Nisa Chitakasem is the Chief Marketing Officer at Register Dynamics.

Nisa has over 17 years of experience working in startups and is a highly skilled business builder, entrepreneur and startup specialist with a strong background in technology.

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

I’m an engineering graduate from Imperial College. I studied Electrical and Electronic engineering with Management – a course with a handful of girls in a class of over 100! I was the only person from my girl school to apply and was told at the time not to bother as they didn’t think I was good enough to get in. So, I applied anyway, found sponsorship from AECOM, won a Women in Engineering scholarship from IEEE, and came out with a 1st Class Honours. I’ve never liked being told that I can’t do something!

Now I’m a mum and the Chief Marketing Officer of a leading-edge data and technology startup, Register Dynamics. I’m currently the only female on the senior executive team and in the company as a whole. It’s an exciting time in this growing industry to be working with such a talented team. Data is everywhere and all around us, yet we (as both individuals and companies) are still struggling to understand it, know how to best manage it and make the most of it. That presents real opportunities in technology for making things better and having an impact.

Everyday in my role is different and my responsibilities are broad and based on whatever the business needs at any given time. One of the recent areas of focus is on something called CDO as a service, which supports new Heads of Data, Chief Information Officers and start-ups to achieve their data goals more effectively.

I’m also constantly working on ways to better support the data community via our Shared Resources and Insights, which offers advice on various data challenges including ways to tackle common challenges around data governance, data management, data literacy and other areas we feel we can help with.

I’m also always on the lookout for great talent! We have a jobs section that is kept up to date and are always happy to hear from people who think they would be a good fit for the team.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’ve always tried to have goals to work towards and a fairly clear idea about what I wanted and also what I didn’t want from my career, but I never sat down to map out a precise career plan as such.

I remember going into the ‘Careers Room’ at school, trying to find something that might inspire me. That’s how I found out about engineering as something that would combine my love of maths, problem-solving and science. I figured that it would be a degree that would allow me to keep my options open and for that purpose it served me well.

Throughout my career, I’ve also been incredibly lucky to have people that I could talk to about it and who acted as mentors or ‘career-buddies’ i.e. someone to compare notes with, check goals with and in doing so, we would help each other to stay on track.

I’m also lucky to have been in a position to have worked closely with many talented career and executive coaches whilst building a business with them.  In doing so, I learnt a lot and it has helped me to continually reflect on myself, my world and what I want generally in life. I think that one’s career is constantly evolving and is something that shouldn’t be thought about in isolation. Nor is it something that you plan once and then you’re done! As you move through life I think your priorities change and with that, your goals and ambitions and what will make you happy also change. Therefore, I think it’s important to be open to that and to enjoy each moment, achievement and stage you’re at as much as you can whilst you’re experiencing it, as well as planning for the future.

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

There have been many different challenges for me in my career! The first major challenge was finishing my degree. I had cancer mid-way through, my grades were not good, I wasn’t enjoying the lectures and I had to take a year out to focus on fighting and surviving the cancer. It was tough to return to a New Year group that I didn’t know and to complete a degree that I no longer felt was right for me, but I was determined not to waste the opportunity. I worked incredibly hard to make new friends, bring my grades up and make my degree count, and I’m so lucky to have had so much support from friends, family and my department throughout that challenging time.

After graduating came the next challenge! Nearly everyone I knew was heading for one of three sectors: Financial services, Accounting or Consultancy, however, none of these felt right for me, especially after being ill. Making sure that I did something that really interested me and that enabled me to look after my health, became much more important than ever before. After a long search exploring my options – talking to friends, family and whoever I could find – I was introduced to a start-up.  I’ve been in the start-up world ever since!

It’s not always been an easy journey though. My first job was with an IPTV startup. It launched 6 channels successfully and then I experienced the whole lifecycle of a business in a very short space of time. The company failed, went into administration and I was out of a job!

Later, I joined, the brainchild of Brent Hoberman (founder of and serial entrepreneur). The company spun out into but by then I had left and felt burnt out.

I was asked to be Operations Director of a new executive coaching startup which felt amazing however, as the youngest and only female on the board there were big challenges. Eventually, I created and co-founded a career change business which was full of adventures and challenges along the way. I built and ran it successfully for many years but then somehow felt like I had lost myself in the journey. I needed my own career change!  This was a controversial decision at the time and a big transition for me but I felt it important to follow my heart and to ‘practise what we were preaching’ as it were!

Now as a parent, my main challenge is around making sure that I have a good work-life balance and that I stay true to my values. I want to be successful at work whilst also being able to spend quality time with my family and do the things that matter outside of work too. There’s often a lot to juggle but it’s really rewarding when the balance is right and when you have a team (both at home and at work) that truly supports all of your endeavours.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I feel really lucky to be where I am now and to have experienced everything that I have so far. I’m able to say that I’ve achieved all the various goals I had set for myself in my career so far.

I built a business from the ground up and ran it successfully for 7 years. During that time we grew to a team of around 40 and I feel like we helped people with their career and life choices along the way.  I then switched gears, gave myself the time and space to follow my passions around music and now am also recognised in the music world as a successful game music composer too.

I feel proud that I’ve had the opportunity to pursue my various dreams and to have found a company that aligns with my values. Here, we are working hard to build a supportive working environment that enables people to work flexibly, and do great, impactful work, all whilst living their lives to the fullest.

For me, the biggest achievement of all is not having to sacrifice any of the things that are important to me and have found a way to make it all work positively together.

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

There are 2 main things that I think have helped me along the way. The first is curiosity. I’ve always had a genuine desire to learn and in the various roles that I’ve had – asking questions and wanting to learn from others and really understand what it is that they’re up to, how they go about it and why they are doing it, has been an amazing tool. I’ve learnt so much and also gained so much respect for other people’s experiences, skill sets and abilities.

The second thing is belief.  Belief in yourself comes from knowing yourself and embracing what you have to offer. It took me a long time to gain confidence in myself and my abilities. Being the only female in many situations, having different ideas and interests to others and also being different culturally, often presented challenges. I felt different and didn’t always like this feeling, however, when I embraced this difference and began to appreciate it more, I felt comfortable in my own skin.  I trusted myself to make the right decisions and to know how to accomplish what I wanted and I was able to flourish.  If you believe you can make it happen, you will!

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

Learn anything and everything you can. Be curious, ask questions, show a real interest in others and what they’re doing and listen hard. Trust your instincts and talents, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something.

Stay true to your values, embrace who you are and what you have to offer and build on your strengths. Find a mentor if you can or find people that you can talk to about your career and learn from and then grow, grow and grow!  Never stop learning and never stop exploring new opportunities to discover new things.

What barriers for women working in tech, are still to be overcome?

The tech world is definitely still male-dominated so you have to be confident in yourself and find a way to break through any negativity or feelings of exclusion that come your way. As a female, you might need to work extra hard to rise above your peers and for your talents to shine through.  However, at the same time, being the only female around can have it’s benefits. You have the chance to stand out of the crowd, to be remembered and to make a long-lasting impression.

If you’re a parent then juggling a successful career with home life is also a challenge. Finding roles that offer flexibility whilst enabling you to be impactful at work and contribute at a senior level can be hard. Many companies don’t appreciate the demands of being a parent or offer a way to create a true work-life balance. If you want it all, you need to carve out the perfect role yourself and be prepared to fight for it.

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

I think that nurturing female talent begins at school and then at University. Companies can do more to approach and partner with schools and Universities so that students are aware of what options and opportunities are available to them. Whether it’s through inspiring talks, going on campus, offering internships, training programmes or sponsorships – companies need to explore more ways to connect with young women so that they know what career opportunities are open to them. I think it’s the smaller companies and start-ups that don’t often get very involved but are also where many of the lesser-known opportunities lie.

Within organisations, there is also more that can be done to nurture female talent, support them through their career development, and encourage greater inclusion and diversity. Offering more options around flexible and home working should be encouraged as well as setting up mentoring and coaching programmes for female staff too. Women often lack the confidence that they need to fulfill their potential and ask for what they really want.

In an ideal world, how would you improve gender diversity in tech?

Ideally, people would be hired based on their true talent (not gender) and they would be given all of the tools that they need to succeed in their role. For me, that means that both women and men should be given the opportunity to carry out their roles and responsibilities at work in the most productive ways that they can i.e. without restriction or set demands on time or location. There should be complete flexibility around how they manage and achieve their work, and everything should be based on what their capabilities are and the impact that they have on the company.

People also need to be made aware of as many options as possible from a young age. Both boys and girls should have the opportunity to explore all types of careers, to hear from professionals across all sectors and career paths and to have the chance to be inspired in whatever area they feel most drawn to.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I find TED talks to be really interesting and inspiring. I think they’re a great resource and if you’re able to attend a TED conference or local event then I would highly recommend it. Nothing beats hearing from real women, doing what they love, live!

Read more from our inspirational women here.