Emma Ash

Emma Ash is the co-founder of YoungPlanet, a business she runs with her husband, Jason Ash. 

YoungPlanet is an app which helps to find new homes for toys and children’s goods that would otherwise sit unused gathering dust or end up in landfill.

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

My husband Jason and I started YoungPlanet around two years ago. It’s now both of our full-time jobs. Before this, I enjoyed a career in luxury goods PR and marketing before becoming a Director at the accessories company Stella & Dot.

YoungPlanet is an app which helps to find new homes for toys and children’s goods that would otherwise sit unused gathering dust or end up in landfill. The main focus is on helping families to reduce waste and become more environmentally conscious. But it also helps parents receive high-quality things for their kids for free, which can be of huge help to many families, especially at the moment.

The app works by providing a ‘cashless’ platform based on a sharing economy model. Parents can list or request a range of different children’s items; from books and clothes to toys and baby equipment. If more than one person wants the same item, the app uses a gamification system to prioritise those who need them most or have donated more items in the past – incentivizing a circular system of giving.

We started working on the YoungPlanet app around two years ago and ran a small pilot in London last year. This year, we’ve expanded beyond the capital which has been really exciting – we now have over 35,000 users from across the UK.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I had plans in my 20s but once I had children, everything was on pause for a while. However, I knew that I wanted to do something creative and fulfilling. Being a mum is the most wonderful job, but having a project or business helps you to retain your identity and be your own person. I wanted to do something different from what I did before, which was in PR and marketing. I needed my next career move to fit in with life as a mother.

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

When I worked in Paris, it was in a very hierarchical old fashioned company. Men held all the key positions and women were in assistant roles. I remember tenaciously pushing for a bigger role with more responsibility which the company was reluctant to do but, after 2 years, they eventually upped my pay grade and role. Other assistants were shocked and it certainly upset the apple cart.

This scenario is a reminder to always have confidence in yourself and your ability – don’t be afraid to be assertive to get what you want.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has to be launching YoungPlanet – it’s something I am really proud of because I can see how we are helping to change mindsets and communities for the better!

Creating the app has been one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve had. We’re helping families to be more environmentally conscious by making it easier for them to make sustainable choices.

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

Being tenacious. It’s important to not be defeated by failure or loss and learn from your mistakes. I’ve had points that have been really difficult but it’s about how you come back from those difficulties that define you, not the mistakes that you make. Sometimes you just need to keep going until you find a way…

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

Back yourself! You are your greatest endorsement so champion your achievements and make sure others know about them too! A practical tip for this is to catalogue your successes as you go along – whether that’s on LinkedIn or in a notebook. Sometimes, when we experience failure or if we’re having self-doubt, it can be hard to remember what we’ve done well, which can perpetuate this cycle of imposter syndrome that we can experience. Making a note of your career highs will help you when times get tough and you can look back and remind yourself of what you’re really capable of.

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

There are certain barriers in the industry, and there’s, without doubt, a kind of uniformity to the sector. That said though, as the sector broadens to involve more of the ‘why’ than just the ‘what’ of possibility in tech, the sector will inevitably diversify across age, gender and so forth. The more tech as a sector begins to deliver as an enabler of consumers in everyday life, the broader it will inevitably become as a sector both in and of itself.

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

Obviously, companies should set a good example by supporting parents through a maternity and paternity leave process and have systems in place such as offering flexible hours, that make the return to work easier for women who’ve just had a baby and so forth. If an employee is working flexible hours, they will be doing the work asked of them (and more) and should not be penalised financially either. More balanced gender representation throughout a company’s hierarchy is important too, and there simply should be more women in Boardrooms in the UK. I am optimistic though – as the workplace becomes more focused on both outputs and outcomes, the siloed inputs will inevitably become less dominant.

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