Sarah ComerfordSarah Comerford is an award-winning tech-director of a creative agency on the outskirts of the Yorkshire Dales.

She joined Purple Creative Studio in September 2013 as the only female in the company and has paved the way for other young female professionals. She’s passionate about equipping others to be digitally-literate and has invested a significant amount of time in mentoring women, young people and training small businesses.

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

I am the Client Services Director at a digital agency based in rural North Yorkshire called Purple Creative Studio.  I have been with Purple for over six years and have loved every moment of it, when I started with Purple I was the first female to join the company and we now make up 40 per cent of the company.  My role involves a lot of project management as well as digital marketing, which I am incredibly passionate about. I oversee and implement marketing strategies for a wide variety of companies in a range of sectors and look after the internal HR, policies and workflow management for all staff members.  My role has evolved a huge amount since joining the team in 2013, and I can’t wait to see how it will develop in the future.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

No! I am extremely grateful that my career journey has been incredibly eclectic. I have worked at a number of different places and each one has given me valuable skills which I use each and every day.

My first job was at 16 in a wedding dress shop where I sewed beads on wedding dresses.  At college and university, I worked in a number of different environments: a nightclub; the Co-Op; a surf shop; a hairdressers; and a jewellers.  Each of these jobs taught me how to deal with people – a skill which I consider to be my strongest asset.

Before working where I am now, I worked in marketing at The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire.

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

This is quite a difficult question as I can think of lots of mini challenges over the years that I have faced, overcome and learnt from.  However, I think one of my biggest challenges was working for a bully when I was a lot younger in a previous role. It took me a long time to realise it was bullying and an even longer time to stand up to it, but I am incredibly pleased that I did and I think that small moment of standing up for myself was a real turning point in my career.  I am not a confrontational person and I found approaching that person incredibly difficult, however, once I did, I realised that the floor didn’t swallow me up, I took back the power and if I bumped into that person today I would thank them. That might sound strange but they helped me become stronger and have helped me find my own management style over the years as I often think back to that time and in a situation I try and do the opposite of what they would have done.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

In 2019 I was very kindly nominated for the Women in Technology Mentor of the Year Ward in London, which I won! I have never been more surprised and shocked in my life as there were so many inspirational women in the room and to be nominated alone was just wonderful! I am also proud of the wonderful team that we have built and sustained at Purple, we have a wonderful team that can embrace new challenges and create beautiful and brilliant solutions for our clients.

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

Quite simply the people around me!  I have worked with wonderful people in this role and in previous roles that have enabled me to grow.  I love and believe in the phrase: “Spoon feeding in the long run teaches us nothing but the shape of the spoon”. I have been lucky that I have always been allowed to make my own mistakes, and then work out how to fix them, a far greater lesson than being micro-managed and I believe this has really helped me over the years.

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

Read blogs, watch videos, use Code Academy and try to get as much experience as possible.  When we interview for new people to join our team I am most interested in seeing if they are passionate about the sector, I want to see that someone has attempted to build a small website for their mum, or a friend and had dabbled in using technology and playing with creating apps.  To me, this is more important than qualifications.

I am sure we have all read the same old statistic a million times that men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. The industry needs to make people realise that qualifications are not as important as passion.  The industry is so fast paced that qualifications can simply not stay up to date, so being creative, making something and creating something and learning yourself is more important than qualifications in my opinion and we need people to realise this.