As the Innovation, Technology, and Services Director at Samsung UK & Ireland, Kate Beaumont is one of the UK’s leading women in technology, spearheading change for a business that is at an exciting juncture in its growth story.

Joining the business back in 2015 as Director of Product Planning & Strategy, Kate is a firm believer in the power of collaboration to drive success, a culture that runs through Samsung’s veins. In her time as one of the leaders of the UK and Ireland business, Kate has established the structural governance required to improve business performance, drive profitability and bring relevant and meaningful innovation to market. She is dynamic & results-driven with a proven track record in operational transformation.

As ‘5G concierge’, Kate has driven Samsung’s strategic direction in this new area of innovation. Kate recently oversaw the introduction of the Galaxy S10+, and Galaxy S10 5G, devices which are redefining the smartphone market and setting up the next decade of innovation at Samsung.

Outside of work, Kate is a passionate wildlife photographer, a skill she has honed from a young age, and one that has taken her to remote locations around the world in pursuit of the perfect shot. It’s an interest that has married well with her role at Samsung, as smartphone cameras have evolved so dramatically, giving everyone that has a Samsung smartphone the ability to take professional grade photos.

Her global experience in the mobile sector spans a range of roles including VP Portfolio & Supplier Strategy at Deutsch Telekom. Prior to that she led Supply Chain and Product Management at Spark NZ.

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

After completing my BA in New Zealand, I started my career in insurance then advertising. I made the move to technology about 20 years ago. Whilst NZ commerce is small in scale it’s great for breadth of role so I’ve worked in sales, marketing, procurement, supply chain and product management which has become my passion.

I moved to the UK and joined T-Mobile and then Deutsche Telekom, working in their international division from Bonn.  I’ve been at Samsung for 4 years, recently changing roles to look after innovation and emerging tech like 5G and Services.  These are the areas which will future proof us as the mobile industry continues to be highly competitive.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I am a planner by nature, but in hindsight the only thing planned about my career has been progression.  I made a conscious decision to leave insurance, switching to consumer electronics, then tech, as I wanted to work in a sector with more flexibility and growth. My career path has been driven by curiosity – the desire to learn and then find a way to share and apply those learnings to bring about positive change.

I’ve primarily worked for large corporations and learnt that it’s important to find a match between the company values/culture and your own – this fit is what helps you thrive and find your place in a large organisation.

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

Starting out in insurance (a conservative male dominated industry in the 90s), was challenging as I was constantly judged on my age and gender. Whilst this was tough at the time it taught me a lot about building my credibility, and learning how to do that in my own authentic way. It gave me confidence to have a voice, and as my roles have progressed, I feel empowered to call out bad behaviour when I see it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

When I arrived at Samsung UK IT & Mobile communications, it was completely chaotic from an operational perspective. I was brought in to rebuild the Product team, but also directed my energies into creating the wider operating rhythm, governance and commercial process to enable all teams to perform more effectively. I’m proud of the business efficiencies this achieved, but I think the greater achievement from a personal perspective was enabling a passionate team of people to collaborate and perform better.

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

A combination of curiosity and accountability. There are a lot of managers with responsibilities but only a few who are prepared to put their head above the parapet to make bold decisions and be accountable. I do this myself but also support my team in the decisions they make.

This, coupled with being curious, means questioning the status quo and finding new and innovative ways of doing things, or solving complex business problems.

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

They say it’s not what you know but who you know.  Personally, I think both are important.  Whilst it depends on the area in tech you want to develop, the one thing that is consistently important is constant learning.  This includes keeping yourself informed on new developments and any far-reaching implications. This helps to build a strong network in your area of interest and expertise; something people are far more open to now.

I would say to stop worrying about being a woman in tech. Be brave. Tech is all about pushing boundaries, so take a risk!

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

I think there are barriers to success for women in most industries and unfortunately no silver bullet fix.  There are initiatives which need to be driven by tech companies like working with schools to encourage girls into STEM (Samsung are working on this) to pay parity and mentoring programmes.

There are also things we can do as individuals, from speaking out and joining forces with groups who are working to pull down these barriers.

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

At Samsung we have Individual Development plans for all staff as well as informal coaching & mentoring programmes.  These can be used to focus on the specific needs and development of women in tech.

Education across an organisation raises awareness which is the only way to change attitudes and beliefs. Samsung have also introduced a focus on diversity into our recruitment training for hiring managers.

There is currently only 15 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?

If I could wave a magic wand I would have higher performing women in senior management paving the way as role models and breaking down prejudice.  It’s critical to encourage girls into STEM but if they hit a glass ceiling early in their career, then we lose them to other sectors.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

The best approach is to decide which area of tech you are interested in and focus on that – find the relevant websites, newsletters, network groups and conferences etc. and build your network.  If your company has access to industry analysts subscribe to their newsletters. When you are clear in your objectives, reach out to people who have careers in your area of interest to ask for recommendations.

Check out the best women in tech podcasts to see which appeals to you.  I’m inspired by other people’s journeys and learning’s so I’m following podcasts with in depth interviews like The Tim Ferris Show or The Guilty Feminist.