With over a decade of experience in digital advertising, Elizabeth is a champion of women in business and a strong believer in the power of coaching.

A graduate of The University of Reading, Elizabeth is a former winner of the prestigious NABS Fast Forward award and has gone on to achieve Code First certification as part of the organisation’s initiative to increase the number of women in tech.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your current role.

I have worked in media and advertising for my entire career. I started out in media agencies, including Mindshare and Zenith, working in Paid Search, followed by Media Planning. Through this I was lucky enough to be a part of the advent of programmatic advertising. In 2015, I started to work in tech at Criteo where I worked my way up from Head of Agency to Commercial Director UK during.  My most recent move was to Permutive in December 2020, starting as Head of Advertising Strategy, before taking up the role of General Manager of Advertising.

I lead the Advertising organisation for Permutive, including everything from Product and Engineering to Sales and Customer Success. I have been part of growing this side of the business, which now works with some of the largest advertisers in the world. We are transforming the way that advertisers work in programmatic media, moving their investment out of the siloed ID dependent space and into the full scope of the open web.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes and no, I have always been curious about how businesses function and how I can have an impact within them. I have rarely said no to an opportunity and this has often led to enormous growth personally and professionally.

I was told by my first manager, when talking about career development, don’t think about the next step when planning a job move – think about the one after. It’s helped me to make sure I have my end game in mind when thinking about roles and growth within a position.

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

Moving out of the media agency world I was told I was making a huge mistake and killing my career by my then manager. I knew why I was making this decision, and had to remind myself of how this career move was going to take me closer to my goals.

I’ve also had people try to tell me that I am too ambitious, and that I am reaching too far and that I am not as good as I think I am.

I was at a WACL event once and someone on stage talked about building a personal ‘board of directors’. These are friends and colleagues who serve different consultative roles for you, we all know our friend who gives us a pep talk, the one who gives us a dose of reality, our cheerleader. Utilise this group, they are your heroes in moments of self doubt and when people are trying to put you down. For me, this group of people are able to highlight what I have achieved and how capable I am, even when I can’t see it myself.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

The business that I have built at Permutive – an elite team, happy clients, and strong results for the company.

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

 My amazing family and friends, without them I couldn’t have achieved what I have in my career.

My mum and dad brought my sister and me up to believe we could be anything we wanted to be. I didn’t enter the workplace believing that I was any less deserving of a role there than a man would be. My friends and sister provide a critical support network around me to keep me grounded and focused on what matters and they help me overcome feelings of imposter syndrome.

The connectivity to friends and family has been even more important since I had my daughter. My husband in particular has been phenomenal in supporting me, and the career choices I have made since she was born. I think there is still a lot of stigma when men start working part-time to look after their children and support their partner’s career.  It takes real bravery to do something different to the status quo.  I am lucky to have a husband who is prepared to go against the grain.

I believe strongly in hiring great people, people who are smarter than me and people who are passionate about what they do. It is important to support one’s team, but also let them do their jobs. I give people as much information as I possibly can so that they can make good decisions on behalf of the business. Where there is an issue I actively work to solve it. I am not afraid to get stuck in, this gives me a deep understanding of the issues my team and clients are facing.

What barriers for women working in tech are still to be overcome?

Not a barrier for women in tech specifically, but a barrier for a lot of women (and parents in general) is the cost and availability of high-quality childcare in the UK.  There are highly qualified women (and men) leaving the workforce because it’s simply not worth them working. This is a criminal waste of talent. Of course, if someone wants to take a career break to look after their children, they absolutely should and I have the utmost respect for these folks. However, this isn’t the case for many women, for whom the economics simply doesn’t make sense. This means that they have to leave the tech space for several years before their children reach school age and they come back into the job market. The industry moves so quickly that they are at a disadvantage when competing for roles with candidates who have up-to-date knowledge. It is a huge barrier for women getting to the upper echelons of the tech world at the same pace as their male colleagues.

What advice would you give to women who want a career in technology?

  • Be picky about the businesses you work for – make sure there are senior female leaders in it and don’t be afraid to ask difficult questions during interviews about diversity in the organisation, especially at a senior level.
  • Being in tech is such a wide space – do your research and work for a technology company that is building something you truly believe in.
  • Build your board of directors – especially someone who can coach you and hold a mirror up to what’s making you successful and what’s holding you back.

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

  • Fair parental leave policies and coaching when new parents come back into the workspace
  • Flexible working for those with caring responsibilities – trust that people will deliver on their goals as they are just as committed to the organisation
  • Recognising when there is a lack of equality in the leadership of an organisation and building a plan to address it. Just as important as building the plan is executing the plan – women coming through the organisation need to understand that there is an equal chance of progression for them

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Mainly other women working in tech!

Some of my closest friends and confidants are other women that I have made friends with whilst working in Media Agencies and Tech companies. At Permutive I am lucky enough to work with a lot of inspirational women, which is a real privilege.  This collection of women are the people I can ask, ‘Is this normal?’, ‘What did you do when…’ and ‘Do you think I am being paranoid about X?’.  They have been utterly invaluable to me.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

In an ideal world, I would wave a magic wand and there would be representative diversity in the tech world. Wouldn’t that be nice!

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