Siobhan ClarkeSiobhan Clarke is now the Operating Partner at bp Launchpad, having graduated from the MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School and spent a number of years working all over the world.

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

I’ve always been at the commercial end of tech, driven by a curiosity of what it has the potential to do. Unlocking potential in people and technology is where I’m happiest.

My current role is Operating Partner at bp Launchpad, where we invest and scale digital companies that are addressing the net zero challenge. Taking an idea from MVP – minimal viable powerpoint – to a business that is delivering for customers, employing hundreds of people and creating financial and broader stakeholder value is a multistage journey with different inflection points. I’ve just published a book on the first stage of that journey – The Founder Handbook – Getting to your first ten Enterprise Customers – it’s available on Amazon here.

On a more personal side, I’m lucky to call two places home, my family home in Northern Ireland where I grew up and my mum still lives, and secondly London, the city of vibrancy and energy and almost limitless possibility. I live with my partner – a CrossFit and Nutrition Coach and, in other times, I love to travel and challenge – mountaineering, triathlons, treks across the world to get closer to landscapes, people and cultures different from my own.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

From a young age, I’ve always been curious about what new technologies can do to solve human problems and so I moved from Northern Ireland where I grew up to Manchester to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering at UMIST (University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology), home of Alan Turning and the suffragette movement, so I could get under the surface of what it meant to design micromachines, to write computer code, to design safety into large scale electrical systems, where I knew I could take that learning everywhere I went.

My career strategy has been to follow the areas that I’m interested in and be part of creating movements, such as working at Cisco after my MBA at Alliance Manchester Business School in their move from a hardware company to software and services, or choosing to live in Singapore and work across all of Asia Pacific to capture the essence of economic growth at pace, or moving back to London in mid 2017 as venture investing was beginning to ramp up seriously in Europe. Now, I’m helping to shape the future of net zero through the work at Launchpad. Careers are a story of one person’s interests and passions – my advice for anyone is to follow those.

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

The most common has always been the knowledge loop – to choose to enter a new country, understand and sell a new product, be part of a new industry – there is a knowledge loop which begins with confidence that I could learn and understand it, to realisation that I knew nothing, to engaging with others to bring collective knowledge, to realising that I’m then giving back and sharing that knowledge. Understanding where I was in that cycle helped me to believe in the process, to believe in myself and to build on the shoulders of giants.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Getting to this point, where I have a position of influence: to choose to angel invest in female entrepreneurs addressing tough industrial and technical challenges, to ensuring we address any hidden biases in recruiting within our teams – enabling underrepresented individuals and groups to have a voice. Helping others to unlock their passion and coaching them to grow gives a quiet proud satisfaction.

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

Backing myself. Believing that no matter what happens, I will learn and grow as every perceived setback was just a stepping stone on the route to success. Incredible mentors and mentees, people who have opened by eyes to opportunities, to help me understand myself, to positions, to areas that I’d not considered at first and yet when considered closer, they aligned fully with my interests.

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

Always follow your interests, your gut instinct, your passion and contribute – bring your unique perspective into the conversation, into decision-making and shape a better world through your voice.

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

Yes, although I believe the barriers that exist apply to all those who seek to balance their work and their personal lives – or rather the whole human at work.

Ensure shared parental leave policies – for kids, for carers, for balance. This is still one-sided today across a lot of companies. Ensure we talk openly about mental and hormonal health as part of the overall career journey, e.g. it’s still taboo to talk about menopause inside companies. The key question is; do we give enough time and flexibility to enable those going through miscarriage, IVF, adoption, or choosing to support a family in a non-conventional sense? By enabling flexibility we’ll see a broader workforce engagement.

There is currently only 17 per cent 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? 

Quotas. I’ve been an advocate for this for a long time, we need quotas and strong targets to get us moving and shifting the balance. When a system is out of balance, it takes extraordinary and dedicated effort to bring it into balance and that effort can then shift to address other imbalances. Deliberately put more diversity into company boards, the culture is crafted from the boardroom into the business areas.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Recommend WearetechWomen of course, Power Women network, Lean in Energy, ICE for all entrepreneurs and Chasing Excellence – a podcast by the CrossFit Coach Ben Bergeron who through coaching the world’s fittest athletes engages with guests on resilience, mental toughness, reaching goals and the use of targets to set and rest mindset and expectations. Encourage all women in tech to talk with their partner – it was Juan, my partner, who helped me to grow the most and believe in myself as he is always there to listen. The most powerful resource is someone who has your back, who will also listen and enable you to understand your own truths.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here