastoral care to prepare the participants  enter the digital workforce for the first time. You can read about their progress in my blog. Seeing their growth in the face of the challenges life has thrown their way is so inspirational.

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

People often ask what barriers I have experienced being a woman in business/technology. I have never seen things that way, a view that I believe has comes from my parents.

Life was tough when I was young. My dad, a mechanic, was diagnosed with debilitating back injuries and was unable to work. At the time there were eight children between the ages of five and sixteen years old. As a family of ten we all lived in a three-bedroom cottage, but with eight women in the household you could say it was a matriarchy!

There were extreme challenges: living on the poverty line, on benefits, using food banks, and multiple borderline house repossessions. But I had resourceful parents, who created what we would now call ‘clean eating’. We had a cottage garden with all the vegetables and fruits you could imagine and a ready-made mini workforce to cultivate it. Valuable lessons learnt; if you wanted something you went and got it for yourself! I think that’s still how I approach things now.

That’s what each of us did. From an early age I was a gifted runner, but I needed money just to get to the start line. So that I could run I did whatever part-time jobs I could; picking potatoes, selling balloons on the street, ice-cream seller, fast-food joints, housekeeper, lifeguard, you name it I did it!

I remember my childhood as crazy, growing up in a house full of friends; always finding ways to create new imaginative games and have fun! I don’t know how my parents did it! We grew up in the countryside, so we had plenty of space to roam about. ‘Tollymore Madhouse’ my dad calls it. We may not have had much money, but we were rich in other ways.

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

The first thing would be is to ask yourself about your appetite for learning. Technology moves at such a pace that no matter where you enter the career chain you are immediately on a life-long learning path. Once you are in technology then think about the other skills you need to be successful, ultimately, at the end of every technology is people. You get the best technology outputs if you get the best out of people, so actively seek out ways to improve your leadership skills. You can do that through qualifications, like the CMI or ILP, Institute of Directors or others as well as simply joining leadership groups on social channels, there are tons of free resources you can use.

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

Yes unfortunately, although I believe, as women, some of this stems from our own self-doubt, our compulsion to play down our skills and abilities or a lack of confidence to go for it for fear of failure. Most of us will experience these feelings at some point in our careers. I had it badly when I first moved to Manchester. Lost in a new city, in a new industry, within a laissez-faire management style- business, which you can read about in a blog I wrote:

Although the concept of imposter syndrome is often reported negatively, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These feelings mean you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone which ultimately mean you are growing. As long as you can keep a rational grasp on it, you should have a little of it in your life, otherwise you are just treading water.

Sadly though, some barriers are man-made. There are still incidents of sexism in the workplace, in different guises, intentional and otherwise. I believe we need more balance in business, especially in the boardroom. Having diversity throughout a business from top to bottom, inevitably leads to better decision making and mitigates unconscious bias.

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

Women approach things in different ways. We make decisions differently. Leadership teams need to be aware of this and be open to seeking solutions. This may involve bringing in external expertise to help understand how to best aid the progression of women in a business.

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?

Tech has a brand issue. For many it conjures up images of people sitting in dark rooms drinking energy drinks with dark screens or the black humour of the Silicon Valley sitcom. It certainly doesn’t appeal to young women in secondary school. Less than 1 per cent of female students choose technology at A-Level. Of course, it’s more than just a brand issue but I certainly think helping more education professionals and young people understand the myriad of roles that are available in tech and the exciting career opportunities able would be a start.

I read in an article that we needed a coder on Strictly Come Dancing; I would agree! Look what happened when Youtuber Joe Sugg appeared in the cast in 2018!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are so many resources out there it’s hard to know where to begin! I would say start my finding your tribe. I found mine in Lean In, the Sheryl Sandberg inspired professional network where members, both men and women, ‘lean in’ to support each other. There are circles all over the UK, virtual circles and focused on-demand discussion topics.

Women on Boards has also been an excellent recent addition to my new professional development journey, where I have met numerous like-minded women. Most recently, I have started engaging with We are the City, We are Tech Women, who are fantastic!

I recommend joining Career Mum and Ladies Life Lounge on Facebook for ad-hoc advice and guidance. If you’re a reader try ‘Love Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado Perez. It makes me angry reading it, but that serves as a powerful motivator and reminder.

We are moving into a world of automated intelligence which is fed by historical data that largely excludes women. This amplifies the bias. The only way to change this is for us women and everyone that self identifies as a woman to step up, use our voices and the resources available to us to make a difference.

Leena Koskelainen featured

Inspirational Woman: Leena Koskelainen | Vice President of Product Engineering, Tecnotree

Leena KoskelainenLeena Koskelainen is Vice President of Product Engineering at Tecnotree Corporation, a position she has held since 2018.

In this role she heads up global operations for Tecnotree’s Product Engineering division.

Before becoming Vice President of Product Engineering, Leena held a number of other roles having started with the company in 2006.

Leena is a technology specialist having started her career as a software developer in 1987. She has held several demanding positions, leading large multicultural teams from all over the world. Leena is highly respected and trusted throughout the telecoms industry and an inspiration to women and girls wanting a career in tech.

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

I have a background in mainframe software engineering from the 1980’s. After that, I moved into the telecoms domain essentially to help people communicate more easily across the world. I’m currently supporting communication service providers by offering high quality customer service and I’m involved with digital transformation programmes to bring legacy business support systems into the modern age with the latest technology, automation, analytics and machine learning capabilities.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly, I have simply always been curious and hungry to try new things and keep on learning. This approach has opened up many opportunities; some I was able to handle well and others were a challenge, but this helped me to grow. I have worked for Tecnotree over many years and I have been very fortunate to experience different roles and activities.

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

I once made a career move from working in the back-office of a local Finnish company to a front-line role in an international company. It was a wise move as this came at the point when the internet was becoming commonly used and telecom and mobile services were starting to conquer the word. While it was the right decision, it was far from easy. I went through a series of challenges starting from using English as the standard working language and learning completely new technologies and concepts involved in telecoms. Suddenly I found myself explaining the signalling patterns and SMS protocols over the phone to a specialist in Kuala Lumpur and the next day to someone else in Sao Paulo. It was initially daunting with so many new things to learn.  Little by little I started to see the light in the end of the tunnel, and the day eventually came when I was completely in control. I knew what I was doing, customers appreciated my help and I felt valued. This was probably the most important lesson for me – never give up and the reward always awaits you in the end.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Personally I feel that my biggest achievement has been to learn to appreciate cultural diversity and all the victories and challenges it brings. Being able to think differently and learning to collaborate effectively across the world, brings a meaningful sense of community and togetherness.

Professionally the biggest achievement is related to crisis management. I was involved with a production roll-out which didn’t go so well. I had to stabilize the systems whilst reassuring the workforce. Telecommunication systems are known for their availability and reliability and having that stability compromised can be mission critical.  Managing the crisis became our team’s mission and our confidence grew as we resolved the issues.

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

I learned a very valuable lesson as a child: If you undertake a task, do it properly.  ‘Doing it properly’ is a very relative concept, but I maintain that mantra today in everything I do:

  • When I write an e-mail, I try to write it so that the recipient can understand it without needing to call me and ask what I meant.
  • When I make a plan, I try to cover all aspects, make it as practical and implementable as possible.
  • When I make a report, I collect enough data to have the facts right, make it complete and put it in the format which is clear and understandable for the audience.
  • When I prepare training, I always start from training objectives and make sure the training content is relevant so that employees will learn the key points of the subject.

The list goes on, but my principle is to spend a little bit more time doing things properly to ensure there is no confusion from the outset.

I become very motivated when faced with a challenge. If someone says it can’t be done, I’m ready to prove them wrong.  In business things change all the time so you need to be  relentlessly positive in the face of adversity.

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

The technology industry is full of extremely intelligent individuals who often face challenges in communication and collaboration. The industry needs leaders who can listen, understand, bring people together and utilize expertise. Enabling collaboration, creating excitement and a sense of togetherness are such important qualities to demonstrate through any career journey.

Another important point is to do your best to comprehensively understand issues your business faces. Technology is all about solving everyday problems and getting to the bottom of things is crucial. There is no stupid questions in our field, all questions must be asked as many times as needed to achieve 100% clarity.

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

Generally no, I really don’t see significant barriers. Women have unique capabilities which help them to be successful. I see equal respect towards men and women everywhere I work and I have not faced any glass ceilings hindering my success. Finland is known for its equality, but I think the same thing is also being seen elsewhere. In Asia, Africa, Middle-East, etc. – women are doing well in the field of tech. The only thing stopping women to reach their full potential is not believing in their own capabilities. Women have patience, diligence, accountability and endurance and we are great communicators. This helps us to provide real value in the communities we work in.

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

Women are great assets to the companies they work for but even greater assets to their families. Especially during the years when careers are often built, women often have children and extended families depending on their care and support.

Finland’s model is to understand the family-related requirements and consciously make it possible for women to work. Some examples of this are the equalization of maternity and paternity leaves, right to stay home to take care of sick child and providing affordable day care for all families even if they work in odd hours or in shift work. Companies can also follow some of these principles and provide support for women who work committedly in the middle of family challenges.

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?

Announce a full ‘Women in Tech’ year campaign and build interesting programmes around it to help executives to understand unique talents and capabilities of women, and make the recruitment of women a strategic priority. Companies must also totally erase prejudice towards women and remove barriers to women being successful.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

In general, networking is very important and exposing yourself to new concepts regularly. It is important to make time for this even when your capacity is limited. Technology changes so fast that if one settles with routines and things already known, they are very quickly left behind in progress.

sheryl sandberg

Inspirational Quotes: Sheryl Sandberg | Technology executive & COO, Facebook

sheryl sandbergSheryl Sandberg (born August 28, 1969) is an American Technology Executive, billionaire and Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

Sandberg is also the founder of LeanIn.Org, a not-for-profit organisation which is dedicated to offering women the ongoing inspiration and support to help them achieve their goals. She is also the author of a bestselling book, “Lean In,” which talks about gender differences, reveals how women are held back in the workplace and offers advice to help women achieve their goals.

In June 2012, she was elected onto Facebook's board of director's, making her the eighth member and first woman to serve on its board. Also in 2012, Sandberg was named in the Time 100, an annual list of the most influential people in the world. She has also been ranked as number 37 on Forbes' Most Powerful Women list and number 14 on its America’s Self-Made Women list.

Sandberg has spent most of her career advocating for women and speaking out about the importance of giving women equal opportunities to thrive.

Below, we take a look at Sheryl Sandberg's most famous quotes:

"You are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. Like a muscle, you can build it up, draw on it when you need it. In that process you will figure out who you really are — and you just might become the very best version of yourself."

"Not taking failures personally allows us to recover — and even to thrive."

"Just as our bodies have a physiological immune system, our brains have a psychological immune system — and there are steps you can take to help kick it into gear."

"Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier."

"The easy days ahead of you will be easy. It is the hard days — the times that challenge you to your very core — that will determine who you are. You will be defined not just by what you achieve, but by how you survive."

"We cannot change what we are not aware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change."

"The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have."

"Not everything that happens to us happens because of us."

"When you look at successful women, they have other women who have supported them, and they’ve gotten to where they are because of those women."

"Build resilience in yourselves. When tragedy or disappointment strike, know that you have the ability to get through absolutely anything. I promise you do. As the saying goes, we are more vulnerable than we ever thought, but we are stronger than we ever imagined."

"The best antidote to bad speech is good speech. The best antidote to hate is tolerance."

"We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in."

"Bring your whole self to work. I don’t believe we have a professional self Monday through Friday and a real self the rest of the time. It is all professional and it is all personal."

"Trying to do it all and expecting it all can be done exactly right is a recipe for disappointment. Perfection is the enemy."

"We need women at all levels, including the top, to change the dynamic, reshape the conversation, to make sure women’s voices are heard and heeded, not overlooked and ignored."

Inspirational Woman: Celia Fleischaker | Chief Marketing Officer, PROS

Celia FleischakerCelia Fleischaker joined PROS in 2017 and serves as its Chief Marketing Officer.

She leads all aspects of marketing, including marketing operations, product marketing, branding, corporate communications, global events, digital strategy and demand generation. Fleischaker is responsible for developing and executing strategies that build on PROS success as a leading provider of commerce solutions and driving growth in the industries it serves.

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

I’ve spent 20 years or so in the B2B tech space, so I’m well-versed in the industry at this stage. My first real introduction to technology came much before that, though – with my dad insisting that I code games before I played them as a child.

I started my career in product marketing and then subsequently had the opportunity to work in field marketing and also on the corporate side of things. I was able to combine that experience in my role as CMO at Epicor. Since then, I’ve been CMO at PROS and have helped to spread the message on smarter selling in the digital economy, and I’m loving it.’

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I can say hand on heart that I absolutely did, yes. But that’s not to say that everyone does or should. I’ve had a fascination with tech from a young age and I’ve carried that all the way from primary education to higher education. College is a time where people tend to sit down and have a serious think about what interests them and how this relates to their future career - and I was no different

I attended the University of Virginia for my undergrad degree. My main focus was always that I wanted to work in software development. I think it’s the logic behind software that I found so appealing. And playing a role in marketing those technological advances is always exciting to me.’

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

Of course, there have been some challenges along the way but I’m lucky to have great support from my family and a good work-life balance. Earlier in my career, there was an assumption that when I came back from maternity leave, I’d want to take a reduced role. But that couldn’t have been further from the truth – that thought had never crossed my mind. Misconceptions like that need addressing and I think society is gradually getting to grips with that fact. I’d like to think this sort of assumption would not be something that today’s generation has to endure.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have had the opportunity to manage and mentor many amazing women over the years. Knowing that I was able to help them grow in their careers is what I’d consider my biggest accomplishment. I love seeing people that have worked for me grow and advance their careers – either as part of my team or in another organisation. Knowing that I may have influenced that person’s ability to grow into a VP of marketing or CMO makes me incredibly proud.

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

There are a number of factors, but I think having a strong partnership with the leadership team has been vital. At PROS, I feel as though the c-suite genuinely buys into the value of marketing and takes an interest in our work. That’s not the case at all technology companies. From the CEO, to the CFO – everyone is supportive of building budget to drive important initiatives and that’s exciting to be a part of.

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

Whenever I have this conversation with people who are aspiring for careers in tech, I emphasise the importance of finding a mentor. Having someone in the industry that you admire and can offer career advice is incredibly beneficial. Further to that, finding a sponsor is even better – someone who knows people in the industry and how to navigate the various back channels. A mentor will provide advice and guide you. A sponsor goes a step further and really champions you.

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

There are still barriers but I believe the corporate tech world is rapidly improving on that front – I think my time at PROS is a good example of that. The company has made a real effort to bring women into the business and works hard to ensure they have a pathway to succeed. The company’s diversity & inclusion programme has led to growth in number of women hired as well as women in management positions at the company.

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

I would recommend that every business starts an employee resource group (ERG). I’ve spent the past two years as executive advisor of ‘Blaze’ at PROS – a group dedicated to the professional development of women. The group is a great vehicle for women to network, make connections and to discuss issues important to them. The group partners with leadership in the organisation as well, so it’s very much a company-supported programme. I can’t recommend ERGs enough!

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

There’s got to be education for staff who are involved in the hiring process. You’d like to think that any bias in the hiring process is unconscious, but regardless, it’s important to train people on what this means and how it can impact decisions.

Once hired, women in their early to mid-careers need to be given support to help them develop so we can see that next generation of women in leadership positions.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’d have to say networking. Building that network both inside and outside of your company is something that will serve you well throughout your career. Women are shown to change companies less often than men, so getting that outsider opinion can be really beneficial. Taking the opportunity to connect with other professionals is always time well spent.

Scarlet Jeffers featured

Inspirational Woman: Scarlet Jeffers | VP of Experience, Clario

Scarlet JeffersScarlet joined Clario in the first few days of the company's life and is the driving force behind the innovative, consumer friendly privacy and security solution which is set to revolutionise the sector.

Scarlet is experienced in technology consultancy and has advised brands like Barclays, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Dublin Airport on their UI and UX. Scarlet developed her interest in consumer experience at Apple where she worked whilst studying for her BSc in Physics (with a minor in French) at The University of Aberdeen.

Scarlet is an advocate for women in STEM has been involved in and hosted many women in tech events to encourage greater gender diversity in technology.

Passionate about cars, Scarlet lets off steam by rally driving in her native Northern Ireland. She is an enthusiastic cook and also runs half marathons.

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

As the VP of Experience at Clario I’m responsible for creating a software and service product that challenges all of the expectations and current offerings in consumer cybersecurity.

We’re on a mission to disrupt the cybersecurity industry by building the world’s first truly consumer-centric solution, which will help to tackle the billion dollar cyber security crisis we are facing.

My current passion project in work is leading the UX/UI design team. We had to start completely from scratch and looked at the other players in the market to decide how we were going to design something entirely different. It’s been challenging, thrilling and sometimes a little terrifying - all at once - but the most fun I’ve had in my career yet.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, in the earlier years of my career and particularly after University where I studied Physics, specialising in Nuclear Fusion research, as it took a lot of thought to understand where I wanted to go from there. Tech was always one of my biggest passions so I knew it was an industry I wanted to work in but it took researching a whole plethora of possibilities and paths to explore in what capacity.

One area of particular interest to me is how people interact with technology because of my love for psychology and behavioural studies, so this combined with my passion for creative design meant UX was a perfect niche for me. This was cemented during my time working for Apple and it was after this that I stopped planning and went into management consultancy so I could immerse myself in all kinds of projects and businesses. It was a fantastic way to really push myself out of my comfort zone and discover new skills and strengths. As a consultant, you very quickly crystallise a deep understanding of yourself and what you love and excel at (as well as what you don’t!).

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

Yes, on a weekly basis! Carving out a new path is never easy and there are always growing pains, some much harder than others to overcome.

I think the most challenging thing for me was being faced with my own mistakes or wrong turns, times when I haven’t been true to my own values or expectations of myself,  and learning to forgive myself for that. Forgiving yourself and embracing those mistakes as a way to grow and develop is fundamental to making progress.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’d have to say it’s in my current role at Clario. As proud as I am of the product and brand we’ve created, the transformation in mind-set of our team is what I am most humbled by. We have 800 amazing people who have all come on a personal journey of change and challenges and to play a part in leading that transformation is something I am extremely proud of.

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

It's a combination of having the discipline to keep myself open to opportunities and new experiences, even in uncomfortable situations, with having a strong support network around me, both in work and in my personal life. It took a lot of resilience and grit to get me to this position, and it was made possible because of the great people I have to turn to for help or inspiration when needed.

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

  • Stay creative and be bold.
  • Tech moves so fast, you should always be seeking out innovation.
  • Be collaborative.
  • Try something crazy or new.
  • Look outside of your own niche or industry. Learn from others, and learn from yourself how to fail and stand back up again.

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

Definitely.  At times it’s still challenging as a younger woman in a very senior tech position to be seen as an equal in my peer group and to get the same level of respect as others; this definitely applies to all levels, not just leadership.

I’m so grateful that in my current role the C-suite champion team fully support my efforts (I don’t even notice the gender issue, which is incredibly refreshing), but in almost every job or project previously it’s something I’ve struggled with in the beginning.

For me, the best way to overcome it is to let your work speak for itself. Remain brave and tenacious and open to others and never let it affect your own self-worth. Your opinions, ideas and thoughts matter just as much as those of anyone else.

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

There has been progress with gender parity in junior hires in recent years, which I believe is most likely a result of wonderfully curated girls in STEM programs targeted at school leavers and university students. We need to put a higher level of focus on mentoring women into leadership roles.

When you’re a minority, and perhaps often not  treated  as an equal, it’s very difficult to put yourself forward for promotions or advancements so it’s critical that we work to empower women in tech companies to step up for themselves and work towards a seat at the table.

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?

Shining a light on the work done by women in tech during their careers would be my one wish! When I attend conferences or events for women in STEM the topics often focus on overcoming the gender bias and challenges. I would love to instead see the industry showcase and celebrate of outstanding work done by these very talented ladies.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Online sources such as: Gartner research papers, FTC (Federal Trade Commission), Homeland Security and NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre) are great for ensuring that I’m up to speed on industry advancements, regulations, and news. I am also an avid reader of WIRED’s ‘Women in Tech’ interviews, which highlight inspirational women in different areas of the tech industry.

Dr Louise Sheridan featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Louise Sheridan | COO, Nest Startup Academy

Louise SheridanDr Louise Sheridan is COO of the Nest Startup Academy, which aims to level the playing field for underrepresented founders and address the lack of diversity in tech.

She was previously Head of International Tech Hub network at the UK Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), where she led on establishing tech hubs across Africa, India, Brazil and Indonesia, and helping to build thriving digital ecosystems that supported inclusive innovation and growth. She has worked as International Adviser to the UK’s National Technology Adviser, and represented the UK on the Digital Nations committee. She has also worked on international policies on the rights of women and girls, and holds a PHD and MRes in gender, ethnicity and diaspora studies.

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

I grew up in a small town in South East Ireland, in a family of 6 children. Throughout school I wanted to be a journalist or novelist, but at university, I had some really amazing women lecturers that inspired me to follow their career path. I was fortunate

to pursue an MA and PhD through scholarships. My  primary research interests were how ethnicity, gender and socio-economic backgrounds affected the experiences of migrants and diasporans.  After a few years in academia, much as I loved it, I realised I wanted a career that could greater impact people’s lives. And so I entered the UK Civil Service.

In the Civil Service I was able to work on issues I felt hugely passionate about. In Government Equalities Office for instance, I drove international policies on the rights of women and girls. Over the years, my career took me to Government Digital Services (GDS) and Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport (DCMS), where I saw increasingly the potential of digital tech to improve people’s lives and drive inclusive development. My latest role in government was Head of DCMS’s International Tech Hub Network which sought to help build digital ecosystems across Africa, Brazil, Indonesia and India to drive inclusive and sustainable growth.

Whilst running Go Global Africa, a programme that supported founders in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa to scale, I met Gary Stewart, then CEO of Wayra. We continued to work together on various programmes and Gary later invited me to  meet his co-founder Rasha Said Khawaja and join their exciting new company The Nest. The Nest is an online, mobile-first platform that aims to level the playing field for underrepresented founders and drive diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurialism through mobile-first, snackable video content that includes the stories of what we call the 'underrepresented majority'.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I’ve always been ambitious, and Iooked ahead, but I’ve never done any real career planning. What I did know was that I enjoyed work that could help to improve people's lives. From a personal perspective, I need a role that I feel passionate about and where I can learn, and I tend to go with my gut instinct on new opportunities and challenges. Hence a move from the relative stability of the Civil Service to Startup life!

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

A challenge for me in the past couple of years has been trying to balance career progression with choosing roles that I loved. It has been a dilemma at times, being aware that to be promoted I may have to take roles that I wouldn’t be so passionate about.  I’ve overcome this challenge recently by moving from public to private sector. Startup life has brought a whole new set of challenges, but positive ones , as I learn how to build from scratch and create something amazing with a talented bunch of colleagues. Taking a leap into the unknown has meant I can continue to drive diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, but from the front line!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has been the work to establish tech hubs in emerging ecomonies, to support underrepresented founders including women, to scale and grow, and drive inclusive growth and development. But I think my major achievement is yet to come in the Nest, as I continue to support underrepresented founders, but in a way that has huge potential to scale and make even greater difference. That’s incredibly exciting for me.

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

It sounds cliched but the support of people around me. I have great family and friends, who always encouraged me to take chances, and a partner who supported my decision to leave a secure job in government. And my CEO Gary Stewart, who is incredibly supportive and is passionate about driving diversity and inclusion.

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

  • Don’t be intimidated by a career in technology, or rule yourself out of exciting opportunities because you think it is all about coding or deep tech. I don’t have a technical background but I see the enabling potential tech has to accelerate and maximise opportunities to improve the lives of people.
  • Network, network, network! Go to meetups, talks, conferences in tech, and speak to people,
  • If you meet someone you admire, or feel you can learn from, don’t be afraid to ask for their mentorship, or guidance.
  • Be curious, don’t be afraid to ask questions or admit you don’t know something.

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

Yes and not just for women, and not just in the tech sector. In entrepreneurialism for example, barriers remain for what we in the Nest call the underrepresented majority; that incudes groups excluded on grounds of gender, ethnicity, race, socioeconomic background.  In Europe 92% of VC-backed teams are all-male. Women are 52% of the population but female-led startups receive only 2% of all VC funding. Black founders receive 0.5% of all VC funding.

One of the ways these barriers can be overcome is to ensure underrepresented founders have access to a community, and to support.  Our solution at The Nest is an online platform designed to help aspiring entrepreneurs, at all skill levels, to navigate the hoops and hurdles into commercial success.  All they will need is a smartphone.  The mobile-first technology we are developing will allow access to a range of threads to empower them: video masterclasses provided by our Pioneers, or inspirational business leaders, interaction within the online community, pitching to investor competitions and more.

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

Companies need to take an honest look at their culture and gender balance, and it must be channelled from the top. Senior leadership needs to role model a commitment to diversity and inclusion, including ensuring women in senior leadership. In many organisations, including in government, women, particularly BAME women, are underrepresented in senior roles, and this impacts the confidence and aspirations of those in less senior roles.

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? 

This isn’t a new concept, but we need to ensure that girls and women are encouraged into tech roles from an early age, across the entire pipeline, and that diverse role models are championed and visible to encourage this. When I was in secondary school, our career guidance teachers firmly encouraged girls into teaching, journalism, the arts. It has improved in recent years but we are not there yet.

Hedy Lamarr featured

Inspirational Quotes: Hedy Lamarr | Actress, Inventor & Film Producer

Hedy LamarrHedy Lamarr (1914-2000) was an Austrian-American actress, inventor and film producer.

She starred in 30 films during her 28 year acting career, such as Tortilla Flat, Lady of the Tropics and Boom Town and co-invented an early version of frequency-hopping spread spectrum at the begginning of World War II.

Lamarr's work on spread spectrum communications have played a vital part in our ability to have wireless communications in the present day. She developed the system with her friend, George Antheil, and it was originally designed to defeat the German Nazis by preventing enemies from decoding messages, though it became an important stepping stone in the development of further military communication technology.

Though she wasn't instantly recognised for her invention, in 1997 Lamarr and Antheil were honored with the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award, and in the same year, she became the first female to receive the BULBIE Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award - often considered the 'Oscars' of inventing.

Lamarr sadly passed away on 19th January 2000, at the age of 86.

Below, we take a look at some of Hedy Lamarr's most famous quotes

"I know why most people never get rich. They put the money ahead of the job. If you just think of the job, the money will automatically follow. This never fails."

"Analysis gave me great freedom of emotions and fantastic confidence. I felt I had served my time as a puppet."

"Confidence is something you're born with. I know I had loads of it even at the age of 15."

"I don't fear death because I don't fear anything I don't understand."

"I have not been that wise. Health I have taken for granted. Love I have demanded, perhaps too much and too often. As for money, I have only realized its true worth when I didn't have it."

"I was in constant demand, in my professional life and my personal life"

"Jack Kennedy always said to me, Hedy, get involved. That's the secret of life. Try everything. Join everything. Meet everybody."

"Some men like a dull life - they like the routine of eating breakfast, going to work, coming home, petting the dog, watching TV, kissing the kids, and going to bed. Stay clear of it - it's often catching."

"Hope & curiosity about the future seemed better than guarantees. The unknown was always so attractive to me...and still is."

"All creative people want to do the unexpected"

"If you do good, people will accuse you of being selfish, ulterior motives."

"Think Big"

"Give the world the best you’ve got. And you will get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you've got anyway"

"Technology is forever"

"If I were to name my favourite past time I'd say talking about myself. I love it and I think most other people do too. We need people like us, more listeners and less talkers"

Mary Sansom featured

Inspirational Woman: Mary Sansom | Tech Talent Acquisition Director, QA

Mary SansomMary looks after all things brand and candidate attraction. She’s made it her mission to raise our profile so more people know about all of the great work QA do.

Mary has tonnes of experience in marketing and communications. Her background is in PR – and she’s helped to get QA featured on Sky News, ITV, BBC local news, London Live, Radio1, and in the national papers.

Mary’s been part of the QA team for over 6 years – starting as marketing manager for the QA technical portfolio and progressing to lead marketing and product development for QA’s apprenticeship programmes. Before then, she worked in senior marketing roles at Capita.

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

I’m Mary Sansom, Tech Talent Acquisition Director at the UK’s leading technical skills and talent provider, QA. I love my job – I get to play a key part in kick-starting the tech careers of around 5,000 young people every year. I’m responsible for attracting and recruiting technical talent onto the graduate and apprenticeship programmes QA delivers. To date, we’ve delivered these programmes to over 25,000 young people all across the UK.

I grew up in an education system where the IT curriculum comprised mostly of how to use Excel and Word applications. It was neither very engaging nor positioned as an exciting career choice. I’d enjoyed humanities subjects at school and decided to study History at university because I thought it would be a good way to develop some useful all-round skills: critical thinking, writing, analytical skills, for example.

My interest in tech was first sparked post-university. I’d started my first job as a graduate Intern for a software development company. It was a six-month stint in the development team, where I was the only woman in a group of 16. That experience really opened my eyes to what a career in tech involved. I was taught basic coding skills by my colleagues, and it couldn’t have been further from those uninspiring IT lessons at school. It was so interesting – just like learning a new language. On top of that, it was my first taste in the work environment, and it made me realise how much I wanted to move up the career ladder, learn new skills and earn more money.

A lot of the developers I was working with were contractors on a very high day-rate of pay and I was struck by how lucrative a career in tech could have been for me. I was annoyed that this career route, even while I was still relatively young, felt completely closed off to me – like I had missed the boat by not studying it at an earlier age. I felt too far behind my colleagues when it came to my coding skills and felt odd being the only female in the group. I was ultimately steered onto a technical business analysis placement. I did this for a year but, again, felt like the odd one out, so ended up pursuing a placement in the marketing department.

This grounding in marketing and tech has stood me in great stead for what I do today. It’s made me hugely passionate about encouraging people into IT both at an early age, but also showing them that there’s still a chance to reskill or retrain and pivot into a new career later in life. It also made me a strong advocate for diversifying the industry – and getting more women into tech careers.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all.

I’m still not 100% sure I know what I want to do, even now! I love what I am doing, but who knows what jobs might be created in the future. Maybe I’ll try my hand at something completely different.

I think we’ll start to see a real shift in the coming years, with more people reskilling into tech-focused careers. If the world is becoming more tech-led, we need it. UK businesses are facing a real tech skills crisis and I think more businesses will be looking into how they can support employees to reskill. QA is already working with a number of organisations both to upskill existing employees, but also to retrain people from completely different departments who want to try something new.

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

Deciding what career path to take was a big challenge. I’m not convinced I really knew the different career options available to me when I left school.

Not only was career advice woefully lacking, but I was very influenced by the paths my parents had taken (both worked in PR and marketing). I can see young people still have this issue today. They are hugely influenced and steered by their parents when it comes to deciding next steps after secondary school. But this is a real issue, given how much the world has changed since their parents – and their parents’ parents were making that decision.

The jobs market is shifting and technology skills that were deemed specialist and niche a few years ago are now critical to business success. Technology is not just a viable career, but it can be one of the most lucrative ones, yet tech courses are often dismissed in favour of more traditional ones. This is especially the case for young women, who tend to be regarded as unusual for choosing a tech career at that age. And yet, we need more women in the industry. The job opportunities on offer in this space are varied, plentiful and well-paid but still only 17% of the tech workforce are female.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

One key achievement for me has been being able to use my position to bring young women closer to careers in tech. Whether that’s through apprenticeships, our Consulting Academy, courses, degrees or even teaming up with amazing organisations and people like STEMettes or Dr. Anne-Marie Imafidon.

I’m particularly proud of the work we are doing with STEMettes. We recently started an academy for young women, equipping them with free technical skills and certifications. These are the same courses that adults would go on, taught by industry experts, but it’s completely free. The idea is that together we give girls who would not normally have the chance to see what a career in technology could be like, furthering their technical skills on the way.

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

Surrounding myself with people who share that same drive for success has been so important– at QA it’s a case of standing on the shoulders of giants. We have hundreds of technical experts, operations staff and delivery teams as well as many others all working together to create an exceptional learning experience for people. When you’re in such a driven team, you can’t help but drive for success yourself.

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

As the rate of change in technology surges so do the opportunities for personal growth and development. My advice? Try new things, experiment, stay curious. Have a plan but be reactive to change.

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

It’s getting better and there are stats to back that up, but there are still barriers which exist. There is no quick fix, society on the whole needs to keep up the conversation, do more outreach and work to crush stereotypes by providing the next generation with relatable role models. We can all name a lot of successful men in the tech industry, but it’s hard to name more than a handful of women – and that’s not because women aren’t doing great things in the space!

It’s worth noting that the job is only half-done when we attract women in, the key to success is the long-term sustainability. We need to create environments, communities and culture that retains women, and sets them up for success in tech roles.

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

Continue to listen, evolve and shout about the women successfully carving out tech roles at their companies. We partner with thousands of organisations across the UK and I spend time with many of our customers each month. In my recent interactions, I’ve found that generally the issue of gender parity in tech is being discussed far more openly now, but it’s about long-term sustained growth, embedding culture and encouraging reskilling.

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?

Aside from removing all stereotypes and fears? You’ll probably think this is a cliché but I would put the focus on technical education. I see first-hand the change that learning makes on people’s lives and it’s actually a practical solution to the skills gaps we have in the UK. Women are going to play an incredibly important part in the UK’s sustained economic growth in the next 20 years.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m being biased, but QA has just released episode three of our #Get2020Vision podcast – and it focuses on Women In Tech, so make sure you check that out. It features Anne-Marie from STEMettes (Who also hosts an amazing podcast called ‘Women Tech Charge’) and Lucy, a developer who came through our Consulting Academy.

Elsewhere, podcast-wise I thoroughly recommend The High Low (not strictly about tech careers, but I love it!). I dip in and out of TED Talks and ‘Note to Self’ is also really great.

I’m a bit of a book worm, but I tend to read books that take my mind off work. If there was one book I would recommend, it would be Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez.

There are a host of meet-ups for women in tech now, so make sure you seek those out!  Also, just speak to other women in the industry - make use of social media, I’m seeing more and more groups for technical females on LinkedIn, for example.