Louize ClarkeOur latest Inspirational Woman in Tech is Louize Clarke, co-founder of ConnectTVT & GROW@ Green Park. ConnectTVT is dedicated to raising the profile of entrepreneurial talent, while GROW@ Green Park offers an innovative mentoring and resource hub.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never. I’ve always been fairly “heart on sleeve” when it comes to my career and followed my head. I have a very eclectic career history but it’s with my start-up now that I see what destiny had in store for me and why I tried my hand at a few things. While my start-up is the product of a happy accident, I believe everything happens for a reason.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

I’ve faced many challenges but ultimately, they are what drive me. If the status quo is one of tick along, I would be doing the wrong thing. That’s not to say I don’t have dark days and wonder if a simpler life would be easier. I am also very lucky to have a strong support infrastructure who always get me back on the straight and narrow quickly; a diverse team of people from the GROW Community Managers, my awesome PR lady, and a very understanding family. In my experience, a challenge is only something that you need to navigate in another way. Since working in a start-up I have a much more flexible approach to problems and don’t see the barriers I maybe did when I worked for a corporate.    The freedom and flexibility of the start-up environment has become part of my DNA.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Ask yourself if that will make you happy. Too many people feel that a management step-up is the only career choice.  When I was younger I thought that being a Sales Manager was the next rung in the ladder, only to find I worked more hours, had lots more stress and spent less time at the coal face with customers, which was the bit I loved. A good question is “What do I want more of?” Doing what you love and loving what you do is so much more than a title but if you believe this the way to make the most of your talents and abilities, go for it.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

It’s always early with a snatched coffee with my husband and I mostly have to help my teenage son find something he has lost! I then make sure I get outside to walk the dog. This is my thinking and planning time for the day before heading off to meetings, interviewing candidates or to my incubator GROW@GreenPark. I’m not one to be a slave to routine, but I find this works. My week day evenings end with my laptop being shut- I haven’t quite mastered the art of a work life balance yet but I’m working on it.

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Don’t get caught up in politics. Integrity is a much coveted asset. Just do everything to the best of your ability and don’t be afraid to put your hand up for a project that will stretch you.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have just taken on a mentor. I recognised that I’m sometimes too close to the business to be objective but I needed that support to work on the business rather than in it. Running your own business is brilliant but I won’t be the first person to say it can be lonely and isolating. It’s good to have someone to keep me on track and accountable to.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbie networker?

I think networking is important but at the right events. You can burn hours trawling around poor quality networking groups; often the best ones are those you come across in a natural, unforce way. . My top 3 tips are; will the speaker attract the kind of people you want to connect with? Networking events are so easy to drop out of so think about how your life works. Is a breakfast, daytime or evening event best for you and when you will be at your best, too? Finally, I would say, give without expectation. Don’t approach networking with a mind-set of what you can get, rather focus on what you can give. The people I’ve learnt the most from in networking are those who take a ‘pay it forward’ approach.

What does the future hold for you?

More of the same I hope, I’ve been having a blast for the last 18 months and the opportunities just keep coming. I started ConnectTVT with a vision to get the Thames Valley back on the tech cluster map. While we still have a way to go, I am definitely feeling a shift. This process has absolutely taught me to be more fluid about my future; follow your instincts and you will get to where you need to be.