Kerry Linley featuredI’m the Founder and CEO of a company called Rubitek that produces learning management software aiding apprentices, their employers and their training providers in managing the apprenticeship journey for better outcomes.

I’m also a busy wife, mum and step-mum to 5 children, with all that it entails, as well as being an enterprise advisor and a STEM ambassador.

My parents were both hard-working but unskilled, and I left work at the age of 16 so that I could contribute to the household. From 2007, I delivered one of the UK’s most successful shared apprenticeship schemes, which featured as a best practice case study in the Government’s Commission on Apprenticeships. At the age of 45, I left a well-paid job in order to develop a tech solution that would improve apprenticeship completion rates.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think my career chose me, rather than the other way around. I simply identified a problem and felt I had the means to solve it. There are many causes of non-completion in apprenticeships and, after running one of the UK’s most successful shared apprenticeship schemes, I’d learned to spot the early warning signs. Our average completion rate was 85% against an industry average of 57%, so I knew we were doing something right and it was clear to me that, with the help of proper technology, more employers and providers could improve apprenticeship outcomes.

I set about mapping the apprenticeship journey and then re-designed it to improve apprentice retention, completion and progression outcomes. That’s how and why Rubitek (which is named after our pet dog Ruby who spent many hours sitting with me whilst I was designing the platform) was born.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

The main reason that I started Rubitek was this: 40% of apprentices do not complete their apprenticeship. This affects more women than men, and more people from BAME communities.

For most of my life I’ve worked in male-dominated industries. When I started building apprenticeship management software just under 3 years ago, all of the developers I worked with were men. I quickly realised that I couldn’t build a solution to the problem I had identified if those developing it did not reflect those who would benefit. Technology needs a gender and diversity balance. To change things, we need to give people more role models who look like them, with values that they can aspire to.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Over the last 24 months, I have developed an apprenticeship management platform that is improving apprenticeship completion rates. I’ve pitched to investor and secured funding for my business, resolved a legal challenge, build a loyal customer base and set up a diverse team, all whilst negotiating my business through a global pandemic.

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

I’ve had the great pleasure of working with some amazing female role models and over the years have learned to surround myself with incredibly positive people, men and women. I’ve also had the privilege of taking part in a couple of accelerator programmes, including one specifically for women in tech (WiST). Support networks like this are invaluable and I’d like to see more of them. I would also encourage any female just starting out, especially in tech, to get themselves a mentor.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

In addition to the above, as you can probably imagine, working in apprenticeships puts mentoring at the very forefront of my day-to-day. Effective mentoring has a massive impact on apprentice completion rates, and this is something my platform encourages. As well as being an advocate for apprenticeships, I employ apprentices myself and this means that my job involves great deals of mentoring; this is very important to me and I’m very proud of the diverse and brilliant team that has grown around me as a result.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Equality, what would it be?

As I touched upon earlier, young women especially would benefit from more role models that look like them and better represent their values and ambitions. I feel one reason for the lack of female role models is that women are not often encouraged to advertise their successes in the same way that men are. Unfortunately, culture and gender modesty norms, as well as imposter syndrome, affect many women who struggle talking about their own accomplishments. Over the years and through my various roles, I have learnt to speak openly about my accomplishments, as well as my family life, in an effort to encourage those around me to see that it’s OK to do the same.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Be passionate and just go for it. Why wait? I was 46 years old when Rubitek built its first apprentice management platform, so in many ways I would say I’m still at the start of my tech career. Who knows whether I would have started sooner had there been more female role models?

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?  

Simply to continue building on our successes to date. My next challenge is to embark on a new project, one that will build on our existing software, ensuring even more apprentices achieve qualification, and will truly take Rubitek to the next level.