Inspirational Woman I Bethany Thomas, Reactor Chemistry Engineer at EDF Energy

Bethany Thomas, aged 23, is a reactor chemistry engineer at EDF Energy. She is a currently a role model in the energy company’s #PrettyCurious campaign.

Tell us about your career history

From a young age, I have always had an interest in how things work; wanting to take objects apart and see what they did.Beth Thomas 3

I first became interested in the energy industry after carrying out a week’s work experience at EDF Energy’s Heysham 2 Nuclear Power Station at the age of 15. I remember being taken on a tour of the plant, seeing the turbines and thinking “gosh this is so cool!”

I studied Physics, Chemistry and IT at A-Level and Maths at AS Level. I then went on to study Chemistry at Manchester University.

At the end of the second year of my degree, I carried out a summer placement with EDF Energy at Heysham 2 Nuclear Power Station. It was then that I was told about an opening for a Chemistry Apprentice. I secured the position and the company sponsored me while I completed the final year of my degree part-time.

A typical day for me will involve monitoring the performance of the plant, such as the reactor chemistry of the coolant gas and its associated water cooled systems. If there are any problems, I will carry out troubleshooting and work with Operations to return the plant to normal operation. There are no two days are the same and I really enjoy experiencing new challenges to solve.

What is your advice for women who want to pursue STEM careers?

I visited my old secondary school a few months ago, to talk about my career. I was approached by a female student who said that she didn’t know whether to continue her studies in science or in the arts, as she was concerned that science may be ‘too difficult.’

I advised her that science is definitely not out of anyone’s grasp. It’s amazing how much you can do when you get to grips with things. I never thought I’d be in the position I am now and I’m amazed with the things I’ve achieved.

I am keen to progress in my career and would like to go into station management.

Inspirational Woman I Amy Edmundson, Electrical Maintenance Technician at Hinkley Point B

Amy grew up in Bridgwater and was always aware of Hinkley Point B through her own friends and friends of her parents. Her interest in engineering was first sparked at school when she was asked to design a product in a design and technology class, which required her to use and develop a lot of skills and knowledge needed in engineering, such as creativity and science.

Amy went on to join the EDF Energy apprenticeship scheme in 2011, which she felt was a brilliant opportunity to work in a unique and interesting industry – that of nuclear power. She spent the first two years of her apprenticeship at HMS Sultan, a navy base in Portsmouth, which proved to be a great training base for learning a trade, as well as an opportunity to meet new people.

She recently qualified as a maintenance technician. A power station uses lots of electrical equipment and her role involves maintaining and repairing electrical equipment, such as batteries, motors and circuit breakers. Amy is now doing a Higher National Certificate in Electrical, Electronic and Control Principals – her ambition being to develop her skills further and open up other career routes within operations and engineering. Amy is a role model for the EDF Energy #PrettyCurious campaign.

 What’s your career and education history?

I grew up in Bridgwater and was always aware of Hinkley Point B through friends and friends of my parents.

King Alfreds School, where I studied GCSE’s including Science, Design Technology and Maths. I then went to Bridgwater College for 1 Year where I studied AS-Levels in Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Psychology. I didn’t have much experience in the engineering industry before I joined the apprenticeship scheme in 2011, but my interest was sparked at school. We were asked to design a product in a design and technology class, which employed a lot of techniques that you would apply to engineering such as creativity and science.

I felt that the apprenticeship was not only a brilliant opportunity for me to gain the experience I wanted, but to also allow me to work in such a rare, individual and interesting industry of ‘nuclear power’. It also leads into such a brilliant career path for me, with working on a nuclear power station.Amy Edmundson 4

Tell us about HMS Sultan

I spent my first two years of the apprenticeship carrying out my training at HMS Sultan. During these two years I gained all the basic knowledge and skills which I required to build on and hopefully to become a successful maintenance technician at Hinkley Point B, and maybe C in the future. HMS sultan is a navy base in Portsmouth, and is a great chance to spend time away from home, whilst learning a trade, and meeting new people from across the country!

What are your thoughts on your role?

I recently qualified from my apprenticeship as an Electrical technician. A power station uses lots of electrical equipment and my role involves maintaining and repairing electrical equipment – for example, batteries, motors, circuit breakers.

There are so many opportunities for development within the company. I recently qualified as a maintenance technician after a four year apprenticeship with EDF Energy and am now doing a Higher National Certificate in Electrical, Electronic and Control Principals. My ambition is to join the technical leg of the technician level, as well as having the opportunity to go into a job with operations, engineering, or many other roles. This ability to develop your skills is hugely supported by the company.

As a whole, EDF Energy is a brilliant company to work for, and I am proud to be an employee. I have the opportunity to be involved in such a unique industry, as well as have a great and secure job.

What is your advice for women who want to pursue STEM careers?

Boys and girls all start education at the same level and all have the ability to do well in science. It’s a shame that so many teenage girls don’t think they’re clever enough and think they’re too creative to work in a science-based job. There are so many creative jobs you can do with a science qualification, in many different industries. I hope the #PrettyCurious campaign will encourage more girls and young women to explore the opportunities open to them. Being a woman in the industry can be seen to be difficult, but I can happily say women are not treated differently and it would be great to see more women join our teams.

Don’t ever think that you’re not good enough, women make just as good engineers and scientists as men.

Inspirational Woman I Jenny Griffiths, Computer Scientist and Founder & CEO of Snap Fashion

Jenny Griffiths, Computer Scientist and Founder & CEO of Snap Fashion was interested in Science and ICT, as well as Music and English, but before she went to university she thought she would have to choose to either pursue an Arts or Science career.

She never thought she would invent something which would enable her to keep up with all of her interests and skills – Snap Fashion. The Snap Fashion app and website allows people to take a photo of an item of clothing they like that they see in a magazine or in person, and then the use the app’s visual search technology to find a similar item available they can go and buy on the high street or online. Jenny is currently acting as a spokesperson for EDF Energy’s Pretty Curious campaign, and acts as a role model to encourage more girls into STEM careers.

How did you find studying science school?

Science was definitely one of my favourite subjects at school. I preferred Physics but generally really enjoyed the practical side of all of the Sciences and having the chance to be a bit more hands-on and experimental in lessons. I looked forward to Maths and IT classes but also to English and Music, which I studied during my A Levels – I found I could be creative with all of these subjects, just in different ways.

At what age did you first become interested in technology and what was it that excited you?

I’ve always been interested in science and technology, ever since my father took my sister and me on family trips to the Science Museum in London. My parents were never pushy when I was younger – they let me do and learn about what I enjoyed and I think this helped nurture my passion for science. I used to do home experiments and make my own stop motion animation with a friend as I’d always thought I would become an Animator. I think it’s for this reason that I’ve always viewed science and technology as quite playful.

What was your peers’ attitude towards Science, Technology, ICT and Maths when you were growing up?

I did find that as we progressed through school that quite a few girls dropped Maths – I’m not quite sure why – but this didn’t dissuade me from continuing to study it. I gravitated towards something I was good at which is why I studied Science and Maths at school and beyond.

What made you decide to take science subjects for A Level?

It was a no brainer as I really enjoyed these subjects at school. One rule I have always lived by is to ‘know your strengths’, so it made total sense for me to take Maths and Physics, as well as English and Music, on to A Level. By studying Arts and Sciences I also knew I was keeping my options open and could go on to study a variety of courses at university and apply these skills to a range of careers.

Who were your role models when you were growing up?

One person I have always regarded as a role model is British Engineer James Dyson. Over the years he has taken a range of everyday and household products and improved their design and functionality. He has the ability to look at something you didn’t think was broken or could be improved upon and make them so much simpler and more effective.

Did these role models differ from other girls’ your age?

When I was younger I think my role models were very similar to those of other girls my age. I was very into Brit pop and indie music when I was growing up and didn’t necessarily look up to them but enjoyed going to gigs and watching bands have fun on stage, do what they love and produce amazing music all at the same time. That was really inspirational to me and I think it helped drive me to ensuring my future career was something I felt truly passionate about.

What led you to study a technology subject at university?

 I studied Physics, Maths, English and Music at school and so when it came to choosing my degree I was concerned I might have to choose between studying science or a more Arts-related subject. I had also had it at the back of my mind from a young age that I might like to become an Animator or inventor so was interested in finding out what I could do in this area. After researching the science courses on offer at university and what was involved, I became interested in Engineering. As a discipline it involves designing and inventing, which would then allow me to use both my creative and practical skills. I decided Computer Science was the engineering course for me and would get me one step closer to my dream job.

What was the gender split like for your university course?

The gender split at university was definitely skewed towards men – there were 4 or 5 girls and about 100 in my undergraduate degree and 2 girls and 30 boys in my master’s degree! I found at university Computer Science had one of the worst gender biases of all the science subjects and I have never understood why. I was never intimidated by this bit did find it a bit of a culture shock initially.

When you chose your degree did you have a specific career goal in mind?

When I started my course I thought I wanted to become an Animator or become and inventor and create something totally new – I just wasn’t sure what that would be. I studied a wide range of subjects at school so I could keep my options open and thought Computer Science would help open the door to a wide range of possibilities.

Did you ever feel the pressure to study more traditionally ‘girly’ subjects?

I’m not sure you can really call any subject girly or for boys – you should definitely always study and continue to enjoy what you love. I was always good at Science so it was assumed I would go on to study Medicine or Veterinary Science however I always knew that engineering was more me. My enthusiasm for the subject meant that my friends, school and family were all really supportive of my decision.

Were you ever intimidated by the idea that these subjects are traditionally ‘male’?

When I started at university I was slightly surprised by the abilities and skills of the students on my course. A number of the boys had been interested in coding for several years whereas I was starting afresh so it meant I had a lot to learn quite quickly. I didn’t find this intimidating though – I have always known that I and all other girls are just as capable as boys. We all use technology every day and should be able to influence new innovations and developments just as much as boys do. Everyone wants products to be well-designed and to work quickly and girls can bring fresh new approaches and ideas to the fore.

Were you ever tempted to go into a non-technology related career?

I love to write so had considered studying English Literature at university and working towards becoming a journalist. I think this is what I might have done had I gone down an arts-related path at university.

Have you faced any barriers as a woman in a male-dominated industry?

There haven’t been many barriers during my career however as there aren’t many women in technology there have been times when I have stood out. I’ve always been able to turn this on its head and use it to my advantage throughout my career and have become good friends with other women in technology who are all very supportive of each other. I do think it’s important for girls to disregard stereotypes and to continue to do what they like. There will only be more women in technology and science if girls who enjoy it stick with it!

What inspired you to create the app and when did you decide it could be a good idea?

I was inspired to create my app Snap Fashion initially for entirely selfish reasons! I wanted to know where people bought their clothes from and where I could find items to complement the clothes I already had but realised there was no pre-existing easy way to do this. And with everyone carrying smartphones with powerful cameras everywhere with them the raw materials were all already there for me to invent it. I discussed the idea with friends who all said they would download and use the app when it became available, so it was then I knew that I was on my way to creating something that would fill a gap in the market.

What pushed you into working on the app full time?

After university I began working as a Project Manager at an Engineering company which I really enjoyed, and was busy creating the codes and algorithms needed to make my app during the weekends. After winning a competition led by Innovate UK, I knew it was time to start working permanently on my app. I moved to London, began recruiting a team and it was then that my invention became a proper reality rather than just a hobby.

When did you realise you could have a career in technology that combined an unrelated industry like fashion?

I realised quite quickly when I was working on my master’s thesis that there was the potential to design the fashion app I wanted to create – all it required was the right data and coding. I’m so lucky to now be able to code during the day and attend London Fashion Week parties at night. The fashion industry is very pro-technology and is integrating it more and more into the store experience, doing some really cool things on the catwalk and creating new materials and designs using the latest technology.

Who are your female role models within the technology industry?

There are an increasing amount of female technology founders out there that I find inspirational such as Bethany Koby, founder of Technology Will Save Us and Vivian Chan, Co-founder of Sparrho, to name but a few. I consider these women and others within the technology space my role models because they pursued something they were good at and have invented something amazing.

What’s your proudest career moment so far?

My proudest career moment to date has to be receiving an MBE at the end of last year, followed closely by winning the Cisco British Innovation Award the day after I launched Snap Fashion, which was an incredible experience.

How do you think the technology industry will change over the next ten years?

I think things will become much, much faster over the next ten years – just think of the possibilities 3D-printing and smartphone technology bring now and how much things have developed over the past ten years. I think technology will take us places we can’t even imagine and hope more women will be at the forefront inspiring these changes.

For girls who feel science subjects aren’t for them, what would your advice be?

It’s important not to force yourself to do something you fundamentally don’t enjoy, stick to what you’re good at and learn where your strengths lie. That said, it’s important to keep your options open and make sure you definitely don’t like something before you discount it! Science and technology are such broad subjects areas that there is bound to be an area which appeals to you so I would recommend persevering and identifying what areas you like the most.

What’s the best piece of career advice you have ever received?

A lot of people have told me that if you start a company, even if it fails, ‘that will look good on your CV’. That whole approach to life, not being afraid of failure, has encouraged me to throw myself into a wide range of activities and opportunities because you never know where the skills you accrue might come in handy.

What would be your top five tips for girls wanting to pursue a similar career in Technology?

Know your strengths. I knew I enjoyed and was good at physics so it’s important to identify what you’re good at, stick at it and most important of all, enjoy it.

Always do Maths. Maths is at the root of absolutely everything so I can’t recommend it enough – it helped my create my app but has also greatly helped me run my business.

Don’t be put off by stereotypes. Enjoying science or technology doesn’t make you weird – just make sure you go for what you enjoy.

Keep your options open. I didn’t even know it was possible to have the career that I had when I was growing up. Don’t turn down opportunities to experience and learn about new things as you never know where it may lead.

Find people who want to do it with you. It makes the journey a whole lot easier – it’s hard to succeed as a lone ranger. It’s important to have like-minded people with different skill sets around you to bounce ideas off.

Jenny Griffiths is a 28 year old computer scientist and founder of Snap Fashion, a visual search engine for fashion. Jenny invented Snap Fashion’s fashion-finding technology whilst studying for her Masters in Computer Science at Bristol University, going on to launch the app officially a few years after she graduated in 2012. The Snap Fashion app and website allows people to take a photo of an item of clothing they like that they see in a magazine or in person, and then the use the app’s visual search technology to find a similar item available they can go and buy on the high street or online.

Snap Fashion has already attracted a huge following and receives 250,000 Snaps per month. Plus in August this year, Time Inc, the magazine publisher that’s home to titles such as Marie Claire, invested in Snap Fashion for an undisclosed sum. The app has won a whole raft of awards including Cisco’s British Innovation Gateway Award and Jenny herself received an MBE for her services to Innovation in the Digital Fashion Industry. 

Inspirational Woman I Kakul Srivastava, GitHub’s VP of Product Management

I’m a tech entrepreneur focused on building companies that empower people and create community and currently I live in San Francisco with my family.

In the course of my career, I’ve helped build some of the best loved consumer tech products, such as Adobe's Photoshop line of software, Flickr, Yahoo! Messenger, and Yahoo! Mail. I also founded Tomfoolery, Inc., a startup dedicated to making beautiful social apps for work, which was bought by Yahoo! in 2014. Most recently I worked as Chief Product Officer for WeWork, a $10B company focused on empowering millennial entrepreneurs and creators.Kakul Srivastava

I’m currently 3 months into my role as the vice president of product management at GitHub, where I lead product, design, user research and marketing, to build the best tools for developers to write code.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes! I did it when I was 16 and I had a whole plan – I was going to do an MD PhD and start a biotech company and make lots of money. Easy, right?

What I learnt in time is that, instead of making plans you are happiest when you follow what your passion is. For me, that passion is exploring the intersection between innovative technology and innovative business.

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

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is how to balanced working in the fast paced tech industry with being a working parent. It sounds predictable, but I really wanted to find the right trade-off between my desire to change the world by helping create great technology and helping shape cool new humans (my kids!).

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

I’d advise people to step outside of the professional experience they’ve had to date and reframe their strengths and weaknesses with the context of the role they have been given. You need to realise that you were given this leadership role for a reason and that it doesn’t directly compare to your performance and requirements in previous roles.

There’s also a book that I recommend to everyone - The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins. It provides a great framework for people taking on a new role in leadership.

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

I’ve learnt that one of the most important factors for success are the set of values that you operate under. So, whenever I happen to be looking at two equally qualified candidates, I look for a values match, which for us is someone who values resilience, has the ability to learn, behaves with a genuine respect for others and has humility.

How do you manage your own boss?

When you’re part of a larger company it is essential to make sure that everyone is agreed on a shared set of goals. Some of those are easy to figure out, but others, like the big, “how are we going to change the world” type goals, are often harder to get alignment on.

One thing that I’ve appreciated since working with our CEO at GitHub is that we’re very closely aligned on that bigger picture goal, which makes everything else flow much more easily. At GitHub there is a real focus on seeing developers as the centre of innovation and wanting to support their growth.

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

My day revolves around balancing time with my family and focusing on work. I like to start the day before my kids wake up with an hour of quiet, focused work time. Then the kids get up and it’s all go – getting them breakfast and off to school before a day that’s typically packed with meetings. Then I head home and spend a few hours with my family and try to unwind with a bit of reading. I’m mad about science fiction writing.

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

It’s important to take the time to realise why the tasks you’re doing are important and how they connect to the business’ larger goals, and be able to communicate those to other people in the organisation. Knowing the “why” and “how” of your own role enables you to feel confident about your value. It’s also important to be genuinely curious about other parts of the company to create empathy and be a better colleague.

Finally, recognise that sometimes the best way to grow within a company is to grow outside

the company -- whether that’s by blogging, building your own profile or networking outside of the office.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Absolutely. I’ve built what I think of as a personal advisory board of some pretty remarkable leaders that I’ve been able to work with over the years, and I make sure that I check in with them about every 3-6 months.

I ask them questions about how they would handle challenges that are coming up in my career, or general business challenges. Sometimes I simply check in.

The important thing about developing that board is making sure that it’s diverse, and that they can support you in lots of different ways. Some people are those I go to for deeply technical advice, others are some of the best people managers I’ve ever worked with, and others are business or financial experts. Being able to turn to these people with relevant issues or concerns is really valuable.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?
  • Acknowledge how nerve-wracking networking can be. I’m by nature introverted, so networking is really hard for me – put me in a room full of people I don’t know and I will almost always freeze up. Having said that, networking is a crucial skill and I’ve been thankful that I’ve taken the time to work on it over the course of my career.
  • Always try to make your conversations as genuine as possible. I’m a very curious person, so I use networking as a way to feed my curiosity and figure out how things work.
  • Think about how you can build and maintain relationships through networking. Try to follow up and make sure any initial introductions turn into real relationships. I do this by following up with people in the days after a meeting and referencing something very specific from our conversation to open up the possibility of continuing the conversation in a different way or place.
What does the future hold for you?

I’m really excited to figure out how we leverage this amazing network of developers that we have built at GitHub. Our goal is to make GitHub THE destination for writing, collaborating, and shipping code, and I’m working with my team to figure out the best way to make the craft of writing code easy, fun and powerful.

Inspirational Woman I Wendy Jephson, Co-Founder and Chief Behavioural Scientist at Sybenetix

I am a Co-Founder and Chief Behavioural Scientist at Sybenetix. Originally I trained in London as a lawyer, went in-house into business early on and was on the board at Eli Lilly & Company Ltd before leaving to retrain as a business-focussed behavioural scientist. At Sybenetix my role is to help with the design of our Enterprise Behavioural Analytics software that analyses the behaviours of financial decision makers and provides tools to both improve the performance for those decisions makers and enable compliance officers to manage misconduct more effectively.

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

When I was 12 I loved watching Crown Court - that combined with a love of debating (possibly more accurate to say arguing) with my brother, and the fact I thought they earnt a lot of money, settled me on a career as a lawyer.  The plan from there was obvious; law degree; law school and Articles in a law firm. I started as a trainee solicitor in my London law firm, with becoming a partner a firm expectation. Wendy Jephson

Two years later having been seconded to Xerox during the traineeship (a right place right time moment), I was offered a job in-house in their Central & Eastern European Team. I duly signed up to the Final Salary Pension scheme and thought I'd be making my way up the ladder there for many years. Two years later I moved to Eli Lilly & Company Limited.  I again signed up to the Pension scheme, but thought 'let's see where this takes me’.

Seven years later in a fascinating industry and multi-layered job I found I had a new interest emerging in behavioural science.  Sparked from an idea from my brother - a fund manager - that analysing financial decision making and using behavioural science to enhance it was a real area of opportunity, I went back to university to retrain.   That interest has grown into a passion over more years than I expected it to take, but when I left Lilly I did tell the Board I was leaving to do the job I am doing today, so there was an outline plan in that sense if the details of how I've gotten from A to B have taken a number of twists and turns.

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

Challenges come in many shapes and guises - from within the work itself to the culture of your organisation to outside of work.  My biggest challenges have come from losing family members much too soon. Events like that though shape what's important and how you will deal with them inside and outside of work, so for me there is learning to be had in everything.

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

I remember someone saying to me that when you move into leadership positions with the top teams you get to peak behind the curtain - meaning you see the leadership gods are still just normal people just like the rest of us, usually they just have more of the picture.  It's a core skill to be able to maintain the ability to relate to both leadership team and those you are leading.  You have to find your own way of doing that, but again watch how others do it and notice the impact it has.

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

As a behavioural scientist I can honestly say that no two candidates will be identical even if they have the same qualifications on paper.  They will have differences in how they approach problems, team mates, clients and so on. These can all be tested systematically provided you have analysed the role they will be doing, distilled the knowledge skills and abilities that will be required as well as the cultural fit with the organisation.  Taking a multi-layered approach means you are far more likely to find great people who will fit your role, but for whom the role and organisation will also best fit.

  1. How do you manage your own boss?

As part of the senior management team I don't have one in the formal sense.  The approach that works for me though is to remain open and continue to ask questions to ensure I'm informed and understand the issues.  This helps me know when to challenge and when things are outside my areas of expertise.  I also try to keep as much humour in the relationship as possible

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

 Usually both ends are on the train although the beginning is always with coffee!  It's a great opportunity to think - I use it try to make sense of the latest challenges and to see where dots join and diverge.

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

Be interested and take opportunities to learn more whenever and wherever they arise - especially when it's outside your usual role's parameters.  Speak to people you don't normally speak to; go to talks because they're on - there are always little nuggets in everything you hear and see, and it means you have a broader ability to speak to people across organisations and industries.

  1. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

The first and only coach I've had actually really set me on the path I'm on.  I'd been given a coaching package as part of the senior team program - we dealt with the career planning piece in session one and had five sessions left.  In those sessions he really introduced me to behavioural science and the impact it can have in organisations.   I've not had 'official’ mentors, but again I learn from everyone I get the opportunity to work with both within my organisation and outside it.

  1. Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is incredibly important.  There have been studies showing how connected people are in our world and you never know when opportunities will arise.  Just a few weeks ago I was in Hong Kong with a CEO from an Australian company who gasped as he saw one of his great friends from the UK on the slide about our advisory panels!

Three tips would be:

  1. Go for it! Go up to the speakers at events and ask them questions.
  2. Join in group discussions and listen for the opportunities to connect.
  3. Follow up with people you've met for subsequent discussions to keep the relationships alive.
  4. What does the future hold for you?

The future of Sybenetix is incredibly exciting. We are breaking new ground in behavioural analytics, really bringing the knowledge from academia into the messy real-world workplace.  I am working with an amazing team of very talented people in an industry full of very smart people who are actually really driven to improve standards - so the future looks very exciting indeed.

Inspirational Woman | Nicole Anderson, founder of FinTech Circle Innovate

Nicole Anderson is the founder of FinTech Circle Innovate, which works to establish financial services companies with support through innovation and investment. 
1. Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I have never actually planned my career - but four years ago I knew I wanted to move into FinTech in an entrepreneurial capacity. I knew if I could combine my commercial, innovation and venture experience to the explosive growth and opportunity in FinTech - I knew I could make an impact especially given London is such a great platform.Nicole Anderson

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

In running any business you face challenges everyday but agility and problem solving is part of the deal. Living with uncertainty takes getting used to. The trick is to have structure, surround yourself with great talent and network and be relentless in your execution and self-belief.

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

Having a mentor is a great idea at any stage in a career but even more so when you take on a leadership role for the 1st time. Gaining insight on how to manage time, demands of managing people, structures and targets/KPI's are a complex mix and having an outside view is invaluable.

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

I would go with someone the right attitude. Enthusiasm and a self-starter who is creative and motivated is hard to find. Capability is one thing - but attitude is the X factor.

  1. How do you manage your own boss?

I don't have one - I am the boss. I do have customers and that is who I answer to. I treat my customers with as much personal attention as possible. I believe people work with people they trust and like. And that relationships are the key to business.

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

I begin each morning with a mediation practice. I am also a keen sports person and do some form of exercise every morning - swimming, running, gym or yoga. That sets me up for the day. I have long days as I work multiple time-zones but usually I end my day with time at home with my husband. It’s important to disconnect - although not always that easy. I find listening to music or podcasts / audio books a great way to disconnect.

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

It’s important to work on proof points before aiming to get your profile raised. Get involved in projects that stretch you. Work on external networking. Make sure your social media profile is up to date and reflects who you want to be.

Ask for regular reviews with your manager to get feedback on progress and seek out a mentor in your organisation who you admire.

If you need to brush up in an area - build that into your formal training plan or request support to gain some external education.

Your career development is your responsibility. Say what you feel and don't take things personally when given feedback. Treat input as a way to grow.

  1. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Hugely - I still have a mentor - who fortunately is also a partner. I gain huge value every day from his knowledge and style. I believe that you never stop learning. I would guard against perpetual coaching. And certainly getting too much input can be overwhelming and confusing. But you will know when you are inspired and are getting results that you are on the right track.

  1. Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker

150% - it’s the key to business success. Building confidence, key contacts, industry knowledge all come through networking. My tips would be to sign up to groups online that interest you and aim to attend 2-3 a month. Get involved in 1-2 projects that involve a networked group a year.

Make sure you use LinkdedIn and Twitter to feed/support these efforts and build out your circle.

  1. What does the future hold for you?

I am very excited about the opportunity I and my team have. The world of finance is changing radically through the impact of technology. This has radical implications for the way in which societies operate in the future. Our work with large enterprises trying to get to grips with how innovation affects their performance and future allows us to gain deep insight into their challenges and opportunities. We work with creative, dynamic and powerful people every day across the world.

And this is only set to expand. So who knows what the future truly holds but right now – it’s looking bright and very fulfilling.

Inspirational Woman: Sarah Burnett | Vice President at Everest Group and Deputy Chair of BCSWomen

I’m a vice president at Everest Group, where I lead the company’s research and analysis in Europe. I also lead Everest Group’s research on service delivery/business process automation globally. Outside of work, I champion the cause of women in IT as deputy chair of BCSWomen and as a member of Tech UK’s Women in Technology Council.Sarah Burnett

I owe much of my success to my visionary father who strongly encouraged me to do a sci-tech degree to develop skills that would always be in demand. That has been my passport to work, even after I left the industry for four years to look after my then young children.

I am married to a wonderful technology entrepreneur who is starting to reap the fruit of his labour, having started a company 10 years ago in the tough start-up environment that is the UK’s tech scene. We have two grown-up children.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not at all. I did not have a plan that said, for example, I wanted to be a director by the age of 30, etc. I knew some people at the time who had those kinds of plans but not me. I was not after corporate power or money but doing what I enjoyed.

As a teenager, I had taken the first computer programming course that my school offered. I stuck out like a sore thumb as the only girl in the class, but I did not let it bother me. I found the course interesting; the fact that I could programme a machine to do what I wanted it to do. After the computing course, I wanted to become a programmer. I knew then what I wanted to do, and I got on with it.

As I learnt more about computing and developed new skills, I got into managing projects and then programmes. I was a European level programme manager for a majorU.S. computer manufacturer by the time I went on a career break when I had children.

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

Yes, when I wanted to return to work on a part-time basis at the end of my four year career break. There were no part-time jobs to be had except at FI Group, the company that the wonderful Steve Shirley set up for women returners. Luckily, my programming skills were still in demand, and I got a contract with FI working in the City of London. FI Group is no longer in existence. While companies today have flexible working policies, I’m not sure how effective these are in supporting women returners.

Another challenge was accepting a much more junior role when I returned compared to before I took time off. It has been a long and windy road getting back to being a senior corporate woman again, but I would not have it any other way. I was able to achieve a good worklife balance, which was very important to me with my young children.

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

I’m an analyst, and so I recommend an analytical approach. Look at what you are doing and why and what would achieve the biggest outcome for your customers and the business. You will get noticed very quickly if you achieve outstanding outcomes. It is important to get noticed and build a personal brand as someone who delivers.

It is a sad fact of corporate life that a lot of people get on not because of what they do but because of whose boots they lick. This kind of corporate climbing seriously turns my stomach. I have worked for companies that were run by cliques of directors and bootlickers. If you weren’t one of them, you languished at junior levels. I have no time for those types of companies. My advice is don’t waste your skills working for them – move on.

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

Choosing the right candidate is one of the most challenging parts of hiring. I would look beyond qualifications and experience for signs of initiative and energy – what have they done outside work or education? Are they rounded people who can deal with client pressure and unexpected situations?

How do you manage your own boss?

My boss does not need to be managed. He is the division’s managing partner who sets the overall business strategy and direction. I manage my own work, do what needs to be done in order to implement that strategy within my remit, mostly in Europe and in some other areas globally.  I work collaboratively with various teams and my boss; and keep him informed.

As a senior member of the team, I tend to tackle issues and challenges myself as much as possible. I do not expect my boss to fight my battles for me.

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

How my day starts very much depends on my schedule. I could be leaving very early to be in London for a breakfast meeting or jumping into a cab to head for the airport to get on an early flight to the continent. Throughout the week, I keep a running check on my diary and what I have to do to prepare for meetings and presentations.

On days that I start work at my desk, I always try and catch the industry news so that I know what is happening. Notable mergers and acquisitions or major IT or business process outsourcing contracts are relevant to my work. I tend to blog about these to advise clients about their implications for the industry and competition.

On my desk-bound days, I tend to get on with project-related work during the main hours of the working day. Towards the end of the day, I tend to do the administrative and overhead tasks. It is not unusual for me to return to my laptop later in the evening, between 8 and 10 pm, to answer a few more emails and finalize meeting and conference call arrangements.

On other days I could be attending business events in London. These vary from pre-conference or industry- award dinners to drinks receptions to meet international executives of clients or service providers who are passing through London.

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

I go back to my point about achieving effective outcomes. Another thing is not to be shy. If on a group call and you have a question, do not fret about it; just ask it. If you see an obvious flaw with a plan, highlight it in a non-critical way, mentioning how it might impact an aspect of the business.

Use the options that are open to you – for example if your company has a corporate social media and collaboration site then join in with some of the discussions in your spare time. Answering colleagues’ queries about best practice and what worked for you can help you become known as an expert in that field. Some corporate social media tools automatically identify experts by the type of questions that they have answered.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I regret to say not in a significant way. I am deputy chair of BCSWomen in the UK, and we run a mentorship programme. It can be very effective, and I do wish that I had looked for mentorship earlier in my career.

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

Networking is important as it helps you spot opportunities both for yourself and for your business. My first tip is to network with your peers with a purpose that is other than just building a network. I recommend networking for a good cause, e.g., helping more women with an IT career as part of BCSWomen.

My second tip is to join a network that helps you develop your skills through seminars and workshops.

My third tip is not to be a passive networker. Do not just attend events but get on the committee and start helping out. You will build much longer lasting relationships that way.

What does the future hold for you?

I am currently very much enjoying working at Everest Group. I am helping the company grow in Europe, as well as develop new areas of expertise, such as service delivery automation. As and when I decide to move on from my current role, I will be looking to go part time and freelance as an industry analyst. I also intend to get onto a couple of boards as a non-executive director. I know a lot about the IT and outsourcing industries and ideally I would be looking to help a start-up technology company in these markets. I would also like to get onto the board of a charity to help a good cause.

Inspirational Woman: Professor Dame Carol Robinson | L’Oreal For Women in Science Awards

Women in room with paintingsProfessor Dame Carol Robinson is making her mark in history having created a new scientific field, gas phase structural biology. Her breakthrough has secured her a global honour at L'ORÉAL-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards.

For 17 years, women in the science industry have been celebrated for their incredible efforts and contributions to the research field, from curing diseases to protecting the environment, and the award makes Professor Dame Carol Robinson the fifth British Scientist to have ever won.

In this inspiring video she talks about balancing her career in science with a demanding home life, what it means to be awarded the European Laureate award and the importance of the For Women In Science programme in supporting future generations of women entering scientific vocations.

We decided to find out more;

"The work life balance issue is a difficult one. I think there are times in your career when your outside life has to come first."

Women at computerHow did your interest in science originate? At what point in your life did you know you wanted to be a scientist?

Through an inspirational teacher but there was no conscious plan to become a scientist – my scientific career evolved with me.

I can remember being fascinated by the periodic table from a very early age. I loved patterns that it held and realised the enormity of what I was looking at. Recognising, or looking for, patterns in my research is still very exciting for me.

What were the biggest challenges you faced in pursuing a career in science? How did you resolve them?

The work life balance issue is a difficult one. I think there are times in your career when your outside life has to come first. As a scientist the enormous flexibility that goes with the job is really a bonus. I didn't miss out on any important school events, sports days, nativity plays etc. Now my children are working all over the world. I am totally free to pick up the pace on my research. My advice would be to take advantage of the flexibility of your career and to remember that there will be periods when you can’t devote as much time to your work as you would like. Be confident that these will pass and then you will be grateful that you maintained your position in academic research.

women at computerWhen you were named as the first female Professor of Chemistry at both Oxford and Cambridge, how did you feel?

I remember feeling quite daunted. It felt as though I was an experiment and that my colleagues would be watching to see how I did – could a woman take on this role? I also felt that it was quite sad that many amazing women before me had not been given the chance to be Professors - they clearly deserved to be.

"I think it is a great idea that L’Oreal-UNESCO is highlighting women scientists in this way."

What has been your proudest moment as a scientist?

I remember the day, almost 25 years ago, when I saw my first protein assemblies fly through the gas phase. This excited me, particularly as these experiments were not predicted to work. Theoretical calculations had suggested that proteins would turn inside out in the gas phase. The fact that they stayed together and we later showed that they had the correct shape really launched my whole career.

Do you think that programmes like this help to encourage young women into the industry?

I think it is a great idea that L’Oreal-UNESCO is highlighting women scientists in this way. I hope it has a very positive effect on young women considering a career in science.

Carol RobinsonHow do you perceive the cause of women in science?

There are some great women scientists – getting them to believe in themselves, recognizing their potential and getting others to do so if perhaps the greatest challenge.

"You can have a great career if you really enjoy science. It is important to follow your passion and to be committed."

As a role model, what would you recommend to girls or young adults who are considering a career in science?

You can have a great career if you really enjoy science. It is important to follow your passion and to be committed. Being an academic is a very flexible career, particularly if you have outside commitments. There are times when I have worked incredibly hard - less so when my children were young. Now that they have all left home I am totally free to work at my own pace again. There are so many positives about being a scientist. Don’t think of it as being stuck in the lab all day. The opportunities to present your research, to interact at conferences and to carry out collaborations across the world are tremendously exciting. It is also very rewarding working with bright young students, watching them develop and take up their own careers. It really is a great career choice.

Watch Dame Carol Robinson discuss her career in this inspiring video

For more information please visit:

Inspirational Woman: Kate Russell | TV Presenter | BBC Click

By Adam Leach
By Adam Leach

Kate Russell is a journalist, reporter and author who has been writing about gaming, technology and the Internet since 1995. Best known for weekly appearances on BBC technology programme Click, she is a frequent face on TV, radio and in magazines as a technology expert, with regular columns in National Geographic Traveller and BBC Focus magazines. She is author of two books; Working the Cloud, a business book about the internet and Elite: Mostly Harmless, her debut science fiction novel based in the gaming world of Elite, which achieved over 400% of its funding goal on Kickstarter. In addition, Kate speaks regularly at technology events and conferences and in schools and universities, inspiring the next generation of technologists. She is also very involved in UK and global policy meetings to help shape the way the internet is governed. For more information visit

Also not to be missed!  Watch our Exclusive 60 Seconds With.... video with Kate Russell - view here

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

When I meet people socially and they ask me what I do, I generally describe myself as a writer, as that is core to every aspect of my work and it’s the writing part that really makes me happy. If you asked someone who knows me through my work what I do they would most likely describe me as a TV presenter, as this is by far the most visible part of my career. Like so many freelancers these days though, I have a portfolio career that consists of many things, including TV reporting, magazine column writing, blogging, speaking at conferences and on panels, hosting awards ceremonies, lecturing at schools and universities and I give commentary on radio shows and other random media outlets. I have also now published two books, a business book about the internet and a science fiction novel based on the computer game that first sparked my passion for technology. We travelled a lot when I was growing up - around the UK but also spending time abroad in Kenya and Central America. This was because of my father’s work as an engineer. As far as education goes, I didn’t get on well with the rigid structure of academia back in the 70s and 80s when I was in school, so left at aged 17 and have made my own way through life sucking up as much knowledge as possible about the things that interest me and taking every strange career opportunity that fell in my path which sounded like it could be fun and enough of a challenge to hold my interest.

When I was 15 I told the careers officer in school I wanted to be a dolphin trainer.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I was 15 I told the careers officer in school I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. They sent me to a dog kennels for work experience and I spent the entire week mincing and bagging up green tripe to sell in the shop. That was the closest I ever got to actually planning a career. Because I had no qualifications after leaving school I didn’t think there were any real ‘career paths’ open to me. I would change jobs every 6 months to a year because I would get bored of the routine and lack of challenge in the kinds of roles I was going for - estate agency, payroll clerk, waitress, barmaid, cleaner, etc. So my only real career plan was to keep scouring the newspapers for a job that sounded more exciting that the one I was currently doing.

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

Life is full of challenges - I’m pretty sure that’s not just the case for me. I love challenges, they make me feel alive and keep me alert and striving to improve, so I deal with them by embracing them. Since going freelance 20 years ago the main challenges have been around managing my finances so that I can ride the quiet periods without getting too stressed, and maintaining my motivation to deliver great content to deadline in spite of the distractions around me at home.

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

There is no such thing as a typical work day! Seriously! But if I am spending the day in my office it starts about 7.30am with coffee and ploughing through emails & social media… by about 9 or 10am I have generally cleared the decks and can get on with whatever contract I am working on that day - it could be research, writing, building a presentation, planning a lecture, developing a talk, writing scripts, recording screenshots, writing blog content, working on my next book, marketing my current books, broadcast streaming… anything really. I am generally working on at least 3 contracts at any one time, so I will do a bit on each depending on my schedule - which is blocked out by the hour in my diary. The day ends when I have crossed the last thing off my list. Then I quickly check my communications channels to make sure everything can wait until the next day before heading to the kitchen to cook dinner!

Tell us a little bit about your role on BBC Click, how did that come about?

I have worked on BBC Click for 10 years now, creating 4 minutes of broadcast content reporting on developments on the web and now in mobile apps. I was brought into that team by Chris Long, who was my producer when I presented a technology show on Sky. Previous to that my first break into TV and journalism came in 1995 when I was selling CD manufacturing to games companies and one of my clients dared me to apply for a job presenting a weekly show on Nickelodeon and ITV about computer games. There is more about that journey in a blog post I wrote a few months ago here.

I get most frustrated with people who do not understand technology and are therefore afraid of it, blaming it for all the bad things that happen in the world.

What frustrates you from a technology perspective?

I get most frustrated with people who do not understand technology and are therefore afraid of it, blaming it for all the bad things that happen in the world. There are too many of these types of people in so-called ‘advisory roles’ with government and in the education sector and they try to stifle progress and innovation because they falsely believe that limiting technology’s influence on society will magically make everything better.

Girls have equal access to technology and now there are products, games and entertainment platforms that are fully gender neutral

There is an apparent shortage of women in technology roles, what do you think could be done to encourage more women to pursue technology careers?

That is a huge question and one I have spent a lot of time pondering. In many ways I wish we could stop thinking and talking about gender in relation to technology, but the cancer of discrimination and bias has been allowed to grow deep roots over the past 3 or 4 decades so that’s not an option. Having said that I think the work being done now in schools and universities will really start to pay off over the next few decades. Girls have equal access to technology and now there are products, games and entertainment platforms that are fully gender neutral that will mean more girls evolve with an interest in technology. I watch my young nieces play with tablets and consoles and they all have smartphones. It’s not considered strange that they are into these pieces of tech like it was when I was a teenager getting into computers in the 80s. It’s up to we adults to make sure girls continue to get equal access to technology, and perhaps most importantly that boys have great role models so that they do not grow up with the same biased impressions of the tech world that our generation did. If we all do this job properly it should never even cross our children’s minds to use gender as a measuring stick for whether or not a person might be able to perform well in a tech environment.

I have grown to be fiercely independent and very self-motivated

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

I haven’t, no. Not in any formal capacity anyway. I think because of my upbringing I have grown to be fiercely independent and very self-motivated. I am also a perfectionist and find it hard to trust others and let go of control. Having said that though, I have a lot of clients who say lovely things about me and I consider every single person who has contracted me to create content and trusted me to develop creative ideas for them has been a massive help to my career. At the end of the day a freelancer with no clients is simply unemployed! Most recently I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my publisher, Dan Grubb, at Fantastic Books Publishing, who has given me the confidence to really believe in myself as a fiction author. I remember at first he had to keep telling me ‘you ARE a real author,’ and he backed up that supportive attitude with an open mind and incredibly fair treatment. I completely trust him, and at 46 years old this is a fairly new concept for me!

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

The thing I would change is that gender is ever even considered when assessing a person’s ability or worth to a business.

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

I am now a bona fide fiction author, earning an actual living that can pay the bills out of telling stories. I have had great success with my first published novel, and I have my fans and readers to thank for that. I cannot believe how lucky I am that people want to pay their hard-earned cash to peek inside my imagination. I am also incredibly fortunate that my public profile allows me to raise money for charity just by doing the things I love. This Christmas I raised over £7,000 for a charity called Special Effect, that helps physically disabled people play video games. The charity has recently honoured me with a Vice Presidency, which alongside publishing my books is definitely one of my proudest achievements.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

My next novel is already signed for publishing and due out as soon as I can get it finished - hopefully in a few months. I actually wrote it 10 years ago and am now doing a rewrite applying the knowledge I have learned since then. I don’t have a plan for the future as such, but my dream for myself is that people continue to be interested in what I have to say and the stories that I tell, and that it brings joy and laughter to them and me; and that it continues to pay the mortgage and put food on my table.


60 Seconds with.. are a series of short videos exclusively on WeAreTheCity Careers Club. To see more and find out more about joining Careers Club, click here

Marie Curie - Celebrating an Amazing Woman

Marie Curie is a lady synonymous with the area of science and in particular cancer research. An astounding and truly inspiring lady, she would be due to turn 147 this November. Born in Poland into an unassuming family, Marie Curie was determined to have a career defined by research even at an early stage. For a woman to show such determination in terms of her career at that particular time of the century is remarkable.

She moved to Paris to further her studies and it wasn’t without its challenges in terms of funding. However, this never halted the determination or tenacity of Marie Curie. Still today a hugely respected figure head in science worldwide, read more in this info-graphic about this woman who defined areas of science and learning and also learn how she made a name for herself even in the darkest of circumstance.