Katie Cudmore

After graduating with my degree in Mathematics and Business Studies I took a temp job at a major UK retailer in the Buying Department.

I later took a permanent job in the Digital Analytics team and spent 7 years working across various roles.  I championed women by starting a Women in Tech circle and volunteering as a committee member for the Women’s Network.

In September 2021 I changed careers, moving into the world of Further Education in the Tech industry, where I hope to continue to champion women and support the next generation in the world of STEM.

In my spare time I enjoy reading, crafting, cooking and getting out in nature. As the world slowly opens up again I’m looking forward to exploring further afield and spending more time by the sea, honing my currently terrible surfing skills.

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

  • Studied maths & business studies at university
  • Spent 9 years in industry with a major UK retailer, specialising in Digital Trading Analytics
  • Whilst there I started a Women in Tech Circle, was a committee member on the Womens Network and was selected for a Female Development programme
  • I recently made a career move into education to work at the SCIoT. My current remit is running a program offering 6 Microsoft Fundamentals courses for free to anyone aged 19 and over and in employment.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To some extent. Straight out of uni my main motivation was financial stability and independence. Now I’ve achieved that my priorities have shifted towards personal growth and roles that fit my values.
When thinking about my next career move I will have in the back of my mind my strengths and what I enjoy, as well as my development areas. I then make my next move based on a combination of those things, hopefully finding roles that make the most of my strengths and align to my values while also providing me with opportunities to learn and develop new skills and work on my development areas.

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

Yes – I’ve come across many difficult people who tried to knock my confidence and make me doubt my judgement and abilities. Who would sap my time and energy and distract me from what I was trying to achieve.

To overcome this It’s important to have self-awareness and reflect on situations where things didn’t go well. I found talking through with mentors and people who champion me really helped to understand if there’s something I could have done differently. Sometimes there’s nothing you could have done and you just have to pick yourself up and move on.

If you identify something you could have done differently/better in an encounter with someone that you find difficult to work with then incorporate into a personal development plan.

Having good boundaries and being able to say no to tasks/meetings/people that won’t be a good use of your time.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Taking ownership of the Microsoft Accredited In-Work Skills pilot program at the SCIoT has been a great opportunity, and I’m really proud of how it’s gone so far. I’ve had hundreds of students sign up and have delivered the College’s first remotely proctored exams. There’s been loads of learnings that I’m excited to feed back to the SCIoT that will really influence how and what offerings we have in the future.

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

Having great colleagues who made going to work fun, who I could bounce ideas off and who supported me to learn, grow and try new things.

Having great managers who believed in me and my learning and development. Who were open to me negotiating what I wanted to work on and gave me opportunities/delegated to me.

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

  • Be curious – about yourself, others and the tech you are using
  • Self-awareness – know your strengths and weaknesses and how you are perceived by others. Ask for feedback regularly.
  • Never stop learning about how things work and are used, new tech developments
  • Push your comfort zone and make a conscious effort to ask for tasks and roles that make you feel uncomfortable
  • Get a mentor
  • Try to have a good balance of working on projects and tasks that benefit the organisation but also give you an opportunity to work with new people or learn and practice a new skill. You can negotiate with your team or line manager to get a balance of essential tasks that need to be done (but may not be interesting or challenging) and tasks that will benefit your development.

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

Yes, aside from the barriers that exist for women in work in general.

There’s too much emphasis on having hard skills and qualifications. We need more opportunities for people to learn on the job and recognise that other ‘soft’ skills are essential. Young girls need to be encouraged to see tech as a viable career path and see women in these roles. As it’s much more difficult to get into the industry later in life without specific skills and experience.

Can have an offputting image of culture that is unwelcoming and patronising to women (tech designed by men is designed for men). Needs an image overhaul of being a fun, exciting and dynamic industry rather than dull and anti-social.

Such a dynamic and ever-changing industry can be overwhelming. Women tend to have lower confidence than men and uncertainty can exacerbate that. Ensure employees have clear objectives and targets with regular 1-2-1s and check ins with line managers.

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

  • Overhaul job specs, reduce list of ‘essentials’ to as minimal as possible
  • When stating desired behaviours, use examples. E.g. instead of stating ‘excellent stakeholder management skills’ you could say ‘has the ability to build effective relationships and work collaboratively with other teams’
  • State something like ‘please apply even if you’re not sure you are the right fit, we’d love to hear from you’
  • Display salary ranges in job specs
  • Salary Transparency – what are others in the team/department paid?
  • Flexible working and part time positions
  • Support women during transformational periods of their lives such as pregnancy & Childbirth, Miscarriage & Baby Loss and Menopause
  • Place greater importance on ‘soft skills’ such as communication and relationship building. No matter how many hard technical skills you have if you can’t communicate what you’re doing and why to non-technical people then it’s unlikely you will achieve the outcome you’re looking for

There are 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?

Awareness from a young age – around what tech is, why it’s important and why we need diverse people working in it. How women working in Tech will benefit women and make life better for them overall. Seeing women in senior positions in Tech.

Make the Tech industry more welcoming and appealing to Women. Training packages with clear progression routes. Flexible (both time and location) and part-time working.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

  • Find a group on Meetup.com (such as Girls Code MK)
  • Stemettes (stemettes.org)
  • Google is your best friend, if you’re struggling with something it’s likely someone else has too and has already asked and found the answer online!
  • I would recommend finding podcasts, books, social media accounts not solely around women in tech but from women in general who are being themselves and doing their thing. I personally find this inspires me to have confidence to just be me and do what I want to do, and not to worry about what society says I should be doing / how I should be behaving / how I should look etc