Sharon Wyness

Inspirational Woman: Sharon Wyness | Co-Founder, AliveLab and the Mardles Platform

Sharon Wyness

I came from a recruitment background.

Becoming a single mum at 40, I retrained in 'homestyling'. I joined QVC in 2012 as freelance guest & met James (business partner in AliveLab) whilst in the guest lounge pondering over the many millions that we were making for vendors by selling their product for them on air.

We decided to find their own product range that we could sell (though they didn't know what)

I was still getting the trade press from various suppliers in styling and a magazine dropped on my doorstep with an article about - bringing a sofa to life in your room to see if it was a 'fit'.

I didn't know or understand the technology (it was 2014) but James (geek and techie) did and we knew that Augmented Reality was what they wanted to do.

Several months of planning, sourcing UK suppliers, registering trademarks etc followed and Mardles was born & launched on QVC within six months of the first idea. We had a small order to go to air with and by the time we were off air that had increased by 1000 per cent!

QVC USA and Canada followed. We went back to development for ideas - next came colouring, then dress up masks and finally stories.

After our first airing at London Toy Fair, Aardman & ITV came to us for Licensed product.

We were voted Top Five toys in The Sun, made Metro's Lust List, were featured on the Gadget Show and picked up by the DiT to follow a Passport to Export programme.

Up until 2017, we were totally self-funded until we went to equity raise with Seedrs and drew attention from all over Europe with investors from 32 countries and made target in 48 business hours.

In January 2019, we were one of only three companies in London to receive the Board of Trade award for Outstanding Contribution to International Trade & Investment presented by Dr Liam Fox at the Foreign Office.

We are partnering with companies all over the globe looking at adding AR to their promotions, products or experiences. We won a tender with a major Scottish Council to bring a tourism trail to life worth over £90k.

And throughout all of it - even though big business mentors have tried to steer us differently, we remain true to our morals.

Our app is what we call 100 per cent parent friendly:

  • No in-app purchases
  • No data capture - you don't have to register to use it
  • And once downloaded you don't need wi-fi or data to use it so no huge bills

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all, there was a point mid in the mid 80’s, I was working in estate agency I  was told  that I couldn’t have a company car or move up through the ranks, even though I had successfully turned around three failing branches. The reasoning? ‘I’d only go and get pregnant’.  There and then, I made a conscious decision to move into a female dominated industry – which is why I made the move into recruitment.

I gave a talk at my old school recently to Year 12 – I worked out that I’d had 37 different job titles in my career to date! That would take some planning….

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, but don’t we all?!  My challenges have been mainly personal though - marriage/divorce/being a single parent/medical issues. When I encounter career challenges and set-backs, it just made me come out fighting and more determined than ever to succeed.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Rather than picking one particular achievement (although I was very pleased to receive the export award in January) I would say that it’s my ability to re-invent myself and to be able to channel my skillset into any new challenge and to make it work.

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

I would say that it’s my almost unlimited determination, and unmitigated desire to succeed, win and be the best I can.

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

It makes perfect sense that when you have succeeded and worked through challenges, that you would want to share that knowledge – I would love to help someone.  I used to have a mentor myself - an older woman who was with me through some women’s health issues, marriage, divorce and then a very difficult pregnancy. She was an enormous help professionally & spiritually, Anji could adjust her focus onto me when I needed extra support and she could also help me deal with my team of 25 girls that in their early 20’s, had their own struggles to work around in a busy stressful sales environment.  I am a big fan of mentoring - both giving and receiving!

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

Girls having the confidence to find their voice and use it.  Too often women keep quiet and don’t push to have their views heard - I think they are worried about being branded bossy or pushy (which they can be), but the more we speak out, confidence grows. Once it becomes the norm for women to be an integral part of senior management teams, girls will have more to aspire to and women in business will have natural mentors to learn from.

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

Men don’t have to fall into one of these categories: Father, brother, boss or boyfriend! (I went to an all girls school)

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

I am busy growing our business to the next level and developing new markets around the world - working with people internationally is deeply interesting and there is always something new to learn from the different ways that business is done culturally. I want to change the shape and future of play and help children engage with technology through experience and fun


Sue Carroll featured

Inspirational Woman: Sue Carroll | AV Service Engineer, The Saville Group

Sue Carroll is a highly professional AV Technical Service and Maintenance Engineer, with over 20 years’ experience in the industry.

Sue CarrollSue started her career studying Engineering at Leeds College of Technology before graduating and securing her first position at Visavvi, part of the Saville Group. She has just celebrated 20 years of service at the company.

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

I left school during an economic recession and was faced with few career options. I’ve worked in a variety of jobs, from supermarket worker, to car valet and cleaner before deciding that I needed to get an education and try my hand at something a bit more challenging. I’ve always been fascinated by the way that things are put together and this led me to enrol on an electronics workshop course. From there I secured a place at Leeds College of Technology to study Engineering. When I graduated I was lucky to land a job at Visavvi part of the Saville Group and have worked as an AV Service Engineer ever since. This year I celebrated 20 years at the company!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never really planned my career. Becoming an AV Engineer happened by chance. I was made redundant from my car valeting job and knew that I couldn’t keep on doing cleaning jobs. I wanted something more, so I went back to college to get an education.

A friend of mine was studying carpentry at East Leeds Women’s Workshop, but her course was full, so I enrolled on the electronics course. This was partly funded by Leeds University and Leeds Council. Enrolling on the course gave me the confidence to go into mainstream education, so when I finished there, I got a place at Leeds College of Technology and went on to join the Saville Group straight out of college.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

The biggest challenge I faced when I was younger was trying to find out what I wanted to do as a career, and as I mentioned, it’s only by chance that I started working in Engineering. I suppose if I hadn’t been made redundant from my car valeting job then I might never have enrolled in college and found my passion for AV Engineering.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Currently, people seem to switch jobs and employers every few years, but I think that working for a company for over 20 years is an incredible achievement and I’m proud of this. This is a real reflection on Saville Group as an employer and shows that they care about and nurture their employees.

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

There are a few different factors. Firstly, my tutor at East Leeds Women’s Workshop saw potential in my abilities and encouraged me to enrol on the course at college. Secondly, it comes down to the environment that you work in and your employers.

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

I think that mentoring is fantastic. It’s thanks to people early on in my career that I’m where I am now. I haven’t had the opportunity to mentor anyone yet, but when I joined Saville Group, I shadowed a colleague who showed me the ropes of the job. From there, I worked in the repairs workshop then out in the field, before working independently.

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

Gender Parity is a big issue, particularly in Engineering and AV. Personally, I want women to believe in themselves a little more. There are a lot of exciting opportunities for women now compared to when I started in this industry 20 years ago. Women have achieved some incredible breakthroughs, particularly in Science and Engineering, and I think the key for anyone considering a career in STEM is to just give it a go and see if you enjoy it!

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

You’re never too old to learn. I messed about at school and wish that I had worked harder and tried more. I didn’t realise the opportunities that were presented to me on a plate and I took these for granted. However, it wasn’t until my late 20s that I knew that I needed to get some form of education and it was by accident that I fell into AV Engineering.

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

In terms of my next challenge, every day comes differently, and I never know what is in the pipeline. But I love that about my job. You learn something new everyday and this is true in AV. One of the main challenges is that technology is evolving daily. At the weekends I’m always reading about the latest technology and trying to stay ahead of the curb.

I’ve just celebrated 20 years with the Saville Group and I’m looking forward to many more to come!

 


Zoe Morris featured

Inspirational Woman: Zoe Morris | President of Frank Recruitment Group

Zoe MorrisZoe Morris is the President of niche IT staffing firm Frank Recruitment Group.

Zoe has played a vital role in building Frank Recruitment Group into the global, award-winning specialist recruitment firm that it is today; under Zoe’s leadership, the company has consistently achieved substantial year on year growth as well as winning many industry-based awards.

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

My name is Zoe Morris, and I’m the President at Frank Recruitment Group, a leading firm specialising in niche technology staffing. I was born and raised in Kent, and have lived in the capital ever since moving here to study psychology at the City University of London.

When I took my first few steps into the world of recruitment, I realised that a great deal of psychology applies not just to sales, but to leadership in general. It felt like a very natural fit for me from day one—I just fell in love with the industry. Finding and landing your dream job is a special achievement, so helping driven people build their careers and getting a front row seat to that experience is one of the most satisfying parts of the role.

I’ve worked in the recruitment industry for almost 20 years now, and before joining Frank Recruitment Group, I was a Director at Hays plc. Today I oversee the organisation’s ongoing business and sales operations—that includes anything from employee training through to investigating new sales territories we should open additional offices in.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Throughout university and early on in my professional life, I’d say there was an element of planning but I was much more focused on short term goals and achievements. I think that when you’re just starting out, it’s natural to want to get your bearings before committing to a long term plan. As I  built up more experience it became easier to make longer term plans and set more ambitious career goals to keep me motivated.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes, loads! The industry we’re in operates almost entirely on short term targets, so our monthly performance could change direction at the drop of a hat. Externally, we navigated the 2008 global financial crisis while carving out a space in a highly competitive tech market. We didn’t just weather the storm—we came out stronger on the other side, entering the European market by 2009.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

One of my proudest moments at Frank Recruitment Group came when, in my first three years here, we more than tripled our global headcount from 500 to 1600 and opened a 11 new office locations around the world. Being a part of that kind of success is a unique experience, and drove us all to aim higher and push for excellence with more zeal and commitment than ever before.

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

Confidence. A lot of professional success hinges on having the kind of confidence that allows your unique perspective and experience to shine through. We saw nothing but opportunity in this untapped market for niche technology recruitment—it was just a matter of knowing where to start. Always strive for confidence in what you’re doing, because it’ll inspire confidence in those around you and make the journey that little bit smoother.

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

I feel that it’s our duty as seasoned professionals to act as mentors, and being asked to help people realise their potential is always an honour. When you’re lucky enough to mentor others, each new stage of your career brings with it fresh opportunities to encourage growth and inspire people to believe in their own abilities.

It could be as simple as offering a quick word of advice when an issue arises, or carving out 30 minutes to grab a cup of coffee and catch up. There’s no need to be formal; what matters is the quality of your guidance and what others can gain from the time you share.

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

We need to do more to foster confidence in girls and women when it comes to entrepreneurship or careers in STEM, and change attitudes towards gender stereotypes. A major part of that comes from empowering women to claim their space in the workplace, and making the business world a more inclusive place. If girls don’t see strong, relatable role models in the industries they’re interested in, they’ll struggle to see themselves succeeding there.

We can work towards greater gender parity by building programmes to help women get back into the professional world, and by developing benefits packages that are better suited to working caregivers. At Nigel Frank—our brand dedicated to Microsoft recruitment—we created the Diversity in Dynamics programme, a return-to-work initiative to get more women back into the tech sector after taking a career break.

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

You need to get out there and forge your own opportunities instead of waiting for them to fall into your lap. We miss out on so much by waiting for the ‘right’ opportunity to come along—a great deal of our achievements have come from creating our own opportunities. We’ve carved out our own space in the industry and mapped our own path to success rather than following the ones well-travelled.

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

In my capacity as President, it’s my aim to continue growing the business and ultimately achieve market domination in every niche technology we operate in. As part of that, I want to foster a new style of management that will continue to sustain the company beyond my leadership.


Beckie Taylor

Inspirational Woman: Beckie Taylor | Co-founder of Women in Technology Northern Chapter

Beckie TaylorBeckie is an Ambassador for Tech and Women in Leadership, and the Co-founder of Women in Technology Northern Chapter.

In 2017, she launched Tech Returners to empower returners and enable their opportunities in tech, by providing development and creating accessible routes into businesses through continual training and technology, resulting in more diverse and inclusive workforces. 2018 also saw the launch of ’Tech Future Female Leaders, a programme designed for female technology leaders to develop themselves to succeed and inspire others.

Tech Returners was shortlisted in the Northern Power Women awards for Innovation 2018 and for e-skills Initiative of the year at the Women in IT award 2019 for its practical guidance, and personal development coaching.Additionally Beckie has been shortlisted in the Women in IT Awards 2017 Advocate of the year and voted one of the Top 30 Women in Technology for Greater Manchester 2018.

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

With 17 years experience in People /  Talent / HR, 11 of which has been in the tech sector, I have been actively involved in scaling tech businesses through the importance of the value of people.

I am an Ambassador for Tech and Women in Leadership and am Co Founder of Women In Technology Northern Chapter which has grown to 1500 members in just 3 years.

In 2017 I launched Tech Returners to empower returners and enable their opportunities in tech by providing development and creating accessible routes into business through continual training and technology, resulting in more diverse and inclusive workforces. Tech Returners was shortlisted in the Northern Power Women Awards for Innovation 2018, E-skills Initiative of the year at the Women in IT awards 2019  and I was shortlisted for Advocate of The Year 2017 at the Women in IT Awards 2017 alongside featuring in the Top 30 Women in Tech in Greater Manchester in early 2018.

Since its inception the ‘returner’ programme has enabled 23 careers in technology, 22 of those were women and we’ve worked with businesses including AutoTrader, the BBC, Manchester Airports Group, Lloyds Banking Group and ANS Group. 2018 saw the launch of ‘ Tech Future Female Leaders, a programme designed for female technology leaders to develop themselves to succeed and inspire other. Only 5% of tech leaders in the UK are female and we’re committed to working with businesses to change that, our pilot cohort saw 12 individuals complete the course, we’re on Cohort 2 currently bringing 8 individuals through the programme and we’re also working exclusively with the Co Op to deliver our programme in-house for 24 of their tech leaders.

2019 for Tech Returners has seen the roll out of more cohorts of our programmes, the growth of our team and a partnership with University of Manchester Business School to produce first of its kind research into women returners in the tech industry. It’s also seen an addition to my family, a daughter Emmie May (12 days old at the time of writing) and sister to Ethan (5).

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, when I was younger I wanted to be in the mounted police but due to losing hearing in my left ear meant I wasn’t able to pursue this dream. I then fell into recruitment and progressed into HR and once I realised I had a passion for developing people I then focused on my own career and progressed into senior leadership positions.  I always ensure that whatever I do has a core purpose and aligns with my personal values and beliefs and contributes to making a real difference.

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

As a senior woman in tech I have sat on all male leadership teams and faced challenges of not being listened to and faced inappropriate comments all of which only served to make me more driven to change the landscape for future women in technology and to educate and support businesses to make these changes. I’m very fortunate to have a strong support network which has been there during these challenging times and I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for those people.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Having my children and also having a successful career – don’t get me wrong getting the balance right isn’t always easy however it is something that is important to me to have both, I am clear with my expectations and try and plan where I can but at the same time remembering to be kind to myself when things don’t always go to plan. Being shortlisted for a number of awards in the infancy of Tech Returners has also been such an honour along with hearing feedback from our returners that the opportunity has changed their life, it’s quite difficult to articulate how much that means to me in terms of achievement.

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

Having a strong support network, being surrounded by people I can talk to, trust and who can offer me constructive advice.

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

For all the programmes we run we use a tool called “your journey to success” which helps to map out current achievements and skills and then focuses on what success means to the individual, thinking about personal values and professional goals and then using these to focus on what the goals or stepping stones are to support that success, individuals can then identify where they need support or where they need to develop whilst keeping track of what’s important to them.

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

Yes, companies need to provide opportunities for women in tech whether development opportunities or opportunities to enter the sector and this begins with looking at their culture, do they have an environment and values which support this? And I mean actions and not just words, ensuring they practice what they preach is essential as there are women who want to progress in the sector, the desire is there but right now the support is not.

I am also on a campaign to re-frame the narrative around women in tech – it was pointed out to me no wonder we have a lack of women in tech as all the blogs, videos and content out there, focus on the negatives of being a women in tech and whilst it’s important to highlight challenges we also need to focus on the amazing achievements and role models we have in the sector which is why we’re going to be launching our own conference run by Tech Returners and Women In Tech North to highlight these role models and the positive reasons why more women should be in the industry.

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

The reason we set up Tech Future Female Leaders was two fold, the statistic of just 5% of tech leaders in the UK being female but more than that the shocking lack of resources and programmes to support their development, this needs to change with businesses taking a look at what they can offer internally through mentoring and coaching and if that’s not something the business can support then reaching out externally to networks like Women In Tech North who can offer the support, finances and resource to make this happen.

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

I think we need to look at it from a different angle we need to work with schools/colleges and university to build the talent pipeline but also focus on retaining the female talent we have in the industry and then create opportunities for women returning or entering tech after a career break, a multi pronged attack in which we all support one another.

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

WIT North – our network group

Growth Mindset – Carol Dweck

Eat Sleep Work Repeat – podcast

Ted Talks Daily

Tech Tent

Invisible Women  - Book


Clémentine-Lalande-featured

Inspirational Woman: Clémentine Lalande | CEO, Pickable

Clémentine Lalande Clémentine is the CEO of Pickable, a world-first dating app. It offers privacy for women whilst dating - which is otherwise public on other similar platforms.

Pickable is ideal for women who are worried about being recognised or dislike too much online exposure.

A keen entrepreneur, Clémentine has worked with various start-ups at C-suite level. Early on in her career she joined BCG in Paris but got tired of the monotony. Her career took a change of direction in the form of working for a number of venture capital companies. Clémentine is passionate about doing business for the greater good and has spent time working in investor funds with businesses in developing countries such as Haiti and Uganda. She has also spent some of her career in Argentina and Columbia.

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

I envisioned Pickable in 2018 when I realised how much men were still leading the game in the online dating world.

I have previously worked on another dating app, Once. During my time at Once, I managed to scale up the app use from two to ten million users worldwide. I met with thousands of women who expressed a need for more privacy, discretion and control in the online dating world. I decided it was time to change the game by creating Pickable, an app that protects women’s privacy and enables them to browse anonymously.

I have over a decade of experience in technology and business development. I have also had the privilege of living and working in many countries around the world. I have also spent time mentoring various start-ups at C-suite level. I am proud to call myself a mentor in various start-up founders’ networks. Before that, I was a venture capital investor and strategic adviser at BCG.

In my spare time, I am a jazz singer and songwriter. I live in Paris with my two children and my husband.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly. I studied industrial engineering at university and worked in venture capitalism. Now I am the CEO and founder of a dating app - the two do not exactly go hand in hand!

I am driven by intellectual rigour. This is how I make most of my career choices - I like to surround myself with brilliant people who inspire me. This is how I have made sense of all my decisions retrospectively.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

One of my biggest challenges is taking time to disconnect and 'switch off'. This is something that I have only learnt over the last few years. At university, I studied difficult sciences (mathematics and physics) so alongside my studies, I developed an artistic parallel life. I use this as a method to balance my brain.

I am a passionate musician and singer. I always allow time to myself regardless of what happens during the week. Even if I have a busy schedule, an investors emergency or a childcare crisis, I always continue to learn. I have toured with a jazz band, tried my hand at song-writing and I also recorded three EPs with my previous band. I also study lyrical singing as a mezzo-soprano and have taught myself the piano. This is the way I manage to disconnect myself so that I go back into work full of energy and recharged.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

The worldwide success of Pickable is one of my biggest achievements. Following the launches in new markets, Pickable became the number one trending app in France, Italy and Austria. We have recently launched the app in Switzerland and in Germany. It will be very exciting to see the outcome of both launches.

Other than my career, my children provide me with pride daily - alongside exhaustion!

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

A strong mindset and constant hard work.

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

I am proud to be a mentor in various start-up founders’ networks. Every year I take on one or two start-ups that I coach on various topics. These include fundraising, strategy, planning, operations and recruitment.

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

I have loved following the media attention of the ‘Me Too’ movement. There is a clear split between men and women and I am delighted that this has caught the attention of the press. I am also delighted that many governments have got involved in the issue. The 'Me Too' movement has created a platform to prevent discrimination and enforce gender balance.

It is wonderful that many enterprises have pledged to drive change. This is due to the issue becoming more and more visible - both internally and externally. The progress is slow but I believe that with further innovation and technology we will begin to see change. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you more in a few months!

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

Never allow someone to tell you something is impossible.

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

I would love to develop another app based on a brilliant concept that I discovered in Germany. There is a campaign called ‘Pinkstinks’ which finds sexist advertisements online. It then reports and makes fun of them with the help of a community. I plan to develop an app based on this concept which spots


Lisa Goodchild featured

Inspirational Woman: Lisa Goodchild | Founder, Digilearning

Lisa GoodchildI come from comparatively humble beginnings.

I grew up on council estate in South East London, raised by a single mum that struggled with mental health issues. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing as it made me who I am, and I appreciate that my mum tried her best to drag us up, but it was tough.

We had no choice but to quickly learn about the realities of life, as hustling, crime, drugs and violence surrounded us and it looked like that was on the only option open to me. I burgled a house and sold drugs as a kid, as well as avoiding school. I always knew that I wanted more out of life though, and I was determined to fight and claw my way into earning it. I wasn’t interested in being handed anything. I wanted to prove – to myself, and everybody else on that estate – that it was possible to overcome adversity and make something of yourself.

I credit a lot of my success to being influenced to attend university, where I gained a First Class honours in Digital Media. Fast forwarding from there, I built an agency that worked on selling early ecommerce systems to major, world-leading brands like Ted Baker, Panasonic and MotherCare. I also gained £250k in investment and grew one of the UK’s leading digital female brands, Aigua Media, as well as mentoring women to enter the male-dominated world of technology.

Unfortunately, success always comes with side effects and I realised that I had no interest in the politics and backstabbing that were becoming associated with the agency. I walked away, with my worthless shares – and Digiwoo was born, a social media agency that has been going strong for over ten years now.

I was also lucky enough to be chosen to take part in the Marketing Academy, which was life-changing. The real eye-opener for me was attending the Living Leader bootcamp, with the amazing Penny Ferguson. That helped me realise that I was destined to build something to help young people, and help the next generation enjoy some of the opportunities that were not open to me when I was their age. I had my youngest child five years ago now, and my best friend and business partner Sarah Wilson had twins at the same time. That gave us all the motivation that we needed to change the approach of digital education and children’s entertainment for our young people. Digilearning was born.

We created Digilearning as a revolutionary way to teach children and young people about the opportunities digital has to offer. If adults want to sharpen their digital skills and get involved, they’re welcome too! We have a range of books, hold Digihack open days, and we are developing our #Edtech platform.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’d love to claim that I’m a type A personality and everything is progressing as part of a master plan, but that’s really not the case. I’m a firm believer in following my heart, as that ensures that I’ll be passionate about what I’m doing. That approach hasn’t let me down so far, so I think I’ll stick with it! I am particularly passionate about helping the underdog, and the opportunities that can be created for underprivileged children using digital.

One thing I will say is that I have always wanted to change the world, though. I’ve never been one to sit idly by when I see something that I consider to be an injustice. I remember visiting the headteacher’s office when I was 8 years old, asking for an explanation as to why I couldn’t join the school football team. I didn’t get a satisfactory answer, so I vowed to create my own, girl’s only team. That part of my character has always driven me.

Attending the Marketing Academy did change my approach a little. I now create a vision board of what I would like to achieve in the year, and I have a 2-year plan that is regularly updated. That is not just career-focused, though. It covers everything that I want to achieve in my life.

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

Yes, there have been many challenges. That’s life, after all! If something is easy, it’s probably not worth doing. Personally, I love a challenge to sink my teeth into. When I look back, what felt like problems at the time always seemed to develop into opportunities.

My background was arguably the first challenge I had to overcome. Growing up on a council estate with the experiences I had, I didn’t – and still don’t – talk, dress or act like the many people you meet in the business arena. I make no apologies for that, and I’m not going to change who I am to conform to somebody else’s ideals.

I also happen to be female in the tech space, which is never easy. Women are often underestimated in this industry. I try to own it, but I’m human. Sometimes I get scared to the bone, and wonder what I have agreed to! That’s when I take a deep breath, remember that I am in this situation because I have worked tirelessly for it, and own the moment as best as I can.

I also love the sheer shock and surprise on people’s faces when I tell them that I run my own business, and work with some of the biggest brands in the world - and always have done throughout my career. Every time a woman walks away from me meeting thinking, “if that South London girl from a council estate can do it then so can I”, I consider it a win.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Gosh, my biggest career achievement... that’s tough, it’s like choosing a favourite child! I recently got to take our Digilearning books to Jamaica and visit three local schools while I was there. The young children in attendance were immaculate in every sense of the word. They had hardly any resources, one fan on the wall, no computers and limited books. In fact, two of the three schools were literally shacks.

Despite having such limited facilities, especially compared to British education standards, their beautiful little faces started to glow as they watched me read our Digilearning books. We also met with Prince Charles in Barbados, and will be holding a Digihack with the Prince’s Trust International, which is a massive opportunity to really make a difference. Watch this space and get in touch if you could like to know more.

Alongside the UK, the Commonwealth is hugely important to Digilearning. We need to help as many young people rise up using digital as we can. Technology can help the next generation have the lives they deserve, and we believe we can make a massive impact.

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

People. I can never explain the gratitude I have for the many people that have helped guide and push me along the way. I’m not saying that they all did so intentionally, and they didn’t all necessarily guide me in the right way. However, I can say that I learned something important from each and every one of them.

Without these people, I have no idea if I would be the person I am. That’s the advantage of growing up the way I did. We may not have had much in a material context, but what we did have were countless characters in our lives. These are the people that provided me with skills that money can’t buy, and to people that grow up in less-than-ideal circumstances those life experiences are like gold dust. I can comfortably talk to anybody now, and that ability has provided me with so much success.

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

Find the area you love, and dedicate yourself to it whole-heartedly. If you’re interested in Artificial Intelligence, learn everything you possibly can about that that. Make sure that you’re speaking about it to everybody you encounter, including on your social media channels, and the rest will follow. Become a thought leader in the field that you love, and the career will follow. That’s only going to happen if you’re an expert in one subject, though. Knowing a little about a lot will only get you so far.

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

Yes, there are barriers for everybody in one way or another. In particular, however, women working in tech face more –isms than any of us have time to list. June Sarpong explains a lot about this in her book, Diversify. I advise you get a copy!

To overcome these obstacles, we need to stand together and speak up. There are now more support groups for women in tech now than ever before, and we do not have to think we are the only ones with these experiences.

Look at the recent #MeToo campaign – we have all thought that we were alone for too long, and now we know that’s not the case. Women in all industries must speak up, and stand united. Only then will we overcome these barriers.

More and more women are showing interest in tech, and they need to be encouraged instead of deterred. That means creating a more welcoming environment for everybody. Let’s stop making excuses for the industry, and force change. It’s an evolve or die situation, and I firmly believe that we can all evolve!

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

I believe they must take massive steps, and start forcing the situation. We have been speaking about equal pay at length, and to be honest I think we’re all bored with it now. The time for words has passed, and we all want to see some action.

I mean, seriously. It’s ridiculous that we still need to push the issue. I believe that Iceland has moved in the right direction, as over there it’s now illegal to pay women less than men for the same job. I’m not willing to wait another 100 years for that to happen in my own country though, and there is no way I will allow my daughters to.

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

We need to start the education process earlier than we currently are. That means getting into schools, and engaging girls about the possibilities of tech at a pivotal stage.

We really need to start from the root, and this is our main mission at Digilearning. Once we educate girls (and boys – female empowerment doesn’t have to equal male oppression, we just want to be treated fairly and equally!) from a young age about the myriad of opportunities digital has to offer there will be no holding back.

Digital needs to be the fourth pillar of education, alongside Maths, English and Science. It’s vital that the education system accepts that we are moving into the Digital Age, whether politicians like it or not. Education is currently stuck in the Victorian times, and values and beliefs need to be changed to reflect life in the 21st Century.

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

WeAreTechWomen, Super Soul Sundays podcast, Gary Vaynerchuck, The Drum, LinkedIn, the Cannes Lions Conference (you don’t need to get the big conference ticket for this– Google, Facebook and The Girls Lounge all have amazing events in Cannes for the festival you can attend for free), events hosted by The Marketing Academy and of course the book Diversify by June Sarpong.


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Inspirational Woman: Fallon Cryer | Managing Director of the Digital Engagement Service Line, Arkadin

Fallon Cryer

Fallon joined Arkadin in February 2019 as the Managing Director of Digital Engagement Service Line and is responsible for its virtual events solutions; going beyond moment-in-time audio and video events to proactive, purposeful and immersive digital experiences, anytime, anywhere.

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

I’m a straight-talking, big-hearted person with a passion for solving complex problems and helping other people.

Today, I serve as the Managing Director of Digital Engagement for Arkadin. I’m proud of our excellent team, right now we deliver more than 100 professionally managed events every working day, all over the world. From video conferences and small webinars to large webcasts or operator managed conference calls, it’s an honour to be trusted by customers to deliver their most critical communications and a privilege to work with so many excellent professionals at Arkadin.

Prior to Arkadin, I have spent over 15 years in the IT industry in a range of senior roles with some of the world’s most successful technology brands. I started in Marketing and followed my motivation around revenue-producing engines into broader Operations roles and then executive leadership in companies like Microsoft, Infor Global Solutions, DXC Technology.

Personally, I’m known for my open style, ability to get stuff done and sense of humour. You’ll probably hear me before you see me—I’ll be the one with an Australian accent, laughing loudly.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, but perhaps not how people may expect. I have never been someone who has aspired to certain job titles or a specific role. Instead, I focus on choosing the right people to work with, then finding big problems and get busy trying to solve them. This means my career has been quite organic. I’ve been fortunate that new opportunities find me.

That doesn’t mean it all happens by accident. Choosing the right opportunity is critical. By investing time to discover what I am passionate about, what experiences I enjoy and am looking for in a next role, it became easier to recognize and choose the right next steps when opportunities come along.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Absolutely. I won’t bore anyone with the details because some of it is a bit grim. The harsh reality of life is that it is not fair and I am not unique in that sense. Everyone has a private struggle that others may know nothing about.

There is a great quote by Elizabeth Gilbert that I like and that I’ll paraphrase: “the people I love and admire for their strength and grace did not get that way because things worked out. They got that way because things went wrong, and they handled it. They handled it a thousand different ways on a thousand different days, but they handled it…”

Life will kick you while you are down, you need to be resilient.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Holding on to amazing people over time and oceans! I have an amazing family and a network of people that make my life better because they are a part of it. To know that people I admire so greatly like having me around is more than I could have ever hoped for.

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

Sincere kindness, with no expectation of return. Kindness does not equate to weakness. In the tougher moments, it’s a superpower. If you can choose to be anything – be kind.

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

I have been fortunate in my career to have a number of excellent mentors and to serve as a mentor and coach to others. I make it a deliberate pursuit to receive guidance from a diverse network of people. There is a great book by Janine Garner titled “It’s who you know: How a network of 12 key people can fast-track your success”. It was gifted to me by my long-time coach and mentor Oscar Trimboli, author of “Deep Listening: Impact Beyond Words”, I highly recommend it for people curious about the power of your network.

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

I’m passionate about equality of opportunity, in all facets. Gender is only one pivot. I’d love to see a meritocracy—recognizing individuals based on talent, effort, and achievement, rather than factors such as sexuality, race,  gender, age, or wealth.

If I could change one thing, it would be to remove biases (both conscious and unconscious) in a way that would produce a diverse pool of qualified candidates for all roles. I’d then like the most suitable person to be appointed.

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

Let people help you.

When I was younger, I used to be fiercely independent when it came to work. I equated needing help to weakness, and I spent lots of my time powering through enormous workloads on my own. It was stressful, lonely and to be frank—I probably wasn’t producing the best possible outcome because I was the onlyone contributing and my experience was limited. I made mistakes and learnt a lot. However, my life changed when I shifted my mindset to focus on two things: the power of teams and the importance of helping others be successful, with no expectations of anything in return.

The reality is that very few of us will achieve great success in life as an individual. But as a team, we can be greater than the sum of our parts. Look at any successful sporting team, it’s not only about the start players, but also the team players and working as one. Importantly, not all the magic happens on the field, you don’t need to be a star player to make a difference; there is huge success in being a behind the scenes supporter and investing in helping others be great.

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

Being new in role, professionally, my next challenge is like many others: ensuring our business performs while we power through transformation. Key to our future success will be how we evolve to not only meet but stay ahead of the needs of our customers.

Personally, my future aspirations are simple, I want to help other people be successful and have fun doing it.


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Inspirational Woman: Malaika Paquiot | Master Product Manager in International Markets, nCino

 

Malaika Paquiot 1

Malaika Paquiot is a Master Product Manager in International Markets at nCino, the worldwide leader in cloud banking.

She brings a breadth of technology expertise and experience to nCino as an early team member, former Tech Support Manager, Software Development Manager and Developer. As Master Product Manager for International Markets, she leads the globalisation and localisation of the nCino Bank Operating System. During her 15 years in software, she’s served as Product Manager of the InfoSphere Data Replication suite of products at IBM, won the US National Women of Colour Technology Award, and lent her technical expertise as a judge for Triangle Start-up Weekend and as a digital strategist for ARRAY film collective. Committed to serving her local community, she sits on the boards of Working Films and Cucalorus Connect.

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

I grew up in Jamaica, West Indies, and later moved to the United States for University, where I earned my undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering and my graduate degree in computer and information systems engineering from Tennessee State University. When I completed my studies, I went to work for IBM in their mainframe division as a software developer, eventually moving into a management role. Eager to expand my skills, I seized an opportunity to become a Product Manager in their Information Integration group and have been in love with product management ever since.

I joined nCino in 2015 as a Product Manager focusing on the Document Manager solution. I grew within that role, eventually supervising the product managers of nCino’s platform portfolio. Today, I am charged with helping scale the nCino Bank Operating System internationally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have many mentors of all colours and stripes who supported and inspired me in many ways, from giving me advice to recommending me for leadership opportunities.

When I first started as a software developer, I was determined to become a development team lead. However, as I gained more experience, I cast a wider net so as not to limit myself. I’d see what someone else was doing and say, ‘Oh, that looks really interesting. I want to learn how to do that too.’

If there was a skill I wanted to further develop or a challenge I wanted to overcome, that would often lead me to a new role. For example, one of the management roles I held in the past was Technical Support Manager. I pursued this opportunity because my mentor told me it would help me develop a tough skin and learn to work under pressure. He was right; I learned how to accept critical feedback and work with a sense of urgency. While it was a challenging role, it helped me develop leadership skills and focus on the things I am passionate about.

What do you think could be done to encourage more girls into STEM?

I believe we are all responsible for making sure that we see more women and girls in STEM, and here are five ways we can make that happen:

  1. Parents can encourage curiosity about how the world works. Nothing beats this.
  2. Media can augment out-of-school learning and empower children to engage in STEM activities and careers.  A great step forward would be, for example, to televise awards like the Women of Color in STEM Awards.
  3. Governments can reward companies who have diverse boards and leadership teams, and should help formalise educational initiatives that support the notion that all students have access to high-quality learning opportunities in STEM subjects.
  4. Educational institutions can work better to link STEM subjects to everyday life by giving children more outside time. Research has shown the benefits of allowing children more time to investigate, play and explore the outside world can encourage an interest in STEM subjects.
  5. Hiring managers can focus on hiring a more diverse workforce. By breaking up workplace homogeneity, people become more aware of ingrained ways of thinking that can lead to errors and bias in decision-making processes.

What skills and knowledge do you think are vital for a career in STEM?

Practical skills will certainly depend on the particular career, but there are a few traits that are transferable to almost any subject. First, having curiosity about how things work and why they work, and the drive to explore that curiosity will lead to the development of analytical, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Second, having the ability to articulate an idea in a clear, bold and compelling way. If you have the “next big thing” but are not capable of communicating it, then it will fall mute. Finally, having confidence in yourself and knowing your worth are critical to ensuring career longevity at a sustainable pace.

Do you have any advice or tips for women looking to get into STEM?

While STEM fields are currently male-dominated, it’s important to realize you can and should be yourself and that will lead to the most success.

Some tangible advice is to look for and take on weekend projects to deepen your skills and build a portfolio of work. The more hands-on practice you can get, the better. Don't be afraid to tell your network about your interest in a STEM job. You never know who they may know.

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

My next challenge is to leverage the knowledge I’ve gained in managing products at large and small organizations to help nCino with its international expansion.


Inspirational Woman: Stella Loizou | Product Engineer, Hubble

Stella LoizouStella Loizou is a product engineer at Hubble.

She was previously part of the development team who built internal platform for the finance sector. She is now helping Hubble to apply to our platform cutting edge technologies such us React and Node.js

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

I studied Greek Philology and I have a masters in Classics from UCL. Now I am a software engineer! Quite strange right? I took a turn to my career. I had learnt a lot about our past, how ancients built civilisations and cultures, and It was time to learn about the future and help to build it. So I continue my studies in web developing. I have worked in software companies in Athens and Cyprus. Now I am working at Hubble where I am a full stack developer working with technologies that I love.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes sure,  if you want to achieve things in life you always have to plan and stick also to your goals

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes of course. When I entered the tech world and I got my first job, I had to face the fact that being a woman in a tech work environment is the reason to be neglected and ignored. This specific challenge took me by surprise. I have tried a lot of things to overcome this obstacle and I have achieved that in the end. Changing country and company help me to understand that are not ALL tech environments are full with prejudices.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I have entered the tech field, even if it is a men’s world, and I am succeeding on that.

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

Be strategic and determined

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

I love mentoring! I have been both a mentee and mentor. It is amazing to learn things from someone else that you admire as a person and/or professional. At the same time it’s so nice when you mentor as you can share your knowledge and at the same time you learn many things from your mentee.

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

Education from early stages! Children must be taught that everyone has the same rights

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

I would say “When someone else says you can’t, say I can”

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

My next challenge is to enter the AI world and keep having work-life balance.


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Inspirational Woman: Camila Namor, Product Engineer, Hubble

Camilla NamorA self taught Javascript developer, I’m very interested in all things related to the Internet as a community, education and learning.

When I’m not programming you can usually find me learning languages, reading and traveling. I'm a Product Engineer at Hubble working on the international platform.

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

My name is Camila and I’m a Javascript developer from Buenos Aires. I have a little over four years of experience working as a programmer, as well as some writing and teaching experience too. I recently moved to London and started working as a Product Engineer for Hubble.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I can’t say I started thinking formally about my career until recently. When I started getting into programming it was just for fun and I didn’t really know anyone on the field or working in IT at the moment so I wasn’t even aware of the possibilities. For the most part after that I was open to new ideas and opportunities that would come my way and luckily for me I think it worked out pretty well and it got me some interesting experience. Recently I’ve been thinking about what I want to do more purposefully and started generating change to get there. It’s been working great, mostly because it never felt forced.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes. Impostor syndrome is a pretty big thing for me, and it’s the same for every woman I meet in the industry. It’s harder when your professional environment lacks diversity and you really feel like the odd one out. I’ve been working a lot on it and trying not to let it spoil my energy but the majority of days it’s a conscious effort. It helps a lot right now that Hubble has such an amazing culture, and I’m really having a good time coming to work.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think it was being self-taught even without knowing anything about the industry at first. And more recently, making the leap and moving alone from the other side of the world. I’m very proud about that as well and happy with the decision.

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

Always being open to the different opportunities that present themselves along the way and trusting my gut.

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

I love mentoring. I’ve worked as a teacher for some time and got to help a lot of people when they were just starting out. It’s a very rewarding experience for me and I recommend it. And I think it works both ways, both the mentor and mentee always get something out of it. One of the greatest things about working in tech is being able to form part of such an active community, there’s always an event you can go to to meet people and learn from each other.

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

I think it’s important for companies to take an active role in trying to get more equality in the work place, and it’s not just about hiring more women. I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come by now but there’s still so much to do, especially regarding mothers in the workplace. We also need to hear more about different personal experiences, because these are endless and it’s always a bit easier when you can see yourself in someone that’s already where you want to be in the future. Sharing experiences inspires us and makes us feel less lonely.

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

To not doubt myself and my own capabilities, and to be more assertive about what I want. To be able to walk away if I don’t think I’m in the right place. But overall to always try to have fun with what I do.  At the end of the day, it’s important to be comfortable and work in meaningful projects.

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

My move was very recent so I’m very focused on building my new life here. I also want to be useful within my team and company, learning more about back end development (as I’ve always worked in the front end) and developing new ideas to improve our product are my main goals right now.