Lucinda CarneyLucinda is a Chartered Psychologist with 20 years Corporate HR experience.

She is considered a thought leader in a range of people management and change related business topics. Lucinda is the Founder and CEO of Actus Performance Management Software which was launched in 2009 and has since gone from strength to strength with more than 70,000 users across the globe. Lucinda is an accomplished Speaker, Consultant and Coach and was named Everywoman Tech Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016. She hosts the No 1 ranking Podcast ‘The HRUprising’ and her book “How to be a Change Superhero” was published in May 2020.

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

I am a Chartered Psychologist with many years Corporate experience as a People Professional and the Founder and CEO at Actus Software, a unified performance platform, founded in 2009. At Actus, we provide SaaS HRM software and specialise in the performance, talent and learning management space. As the business has grown, I have worn most hats as is typical for an entrepreneur. I provide the leadership and product vision as well as taking a lead role in Sales and Marketing. Additionally, I now host the No 1 ranking HR Uprising Podcast and recently launched a bestselling business book called “How to be a Change Superhero”.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, as a student I had a summer job selling aerial photographs door to door which was tough, however it showed me that I could sell. I then moved into pharmaceutical sales which involved an initial 6-week training course. It was there that I realised that training was a job and set my sights on earning that role. I moved into Learning and Development a couple of years later and ultimately progressed to be Director of Learning and Organisational Development with responsibility for a £2 million training budget and 40 people. I have always been pretty commercially minded and our focus was always about aligning the L&D strategy with business needs. In my last role we built an internal performance management system because we couldn’t find anything suitable in the marketplace which was ultimately the prototype for Actus. When I left and set up on my own, I realised that there was a gap in the market for software that would support managers and businesses in embedding better quality people management practise. I started by enabling year-round performance and feedback conversations and have expanded to support the end-to-end talent journey increasing retention and productivity. However, my main goal was to support many businesses in using the software as a catalyst to achieve culture change. That’s why Actus offers such a range of value-add consultancy and services as well with our white papers, change toolkits and our popular HR Uprising podcast.

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

When I started out with Actus, I did everything including bootstrapping the business for the first five or six years which kept us profitable, but it also meant that the marketplace became louder and more crowded during that time. The pressure was increased by the fact that I was also the primary breadwinner and husband was looking after the children, so failure was not an option in those early years. Regularly I would be up at 4 am talking to the developers in India and then heading out to do a day’s consultancy or training to fund the business as we started to scale.

More than once I have spotted an early niche that we could dominate in but needed to put more effort into gaining that position in the marketplace. Ways I have overcome this is by having more self-belief and confidence in our marketing position and reaching out to investments earlier.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am really proud that I have managed to establish a podcast (HR Uprising) that is still growing in popularity and clearly helps people. It’s so easy to forget what we have achieved along the way, so I am pretty proud that we have managed almost 100 episodes and have a loyal and growing fan base. Getting a publishing contract for my first book “How to be a Change Superhero” and launching it to achieve bestseller status during lockdown was also a pretty huge achievement.

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

Adopting a partnership approach. I work best with businesses who want to collaborate with Actus and are prepared to work together to achieve results. My approach is always to understand the desired business outcome for the business, in other words why they are looking to invest in software. Once I understand that, it is easier for us to make recommendations around configuration and messaging which will maximise the chances of success. My company is incredibly client centric, sometimes to our detriment and I have had to learn not to give too much away for free!

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

Believe in yourself, follow your gut and move fast. Basically, back yourself if you have a clear idea and vision and run with it (without spending stupid amounts of cash). Choose your initial team really carefully and consider the culture you want to create. One overly dominant or negative individual can have a huge impact on a small team so recruit people who will be loyal and positive and who compliment your blind spots. As soon as you can justify it, hire a great management accountant (not the same as a traditional accountant) you want them to provide you with monthly metrics and cashflow forecasts that will be invaluable in keeping the business solvent.

Don’t put too much trust in expensive marketing experts without keeping a close eye on the results. Instead, set up key metrics that you can track to see if the business is going in the right or wrong direction and be prepared to tweak. Examples would be white paper downloads, demo-requests or conversion rates in sales and marketing or might be numbers of bugs or support calls in other areas.

Finally, develop processes. It is really easy to be too busy doing things and reacting to stop and think how you can improve them for the future and save time in the long run. If we stop to set up standardised implementation documentation, templates and processes for example, we can save lots of time in the long run. It’s all a balance driving the top line while ensuring the business is sustainable for the long term.

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

I struggle with this question because I spent my career in very male dominated organisations and never perceived myself to be held back. Having said that, I do think I felt I had to adapt my behaviour to an extent to fit in. As a tech entrepreneur I am aware that it still isn’t a level playing field as evidence clearly shows that male entrepreneurs get way more funding than females despite women’s businesses being less likely to lose that money. However, one of the main barriers for women in my view is the imposter complex, in my opinion we are more likely to hold ourselves back through a crisis of confidence which in turn means we don’t take those opportunities or risks which can hold us back.

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

Lots of things, start by being aware of whether there are genuinely equal career opportunities for men and women to progress. If they are bringing in roughly equal numbers into more junior roles but then people are leaving before becoming senior, find out why. Is it about lack of mentors or role models because that can be fixed. Or is it about a lack of flexible working which means women can’t easily return to their roles after having children. Many working cultures favour people who don’t have caring responsibilities and I feel that the pandemic has shown how effective everyone can be working flexibly and remotely. If we can take some of that learning into the future, then women may feel more able to progress their careers in tech without having to chose family or tech.

There is currently only 17% 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?

Change the culture from being one of long hours and presenteeism to being one of output focus and flexibility. Put equal proportions of men and women in senior roles and see what the impact is in terms of aspirations and role models.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech? 

I think podcasts and audiobooks are great, there is so much valuable content out there and it doesn’t need to all be about tech. I would also really encourage women in tech to ensure that they develop their own personal brand on social media, increase their confidence and build their own tribe or network who will act as cheerleaders to spur them on and overcome any imposters holding them back.

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