Daniela-Paredes-Fuentes

Inspirational Woman: Daniela Paredes Fuentes | Co-Founder of Gravity Sketch

 

Daniela Paredes Fuentes

Daniela Paredes Fuentes, Gravity Sketch co-founder, is both an experienced innovation designer bridging science, engineering and design, and an entrepreneur pushing to build ideas into successful realities.

With a focus on finding new growth opportunities and strategic priorities, Daniela is shaping the future of the company. Prior to founding Gravity Sketch, Daniela graduated from The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London with a masters in Innovation Design Engineering, whilst simultaneously working as an Innovation Designer at Jaguar Land Rover where she was responsible for developing interiors technology that would combine smart materials and AI to create alternative experiences for autonomous vehicles. Daniela was recently awarded Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award.

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

My name is Daniela Paredes, I am 33 years old and I was born in Mexico. Four years ago I started a company called Gravity Sketch along with my co-founder, Oluwaseyi Sosanya, who I met at The Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.

Based in the UK but with global reach and customers, Gravity Sketch is one of the fastest growing 3D creation start-ups, providing designers of any level with a tool to quickly and easily create in 3D. The idea for Gravity Sketch originally started as a university project and was born out of a shared interest in how spatial intelligence has the ability to enable designers to quickly visualise and conceptualise their designs. In terms of my current role, I co-run the company with Seyi but am predominantly focused on working with educational institutions to integrate our design software into the classroom.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say that I necessarily planned my career but from a very early age I was interested in design engineering. As I got older, I realised that I wanted to learn more about it and about how it can be used to solve different problems in different environments, so I decided to formally study Innovation Design Engineering whilst simultaneously working as an Innovation Designer at Jaguar Land Rover. This not only provided hands on experience but, as my role was focused on developing interiors technology that combined smart materials and AI to create alternative experiences for autonomous vehicles, I understood very quickly about the potential growth opportunities in this space.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Of course. There are multiple challenges that I have faced and that I continue to face but I welcome all of them as they force me to think differently and to stay focused on the end goal. A daily challenge we face for instance is the speed at which technology changes. We need to be constantly evolving our software while at the same time testing it to ensure it meets the needs of our users. From some people we received feedback that we are being too ambitious with what we are trying to achieve but, in contrast to this, our users have continuously supported and worked with us to deliver a market ready product which is now changing the game in the way that people design.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has probably been taking what started as an idea and growing it in to what is now a fast-growing company that is delivering much more immersive design experiences. Not only that but during this process we had to challenge the status quo and encourage people to think differently about how they approach design. This is not yet a done deal, as education takes time, but we are definitely moving in the right direction when it comes to getting people to try Gravity Sketch as an alternative. This perseverance is now paying off as we continue to grow our business pipeline and sign new partners.

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

I think it has probably been both self-belief and the belief and support of the people around me. Be that from my co-founder Seyi, my family, our users or our team, all have played a key role in us getting this far and will continue to play a key role in my continued growth both as a person and our continued growth as a business.

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

Finding mentors along the way has been crucial for my career. I feel it is important for younger or less experienced people to be able to talk to someone that has taken a similar path to you. When you are just starting out you think that there is so much knowledge you need to have, or that there are secret tricks for everything you’re trying achieve. The truth is that the real secret is finding your own way of doing things, learning a lot, asking many questions and considering the advice you received from other people along the way.

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

There are multiple strategies for accelerating the pace of change for Gender Parity but my belief is that a lot of it could be improved by insisting on greater accountability – making both people and organisations more accountable for their choices and their actions. So, setting clear targets for everyone in the workforce that they can be measured against and providing the same help, assistance and mentoring along the way to everyone – it needs to be fully inclusive. Companies should also be set the same targets. Whilst I fundamentally believe that a person has to be right for the job, regardless of gender, if everyone is given the same opportunities then gender should become less of an issue. Organisations should be transparent about progression metrics and should be held accountable when it is clear that people are not being treated the same.

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

This is obviously a hot topic as, like so many areas of education and business, females are grossly underrepresented in this field. Firstly, I would advise young girls not to be put off by gender stereotypes and the fact that just because there are more males in STEM it doesn’t mean that, as females, they are not equal or they are less capable of achieving the same goals and status. It is important to instil this belief at a young age as it will set them up with self-belief from the start. At the same time though it is important to teach them that failure is often the route to success and that, whilst there will be challenges along the way, the trick is to learn how to overcome those challenges. Secondly, I think it is important for females to have role models – people to whom they can relate. And this doesn’t just have to be women. Equally men can and do serve as positive ambassadors for getting more females into STEM. Finally, it is about creating opportunities for girls to be successful in this field. Both in the classroom and in the workplace, we need to be cognizant of creating environments where everyone has the same chance to learn, to grow and to ultimately succeed.

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

To persevere and stop thinking that things might not go according to plan, because they don’t! If you work hard and put your heart into it, things will work out in their own way and you’ll be surprised and probably really happy that they turned out like that. Remember that ambitious goals are not easy to achieve and you’ll see all your friends move forward a bit faster than you at first. Just wait and keep going and things will start to come together eventually.

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

Business wise, our next challenge is to expand our product range and take on three additional enterprise verticals. We will also grow our team by adding new headcount in design, development and sales. Ultimately we want to create the most flexible product for delivering more creative workflows. Personally, I hope that I will continue to grow as a person and that, through the technologies that we create, I will make a significant contribution to augmenting the science, the art and the design scene. I also got married last year so I hope to spend some time enjoying married life!


Anne-Coghlan-featured

Inspirational Woman: Anne Coghlan | Senior Product Line Manager, EMEA, AppNexus

 

Anne CoghlanAs Senior Product Line Manager, EMEA at AppNexus, a Xandr Company, Anne is responsible for the strategy and vision for the AppNexus Programmable Platform (APP), the industry’s first programmable Demand Side Platform (DSP).  

Launching her technology career in 2013 as Technology Consultant for Accenture, Anne led a 17-member system integration test team through major transformation projects for this global media communications company. Since joining AppNexus in 2014, Anne has also served in a services role where she supported programmatic partners on both the sell and buy-sides of the real-time advertising marketplace.

Outside of her role, Anne is a member of the IAB UK Ad Tech Advisory Group and has led advanced programmatic workshops to educate and inform newer members of the industry.  She also mentors some of the next generation of digital talent through her association with WhiteHat apprentice.

Anne was recognised for her work this year when she was named one of The Drum’s 50 under 30 women of outstanding talent across the ad tech industry.

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

I am a Senior Product Line Manager at AppNexus, which is part of Xandr, AT&T’s advertising business. I am responsible for the strategy and vision of the AppNexus Programmable Platform (APP), which allows media buyers (those negotiating online ad spend for their clients) to purchase online ad space in real-time with an algorithm. It sounds technical, but I’m essentially part of a team that ensures consumers have an enjoyable and relevant advertising experience when browsing online.

I studied Maths with a Year Abroad (Italy) at undergraduate level and then I did a master’s in philosophy, before working for Accenture for two years and then joining AppNexus where I’ve been now for four years.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At the start of my career I never planned beyond more than a year! When I left university, I was more focused on securing a job than what my career could look like. I evaluated each opportunity as it came, and not really in the context of anything broader. Last year I was considering moving roles internally and this was the first time I actually thought about what different career paths could look like for me. Given that my roles to-date have had a technical focus, I wanted to make sure I had an understanding of the full picture of how a product is made. So, I recently moved into a slightly different role to gain experience in product strategy which gives me insight into the full product lifecycle.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

It took me a while to understand the difference between working long hours and working hard, which ultimately comes down to figuring out what the priorities are.  When you understand this, it’s easier to decide how much time to invest in different tasks.

Finding my working pattern has definitely been a particular challenge for me, since a lot of my colleagues work across different time zones. I am also wary of conflict so have had to work on navigating disagreement. Particularly as a woman, in my career I’ve found that there’s a tendency for my decisions and opinions to be branded as ‘emotional’, whereas men sometimes seem able to give opinions as fact. My solution is to always make sure there’s a data-driven rationale behind my views, to limit the likelihood of pushback.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It was very exciting and humbling to be named on The Drum’s 50 under 30 Women in UK Digital earlier this year. The Drum is an influential marketing trade title, and the list is compiled by industry experts, so it feels great to be recognised for my achievements so far.

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

Success is an interesting word – a friend and I were debating what this means recently. It feels like if you set a goal and define your success by its achievement, then as soon as you hit the goal, that feeling of being successful doesn’t last for long. For me, the question of success is more about continual growth and learning. The major factor for me has been to actively listen – to colleagues, leaders, clients – to make sure I’m on the right track.

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

I have a mentor and I am a mentor myself, through a company called WhiteHat, which supports young digital talent. I meet my mentee for an hour a month, and also put time into preparing for our sessions, so it’s not massively time consuming, but it’s so worthwhile.

Being a mentor is a great opportunity to reflect on how much you’ve actually learnt throughout your career and helps battle any insecurities you might have when you see how much knowledge you have to share. It’s also a great exercise in learning how to actively listen, which can be a difficult skill, as it’s important to guide your mentee to come up with solutions themselves, without pushing your advice and opinion too much. You can apply this to work situations as well – as you learn the importance of asking questions and properly listen to people’s responses.

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

Pay transparency. It is hard to advocate for yourself or others if you don’t have any data points.

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

You should always ask the question that you worry is irrelevant.


Inspirational Woman: Anna Tsyupko | CEO, Paybase

 

Anna Tsyupko

Anna Tsyupko is the CEO and co-founder of the B2B payments company, Paybase.

They provide the most flexible payment solution for platform businesses - such as online marketplaces and gig/sharing economy platforms. Their goal is to ensure that all businesses have the freedom to build the exact business they want!

Anna manages the overall direction and strategy at Paybase, working closely with clients and suppliers whilst overseeing all aspects of the business. Before founding Paybase she held positions in private equity, after receiving her BA from the University of Oxford and Masters from the University of Cambridge.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No - if I had, I think I probably would have planned something different! The old adage that “life is what happens when you’re making other plans” certainly resonates with me. After university I went straight into the world of work so didn’t really have time to set out a plan.

However, this is not to say that I just stumbled into my career unknowingly, it was a case of recognising opportunities and reacting quickly. To me that is far more important than planning - being able to identify opportunities and then being ready to act on those that appeal to you.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many! I don’t think you will find someone that has started a business and not faced challenges - but that’s no bad thing! Challenges are how you learn. When attempting to redefine the payments industry, the challenges are going to be numerous and varied.

You have to approach things creatively and that act of constant problem-solving is very rewarding.

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

I’m not currently mentoring anyone but it is something that I’d love to get into at some point - I strongly believe in mentoring as a concept. I have a mentor who is fantastic. We don’t see each other that often, but when we do the interaction is invaluable.

What is so useful about a mentor is that they know you, where you are in your journey and your strengths and weaknesses, but they are far enough away from your business to offer a fresh perspective on it. Sometimes you can miss things by being too close to them, a mentor provides that top level clarity.

What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?

We could speak about precise figures and percentages now, but what it ultimately boils down to is an equality of opportunities between men and women. Whether this can be achieved in five years, I don’t know, but the sooner it happens the better.

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

I think one thing to examine would be the maternity/paternity leave situation. Obviously having a baby affects both parents, but most would agree it is far more disruptive for a woman’s career. If maternity and paternity leave was awarded equally, we would alleviate this issue of men being chosen for positions ahead of women due to the “risk” women pose of needing to take maternity leave.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Paybase, without question. In the financial space there is a very high barrier to entry due to the large amount of regulation involved and the power of incumbent financial institutions, such as banks. For me and my co-founder to take Paybase from the idea stage to
a live product which is now onboarding its first clients and beginning to generate revenue is something I’m very proud of. This progression has taken time, but we are now beginning to reap the rewards of our efforts - it’s an exciting time for us.

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

Our next challenge is to scale to Europe, which is a big but exciting challenge. It will be the first time I have taken on international expansion and there will be challenges that we are not even aware of yet. But as I’ve mentioned, challenges are necessary for
you to grow as a business and as a person - it will be a positive step for us and I’m looking forward to it!

On a more personal level I of course look to the future and hope to establish myself as an excellent leader with a track record of successful businesses!


Inspirational Woman: Tamar Sharir Beiser | Vice President, Head of Cloud, NICE

 

Tamar Sharir Beiser

Tamar Sharir Beiser is the Vice President, Head of Cloud at NICE.

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

I joined NICE almost ten years ago. It was initially meant to be a temporary position for six months as an analyst, but it’s been such a challenging and rewarding experience that I’m still here. I started off in corporate development, then moved to different product leadership positions. Fast forward to today, I now lead our suite of solutions in the cloud as Vice President of NICE’s Cloud line of business.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely. Since I was young I have had an interest in technology and knew that I wanted to work in the technology arena. Therefore, it was natural for me to study Computer Science at university and later join a leading global software company where I could grow professionally with the eventual aim of leading a team focused on bringing innovative offerings to market.

I always knew where I was heading and that my direction was to manage large teams that drive innovation, but I was also open to opportunities along the way. I made sure to seek out opportunities in which to grow and develop in any new role I took and that it aligns with my overall objective.  Luckily for me, NICE encourages and provides space for employees to grow and try new areas of the business they wish to gain experience in.

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

One of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career is working across a global cross-functional team. When you’re working across a group of people with different expertise and roles at varied levels, it can be challenging. Successfully bringing together different individuals who (at times) have different goals can seem like an uphill battle.

To overcome this challenge required a lot of work, especially a significant investment in team communication. This meant creating opportunities for team members to connect and a space that allows everyone a chance to contribute. As a result, we built stronger relationships throughout the team, but also has allowed them to form relationships with one another, boosting team collaboration and engagement and fostering trust and dialogue which ultimately drove more innovation and which I believe has driven stronger overall results.

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

I don’t think there are enough woman in tech and I would encourage others to look for the opportunities as they can be exciting, fulfilling and impactful.   There are simply not enough women in technology and especially in senior roles. Successful organisations recognise that diversity when hiring is an advantage and the time is now.

I understand that it can be easy to surround ourselves with people that look and think like us, but many studies have revealed the benefits of having diverse teams. From increasing innovation to improving performance, diversity in the workplace is not just a ‘nice to have’. I have seen it first-hand here at NICE and believe that a diverse workforce, delivers many business benefits that would otherwise not be available.

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

For me I knew from an early age where I want to be.  I could see it and would encourage young women to do the same.  Picture yourself in STEM roles!  The truth is that we as businesses can help them achieve this.  It is as easy as exposure.   Access to positive role models, mentors and internships, going into schools and pre-schools, giving young women access to speak directly with women in STEM, having relevant work placements or internships will all make it easier for them to have something to relate and we can reap the benefits of a more diversified workforce.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Mentorship has always been important for me.  I believe as leaders we have a responsibility to help young professionals as they begin their careers.  It has been a career honour to recruit, mentor and develop talent who have joined NICE over the years. And it doesn’t have to be in the workplace only, I also volunteer in a NPO that helps students to develop their business skills through consulting work to NPOs. It has been great watching my mentees rise through the ranks over the years and being part of their stories.

Another equally important achievement for me was serving as agent for change having led the product development of NICE’s applications into the cloud. This meant bringing a new solution into the market for the first time and helping to establish ourselves as the most innovative cloud player in our industry.

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

As the market is booming, and with NICE having solidified its position as a leading cloud player, I would like to help more companies in their transition to the cloud. This involves bringing more analytics capabilities and AI so they can be smarter about their customers, and simplifying deployment models so they can meet their customers' needs and changing market dynamics.


Inspirational Woman: Faye Banks | Open University student & Director of Energy, Costain Group

 

Faye Banks

Open University (OU) engineering student, Faye Banks, left school at 16 and started her career path in low skilled manual work in a meatpacking factory.

After growing frustrated about her limited career opportunities, she went back to college, achieved straight As and then went on to study for a BSc and an MSc in Engineering with the OU.

Studying with the OU has helped Faye to completely transform her life, leading to her securing a top role as the Director of Energy for one of the UK’s leading engineering companies, Costain.

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

I grew up in Barnsley and came from a family of four girls. We had a bit of a turbulent childhood and I was taken into care aged nine. It's safe to say that I had a lot of difficulties growing up. I left school at 16 as I’d never engaged with the education system and thought it was completely flawed.

The reality hit me when I left school and realised that there were no opportunities available to me, I had no formal qualifications and the jobs that I was applying for were really low skilled. I ended up getting a job in a manufacturing plant, packing meat into plastic containers. This meant having to work repetitive 12-hour days and night shifts - it was incredibly boring, and I knew then that I wanted to do something different. However, the harsh reality was that I had no qualifications. I then started looking for new highly skilled jobs, although at the time, I knew I was very far away from being able to apply for them.

I was bored and frustrated with my limited career options, so I decided to go back to college to study for my GCSEs – I managed to achieve 10 grade A’s. After spotting an ad in the local newspaper, I registered with The Open University (OU) to study for a BSc in Engineering. I absolutely loved the course and I’ve been studying with the OU ever since, for over 17 years now. I’ve achieved an MBA, MSc, MEng, and I am now currently studying for my PhD.

I’ve completely transformed my life and I now work for Costain, which is one of the UK’s largest engineering companies. As a result of my studies, I was successful in climbing the career ladder to become director of their energy department for electrical generation, transmission and distribution.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

For me I’d never really given much thought to my career when I was at school. I had my lightbulb moment about six months into my job at the meat packing plant after we’d had a major operational failure and were under pressure from one of our clients to supply the product that we were manufacturing. There was nothing that I could have done to repair the failure and the only people that could were the engineers.

At that moment, I realised just how important and significant the roles, skills and capabilities of engineers were – and that I had to go back to school and get some qualifications to be able to do a job like this.

The main issue for me was that I couldn't give up work to go back to college to study full-time, so I went to night classes to retake my GCSEs over the course of the year. The following year, I managed to secure 10 GCSEs at grade A.

I then approached one of the engineering managers at the manufacturing plant to see if they had any trainee or apprenticeship roles available. Fortunately, I got my qualifications in July and there were openings for apprentices to start in September. I was successful in my application, secured a role and have never looked back. It was definitely a life-changing point in my career!

Thanks to studying with the OU, I’ve been able to secure my dream role in the industry as the Director of Energy at one of the UK’s leading energy companies, Costain.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

When I was younger, and I was taken into care, survival was my number one priority and education was quite low down on my list – I never thought I’d have a career.

Then, when I knew that I wanted to go to university later on in life and obtain a degree so that I could become a chartered engineer, there was the realisation that I couldn't stop earning as I still had a family to support. If I'd pursued the traditional route, I would have lost income and that just wasn’t an option for me.

It was also difficult to even consider part-time learning at a brick university. I could never guarantee that I would be able to go to the classes as my schedule would often change at work and I was also raising a family. That's when I started to look into distance learning providers and I knew, after doing some research, that the OU was the perfect match for me.

When I think about the low skilled roles that I’d had previous to becoming an engineer and how monotonous and unchallenging they were, these never really inspired me. So, when I then fast forward to what I’ve achieved over the last twenty something years and I look at the impact on society of the projects that I’ve worked on, I’m extremely proud.  I’ve worked for National Grid and I was part of a number of major projects on their electrical transmission upgrades that impacted many people’s lives.

It can also be quite challenging working in such a male-dominated environment. I hope that I am paving the future path for more women to enter the field. I think it’s really important to start challenging the ancient stereotypes that surround the engineering profession and shed light on what it is really like to work in the industry. I’ve often been mistaken for a PA or a secretary in client meetings, so it’s always quite amusing once the meeting starts and people realise that I’m the lead consultant.

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

I currently mentor a number of females in the engineering industry. I believe that investing in business mentoring is a useful and cost-effective way to develop top emerging talents. It also helps to keep your most knowledgeable and experienced performers engaged and energised.

As well as the transferral of critical business knowledge and skills, mentoring helps to develop a pipeline of future leaders who understand the skills and attitudes required to succeed within an organisation.

What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?

Unfortunately, the engineering industry remains one of the least diverse sectors. A recent consumer poll* from The Open University revealed that women are less aware of the career paths on offer within engineering, with 15 per cent stating they are unsure what careers are available, compared to just 1 in 10 (11%) men. When asked, more than one in three women (34 per cent) agreed barriers need to be broken down in the workplace, and that occupations such as engineering should include more women.

I worry that women, in particular, are being discouraged from seeking and pursuing careers in engineering, starving the profession of fresh perspectives that represent one of the most potent drivers of innovation. Much of the diversity deficit can be traced back to early years of schooling, as children grow up with outdated notions of roles they are expected to fulfil in adulthood, and it’s not only women. Overall diversity remains a huge problem when you consider the participation figures amongst minority ethnic groups and disabled people too.

I hope that the government, the education system and industry leaders will encourage more women and minority groups to join the sector. At Costain, over 50% of our graduate intake this year was female – which is great to see – but there is still more to be done!

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

I would love to inspire more women to consider the engineering industry as a rewarding and lucrative career opportunity. I really enjoy working in a male-dominated environment and get the respect for the qualifications and experiences I have achieved over my 22 plus years in the industry. There is also a misconception that engineering is a dirty job, but this view is so far away from the truth. I did get my hands dirty when I was an apprentice, but I spend most of my time nowadays getting involved in strategic work and would love to help to dispel this myth, too.

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

Firstly, I think more needs to be done from a government perspective to debunk the myths surrounding the engineering perception in schools, in order to demonstrate the varied roles within it and to encourage more women to consider it as a potential profession in the future.

Secondly, the OU has changed my life for the better and I’m looking forward to sharing my story with others. I hope to show people from all walks of life that it’s never too late to pursue their career aspirations and encourage more women to study STEM subjects in the future!

 What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Outside of work and my studies I’ve won 15 national engineering awards, which I never ever thought I would do. I was the top engineering student in 2004, won the UK Young Engineer Award, and the Higher Education National Education Gold Award because of the grades I secured - I even got to go to the Houses of Parliament for the ceremony! Things have even progressed since then. I won the Yorkshire Women of Achievement Business Award in 2010 and I've since gone on to be recognised in the First Women Awards for Women in Science and Engineering. It definitely hasn't been easy, but what the OU has taught me has been absolutely paramount to the development and growth of my career. If I’d never got the qualifications, I would’ve never had the opportunities that I have enjoyed, and I wouldn’t have been able to even go to an interview and that’s a fact.

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

My next goal is to achieve my PhD in Business Administration. Learning has become a way of life for me and I think life-long learning is the key to success in the current climate, and particularly in engineering, given all of the rapid technological advancements within the sector.

I really want to become an ambassador for women in engineering and highlight to people that it doesn’t matter what your background is, as long as you want to learn you can achieve anything with the OU.

*Polling of 2,006 UK adults conducted by Opinion Matters between 22nd -23rd October 2018


Sally Napper

Inspirational Woman: Sally Napper | Head of Security Assistance, International SOS & Control Risks

 

Sally Napper

As Head of Security Assistance for International SOS and Control Risks, Sally Napper is responsible for driving and continually enhancing the delivery of market-leading security advice and assistance in support of our customers’ business travel and operations.

Sally also plays a key role in managing security crises globally.

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

As the global Head of Security Assistance at International SOS and Control Risks I oversee a team of security experts who work 24/7 with our 26 Assistance Centres and network of providers all over the world to provide security advice and assistance in support of our clients’ mobile workforce and overseas operations. On any given day you will find us supporting our clients in many different ways from advising travellers on specific risks they may face in a new environment to helping managers respond to security-related crises.

Before joining International SOS, I worked for the Australian government for more than 10 years.  I spent most of that time working in a civilian operational support role for the Australian military, including on deployment to Iraq and during military exercises in the Pacific. My background is in international relations, a degree choice that stemmed from my desire to travel for work. I think I can confidently say that I got what I wanted, and perhaps a little more.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To be honest, no, I have never actively planned my career. Instead I took every opportunity as it came along and then worked really hard to try and succeed in every single one. Fortunately for me this approach has led to an incredibly interesting and diverse career so far. I’m lucky to have had some incredible opportunities to grow my career, including my deployment to Iraq; the honour of representing my country at the Australian embassy in Washington DC; and the chance to join the incredible team at International SOS and Control Risks.

Being open to these chances – each varied and equally exciting – has led me to where I am today. I always recommend leaping at any opportunity that comes your way and then working really hard to make the most of every chance to grow. Even if it doesn’t work out, there will always be something you can learn about a job or about yourself. Plenty of new opportunities will lie around the corner if you work hard.

You were deployed to Baghdad for 6 months – how did this come about? What did you learn from this experience?

Quite early in my career my boss at the time walked past my desk one day and asked if I wanted to go to Baghdad. Looking back I probably wasn’t the exact fit for the role. They wanted someone with more experience and a military background but I had proven willing to work hard. I was invested in supporting the military so they took a risk. Fortunately it worked out and became one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my career. It certainly set me up for my role today, which involves helping our clients tackle similarly challenging work environments.

Working in a male dominated sector, like security, I’ve had to learn how make myself heard. Something that can be especially challenging when you’re one of the only women in the room. Those who work with me will know that I’m generally not the first to speak. I often find my skill lies in taking the time to listen and choosing the best moment to share my opinion in a clear and considered way. I’m unsure how much of this approach is because I’m a woman and how much is because I’m an introvert, but, in a world where people can be highly opinionated and loud, the quiet voices can be very powerful. Sometimes as a woman it takes a little longer to be taken seriously but if you’re good at what you do, it won’t take long to have a voice.

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

I am currently working on completing my MBA. Combined with my unusual, and at times crazy, work schedule (I take an average of 1-2 long haul flights a month), this can prove a bit challenging. I remember once being in Papua New Guinea, standing on top of a Jeep to try and get enough signal to send an assignment back to my university in Australia! I love a challenge and certainly got one when I decided to work towards my MBA.

What would you say is your coping mechanism?

A good work life balance is a challenge for anyone, me included! Fortunately I love my job, which makes it much easier to sustain the high tempo. I have great empathy for working parents. I don’t have children myself and can’t imagine juggling deadlines and family commitments. I try to be supportive of my colleagues in more challenging situations than me. I am fortunate to have an amazing husband, and I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without his support. I really appreciate the fact that he’s often willing to accompany me on a business trip at a moment’s notice. While this might sound glamorous, and I never thought I would say this, but travel can get tiring at times.

I am also a certified yoga instructor, and try to do at least 10-15 minutes of yoga or other form of exercise per day no matter where I am. It helps me to clear my head and let my creativity flow. I don’t know many people in the security industry or in International SOS who don’t exercise on a really regular basis – it’s such a good stress relief.

What advice do you have for women who would like to follow a similar path to you?

My advice to women is to be yourself. There can be a lot of pressure on women to behave like men, particularly in business, or to behave like other women who have gone before them (to wear certain clothes, take certain roles etc). While I appreciate the amazing efforts of women who have paved the way for female careers in security, I never listened when anyone said there was only one path. I’ve been myself and I’ve worked really hard at every opportunity I‘ve been given. From my experience I can guarantee that if you work hard you will ultimately be recognised, and if you do it with integrity, the success will be even sweeter.


Amanda Gutterman

Inspirational Woman: Amanda Gutterman | CMO, ConsenSys & co-creator, Ethereal

 

Amanda GuttermanAmanda Gutterman is Chief Marketing Officer at ConsenSys, the largest and fastest growing blockchain company focused on building the Ethereum ecosystem.

Amanda is also a creator of Ethereal, a technology event series including a Summit that has been dubbed the "SXSW of blockchain". In 2016, Forbes Magazine listed Amanda on its 30 Under 30 in Media list, and Inc. Magazine as one of 30 Under 30 Movers and Shakers in the Content Industry.

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

My role is CMO at ConsenSys and Co-Creator of Ethereal. ConsenSys has emerged over the past few years as a leader in blockchain technology. We build tools and applications that are built on the blockchain, which means they're highly secure, decentralized, peer-to-peer, and work automatically using smart contracts. Our software is built on the Ethereum blockchain, which is the most advanced blockchain platform in terms of its capabilities, as well as the largest developer community. Ethereum has become the blockchain of choice for governments and enterprises, which we work with closely.

Ethereal has become one of the best known blockchain events. It features a flagship Ethereal Summit kicking off New York Blockchain Week in May each year, as well as events throughout the world, from Ethereal San Francisco to Ethereal Middle East in Riyadh and Ethereal London. Whether I'm working on ConsenSys or an Ethereal event, my goal is always to catalyze adoption of blockchain technology and help users reach products. Adopting blockchain comes with adopting a new way of thinking about the global financial system and the Web. I think we can do better than what we have today, and with blockchain available, we finally have the tools to make change possible. But change will only happen if users insist on it.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

Absolutely not! I navigated myself into situations where I'd be exposed to a lot of opportunities, then I seized the ones that looked interesting. I see my work as an adventure and ideally, as play. When I graduated from college or high school, I couldn't have predicted any of this. Actually, it would've been impossible to plan my career from a certain point, because both components of what I do - digital marketing and blockchain - didn't exist yet.

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

In this role and in every role, we all face lots of stressors. Long hours, new skills we need to learn, looming deadlines, increasing expectations from colleagues or the market. It's challenging because if you love what you do, your identity gets caught up in your work. This is true for me, and I think it's a positive thing. But at the same time, I've had to figure out how to take good care of myself in the face of stress. To that end, I truly get 8 hours of sleep a night, exercise regularly, eat healthy food, and block off personal time when I won't be on calls. This drastically improves the quality of my work.

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

Probably the most important thing is equal pay. Women should get equal pay for equal work. Also, I encourage the men I know who are investors to bring women investors into deals. The more financially empowered women are, the more say they have in how everything works, from workplaces to governments.

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

I mentor several women at ConsenSys and one from a previous company. Whether it's formal or informal, I make sure people in the company know I'm available to help them navigate tricky situations. This is particularly true for women. Quite a few members of ConsenSys are fresh out of college, so it's very helpful to have someone guiding them through their first professional environment, especially considering how non-traditional our company is.

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

 Strong role models make girls and women feel like STEM is "for them". If they don't know any other girls or women in STEM, they can think it's not for them. That's why we make sure to highlight our amazing women technologists at ConsenSys and across the blockchain space. Our last Ethereal Summit had 60% women speakers, a majority of whom were technical. We did this without calling it a women's conference or making a big fuss. I really think efforts like this go far.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

When I joined ConsenSys, not that many people had heard of blockchain, even fewer had heard of Ethereum, and practically no one outside our space had heard of ConsenSys. In my interview, I told our founder that I wanted to make ConsenSys and Ethereum "like Starbucks and the MLB" in terms of how recognizable I wanted them to be. While we're not 100% there yet, I think my team and I have been able to make a real difference in terms of how many people know about blockchain and how many people are using blockchain-based software products of various kinds.

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

A 100-person company is different from a 1,000-person company. That's where I started, and this is where we are now. I'm going to have to learn and scale our marketing and messaging and teams to fit where we are in the market today, which is really different from a couple years ago.


Megan Neale

Inspirational Woman: Megan Neale | Co-Founder, Limitless

 

megan nealeMegan Neale is widely regarded as a thought leader in digital innovation for customer care.

Her passion for “customer & client first” combined with her constant drive for innovation led her to co-found Limitless Technology in 2016. Megan’s vision is to help every company deliver outstanding personalised service, at a lower cost and - by taking a crowd service approach - return millions of rewards to their own customers. During her 20 year career in customer management and the contact centre industry, Megan has helped build successful customer engagement solutions and deliver worldwide, transformational solutions and operational excellence for many global brands.

Megan was an equity director leading a high growth European contact centre outsourcing business which was acquired by the global conglomerate Hinduja Group and is founding shareholder of Semafone, the leader in PCI compliant security solutions for contact centres.

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

I moved to London having grown up in a small and very picturesque Welsh village to study Maths and Computer science at City University. Growing up in a tiny Welsh speaking village and not being able to speak the language taught me that even if you struggle to communicate it, you will always be able to find a way forward. This is something I’ve always lived by.

I always enjoyed being responsible and helping people – so when most of my classmates moved off into accountancy and banking I took the unlikely route into retail. Running a store seemed like it would satisfy all those things and that’s where I fell in love with customer service.  It was then an easy step into an outsourced customer service start up where I was responsible for operations, client services and IT. I became an equity holder and helped build the company to 2000 employees.

There is something so rewarding about providing great service, I just love it – it’s what makes me get up in the morning, whether it’s seeing my clients happy or seeing one happy consumer.

In 2016 I co-founded my latest business, Limitless Technology, a gig platform and marketplace that enables brands to pay their own advocates for providing high quality sales and customer service on a per task basis. I now spend my days working with and building an incredible team to support our client base; we are only 18 months in and have the privilege of working with brands including Microsoft, Vodafone, Unilever, National Express and many others.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think I always knew I wanted to get to the next level in whatever I was doing. When you’re studying, progression is very much laid out for you and I enjoyed that process. I just expected it to continue in my work life. As such, I was always clear with my managers what my goals were and have been fortunate to have been able to achieve them. My primary objective in my work has been to work with people who I enjoy spending time with and who can do things I can’t, so I can develop my skills. Whenever I have found myself in a team where that was not the case, I made a conscious effort to change that.

When I had my daughter I was keen to find some form of balance and blend my career aspirations with family life. I worked four days a week for eight years and I was able to successfully progress my career at the same time.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many, but I am an optimist by nature so can honestly say that none of the challenges were real challenges. When I first moved to Europe into an Area Manager role, I needed to prove I could speak German. I couldn’t, so I took some evening classes, moved there and deliberately recruited people who didn’t speak English so I had to learn. Within three months, I was able to get by just fine.

Also, managing a workforce of 2000 people who are largely paid minimum wage while maintaining a great culture is tough and relentless. I’ve therefore learnt that culture is something we must have every day, not just once a month or quarter and no matter how well you think you are on top of it, you can always do more.

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

Do what you enjoy and remember that STEM doesn’t mean only software coding or hard core engineering, it can be all manner of things. I think we need to help young people get a broader understanding of the types of roles available that are perfect for their skills. If you enjoy a quantitative subject then explore companies that interest you and look at the wider roles in those organisations. If you make sure you are in a sector that interests you, then your analytical nature will simply come through as you develop and the opportunities will be there for you.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

So far my biggest career achievement would be successfully founding and launching Limitless Technology with my co-founder Roger Beadle who I have worked with for 15 years. As a start-up, every day is hugely rewarding and celebrating the little moments of success along the journey are what makes this fun. In terms of a wow moment - receiving investment from Unilever and Downing Ventures did make us think “ok, this is real now”.

It’s not really an achievement, but I am constantly blown away by the talented people who I have the utmost respect for that are choosing to come and work with us in our quest to “be known for making customer service great for everyone everywhere”.

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

Limitless is growing really quickly, we have launched in 7 countries US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Germany and Poland already and will be in 21 countries soon. I am looking forward to being truly global and the opportunities, and learning, this will bring for the whole Limitless team.


Tamara Lohan featured

Inspirational Woman: Tamara Lohan MBE | Founder & Chief Technology Officer, Mr & Mrs Smith

 

Tamara Lohan

Tamara Lohan is an entrepreneur and technology strategist with a background in marketing.

In 2003 she co-founded Mr & Mrs Smith with her husband James. She has been instrumental in transforming Smith from a traditional offline publishing brand into the dynamic digital business it is today and sits on the boards of several high-profile eCommerce businesses, including Not On The High Street.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and role?

I grew up in Ibiza but my family moved to the UK just before my teens and I ended up studying languages at Oxford University. I started my career in marketing, working for large organisations and then agency side for a WPP company, but I realised throughout that part of my life that a) my heart was in travel and b) I really loved the technical and CRM side of marketing rather than the above the line part. Oh, and c) I didn’t really want to work for other people!

My husband and I started Mr & Mrs Smith in 2003 – born out of frustration trying to find great boutique hotels to go to. We launched as a guidebook but quickly pivoted the company to build a bookable website. As the business evolved digitally I took on the role of CTO (Chief Technical Officer) which I still do today – overseeing the website, our in-house-built rates-and-availability systems and booking engine, the app, the blog – essentially the technical infrastructure that powers the business.

Today Smith has over 1,100 hotels and villas around the world, offices in London, LA, New York and Singapore we hope to do close to £80m in TTV (total transaction value) this year and we’re profitable. Plus, we bought an experiences company, SideStory, this year which means we can offer a curated collection of cultural encounters in some of our most-popular cities, as well as hotel stays.

But what really gets me out of bed every morning is that I still love finding amazing hotels and inspiring our members to discover extraordinary places with the people they love. I know that might sound corny but it’s true – Mr & Mrs Smith was always about finding the very best boutique hotels on the planet. And now we’re planning to do the same with private villas and experiences, too.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never. When I came out of university, the ‘done’ thing was to go into the city – something I just knew I wasn’t cut out for. In the late Nineties the word ‘entrepreneur’ or ‘start-up’ just wasn’t in our vocabulary. I knew I wanted to travel but the travel companies out there – large, impersonal, mass market – just didn’t inspire me. So all I knew was that I had to keep learning, get working and anything that involved travel would be a bonus!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

I don’t know an entrepreneur that doesn’t face challenges. For me, some are daily small challenges and some are much much bigger business issues. At the very beginning of the business our biggest challenge was getting the book into the shops. The publishers had turned us down so we ended up self-publishing, but the distribution houses were all owned by those publishers so we were stuck. We eventually found the last remaining independent distribution house in the UK and begged – even they turned us down to start with.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to start their own business?

You can only get by so far on ambition, drive and self-determination. I would urge anyone starting their own business to get guidance; learn, listen to people you trust; talk to people who’ve succeeded and find out how; talk to people who’ve failed and find out why. No one gets anywhere on their own and I wish I’d known that earlier.

A great support network will support and help you through the tough times, and you should continue to build, nurture and give back to that network as you grow.

And the quicker you can understand – and get comfortable with – the fact that nothing is ever easy, the better things will be. Sure, there’ll be compromises you have to make along the way but if you stick to what makes you happy, stay motivated and make time to enjoy the journey, you’ll be well placed to succeed.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think it’s the curse of the entrepreneur to always feel like there is still so much more achieve. As a company grows, the next challenge always seems bigger than the last so I try and see each one as my next biggest achievement. It’s fair to say right now that juggling motherhood – getting my son off to secondary school, my daughter back to school, making sure our new puppy is fed – with work while we’re launching our crowdfunding raise on Crowdcube is tough. I’ve never felt busier! But as we hope to raise more than £1m from our customers, who then go on to become real advocates of our brand, and accelerate our growth in the US, it will definitely feel like the biggest achievement to date.

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

It seems crazy to say it given how quickly it’s gone, but we’re about to reach our 15th anniversary as a business. We’re celebrating the occasion by going back to our roots and publishing a brand new book in November: a proper coffee-table tome called The World’s Sexiest Bedrooms shot by the brilliant art photographer, Polly Brown. It’s had its stresses along the way – and we’ve got a heavy promotional schedule ahead of us – but it will be such a thrill to see us back in the bookshops again. Then it will be on to implementing all the growth plans our crowdfunding will hopefully afford us. After that, well, watch this space…


Giustina Mizzoni featured

Inspirational Woman: Giustina Mizzoni | Executive Director, CoderDojo; & Director, Raspberry Pi Foundation

 

Giustina MizzoniGiustina has led the CoderDojo Foundation for more than two years.

She joined CoderDojo in January 2013 as its first employee, having previously managed the Irish operations of Dogpatch Labs, a co-working space for startup technology companies.

In her role as Executive Director of the CoderDojo Foundation, she is responsible for overseeing its programmes, operations, and global growth. She led CoderDojo’s merger with the Raspberry Pi Foundation in May 2017, creating one of the largest sustained global efforts to help young people learn computing and digital making. Giustina holds an MSc in Management (Innovation in Social Enterprise) from Dublin City University, and an MA in International Politics and Human Rights from City University London.

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

Please contact [email protected] to get involved.

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

My name is Giustina Mizzoni, I’m the Executive Director of the CoderDojo Foundation, and we are part of the wider Raspberry Pi Foundation. We are an Irish-founded, global movement of free, informal computer clubs for young people aged 7 to 17. Across the globe, we have 1,914 clubs.

I’ve worked with CoderDojo for the past five years. I initially joined as the organisation’s first employee in 2013. I became Executive Director two years ago, and last year I oversaw our merger with the Raspberry Pi Foundation. I sit on the wider partnership team and play a key role in raising funds to support our work and that of the wider Raspberry Pi Foundation.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not particularly, my career has been shaped by opportunities that have arisen. I’ve always been ambitious, so I’ve assessed opportunities as they’ve come up to determine what impact or learning I felt I could gain. From a young age I’ve always known that I wanted to be in a leadership position, so that has always been a guiding principle.

Initially I completed an MA in International Politics and Human Rights, but after voluntary work with an international non-profit, I found the bureaucracy frustrating. I moved home and took a (very!) brief job in financial services. From there, an opportunity came up to become the first Operations/Office Manager of a new American VC–backed co-working space. That role exposed me to the technology sector, and I was surrounded by fast-growing innovative start-ups. The environment appealed to me, and I haven’t really left the technology sector since.

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

I have faced various challenges in my career so far. In my role as Operations Manager, I was the only woman in the co-working space with more than 30 men — it was an interesting dynamic, and I think it set me up very well. The majority of the challenges I’ve faced have been internal. I reached a leadership position at a relatively young age, so I often felt like an imposter in board meetings or similar situation. Experience has helped me overcome this, although I still have brief moments where I doubt myself.

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

Normalisation of flexible working arrangements.

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

I strongly believe that there are societal perceptions of what STEM is or means. Many people think it’s for men, or that you need to be a nerd or genius, or even that it’s isolating, that you are coding for hours on end on your laptop etc. Frankly, none of these preconceptions are true. To overcome this, we need to help every young girl, their parents, and their teachers understand the importance and relevance of technology. I recently heard a story of how a CoderDojo volunteer phoned an all-girls school to ask whether they could let their students know about the coding club the volunteer had set up nearby. The principal said she didn’t think it was something that would be of interest to her students, as they all wanted to be nurses and teachers... Here is a principal of a school with over 300 girls aged 12 to 18, who is blatantly reinforcing gendered roles and choosing not to share a free learning opportunity with their students.

Last year, we launched the CoderDojo Girls Initiative. Our goal is to achieve gender parity in the CoderDojo movement. We’ve identified best practices for increasing the number of girls in clubs, and we are working on a trial to measure the effectiveness of different interventions, such as the presence of female volunteers and the language used to describe club activities. I firmly believe that everyone has a role to play to achieve parity of men and women in STEM.

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

Mentoring is incredibly important, but so is sponsorship where you have people in organisations who actively advocate for you. My mum has been a constant mentor in my life. She's an Executive Coach, so it's helpful that she is incredibly talented at it. She's helped me navigate difficult situations and I’ve learnt so much from her. And I’ve mentored and supported friends and colleagues throughout specific challenges or changes over the years.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Last year we merged with Raspberry Pi. It was a huge change for the CoderDojo team, and we went from being 10 people to growing to 17 and now being part of a 100-person organisation. We learnt so much from the process, and I enjoyed it immensely!

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

I’m expecting my first child in the new year. I’ve no doubt that continuing my career, which requires me to travel frequently, while being a new mother will be challenging.