Cate Lochead, Chief Marketing Officer at JumpCloud shares her experience working in the technology industry, what inspired her passion for working with highly technical founders in disruptive organisations, and offers her advice to young women entering the field.

With over two decades’ experience in marketing and selling B2B software to technical buyers and end users, Cate has led marketing teams across fast growing startups and established industry leaders. Joining JumpCloud three years ago, Cate expanded the company’s overall strategy, often finding her inspiration directly in JumpCloud’s users.

Encouraging innovators and tech entrepreneurs

Having proudly worked for many of the tech innovators that have transformed the way the world works, Cate is passionate about inspiring the next generation of women to do the same. Talking about how she got into the technology industry, Cate comments: “I studied English Language and Literature and never envisioned myself working in technology, but after moving to San Francisco to study, I found myself working at a PR agency that specialised in the industry. I had officially gotten the bug and couldn’t imagine doing anything different.”

“This was at the time that enterprise resource planning and the pioneers of early finance management software were emerging. I started learning about how these products were built, managed, and run through writing product reviews. Even though I didn’t have a technical background, I realised that I loved having a deep understanding of how the technology around me worked. That has continued throughout my career – what I love most about technology is learning from the people who imagined and built it.”

A career in tech: overcoming obstacles

One of the most important ways to support women in the industry is through understanding the specific challenges and obstacles that they often face. Reflecting on her own career, Cate comments: “I think most women in tech don’t experience gender inequality until they enter more senior roles – I certainly didn’t. In my first few roles in tech there was a much more even gender distribution.”

She goes on to explain, “but then I started to join meetings and see fewer and fewer women each year, the disparity noticeably widened the further I progressed. In the early 2000s, when I got to director level, I noticed there were markedly fewer – to no, women in the room. My response was to embrace a more masculine persona – I wore suits, adjusted my conversations to be more comfortable for the men in the room… this behaviour is crazy. It puts you in an identity crisis.” For Cate, the concerted effort she put into focusing on how she spoke and presented herself was another layer of pressure at work.

Communication, communication, communication

Discussing her success, Cate believes that timely and effective communication was key: “I always try to make things as consumable as possible. When I transitioned to an analyst relations role in my early career, I started to write weekly summaries of relevant analyst reports. No one had been doing this and it was so digestible that it got socialised, and helped me to get airtime with executives I don’t think I would have otherwise had.”

Finding confidence in her progression was also an essential building block. Cate’s mentors, Doug Laird and John Wookey, offered “meaningful, direct feedback, opportunities that sometimes I wasn’t sure I deserved, and the confidence and push I needed to reach the next level.” She credits her early mentors with a wealth of support, but believes that female mentors are vital to address the more nuanced challenges young women might face as they become executives. “It is so important that female leaders in our industry, including me, offer the next generation the support that they wish they had when they were coming up”.

Advice for young women

Although labour shortages are adding pressure to an already strained market, the IT industry is seeing more young women entering each day. For them, Cate offers her advice: “working in tech doesn’t mean you have to be an engineer, there is a huge variety of roles in tech that are just as important as coding. If maths or physics isn’t your thing, that doesn’t mean tech isn’t for you, you don’t need to be a maths genius to excel in a technology career. And remember, everyone makes mistakes. I still do, we all do. In your career and in life, every mistake, misstep, or failure is a lesson. Understanding that mistakes happen, learning from them, and moving on is all part of our journey.”

Cate concludes: “Tech is constantly evolving, and it continues to innovate itself and the world around us. Women – and other underrepresented groups, need a seat at the table where so many things that are ubiquitous in our everyday lives are getting developed. There have been some very revealing studies that show how discrimination makes into UX, AI and beyond. There are so many places around the world where women face discrimination, violence, and misrepresentation, and I believe having more women in all functions of tech can help to combat this. Whether you code or communicate, no matter your skill set, tech could be the place for you, a place where you could have a role in moving society forward. Seize the opportunity.”