JG headshot

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

I am Chief of Staff at Luminance, a world-leading, London-headquartered AI company for lawyers.

I actually started off my career as a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand, representing earthquake victims against insurance companies. As much as I enjoyed the work I was doing, I got first-hand experience of the challenges and burnout that are felt so widely across the profession today. I became increasingly interested in legal innovation and quickly realised that my actual passion lay in finding a means of modernising traditional working habits and alleviating the burden felt by so many lawyers.

After moving to London in 2017, I joined Luminance as one of the company’s earliest employees, helping some of the world’s largest law firms and businesses, including Slaughter & May, all the ‘Big Four’ accountancy firms, Tesco, and Avianca Airlines, to implement AI into their existing infrastructure and automate their legal processes. I was quickly promoted to Head of Sales, where I oversaw a global sales team of over 70 people and led the expansion of Luminance’s customer base from 50 to 500+ organisations worldwide.

After five incredible years at Luminance, I took some time off to welcome my first child before returning from maternity leave in 2022 to a brand-new role as Chief of Staff. Now, I have a much broader remit with a multi-departmental strategic focus and have been fortunate enough to pursue my advocacy for AI in the legal profession. I’ve since spoken to thousands of attendees at major industry conferences, such as the British Legal Technology Forum and Future Lawyer Week in London, and Legalweek in New York.

In May, I was incredibly excited to be invited onto Sky News to discuss the launch of Luminance’s latest innovation – the world’s first AI chatbot underpinned by legal-grade AI. This cutting-edge application of our proprietary AI is the first-of-its-kind to have been trained on millions of verified legal documents and uses that close understanding of natural language and the legal domain to provide instant answers to any question asked by a user about their contract. This new chatbot is set to completely transform the way that business professionals understand their contracts and is just one of the reasons I’m so excited to be working for a company at the forefront of AI in the legal sector!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I would never say that my decision to move out of the legal profession and into AI was planned! All I knew was that I wanted to be at the centre of the latest developments and innovations happening in the legal industry. Initially, I joined a business admin platform that ultimately failed – which definitely wasn’t the plan! – but this experience gave me clarity on what I wanted to do long-term. Then I saw an early version of Luminance and it completely blew my mind. As a lawyer myself, I instantly knew how transformational AI could be for the modern practice of law, so I decided to join the company and haven’t looked back since.

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

Making the decision to pivot from an established career path in law to pursue my passion for tech was certainly a challenging one. It was a big risk to leave the profession I had trained so long for in order to immerse myself into a new world of AI and sales, which I knew absolutely nothing about. Although challenging, it has absolutely paid off. It’s also taught me that if your current path doesn’t match your vision for the future, there’s always space for change to find a role that speaks to both your strengths and interests.

And whilst I acknowledge this isn’t everyone’s experience, I haven’t encountered any major challenges as a woman in the tech industry. I believe this is an important message for young women to hear if they are interested in exploring careers in the tech sector but feel daunted by perceived barriers.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest career achievement to date has been scaling Luminance’s customer base from 50 to 500+ organisations in the space of four years. I joined Luminance when it was just an ambitious start-up with a handful of employees in a shared office, so I am incredibly proud to have played a leading role in demonstrating the power of our AI to organisations all around the world and being part of Luminance’s impressive growth journey.

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

At Luminance, I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself at a company where culture is valued above everything else. We have a flat management structure and meritocratic culture which has allowed me to feel confident speaking up when it matters and progress quickly. I do, however, recognise that this isn’t the case everywhere – particularly in the male-dominated tech industry. With that in mind, I am determined to make everyone at Luminance feel that they can succeed, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, age, or level of experience. We work hard to foster a culture of excellence, providing shadowing opportunities, one-to-one feedback sessions and reward programmes, which contributes towards a positive working environment where everyone is respected and valued.

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

It may sound obvious, but if you really want to excel in your tech career, find a business or product that you are genuinely passionate about. The people who stand out for me across the business are those who really believe in our product, our team, and our vision. Bringing this enthusiasm and drive into work each and every day goes a long way in helping to achieve your longer-term goals.

Plus, don’t be afraid to ask questions! I think this is something that we need to say more. Regardless of what stage you’re at in your career there is always more to learn, and having an open mind about what you can learn from others is so important for professional development. I love when one of our salespeople or Product Specialists actively asks for advice, whether about how to approach a commercial negotiation or a tricky technical request, such as a custom integration or bespoke functionality. That desire to seek out advice and other perspectives demonstrates a multitude of great attributes: that you’re willing to learn, be better at your job and want to help customers to the best of your ability.

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

I’m very aware that even in this day and age women face lots of barriers when it comes to working in the tech industry, largely due to a lack of representation. And I find that lack of visibility is fundamental to the commonly held perception that tech is ‘just for men’ or an industry where women can’t rise to the top. For instance, if I ask you to name a tech CEO, I’d hazard a guess that the first names that spring to mind might be Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, or Tim Cook. How can we expect young women to feel confident in succeeding in tech if there aren’t enough relatable figures in leadership roles? There’s a lot of truth to the saying ‘if you can see it, you can be it.’

But my counterpoint to this is that things are changing! We’re seeing so many more examples of female tech leadership today. When I think about the events and panels I’ve participated in, even though the number of men still edges out women, the gap is definitely shrinking. Increasingly, I’m finding myself speaking alongside other female business leaders and that’s so inspiring. I’d love to see more women speaking at tech-focused events, so we can boost visibility and break up the stereotype that tech experts are mainly men.

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

Honestly, there’s so much that could be said here but one initiative I’ve started at Luminance is hosting a series of breakfasts for our employees who identify as female and non-binary. Our commercial HQ is based in London and our R&D hub is situated in Cambridge, so we alternate between the two and bring employees from both offices together over a coffee and stack of pancakes!

It’s not only a fantastic chance for people from across the company to get to know each other better but it’s also a great open forum for us to discuss our professional experiences. I give everyone the chance to talk about what they want to get out of their time at Luminance and where they want to be in five years’ time. Since we hire lots of bright, young graduates, it’s really important to me that they have someone there to tell them that their twenties aren’t the be-all and end-all! I want to dispel any fears about feeling stuck on set path or making ‘wrong’ decisions early in their career. There’s no such thing! And I can prove that through sharing my own experience.

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

It’s a big issue that won’t get solved overnight but there’s plenty businesses can be doing to make a difference. For instance, there is evidence to suggest that women are less likely to apply for roles if they don’t meet all the requirements of a job specification. Updating job descriptions for tech roles with more inclusive language can avoid creating unnecessary barriers for prospective candidates. Speaking as a working mum, I also appreciate the flexibility afforded to me by a hybrid working model and equitable benefits when it comes to parental leave.

Ultimately, one of the best things we can do is to start portraying tech as the interdisciplinary industry that it truly is. There’s a great misconception that you need coding skills to have a successful career in tech. While this may be true for specific career paths, it certainly doesn’t represent the reality of many roles. So many functions in a tech company intersect with skills not directly related to computing. For instance, a lot of our Product Specialists and back-end Support Team studied Humanities subjects, but their problem-solving skills and ability sit at the intersection of product and customer means they excel. If we reduce the emphasis on STEM degrees, I think the sector will ultimately become more accessible.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

HBR’s IdeaCast is now a go-to on my morning commute. It features business leaders from all different industries and covers everything from people management and personal branding to new workplace innovations and the rise of AI. Since it dives into so many different topics, it helps me to keep an ear to the ground and learn what’s happening in other industries. That’s so important if you’re working in tech and are selling to a wide range of users and verticals.