Francene MullingsFrancene Mullings is a Google certified web marketing professional with over ten years of experience helping organisations to thrive online.

She is the author of The Practical Digital Marketing Planner® and various other guides that enable her students to overcome digital overwhelm. She is passionate about upskilling local companies and charities to readily bridge their digital skills gap to increase their reach and impact around them.

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

My humble beginnings started in rural Jamaica.

As the youngest of eight siblings, they mostly found me inconveniently inquisitive. In a time and place of no internet access and absence of a local library, my pastime activities centred around reading my sisters diaries and interviewing my brothers’ date.

I embodied the true definition of a busy body, yet smart and somehow manage to focus on school. Early in my teenage years, tragedy strikes and I lost my dad to kidney disease, so my world turned upside down.

I remember my mother and siblings anchoring and protecting me, to ensure I completed high school in a country with little prospects outside the educational system.

I migrated to London in my early 20s, where I worked a part-time job at Sainsbury’s to fund my college and university education, later becoming a Diagnostic radiographer.

While my day time career was in the NHS diagnosing ailments; my night time role was to offer hands-on support to people trying to grow their businesses online.

From early childhood, my parents instilled a culture to help others and make our community a better place.  Although most people around me couldn’t understand why I juggled multiple jobs, I found it a privilege to serve people on my terms.

In 2012, while on maternity leave, I started to teach digital skills online to business owners. I later wrote a digital marketing planner, workbook and guide to help my clients navigate the digital overwhelm.

Naturally, I explored the option to volunteer my experience in local community spaces, and 2014 started to run free workshops in an office space in Peel House, Morden. To my surprise, I found a complete demographic of community heroes who needed to quickly bridge their digital skills gap and reach a wider local audience.

That’s when I focused on making digital transformation a priority at the heart of the community. Currently, my goal for 2020 is to upskill 2000 local businesses, charities and adult education centres on how to increase their reach and impact online.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Initially, I hadn’t made any stringent plans except that my parents may have subconsciously steered me into choosing a medical career. However, the direction my life took in the digital world was very much intentional and based on my unshakeable desire to learn an emerging and exciting topic. It also appealed to my entrepreneurial side to create an impact outside the four walls of conventional employment.  I factored time in my day to read the constant industry updates, completed all the courses on offer and would later enrol on a Postgrad in Digital marketing program.

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

I remember breaking down in tears at Hammersmith College when the administrative staff quoted the £10,000 a year fee to enrol on the A-levels course. As an international student, I knew I would pay my way but couldn’t imagine how I would afford that kind of money. I felt despondent and like a giant door had been shut in my face. I had little option than to pull myself together. Later that week, I went job hunting, took on a part-time Sainsbury’s job, found a more affordable college at £4,500 (Lambeth College) and gratefully continued my education.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In November 2018, I was contracted by Hammersmith and Fulham Council to offer digital skills training to local companies.

Placed in Fulham library, I worked with people from all types of local organisations which represented the force for good behind the local economy, and who drives many positive social and environmental changes.

I was able to help individuals who work in their businesses up to 80 hours a week and wouldn’t otherwise have the capacity to access digital skills support. Some run essential community charities and trust their local library wouldn’t demand money they didn’t have. Then others are passionate about setting up social enterprises to tackle pressing issues like food waste and to run local sustainability projects.

I am incredibly proud to witness the boost in clarity and confidence of these individuals who attend the digital skills training sessions. Equally, the feedback is almost 100 per cent positive and has served to validate the vision to tackle the digital skills problem from the heart of the local community.

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

Empathy! This character trait will let you go far above and beyond, even when the budget runs out. People recognise kindness and whether you care or not. So I find that recommendations continue to encourage others to quickly take up training places as soon as they become available.

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

Take control of your learning journey by leveraging online platforms such as Codeacademy, Dash General Assemble and EdX. Find yourself a mentor to overcome the hurdles and to lessen learning curves. Don’t forget to mentor others, too, while being generous with your skills and ideas. Finally, be innovative and think outside the box, which generally leads you to identify gaps you could champion.

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

Absolutely! I believe there’s a lack of encouragement within the educational system to ignite young women’s interest. Tech, I think, is still predominantly viewed as an area for boys to explore so the government could equip teachers to motivate girls to explore tech-related subjects.

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

Companies could introduce initiatives such as mentoring programmes as a source to both inspire and prepare women for more senior roles.

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?

With only five per cent of women in tech leadership roles, I would wave a magic wand and equip that five per cent to champion the cause of mentoring others to become confident to take up similar roles.

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

As a social media trainer and with myself experiencing the power of LinkedIn, I’d recommend for women in tech to use the platform to grow relevant connections and become thought leaders in their field. By amplifying our voices, we could very well become the change we would like to see around us.