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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Ady Sevy featured

Inspirational Woman: Ady Sevy | Product Manager, Aquila Insight

 

ady sevyAdy Sevy is a product manager at Edinburgh-based data analytics company, Aquila Insight. With a background as a helicopter simulator instructor in the Israeli Air Force, Ady studied cognitive and computer science and also gained a Master’s degree in applied data science. She previously had product management roles in data analytics companies in Tel Aviv and New York.

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

I’m currently a product manager at Aquila Insight, an Edinburgh-based data analyst company. In the past, I’ve also worked as a helicopter simulator instructor in the Israeli Air Force and studied cognitive and computer science, going on to achieve a Master’s degree in applied data science. Before starting at Aquila insight, I worked in product management roles in data analytics companies in Tel Aviv and New York.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not really. It was more a case of looking one or two steps ahead and ensuring I had the qualifications to get to that point. I was aware that the industry was changing fast and hoped I would be able to gain the skills to fit myself into a relevant position.

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

As Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in her book Lean In, women are assessed according to their performances. That doesn’t sound so bad; except that men, in contrast, are being assessed by their potential. In the past, I’ve often had difficulties relating to this. For example, in one job I was promoted, but had a difficult time negotiating a salary increase to compliment this promotion and I first needed to “prove myself” in the new role. When it comes to job interviews, I sometimes find the salary negotiation extremely challenging for the above reason.

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

I start by defining realistic goals to myself for the day – looking at my calendar, my to-do list, and my upcoming deadlines. Later on in the day, I look at what I’ve accomplished so far and how my next day is looking. When it gets to the end of the week, I’ll try and plan a week or more in advance.

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

I wanted to develop my career as product manager, so I aimed for positions on this level. Aquila Insight seemed like a great fit for me and stood out against other data analytical companies as they put data and analytics at the core of their company. I also knew that the role would require analysis expertise, which, as I had a previous experience as an analyst and an advance degree in Data Science, I was sure I could bring.

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

No, but it would be great to find someone willing to sponsor me in the future.

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

I’d like to see quotas in place during the hiring process so that women are favoured intentionally.

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

It’s clear there’s a lack of female role models in the tech world. Perhaps if there had been more women in tech to look up to while I was at school, more girls would have gone into technology. We need to encourage females to choose science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) professions from as early an age as possible. For girls in primary school, it’s more important to keep activities hands-on, creative and fun – anything that will strike an interest with them. For older girls, offering scholarships or setting up coding workshops and events is likely to keep them engaged. I’m also a big supporter of coding workshops targeted for women, especially Rails Girls and Women who Code.

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

I would be able to reflect positively on the fact that I’ve only ever worked for companies where I’ve truly believed in their vision, mission or product. I’d be pleased to see that I’ve progressed through various roles and taken on various new responsibilities, achieved tangible change and been valuable to clients. Also, importantly, I’ve always promoted an ethical equal work place, ensuring that women are happy and comfortable at work.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

Eventually, I’d love to set up my own data analytical company or venture of that type - that would be a dream.

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marie francois featured

Inspirational Woman: Marie Francois | Tour Bus Manager, Memrise

 

Marie Francois, Memrise

Marie Francois, Tour Bus Manager for language app Memrise, is currently travelling across Europe as part of the app’s Membus project – a summer roadtrip adventure to collect micro-videos of locals across the continent using their language in context in order to compile the world’s largest video dictionary.

How did you get involved with this project?

I met Memrise’s CEO, Ed Cooke, at a concert. He told me he wanted to buy a double decker bus and go on a road trip around Europe to capture the diversity of languages (he didn’t have the bus yet, it was just bragging at this stage). I was not sure what he was on about exactly, but I knew I immediately wanted in, so I pitched myself for this job. I thought it was such a brilliant idea in terms of its innovative and fun approach to learning languages, and a great opportunity to work on a mission I would truly believe in.

What has been your biggest challenge along the way?

Definitely running a 1978 vintage double decker bus around Europe. You would not suspect the amount of things you have to look into, as well as not listening to the ‘non-dreamers’ who said this was an impossible mission. I quickly got acquainted with things such as European legislations and mechanical jargon, which are skills I never intended to develop.

This project also became the biggest problem-solving enterprise ever created. For instance, one week before starting the tour, the bus being too high for Europe, we got in touch with a crazy French guy in the Pyrenees who was supposed to remove the top deck of the bus, cut 5 inches, and then re-weld it back together.

Luckily we decided not to go with this option and took the risk to see how far it would go, and nine countries and 12 000 miles later, the bus is still standing! It was all worth it as it became our mascot, and got us a lot of attention on the continent.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Collecting 20,000 videos of native speakers, from 6,000 different people, with a team of 60 volunteers hopping on board. It has also been a privilege to get to know that many different people and places. We now have a great database of video content for the app for nine different languages, which I hope will motivate people to learn even more.

What has been your favourite place that you’ve visited during this tour?

Wow, Europe is full of gems so it’s a tough one, but Venice was a showstopper for me. One of our volunteers was a true Venetian (rare creatures) and showed us the local spots, which only made it more special.

Your bus is full of coders and scientists – what would you say to women or girls looking to get into these roles?

In fact, it just so happened that the Membus team has always consisted primarily of women so we’ve got to know quite a lot of female coders and linguists. I believe that tech is a fantastic progressive environment to work in, for whomever, and regardless of your role.

Memrise bus

Do you think that learning a language can help advance your career?

Absolutely. I think it shows a sense of curiosity, hard work (coz’ it ain’t easy) as well as open-mindedness. It also naturally opens more doors if you want to be sent on a mission or job abroad.

What tips would you give to women looking to learn a new language?

Having a goal helps me (a trip planned, a friend speaking that language, a desire to go live somewhere…) because the first thing you need to learn a language is motivation. I would say to use different methods to diversify your learning, such as movies, apps, books, and trips - obviously the most immersive the better. Every time you have an opportunity to practice, take it, and give yourself credit for trying. Everybody goes through the same frustrating feeling to sound dull and slow, but that’s the only way you’re going to improve.

Do you have any advice for our members with regards to their careers?

The thing I learnt on the back of this trip is to be spontaneous, take up challenges and take risks. When I first joined, I was not prepared for the grand scale of challenges and hurdles to cross to make this tour a success, but I learnt on the spot because I had to. It forges your character, so I’d recommend to anyone to put themselves in these kinds of situations. Although they may seem daunting at the beginning, they are highly rewarding in the end. And if you fail, fail fast.

To check up on the progress of the Membus tour, in the last leg of its journey, please visit the blog.


Ritu mahandru featured

Inspirational Woman: Ritu Mahandru | Vice President, Solution Sales, Agile Management, EMEA, CA Technologies

 

Ritu Mahandru is the Vice President of DevOps EMEA at CA Technologies.  Ritu’s responsibilities include designing and implementing the EMEA go-to-market strategy for application delivery.
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?  Ritu

Not in a structured way, I knew I wanted financial independence and wanted to travel – that meant I needed to work!

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

Looking back, there were several challenges, more so later in my career than earlier.  In the early stages of my career, I was just hungry for experience, I took every opportunity to enrich myself and learn different facets of a software business.  As I advanced more I needed to focus on other aspects of my self development, having the right experience and background was not always enough.  My way of dealing with them was to be brutally honest with myself about my shortcomings, and then work on them.  Living in denial is a challenge in itself.

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

Choose the timing, you have to be sure it is what you want to do and the time is right, invest time in your self-development and look for good role models and mentors who you can learn from, and always remain authentic.

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

People who show real passion and authenticity, they are key to building high performing teams with a common purpose.  People who show potential, and who want to really make a difference will always stand out, these would be key decision criteria for me.

 How do you manage your own boss?

I have 3 bosses!  My main boss is based in Switzerland, so the geographic distance does mean that we do not have the opportunity for impromptu discussions/meetings etc.  I have a monthly 1-1 with my boss and outside of that, we probably speak on the phone very 8-10 days, on an individual basis.  We have a number of scheduled ‘group’ touch points.  I make sure that he never gets any surprises, I keep him informed of key important changes/updates in my business. I also advise him early when I see a storm brewing, just to make sure he understands the rationale behind decisions I may take…so the key is regular communication.  I also try and make sure I provide my boss with an opportunity to gain insight into my team of direct reports, that is always important to build insight into my leadership style and also for succession planning.

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

For the last 20+ years, my work day has always started with my husband bringing me a cup of tea while I get ready for work!  I deliberately leave my mobile phone in the downstairs office, so whilst getting ready, I have no idea of the deluge of emails I have had overnight, and can think through my day.  If possible, I always try and have breakfast with my daughters before heading out.  Of course there are exceptions, especially when I am traveling and leave the house at 5am, but when I am home, I make the most of it!  My day when I am at home always ends with me reading my favourite novel before going to sleep,  I am an avid reader and find escaping into someone else’s world helps me sleep much better!

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

I believe before raising your profile, you should decide what you want to be known for – is it that you are a direct, straight talking person, or that you are great at building teams etc…decide what you want your brand to be, then live and be the brand, even when no one is watching!  Ensure you know your stakeholders well, map out the people you need to interact with to ensure you can be successful in your role and set up a regular cadence with them…the best way to raise your profile is to know your brand,live it, communicate well and be visible.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

Yes – I was surprisingly impressed by how useful this was for me.

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

External networking is very important – I would use the advice on raising your internal profile.  It is important to know what you want to achieve and want you want to present about yourself, otherwise a lot of time and energy can be spent without achieving any tangible goals.

What does the future hold for you?

I love working in the software world and seeing the change that technology brings to everyday lives.  I would love to see more women in tech and hope that events like these will encourage and make more young girls and women curious.  I would love to set up a social enterprise that does something for women in tech…that would be a great combination for me!


MEREDITH LYNCH FEATURED

Inspirational Woman: Meredith Lynch | Vice President, WE Communications UK

 

Meredith Lynch is the Vice President of WE Communications UK and is responsible for leading their UK technology practice. She is also the head of the technology sector in EMEA. 

Meredith Lynch

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

I’ve been with WE Communications for almost 17 years. When I moved to our London office in August 2012, I became a member of our EMEA board where we have a responsibility for shaping the agency’s direction in the region, with a focus on the experience our customers have. In my current role I lead our UK technology practice which has won awards for our work with clients like Aruba HPE and Microsoft Windows & 4Afrika.   More recently my role has expanded as head of our technology sector in EMEA which is a brilliant opportunity to continue our multi-market focus – especially as business becomes more and more global, and technology companies are (for the first time ever) considered more valuable than oil brands.

Originally from the United States, I grew up in the South which is a very conservative part of the world, not excluding my household. My family has been in North Carolina since the late 1800s and we have very deep roots in that part of the world. It was somewhat uncommon for a woman in our family history to have a university degree, or a formal career outside of the home or church. As the first woman in my family to earn a university degree and build a career from it, it’s an achievement I’m very proud of.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

In my second year at university, I really started to think about what I wanted to do. I had some phenomenal professors who encouraged me to pursue a degree in communications given my strengths in argumentation and debate. So, yes – I did actively sit down and plan my career, and I’m so thankful for the advice of those brilliant professors. Communication is key to everything we do, it’s the most human thing in a very technical world, it can make or break a relationship of any size or scale, and there have never been more ways to communicate.

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

The biggest challenges I’ve faced can all be connected to one thing – courage. Whether this is dealing with somebody who has more courage than they should, or struggling to find enough of my own, there has been a common theme. I’ve learnt that there is no one right or wrong answer to any challenge or opportunity in communications, we work in the grey area most of the time. Our field demands that we have the courage to trust our instincts every day. I don’t instinctively have the loudest voice in the room, so I’ve had to build the courage every day to articulate and stand behind my unique perspective.

How do you start your workday and how does it end?

In my dreams I’d wake up for a workout at 4:30, followed by a scan of the news and breakfast with my family. In reality, because we’re a global organisation with global clients, I start my day at about 5:00 with a review of what’s happened in the US overnight and my priorities for the day. With a mix of client and new business deadlines requiring organisational and people-focused needs, my day often consists of balancing those essentials. It’s important that I spend time on the things that make me a better leader and consultant as well, so I always make time to read and look for external trainings and events that can help me and my team connect more dots. My day can end anywhere between 19:00-22:00 – and when I make it home in time, I make the time to reconnect with my family and make sure I’m close to what’s happening at school and work.

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

I spent the first 12 years of my career with WE Communications (formerly Waggener Edstrom) at our Portland office in the US focused on one of our biggest partnerships, Microsoft. It was a phenomenal education in effective and impactful communications - no other brand invests more in their storytelling, influencer engagements and overall communications programme. In early 2012, after requesting an opportunity to take on an international role, the agency asked me to lead on our Microsoft work in EMEA. It was an easy “yes.”

After the first six months I took on the UK technology practice – and have been leading both for the last four years. In July 2016, my sector role expanded to head of technology for the region. With that I am responsible for making sure we’re known as experts in communications for technology brands in the UK, Germany and South Africa – and ensuring we have the right set of talent, services and perspective to help technology brands navigate the stories in motion within the technology space.

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

I’ve had not one but several people throughout my career whom I’ve learned from, but I’ve never had an official mentor or sponsor. Regardless of formality, we can learn from just about everyone. I’ve had some incredible managers who supported and coached me, and some who didn’t – and I learned, from both, what to do and not to do. Some of the most effective growth opportunities come from painful mistakes, and if you aren’t making mistakes, you’re not taking enough risk, and you’re likely not learning much.

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

I want women to have more courage in the workplace. Much of what gets in our way is us – not always, but in my experience, often enough. We need to be unapologetic and relentless in the pursuit of what’s possible.

How do you think we could encourage more girls into a career in STEM?  

The best way to encourage girls to consider a career in STEM is to give more of them hands on experience, guidance and support. There are some impressive programmes like AppsForGood which is (not coincidentally run by a remarkable woman) doing this incredibly well today, and which could be even more effective with more support and scale.

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

I would see the continued growth of our business in the region led by the extraordinary talented people (women and men) I have the fortune of working with every day. WE Communications will be the well-established brand in EMEA that it is in the US, and we’ll have more women in key leadership roles around the world.

Tell us about your plans for the future?

I’d love to open the next regional WE Communications office wherever it may be, and I am incredibly optimistic about our success as a company in motion. I look forward to watching my boys go to university and seeing them achieve the potential I see in them.

 

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Emily Webb featured

Inspirational Woman: Emily Webb | CEO of MyLücke

 

Emily Webb, CEO of MyLücke, shares her entrepreneurial journey of launching a parking app after her frustration of trying to find pubic parking in Los Angeles.

What inspired you to start your business?

inspirational-woman-emily-webb

My inspiration to create change in the parking industry stemmed from my own frustrations as a new Angeleno. Daily routines were no longer simple tasks; it was an exercise in itself to find consistent and reliable public parking. As my life began to revolve around parking regulations in Los Angeles, empty driveways were calling out to me, and it seemed so intuitive to be able to park in the abundance of underutilized spaces while allowing people to generate passive income.

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

The greatest challenge of being my own boss lies within myself. The passion, drive and expectations to build a great company is continuous, which is also the most rewarding aspect of being my own boss. I love the eagerness and hunger to succeed. It’s an incredible opportunity to be challenged by my own vision and be able to create opportunities and deploy executions while being surrounded by a team whose beliefs are aligned with mine.

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

I’m not a fan of the word ‘failure’. I think everything in life is a learning experience, and there’s a simple quote that helps me through my experiences: “you don’t know what you don’t know”. It’s not fair for oneself to feel failure when there is so much we don’t know about executing our visions. Every endeavor is unique in itself, and the sooner you can realize there is no universal formula for entrepreneurs to rely on, the sooner you can learn to stay focused on discovering and implementing the successes of a business model and feel confident about discarding the tactics that weren’t as effective.

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

As co-founder of a startup, patience and execution has been the biggest challenge. There are so many aspects to building a business and sometimes, hard work doesn’t equate to immediate results. My passion and desire to build a great company are sometimes stronger than the reality we face in executing an incredible idea. Creating a strategic roadmap to lay the foundation and learn about our user base takes time. I have to remain stubbornly persistent throughout our execution, while bringing in the right talent at the right time.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

Mentoring the kids at Camp Start-Up has been an incredible experience emotionally. Providing a support system and helping kids believe in themselves and their visions reminds me of when I was younger and how grateful I was when I found people who believed in me. I feel so lucky to be a part of an entrepreneur’s revelation; that moment when they realize ‘yes, I can do this’ is priceless.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

At the end of the day, it’s all about people. Your family, friends, colleagues, associates, acquaintances. Be the best version of you, every day. Help people and don’t expect anything back. Network for the love of meeting people and wanting to be a positive contribution to society and along the way, surround yourself with people who believe in you and whose visions are aligned with yours. Ultimately, your dreams will come to fruition because of the people in your life.

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

If you plan to scale a business, make certain all facets of technology and human resources are prepared. Also, find your traction channel and understand your users! Cash flow and human capital are key aspects to managing the growth of a business.

What does the future hold for you?

My future is this business; continuing to listen to our users and build a great company. I am so passionate about what we’ve built, every day is a blessing. Outside of business, I plan to live life and enjoy all that this world has to offer