Hayley-Sudbury-featured

Inspirational Woman: Hayley Sudbury | Founder & CEO, WERKIN

 

 Hayley Sudbury

As an openly out LGBT+ female tech entrepreneur, Hayley supports professional LGBT+ communities through WERKIN’s CSR programmes, and sponsorship and support of Lesbians Who Tech.

The technology developed at WERKIN allows more LGBT+ professionals to be visible and supported in their careers. Externally, Hayley is committed to creating a fundamental shift for the female, LGBT+ and BAME talent pipeline and uses her technology to support mentoring programmes for a number of LGBT+ organisations, including Lesbian and Bisexual professional women, and OUTstanding. Her company is a UK partner of Lesbians Who Tech, providing support by hosting and sponsoring the London Summer Party. She is also an active mentor in the Stemettes programme, currently mentoring a female BAME undergrad computer science student.

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

I am Hayley Sudbury, founder and CEO of WERKIN, the company I built with my cofounder to bring tech-enabled sponsorship to global organisations. I founded WERKIN after a career in finance. Though I enjoyed the challenges and satisfaction of that career, I saw an opportunity to use technology to make industries like finance more inclusive, particularly in senior positions. Of course, if I had chosen a different path, I'd be a professional jazz musician, the track I started out on!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I've just had major pivots and have been open to the universe and throwing myself into opportunities as they come. In high school, I wanted to become an architect or professional musician. I met with my careers counselor and took a test that said I should be a counselor. I grew up in a family business so it wasn't so radical that I would follow the path of an entrepreneur. I made a conscious decision to move into large corporates early on in my career to have some big corporate experience in my journey, starting in the energies sector and then finance.

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

I've had several roles that required me to be extremely resourceful to deal with trouble areas. It's about recognising what you can do in a particular situation and who you can influence about what's happening and make changes.

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

Unconscious bias. That's the key to change, dealing with people's biases and building understanding. I don't think I am in control of that.

How do you think companies and individuals could be more inclusive?

At the end of the day, it's about getting people signed up to create an environment where people feel truly comfortable about bringing their wholes selves to work. It's important to encourage everyone to embrace that. The way you work needs to be inclusive if you're going to create an environment for everyone. One easy way for companies to do this is by joining the INvolve network. They’ve worked with our teams to help harness LGBT+, ethnic minority and female talent and foster inclusive cultures. We’re working to drive a positive change in the workplace.

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

Mentoring is key to your professional and your life journey. How you work, how you live, the people who guide you along the way. It's not just about formal mentors, it's the sponsors who raise your visibility. We are looking to democratise mentoring and sponsorship. Not everyone has the time or know-how to be a mentor, we want to help more people to have that experience. I am an active mentor. I am still being actively mentored myself by technology veterans who have been there and done it.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My current company. I am actually doing something that I love. I have my cofounder that I love working with. We are commited to this change and now product and market fit together to make it happen. The time has aligned with more attention being paid to help companies be better versions of themselves. Companies are open to change behaviour which makes a difference to individuals' careers.

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

Help global companies change the mix. We have focused in the UK, but now we are looking to the US and are hoping to scale our company globally. We are scaling up our London-based company. We also want to enjoy the ride and have fun doing it. The journey is the reward. That is absolutely how I feel about what we are doing.


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.


women-in-finance-featured

Raising funds as a tech entrepreneur

women-in-finance-Jessica Jackson, Investment Director at GC Angels, offers advice to female founders seeking funding to grow their business and stresses the importance of understanding the options that are available.

Raising investment for the first time can feel daunting. For many, securing finance, be it through debt or equity, is completely new and it can be difficult to understand the options, let alone make a call about which is best for your business and its needs.

The Alison Rose Review highlighted that awareness of, as well as access to funding are the two most common issues faced by female entrepreneurs, whether running a start-up or an established company. It also reports that female-led businesses receive less funding than those headed by men at every stage of their journey – but why is this? The report argues that women typically have higher risk-awareness compared to their male counterparts and are more cautious considering financial products. Women typically don’t have the same professional networks that male entrepreneurs benefit from, and are therefore less likely to know other entrepreneurs or to have access to individuals and organisations that are in a position to support them as they navigate the complex finance landscape.

Although the review states that it is difficult for female founders to find the right support in accessing finance, it’s important to know that there are a plethora of organisations and networks working cohesively to advise female founders. One such example is The Knowledge Transfer Network. Part of Innovate UK, they are actively working to support female business owners through its Women in Innovation programme. The network consists of universities, funders and investors who facilitate idea sharing, and encourage founders to embrace opportunities to innovate and scale to the next level.

Whilst it’s advisable to tap into any networks or organisations, the first point of call should be to gain an understanding of the different types of finance and which situations they are best suited for. This will help you make your own financial decisions and provide clarity on what you should be seeking.

Debt finance

This type of funding works in the same way as debt in everyday life – if you want something immediately but don’t have the required funds, you can take out a loan and pay it back later. In business, that funding could make a huge difference in striking a deal with a major supplier when you need to scale up on your stock levels for example. Debt is a great option: it’s quick access to finance which can increase working capital, allowing you to invest in growth. The downside is that the loan will accrue more interest the longer it takes to pay off, but hopefully the benefits of being able to grow your business quicker will far outweigh the costs of taking out the loan.

A good example of this is YourZooki, a premium liquid supplements brand our Debt team at GC Business Finance has worked with recently. The firm took out a £150k loan in February this year in order to invest in a new warehouse and create four new jobs. This was followed up with a second £150k loan in June, after the company had doubled its turnover in just four months, which has allowed it to increase its stock levels to cope with unprecedented customer demand.

Grant funding

Unlike a loan, grant funding does not require repayment. This type of finance is often overlooked by entrepreneurs as it can sound too good to be true, but it’s definitely worth checking your eligibility for business support. The Government website offers a useful tool to help business owners identify the various different grant schemes, which can be filtered by region and sector. It’s also worth discussing your options with your Local Enterprise Partnership or Growth Hub – you can find yours via the LEP Network.

An institution we work closely with is Innovate UK, which provides government grants to helps businesses “develop and realise the potential of new ideas, including those from the UK’s world-class research base”. This year, Marion Surgical, a company building a next generation suite of surgical simulators through virtual reality, received backing from Innovate UK alongside an investment from GC Angels. The funding allowed the company to invest in new projects, as well as create five new jobs.

The Knowledge Transfer Network is also a partner of Innovate UK, and is working hard to help female entrepreneurs with start-up grants, of which applications from female business owners has increased by 70 per cent since 2016.

Equity finance

Equity finance is the process of raising capital through the sale of some shares in your company in return for cash. The money can then be used to take on more staff, purchase equipment or invest in product development, which can in turn increase the value of your stake in the business without the worry of having to pay off loans and accrued interest. This can be useful for startup businesses which have not yet turned a profit but are showing signs of rapid growth – much like many innovative technology businesses we are seeing emerge today. However, the only downside is that you will no longer own the entire stake in the business, but there is real value in bringing an investor on board as it allows you to tap into their knowledge and expertise – they want your company to grow just as much as you do!

We have backed many excellent women founders with equity funding, and it has allowed them to take their businesses to the next level. In January this year, GC Angels co-invested as part of a £260,000 equity funding round in Immersify Education, a Salford-based EdTech start-up. The company provides learning tools for university students using augmented reality, interactive animation, gamification and personalised learning. Whilst the founder, Chloe Barrett, had launched a research-driven pilot across eight universities, she required capital to build out her development team and prepare her product for the market. Following the investment, the company is now targeting an official launch in the 2020/21 academic year.

Stories such as Immersify Education show what founders can do with the right funding behind them; all the more reason why it’s staggering to see that only one per cent of venture capital funding in the UK goes to all-female teams. GC Angels is striving to invest as equally as possible into entrepreneurs with funding ranging between £100,000 and £2m. Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because it is estimated that up to £250bn could be added to the UK economy if women started and scaled their business at the same rate as men.

If that doesn’t inspire you, then you could always attend our events in Greater Manchester. Before the COVID pandemic, we hosted regular ‘#LaterPitches’ and ‘We Smash Barriers’ events – something I am keen to restart once social distancing guidelines are relaxed – providing ambitious women with the opportunity to hear and learn from other successful female business leaders.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


Dr Larissa Suzuki featured

Inspirational Woman: Dr Larissa Suzuki | Computer Scientist, Author, Engineer, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist & Inventor

Dr Larissa SuzukiI am Dr Larissa Suzuki, I am an award-winning passionate computer scientist, authorengineer, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and inventor.

I am neurodivergent, and I hold the titles of Associate Professor, EUR ING, BSc, MPhil, PhD, CEng, FIET, FRSA, AFHEA, IntPE. My career includes +16 years working in engineering. I work at Google as a Data Practice Lead (AI/Machine Learning, Smart Analytics and Data Management), and I am a Google AI Principles Ethics Fellow. I work on developing and testing the Interplanetary Internet with Vint Cerf and technologists from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and JAXA. I am the Chair of the Tech London Advocates Smart Cities Group, a reviewer of grant/awards of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the IET, and the ACM. I am a Council Member of the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering Ambassadors, a Committee member of the Grace Hopper Celebration and the ABIE Awards. Since 2003 I've actively worked towards increasing the representation of people of all kinds in Engineering and Technology.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes I do. I find it helpful to work on my Personal Development Plan (PDP), setting my goals for the short-, medium- and long-term goals. As you work on your PDP, you will realise that the moonshots you set for you and that seem to be too farfetched are achievable. I work with my mentor (Vint Cerf) to bring the best version of myself to the workplace and my personal life.

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

I did have to face challenges that, unfortunately, are very common to other women. In 2015 my PhD work was plagiarised and published in multiple forums. I then started a battle to own the copyrights of my work and a campaign for women's history in computing to be re-written. After one year of hard work, I managed to secure the IP of my Ph.D. and published it as a book dedicated to all women who've been erased from history but paved the way for many astonishing engineering advancements. In a more severe case, I have encountered brutal racism and sexual harassment in my previous employment. To my surprise, I was told that if I reported the issues to HR my career would be over. As an employee with neurodevelopmental disabilities, I did not know what to do. A mentor advised me to resign to escape from further abuse, which is what I did. Unfortunately, these issues still prevail in organisations that do not focus on creating a safe, fair, and dignified workplaces for all female tech workers.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I believe that succeeding in technology and engineering, despite all the adversities, has been my most significant career achievement. On a project side, working on the Interplanetary Internet project with Vint Cerf and colleagues at NASA and JAXA, and making a historical feat in connecting clouds with the Interplanetary Internet. Communicating from Earth to any spacecraft is a complex challenge. When data are transmitted and received across thousands and even millions of miles, the delay and potential for disruption or data loss is significant. Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN) is NASA's solution to reliable internetworking for space missions. My work on DTN helps us testing and enhancing communication protocols that will potentially be used in space missions.

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

The primary factor for achieving success in my career has been a combination of hard work and curiosity. A career in engineering is not a straight path, and the great thing about it is that you can become what you want. I believe this is one of the many unique perks of being a computer scientist: just following your passion and working on things that matter to you the most, no matter which field of science they fall into. My inventions and work have advanced many fields of computer science and engineering, including smart cities, data infrastructures, machine learning, emerging technology, and computing applied to medicine and operations research.

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

If a person is interested in computer science or engineering, I would tell them to forget about the stereotypes, bring all their previous learning with them (tech and engineering is very multidisciplinary), and not worry if they haven't got a technical degree. Everyone can become what they dream of being. I am confident that if someone dreamt about becoming a change maker, a career in engineering would enable them to create the solutions that will change the world.

For someone already working in the field, I would tell them that I've learned that the most challenging problems and the most significant engineering opportunities are not technical. They are human. You will use what you learned at UCL to create the engineering solutions that will change the world, and like the generation before us, will also solve the many problems that engineering and technology bring. You will create new jobs, give machines and the built environment the powers to think, discover cures for illnesses and save our nature. As you can see, engineering is about human survival. And the best way to solve those problems is to have more people in the room with different voices and views. Be activists for that. In the end, what matters is not what you build. It is the teams you build and the positive impact you bring to the lives of people who will make use of what you create.

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

I believe many companies have not yet realised that "belonging" matters more than anything else. The United States alone loses $64 Billion every year to replace employees who left due to unfairness and discrimination. Belonging is central to every aspect of our humanity. It is a universal need. When we feel like we belong somewhere, we feel we have found a home where we can group and be respected there. When we fear our differences, we then deny the connections we share. Company leaders who feel uncomfortable tackling this issue is the very own definition of privilege. For someone already working in the field, I would tell them that "to yield and not break, that is an incredible strength". I have learned that there is no such thing as failure. You will realise it was life moving you in a better direction. Fall but fall forward, as I did. Don't be afraid, be comfortable in your own skin, uphold your values, your culture that will help you when it's time to fight for the job you want, for that promotion, and for the kind of society you want to live in.

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

Companies should foster belonging. We move towards belonging when we celebrate and value our differences and our similarities as a group. When there is no othering of individuals of any identity, it can connect people by co-creating our world together. Belonging expresses itself in many different ways, and each one of us has a special relationship with belonging. But the imperative rule of belonging is that it can only succeed if no one is excluded. Belonging never requires anyone to sacrifice what makes them unique, different and special. Belonging is not "fitting in" or "mimicking" others. The real sense of belonging is co-creating spaces, groups and institutions and collectively designing how it will operate and help humans to thrive. Innovation, creativity, and empathy is most likely to come from parts of us that we don't all share. When we take on this journey together, we move away from the idea of myself and them to a future of a collective unity - "we". It is a long journey full of remaking. Like puzzle pieces, leaders should bring us together without trimming away of anyone's irregularities. The rules, values and expectations to bring those puzzle pieces together are made with everyone in mind so that no one needs to check parts of themselves at the door. When you design well for people of all kinds and abilities, you design well for everybody else.

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?

Though women in computing have been pivotal in creating unique modern technology, their story is not one that's often told nor celebrated. Instead, great tech women pioneers have been all but erased from history, and that needs to change. If I had a magic wand I would make them all visible to inspire the generations to come. Their ground-breaking work can serve as an inspiration to both girls and boys alike.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I strongly recommend the TED talks of Dame Steve Shirley and Brene Brown. They are uplifting and full of insights. Their books are also sensational and I recommend that everyone reads "Let it Go" and "Daring Greatly". The Grace Hopper Conference is a conference that every woman technologist should experience. It is life-changing and immensely empowering. If you are neurodivergent, I recommend that you follow Autistica, LimeConnect, and my blog AUsome in Tech.


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.


Founding a business: What I learnt along the way

Lysa Campbell, CEO of Retail Marketing Group

Lysa Campbell is an experienced agency leader with a successful background in creating business growth and diversification. Lysa is now leading Retail Marketing Group as CEO for the UK, having joined the agency in 2018.

Here, Lysa shares what she has learned throughout her career journey and what founding a business has taught her.

Embrace the university of life

Looking back at where my career started, I see myself as being educated in the university of life. Coming from a small town and leaving school with just one O-Level, I had to decide the path that I wanted to take. At the time I didn’t know the world outside of my tiny bubble and would describe myself as being quite insular, so when I joined a world-leading film and entertainment studio in my early 20s, I was thrown into a completely alien environment.

The studio had an incredibly male-centric, ‘work hard, play hard’ environment. I benefited from having some brilliant role models and learned so much that still stays with me today. Yet, I also saw things that I knew I didn’t want to take forward into my own businesses, from bullying to sexism. Being passed over for a promotion in favour of a less experienced and qualified man - because I had just started my own family - was a turning point and I left shortly after. The experience taught me to stick to my principles regardless of how difficult the decision is, and this is something that was put to the test again in my next company. Moving from corporate to agency side, I had a much more senior role and enjoyed helping the company grow significantly to an £11 million turnover in the five years I worked there. However, with the company increasingly investing less back into the business - compromising my integrity with my team and clients - as well as difficult changes in my personal life, I saw an opportunity to have a fresh start. So, in 2008 I decided to start my own business.

The eight years I spent building and growing my first business were not easy. Through many mistakes and moments of doubt, I learnt that the most important thing that I could do was to make time for reflection. We can only learn in hindsight, so understanding how what you did yesterday will impact today and tomorrow, is an important evaluation for any leader.

Be a brave leader

I have experienced my fair share of imposter syndrome throughout my career, and I know that this is a common feeling for many women in particular. Moving into the technology sector, I doubted my abilities to lead my team when I had such a limited knowledge on the subject. Yet, I quickly learned that as a leader, it wasn’t necessary for me to have an in-depth, comprehensive understanding of all the technology in order to be successful; my team are the experts and my primary role is separate to that.

As a leader, one of the best things I can offer my team is bravery: showing my team that I am prepared to make difficult decisions, show my vulnerability and confront reality head-on. I had to prove this trait to my team early on in my career, when I had to make the choice to fire a client because they weren’t the right fit. My team had raised their concerns with me and it was my responsibility to listen, understand and act in order to show my loyalty to the team. At that stage, our agency was dependent on the revenue, however I was grateful to recognise the potential long term impact my inaction would have, including a negative work culture or losing the trust of my employees.

Being vulnerable, open and honest with your team goes a long way to earning their trust and respect. Doing so, as I have seen myself, will earn people’s loyalty for many years to come.

Embrace the ‘work-life balance’ cliché

In recent years, the advice that you should find a perfect work-life balance has become incredibly overused and clichéd. Most people know that it’s so much easier said than done, particularly when it’s your own business that’s at stake. However, I have learnt to remind myself that working all hours just doesn’t deliver results; great ideas come to me when I’ve taken a walk on my lunch break, or after I’ve taken a few days off work. A rested, clear head will mean you are wildly more productive and creative than if you’re living off a few hours sleep and swathes of coffee. Encourage yourself to step away regularly: it will pay off for both you and your company as a result.

Developing your career, starting your own business and achieving your goals is never going to be straightforward. But, by surrounding yourself with great people and embracing the mistakes whilst leading your team with integrity and bravery, you will be rewarded with loyalty and support: something that any business owner cannot do without.

Lysa CampbellAbout the author

Lysa Campbell is an experienced agency leader, with a successful background in creating business growth and diversification. In 2008, Lysa started her own agency with only two staff; seven years later, the agency had a turnover of £9 million and over 2,000 staff. Now, Lysa is leading Retail Marketing Group as CEO for the UK, delivering a sustainable business plan whilst constantly innovating and transforming its offering.

To find out more about Lysa’s work at Retail Marketing Group, visit: https://www.retailmarketing.com/

 


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


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.


Inspirational Woman: Dominnique Karetsos | CEO & Founder, The Healthy Pleasure Group

Dominnique KaretsosWith a preference for working in disruptive industries and challenging environments, Dominnique Karetsos specialises in growth for sexual health technology start-ups.

Dominnique Karetsos is instrumental in shaping the next generation of sexual health tech brands entering the market and has a true entrepreneurial calling for being part of the sex tech revolution. An established business & brand architect, entrepreneur and innovator, BBC radio broadcaster, Dominnique has nearly two decades of experience delivering results in multi-sector business transformation.
Previously Head of EMEA Intimina for the world’s leading intimate lifestyle company, LELO Group, she is focused purely on sexual health, wellness and technology.

Dominnique now invests and/or sits on several advisory boards. She also co-founded Forbes featured agency, Healthy Pleasure Group, the only integrated agency dedicated to Sexual Health Technology start-ups and Intimology Institute - the school for sexual wellness, with business partner Dr Maria Peraza Godoy.

Healthy Pleasure Collective work with award winning innovations and brands, pairing the latest technology, branding, communications, investment and distribution to generate powerful and lasting innovations that are the motors for economic and social change and to bring more value to our to sexual health.

Dominnique can be seen spreading the word of Healthy Pleasure as Sex expert & Industry speaker on the likes of Forbes, Giant Health, Oprah, Women’s Health, Shape, Bustle, Elite Daily, BBC, TNW, Well & Good, Voice America Radio, Pure Edit.

Dominnique is a key contributor to trend immersion report for consumer insight behaviour including Canva8 and Fashion Snoops.
Healthy Pleasure recently featured in Forbes.

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

Personally, I have been a successful and failed entrepreneur since I was 13 and selling alcohol-free perfume balms in South Africa. I come with a masters in Maritime  and international trade (the Greek blood in me). My love of people and how we move through the world, how we behave and engage with sexualities transcends beyond fascination but drills into how our self-efficacy and sexual identities are our most impacting social and economic life motors. I went from commercial zoning of the oceans to be a business / brand architect & entrepreneur/ investor for 15+ years, but it was my curiosity eight years ago being a co-host on BBC Radio London, coinciding with being a new mum of a daughter and a financially crippling divorce that led me on a  personal journey spotlighted the intrinsic value pleasure and my healthy sexuality contributed to living a fulfilling life.  So I left my successful career for significance and joined a leading adult brand as head of their EMEA and learned the lay of the recently coined SexTech landscape. This space is grossly but not surprisingly polarised - we have family planning or porn and as far as women's sexual health goes we have been historically ignored and underserved. So I realised then we had a lot to do to democratise sexual health for women, dismantle the entrenched social constructs we abide by as women, reposition sex as something ot be explored, empowered and healthy and build the foundations for the internet of smart sexual wellness, health and tech. Tech is the solar plexus of this movement. tech is the facilitator to close the trifecta between sex and health. Be it a smart vibrator that helps us communicate to our partners what we desire in the bedroom (Mysteryvibe.com)  an STI testing and sharing platform (iPlaysafeapp.com) to verify our safe sexual status, to reengineering pleasure products for trans women ( my-exo.com), tracking our hormones (elara.care), biotech printing of skin for FGM victims (HP Group Lab)  to a The School of sexual wellness, Intimologyinstitiute.com

Today I am immensely proud to say I am surrounded by business partners, teams, my soul sister co-founder Dr Maria Goddoy, all of whom are trailblazing changemakers. As Ceo and Founder of Healthy Pleasure Group , we are powered by fiercely curious and proven experts committed to democratising sexual health and bringing all their worldly entrepreneurial and unique skills to define and reshape this challenging landscape, every. day.

Healthy Pleasure Group is an ecosystem in essence. We have The Agency - an end to end incubator type offering where we take you to market from concept to shelf. By taking brands to the market we lead the way for a new sexual wellness landscape and consumer behaviour.  The Lab - this is were medicine, science and research meet to create innovative solutions to our problems that historically have been ignored and finally, The School of Sexual Wellness. this is an online platform for sexual enlightenment where education is authentic and delivered by credbile experts.

Lead. Launch. Learn is what powers our mission to facilitate the connection between sexual pleasure and our overall health and wellbeing. Our well-engineered experience in Sex, Health and Tech is proven because we understand that  Human-centric technology is critical to not only help brands but their customers to value this part of their health but drive the cultural conversation that sexuality is something to be embraced, researched, and experienced – not hidden.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. I only knew it had to involve travel, people, stories, risk, and reward and it was always powered by passion and led by curiosity. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and only my grandfathers were educated. My greek grandfather a diplomat and politician while my south African grandfather an esteemed criminal attorney dedicated to defending African communities during the apartheid era. I planned my need to learn and be educated, academically and worldly education and I knew I had an immense desire to blow shit up and change taboos.

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

Yes. From day one. Being one of few women in the world as a maritime logistician, this was ( and maybe still is) exclusively a man’s world. I encountered sexual harassment, discrimination, minimizing of my thoughts, ideas. Sometimes it was because of age, sex, maybe my attitude. I can communicate this now because I have the language to name it. At 24 I only knew it was not right and something felt wrong but never had the language to name the problem, no one to tell it to and no social media to share it  and call it out. I worked in fortune 500 global companies and even there, I was instructed to stay in my lane - not stay in your lane and make it your own type, more like a don’t colour outside of the lines. When I got brave enough, I dealt with each challenge differently but a running theme for me has been something my father taught me. He used to say that what other people thought of me was none of my business. The only control we have is to listen and how we then react is ruled by the attitude with which we listen with.  I apply this to all my challenges from sexual harassment to conscious uncoupling through a crippling divorce so that my daughter maintains a loving relationship with her father, to overcoming loss, everything really.

Challenges are not unique to me alone. We all go through them, but these ones specifically  I truly believe were all in preparation for my turn to play my part in revolutionising sexual health for human beings. I know this is where I am meant to be and I am forever grateful. I have been walked out of meetings, laughed at, hissed at, all in the name of a menstrual cup. 4 years later and that very same retail outlet has a sexual wellness category in 200 stores with that very menstrual cup. The very same investment houses that asked me to pitch without saying the word sex or vulva are investing in sexual health brands and smart vibrators. As an industry category, Sextech is categorically excluded still. ED can be advertised on Facebook but not vibrators for women. We still encounter double standards. In VR tech women are few and far between in this space. VR equipment is still designed and built for men’s faces. The same can be said for PPE equipment. It was not long ago that you could ask apple suri where to buy adult entertainment or book a sex worker but ask it where to go after you have been raped and the answer was, “sorry I am not able to help you.”

Is it changing? Yes. Thanks to #MeToo movements, mainstream media and more women and men demanding change, innovation and solutions that relate to their problems. So we are headed in the right direction. We are not close to home though.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Today. right now. I have the privilege to dream big and believe bold. I get to blow up shit, disrupt and build. I get the chance to work human-centric first and do it with brands and people that want the same. To travel the world and be given the opportunity to listen to others stories and share mine. My career for the first time is led by my curiosity and not by necessity.

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

Kindness. From others to me and from myself to myself. It is the currency of our future.

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

I think this applies to any industry but learning the value of NO. Understanding that saying no means you understand your value and by saying no you are saying yes to the right or better opportunity which is true to your calling. Tech is still dominated by men and as women we are often raised to believe that saying no is being rude or we are not a team player. No means only one thing. No.Nothing more nothing less.

Don’t be afraid to ask for an expert opinion or support from others. People really do want to help. I challenge the idea that women are each other's worst enemy. EGO is the enemy. There were many who lifted me up and took me with them. But only when I asked for help and I knew exactly  what I wanted help for did I start to see my career move in the right direction. If you don’t ask the answer will always be no. Cliched but true.

There are so many opportunities to get involved in Tech today. As Peter Thiel explains “There is no reason why technology should be limited to computers. Properly understood, any new and better way of doing things is technology.” decide what you want to do in tech, where you want to learn or innovate the change and then go for it. Take the chance. Believe in yourself.

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

Yes, there is but like most industries, I believe the way to overcome it could be to concentrate our effort in three areas: Innovation ( for women, by women), Investment and Education.

All three have their own barriers but when we work to break all three together we will see this industry fast track. As consumers, women must demand innovation that resonates with  our issues and wants - we hold the purse strings and roam 50 per cent of the planet. We need more investment houses dedicated to female founders and entrepreneurs, companies like HerCapital or the Case for Her and the biggest catapult is Education - we need to encourage women to believe in themselves and go after a future in engineering, STEM, medical etc but one the ways to do this is to raise girls seeing what we asking them to imagine and that is  she can change the world.  She needs to be  raised with the positive beliefs and self-efficacy that she too is worthy to her voice, her choice and her opinion.

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

 Invest in women. Innovate for women by women. Make education accessible for women. We need to take other women with us. Not this, ”I'll send the elevator down for them” speech. Instead do the work and take women with you on your journey to the top.

There are currently 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?

Hahah I think you know my answer by now. I would make funds available for investing in female founders, education accessible and put even more magic over what we are doing to democratise sexual health for women.

I must confess that I would love to see women experiencing pleasure as part of their healthy daily habit, having the ability to express and request what we want sexually, as a standard indicator for empowerment. When we give ourselves permission to validate our erotism and sexuality without guilt and through pleasure, becoming responsible for it and generating a healthy speech towards ourselves, recognising our differences in sexualities. When we can do this only then we close not only the orgasmic gap, but any gap that we are able to close in bed will translate into our surroundings…we will ask for a salary increase, surely we will able to choose, study and exercise male-defined careers, we will raise our kids with a different sense of gender equality, we will become aware that our equality lies in our differences, not the other way around.

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

Podcasts:

Learning:

Reads:


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.


Sukhi Jutla

Learning from my mistakes | Sukhi Jutla

Sukhi Jutla

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I have won a number of awards (such as the WeAreTheCity Rising Star Award).

Some might think that awards like these come from always doing the right thing at the right time. But I believe that awards like these are awarded to those who do more than just get things right. They are given to those who make many mistakes and experience any setbacks but still find a way to push forward.

Just ten years ago, I was working in the corporate world; I ticked all the right boxes and was doing all the things I felt I was supposed to be doing but felt miserable inside. I have now reinvented myself as the entrepreneur I feel I was born to be. I am now the co-founder and COO of MarketOrders. Whilst it has been a lifechanging experience, my journey was peppered with numerous mistakes I made.

Mistake one: Not believing I could be an entrepreneur because I wasn’t like Richard Branson

I learnt to understand that entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Each entrepreneurial experience is molded by individual personalities; not all of us are extroverts, and that’s fine. Find your key strengths and play to them, as this is exactly what Branson does and why he does it so well. Be authentic to yourself. I have recently published a book, ‘Escape The Cubicle: Quit The Job You Hate, Create A Life You Love’, which offers advice on how people can identify and work with their key strengths.

Mistake two: Not trusting my intuition

There was a significant learning curve whilst changing my mindset from being a corporate employee to an enterprising entrepreneur, and often times I felt out of depth. In the early days of being an entrepreneur, I often prioritised the opinions of others rather than trusting myself. However, I found that each time mistakes were made, it was almost always because I had ignored my initial instincts. Developing self-confidence has taught me how important it is to be aligned with your decision that you are making, as opposed to years of experience. Have courage and confidence in your own choices.

Mistake three: Being my own worst critic

Not all decisions will lead to the outcome you desire. As an entrepreneur, bad decisions cost you time and money which are two key resources that come in short supply to a start-up. The desire to make the right decision is, therefore, even higher. However, sometimes no matter how much you listen to your instinct or take precautions to mitigate the risks, things might not turn out the way you expect them to. I have taught myself to let go and not give myself such a hard time when things go wrong. Accept it, move on and learn from the experience, whether it is good or bad. Don't let any experience go to waste.

Mistake four: Not saying ‘no’ enough

In the early days of MarketOrders, I wore myself out. I saw myself attending every workshop, taking every meeting or call and taking in every bit of information possible. In hindsight, I can see why I did this; I was afraid that I would miss out on the next big deal, or information that would be vital to the business. I almost ended up accepting funding from a Venture Capitalist because I thought it would make the business look bad to turn down money that MarketOrders so desperately needed. Now, I know that it is essential to learn to say no, so that you are able to say yes to the things that really matter. Looking back on my journey, turning down the £250,000 from a VC was the best move I could have made. Saying no to ‘bad’ money, has lead me to our Crowdfunding campaign which is now live and doing well. The whole process of crowdfunding has taught me so much, and I am so much more grateful for the outcome.

Mistake five: Taking things too seriously

Owning a startup comes with a lot of responsibility. You are accountable for others’ careers, their livelihoods and wellbeing. As a founder, you are required to be a number of different roles at the start; you are the legal team, marketing team and finance team, and it can get overwhelming. In the early days, this often caused me to burn out.

If I could go back, I would advise myself to enjoy the journey and the process. It’s important to acknowledge that it can be very difficult to accomplish great success, but it doesn’t have to be a painful process. Remember to give yourself a break, savour every achievement whether it is big or small, and enjoy the journey.

About Sukhi Jutla

Sukhi Jutla is an award-winning entrepreneur and author of three books. She is the co-founder of MarketOrders, an online B2B platform for the gold and diamond jewellery industry. She is a leading international speaker, influencer and thought leader in tech and a qualified IBM Blockchain Foundation Developer. She is recognized by a number of industry awards including the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, Management Todays ’35 Women Under 35′ and named a Top 100 European Digital Pioneer by The Financial Times and Google. In April 2018 Sukhi made global headlines when she became the World’s First #1 Bestselling ‘Blockchain’ Author.

MarketOrders is an online marketplace helping independent retail jewellers to source the products they need faster, cheaper and direct from suppliers. Find out more at https://www.marketorders.net/

Connect with Sukhi

LinkedIn: Sukhi Jutla / MarketOrders

Facebook: MarketOrders Official

Twitter: @SukhiJutla / @Market_Orders

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/market_orders/?hl=en

Instagram: Market_Orders

Book: Escape The Cubicle

Website: https://www.marketorders.net/


Shalom-Lloyd-featured

Inspirational Woman: Shalom Lloyd | Founder, Naturally Tribal

 

Shalom LloydShalom Lloyd (BSc MSc Pharm; MBA) is a proud mother of five, a wife, a serial entrepreneur, TEDx speaker and a workaholic.

A global leader for over twenty (20) years in the UK Pharmaceutical (drug development) Industry, Shalom Lloyd is the founder of Naturally Tribal Skincare a company that uses Mother Nature’s gifts to create natural chemical free skincare products in the United Kingdom with ingredients ethically sourced from Nigeria. Shalom is also the Chief Strategy Officer at Emerging Markets Quality Trials (eMQT), a non-profit organisation focused on providing the global pharmaceutical industry access to patients in Africa.

Shalom is a Commonwealth Export Champion, a Mentor, a STEM Ambassador and strong believer in the fact that anything is possible!

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

My name is Shalom Lloyd, I’m the proud mother of five, a wife, a terrific friend and a workaholic. I launched Naturally Tribal when I was a global leader in the Pharmaceutical Industry until in September 2018, I decided to follow my passion and focus on growing my young company Naturally Tribal Skincare Ltd.

I am one of those annoying people who truly believe that nothing is impossible. I am a driven woman who does not shy away from making innovative and daring decisions and resolutely refuses to ever be afraid to ask that difficult question and most importantly, deal with the answer. When I look back and connect the dots of my life journey, where I am today, makes complete sense.

I started my career in the pharmaceutical industry in 1995, an industry I have loved for over twenty years. Building a career in the pharmaceutical drug development arena enabled me work from the ground up into senior leadership roles where I led teams locally and globally – a successful career for which I am grateful.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Physics, Chemistry, Biology – those were the subjects I felt most comfortable with from a young age and they led me to work in an industry I love, where I believe I made a difference.  I was fortunate enough to be given a full scholarship to study pharmacy in the former Soviet Union (Russia). I was 16 when I arrived in Moscow and after a further five years of living and studying in a country to which I arrived without knowing a single word of Russian or knowing anyone, I returned home to the United Kingdom with a BSc and MSc in Pharmacy.

In addition to the language, there were many challenges and barriers to being a young woman of colour in Russia. However, my experience in the former Soviet Union not only nurtured the scientist in me but gave me confidence, determination, tenacity, the will to succeed, the ability to adapt and the understanding that my success or failure is down to me!

In 2014, after several IVF cycles, I gave birth to a beautiful set of twins! One of my twins, Joshua, was covered in eczema from birth and I spent months combining lotions, creams, emollients, teas - you name it - to stop his ‘scratch until drawing blood’ dilemma. I tapped into my African heritage and started to mix raw ingredients from Africa - the scientist in me took over, experimenting and testing using these natural ingredients. Then once I stumbled on the right formula, it miraculously only took three days for Joshua’s skin to become what it should have been at birth.

Naturally Tribal Skincare was born from this personal experience.

I never sat down and planned my career however, what I did try to do was maximise opportunities that came my way. I didn’t have all the answers, frankly, who does? – But I did know that I wanted to be the best version of myself and leave a little mark in the world somehow.

As a girl good at her sciences with no concrete plans, I do know that science and technology are nature’s true gifts. But, when one sprinkles a little innovation into that mix, taking an idea, making it better, demonstrating the value and bringing it to life - the sky is truly our limit!

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Like most people, life is full of challenges and I too have faced my fair share -  challenges as a young woman growing up in Nigeria, as a black woman in the former Soviet Union, as a young graduate trying to start a career in the UK, as a career woman trying to progress and climb that famous ladder, as a woman divorced, as a woman who thought there was a possibility she would not be a mother, as a mother, as a step mother, as a mother of mixed race children, as a wife, as a business person, as me!.

There will always be obstacles and barriers as we go through our life journey however, I do believe that ‘Failure’ is an option! Failure is the first step to success; multiple failures are multiple steps towards success. Name an idol, a mentor, someone you admire who has not failed multiple times to get to where they are. We always view failure as a negative, we call it a ‘challenge’ which sometimes makes it sound not so bad, but failure to me is a positive. As an entrepreneur, I have failed multiple times and that is ok! If we have the courage to stop, retrace our steps, we will see that the failures we have had, have been the drivers and the obstacles we have had to overcome to get to where we are today.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date is my family – As I mentioned previously, I am a mother to five amazing children and a wife to my soul mate. I worked my way up to becoming a global leader in the pharmaceutical industry, starting several businesses, being a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, a friend – it’s tough but my family help me do all of this whilst remaining focused, grounded and at the same time remaining true to my values and ambitions. My biggest achievement is being that cool and fun mum, that role model to my children.

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

Faith!

Faith in myself and my abilities

Faith in people – the few right people in my life

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

When you google the word ‘Mentoring’, it states “Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or more knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person” – I somewhat disagree with google!

Mentoring to me, is a relationship where both the mentor and mentee equally benefit, grow and take something away from the experience. Even the greatest of the greats have/ had ‘Mentors’! When you find a mentor who shares your values, vision, understands and even believes in your crazy, ‘out there’ ideas, your story – you know you are onto a winner.

In a Forbes article by Brian Rashid titled ‘3 Reasons all great leaders have mentors (and mentees)’ he put it so beautifully – “Trying to do great things is difficult. Trying to do them alone is, more often than not, impossible”.

I have great mentors who have just recently come into my life through the Commonwealth and in a very short space of time these mentors have lifted, championed and continue to teach, encourage, push, support, constructively criticize, develop, question and open new doors for me! My mentors surprise me every day, push me out of my comfort zone, give it to me straight and honest. Most of all, they want me to succeed!

“A Mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself” (Oprah Winfrey)

Through my career, I have had the privilege of mentoring some great people who have gone on to have fabulous careers. I am, for the second year running, a proud Cherie Blair Foundation mentor where women are connected and matched across continents to develop a mentor/ mentee relationship where we both grow, learn, empower, develop skills and build confidence.

Within my company, Naturally Tribal Skincare, sourcing the right high quality and premium natural ingredients is the key to our product efficacy. The search for quality ingredients led us to the Kingdom of Essan, Niger State, Nigeria from where some of our high grade and high-quality ingredients are sourced. Today, our business goes beyond the Naturally Tribal range of skincare products and now gives us the chance to make real difference, improving the lives of women in Africa. We are looking to introduce our ‘Empowered Connection’ Programme, a mentoring programme where we are matching capable, strong, influential, experienced and culturally sensitive women from the western world with capable, strong, less experienced women from  Africa - different backgrounds and cultures to facilitate learning, empowerment, connectivity and sisterhood on both sides.

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

So much is being done and gender parity topic is everywhere! If I could change one thing, it would be making us women more accountable. I would like us to think, say and then do more!

I was born in Nigeria! I LOVE my roots and my Nigerian (African) heritage which gave me the grounding from a cultural perspective, the love and appreciation for family, understanding of the strength of community.

As a woman, I have rebelled against the stereotype where my role appeared to be pre-defined; rebelled against my culture where I could have been boxed into being seen but not heard; rebelled against those who frown upon my mixed marriage and beautiful children being dubbed as ‘mixed race’. One aspect that surprises me every day is how we as women treat each other but still point the finger outward!

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

Can I cheat and give my younger self two pieces of advice which are two of my favourite quotes?

Firstly Shalom, just start by doing what's necessary, then do what's possible because trust me, you will conquer the impossible (Saint Francis of Assisi)

Secondly, it is better to be prepared and not have an opportunity than to have an opportunity and not be prepared (Whitney M. Young) – be prepared Shalom, you will be absolutely fine!

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

2016, Naturally Tribal’s first year of operation was focused on building a strong team, testing, formulating and building our pipeline; 2017 our ‘soft launch’ year was spent validating and understanding our market, raising brand awareness and product reformulation based on research and customer feedback. 2018 kicked off the full launch of our products and brand.

I am now running the business full time and 2019 is all about getting our products into luxury high end stores, exporting more, launching our body cleaners and our bridal collection.  The future looks bright for Naturally Tribal and my aim is to seize every opportunity (including the enigma that is Brexit) and truly position us as a company with not only great products but one with a conscience.


PropTech Business

Growing a PropTech business in a male-dominated industry

 

family run business

Alexandra Morris, Managing Director of PropTech company MakeUrMove, comments on her experience of growing a business in a male-dominated industry.

I have worked in the industry for over 12 years, and was the first ever employee at MakeUrMove, having now been with the business for ten years.

I worked my way up the ranks from Customer Service Advisor to Operations Director and finally Managing Director in June 2017.

While competitors have struggled with the challenging housing market, MakeUrMove has thrived, with the company growing by 20 percent in the last 12 months, making it the fifth fastest growing letting agent in the UK.

Despite all that, there have been a number of challenges along the way. My experience has emphasised to me that it is definitely still a male-dominated world. Whether it’s being on the board as CTO or CEO, or the people who actually invest in business, there is a severe lack of women in the property and technology industry.

I have sat on boards as the only woman and have worked with senior teams in businesses that are dominated by men. When building my own team, I have taken a balanced view and I am proud to say that my senior team has a female majority… because they deserve to be there. I would love to see more equality reflected across businesses elsewhere too.

More also needs to be done to ensure the world of tech is more appealing and welcoming for women, particularly with research showing that women are more than twice as likely to quit the tech industry than men.

So why are women being deterred from the tech industry? It all comes down to the increasingly evident gender gap. From my own experience, I have had numerous instances where I have found myself not being taken as seriously as my male colleagues, despite the fact that I hold the most senior post as the managing director in a national PropTech company. This has arisen in all types of situations when seeking business partnerships and even when pitching to clients. It doesn’t seem to matter that I am offering significant savings and demonstrating a level of expertise that would be hard to beat.

Similarly, something which isn’t talked about as much in the media is ageism. For me, it’s not just been about being a woman, but I have also found my age has played a big part in how I am treated. As I became a managing director at 33 years old, and started out as the youngest member of the board, again, I wouldn’t be as treated as professionally as my colleagues.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my experiences and my number one bit of advice to any women who finds themselves battling to be heard is not to be intimidated to have the confidence that what you have to say holds as much value as the men in the room. You deserve to be there alongside other members, if you want equality you will have to speak up and take it.

Navigating the business world as a woman is no mean feat with sexism, and even ageism, still rife. However, this hasn’t held me back from leading MakeUrMove to where it is today.

The property and tech industries are ever changing and evolving markets. My strategy with the business has been focused on taking a considered approach and ensuring a gradual, rather than rapid, scale up. This has allowed us to monitor, improve and develop the platform and service to continually innovate and deliver for our clients and users.

As the business started out in a time of uncertainty in the heart of the recession, it was difficult to gain investment. I now see many heralded as being hugely successful simply for having secured funding. Businesses that spring up, secure huge investment on the back of big promises, often seem to fail not long after. To me, the measure of success is in the sustainability of a business and the benefit they bring to consumers. We’ve grown gradually over the years in a way that means we’re now well placed to thrive despite the market challenges.

About the author

Alexandra Morris is the managing director of MakeUrMove, an innovative technology platform, built to remove costs associated with the process of letting private rental properties.