Inspirational Woman: Francesca Brady | CEO, AirRated

Francesca BradyFrancesca Brady holds a Masters degree in Environmental Geoscience from Royal Holloway, University of London, one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities.

During her degree, Francesca became passionate about the topic of indoor air quality (IAQ) which has largely been ignored:
“So much emphasis is dedicated to outdoor air quality, yet we have overlooked the spaces where we work and live and spend 90% of our lives.”

Subsequently, in 2019, Francesca joined AirRated to further channel her knowledge and generate awareness of the effects of IAQ on the health, well-being, and productivity of people. As Head of Environmental Research, she contributed to the development of the AirScore – a tangible and quantifiable building certification which aims to set the global benchmark for indoor air quality by communicating the health of indoor environments. The goal of the AirScore being to educate and advise people about healthy buildings and promote best practices.

Within her first 12 months at AirRated, Francesca was fast-tracked to the position of CEO and is continuously keen to educate others on the importance and value of good indoor air quality across the built environment. She is a frequent speaker at events at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, local schools and is currently an active member of the IWBI’s Taskforce for COVID-19.

“In the near future, I hope to see legislation come into effect to ensure that healthy indoor environments are mandatory and not just ‘nice to have’.”

Tell us about yourself, your background and your current role

I hold a masters degree in Environmental Science and prior to joining AirRated I spent the last 3 years working for a technology start-up as their environmental specialist. I joined the team at AirRated as Head of Environmental Research to help create and develop the AirScore. In October I was appointed Chief Executive Officer. In this position I am now leading the charge with indoor air quality (IAQ) awareness and education and helping the company grow and scale internationally. Our goal is to focus our efforts on the UK, Europe and expand into the US in the next 12 months.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely not... I always used to worry about this and I know plenty of people do. I admire those who are able to map out their careers, even just the early stages - but that was not me. When I was at school STEM subjects were pushed for uptake by girls, which I’m sure has helped shape my journey. When I left school, I went to university to study a subject I found interesting and whilst I was there I found my niche. Coming out of university, I joined a tech start-up because I loved the idea of being in a company where the work you do has a meaningful impact. The tech start-up platform focussed on aggregating data from IoT devices - one of which was an environmental sensor. Having the ability to monitor indoor environmental quality in real-time through the use of technology was amazing to me. What was even better was the creative freedom to form solutions that made this data meaningful. In all honesty, my career so far has been a series of events driven by my passion for science and education, and opportunities that I've grabbed with both hands.

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

The first and biggest challenge I faced was landing my first job. It is an incredibly competitive playing field out there, with so many talented people, that getting yourself noticed is really quite hard. I was rejected for a number of roles to begin with, which I’m sure many people can relate to, but I have always been driven, hard-working and optimistic! The right role came along at the right time and I threw everything I had into making the most out of it.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Playing a pivotal role in the creation and development of the AirScore has been my biggest achievement to date. It makes my current position at AirRated that bit more personal - IAQ awareness and education is a passion of mine, I know the certification inside out and truly believe in the value it can provide.

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

Support - 100%. Both from people around me in my personal life but also in my professional career. The teams I have worked in and the relationships I have formed have been pivotal in my success. This extends further to not just people I work with day-to-day, but those I have met at events and meetings over the course of my career.

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

I can not stress the importance of creating industry connections - people love to help and will gladly support and give advice if you just ask. In addition to this, continuing to hone your craft and widen your skill set through courses, joining industry groups with likeminded people and attending events. We will always need to adapt and there are only benefits to continued learning!

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

I think the industry has come a long way - but more needs to be done at school level. If STEM wasn’t such a hot topic when I was at school, I can’t say for sure that I would have pursued the path I did. More and more schools are introducing this narrative for empowering young girls to pursue STEM subjects  - as long as there is equal uptake by boys and girls this should filter through into the industry over the next decade and the dial should shift in a positive direction from the current 17%. I think tech companies themselves could do more outreach at schools to promote technology careers for women and to promote women in the technology space so girls see role models and inspirational figures. I think the film industry can also help - films are a great way to get into the minds and psyche of young girls and change their mindset towards their perceived potential. There is a brilliant film called Hidden Figures about three female mathematicians who are key players in launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit which covers both gender discrimination and racial discrimination at work - films like this are inspiring and they can have a profound impact on women of all ages.

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

Technology is not just coding. I think this message needs to be communicated better. There are more creative roles in technology that aren't talked about enough and the industry continues to look cold and intimidating from the outside. At the moment a lot of the branding and messaging from technology firms is quite masculine and this is translated into the perception of the types of roles on offer. Technology is progressive in so many ways - there are lots of innovative ideas and lots of tech for good causes - it's such an exciting place to be, let's get girls excited about joining it.

There is currently only 17% 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?

The industry needs to see the appointment of more women at senior management and board level. I feel as though I have only seen a handful of female decision makers - this needs to change.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Networking is a favourite of mine - there is nothing better than hearing other peoples experiences and then being able to ask them questions. Sometimes reading or listening to these anecdotes isn’t quite enough! The working world is pretty similar wherever you go so there are lots of good books on business psychology, podcasts for downtime on the train, in the car etc. Films like Hidden Figures and Joy are great for feeling empowered and like you're ready to take on the world.


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