Beckie Taylor

Beckie Taylor is co-founder of Women in Tech North and has recently founded Tech Returners, an initiative designed to support people harness their transferable skills by providing training and personal development to enter, or re-enter, the technology sector or set up their own business.

Beckie also began her own consultancy, CLOS, the success of which has allowed her to start the Tech Returners initiative.

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

I have worked in HR People and Talent for the past 15 years, with the last 10 years spent in tech. My most recent role was Global Head of HR for a high growth SaaS business in Manchester, my role focused on scaling the business through the importance of people.

Having had a career break myself when I had my son Ethan, I felt I lost my network and lost my skillset – both impacting my confidence – and I thought I couldn’t be the only one who was going through this.

I co-founded Women in Tech North in 2017, which is a community meet-up group where we now have over 750 members. I was being asked to regularly talk about my experiences that people felt they could relate to and this led to Tech Returners being born. It started off as a personal passion which has grown into a successful business and support network for those returning to work.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, not really. I left college and decided not to go to university, which was frowned upon at the time as I was the only one in my year who had decided not to go, but I just didn’t know what I wanted to do. I then had an aspiration to join the mounted police, however I couldn’t pursue it further as I am partially deaf.

From there I sort of fell into recruitment and HR, and I found a natural skillset for people development and talent management. From starting out in the tech industry and becoming a coach and mentor, I do take my own advice and try to plan what success looks like to me and how I can create the best path to get there.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Yes, when I decided not to go to university, also redundancy, lack of confidence, conflict with male colleagues, and having to choose between my career and family in my last senior role.

However, I am a great believer that things happen for a reason and you need to acknowledge these challenges and make a plan to adapt. It’s not always the right plan but that’s OK – it’s how you learn and grow.

On a typical workday, how does you start your day and how does it end?

My day always starts with taking my little boy to school – it is really important to me to have the time to do this. I then always listen to a podcast or a Ted Talk on my hour’s commute to gear me up for the day ahead. When I get home I spend time with Ethan and try to leave my phone alone in the evenings – even though it’s hard sometimes! Then once he is in bed I might catch up on a few bits of work or watch some TV to unwind from the day.

How would you encourage more women and girls into a career in STEM?

That’s part of what I currently do within my various roles. I demonstrate that there isn’t just one journey in tech, there are different roles and paths you can take and you can absolutely use skills from previous jobs to help support you on any new route you want to pursue.

I share my story and try to educate groups by word of mouth through meet-ups with Women in Tech North, the Tech Returners community and attending as many networking groups and events as I can. I think it helps to lead by example, so I try and be as active as I can in the tech community to show others what’s possible.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

Yes, I have had a few mentors. I think the most important thing is finding one that’s right for you and to not be afraid to say if they aren’t. It’s not that you’re saying you don’t get on with the person, it’s just their style or approach isn’t right for you.

Yes, I do mentor people as well which I find very empowering, not only to support others but to learn from them as well.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

Even though we have made enormous, encouraging steps forward in recent years, there is still a long way to go. Ultimately, I would like women to be seen as equals in every role, in every workplace.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Having my son is a personal one for me, and a professional one would be making it as a finalist in the Northern Power Women Awards for Tech Returners just six months after the project had started.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want people to understand the power of the returner and how we need to support people who are about to embark on, as well as coming back from, career breaks.

A report released by PWC in 2016 found that returning women are generally underused in the workplace, paying a penalty for having a career break. This includes highly skilled professionals.  There is also research which highlights that there is a £1bn potential of women returners to the marketplace, yet businesses are not even close to making the most out of this.

Empowering returners is especially crucial in the tech sector – we don’t want to be filling the talent pipeline and then losing people. We need people to know there are opportunities once they’re ready to come back to work, and to help businesses facilitate returners more effectively.