Kat Judd is currently honoured to serve as Lucid’s SVP, People and Culture. She firmly believes in empowering people, understanding it’s important to provide employees with the right tools so they can deliver excellent work.

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

As someone who joined a tech startup from a different field with no specific in-house tech experience, I think it’s important to emphasise that you don’t necessarily need to have a STEM background to excel in the field. In any career, excelling requires proactivity, dedication and curiosity. It’s important to realise that your potential in tech can be enhanced  by your previous experience. In fact, Karl, our then CEO, initially recruited me because he thought my employment law experience could add a lot of value and that I could bring a different perspective that could add to his leadership team.

What really matters is the effort you put into learning and understanding your new industry. If you’re unsure where to start, you can begin with building a network of individuals in the tech industry through Linkedin, networking events or online communities. Start by asking them about their experiences in the industry to determine if this is something you want to pursue further. It is an unfortunate reality, that in the technology industry in particular, women hold fewer senior leadership roles. It’s therefore important to find great mentors that can guide you up the career ladder with support and advocacy.

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

Even with the positive progress that’s been made, there are still several barriers for women working in tech, namely a lack of representation and female role models in the industry. In 2023, women make up a small percentage–26% of the tech workforce and only 5% hold leadership positions. These numbers are daunting for women looking to get into tech, especially those who don’t have a STEM background. In an industry that’s male dominated,  the representation of women in leadership roles is essential for motivating other women to move into the industry.

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

Companies should actively work to increase the visibility and representation of women in technology. I’m a big believer in mentorship and establishing a program that pairs women with other colleagues within the industry to help navigate their careers and access new opportunities. Throughout my career, I’ve learned so many valuable lessons from my mentors and I’ve had the opportunity to pay it forward by mentoring women in tech and other industries. This has allowed me to learn about their goals, help them steer through any obstacles while also celebrating their achievements.

Another way that companies can support women’s careers is through providing them with ongoing training and development. This training can increase job satisfaction and help women achieve their full potential by further enhancing their skills. And there is proof that it works – with a Skillsoft survey finding that 34% of women who received such training reported an increase in salary.

Gender bias in job descriptions is another issue that we’re currently facing. It’s not always conscious discrimination, but some job postings can hint at a work culture that’s not inclusive. For example, some roles may require long hours with no option for remote or hybrid work. Others may lack support for family leave or flexibility for child care. By addressing these aspects of work culture and environment, companies can create an inclusive and supportive ecosystem that empowers women to thrive in their careers.

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

Improving gender diversity in tech starts with empowering women at every stage of their education and careers by prioritising equal access to education, resources and career opportunities.

I’m always advocating for a human-centred workplace culture, as I believe it’s one of the best things we can do to attract more women into tech. From leading with empathy to providing women’s health resources as a corporate benefit, it’s important to create a safe working environment for women that empowers them to feel seen and thrive in their role.

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

I am currently Lucid’s SVP, People and Culture and Associate General Counsel. Over the last five years at Lucid, I’ve built a world-class learning and development program for the company from the ground up, revamped the new employee onboarding experience, established more formalised compensation processes, established a mentor program, offered crucial legal expertise, and provided executive support and guidance to the company’s diversity and inclusion committee.

Today, I’m focused on building a hybrid workforce that’s dedicated to its people and their personal and professional development. At Lucid, we offer different learning opportunities from mentorship to leadership programs that are available to all qualified employees. For example, we utilise custom templates in Lucidspark to track progress and development to ensure everyone participating is aligned.

Prior to joining Lucid, I spent many years in employment law, defending private and public sector employers in employment-related litigation and advising companies in human resource matters.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, but I knew I always wanted to work closely with people. I enjoyed learning about different people and helping them be their best selves. Although most of my career was spent in employment law, the aspects of my legal career that I enjoyed was helping companies build solutions to mutually benefit employees and their employers.

While I no longer actively practise, my background is very beneficial to my current role. I feel so fulfilled at Lucid because I’m able to actively blend my legal perspective and passion for people to create a significant impact on our employees and business.

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

Of course. Working in People Operations, I have the opportunity to meet amazing colleagues from different walks of life. With that, there are challenging conversations we need to have with employees. In a previous role, the CEO and I conducted an exit meeting with a departing employee and as the discussion progressed, the employee shared thoughts of committing suicide.

At the moment, I felt shocked. I couldn’t bear the thought of him taking his life on my watch. With help from the CEO, we worked through the situation and addressed the comments in a professional, yet empathetic manner. Fortunately, there’s a happy ending for this employee. They ended up going back to school and were later rehired at a different position. This experience emphasised the importance of always leading with compassion and empathy, especially around exits.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My personal experiences as a woman in technology have made me want to push for more diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

For example, during my first week at Lucid I was getting to know an employee and asked a question about real estate. He told me “you wouldn’t understand, because you’ll have like 5 kids” (i.e. you wouldn’t understand because you’re a woman). While I don’t think the employee “meant” to be discriminatory, it bothered me. I approached him privately and expressed how I felt and asked that in the future he be more professional in his comments. Instead of apologising, he said he didn’t see what the big deal was. After some banter, I had to mention my title (VP of People Operations at the time) and said if we’re not clear, we’ll have to get your manager involved. While he did eventually apologise and acknowledge his comments, it made me think “what if I didn’t have this title? What if my personality wasn’t as bold?”

This is why we need to work hard on a culture of inclusion instead of just periodic trainings on inclusion. It needs to be ingrained in the company’s values and it needs to be consciously thought about when hiring. This is so important to me because we need to protect those who might not have the confidence, personality or title needed to speak up.

I have prioritised making sure Lucid creates an environment and culture that is inclusive and safe for everyone. Lucid’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion committee was created in 2016, and I’ve been deliberate about expanding the committee’s influence and executive sponsorship with the end goal of continuing to improve Lucid’s efforts in reducing bias and supporting individuals from underrepresented groups.

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

I believe a major factor in my success was understanding the value I could bring to the world of tech, even with a non-STEM background. There are so many jobs in different specialties that require different skills and diverse ways of thinking that can be applied to tech and provide a lot of value to the industry.

Another major factor, though, has been those mentors who have advocated for me and helped me throughout my career. The support they’ve shown me has also made me want to provide the same to other burgeoning leaders. One of our values at Lucid is Teamwork Over Ego, and I truly believe that when people look outside of themselves to lift others, they in turn see great rewards. Whether it’s through award nominations, sponsorships or words of encouragement in meetings, I’m a big believer in giving kudos where it’s due and being supportive however I can. When people advocate for each other and support each other, it empowers everyone to navigate new opportunities for career growth and development and become the best they can be professionally.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I’m always interested in keeping up with the latest tech trends. Right now, I’m very excited about the future of artificial intelligence and the potential it has to positively impact our lives. So, I’ve been diving into the latest headlines on news sites like Techcrunch.

Navigating your career and today’s workplace can be challenging. A few books that I enjoyed and found helpful are Crucial Conversations, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, The Culture Code and Radical Candor.