Rachel Bridge

Rachel Bridge is currently Communications Co-ordinator for Ansible Motion’s technical and commercial groups.

Her role includes research and copy writing, coordinating and managing digital assets, filming and photography oversight, and liaising with press, media, and public relations.

Ansible Motion creates Driver-in-the-Loop (DIL) simulators for vehicle engineering.

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

I was probably the only seven year-old at school who could rewire a plug and change a fuse, and almost certainly the only 10 year-old who could solder and rebuild a computer (all skills I’m now woefully unpractised in), but these were the perks of being raised by an engineer! I didn’t continue down that path though and my degree is in youth and community work, which couldn’t be less tech related if I tried. I soon switched to marketing and fundraising, during which time I set up my own business offering marketing, design and research support to charities and companies both in the UK and USA, however, after 10 years, I was keen to move into the technology and engineering sector.

That’s how I started at Ansible Motion, a company which specialises in automotive simulation technology and driving simulators. Having always been fascinated by cars and motorsport, it was a dream opportunity. My job title is Communications Coordinator, which draws heavily on my previous marketing experience, but my role is varied as Ansible Motion is a small company achieving big things. For example, the latest Driver-in-the-Loop simulator product, called the Theta C, involved everyone in the company, and I was involved in the product development from day one to shipping the first unit off to Asia.

My current focus is on the company’s 10-year anniversary. In order keep up with our customers’ needs around the world, our simulators have changed and improved in radical ways since 2009, and the company has grown significantly.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I probably should have done, but no. I actually ended up in this sector after an offhand comment from my dad about why I didn’t work in tech?

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

Plenty. I lived in London for 10 years, and when I moved back to Norwich it was hard to find any jobs, let alone any that were engineering, and tech based. I asked for introductions from friends and friends of friends to get meetings with tech companies based in Norfolk, but Ansible Motion was always the company I wanted to work for. After a number of false starts elsewhere, I managed to get a meeting with the Technical Director at Ansible Motion. I went in initially asking for part-time work experience, but after a few months I was offered a full-time job.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Finding a role that combines my marketing experience with my love of engineering and technology. Being able to connect customers with high tech offerings challenges me to convey complex messages to in ways that are understandable and easy to digest across a variety of platforms.

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

Persistence. I’ve heard ‘no’ a lot and when things didn’t work out, I found something else to do, something else to learn, another opportunity to try, even if I had to create them for myself.

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

  1. Volunteer! I started out asking for work experience, offering a couple of days a week and from there got a full-time job.
  2. Ask questions, even the ones you think are stupid. It can feel awkward asking lots of questions, or observing other people working but it shows people you are interested and invested and in turn they are more likely to invest time and resource with you.
  3. Find an apprenticeship. Learning and working at the same time is the best way I’ve seen people advance, they get to put into to practice what they learn in the classroom immediately and get the necessary work experience to move straight into a job once they qualify.

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

Absolutely, although I think it is improving. The importance of starting early is now widely understood, and the removal of gender play barriers will make a big difference. I loved the school lessons that included building with LEGO® Technic™, making simple machine models with lolly sticks, rubber bands and cardboard tubes. And I think it’s fantastic that kids are learning to code in primary school, more lessons like these will help to break down barriers.

The media can also play a big role in this through the portrayal of women in technology roles which have a large influence as well, for instance I couldn’t name a single TV or film character growing up who was female and heavily invested in tech and engineering, I don’t remember any articles about female tech CEOs, without these role models it’s harder for young girls to imagine themselves doing these jobs.

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

Investment in early (and ongoing) education is the long-term key. Providing funding to schools for tech specific equipment for use in lessons and after school clubs, opening facilities for school trips, providing role models for young girls to meet and interact with, and offering awareness sessions that demonstrate all the facets of engineering and technology. Companies have a chance to shape the narrative that technology isn’t just for boys, and that if you’re interested you have an equal chance, reinforcing this from a young age I think is the best way to support the progress of women’s careers in technology.

Currently only 15 per cent of people working in tech are women, 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?

I strongly dislike the idea of forced diversity, and I genuinely believe that to even the playing field, things need to be better for everyone. Flexible working is probably the biggest opportunity, giving men and women equal amounts of time to spend with their families. It’s a model that is proven to work well in Scandinavian countries, Denmark in particular, and companies still have a full workforce, only the hours look a bit different.

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

There are a number of support groups and networks around, such as the Women’s Engineering Society and WISE, and I’d definitely recommend LinkedIn for connecting with other people in the industry, they can often be a great gateway to new opportunities and experiences. Because my dad’s a member of The IET I’ve always found them a helpful source of information and inspiration, especially E&T Magazine, which I reference both for work, and my own personal learning and interest. I’m a member of Dare to be Different, who do fantastic work with girls from a young age introducing them to motorsport and automotive technology, they also have amazing networking events. I attend Autosport International every year, they host tech talks, interviews with technical staff and team managers and have a wealth of info and people wanting to connect, making it great value for money.