Helen Brown

Inspirational Woman: Helen Brown | Managing Partner, Seeblue

Meet Helen Brown, Managing Partner, Seeblue

Helen Brown

Helen Brown is Managing Partner of Seeblue, an award-winning Account Based Marketing agency for technology companies. Prior to entering the world of marketing and entrepreneurship, Helen earned a 1st class degree in Political Science from Bristol University and competed a dissertation on Female Genital Mutilation, an experience which fuelled a life-long passion for equality and women’s rights.

Helen was Chair of the Vodafone Group Women’s Network and Seeblue are the pro bono Marketing partner for the Digital Poverty Alliance, working to end digital poverty across the UK by 2030.

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

Having spent 12 years working for global technology companies in marketing, my career took a completely different turn when three and a half years ago I co-founded Seeblue, a specialist tech sector Account Based Marketing agency (www.see-blue.co.uk). We focus on how our clients products and services (across IoT, Telco, SaaS, Cyber Security, Insurance and Analytics) deliver transformational value to their customers.

We are now nine people strong and have achieved three times growth year on year – despite recessions and covid. We support primarily software companies who target enterprise clients. We have a deep understanding of the digital transformation landscape and what that means across different sectors.

I am married and have two children whom I adore more than life itself. Somewhere in the madness of having a family and starting a business, we built our own house and when I have a moment for a break I love adventure sports, camper-vanning, healthy food and learning about psychology and ways to improve my mind and my mental resilience.

Helen Brown

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I did, but it never included entrepreneurship! I am a person who loves learning and always looked ahead to what next, and which projects or roles would enable me to learn new skills. Being an entrepreneur, however, came from a process of deduction.

I realised that the big corporate career I had sought was actually someone else’s version of “success.” I just didn’t feel close enough to the output, to the customer, to the point of need and would end each day feeling unsatisfied.  So, I started freelancing, which, for a period of time when my children were small, was fantastic – it gave me the freedom I wanted. But I then started to want more, I wanted to create something, to be part of building something. So, I realised that the best way for me to do that, was to create a business. And that was how Seeblue began. A walk on a cold January day with an ex-colleague from Vodafone and NCT friend led to the creation of our now thriving marketing agency, Seeblue.

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

One of the hardest things for me was working out what I really wanted. I always found it easier to identify what I didn’t want than what I did! And I don’t think that’s uncommon. The thing which changed my thinking, was understanding my personal values. Family, freedom and fulfilment sit at the top for me. Freedom in many ways – the ability to choose how and when I focus on my family, the freedom to make decisions, the freedom on where and how I work. And fulfilment to me comes from being challenged, mentally absorbed, caring deeply, and having a sense of growing something.

I often think of Seeblue like a garden. First you plant the seed, then there are a few early shoots and then you need to watch, listen and respond to the environment, weather and other external and internal factors to ensure each part of it stays healthy and thrives.

The transition – from corporate employee to business owner has not come without personal challenges though. I have experienced the most severe, almost crippling imposter syndrome at times. When you go from being great at what you do (marketing) and become the rookie newbie trying to work out how to do things for the first time (HR, finance, legal, contracts) – you can really loose a sense of who you are.

Ultimately, I have lent on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to help me de-code the way I have felt when pushed way out of my comfort zone, to rationalise the situation and realise that it’s ok. Really ok. Anyone who is creating new ideas or doing something different is doing it for the first time. No progress would ever be made in the world if people weren’t prepared to be ok, with not knowing everything.

Level Up Summit 2022

Don’t miss our Level Up Summit on 06 December, where we’re tackling the barriers for women in tech head on. Join us for keynotes, panels, Q&A’s & breakout sessions on finance, people management, negotiation, influencing skills, confidence building, building internal networks, maximising the power of mentorship, and much more. 

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What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Without a moment’s hesitation creating Seeblue, with a young family, in the face of a recession and Covid. In the early days it felt so challenging that only downright determination saw us put one foot in front of the other and keep turning up every single day. And despite feeling unsure, we just carried on. We listened to each other (my co-founder and I), the market, our customers. Recognising that we are tech sector specialists, having worked in telecommunications, SaaS, Cyber Security and IoT we were clear from the outset that our value was in our knowledge, which we apply across sub-sectors under the tech umbrella.  We pivoted our offering. We stayed nimble and we eventually grew and thrived.

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

There are a few things.

  1. Understanding your values – you will not be happy if you fight against them. Don’t look outwardly to copy others but learn what success really means to you.
  2. Be clear on your why. This is the only thing that will see you through when things get tough.
  3. Talk to people, learn from everyone. Especially if you struggle with confidence or any kind of mental health challenge – just talk. It will help you see it for what it is and enable others to support you.

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

I believe that having a growth mindset is one of the most critical things to succeeding in anything. Always learn, not only about your sector, or your area of specialism but take an interest in the impact of technology on people. Connect the dots. Have an opinion. Share that opinion publicly/on social media. Don’t assume that if you do a good job someone will notice. To succeed in any professional endeavour, people need to hear you and you need to reach out to them. Don’t see barriers, see opportunities.

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

Culture can still play a major role in certain organisations. My advice to anyone looking at the kinds of companies that they work for would be not to focus on whether your manager, for example, is male or female but look at the Board. Look at the Senior Leadership Team. Is it diverse? How serious do you think they are about having a balance of views. What are the policies around parental leave and flexible working? These things will tell you a lot about whether that company truly values diversity.

I also know there to be a difference in the (general) confidence levels of male and female employees when it comes to asking for promotions. So do everything you can to get the right mentors and role models to support your goals. Be clear. Ask for feedback. Tell people what you want and invite their support to help you on that journey.

Helen Brown

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

A combination of policies, culture and content. When any imbalance exists policies are an important part of setting guidance for what needs to happen. Culture is everything – we have built Seeblue from the ground up with culture and values at its heart. Look at whether the culture recognises and values the respective strengths that male and female employees bring, as this will have a huge impact on your experience and your potential success.

By content, I mean everything from speakers and events to networks to written material. Are you working on your own self-development and awareness, are you existing outside of the bubble of your daily tasks, and looking outwardly to how you can make a difference? What does your company offer which you can take advantage of?

There are currently only 21 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?

With a 6-year-old daughter, I would say it has to start in school. A transition is underway (coding for girls, science fayres and competitions) but education is still quite old fashioned. Much more needs to be done from nursery ages up to demonstrate that tech is for all.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

This is not tech specific, but to everyone interested in building mental resilience I would recommend reading Anthony Robbins book Awaken the Giant Within. In my opinion, this is the single most powerful thing you could read and implement to identify your values and improve your self-belief such that you have the tools you need to achieve whatever your goals and dreams may be.