Inspirational Woman: Paula Whitby | Managing Partner, CARAS

Paula WhitbyPaula launched the CARAS brand in the UK in 1997, after becoming one of the founding partners of P&B Computers.

She has almost 35yrs of experience spanning business distribution and developing management software, for the greater good within large organisations. Currently specialising in software solutions for the domiciliary sector, using data to help care managers make better-informed business decisions.

Tell us a bit about yourself, the journey from P&B Computers to CARAS, and your current role at CARAS

P&B Computers was originally formed in 1991, the company built and supplied desktop computers and servers with parts sourced to suit customer specifications. This was a great success at the time but technology progressed at great speed during the 90s, with increasingly available internet, new EEC regulations and the ease for end-users to purchase computer parts direct. Our margins were therefore decreased, and we needed to adapt and investigate alternative products and solutions.

We then found CARAS, a DOS-based software solution that itself had a legacy and was a software solution provider for the care industry since 1988. In 1996, we purchased the software, added it to our portfolio and commenced the journey of re-development and product enhancement to meet client and ever-changing legislative requirements. 26 years in, I am still passionate about CARAS and work as Managing Partner, overseeing all day-to-day operations and ensuring client satisfaction.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really, I initially fell into technology as a career path. I left college after completing a Business and Distribution diploma and began searching for my first full-time job. I came across numerous telesales and field sales vacancies, which all seemed to be connected to IT. At the time this was an industry I knew little about.  I joined a company called Walters’ International which was the first UK computer supplier to officially be approved as a supplier of “IBM compatible” PC’s.  Through learning on the job and attending large computing and technology exhibitions, my real IT experience and knowledge began to grow.

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

I have faced numerous challenges throughout my career. In the early stages at Walters’ it was a struggle to get noticed among a large group. The telesales team was predominately female, and the field sales team and technical engineers were all male. Even when I was offered a field sales position, I was given a van to carry equipment instead of a car as the men had and I was always given the places to visit that the rest of the team did not want to go to. It was a case of perseverance – finding different ways to achieve technical sales and working my way up the ladder, taking a few risks along the way to demonstrate and prove my abilities.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

There are a few large achievements that I am proud of, one that stands out was P&B Computers tendering and winning a contract in 1995 to supply, build and deliver 60 computers in just 10 days to Milton Keynes College worth £50,000. However, my biggest achievement has been the continual development of the CARAS software solution to meet the dynamic requirements of the care industry and to keep up with constant technology and legislative changes, as well as developing our mobile application and most importantly still being here in 2022!

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

I believe that strong and open communication, thinking outside of the box to do things differently and ensuring I can adapt to new situations are three key contributors to my success.

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

My main tip would be to research your sector and stay up to date with industry changes. Ask lots of questions and take advantage of all the communication tools available today. It’s a case of wanting to learn and then utilising your resources to find out the information you need.

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

There are less barriers now than in the late 80s but there is still a way to go. Many technical support teams are still primarily male-orientated especially at the higher level of support escalation. I believe that addressing this is a case of women challenging the bias, taking opportunities when they arise and continuing to push forward.

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

I think that many tech companies need to invest additional funds into addressing gender inequality in the industry and providing more opportunities and education for women.

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?

I think that change for women in tech starts with education. Careers advice for girls should promote IT & STEM careers including science, technology, and engineering. The more girls that are involved in these types of education will ultimately provide a higher availability of talented women in the industry.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are more resources available than you may think. Networking on LinkedIn is important, but other resources are available too such as The Women in Tech Show, Women Tech Charge, and the Women in Tech Summit. Remember that information and communication is key!