Anna Brailsford

Anna is the CEO of Code First: Girls and a Board Member for the Institute of Coding.

Before joining CF:G Anna was the CEO and co-founder of Founders Factory incubated EdTech startup Frisbee. Prior to that, Anna was the Commercial Director of and LinkedIn. When LinkedIn acquired Lynda for $1.5 Billion in April 2015, she became part of the fourth-largest acquisition in social media history and subsequently contributed to the creation of LinkedIn Learning.

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

I’m CEO of Code First: Girls. We have educated and built one of the largest communities of female tech talent in the UK. My current focus is connecting women to economic opportunity and jobs in the tech industry. Over the years I have co-founded my own EdTech startup and was the Commercial Director of, which was bought by LinkedIn for $1.5bn. I started off in family-run businesses and have always gravitated towards entrepreneurial roles.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. On reflection, the only thing I have ever really planned is my education. I think success is often what happens when you are making other plans. I find being overly prescriptive can often curtail opportunity. The best decisions I have made about my career aren’t necessarily safe or predictable.

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

I’ve faced countless challenges. I find the fear of personal and professional failure can often hold people back. It’s taken me some time to accept that you can’t always get it right and that sometimes the difference between success and failure is being in the right place at the right time.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

On paper, it would probably be contributing to the fourth-largest acquisition in social media history. However, on a personal level, it is definitely the extent to which I have benefited from hyper-growth environments. It leads to a different type of mindset. I think career achievements are simply labels, but mindset will shape you.

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

People. If you have the right people around you and the requisite talent, you can achieve almost anything. The biggest thing I look for in a hire is intellect, creativity, and the potential for mutual growth. Ironically, that is exactly what a previous mentor said about hiring me. Success is not isolated to a certain point in your life or one person, it is an ongoing process and recognition that the best people will challenge you to see the world differently.

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

One of the greatest experiences you can get is in a startup environment, it teaches you about the different layers of a technology business. Many corporations are actively looking for some startup experience and it is often perceived very positively for both business and technical roles.

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

Yes, that is a well-established fact. The ‘why’ is actually very complex and is subject to countless studies. In my opinion, we need to reframe the debate. It’s not enough to get more women into tech; we should focus on developing future female leaders across the sector. Leadership helps set the tone and in my opinion barriers are often a product of culture.

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

Stop talking and start acting. There have been some phenomenal moves forward recently with some well-known brands pledging a 50:50 workforce in coming years. The challenge for many of these companies will be retaining women so they can start to influence the leadership pipeline. Some clear wins include mentorship programmes, flexible family working, equal paternity leave, career mobility and focusing on authentic leadership.

There is currently only 17 per cent 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 would make future technologies, entrepreneurship and business a considerable part of the national curriculum, with a particular focus on strong female role models from within the industry. Young women are statistically outperforming men when it comes to many academic subjects, however we are not equipping them with the support, confidence and environment to perceive themselves as future leaders in a male-dominated space.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, (eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc? )

I really believe in networks. Being in the tech industry can be lonely; it pays off to know that others may be experiencing similar emotions and insecurities. I’d recommend being at events where you can share without fear of judgement; there are many fantastic women out there who are willing to listen. I’ve also recently started listening to the Guilty Feminist – it combines two of my favourite things, comedy and some kick-ass women.