Amy Mansell

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

I don’t come from a traditional tech background. In fact, I started my career in the beauty industry on the graduate scheme at L’Oreal. I then worked client and agency side in various marketing roles before deciding that I wanted to work for myself. I set up my own marketing consultancy and threw myself head first into the start-up world.

I’m currently the CMO of Sharpen Notes, a new collaborative note-taking tool that recently launched on Microsoft Teams. It works by allowing all meeting attendees to make notes in real time directly in a Teams meeting. These are then saved when a meeting ends, creating instant minutes and meaning that attendees never have to scrabble around for handwritten notes again!  Something I wish I’d had years ago!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I did have a plan when I was at university, but I ended up taking an entirely different route! I studied Law, focussing on criminal and terrorism law with a view to becoming a criminal barrister or working for MI6. I then had a change of heart and decided to apply for the Graduate scheme at L’Oreal.  It was the only application I did and luckily, I got offered a place. The rest as they say is history! Plans certainly have their place but I think my ability to be flexible and keep an open mind through my career has led to some fantastic opportunities that may not have come my way if I’d been too rigid.

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

Absolutely! In 2008 I was running RBS’s Formula 1 sponsorship and the financial crisis hit. That meant suddenly having to write an exit strategy from the sport. That was certainly an interesting and difficult challenge to navigate!  My role was then made redundant, and with hindsight that ended up being a blessing in disguise because it gave me the push I needed to set up my own marketing consultancy, MSM International.

Starting a company is never without risk but fortunately it was the right call for me. It gave me the opportunity to use the breadth of experience I had gained working on such diverse clients and a flexibility that suited my working style. The company is still running today and I’ve learnt many lessons along the way that have proved invaluable.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Undoubtedly taking a start-up business to launch with Sharpen Notes on Microsoft Teams. It’s been a true labour of love for me and founder Aidan Whytock and absolutely incredible to see the business grow from an initial idea, through to beta and our global launch on one of the world’s leading online meeting platforms.

I wanted to get involved with Sharpen Notes because I think it is a great product that solves a very real problem. I was forever misplacing or having to type out handwritten notes and that is just not an effective way of working these days. It’s an archaic, analogue solution in a digital era and the change of working conditions post covid has only served to highlight that.

The beauty of Sharpen Notes is that is embedded within a Teams meeting so there’s no more switching between screens to write digital notes, or lengthy emails to share them with colleagues afterwards – it’s all in the meeting itself which is a game changer! And I am so proud to be a part of a business that is modernising the way we take notes forever.

It is the company’s mission to inspire a new and dynamic way of collaborative working; driving greater synergy and understanding amongst colleagues and between teams, which is so important in this day of hybrid working. And I strongly believe Sharpen Notes does all of that.

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

Personally in my career it’s been having the confidence to take a risk and step out of my comfort zone. Doing this has allowed me to embrace new opportunities like working with Sharpen Notes.

That confidence helped me to see the opportunity that such a smart idea like Sharpen Notes offers – a product that provides a solution to a consumer pain point. I can’t take credit for the idea itself – that was our Founder Aidan but I share his vision and passion and wanted to get on board and help him bring the brand to life and take the product to market.

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

I’m still a relative newbie to the tech world, but ultimately think it’s about building a network and having the confidence to step out your comfort zone and follow your dreams.  I’ve also found that listening, learning, and asking the right questions is key. In an age where everything and everyone is competing for our attention going back to those basics can really help you stand out in a very crowded market place.

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

Less than there have been historically but there are still challenges.  I’m the prime example of a CMO in a leading tech start-up who doesn’t come a traditional tech background but it has been hard work to get here.

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

I’d love to see an even greater focus on recognising and nurturing female interest and talent in technology at an early age. From school onwards girls should feel careers in tech are not only possible but achievable and I think this can be done by encouraging interest and investing in  development sooner.

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?

There is increasing movement and more doors opening to women in the industry, but change doesn’t happen overnight.

Continuing to celebrate and raise the profiles of phenomenal female leaders is vitally important as it helps to inspire the next generation. But more mentorship programmes are also needed to support and guide women entering the industry. So not a magic wand per se but a call for women in tech to step forward and help to nurture the stars of tomorrow.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m a big fan of podcasts, especially as I have a 15 month old and don’t get as much reading time as I used to! I like to keep up to speed on all the major usual tech publications, but for me both personally and professionally a big focus is on the start-up and entrepreneurial resources. I really enjoy Tim Ferris’s podcasts and books. Anything mentioning a start-up and I’m hooked!