Amber Akhtar has diverse experience spanning sales, medical technology, and legal technology. Currently serving as the co-founder of tech startup TextMine. 

Amber plays an instrumental role in driving business growth and managing internal and external stakeholders. She joined TextMine in September 2020 as a Legal Engineer. She then honed her legal skills under the guidance of the Chief Legal Officer, assisting with in-house legal matters, contributing to investment documentation, and becoming a qualified solicitor. She moved from Legal Engineer to Trainee Solicitor, COO and finally co-founder throughout three and a half years. She was previously a Legal Assistant at medical equipment manufacturing firm Perspectum. Amber started her career in Leeds with customer-centric and sales positions at Sky and Lloyds Banking Group.

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

I’m the co-founder of TextMine, a legal technology company founded in Oxford which makes contract data usable and searchable at scale using patented knowledge graph technology.

Our technology is used by businesses in property and employment to safely create, manage and search contracts at scale.

My role is a varied one! Mostly it is about driving business growth and managing internal and external stakeholders, working with the CEO to align product development with business expansion, overseeing HR processes, ensuring regulatory compliance, and identifying strategic areas where the company can best grow. Right now, I’m working on our rebrand and new product releases which I hope will offer a dramatic improvement for businesses drowning in document data!

My tech journey is fairly unusual: I was a Legal Assistant at medical equipment manufacturing firm Perspectum before Legislate, working as part of the in-house legal team. I started my career in Leeds with customer-centric and sales positions at Sky and Lloyds Banking Group where I handled customer queries and complaints as well as billing issues, so I’ve gone through a lot of different focuses and responsibilities before landing a tech leadership role.

One thing to know about me: I am fairly indecisive and like to think I can do it all! My career reflects that diversity. It’s also important to me to give back to the community, particularly when it comes to education: my parents didn’t complete their education or have a traditional career, so I’m the first in my family to graduate and work in a corporate environment. As a way to be grateful for this, I spend my Saturday mornings teaching English to children in years 4 and 5 through a mentorship program

I’m also currently developing a community network called “Asian Women in Tech,” which is in its formative stages.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career was more based on impulse than meticulously planned. After a challenging period at 17, which included residing in a women’s refuge and a rocky start in sixth-form education,

I resat my A levels as an external student, teaching myself to achieve the grades needed to sit my second year of A-levels.

I didn’t do well enough to access my chosen degree at the time (Therapeutic Radiography), so instead went through clearing and selected Biomedical Science, which led me to unexpected opportunities in the legal space. I completed my undergraduate and then began my postgraduate degree in law before completing my master’s in law and business.

Despite occasionally wishing for a more structured plan, I value the rich experiences that an unplanned path has given me, including my current role at Legislate – which I love.

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

The main one was the usual one for women: Imposter Syndrome, especially when I relocated to Oxford for a legal role in a med-tech company during COVID-19. It was a very lonely and isolating experience because I wasn’t in an environment where I felt comfortable asking for help, which was very challenging for my professional self-confidence. It was a huge relief to meet Charles, Legislate’s founder, who hired me and created a nurturing environment where I felt much more able to express concerns and invest myself on a personal level. It helped me feel more at ease in my role and taught me that no matter how experienced you are, an employer who is empathetic and ready to support their staff is one of the most important things.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Qualifying as a solicitor and securing a leadership role – it took a lot of hard work and commitment. When I finished my GCSEs, my future was very uncertain: I wasn’t allowed to continue my education or start a career. It felt like the end of the road. Persevering to get myself the education I felt I deserved allowed me to progress and rise through the ranks of the corporate world – but if you’d ask me at 16, I would never have imagined that I would qualify as a solicitor and go on to become a COO at a start-up. So I’m very proud of everything that led me here.

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

My resilience and ability to bounce back: I never gave up no matter the hurdle or extenuating circumstances, always believing that where there is a will, there is a way. When I was living at the women’s refuge, I didn’t have a phone and I didn’t know the way to the sixth form college – but I asked a member of staff to print out a map so I could get there in person, leading me to eventually enrol.

When I failed my first year of sixth form, I didn’t give up, I spent the next year teaching myself AS level Biology, Chemistry and Psychology (which isn’t easy!) and re-sat the year.

When I didn’t get the grades needed to get to University, I spent time searching through UCAS Clearing because I knew I could find other routes to achieve my goals. And when I didn’t get a training contract to qualify as a solicitor, I considered in-house training and alternative options to qualify. I’m very grateful for that quality and still nourish it today.

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

Don’t give up, think outside the box and educate yourself about the different types of technologies and how they’re evolving. You only fail if you give up.

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

Unfortunately, the environment is still mainly male-oriented, there needs to be more done in the initial phases of women’s education and career growth to make sure that women can compete on an equal footing. I have attended many events over the last year and I always find myself looking around to spot the women because there are always very few and even fewer women of colour.

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

Companies should offer internships and practical experiences to women. A top-down approach to diversity and inclusion, featuring women in leadership and decision-making roles, can significantly impact the advancement of women in technology, breaking down barriers and biases.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

In an ideal world, gender diversity wouldn’t be a challenge that needs addressing. At Legislate, we give priority to gender diversity in recruitment. To improve gender diversity more broadly, it’s essential to ensure balanced representation in recruitment processes, offer increased training opportunities for women, cultivate inclusive work environments, and implement supportive policies, such as flexible working arrangements for women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Build a supportive network. Engage with people like you who are hardworking, successful, ambitious, and nurturing. While I haven’t found an ideal networking event, which led me to create my network. The key is to lean on and support fellow women and like-minded professionals in the field.

Read more from our inspirational women here.