Catherine Mandungu

Catherine Mandungu is the founder of Think RevOps, a company that began as the pandemic brewing.

She realised the revenue operations market was booming, especially within the tech industry, and therefore wanted to explore what is largely an untapped market within the UK and Europe. Finding a foothold in an often-unexplored area is difficult, but Catherine knew she could become a pioneer.

Firstly, tech does not need to be scary!

Being a woman in a tech based career doesn’t always mean you are a coder or have to code. An appetite to learn about and to understand tech, sincere interest for innovation and a curious mind for the future is a good start within itself. Personally, I was interested in working in the tech industry when I was 10 or so, because of the mere fascination I had with Microsoft Word back then. As a result, I ended up working at Microsoft, which was quite a full circle moment for me.

There are more men in this industry, and few female role models, but I believe this shouldn’t hold women back either. If there are not enough female role models in this space, you can find a male role model to inspire your journey. Having passion is a motivation within itself, and you can still come a long way learning from the opposite sex, then you can become a role model yourself. I have always had male mentors in the tech industry, and I believe this has helped shape me into becoming a strong female entrepreneur.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role (this can include anything you are up to in terms of projects/initiatives – feel free to plug)

I was born in Congo, DRC, and then largely raised in the Netherlands by a single mum of four girls. Coming from a working-class background has given me an ambition for a better life and to help others. My mum is my biggest drive and motivation. Once I decided to move to the UK to study, there was no stopping me, and I worked at Microsoft, Amazon, and Adobe.

Working for large corporations was not my plan, as I always wanted my own business. Therefore, it seemed natural for me to move into the tech start-up and scale-up space.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I didn’t have a detailed plan. I just knew at some point I would start my own company because that was always a goal for me. In the meantime, I knew my trajectory was going to be to work with amazing global tech companies as well as startups, and learn as much as possible before I pursued the next step.

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

I have definitely had a time in my career where I wasn’t sure whether I was still on the right track. I was doubting my trajectory and whether I even liked what I was doing, which in hindsight, is such a natural part of growth.  I was standing still not moving backwards nor moving forward, it was a real period of limbo for me. However, it was one of the pivotal moments in my life where I had to make a change, and that has brought me to where I am today.

I was able to overcome this challenge in my career, by first understanding me. What was the core of this feeling and thinking I was having? Once I could understand this, I was able to change my direction, and enforce positive influences into my environment. This understanding that I  have the cards in my own hands was revolutionary, as I realised the control was within my own hands. Having the power to make your own luck and to create your own dream scenarios is entirely powerful and was imperative to my journey as a woman in tech.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Starting my own business and helping over 20 tech startups across UK, Europe, US and APAC to streamline their go-to-market processes was really profound for me as I began to realise the domino effect that I could have on others’ success. I am also incredibly proud of my drive revenue growth as a 1-women operations, especially as a black woman who is often at the table with white male leaders, who often, unfortunately, have the dominance in most situations.

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

Self belief. If there is one thing I am good at it is to have an immense self belief that I can do anything I set my mind to and that I will succeed. Positivity is key to pushing yourself, there is an art to being confident that you have something to give, and knowing that you are worth it makes a huge difference to your outlook. Don’t give room to self doubt and negativity, and always practise a positive mindset on a daily basis. Negative thoughts can feel overwhelming, but grounding yourself with self belief can make all the difference.

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

Firstly, my top tip would be to don’t ever stop learning. Especially in the tech space, things are always moving, so you need to ensure that you are keeping up with what is current and what is on trend.  I also recommend finding a mentor, someone who in your space that you can look up to and learn from. As I said before, it doesn’t have to be a woman, just someone that you trust, and someone who you think would enrich your progress. Lastly, it is important that you take what you learn and put your lens on it. I recommend joining a tech community, although it can feel overwhelming, it is invaluable, because you are surrounding yourself with like minded people and you can get a greater understanding of what others are doing within the space and what you can do to set yourself apart.

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

Today the tech industry is absolutely open for women to work in this space. A lot of companies are creating those opportunities, because they are realising how important it is to have a diverse and welcoming workspace. Sure, there might still be work to be done, however, at some point it needs to be up to you. As individuals, we create barriers for ourselves, and women tend to not always think immediately about going into tech as a possibility. If they do, they tend to let things such as imposter syndrome stop them from going after what they want. Therefore, it is essential that workplaces strive to make tech an accessible space for everyone to join. So yes, there is still work to be done, but if you have the desire and the want to join this growing community, then there is always an opportunity for success.

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

They can show that in their own company they’re appointing women in leadership as well into techy roles, then they can advertise and showcase this to the world. It is essential that we give women a platform and then celebrate their successes. I also think that companies should always create an ambassador program for women in tech – starting to enrol university students to these programs. By harbouring positive relationships from the offset, young women and professionals can realise that this isn’t a scary time but rather an exciting one. It is essential that we educate the market about those tech roles and make it accessible for women. Finally, I would create more mentorship opportunities for women so that they can have a greater grasp on the trends and the movement of the industry, enforcing opportunities to collaborate and work with others within the space.

There are currently only 21 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 think that you need to start early in order to really make a change. Young girls today need to be educated, and they need to grow up with the understanding that taking the tech path is possible, exciting, and a necessity for making a change. Empowering young girls is essential to enforcing future progression. I also believe that schools and universities should have a tech curriculum and teach young girls about tech roles, to make it a wider known concept. For example, why not having a coding class as early as first grade, to establish foundations for girls to progress into a career that was often unavailable for many women. Being taught something early on normalises and encourages behaviours, so why is that any different for a male dominated industry?

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

I recommend that all women working in tech join communities such as the tech women global advocates. These communities are pivotal in meeting like minded individuals, and they allow you to mingle with women you otherwise would not have. It is so important to have a sense of community within your workspace, especially for those beginning as a one woman business, like how I did myself.