Kirsty is a hands-on software development manager with over 10 years’ of experience as a software engineer. She is very confident in her ability to drive projects from conception to completion and is always looking for new challenges and opportunities to grow as a leader and mentor.

This continues in her most recent role at Mattress Online. Her current career goal is to help build a strong development team – her passion lies in supporting and upskilling junior talent.

My journey to date as a woman in tech has been a deliberate one. I developed a keen interest in tech during my early teens when I began teaching myself the very basics of web development. This heavily influenced my thoughts on further education and career opportunities, leading me to study for a degree in Software Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University. The course included a placement year which was invaluable as it demonstrated how my passion could turn into a long-term career.

I completed my degree and was delighted to return to my placement company as a graduate Software Engineer. I spent 8 years there in which I led on numerous development projects and was promoted to Senior Software Engineer (SSE), leading a small scrum team.

In March 2021, I pivoted into a hands-on web developer role at Mattress Online. It gave me the opportunity to grow my technical skills and work in a smaller team with greater autonomy and closer collaboration.

I had not been within the team long when my leadership skills started to grow and I found myself flourishing in my new environment. With all my experience to hand, I took on a Team Lead role which included mentoring a junior colleague. I loved that challenge and my role has only grown from there.

The development team has recently expanded and I now manage an all-male team of 4. I’m not ready to put down the tools myself yet though and I am still very much a day-to-day contributor, collaborating with the team, while trying to encourage them and build their skills as a leader.

What is your managerial style?

I wouldn’t say my managerial approach is influenced by the team being all-male in any way, but what I am acutely aware of is that the team are very young in their careers. As such, I often reflect on my experiences as a young professional. I aim to make sure that they receive the kind of support that I wish I had and would have benefited from.

I think young developers are primarily focused on growing their technical skills. This is by no means a bad thing and is the ‘bread and butter’ of a great developer. There’s a real opportunity however to coach the softer skills and emphasise how their professional development can be just as important as their technical competency.

In my early years, learning how to effectively self-manage, prioritise and utilise time were skills you ‘just developed’ in a sink-or-swim fashion, but… you don’t know what you don’t know! Most of the time people just need a bit of direction, they need help to realise that these are all skills they can learn like anything else, and then with some foundational knowledge or training, they are able to excel by themselves.

In this way, I’m conscious of not micromanaging and I strive to give the team as much autonomy as possible. Sometimes you need to literally give permission for this to happen, and I remind myself that. My advice to others in my position is to be very explicit about what your team can do. I like to sell the freedoms of a given role, not the restrictions.

Where is here?

I’ve been in my current role for over two and a half years and in that time, I’ve been fortunate to have full ownership of my role and my team. I feel like I really hit the ground running in 2021 and that’s not really stopped. Now I’m well established in my role and looking forward to continuing to build the team around me.

Earlier in the year, I also had the pleasure of being shortlisted for Young Digital & Tech Professional of the Year at the Yorkshire Young Professionals Awards 2023. To be recognised alongside other high-achieving individuals in my industry was fantastic – I was extremely disappointed that a pre-planned holiday prevented me from attending the event in person and celebrating properly.

What does being a Woman in Tech mean to you?

Being a female leader in tech is an honour but in order to succeed in this industry, I’ve learnt it’s important to not be afraid to make hard decisions and to place trust in the abilities that got you where you are.

I’d like to think I’m an authentic, open, and honest leader. Empathy is crucial, and I reflect on my own experiences as a tech professional – and less as a woman in tech. I guess I’ve been very privileged to rarely feel like my gender has held me back, and I hope this continues in my journey as a growing leader, and for others like me starting their careers in the industry.

Read more from our inspirational women here.