Jessica Mendoza

Inspirational Woman: Jessica Mendoza | CEO & Founder, Monadd

Jessica Mendoza
Jessica Mendoza is the CEO and founder of Monadd, the startup on a mission to tackle the dreaded life admin associated with moving home using data and tech – enabling users to change their address, update accounts and cancel services with just one click.

She is also a strategist, speaker and writer.

A volunteer delegate for the UN Women UK 65th commission on the Status of Women, Jessica feels strongly about nurturing and amplifying the entrepreneurial pursuits of womxn – having founded the collective Dreamers // Doers in London and the Inspiration Alliance in NY.

Born in Venezuela, Jessica is today one of only 200 people endorsed by the UK government and Tech Nation with the ‘exceptional talent visa’ in digital technology.

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

I am building Monadd, a platform that allows anyone in the UK to update their address across accounts and also manage their services in one place. Anyone can find us at www.monadd.io or at the EasyID app by the Post Office.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

From a young age I managed uncertainty with planning. It gave me a sense of control and intention on a direction to follow. My career has intertwined multiple disciplines, and all of the areas I have delved into, from marketing to product management, I have planned with intention.

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

From not getting paid fairly to not growing in a role fast enough, there are always challenges that I had to overcome. For every challenge I dived into courses and books. For instance, early in my career I noticed that I was not communicating confidently, I grew up having a quieter and shy demeanor, and while my writing skills flourished, my verbal communication still needed more work to thrive in team and collaborative environments. Thus, I recognised the opportunity to develop my verbal skills to further my career, and took communication classes in my spare time, and also explored books about communication in work settings. The new skills I gained helped me be more confident at work, ask for raises, and move ahead in my career.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Starting and growing a business is definitely the biggest achievement to date.

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

One of the areas that are often overlooked in collaborative teams and anyone’s success is working in a space that provides psychological safety. Psychological safety at work provides an environment where anyone can exert their thinking and ideas without fear of negative consequences, rather anyone can feel supported and encouraged to share, contribute and ask for support. Having the right support networks that provide this safety element have been crucial for my success.

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

  • Don’t try to do it all, start small.
  • If you don’t have anyone to review your code or work, what is the next best way to validate that what you are doing is quality work.
  • Take breaks and properly rest

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

Having the awareness that there are barriers is a first step to dismantling them. BeIng able to recognise unfair wages, unfair participation, unfair selections, and other barriers provides you with the understanding of what actions to take next. As a woman in tech, you can call it out to the other party, you can set the tone of the conversation by exposing the perceived barriers at the start, or you can seek support from others to help you decide what to do next. The action is on your side of the court.

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

Women in tech must be supported not only by companies but peers around them. Men, women and non-cisgender individuals should have the awareness of the unconscious biases that occur in the industry at large. Companies have the responsibility to make work environments be safe and fair, from recruiting practices to perks provided by employers that allow women in tech to grow and sustain a good living balance. In the case for startups or companies with limited resources, it starts with acknowledging the gaps, sharing good values, and providing fair wages and recruiting practices for women in tech.

There are 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?

Fair recruiting and hiring practices to increase the number of women in tech in the workforce.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Masters of Scale is a great podcast for anyone building a business or looking to scale a project


Emma Ash

Inspirational Woman: Emma Ash | Co-Founder, YoungPlanet

Emma Ash

Emma Ash is the co-founder of YoungPlanet, a business she runs with her husband, Jason Ash. 

YoungPlanet is an app which helps to find new homes for toys and children’s goods that would otherwise sit unused gathering dust or end up in landfill.

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

My husband Jason and I started YoungPlanet around two years ago. It’s now both of our full-time jobs. Before this, I enjoyed a career in luxury goods PR and marketing before becoming a Director at the accessories company Stella & Dot.

YoungPlanet is an app which helps to find new homes for toys and children’s goods that would otherwise sit unused gathering dust or end up in landfill. The main focus is on helping families to reduce waste and become more environmentally conscious. But it also helps parents receive high-quality things for their kids for free, which can be of huge help to many families, especially at the moment.

The app works by providing a ‘cashless’ platform based on a sharing economy model. Parents can list or request a range of different children’s items; from books and clothes to toys and baby equipment. If more than one person wants the same item, the app uses a gamification system to prioritise those who need them most or have donated more items in the past - incentivizing a circular system of giving.

We started working on the YoungPlanet app around two years ago and ran a small pilot in London last year. This year, we’ve expanded beyond the capital which has been really exciting - we now have over 35,000 users from across the UK.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I had plans in my 20s but once I had children, everything was on pause for a while. However, I knew that I wanted to do something creative and fulfilling. Being a mum is the most wonderful job, but having a project or business helps you to retain your identity and be your own person. I wanted to do something different from what I did before, which was in PR and marketing. I needed my next career move to fit in with life as a mother.

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

When I worked in Paris, it was in a very hierarchical old fashioned company. Men held all the key positions and women were in assistant roles. I remember tenaciously pushing for a bigger role with more responsibility which the company was reluctant to do but, after 2 years, they eventually upped my pay grade and role. Other assistants were shocked and it certainly upset the apple cart.

This scenario is a reminder to always have confidence in yourself and your ability - don’t be afraid to be assertive to get what you want.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date has to be launching YoungPlanet - it’s something I am really proud of because I can see how we are helping to change mindsets and communities for the better!

Creating the app has been one of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve had. We’re helping families to be more environmentally conscious by making it easier for them to make sustainable choices.

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

Being tenacious. It’s important to not be defeated by failure or loss and learn from your mistakes. I’ve had points that have been really difficult but it’s about how you come back from those difficulties that define you, not the mistakes that you make. Sometimes you just need to keep going until you find a way...

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

Back yourself! You are your greatest endorsement so champion your achievements and make sure others know about them too! A practical tip for this is to catalogue your successes as you go along - whether that’s on LinkedIn or in a notebook. Sometimes, when we experience failure or if we’re having self-doubt, it can be hard to remember what we’ve done well, which can perpetuate this cycle of imposter syndrome that we can experience. Making a note of your career highs will help you when times get tough and you can look back and remind yourself of what you’re really capable of.

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

There are certain barriers in the industry, and there’s, without doubt, a kind of uniformity to the sector. That said though, as the sector broadens to involve more of the ‘why’ than just the ‘what’ of possibility in tech, the sector will inevitably diversify across age, gender and so forth. The more tech as a sector begins to deliver as an enabler of consumers in everyday life, the broader it will inevitably become as a sector both in and of itself.

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

Obviously, companies should set a good example by supporting parents through a maternity and paternity leave process and have systems in place such as offering flexible hours, that make the return to work easier for women who’ve just had a baby and so forth. If an employee is working flexible hours, they will be doing the work asked of them (and more) and should not be penalised financially either. More balanced gender representation throughout a company's hierarchy is important too, and there simply should be more women in Boardrooms in the UK. I am optimistic though - as the workplace becomes more focused on both outputs and outcomes, the siloed inputs will inevitably become less dominant.


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.


Natalia Pereldik

Inspirational Woman: Natalia Pereldik | Co-Founder, Funexpected

Natalia Pereldik

Natalia Pereldik is Co-Founder and CEO of Funexpected LTD, developer of the Funexpected Math app, which aims to help children aged three-seven years acquire mathematical thinking, and become comfortable with math from an early age.

Following a career in the investment banking industry that spanned over 15 years, Natalia Pereldik co-founded Funexpected in 2018, and is responsible for managing the overall operations of the company.

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

I’m Natalia Pereldik – Co-Founder of Funexpected company and the Funexpected Math app, which helps kids aged 3-7 years acquire mathematical thinking, and become comfortable with math from an early age.

After graduating in 2003, specialising in Mathematics, I went on to study the same subject at MA level. I spent the following 15 years in investment banking, and worked my way up to Executive Director level. However, once my first child turned three years old, I realised that I still had a huge amount of passion and love for mathematics, and co-founded Funexpected with a former classmate of mine, Alexandra Kazilo. Together we developed the Funexpected Math app.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all. Five years ago, if you had asked me what I would be doing in the next few years, I would never have thought I would be the Co-Founder of a company making educational products for children!

This spontaneity might have stemmed from the fact that I am genuinely interested in a wide range of quite differing fields. At school, I wanted to become a journalist, then changed my mind to a theatre actor - before finally opting to go into mathematics.

While I was at university, I understood that I was never meant to be a researcher, and switched my gaze and started studying economics. It was at this point where I decided to go into investment banking. Those years in particular were very exciting, but after my second child was born I felt that it was time for  a change - and that’s when I decided to become an entrepreneur.

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

I definitely have, but I guess this is true for most careers. I would say that the biggest challenges for myself came with co-founding the company. Though in the years leading up to Funexpected, I was working in quite a tough industry, I still needed to get used to the amount of failures that an entrepreneur faces. It took a lot of grit and determination - but you get used to it eventually and we got there in the end.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without a doubt, Funexpected has been my biggest career achievement. We are still a young and small company, but more than 100,000 families worldwide have installed our app already. I am extremely proud of our team, and so grateful to the parents and families who have chosen to use our app.

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

My family. They have always believed in me and I have enormous support from my husband and kids in everything I do.

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

Firstly I would say that you have to be ready to learn constantly. Fields and industries are changing so rapidly that you can’t afford not to. I would also advise anyone to find great mentors. I would say this is universal for any career - learn from people. Not only will they teach you what they know, but they are likely to inspire you as well.

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

Unfortunately, I think there are, and they begin at childhood - from families and in school. Many still believe - and support - the idea that their daughters are not very well suited to STEM. Sometimes, this is a subconscious decision. A parent or teacher will be trying to support a child while she is struggling with her work, telling her phrases like “Oh, that’s okay, you just aren’t a maths person.” And the girls just lose all enthusiasm for the subject.

Then again, the percentage of women in the STEM industry is low, and quite often girls feel that they need to be really ‘outstanding’ to be successful. I think that the more women role models we see, the sooner we will move away from gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, it’s still going to take some time before we get there.

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

For now, I believe that it is very important to ensure that there is a healthy percentage of women in different teams. We need initiatives that help women to find mentors and support their move to more senior positions.

It’s also imperative that we work with children and the educational system, that we speak with parents and change this bias (subconscious or not) in their attitude towards their children. Very often, we find that a kid’s opinion of mathematics, for example, is already decided upon by the time they are 12-13 years old. It’s so important to show children different opportunities and scenarios before that.

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?

To change this biased attitude that many have about girls being bad in STEM fields.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

Personally, I take inspiration in reading about the paths of other women and in speaking with them about their experiences..

There is a great group on Facebook called Female Founders Community, where female founders of businesses across the world come together to share their experiences and offer advice for others.

There are also some really interesting TED talks that discuss the roles of women in tech in great depths. Two I would specifically recommend would be ‘Why do ambitious women have flat heads?’, given by Dame Stephanie Shirley, and ‘Why we have too few women leaders’ from Sheryl Sandberg.


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.


Caroline Noublanche - Apricity

Inspirational Woman: Caroline Noublanche | Founder & CEO, Apricity

Caroline Noublanche - ApricityCaroline Noublanche is the founder and CEO of the world’s first virtual fertility startup, called Apricity. 

Apricity’s digital solution provides access to world-class fertility advisors and assists patients with a fully customised journey, all easily navigated through a mobile app. It also uses AI to develop tools to maximise chances of conception for women.

Caroline Noublanche is an experienced entrepreneur. Before launching Apricity, she co-founded mobile app Prylos which, aged 27, she sold to Swedish giant Doro AB in 2011. Later she joined the AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’. Caroline also promotes a truly diverse workforce, with women making up four out of five of Apricity’s C-Suite.

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

My journey as an entrepreneur started fairly young. I founded my first company, mobile app developer PRYLOS, when I was 27, and sold it to Swedish telecoms giant Doro AB in 2011, where I became vice president.

More recently, I joined AXA-backed incubator Kamet Ventures as an ‘entrepreneur in residence’ to help them build and launch disruptive startups in the health tech space. I recognised that IVF had experienced very little digital transformation in the past 40 years and was an area in need of disruption - this led me to found Apricity, the world’s first virtual fertility clinic, in 2018.

Traditional fertility treatment is one of the most stressful and emotionally draining journeys you can go through. Apricity manages a fully-customised treatment journey that’s easily navigated through a mobile app. It matches patients to world-class fertility experts, where they can enjoy virtual consultations, and to counsellors who are available for virtual sessions seven days a week. Our aim is to make sure our patients can do as much of the IVF treatment from their homes as possible, and are emotionally supported from beginning to end. This has proven particularly important in the context of COVID-19, where remote consultations and tests have been the only option for most patients.

Working alongside some of the leading fertility researchers and AI specialists, we’re also developing cutting-edge products that better understand the factors affecting fertility and maximise the chances of conception. As CEO, my main role is to lead the business’ growth and momentum, while continuing to provide an excellent service for our patients.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I wouldn’t say I sat down and strategically planned it, but it’s always been important for me to see a clear trajectory to my career. I’m someone who’s always looking to improve and develop, and the diversity of experiences and roles I’ve had throughout my career have given me the opportunity to build a strong professional skill set.

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

Something that comes from being very driven is that sometimes you have to understand that not everyone is going to care as much as you do. I always expect the best from the people I work with, but the reality is you can’t expect people to always be on their A game all the time. That said, if a colleague is consistently underperforming, it’s important to be very upfront and transparent with them. Those conversations can be challenging but they’re an inevitable part of running any business.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I’m not very good at reflecting on my achievements, as I’m constantly looking towards my next milestone. So as soon as I’ve achieved a goal, I’ll consider it done and put all my focus on the next goal - but I’m trying to take more time to reflect as I think it’s an important thing to do!

At Apricity, one of my biggest achievements is helping to scale and grow the team in such a short space of time. What started out as a team of three in 2018 is now a team of 35 across three offices, only two years on. But overall, I’m most proud of what we’re working towards on a day-to-day basis - we’re a company with a truly meaningful purpose, dedicated to helping people through one of the most pivotal things they’ll ever experience.

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

I’m very driven by nature and I like to channel that energy into the rest of my team. I’m always keen to share my visions with them, and to encourage and inspire motivation about what we’re working towards. That ability to look ahead has definitely helped me to date - as a startup, you always need to be aiming towards the next thing.

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

Never stop questioning yourself. Even if you’re doing a good job, you have to continue looking at how you can do things better. At Apricity, we have three core values for how we approach our work - excellence, care and empowerment. In technology, particularly in the healthcare domain, you should always be striving for excellence - that’s not the same as striving for perfection, which we all know doesn’t exist.

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

Barriers definitely persist for women in tech - the proof is in the statistics, as tech companies today are still predominantly male. It's also true that in specific job roles, developers being a prime example, it’s more difficult to find female talent - this comes back to the need for more inclusive STEM learning at the early stages as well as more role models for young girls to look up to.

There is also the very real factor of ‘imposter syndrome’, a recently coined term which disproportionately affects women. As a CEO, I’m acutely aware that women are less likely to proactively ask for a promotion or pay rise, as society doesn’t teach women to be confident and assertive in the same way it does men. Hopefully this is starting to change though.

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

Tech companies need to be more rigorous when it comes to onboarding women at all levels. At Apricity, more than 50 per cent of our workforce is women, which is something I’ve made a conscious effort to maintain.

I also see it as one of my responsibilities to mentor the women in my team, by helping them grow in confidence and develop their skills. When I hear someone doubting themselves, I notice it and try to help them question those thinking patterns. Female leaders are naturally in a much better position to help enact this change, and this is why it’s so important companies are hiring women at the top. Likewise, it’s important for women to see more female representation at a senior leadership level so it becomes normalised.

Last but definitely not least, companies need to make sure their working practices accommodate working mothers. Too often, women still feel they have to choose between having a great career and a family because their workplaces don’t sufficiently adapt to fit their needs - this should absolutely not be the case in 2020.

Currently only 17 per cent of tech positions are made up of 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? 

If I could wave a magic wand, I would magic up more female role models in the world, including perhaps a female president of the United States or in France (where I live). Germany and New Zealand are great examples of countries led successfully by women. I think having major global role models like this goes a long way in showing younger generations what women can achieve.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I recently read a great book called ‘Lead With Respect’ by Michael Balle, which I’d recommend. The story follows the dialogue between a female CEO and an IT customer and is centred around different use cases within the practice of lean management, a leadership style we follow at Apricity.

I’d add that networking opportunities are also an essential resource and something women don’t always consider high priority, but end up sacrificing for lack of time. I’d recommend always helping others and trying to do favours where you can, as you never know when you might want a favour from them in the future.


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.

 

 


Charly Lester featured

Inspirational Woman: Charly Lester | Co-Founder & CMO, Lumen

Charly LesterCharly Lester is co-founder and CMO of Lumen.

Lumen is the first app-only dating platform for over 50s.

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

I'm co-founder and CMO at Lumen - the dating app for over 50s. We launched last September, and already have over 1.5 million users worldwide. Six years ago, I fell into working in the dating industry when my dating blog '30 Dates' went viral. I ended up working at The Guardian as their dating editor, then at Time Out as their Global Head of Dating. My first business - The Dating Awards - launched in 2014, an industry awards for the online dating industry. The Awards started in the UK, then spread to Europe and the US, making me one of the leading voices in the sector. After 4 years running it, I had tried and assessed most dating apps and websites out there, so when my co-founder suggested we launch a dating app for over 50s, I jumped at the chance to create a product which directly tackled the issues I knew consumers faced on other apps.

I run all of Lumen's marketing, and a huge part of that is tackling the way society views over 50s. It’s a demographic people haven't designed apps for before and they are extremely undervalued and misrepresented. I spend a lot of time trying to make our brand and our advertising as 'pro-age' as possible.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Haha, never! I did Law at university, a Masters in Broadcast Journalism and then I went into banking (after a few gap years travelling!).  What I love about my career is that it has shaped itself, and I have ended up designing a role for myself which suits me down to the ground. As I look back at what has got me to the position I'm currently in, there are so many skills I picked up from other jobs which are so useful to my role at Lumen. We've launched the app in five countries so far, and every time we launch, I have to do interviews on live TV. Who knew my TV journalism experience would come in so handy?

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

When I launched my first business I didn't have any female friends who ran companies. I didn't know anyone else who had taken on that risk, and I can genuinely remember really doubting my abilities.  There were lots of ups and downs involved with running a business for the first time, but I wouldn't change any of it because I learned so much along the way and realised what I'm capable of. Probably the biggest challenge was other peoples' preconceptions and fears. My own parents died when I was a teenager, but my friends' parents have often worried about my decision to step away from a 'traditional career path' and take risks. There have been many times when they haven't really understood what I was doing, and have told me as much. I had to learn to understand when to listen to other peoples' concerns, and when to take them with a pinch of salt.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Appearing as a judge on the final of The Apprentice when one of the candidates designed a dating app was a pretty big career high. I also spoke at the Oxford Union in a debate about the existence of true love (my debate partner was the creator of Love Island!) - probably the most daunting evening of my life! And thanks to Lumen at least three couples have already married, hundreds live together, and hundreds of thousands of people have met - that's a pretty amazing feeling to know you have quite literally changed someone's life.

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

I always break things down into small steps. In my spare time I run ultramarathons and Ironman triathlons, and a huge part of that is breaking something huge and unmanageable into small steps. I know how to pace myself, and I never let the final goal daunt me. That's the same attitude I apply to business. No matter how slowly I'm moving at times, I'm always moving forward.

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

Find mentors you admire and trust. When I first started working in the technology team at Time Out, Ellie Ford was Head of Innovation. She is one of the most inspiring women I know, and about 10 years older than me - Ellie is so intelligent and I learned so much from her. Knowing who to go to to ask vital questions - including what to do with my career when my role was made redundant - was a huge part of my career progression, and five years later I can still hear her words of advice.

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

When I look at the teams at Magic Lab (Lumen's parent group) there are still departments which are heavily male, despite us trying to hire as equally as possible. Women and equality are really high on the agenda, however tech companies still need to have women in the hiring pool in order to employ them. Part of the issue is educating women that certain roles are for them just as much as they are for men. The barriers start right at ground level - treating little boys and little girls exactly the same. Making them understand no hobby is gender-specific, and neither is a specific career. And then helping women to ask for progression and the salaries they deserve when the time comes for that.

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

I was at a talk recently by Caroline Criado Perez and she was saying that it's not just a case of getting women to ask for the pay rises or promotion they deserve - if that's not the way most women behave, why not adapt the way pay structures and promotions work to better accommodate female ways, instead of accepting the 'male way' as the norm.

There needs to be total transparency in all companies about peoples' salaries - this is where our 'Britishness' has let us down - because the women still bear the brunt of our desire to be discreet and not talk openly about money.

I also think we need to be more flexible with work arrangements, not just to accommodate working parents returning to work - but also to get the best out of people. I for one know I get far more done working on my sofa at midnight, than I do sitting in an office at 8am.

There is currently on 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?

Teach coding to all children from age 11 - mandatory. My dad was a computer programmer and I am so gutted I didn't learn to code from him when I was a kid. It is such an incredibly valuable skill and would certainly change a lot of women's job options after school or university.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?

I've just finished reading 'Invisible Women' by Caroline Criado Perez. That, and 'Lean In' by Sheryl Sandberg, is impossible to read without stirring up your inner feminist! I used to try to attend a lot of Women in Tech events, but now I also try to encourage as many women to attend events for everyone.  There is nothing more depressing than turning up at a tech conference, and seeing a panel of all white men on a stage.


ransgender-woman-holding-mobile-phone-featured

Launching a new platform

ransgender-woman-holding-mobile-phone-featured

Article provided by Emma Sayle, Founder and CEO Killing Kittens, Safedate and Sistr

The very essence of our online lives – from social media to personal banking- has been built on successful tech platforms, yet so many platforms struggle to deliver on their investment, with an estimated 50 per cent of all UK start-ups failing. 

As women still only represent a significant minority of these start-ups – not to mention only a third of all entrepreneurs in the UK – launching a new tech platform as a woman can be an even greater challenge.

Researching, planning and timing are the cornerstones of a successful launch. First, you need to push aside assumptions and perceptions about what you think your users want and find out exactly what the need is, who is going to use it and why users would want to engage with it.  Take a step back and make sure you have allowed for enough time to research and understand your target audience. It is all too easy to trip up on preconceived ideas that have been badly tested, if at all. Consider that you will feasibly have more than one audience for any given function, and not all users will access the platform in the same way. Ensure that you have considered how your platform will appeal to different user groups.

One of the biggest failures people make when launching tech platforms is not giving enough time to this crucial research stage, as they are often caught up in the pressure and excitement to get the platform up and running.  When we decided to build our Sistr networking platform for women to connect to other women in business, we already knew we had a loyal customer base of clients who recognised that we were 100 per cent committed to female empowerment.  However, we still invested in an initial soft-launch to check our proposition with a smaller group of users. By choosing a niche area like this – in our case it was a group of loyal customers - you can retain a much stronger sense of control instead of trying to launch too broadly in an effort to capture every type of audience.  This is where thinking smaller can really pay off in the first stages of going to launch; you have to be absolutely clear about who you want to attract to the site.

Businesses are only going to know what their audience really wants if they have invested time talking to them in the first place.  Allow plenty of time to really engage in some serious networking to find out what it is that interests them and where that gap between wanting it and having it lies.  We spent over six months talking to our audience but it was worth every minute of the investment because we had 700 members signed up within two weeks of the soft launch.

The importance of this open communication is just as vital after the launch as it is beforehand.  Customer feedback will be the DNA of your platform as you move forward, helping to keep it as user-friendly as possible and with relevant content and easy functionality. We have now surveyed our initial members to find out what they think of the Sistr site and the type of content and services they would like to see in the future.

It is this feedback loop that will ensure the continued relevance of the site to our users. The reciprocal nature of our networking platform meant we not only had to attract women to the site who wanted mentoring and support, we also had to ensure that women offering advice and mentoring ( all for free)  saw the value in giving up their time to others. Getting this balance right between user and provider is another critical success factor for a platform’s longevity.

Not everyone competing in the tech industry is from a traditional tech background and women more than men have long been unrepresented in this area.  My own background was very much off-line, having originally developed Killing Kittens as an events business, so launching into the highly competitive sex-tech industry was a huge learning curve for me. But for every woman who is out there trying to do it, there is a woman somewhere who has already stepped in those shoes and knows exactly what you are going through.

Much more still needs to be done to attract and encourage more women in enterprise whether it is setting up their own businesses or having the confidence to launch a platform.  Things are slowly starting to move in the right direction, thanks in large part to the wealth of knowledge and experience that female networking groups can offer their peers, something which I am extremely passionate about as an integral part in helping women achieve greater representation in business.

This type of supportive infrastructure means greater access than ever before to experts who can help support women with all elements of their business proposition; from helping them develop and perfect their business pitch to putting them in touch with a variety of investors and different funding options. Evidence has shown that a supportive network and peer support have been proven to positively influence the success of new businesses; hopefully as we move forward with greater representation in the tech sector, many of those businesses will start to be female-led.

Emma Sayle featuredAbout the author

Emma is the Founder of Sistr, a platform that enables professional businesswomen to network, offer advice and mentor each other.

Find out more at sistrapp.com. You can also sponsor Emma and the rest of the Sisterhood for their Channel Swim.


Clémentine-Lalande-featured

Inspirational Woman: Clémentine Lalande | CEO, Pickable

Clémentine Lalande Clémentine is the CEO of Pickable, a world-first dating app. It offers privacy for women whilst dating - which is otherwise public on other similar platforms.

Pickable is ideal for women who are worried about being recognised or dislike too much online exposure.

A keen entrepreneur, Clémentine has worked with various start-ups at C-suite level. Early on in her career she joined BCG in Paris but got tired of the monotony. Her career took a change of direction in the form of working for a number of venture capital companies. Clémentine is passionate about doing business for the greater good and has spent time working in investor funds with businesses in developing countries such as Haiti and Uganda. She has also spent some of her career in Argentina and Columbia.

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

I envisioned Pickable in 2018 when I realised how much men were still leading the game in the online dating world.

I have previously worked on another dating app, Once. During my time at Once, I managed to scale up the app use from two to ten million users worldwide. I met with thousands of women who expressed a need for more privacy, discretion and control in the online dating world. I decided it was time to change the game by creating Pickable, an app that protects women’s privacy and enables them to browse anonymously.

I have over a decade of experience in technology and business development. I have also had the privilege of living and working in many countries around the world. I have also spent time mentoring various start-ups at C-suite level. I am proud to call myself a mentor in various start-up founders’ networks. Before that, I was a venture capital investor and strategic adviser at BCG.

In my spare time, I am a jazz singer and songwriter. I live in Paris with my two children and my husband.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not exactly. I studied industrial engineering at university and worked in venture capitalism. Now I am the CEO and founder of a dating app - the two do not exactly go hand in hand!

I am driven by intellectual rigour. This is how I make most of my career choices - I like to surround myself with brilliant people who inspire me. This is how I have made sense of all my decisions retrospectively.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

One of my biggest challenges is taking time to disconnect and 'switch off'. This is something that I have only learnt over the last few years. At university, I studied difficult sciences (mathematics and physics) so alongside my studies, I developed an artistic parallel life. I use this as a method to balance my brain.

I am a passionate musician and singer. I always allow time to myself regardless of what happens during the week. Even if I have a busy schedule, an investors emergency or a childcare crisis, I always continue to learn. I have toured with a jazz band, tried my hand at song-writing and I also recorded three EPs with my previous band. I also study lyrical singing as a mezzo-soprano and have taught myself the piano. This is the way I manage to disconnect myself so that I go back into work full of energy and recharged.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

The worldwide success of Pickable is one of my biggest achievements. Following the launches in new markets, Pickable became the number one trending app in France, Italy and Austria. We have recently launched the app in Switzerland and in Germany. It will be very exciting to see the outcome of both launches.

Other than my career, my children provide me with pride daily - alongside exhaustion!

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

A strong mindset and constant hard work.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I am proud to be a mentor in various start-up founders’ networks. Every year I take on one or two start-ups that I coach on various topics. These include fundraising, strategy, planning, operations and recruitment.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I have loved following the media attention of the ‘Me Too’ movement. There is a clear split between men and women and I am delighted that this has caught the attention of the press. I am also delighted that many governments have got involved in the issue. The 'Me Too' movement has created a platform to prevent discrimination and enforce gender balance.

It is wonderful that many enterprises have pledged to drive change. This is due to the issue becoming more and more visible - both internally and externally. The progress is slow but I believe that with further innovation and technology we will begin to see change. Hopefully, I’ll be able to tell you more in a few months!

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Never allow someone to tell you something is impossible.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I would love to develop another app based on a brilliant concept that I discovered in Germany. There is a campaign called ‘Pinkstinks’ which finds sexist advertisements online. It then reports and makes fun of them with the help of a community. I plan to develop an app based on this concept which spots


Inspirational Woman: Louisa Spicer | Software Engineer, Echo

 

Louisa Spicer is a Software Engineer at Echo.

Echo was founded just over three years ago and already has 100,000 patient downloads so far and a Net Promotor Score of 83. Echo is on the NHS Digital app store, one of the approved digital tools available to patients, and is an NHS GP Systems of Choice, which ensures GPs and practice staff have access to the best technology to support patient care. Echo were also recently awarded the Best British Mobile Startup 2018 at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and won the 1st Mayor of London MedTech Business Awards last month.

Echo is a prescription management app which empowers patients in the UK to take control of their health and has the potential to significantly ease the strain on health services. In the UK, 40 per cent of patients do not take medication as directed, costing the NHS billions each year and leading to approximately 20 million unnecessary GP appointments. Echo is on a mission to transform the future of healthcare, and is the first app to improve lines of communication between GP, pharmacist and patient.

On the app, patients are able to order repeat prescriptions when stocks are running low- and will also receive reminders for when to take medication and when to order more. Echo also seeks to improve communication lines between GPs and their patients, making sure that information is clear and informative without being either patronising or too clinical and therefore hard to understand.

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

I’ve grown up loving anything and everything to do with the Creative Arts. Finding it difficult to choose what career path to take, I just went with what I was most intrigued about at the time - the theory behind the cinematic arts. I graduated with a degree in Film Studies and went on to become a Digital Producer at a media agency. This involved helping to oversee Film and TV asset deliveries to various digital platforms like iTunes and Netflix.

I soon started to miss being able to express myself through some form of creativity though, so I started looking for other career paths that would satisfy this. That’s when I discovered the world of coding and haven’t looked back! Just over a year and a half ago I wrote my first line of code and attended an intensive 3-month coding bootcamp, Makers Academy, where I learned the very basics of Software Craftsmanship required to land a job as a Junior Developer.

I am now a Junior Software Developer at Echo; part of a team building many exciting developments of an internal software application. There’s always something new to learn and that’s what I love the most!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I found it hard to pin down exactly what I wanted to do, but the various careers I thought of always revolved around creativity. Unfortunately I didn’t realise a career in Software Development was even a possibility for me until a couple of years ago.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

A major challenge of mine was having the wrong mindset. It’s a typical story but it was/is hard to get over that “imposter syndrome” feeling and thinking that I’m not the right kind of person to be “good” at coding, due to many factors including not having the typical Mathematical or Technical background that a Computer Scientist graduate would have. This cloud was at its peak when applying for my first job as a Developer, carrying over well into that job too.

What really helped me to overcome these thoughts was being told about the Growth Mindset. In the most basic terms, this is just about realising there’s no limit to what you can achieve if you’re persistent and open to putting the effort in.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

To always be treated with fairness and equality. What more can you ask for?

How would you encourage more women and girls into a career in STEM?

Show young girls (and boys) how creative and fun a career in STEM can really be. As much as I appreciate that I was free to choose whatever subjects I wanted to do at secondary school, I’m sure I would have been willing to learn more about STEM fields at an earlier age if I had more guidance from teachers on the exciting range of things you can do and build.

There’s an amazing amount of free or cheap online courses to learn and play with code - this means that it’s now easier to develop skills in your free time, at whatever age.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Believing in myself enough to commit to learning to code and not stopping when it gets tough.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

To gain more confidence and keep growing my coding skills to the next level so that I can pass on some knowledge in the future. It would be amazing to build up enough confidence to get out there and be more active in the movement to help inspire and guide more girls and women into STEM.


Jillian Kowalchuk featured

Inspirational Woman: Jillian Kowalchuk | Founder, Safe & The City (SatC)

 

Jillian Kowalchuk is the founder of Safe & the City (SatC).

Safe & the City (SatC) is a London-based software technology company that uses geolocation tech and Met Police data in its app with the aim of preventing sexual harassment against women and girls on the streets - from wolf whistling to serious crimes such as rape. The app will be launched on 8th March.

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

I was born in Canada but spent my early years in Yemen, where my family was based until the Civil War of 1994. Spending time abroad and away from my native country as a child propagated this type of nomadic lifestyle throughout my life. I am an avid solo traveler and visited over 50 countries to date. I've also worked in various countries, including Uganda, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and now the UK. During these travel and work experiences, I was exposed to the different situations and living conditions of people. These immersive experiences also made me familiar with serious issues to these countries or cultures not always open for discussion, but still profoundly impactful.

This is where my passion lies to improve equality and address difficult topics. It was because of that I pursued my MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and utilised my psychology degree to advance behaviour change programmes to prevent infectious diseases, like HIV/AIDS. After my studies, I worked as a global public consultant at various private and public organisations, as well as a researcher at UCL London.

I am now the Founder and CEO of Safe & The City, an active advocate for gender equality, and on a mission is to eradicate a different kind of epidemic, and one usually invisible to many – sexual harassment.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My career path has been a windy one. After my second year of University, I lost several close family members, including my Mother and Father, which made me determined to dedicate my life to a field I could be passionate about and fulfilled by, but this experience also left me feeling confused in where to begin as a young adult. After finishing my Psychology degree, I knew a few answers to this puzzle, that I needed to be equipped to positively impact and help others. I decided the best course of action was to immerse myself in a multitude of fields to gain invaluable life experiences, travel the world and ultimately to learn about myself and find my dream career. I experimented in various fields and countries spanning social work in New Zealand, sales in Australia, teaching in Japan, to a business analyst in Canada. This hit an apex when a close friend graduated from Public Health and the knowledge I accrued, led me to focus my career aspirations in this field.

However, like many things in life the plan doesn't always go to plan and soon after graduating from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, with a focus on HIV/AIDS prevention and behaviour change campaigns, and moving permanently to London when Brexit happened, many of the public jobs were cut.

With London rich with data and support for innovative businesses, I started to learn how I could structure my diverse skillset into a field where I could realise the impact I wanted to have.

Tell us about the Safe & the City app?

Safe & The City is a GPS safety app, which aggregates annoymised open data on crimes, street lighting, business opening hours and crowdsourced experiences of sexual harassment, violence and potential environmental /urban instigators to these (i.e malfunctioning street lighting, dark passageways, etc) to provide alternative routes where women feel safer. We display this data to our users and provide data-driven insight on problematic streets, how to mobilise resources and create a safer community by everyone walking through it.

As a socially-driven enterprise we will use data to prioritise individuals’ safety starting in London. From our learnings here, we will develop a minimum viable model (MVM) to scale to other global cities to quickly and effectively respond to the dynamic, demanding and challenging nature of metropolitan cities. We are in our early stages with a small team need so in need of funding/investment, strategic partnerships and supporters who are aligned with our vision that every woman and girl has the right to feel safe while walking.

Do you think campaigns such as #MeToo and #TimesUp can actually bring about change?

Absolutely, I think sharing and storytelling our experiences through different mediums, like social media, can raise awareness, educate and spur conversations on the topic. However, it can be a fine line and we've seen many campaigns quickly come and go so the key is to find tangible everyday solutions, like Safe & The City, where it is no longer the trending topic but we can relate to the environments we walk through or locations we know to understand sexual harassment are everyday realities for many people.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

This is a challenging question, in part because of a lot of the barriers women face in the workplace, like sexual harassment, are masked, hidden or dismissed. My hope would these could be front and center to the discussion so solutions could emerge as a collective.

How would you encourage other women and girls into STEM careers?

It makes a very small impact to focus energy, resources and time to encourage individual women and girls to move into STEM careers. I believe we need to profile other women in STEM so diversity is early on recognised to children and create policies, incentives, and targetted efforts, to not only encourage the study of STEM subjects but maintain and grow into leadership positions in their career to bring their perspective to solve difficult challenges we all face.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It's hard to qualify one achievement as I appreciate the journey that's gotten me to where I am today. However, I would have to say launching Safe & The City has been my greatest achievement to date because it is a unique concept I developed, inspired others to join me on this journey and putting it into millions of people hands to start to see the difference it will create.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

The launch of Safe & The City will be a milestone of achievement, but one with many unforeseen challenges as well. Our aim is to create an impactful, successful and scalable business to move into the Global South and other vulnerable communities to start tackling social issues that affect our safety in public and workplaces we have the right to feel safe.


Bumble featured

Dating giant Bumble launches female-first professional networking app

 

Bumble
Bumble, the mobile dating app, has introduced Bizz, a career networking function where users can make professional connections.

Users can also upload their resume, write details of their education and experience, and fill in a professional bio. Bumble is the first app of it's kind to combine 'swiping' left or right with an emphasis on 'female-first', as women must send the first message.

Launched in 2014 by Whitney Wolfe, one of Tinder's founders, the app now has 20 million users worldwide. Bumble Bizz will launch in the USA, Germany, Canada, France and the UK today, and aims to make connecting with professionals much easier.

By letting women choose who they want to talk to, Bumble claims that Bizz will “help clear up the gray areas in networking that often make women feel uncomfortable,” Bumble told The Verge.

As well as looking for employers who may be hiring, the app will also let users find 'mentors'. These will give advice, answer questions and provide live mentoring sessions. The app will include photo strict verification tools to ensure the authenticity of all it's users, and will be completely free.

Bizz will allow users to upload a digital CV, as well as fill in 'skills' sections to showcase each users talents and accolades.

A portfolio can also be added to each profile so that potential employers or mentors can get a feel for your work before matching with you.

In an online statement, the company said:

"Bumble has facilitated over 350 million women-led first moves and had over 3 billion messages sent."

"We designed Bumble to be a platform that encourages positive, impactful interactions in love, friendship, and now business."

"The group stresses that the app is for “networking and mentoring, not job searching or recruiting.”

However, Bumble’s own HR team will be on the app, as Bumble has committed to hiring 10 people discovered through the Bizz app.