Inspirational Woman: Claire Mitchell | Software developer and computer programmer

 

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

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

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

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

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

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

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

 


Kashmir Cooper featured

Inspirational Woman: Kashmir Cooper | EMEA Channel Director, Elo

 

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

Kashmir Cooper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tell us about your plans for the future?

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


Tara Swart featured

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

 

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

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

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

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

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

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

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

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

What does the future hold for you?

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

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Yasmeen Ahmad featured

Inspirational Woman: Yasmeen Ahmad, Lead Data Scientist | Teradata

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. How do you manage your own boss?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. What does the future hold for you?

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


Hannah Pretswell featured

Inspirational Woman: Hannah Pretswell | Software Test Engineer at Scott Logic

 

Hannah is a Test Engineer at Scott Logic, a UK-based consultancy delivering high quality software to clients in financial services, the public sector and healthcare.

She is a graduate in Character Animation from Teesside University, as well as a STEM Ambassador, and spends much of her free time drawing, painting, dancing, and climbing.

software
Tell us a bit about yourself and your company

I’m a Software Test Engineer at Scott Logic, a software consultancy specialising in solutions for financial trading, and it’s a fantastic place to work. We sit in an open plan office, which makes working in an Agile environment so much easier.

I sit with my team of three developers, just a stone’s throw from the other testers in the office. It makes fostering both a project community and a test community ideal, and we often share information and tips during the work day.

Did you ever sit down and plan your journey to becoming a software tester?

Becoming a software tester has been an interesting journey for me, and it’s definitely not something I planned. I studied character animation at university, and as a way to get my foot in the door of the games industry, as I’m a keen gamer, I landed a job as games tester. This was my first ever experience of testing, and I fell in love. I figured that if games need testing, other software would need testing too. So I researched what I needed to become a software tester.

I was overwhelmed and underqualified, but thankfully I’m not one to give up easily. I taught myself basic HTML/CSS and JavaScript and created a very simple, 90s-esque website with some of my artwork on it. I studied the difference between Agile and waterfall software development methodologies, and what black box and white box testing were.

In doing this research, I had shown potential employers passion and interest, which is an important part of being a software tester.

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

Unfortunately, software testing isn’t something that really gets taught anywhere. If you do a computer science degree, then you might briefly touch upon unit testing, but you won’t study it anywhere near the level required for most testing jobs. If you really want to be a tester, my advice is to be proactive.

Unlike software development, where you can sit down and learn a language and build something, if you don’t have something to test how can you practice?

You could learn automation testing, pick up something like Protractor.js and find some Angular websites to write tests against, but that doesn’t tackle the issue of sapient testing.

If you aren’t currently in a testing job, I’d advise reading, and getting involved in the testing community. I’d recommend Explore it! Reduce Risk and Increase Confidence with Exploratory Testing by Elisabeth Hendrickson, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, and, An Introduction to General Systems Thinking by Gerald Weinberg (this is actually the first testing book I read).

You should also participate in conversations on social media, and join local testing or Agile development meet ups. There are two main Slackchats I love: ministryoftesting.slack.com and testersio.slack.com.

And I recommend reading blogs by James Bach, Michael Bolton and Katrina Clokie. Follow them on Twitter too, along with anyone else who has interesting conversations about testing. You can learn a surprising amount in 140 characters.

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

The biggest challenge that I face is that I don’t have a background in code. New projects generally mean new technology, and though picking that up might come easy for someone with three to four years computer science experience, it does not come easily for me. I spend a lot of time learning, and I’m thankful that I really enjoy learning (if I could stay at school forever, I would) which helps me pick things up quickly.

The real challenge comes down to Google. It is so difficult to search for things on Google when you don’t actually know what you’re supposed to be searching for! Thankfully this is easy to overcome - simply ask for help. You can’t learn if you can’t hold your hands up and admit you don’t know something. Suffering in silence is detrimental to both you and your company.

If you want to progress as a software tester, it’s a constant learning process. Like any job in technology, things are constantly changing.

There’s always a new bit of tech, or a new process to be used. The benefit of staying at the forefront of the technologies and ideas is that you get to try things out before other people.

This means you get to build an opinion, which you can then share. This builds up not only your knowledge as a tester, but your reputation too if you write blogs and share your insights on social media.

Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring? Do you feel this is/has been important to your professional development?

I’ve never been officially mentored as such, since the way Scott Logic’s test team works is we all help each other out. However, the company is in the process of rolling out a new internal coaching programme. Up to now though, I guess I could say that everyone I work with has been somewhat of a mentor. They have all been integral to my professional development, helping me with different test ideas, helping me figure out personal projects to pursue, or helping me get my head around different technical languages.

I have taken part in being a mentor myself, and that opened up a lot of opportunities. I’m involved with the STEM Ambassadors, and over the last year I’ve been involved with many school activities; either practice interviews or giving talks to young students about my role in testing. I signed up for the Newcastle University mentorship program, and was partnered with a second year student who was considering testing as a career choice. This led to the problem of the lack of internships for testers, which I took to our test lead and head of development and within a few months we welcomed our first test intern.

What does the future hold for you?

I’m looking forward to all the future projects I get to be involved with, since every project requires a different approach to testing and new challenges to overcome. I would like to garner enough experience and knowledge to be able to consult with businesses and help them perfect their testing within their organisation.

I also hope to carry on with my work with STEM Ambassadors and help inspire a new generation of people to pursue a career in technology. I believe kids should be informed of as many career options as possible, so they can make more informed decisions as they get older. I also hope to show, courtesy of my odd background in animation, that if you do make an “incorrect” choice somewhere along the way, it isn’t the end of the world. If you have enough drive and passion you can succeed in anything you want.


Tamara Chehayeb Makarem featured

Inspirational Woman: Tamara Chehayeb Makarem | User Experience (UX) Design Lead at Scott Logic

 

Tamara is a User Experience (UX) Design Lead at Scott Logic, a UK-based consultancy delivering high quality software and UX design for clients in financial services, the public sector, and healthcare.

She has worked in Beirut, London and New York, and designed desktop, tablet and mobile web applications for Fortune 500 companies.

Tamara User Experience

She is a strong advocate of design thinking as a methodology, and shares her thought leadership on Medium and on her company blog.

You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

What has been your career path like? Did you ever sit down and plan it?

I started with a basic plan of the things I wanted to achieve in my career, but I made changes along the way. I did a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design at the American University of Beirut where I studied the fundamentals of typography, colours, layout, iconography, and illustration. I then applied my skills working as a graphic and interaction designer in Lebanon, designing using both Arabic and Latin alphabets for multilingual users.

I wanted to move to UX Design and to work in a bigger market with more opportunities, so I moved to New York. There, I earned a Masters of Fine Arts in Design and Technology from Parsons, the New School for Design. I then worked in New York designing web and native applications for clients primarily in e-commerce, healthcare, and banking. I got to manage teams across multiple offices in the US and abroad, for clients such as Microsoft, so it was a lot of responsibility but I enjoyed the challenge.

I got married and moved to London. Two years ago, I joined Scott Logic where I‘ve been designing web applications ranging from trading platforms to financial tools, analytics dashboards and intranets. Throughout my career, I’ve tended to set myself broad long term goals. I then set short term targets to ensure I keep track of my progress. I‘ve made some alterations along the way, and they’ve worked out well.

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

The biggest challenge I’ve faced is having to rebuild my network each time I moved, and to find ways to maintain the networks I built in the past. I‘ve lived in four countries, so starting again is something I’m used to, but establishing a network and a profile in a new location is a slow process. I’ve had to attend a lot of events to meet new people.

How important is networking in the technology and software industry, and in particular to your role? What three tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is not just about meeting new people and raising your profile. It can also help you get feedback on your ideas, learn from others, and find opportunities for work and collaboration.

My three tips to a newbee networker would be to:

  1. Find the right events
    If you’re searching for interesting events to attend, Meetup and Eventbrite are a good place to look. Find networking events that are relevant to you, and try to attend one or two a month.
  2. Be bold
    If you’re nervous about approaching a person at a networking event, chances are that person feels the same way. You lose nothing by being friendly and introducing yourself. Make the first move.
  3. Follow up
    If the conversation is going well, exchange contact details and follow up after the event. Even if there isn’t an opportunity for collaboration at the moment, it might come up later.
On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

It depends on what phase in the design process I’m in.

During the user research phase I lead UX workshops, so I spend the day collaborating with a team including designers, developers, project managers and stakeholders. Ideating, sketching, and prototyping would be typical.

In the design phase, the core of my time is spent creating wireframes, mock ups and prototypes. The rest is divided between meeting with clients and the team to ensure the project is headed in the right direction.

In the last stages of the design process, I create style guides, provide specs to developers and test the build to ensure the design has been implemented as envisioned.

I also join our business development team in meetings with prospective London-based clients to introduce them to the UX practice and our process. The range of responsibilities that I have is one of the things I enjoy most about my role, as it makes each day different and offers new challenges.

What are the best elements of your role, and the most challenging?

With the rise of new technologies like smart watches, virtual reality goggles and smart cars, UX Designers need to quickly adapt to change and acquire new skills. We sometimes have to design for technologies with no precedents to look at. This is challenging but also exciting for me. It means I can play a great role in setting the trends for new technologies.

Have you benefited from coaching or mentoring in your career, either formally or informally? Do you feel this is/has been important to your professional development?

I have not had any formal mentoring or coaching, but I have had informal advice from the people I’ve worked with. It’s important to think about both internal and external obstacles that prevent us from achieving our career goals, and coaching can help with that. At Scott Logic, we’re in the process of rolling out a new coaching scheme, and I’m looking forward to participating in that.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move into a career in UX Design?

My advice to someone considering a career in UX Design is to recognise that teams are multidisciplinary so their technical background is likely to be a strength. The UX team at Scott Logic includes designers from a variety of disciplines, including product design, animation, graphic design, software development and interaction design. I think that’s a great asset because cross-discipline collaboration allows each of us to bring a new perspective to the design thinking process.


dr claire sharpe featured

“It’s about retaining women that have been trained, have expertise and are good and making the work environment one that they can stay in.” | Dr Claire Sharpe talks women in STEM, balancing her career and mentors

 

dr claire sharpe

“It’s about retaining women that have been trained, have expertise and are good and making the work environment one that they can stay in,” says Dr Claire Sharpe, a Reader in Renal Medicine and an Honorary Consultant Nephrologist at King’s College London and and ambassador of Kidney Research UK’s Women in Science campaign

Discussing the need to keep women in STEM and in particular the biological sciences and medicine, Claire believes that the problem doesn’t lie with encouraging girls and women into the sciences or a career in medicine. The problem lies in retaining these same women and girls within the industry.

According to recent statistics, 65 per cent of early career researchers in biomedical sciences are female. However, there is a huge drop off rate when looking at the progression to professor level with less than one in five biomedical professor positions across the research sector currently held by women.

Claire said, “The biological sciences, and certainly medicine, more women than men go into it on the outset. So it isn’t about encouraging them to go into the biological sciences, it’s about keeping them there.”

Indeed, Claire knew she wanted to be a doctor from a young age, saying, “It’s something I wanted to do when I was at school.”

“At the age of 13-14, I liked the sciences and I particularly liked biology, and medicine seemed like a good way of combining everything as I also wanted to work with people.”

Alongside her interest in the sciences, Claire credits a rather unusual source for wanting to turn her passion into a career. She said, “There were only two girls in the A-level physics class, and the teacher declared from the outset that “girls really only do Physics A Level because they know they’re going to be in a class full of boys.”

“It didn’t put me off, it made me angry.”

Despite this, Claire didn’t have her whole career planned out. She said, “Once you’re in medical school, you are on a little bit of a conveyor belt.”

“I chose kidney disease, partly because I found the patients and the subject really interesting.”

“Once I’d chosen which specialty I wanted to go in, I decided I wanted to do some research in it, so applied for my PhD and I enjoyed the research so much that I tried to balance continuing the research and clinical medicine afterwards.”

Claire divides her time equally between her research and teaching work and her clinical work with renal patients, including those with kidney damage caused by sickle cell disease. She is also Chair of the Athena SWAN self-assessment committee, a charter established to recognise commitment to gender equality. Claire juggles all this while balancing her home life and caring for three children.

Speaking about her working day, Claire said, “I don’t really think there is such a thing as a typical work day for me.”

Alongside her hectic schedule, which Claire admits is sometimes like ‘spinning plates’, she also helps the next generation of scientists and researchers. She said, “I spend a lot of time talking to people about their career plans, having mentoring type conversations.”

Having a mentor is something that Claire strongly supports. She says, “There’s always a debate about what a mentor is.”

“Is a mentor or sponsor someone who puts your name forward and promotes you in public? Or is it someone who helps you believe in yourself and boosts your own confidence?”

“I think it’s really a combination of all those things.”

“So, yes I think mentoring is very important.”

She continues, “Professor Bruce Hendry [fibrosis expert, Professor Emeritus at King’s College, London and immediate past President of the UK Renal Association] was my supervisor for my PhD and he was very supportive and encouraging, always pushing me to do things slightly outside my comfort zone, which I think is important.”

“It gave me the confidence that I can go and do things. I think that’s what a good mentor should do.”

When asked what she would see in terms of her achievements, Claire said, “Actually in five years time, looking back I think what I’ll be most proud of is building a critical mass of other people, getting other people into the sciences and achieving their potential.”

“So supporting and helping other people of both genders to have that confidence to go into an academic career, which isn’t necessarily the safest career structure but it is one we need to encourage people in to.”

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anna frankowska featured

Anna Frankowska: CEO of Nightset | Forbes 30 under 30 for 2017

 

nightset

Anna Frankowska is the CEO of Nightset, and has been named in Forbes' prestigious 30 under 30 in Technology for 2017.

Originally from Poland, Anna fell in love with London's rich and diverse nightlife world while studying at UCL, where she graduated with a BSc in Economics.

It was then that she spotted a crucial gap in the market for a comprehensive tool, which combines the best aspects of multiple social platforms in one, cohesive virtual space, to rejuvenate and streamline the nightlife experience for people and club owners.

To master the key areas necessary to realise her dreams, the hands-on entrepreneur worked as a Graduate Analyst in Markets and International Banking with RBS, learning the arts of investment banking, business restructuring and raising investment.

How does it feel to be part of Forbes' 30 under 30?

I’m completely thrilled. To receive this recognition and acknowledgement that Nightset is one to watch has been so fulfilling. In terms of opening doors, being part of the Forbes’ list has given me a worldwide audience, access and approval in the technology sector and the opportunity to disrupt the marketplace. It’s given the company so much credibility and I’m so grateful.

I’m now part of an elite group of individuals who are just trying to make the world a better place!

How does the app work?

Nightset is a marketplace that connects party people to all the social events in their area, giving them all the key information they need to know. It connects people finishing work to venues in that area so they can network, socialise and have fun! The app also has a dating aspect to it, whereby you can discover other singles in the same or nearby venues! It adds a new dimension to the app and has completely changed the dating scene. Now meeting someone can be raw, in the moment, tying into Nightset's brand message; 'Live for the moment!'.

Empower yourself by blocking anything negative out and play up to your strengths as a woman.

Have you faced any challenges or stigma as a businesswoman?

There's been some questions raised regarding my gender and running a business, but for the most part, the business world has been very professional and empowering. In truth, If I have experienced any stigma, I've completely ignored it. Empower yourself by blocking anything negative out and play up to your strengths as a woman. The more we begin to not see or feel something negative, the quicker it will go away.

How important to you is networking and how critical is it for your business?

Networking has been key to Nightset's accomplishments and I would seriously encourage any business owner to get out there and build their connections! Business has never been about working alone, and you can gain so much knowledge, advice and support from being physically out there with your product. I've received some pretty big investments thanks to networking, so I can't reiterate it's importance enough.

Nightset works perfectly as a way to network your business as if you are keen to get out and meet other like-minded individuals, the app will show you where to go! It will expand your social networks and I have future plans to make the app more functional for professionals.

How much input did you have in developing the app?

My brother, who is the co-founder of Nightset, took the lead on the app development, whilst I took over on networking, marketing etc. It's imperative to have a tech co-founder because social media, apps and digital are the future of businesses. But I've been there from day one, overseeing the app and it's development.

What’s your background and how invaluable has it been for your business?

I have a background in investment banking and that really taught me so much about business. I would move into different sectors of the company to learn each different part. How to raise funding, what makes a business attractive, grasping the language of investment. In the end, my background made me a credible candidate for investment because I learned so much from each department. I really recommend taking the steps to learn the language of business inside out. Knowledge is key.

What advice would you give women wanting to start their own company?

I'd say to actually do it. Be passionate about your product and believe in it's success beyond any doubt. There's no risk in following a passion. Keep asking questions because you can never know too much. Continue to empower yourself, tell yourself that your dreams are achievable because they are. Don't be scared, be open to the challenge.

Plans for the future of the app?

World domination! I'd love to have the app in every city. It's so important in today's economy to have an important ambassador for nightlife, keeping it alive and making sure it's beneficial for everyone.

Download Nightset on the app store


Lauren Hughes

Inspirational Woman: Lauren Hughes | Web Developer at Agency TK

 

Lauren Hughes has worked with a number of well-known brands on many website builds and re-brands.

She has worked with the likes of Herbert Brown, Sovereign Healthcare, Frontline Bathrooms and For All Events, as well as working on the front-end of the BHS website redesign. As a Web Developer, Lauren helps build and maintain the websites created at TK, by updating content and images, testing sites to ensure that they run and look as planned. Lauren is passionate about keeping up with the evolving digital industry.

Lauren Hughes
What about your current role do you enjoy?

I really enjoy solving problems. It's really rewarding when you solve a particularly challenging issue that is key to a project's functionality. I also love  collaborating as a team to create the most innovative and interactive websites.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

When I was at university studying ICT, I wasn't sure what career I wanted. When it came to applying for a placement year, I chose my favourite module - web development. I found that it combined both creativity and logic, which drew me to it. From then on, I have been continuously learning and honing my skills in web development.

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

Web development is a challenge in itself, you need to keep on top of the latest technologies and constantly find new and innovative ways to build websites. If I come across any challenges when developing a site, I find it really useful to talk things through with another developer. Sometimes you don’t necessarily need someone to give you an answer, because the discussion can help you get to a solution.

How challenging is your average working week? Biggest common factors

It depends on the type of work we have in at the time. Development projects that are pretty straight forward can go really smoothly and be simple to carry out. When the client requires a really bespoke, showcase website, we might be using technologies that we haven't explored before which can pose a lot of challenges and hurdles. However, it is all worth it for the final product!

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

I would look past the qualifications and see who had the most passion for the role. It is sometimes more important for candidates to be enthusiastic about the work that they do and have the hunger to learn (especially in our line of work).

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

I always start the day with a coffee, it helps get my brain into gear! Our team starts with a "stand up", where we discuss what we did on the previous day and what we are doing today. This provides a good platform to find out what the other team members are currently working on and raise any concerns we may have with the tasks we have been given. My day usually ends by me checking through my emails and making sure I have completed all of my tasks for the day.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

We find that setting up knowledge share sessions are a good way to raise profiles and get people discussing the topics around development. It encourages research into new technologies which we can look to implement in upcoming projects. This can be done within the team you are in or with the wider agency.

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

It is interesting to see how other companies work and what processes they use to inspire better working practices. As a team, we attend local events which bring people in the same industries together. HeyStac is one of our favourites - they have guest speakers to present on current topics every couple of months. The talks can be focused on digital, but also on a broad range of topics.

What does the future hold for you?

I want to continue to create websites that people enjoy visiting. This industry relies on keeping up with newer and better technologies that are emerging all of the time, so this is something I will always need to do. One of my favourite parts of my job is sitting and helping people to solve issues, so mentoring people really appeals to me and it is something I would really like to focus on in the future.


lauren riley featured

Inspirational Woman: Lauren Riley | Qualified solicitor, speaker and creator of The Link App

 

Keen to dispel the image of a stuffy solicitor, 29-year-old Lauren Riley is anything but. Recently strutting her stuff on BBC1's The Apprentice, the keep fit fan is the embodiment of today’s modern business woman and is determined to give the letter of the law a ‘facelift.’

She is a firm believer that today’s leading business women can be both professional and glamorous.

Head and shoulders
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and what you do currently

I am a qualified solicitor. I decided to specialise in family law as I wanted to make a real difference. I was prepared for being put through the mill emotionally, especially when dealing with cases involving children, but at times it can still be challenging. I also enjoy keeping fit and am particularly interested in nutrition.

Personally I love the flexibility. It usually means I work many more hours than my employed counterparts but the sense of achievement in each small step is very gratifying.

What inspired you to start a business?

In my everyday role as a lawyer I was constantly surprised by the amount of my working day which comprised providing fairly simple updates to a client. I would constantly hear the complaints of my colleagues about how frustrating this was to them. The Link App was born organically from the need of lawyers for more effective communication and of clients to be kept in the loop more during their cases.

You created The Link App; how does it work?

The Link App is the ultimate tool for busy law firms looking to thrive in an increasingly competitive market, improve customer service, save time and money, and increase productivity.

Ultimately, The Link App serves to increase productivity across the working day, by keeping clients ‘in the loop’ without the need for back and forth communication, freeing up valuable time.

It’s quick, easy, and efficient – ideal for busy law firms, and designed to compliment their existing system.

Once logged in, they’ll find all their clients listed alphabetically and can begin to see how The Link App will improve client management and the efficient running of files.

The Link App is designed to update clients on their case quickly, using our pre-populated list of standard case updates, or tailoring a message. For example, ‘drainage search back: no issues’ or ‘contracts exchanged at 10.30am, completion due in seven days.’

In turn, clients can use the ‘request a call back’ feature, prioritizing calls in terms of urgency. This allows law firms to speak to them at a convenient time, when they are completely focused on their case, maximising the value of time spent on the phone. Not only this, but cases can be accessed securely at any time of day, across desktop, phone, or tablet.

Ultimately, law firms save both time and money, making it easier to operate in a highly competitive market and providing an exceptional customer experience.

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

Personally I love the flexibility. It usually means I work many more hours than my employed counterparts but the sense of achievement in each small step is very gratifying. The challenging part is definitely to strike the balance and step away from the laptop after late evenings and weekends. Honestly, I haven’t quite managed that part yet but helpfully in the future I will.

I think networking is really important. I see so many people doing it crudely, only showing interest in the CEO of a company etc. I think that you are always a representation of your company and you should foster relationships at all levels.

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

I believe in setting aspirational goals. A ‘shoot for the stars’ approach and if you fail you still ‘land on a cloud’ mentality. Setting big goals with a touch of realism has been my strategy. Write them down and keep your overall goals in the forefront of your mind.

Take stock mentally when you can and do not be too hard on yourself. I try to find a mini victory every day, then, when I look back on the past six months, I almost can’t believe how much of what I set out to do has been achieved. A positive mental attitude goes a long way.

I think networking is really important. I see so many people doing it crudely, only showing interest in the CEO of a company etc. I think that you are always a representation of your company and you should foster relationships at all levels.

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

I have entered the tech field from a legal background. This was always going to be daunting. I have always been honest that my strengths lie in my knowledge of the legal market and my ability to drive the company forward as opposed to the software development itself.

I have been very selective about who The Link App engages and so far this combination has been a successful one.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

So far my experience of this has not been entirely positive. There are many schemes out there and particularly at the beginning I reached out to a few of them. However I found that they were offering conflicting advice. I think having mentors is important, so I have mostly drawn inspiration from the people in business I respect .

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

I think networking is really important. I see so many people doing it crudely, only showing interest in the CEO of a company etc. I think that you are always a representation of your company and you should foster relationships at all levels. In my opinion people buy people and that’s where networking is so valuable. From what I understand of those who have wanted to do business with me, it’s because of the way I have presented myself.

I believe in setting aspirational goals. A ‘shoot for the stars’ approach and if you fail you still ‘land on a cloud’ mentality.

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

I firmly believe you need the right team around you to achieve this. A positive working culture goes a long way. Reputation of the team and product is key to scaling. Once your brand is out there in many ways it can speak for itself. We have relied heavily on organic interest and referrals from existing users or advocates of our product.
>We are genuinely passionate about solving pain points for our clients through tech and we are told that shines through.

I believe in setting aspirational goals. A ‘shoot for the stars’ approach and if you fail you still ‘land on a cloud’ mentality.

I am already planning what I can give back, leading on issues I am passionate about like diversity and creating a business that cares.

What does the future hold for you?

I am so very excited and optimistic about the future. I have had so much positive feedback following my time in the media and this has been a source of inspiration to me. The Link App continues to grow and I learn more every day.

Lauren Riley is a qualified solicitor, speaker and creator of The Link App www.thelinkapp.co.uk, which is available for professional firms to communicate with their clients.

Find out more about Lauren here

Website: www.laurenriley.co.uk

Twitter: @misslaurenriley

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