Cloe AtkinsonCloe Atkinson is managing director of Mortgage Engine, a fintech harnessing the power of APIs to the simplify the mortgage process and improve customer journeys, founded in 2018.

Previously, she was former Head of Mortgage Transformation and Controls at Santander.

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

I am an accountant by trade and began my career in retail banking. I joined the mortgage team at Santander in 2007 where I took on an innovation role in change-management. To cut a long story short, this gave me the opportunity to co-launch Mortgage Engine.

I founded Mortgage Engine because we recognised that open finance technology, like APIs, has the potential to truly innovate and connect the mortgage market. Now as managing director, I’m proud of what we’ve created in a short space of time. The growing cross-industry interest in digital solutions, accelerated by the pandemic, means this is an exciting time for the team and we’re building our presence as a result.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

At my school career’s day, there were really only two jobs I considered: being an air hostess (because I love travelling) and being an accountant. My aunt is an accountant and she was a big influence in my career planning. She is someone I look up to and as a young woman I found her success empowering.

I became an accountant and I was fortunate enough to start out in a very supportive and encouraging environment. Santander’s “Accelerating You” programme is designed to promote diversity in the organisation and the scheme helped give me the confidence I needed to put myself forward for Mortgage Engine.

It’s easy to assume that if you work really hard at a job you will automatically progress get onto the next level. While this is true to a certain extent, I quickly learnt that that to be successful you really need to take your career in hand.

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

Having children can present a real challenge for women in the workplace because, in my experience, there’s unfortunately still people who will make outdated assumptions. When I first returned from maternity leave, I was working part time and my manager implied that ‘real’ work wasn’t for me.

This mentality in the workplace can be one of the greatest challenges that women face. The underlying attitude being that once you have children, you stop being an integral part of the team. I had to overcame this, as many other women have too, and it’s often not an easy thing to do.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement has to be the successful launch of Mortgage Engine. Introducing the first active APIs into a market, which has traditionally been so slow to embrace new technology has been an incredibly exciting and rewarding experience. Our mission to connect lenders, brokers and consumers is going well, but it’s only just beginning. There’s plenty more work to be done!

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

I think having a strong network has been key to my success. One of the strengths of in-house diversity programmes is that they bring people together who wouldn’t usually cross paths and as a result, I’ve had access to a wealth of advice and support that I could rely upon. But maintaining a network is a two-way process. It’s always important to think about what kind of useful information you can give back, as well as helping to connect other people in your network.

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

First and foremost, believe in yourself – it may sound like just a slogan, but it’s not. Research shows that women are a lot less likely to apply for jobs if they don’t meet even one requirement on the job description, whereas men are more likely to apply. It’s important that women put themselves forward, especially in more traditionally male-dominated fields, like tech.

The second tip would be to trust your gut. Nine times out of ten, your gut instinct is right and making a decision based on it usually leads to the most effective results. Sitting on difficult decisions and procrastinating is not useful in a fast-moving industry.

Thirdly, allow yourself to fail. I love the saying ‘if toddlers gave up the first time they fell over, then none of us would be able to walk’. Unfortunately, when we fall as adults it’s too tempting to just give up instead. Tech is an industry defined by trying new things – not everything works all of the time, but when it does it takes us forward.

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

I believe that the current recruitment processes used by many companies in the tech industry can act as a barrier to women. In my experience, men are often better at advocating for themselves in interviews. We’ve identified this at Mortgage Engine and have changed our recruitment process to incorporate a task-based assessment, which we think this gives everyone a fairer shot, because the assessment is based on ability and competence rather than the candidate’s ability to sell themself.

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

Companies need to do more to empower women to succeed. Whether that involves promoting mixed gender teams, supporting women returning from maternity, or revamping their recruitment processes, every company can make a difference. Waiting for change to happen organically will lead us nowhere, so leaders need to take the initiative and push the diversity agenda forward.

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?

If I had a magic wand, I would use it to target unconscious bias. We need to change attitudes and challenge outdated assumptions on an individual level to encourage more women to join male-dominated industries, like tech. To truly shift attitudes, education has to start in the classroom.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech

WeAreTechWomen is the best place to start!

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here