Carlotta Negri di SanfrontPassionate about fast-growing companies and disruptive ideas, a women’s advocate and big foodie and yoga lover.

Carlotta is a customer-first-oriented, passionate and goal-driven marketer with proven experience in managing innovative digital products from design to go-to-market. She has acknowledged leadership skills, business acumen and a strong analytical mindset combined with excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

With an extensive international background acquired by living, studying and working in the UK, Italy, Spain and Canada, Carlotta is now based in the UK, where she heads up Product and Design at giffgaff.

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

Born and raised in Italy, that’s where I began my career in marketing within the Telco industry. After relocating to the UK, and at the advice of my first ever female manager, also one of my greatest role models, I switched to a career in product and I haven’t looked back since.

My current role as Chief Product and Design Officer at giffgaff is pretty exciting. It is to challenge the status quo and make sure we advance our vision of creating slick, frictionless experiences that are grounded in member insights and underpinned by technology. giffgaff is after all a brand-led tech company so it’s imperative that we understand our members and we’re solving the right problems using technology.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I have to say when I was young and fresh off the graduation boat, so to speak, I did start to carve out my five-year plan. But as I started to gain more work experience, I came to realise that planning my career was actually more of a catalyst for disappointment, particularly when things don’t go according to plan.

So, I changed my approach and became more introspective. Instead of following a more rigid plan, I started to look within myself and better understand what I felt passionate about. What was I most inspired by? I posed the simplest question to myself of “am I happy?”. So, it was about being really honest with myself.

And with this approach I was able to then understand and identify what direction I would take. It was almost like creating marginal gains for myself and my career. And to this day – setting criteria for change is my key driver for career growth. I also think it’s got me to a much better place than my plan would have.

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

One of the lowest and most challenging points in my career was when I found myself feeling unhappy and uninspired in a job. But having just moved to London, where the job market is constantly in flux, and the talent pool so vast, I was failing to land a different role. Interview after interview I began to feel quite despondent. That was when I thought I needed to take action. That something had to change. I had to go back to what I loved. And being Italian I started my own e-commerce business that featured hand-crafted artisan Italian products and told the unique story behind each item.

I was still working my day job and hunting for my next role, which meant I worked on my own business mostly on weekends. So, whilst it was extremely stressful, my confidence and feeling of self-worth began to grow.

Starting my own business meant I had to get out there and market it. I started attending many networking events and conferences around entrepreneurship. I reached out to many people and it was through all this networking for my own company that I came across the job opportunity at giffgaff – a company that was entrepreneurial and right up my street.

It just goes to show that sometimes, when you’re at your lowest ebb, if you go back to what you love and your very own authenticity you can find that way to channel your positive energy for the better.

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

I think success is very personal and it must be. There’s no one-size-fits all. Comparing yourself to others as a measure of success can be a blow to your self-confidence and have you doubting yourself. For me resilience, self-belief and having a growth mindset are all the ingredients that helped me overcome challenges in my way and achieve what I consider to be success – which is being happy and honest with myself.

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

The technology sector is one that is ever evolving and at pace, which is what sets is apart from other industries. It’s an industry that relies on a collective narrative. There are always new trends in tech, so it’s important for anyone wanting to advance in this space, to have a voice and to try and make their voice heard.

To do this it’s imperative to look outside the confines of your role. Do your research. And stay inspired. Network. Don’t just gather information – contribute as well.

What is so inspiring about technology as an industry is that the spectrum of possibilities is endless. It can be used to solve a problem or achieve a goal yes – but it’s how you spot the best application of that particular technology that’s fundamental. In this industry we need to come together to help create the evolving story of technology.

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

To be perfectly honest, I feel very lucky at giffgaff, as our approach is to look at people in tech, rather than at women, so this removes those barriers. But I do appreciate there are still barriers for women in tech when it comes to success. A big barrier can be and has been for me in the past – being the only woman in the room.

Again, for me it was about switching my mindset. Perceiving myself differently. When I stopped thinking of myself as the only woman in the room, I found a new energy and was able instead to focus more on my skills and what I was bringing to the conversation. The self-doubt was switched off when I stopped looking at it through that lens.

I also believe in the strength of allyships. So, making allies with other women in the industry is so important.

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

Part of the problem rests with a limited belief of not seeing yourself progressing in that career. By leaning on other women or people with similar challenges you can draw more strength and confidence.

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 believe in creating rules that accommodate the needs of not just women – but families as a whole. In the context of a working woman or mother, the most powerful ally is your partner. So, I advocate creating working rules that support both men and women. It’s the perfect win-win situation. Otherwise, without this allyship, women will continue to juggle a work/life balance that might not be sustainable.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

I have read lots of really inspiring books. Some of my favourites are: Mindset How You Can fulfill Your Potential, by Carol Dweck, which helps to build resilience and how you bounce back. In an often male dominated environment, there could be quite a lot of bouncing back required. Another book that has stayed with me is Strengths Based Leadership by Tom Gallup that looks at how to utilise your strengths and switch off that negative inner voice. Rising Strong by Brené Brown was one of my favourites, as the author looks at vulnerability and how you both overcome and embrace vulnerability. From a more tech perspective I would recommend the books Lean Start-Up by Eric Ries and Zero to One by Peter Thiel.

I’d also recommend networking with other women. And what really worked for me was getting a coach, who helped me realise I don’t need to do everything myself. Sometimes just the act of saying something out loud really helps.

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