Alice SkeatsAlice Skeats is the Senior PR & Communications Manager at Nextdoor, the UK’s largest and fastest-growing private social network used by more than 16,200 neighbourhoods in the UK.

With ten years experience in PR & Communications, Alice has a wide range of knowledge and experience spanning both the private and public sector. Prior to Nextdoor, Alice spent five years working in PR & Communications in policing, in roles at the City of London Police and FACT. She’s previously lead a national campaign on fake beauty products to raise awareness of the dangers of counterfeit cosmetics and electrical items, which went global.

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

My name is Alice Skeats, i’m the Senior PR & Communications Manager at Nextdoor and was born and bred in Southend-on-Sea. I have over ten years of experience in PR and Communications, the majority of which is in the public sector, particularly policing and crime; including two years at the City of London Police leading PR for a police unit dedicated to combating fake goods and piracy and three years in the film/TV industry protecting the creative rights of film/TV studios.

I’ve always been passionate about where I live and have always wanted to work for an organisation which makes a real difference to people’s lives and so when the role appeared at Nextdoor I jumped at the opportunity. Nextdoor encompasses so many passions and values I feel strongly about. Nextdoor’s main aim is to help neighbours build stronger, safer and happier local communities. Having lived in Southend-on-Sea most of my life (minus the three years I spent studying at University in Hull) I have seen how a vibrant community can help a town and its residents thrive. I began my career working in the press team at Southend-on-Sea Council and so I witnessed first hand the amazing people in the community working to bring Southend together. Local communities are at the heart of Nextdoor and I love the fact that every day I am surrounded by inspiring stories of UK neighbours who are using the platform to make positive changes in their communities. Technology, particularly social media, more recently is getting a bad name. We are a nation of smartphones, tablets, and multiple social media profiles – we are more connected than ever, but are in fact more disconnected than ever. What I love about Nextdoor, is that it uses technology and social media to combat exactly this. It is all about creating real human connection. On Nextdoor you connect with your neighbours and can get to know them online, to develop meaningful relationships offline.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I remember being at school and not knowing what career path to follow but I knew I didn’t want a ‘traditional role’ that the careers teacher would have told us about. I have always loved building strong connections and working with people from all different walks of life and different ranks. I am the person who strikes up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. Whether it’s on a train, walking to the shops or in a public loo! Whilst at university I spent one summer working in the press office at Essex Police which gave me my first taste of PR and I never looked back.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

A large part of my career has been working in very male-dominated environments. As a young woman, this can sometimes seem daunting, however, my advice would be to always remind yourself of your value. You were hired for a reason; your knowledge and expertise. Self-assurance in yourself and your abilities are so important in such environments.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am a strong believer that no matter how old you are or where you are in your career, you are always still learning and so I look forward to many achievements still to come in the future. However, some of my favourites so far have to be landing my dream job at Nextdoor, being a spokesperson for the film/tv industry on the BBC’s The One Show on a piece about piracy, as well as launching and running a campaign on the dangers of fake beauty/electrical goods which hit the front page of the Daily Mail, and was also featured in every national UK paper and national TV and radio.

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

Always pushing myself that one step further. I recently watched Brene Brown’s documentary Call to Courage which is centred on pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I believe not staying within my comfort zone and always striving for success and progression has certainly helped me in my career.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Keep yourself updated with the latest tech news and trends. Also be open with your manager about what you want to achieve, where you want to be and how you want to develop. A member of staff who is eager to learn and go the extra mile is always the greatest asset to any team.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

We’ve come a long way but the STEM/Technology sector is still under-represented when it comes to women. There are some amazing people and organisations championing girls and women to join the tech industry. We need to do more to highlight the exciting and varied roles within the sector at a much earlier stage and continue to push things like internships, women in tech talks and mentorship programmes.

What do you think companies can do to progress the careers of women working in technology?

I feel really lucky to work for an organisation where women are so well represented. Our CEO, Sarah Friar, is a real champion for women in business and STEM and we also have a high number of women in leadership roles. At Nextdoor we also have a regular speaker series, profiling interesting and inspiring women across all industries as well as women’s network which is always looking at ways to provide additional support and development to staff.

There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I think the key is to show people that STEM supports so many sectors. STEM roles can support all industries from fashion to film-making. By raising awareness of the varied roles and pushing this into the education system early on via mentorships, events & special programmes.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I personally don’t stick to tech specific events or resources. I love a good podcast. My favourite podcast is The Guilty Feminist and funnily enough, the latest episode was all about Women in STEM. If you haven’t listened to the Guilty Feminist or that episode go check it out. It’s a great podcast that discusses a wide range of topics from feminist marriage to women in science. Our CEO also holds the most inspiring events for women called Ladies Who Launch. I would recommend anyone looking to network or just simply to be reawoken with ambition and motivation to attend. I went to the Belfast event last year and have come away with a network of mentors, advisors but most importantly friends.