Kat Cauchi

Kat Cauchi is the community engagement manager at NetSupport. She is also the creative lead and editor of R.I.S.E. magazine, the host of the Of Primary Importance podcast and the product manager of ReallySchool.

Kat is a member of the Global Equality Collective, a Global EdTech author and a TechnoCamps Girls in STEM role model. She won the 2022 Nexus Education ‘Classroom and Curriculum Improvement’ award and was shortlisted in the TechWomen100 Awards. Kat is a former primary school teacher who is passionate about education and closing gaps.

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

Where I am now: I’m Kat Cauchi and I’m currently working at NetSupport, a software company that creates both education and corporate tech solutions. I specialise in our edtech solutions, and I was recently promoted to a new role of ‘Community Engagement Manager.’ I am the creative lead and editor of our free online education magazine R.I.S.E., a collaborative magazine with contributors across the education sector. I host and manage the Of Primary Importance podcast which covers all things Early Years and Primary with different special guests each episode. I manage our product for early years and primary, ReallySchool, a solution for capturing and sharing learning, progress and achievements. I am also now managing our case studies, gathering feedback from our customers. I work with a variety of organisations and educators, writing articles, attending events, panels and webinars, and creating community spaces such as the R.I.S.E. Magazine contributors’ group. I’m active on social media, especially Twitter, connecting with and supporting the education community.

I am a member of the Global Equality Collective, as is NetSupport as a company, so I support those links as well. I am a Technocamps Girls in STEM role model and a Global EdTech author. I am proud to have won the 2022 Nexus Education ‘Classroom and Curriculum Improvement’ award for a blog I wrote about my journey into the world of EdTech and why I want more young people (especially girls) to consider a career in STEAM. I was also honoured to be a finalist in the TechWomen100 Awards.

As well as all that, I am beavering away on an exciting big new project for our customers which is under wraps for now!

As you can see, I like to keep myself busy…

My background: Prior to working at NetSupport, I was a primary school teacher mainly based in Year 2. I had a particular passion for supporting wellbeing and mental health. I worked my way up from a teaching assistant to a higher-level teaching assistant before undertaking my School Centred Initial Teacher Training (SCITT). I also worked as a Nursery Nurse, undertook a Level Three Speech & Language support qualification and studied Childcare and Education at college. I have always been passionate about education so, when I was looking for a role outside of the classroom, I was keen to continue to support the sector. Moving into EdTech felt like a great fit, especially with a company that matched my ethos. NetSupport is actively involved in the education community with many members being governors, sitting on education boards etc., and offering free solutions to our local schools.

What was it like moving from teaching to edtech?

It was a difficult transition at first, it was like a completely different world! I was concerned that because I didn’t have any experience working in the tech industry and no official relevant qualifications that I wasn’t good enough for the role (initially a product manager). However, I realised that there were many transferrable skills from teaching I could bring with me and that my education background was very helpful in communicating with educators and understanding their needs, challenges and priorities, and translating this into actions we could take. I love my job and I am really glad I made the move. It’s great to be able to support educators to help them better support each other and their pupils.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, and it’s turned out to be completely different to what I planned! I never envisioned working in tech (I’ll come back to why in a moment). In fact, my original plan was to become a drama therapist, which is why I studied drama at university. However, when I finished university, I started working as a teaching assistant and changed my plans and went into teaching. I realised that drama therapy was going to be difficult to get into and hard to find a job in after qualifying. I discovered there would be no government funding, so I would have to take out a bank loan for the course and pay for therapy sessions as part of the course. I knew I loved working with children and my headteacher of the time had shared that they thought I would make an excellent teacher. I enjoyed teaching but there was so much pressure, excessive workload and accountability, so I looked for a new challenge and a way I could help teachers still undergoing that. Then the role at NetSupport came up and it felt it was meant to be, especially as the school I was in was helping to develop the product that I would be managing: ReallySchool.

The reason I say I never thought I would go into tech is for a couple of reasons. My experiences of tech (or I should say lack of) at school and being a woman. As far as I knew from school, tech was for the boys; all I learnt about was spreadsheets, PowerPoints and creating a website. I had no idea of the wealth of possibilities and opportunities it could hold. I thought it wasn’t for me and my school never made me think otherwise. The fact, so few girls took ICT GCSE at my school, it only cemented my misconceptions. Where were the role models? I couldn’t find them.

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

I have been very lucky in that NetSupport (and specifically our CEO, Al Kingsley) have given me lots of opportunities for growth. I feel very valued here. However, my biggest challenge has been imposter syndrome. This imposter syndrome reared its ugly head when I was listed as a finalist in the TechWomen100 Awards, actually! I unpicked why women in edtech may experience imposter syndrome in detail in this blog, but to summarise, two key areas were: society’s expectations of women and gender inequality in the tech industry (and the fatal act of comparison also gets a special mention). The patriarchal society isn’t a fan of women blowing their own trumpets. Women have to work hard and compete more to get the same recognition as their male counterparts. The weeds of sexism run deep and we haven’t pulled them up yet. And as I mentioned before in the interview, ‘Where are the female role models?’ (Clearly, on the TechWomen100 finalist list for one but I only found out about the existence of 195 of these women recently!) As it mentions in question 10, only 15% of women currently work in tech and, as I have seen from We Are Tech Women’s website, only 17% of UK tech workers are female, so no wonder I can’t find them! No wonder we can feel we don’t belong. We really are the underdogs. But these underdogs have bark and bite and should be leading the pack!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

For me, it absolutely has to be R.I.S.E. Magazine. I am so proud of it. The magazine really has brought so many people together, supported educators, been a great source of CPD and is a diverse and inclusive platform where all are welcome. The feedback we have had has been incredible. It’s touching seeing it printed out and put on staffroom CPD shelves and shared around on social media. I think it really is a brilliant high quality free resource and a wonderful way to give back to the education community and to grow our connections too! I created a R.I.S.E. contributors’ community DM group for those who have written for the magazine, and this is one of the kindest and most supportive communities I have ever seen. Because of this group, I also created my first ever research report – something else I am really proud of. It is about the ‘Impact of teaching on personal relationships.’ This is an area that is vital to investigate and improve, yet there’s so little research and action out there! I was proud to spotlight this and work with experts to really examine why teaching was having a negative impact on so many relationships (over 80% of the almost 3,000 surveyed) and how organisations can support teachers to have healthy personal relationships. The report will be published in January 2023.

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

Access to opportunities. Whether that’s been through finding them and taking them myself or being given the chance to have a go. Accessible opportunities have been key for me as they are for every individual. If you don’t have access to the opportunities – and worse still, if you don’t know they are out there – how can you be expected to succeed? And yet for many amazing women this is their reality, they aren’t getting those opportunities, they aren’t learning about them, they are being passed over again and again, and it has to change.

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

Know your worth: This is my biggest top tip. If a company doesn’t value you, if they aren’t giving you access to opportunities, if they are looking past you when it comes to promotions etc., challenge it or look elsewhere. I know this is tough, especially as it relies on a lot of self-confidence, but if you aren’t valued where you are, you won’t excel. It’s as simple as that.

Ask for what you want and need: Perhaps you need some training in a specific area? Maybe you need to shadow someone in a similar role to see how you can grow in yours? Perhaps it is that you need the opportunity to work more flexibly so you can be more productive and achieve more. Whatever it is, ask for it.

Support networks: Get involved with organisations and groups who support women in tech. For example We Are Tech Women, the GEC and Netwomen. These groups can help you to learn, find out about more opportunities, extend your reach and so much more!

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

Absolutely! I think the barriers are being noted and the awareness has grown but they haven’t been smashed. There are so many aspects to this but here are just a few key barriers and how we can jump the hurdles or knock them over altogether:

Society’s expectations of women: Okay, so this the big one and it’s never going to be an overnight fix, but we need to continue to challenge gender stereotypes and bias in our society – and it all starts with education. The earlier the better to create future change-makers. I would definitely recommend checking out The Global Equality Collective for more information on how we tackle this – with resources and actions to boot.

Not enough women in tech: 15% is not enough! We need more active recruitment of women. Companies need to self-assess – are they attracting enough women to their roles? Are they retaining enough women in their roles? What’s missing? Survey the women in your company, get their feedback, look to good practice elsewhere and get this improved. In education, we need to be educating girls on the vast array of opportunities in tech and show them it is for them too! Give them the skills they need and access to all the choices.

Gender bias blocking female leadership: We’ve all heard it from other women or have unfortunately had it happen to us: questions about maternity, our age, our relationship status – those sneaky ways to discover if we might be going on maternity leave sometime soon or leave altogether (or the just plain assumption that we will!). Not even considering that some women may not want children, that they want to have children but want to still work full or part-time, or that the person being interviewed could have had a miscarriage, could be having fertility issues – there are so many possibilities. It’s absolutely bonkers that this is still happening in 2022!

Then you have the sexist descriptors women get, such as bossy, high maintenance, intense, self-indulgent, ice queen etc. These often describe women who are leaders, who speak their minds, work hard, aim high, have high standards, call things out and our proud of their achievements. What we should be hearing is praise for this kind of behaviour and an appreciation of the skills and drive of these women.

Lack of flexible working opportunities: Many adults have multiple responsibilities in their lives and want to maintain a healthy work-life balance and a lack of flexible working can be detrimental to this. Flexitime, hybrid working, and many other options can really help employees tailor their working lives to best suit them. It’s a win-win as they’ll be more productive and more likely to stay as a result. Women are often still disproportionately responsible for childcare and housework too, so being clever about how and when employees can work is a must.

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

  • Get their biases in check to ensure capable women aren’t being overlooked for promotion.
  • Actively promote more women into senior leadership roles.
  • Provide training and opportunities to build skills in different ways.
  • Create support networks in-house and support women in joining external organisations too.
  • Talk to women about what they want and need.
  • Empower women by acknowledging their skills and achievements.
  • Provide workplace training for all in Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.

There is currently only 15% 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 it could only be one thing, I would magic in more female leaders. And I don’t just mean managers. I mean CEOs, COOs, VPs etc. More women at the top will encourage more women to move into the tech industry. Hard to be what you can’t see.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

My number one recommendation would be becoming a member of the Global Equality Collective. I have had so many opportunities and learnt so much from doing this myself. It is free to become a collective member. You could also recommend that your company considers joining as a business member; this has a cost but enables them to access the GEC app which helps businesses identify areas for improvement and links to relevant CPD to target these areas.

I would also recommend checking out We Are Tech Women, NetWomen and for those specifically in EdTech, WomenEd.

All these organisations can point you to books, podcasts and events that can further support you too!