Chloe Booth featured

Inspirational Woman: Chloe Booth | Chief Product Owner - Tech Talent, Nationwide Building Society

Chloe BoothChloe’s tech career started when she joined IBM Global Services as a STEM graduate.

She has since worked for multiple financial services organisations over the course of her career including; Zurich, AXA, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse and, currently, Nationwide Building Society.  She has held a variety of roles in her career; systems tester, application support, market data infrastructure specialist, PMO, and project and programme management.  More recently, she has led strategic programmes and held the role of Head of Technology Strategy at Nationwide Building Society, defining how their investment in technology would be leveraged.

Chloe’s current role is Chief Product Owner for Tech Talent, with the mission of attracting new technologists to Nationwide Building Society and helping it to feel like home to them.

Outside of work, Chloe is lucky enough to be a trustee for Play Gloucestershire, a brilliant children's charity, and to be the co-founder of an online network for working women – Women at Work – which she helped to grow from scratch.

Chloe lives in Gloucestershire with her family.

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

My first degree was a BSc. (Hons) in Physiology, which I studied at the University of Edinburgh. My claim to fame from studying Physiology is that my research was published in the Journal of Neuroendocrinology and I was the first person in the world to photograph the GLUT-5 (glucose) transporter in brain cells.

Following my degree, I joined IBM Global Services in Edinburgh, marking the start of my technology career.

I have since worked for multiple financial services organisations over the course of my career including; Zurich, AXA, JP Morgan Chase, Credit Suisse and, currently, Nationwide Building Society.  I have held a variety of tech roles in my early career; systems tester, application support and market data infrastructure specialist before transitioning to programme management. More recently, I have led strategic operational programmes and held the role of Head of Technology Strategy at Nationwide Building Society, defining how their investment in Tech would be leveraged.  I recently studied for an MSc. Leadership and Management at Loughborough University which I loved, and I’m secretly itching to do a PhD!

I’m also lucky enough to be a trustee for Play Gloucestershire, a fabulous children's charity, and to be the co-founder of an online network for working women – Women at Work.  Women at Work is a hive of almost 3,000 women who share their work experiences and wisdom to help each other.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I didn’t when I was younger; I do now. However, I would caveat that as the technology world is changing rapidly, new roles are being created all the time.  Therefore, I think it’s only possible to plan in detail for a 12-24-month horizon – however as a good friend reminds me, it’s good to have a personal BHAG (a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) for where you want to get to.

I also think it’s all too easy to go where you are asked to work-wise, especially if you have a reputation for doing complex work.  Therefore, I really recommend taking the time to reflect on where you want to go, vs. where others may want you to work, and build it into your plan.

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

Whilst not a career challenge as such, a significant life challenge which impacted my career was the birth of my eldest daughter Lucy, who was born profoundly disabled. Whilst I had been hugely ambitious in my twenties, the shock and sadness that I felt at the time hit me from leftfield and left me winded. As a result, my ambition waned.

However, there is a very happy end to this story. We have built a life where Lucy is happy, as are my other children, but one where I am able to go out into the world and create the impact that I want to have.  There were times when Lucy was small when I used to believe that we would never be happy again, and that my career was over. Thankfully I know now that neither of those things are true. I have been lucky that my current employer has supported me in being able to have plenty of new opportunities, including being sponsored through an MSc. I have always been able to be seen there as ‘Chloe Booth’, rather than being viewed as a parent carer, which has helped me significantly.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Leading the team that delivered Nationwide’s Tech Strategy, which underpinned a £4.1bn investment in technology over a five-year period – it was fascinating, stretching content and the team were fantastic. We covered a lot of ground in a relatively short space of time.

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

Resilience.  There have been times in my career when things haven’t gone the way I’d have liked them to and the biggest lesson has been to get back up and move on again. I believe that the quicker that you can do this, the quicker you are moving yourself onto being ready for success again. I think that it’s important to see these moments as ‘masterclasses’ – opportunities to learn how you would approach things differently in the future.

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

Invest in your personal development.  Learn new tech skills, try new roles, read books, stay curious, ask for help and opportunities, listen to others career stories; just don’t wait for someone to say that they are going to sponsor your development. You own your journey. It took me a long time to realise this and it’s a life lesson I wish I had learnt sooner.

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

Yes, I believe that there are still barriers for women working in tech.

The market is largely male dominated at present, so it can feel isolating at times to potentially be the only woman in a team; it’s therefore key to build a wide support network both internally and externally to your organisation.

Lack of flexibility in working hours, or access to childcare, can also prove an obstacle.  Organisations can really help with this by introducing greater flexibility around the ways in which people work and to switch the focus to ‘outcomes, not hours. Decent provision of shared leave for both parents is also key in helping women to come back to the workplace on their timetable.

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

Firstly, make it easier for both men and women to work flexibly and dynamically.  With the advancement of collaboration tools, it is getting easier and easier for companies to offer dynamic working – which makes it far easier for parents to balance work with home life.

Secondly, help lift the profile of women working in tech, so that their work is visible across the organisation. We need to amplify the ideas and contributions from tech women – mentoring, coaching and sponsoring women helps to make a real difference.

There is currently only 15% 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?

Whilst not an overnight fix, I think greater promotion of STEM subjects in schools would make a significant impact to the female tech talent pipeline over time. I was lucky to have a Dad who strongly encouraged me to do STEM subjects at school and University, and I’m glad that he did.

In the shorter-term, I would love to see more men join the conversation around gender equality in tech, and for all of us to lift and celebrate the careers of women working in tech. We all have a responsibility to help others and to create new opportunities and greater visibility for those women who are wanting to progress. We recently created a mentoring programme for both men and women technologists at Nationwide called #BUILDIT, and I’m excited to watch everyone’s journey through the programme.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love podcasts. From a tech perspective I really enjoy the Wired and TED Talks on Tech podcasts. Looking more widely I’m a fan of the following podcasts: Stuff You Should Know, The Economist, Work Life with Adam Grant, Masters of Scale, The Guilty Feminist and Conversations with Remarkable Women.

My favourite work-related books are ‘The Big Leap’ by Gay Hendricks if you are looking to get ‘unstuck’ in your career, ‘Fierce Conversations’ by Susan Scott for having better conversations at work and ‘Physical Intelligence’ by Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton if you want to understand how your physiology plays a role in how you show up at work.

As for website recommendations a firm favourite is www.remarkablewomen.co.uk by Danielle Macleod and Nic Devlin, which I delve into when I’m looking for some inspiration or a kick to do better.  I wholly recommend following these two superwomen on LinkedIn for motivation to be more and to bring purpose into your work.