Cindy Gallop

Inspirational Woman: Cindy Gallop | Founder & CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld & Founder of MakeLoveNotPorn

Cindy Gallop

Cindy Gallop is the founder of MakeLoveNotPorn and one of the speakers at the Fast Forward Forum 2019.

Find out more at

Tell us a bit about yourself and your current role

I’m founder and CEO of IfWeRanTheWorld and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn – ‘Pro-sex. Pro-porn. Pro-knowing the difference’ – a social sextech platform.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. Everything in my career has happened by accident. Sir John Hegarty, my boss at BBH, had a brilliant mantra – “Do interesting things and interesting things will happen to you.”

I totally believe in that. I have done interesting things and interesting things have happened to me as a result. Everything in my career has happened by accident.

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

I don’t think I have been successful. I won’t deem myself successful until I have scaled and grown MakeLoveNotPorn into a social sex revolution worldwide. I wont be successful until we have socialised sex, made it easier for everyone to discuss and promote consent, communication, good sexual values and good sexual behaviour. I haven’t succeeded yet – so I don’t think I have been successful.

But if you do want to aim for success, you need to know two things:

  1. The only person who can make things happen for you is you
  2. The single best moment in my life was when I realised that I no longer gave a damn what anyone thinks. Fear of what other people think is the single most paralysing dynamic in both business and life. You will never own or invent the future if you care what people think of you. Not giving a damn what anyone thinks is the only way to live your life.

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

Don’t give a damn what anybody thinks.

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

My next challenge is my current challenge – scaling and growing Make Love Not Porn, to change the world through sex.

Danielle Ramsbottom

Inspirational Woman: Danielle Ramsbottom | Director of Client Management, Frank Recruitment Group

Danielle RamsbottomDanielle Ramsbottom is Director for Client Management across EMEA. She began her career in recruitment 19 years ago after graduating from Leeds Metropolitan University with a degree in European Business, Spanish, and French.

Always maintaining a keen focus on corporate client engagement and specialising in technology recruitment across all industry sectors, Danielle is also passionate about all matters relating to diversity, and takes the lead on Frank Recruitment Group’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy, both internally and across the company’s client network.

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

Apart from a very brief stint in fashion, I’ve worked in the technology recruitment industry since I graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University in 2000. I started at a Big Top 3 Recruitment leader as a trainee, and progressed quickly through the ranks, leading permanent recruitment teams and then later becoming Client Director, managing cross-industry enterprise customers. I moved to Frank Recruitment Group in 2016 to build a high-touch enterprise business for both our candidates and clients. I’ve built and led our EMEA Client Management function ever since. I’m also the Diversity and Inclusion Lead for EMEA, responsible for leading on initiatives that address the challenges facing our customers when it comes to creating a more inclusive workforce.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Being a linguist and always having an interest in fashion, I thought this would always be the route I’d go down as I was growing up. However, after declining a place on Harrod’s Graduate Training Programme I moved back up North and took a graduate position at Hays instead. I fell in love with recruitment and the technology industry very quickly and haven’t ever looked back. I always wanted to work in a role where I was customer facing, and had the ability to build relationships and help develop solutions to industry challenges such as gender diversity in tech.

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

Moving to Frank Recruitment Group was a really positive challenge—it was a leap from what was a very mature, established organisation to a company that was essentially a scale-up. It could’ve been a gamble, but I was inspired by the leadership, and I saw the opportunity to create agile solutions for our customers. Three years later, we’ve more than doubled in size, opened offices all over the world, and established relationships with some fantastic organisations.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

If you’ve ever been in a position to enjoy a promotion at work, you’ll know how much satisfaction can be gleaned from having your attitude and hard work rewarded. But some of the most gratifying turning points on your professional timeline come along when your professional efforts are recognised outside of the workplace.

I was recently nominated as a finalist in the 2019 European Women in Sales Awards, in the Business Development category, and that was an incredibly proud moment and a treasured milestone.

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

I’ve been very fortunate to have good mentors both within my company and in the wider industry. They’ve taught me the value of always being inquisitive, and listening before talking. By listening to your customers’ challenges, you can build solutions to help them overcome these and create long term, lasting relationships.

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

Find out which specific environment within the sector is the right one for you. There are a multitude of options, but until you find your place and begin to feel grounded in your role, there’s always a danger of uncertainty, which in turn can affect confidence.

Once you’ve found the right path, do everything within your power to master the tech, whatever that may be. Things like accreditations can provide a huge leg-up, and lead to much greater recognition within the workplace as well as wider tech communities.

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

We know that there’s still an issue at a grass-roots level. The number of girls and young women choosing to study STEM subjects has stalled.

Unless we do more to change that then organisations will always struggle to hire more women. At Frank Recruitment Group, we sponsor coding clubs for kids aged 7+ and we work with different higher educational facilities to give talks and workshops on tech careers. Making technology accessible and fun is absolutely key.

We also partner with key technology vendors offering returnship programmes for those wanting to come back into the technology after a break, as well as cross-training programmes in markets such as Salesforce and ServiceNow where demand outstrips supply.

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

First, I’d say that this is an issue that lots of our customers are really engaged with and many leaders within the tech industry are changing their hiring policies, adopting flexible working, instigating mentorship schemes—all things that help to shift the dial on gender imbalance. I think it’s important to acknowledge that and make it clear to any women considering a career in tech that she has a lot of options.

Of course, we can do more—I hope that we’ll see more women in leadership roles and greater collaboration across the industry to make the sector even more female-friendly.

There is currently only 17% 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’d say it’s about attitude. Do you see diversity as a box ticking exercise, or are you aware that having a diverse workforce has a positive impact on your bottom line? The research is out there—companies with better representation at board level outperform their competition. And companies that are perceived as more inclusive are more attractive to candidates of all genders. Once organisations genuinely understand the power of inclusivity then the pace of change is much faster.

At a practical level I think it’s about looking at every aspect of the industry and asking whether the practices we take for granted are really the best way of doing things, or whether making small changes will help to make workplaces more genuinely inclusive. I’d ask any organisation whether they’ve looked at the way their job ads are written, or if they’ve thought about the makeup of their hiring panel, or, if they offer flexible working, whether it’s emphasised on their careers page or buried in the small print. These are just some of the basics.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

There are some great individuals and organisations out there who share a lot of valuable content. My top three would be:

  • The Tech Talent Charter (follow on LinkedIn) – Frank Recruitment Group are signatories to this organisation aimed at cross-industry collaboration on diversity issues and they run events across the country.
  • Dr Sue Black is a real powerhouse, and she’s passionate about getting more women into tech—follow her on Twitter: @Dr_Black.
  • We are Tech Women, it goes without saying, have some great resources and events, and they have a really good list of podcasts.

Finally, nothing beats the power of face to face networking. Companies such as Salesforce, AWS and Microsoft hold regular meet-ups, so look out for events in your area.

Inspirational Woman: Wendy Johansson | Global Vice President, Experience Transformation Lead, Publicis Sapient

Wendy Johansson headshotWendy built her 25-year career on leading UX teams as an early employee at successful early-stage startups.

She was the first designer at Loopt, Sam Altman’s YC-funded startup that later sold for $43 million. As the UX manager at Ooyala, she helped build the marketing, videography, and UX teams before the company were sold to Telstra for $400M. Wendy also led the global UX team at AppNexus, sold to AT&T for $1.6B, before joining Wizeline.

Wendy studied Cognitive Science with a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction at UC San Diego. She has also received executive education in product management at U.C. Berkeley. During her time at UCSD, she led the Society of Women Engineers chapter and Society of Automotive Engineers. She is the winner of the regional .NET challenge in 2004.

In 2019, Wendy was invited to become an investment committee member of CompuSoluciones' Corporate Venture Capital fund. She hopes to use her new position to mentor women entrepreneurs and identify overlooked startups in Mexico that have the potential to disrupt industries.

Wendy is passionate about felines and females in technology –in no particular order. She volunteers at the San Francisco SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) in her spare time. As part of the Society of Women Engineers, she mentors young women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and speaks at SWE’s regional even

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

I studied Cognitive Science with a specialization in Human Computer Interaction at UC San Diego. During these years, I was painfully shy and quiet, but found a purpose in my university chapter of Society of Women Engineers. Serving our community of women engineering majors while being mentored by professional women engineers in industry, I found my voice leading and facilitating a group of amazing young women. I continued to find opportunities to foster and grow my voice early in my career as a UX designer, then UX manager, and later as a co-founder of a global product startup, Wizeline. During my time at Wizeline, I led our UX team and created Wizeline Academy, our community initiative to teach tech skills to emerging markets for free. After 6 years growing a product design and development team of nearly 500 people worldwide in San Francisco, Mexico, Vietnam and Thailand, I left to seek my biggest challenge to date – as Group VP of Experience at Publicis Sapient, which is nearly 40 times bigger than my startup!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

It’s difficult to plan your career when there’s no “industry standard” or role models to refer to! I graduated university and became a web designer before tech design was a popular field. So I’m at the forefront of my discipline, which has gone through so many iterations of job titles – web design, User interface design, User experience design, product design, CX design… It’ll continue to change, but now as a GVP of Experience, I try to make myself visible and available to younger folks in my industry so they see a path and a role for themselves in the future.

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

Early in my career in the 2000s, I was always the token woman on every product engineering team. At my second job, one of the male engineers made a point to tell me he was required to shower daily and wear a shirt now that a woman was on the team. I don’t think I realized how uncomfortable I was on my teams at the time, as it wasn’t a time and place in society where gender equality or diversity were topical or even discussed amongst friends.

As my career progressed and inclusion has become more of an open topic in recent years, I’ve used my power and my voice to be a role model for my team members - showing that I am a leader, but also a person. I let my personality shine through my leadership style, so people know they can grow into these roles and retain *themselves* and their values in a corporate environment.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

By my measure, my biggest career achievement has been impacting the lives of the many people who have been on my teams and coaching them to grow into new skills, new roles, and new opportunities. I’ve never been prouder than when my team members are too big for the challenge my team can offer them, and can go flex their new skills in a new role!

By the measure of industry, co-founding my own company and working 24/7 for 6 years to grow an amazing culture and team. I’m proud of this learning experience for myself, but the tangible value is still measured by the success of the people who have grown with me on that journey.

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

Success never comes without massive failure. I have a great support system around me in terms of family and friends who are always there for me without judgement and don’t treat career as a competition. Without this support system, I couldn’t get through my personal and professional hardships.

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

It is not your skill alone that will help you excel. You need to learn to contribute to the natural communities that form in the workplace and socially. Only when you have meaningful skill-based and community contribution can you master your own career.

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

Aboslutely! There are biases against women that exist in all levels of tech, every single day. The barriers can only be overcome when we have normalized what is typically characterized as female. Today, male traits are normalized and we’re challenged to be more like men, but we need to turn the tables and challenge our male colleagues to be more like women. Only then can we come to the table equally.

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

If companies want more gender equality, they need to foster an environment where they can hire for those ratios no matter what career level. It’s easy to highlight a near equal ratio of young women in junior tech roles, but what about manager and director level women? Are there policies in place to support women with families to stand as role models in mid-manager positions? Are there women in the C-suite who can have a voice in ensuring these policies are designed, by and for women? Without a range and ratio of female voices across all career levels, we can never close the gap for women in tech.

There is currently only 17% 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?

Magic swap to make it 17% men in tech. Let’s see how that works out.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

If you like to spend your downtime on social media like I do on Instagram and Twitter, go follow some empowering women accounts rather than the usual influencers. Get empowered even in, especially in, your downtime. @17.21women, @ladiesgetpaid, @elainewelteroth, @rupikaur_, @girlsatlibrary

Inspirational Woman: Leah Buley | Group Vice President, Experience Research Lead, Publicis Sapient

Leah Buley HeadshotLeah is a recognized thought leader in the experience design industry and a prominent voice for the evolving importance of design in business.

Her published research and frameworks have been lauded for helping to advance global understanding of design maturity.

Leah was most recently a director of design education at InVision, where she conceived and drove new research on the state of the design industry to strengthen InVision’s leadership position in the design field and build credibility to high-level business leaders.

Before that, Leah was a principal analyst at Forrester Research, covering the role of design in business. There, she published research in the areas of customer experience, user experience, and service design.

Leah learned everything she knows about design at the pioneering UX consultancy Adaptive Path, where she spent her formative years as a design practitioner. There, she worked as an experience designer, design researcher, and ultimately design lead. At Adaptive Path her clients included ASICS, Capital Group, New York Life, Nokia, Vodafone, UCSF, Vail Resorts, and Vanguard.

Adaptive Path was known for developing and promoting new UX design techniques, and what Leah learned there she later documented in her book, The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide. In it she addresses how design-minded individuals in any type of organization can work cross-functionally with their colleagues to produce better experiences for customers. It is used as an introductory text in college courses on human centered design.

Before all that, in the halcyon days of the late 90s and early 2000s (feeling old), Leah worked in-house in a series of hybrid design and development roles. Leah’s first job out of college was working as an editor at Dissent Magazine, a magazine about politics and culture. But her favorite part of the job was managing the web site, which is how she got her start in tech and design.

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

My professional life started at basically the same moment that the internet mainstreamed, in the late 1990s. Since then, my entire career has ridden that wave.

In the very beginning, I was a front-end developer. But I was envious of the people who got to design the interfaces, so I quickly transitioned to experience design. (Though back then we called it information architecture.) As digital became more essential to how businesses interact with their customers, my work evolved into pure experience design, and then experience strategy roles. Around the time that big tech companies like Salesforce and Capital One, and old school management consultancies like McKinsey, started acquiring design agencies, I moved into a role working as an industry analyst, covering the evolving importance of design to business differentiation.

Along the way, I wrote a book, The User Experience Team of One, from Rosenfeld Media, and developed several widely-cited models for gauging experience design maturity.

Today, I work at Publicis Sapient, where I’m a VP of Experience. I work with our Chief Experience Officer John Maeda to look ahead to where digital is pointing next, explore what that means for our customers, and ensure that our teams have the skills and resources they need to continue to practice at the crest of the digital wave.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No way. If I had followed my career plan, today I’d be working as an editor at a print magazine—which probably would have gone out of business anyway. The reality is that the career that I ended up having didn’t exist when I was starting out. I couldn’t have even conceived it.

Rather than follow a plan, I’ve navigated a path where you figure out your next step based on where you are now. Like using a compass, instead of a map.  I’ve treated each moment in my career as a decision point to decide what the next step should be. The recurring theme for me has been that at each step, I’ve learned just enough to realize that there was something more I’d like to know, and I’ve sought out subsequent roles to fill in that knowledge.

For instance, when I was working as an experience lead at Adaptive Path, a pioneering user experience consultancy, I realized that design thinking as a core competency was going to become more and more interesting to companies—not just as a service to purchase, but also as an in-house capability—so I decided to join Intuit, an organization that was out in front at the time in bringing design thinking capabilities in-house. From Intuit, I became aware that design was becoming important beyond just pure tech companies, so I moved to Forrester Research, to have the resources and purview to research the importance of design across industries.

I’m still trying to learn. At Publicis Sapient, I’m interested in what happens when experience and technology become utterly fused, and AI and voice and cloud technology and connecected devices reimagine our longstanding ideas for what digital is and does. At Publicis Sapient, we have such smart, talented forward thinking people. It’s a great place to be learning right now.

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

My most signficant career challenges have been of my own making—by being too perfectionistic, hoarding work, and not trusting enough in others around me.

Eventually, I came to realize that the downside of perfectionism is you never get to be surprised by how brilliant and creative other people are. You also rob others of their chance to learn, excel, and deliver. And then of course there’s all the extra work and lost sleep. That’s no fun.

I don’t know that you can ever fully overcome perfectionist tendencies, but now that I have young children, I simply can’t give as much time to the details as I used to, and it’s forcing me to learn how to let go and trust others.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Publishing a book was a major achievement for me. My book came out in 2013. It was a labor of love, to document what I had learned at the most challenging parts of my own career to date. Six years later, it is used as a text in university level courses on experience design. And I regularly receive emails and notes from people who share that it helped them get into the user experience field. It’s a point of extreme pride for me to have helped in some small way the next generation of experience designers who have found their calling.

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

I was collosally lucky to be in the right place at the right time. I happened to learn HTML in undergrad right at the very beginning of the internet, which meant that I was able to get a job, before many others even knew of this profession. I happened to move to San Francisco, mostly for the views, in 2003, at a moment when the tech industry was starting to resurge after the first bubble. I went to a few truly lucky happy hours, which happened to have networking opportunities that placed me in really great jobs. As I look back on my career, it is abundantly clear to me that the secret to my success has been the people that I met along the way.

The challenge is now how can those of us who are here in the industry, open our arms and invite in others who may not have been there at the right moment, at that magical happy hour. How can make it clear that they’re invited too, so that we can foster a more inclusive field with more diverse people designing products and services to serve a more diverse world.

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

The beauty of technology is that it’s so democratic. You don’t have to have a £200k education to learn React, or Python, or experience design, for that matter. You can teach yourself. The best way to learn is simply by doing. Or, for a little more structure, there are so many great online courses and accelerated bootcamps today to learn quickly.

And then of course, there’s this: half of the work of being really successful in technology is being a good partner and consultant. You know, soft skills. If the most important thing is to learn how to tinker and put your hands on the work, the second most important thing is to learn how to do that in partnership with other people. Joining a professional services firm was a good way for me to learn that, sometimes painfully, but the lessons definitely stuck. And I found that those consultative skills served me well, even when I went back in house. If you get the chance to work in professional services, it’s a great training ground.

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

I do indeed. It’s simple math. In the US, women made up just 26% of the tech workforce in 2018, and for women of color, that number dropped to the single digits. The reality is that when a group is under-represented, its perspective is under-represented. And as humans, we tend to network with and provide opportunies to people who are like us. So the fact that there are so few women in the field means that there will be some forms of exclusion and bias, despite all best intentions.

That has real consequences. It means that women benefit from fewer of the networking advantages that drive wealth creation in tech, particularly in startups. Recent research from Carta, a company that manages starup equity, found that women make up 31% of employees in the startups in their study, but hold just 6% of overall wealth.

Even in large enterprises, women are still simply less likely to be promoted. McKinsey recently identified that for every 100 men promoted to manager, only 72 women are promoted. The cumulative effect of this winnowing of female leadership is the low number of women leaders at the top that continue to plague the tech field (and others).

So what can we do about it? To overcome these barriers, we have to correct the numbers. To start, we must be honest about the numbers: how many women are in our tech orgs? Of those, how many represent intersectional identifies, like women of color? How many are in leadership positions? When opening new roles, how many women candidates are in consideration? We must know our numbers and set ambitious targets.

One of the things that most impressed me about Publicis Sapient when I joined was that the company has made a top-line goal to increase the number of women in leadership positions—a goal that has been quantified and baked into company-wide OKRs. That feels bold and risky but absolutely the right thing to do. Ultimately, more companies will need to adopt that level of ambition and transparency to correct the numbers.

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

The biggest thing is not to wait for women to raise their hands, but be proactively having conversations with them about their career goals and making those conversations specific and time bound. I learned recently that it’s relatively common for men to approach their managers with an expectation that they’ll be actively discussing their career development and what the next step looks like. By contrast, it’s often necessary to pull that information out of women. On some level, you could say that’s on those women to be having more direct conversations and advocating for their own careers. But it’s also a good idea for any company that hopes to retain its women talent, particularly in a competitive market like tech, to be making promotion and growth conversations as easy and routine as possible by proactively anticipating them. Discuss what that next step will look like, what skills are needed to get there, how you’ll know when you’re ready, and what a target timeline looks like. That timeline part is really important: it takes it out of the realm of theoretical growth, and turns it into a shared plan.

There is currently only 17% 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?

Some of the greatest points of career mobility for me happened when I connected with other women, and we compared notes and advice, and cheered each other on to overcome the immediate challenges.

So if given the chance, I’d wave my magic wand, and the pixie dust would settle to reveal a global whisper network for women in tech, shaped as intimate support groups. The rule would be that participants must discuss and share openly:

  • what techniques have worked for them to create more equitable conditions for themselves in tech
  • personal lessons learned on how to get promoted, get a raise, delegate, push back on inappropriate work requests, address bias directly, etc.
  • who are their professional allies, and which handsy colleagues they should steer clear of
  • what they’re getting paid, and any information they have about what their male colleagues are getting paid

The real magic would be to turn women’s professional challenges in tech from a private problem into a source of shared knowledge and strength.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Alice Skeats featured

Inspirational Woman: Alice Skeats | Senior PR & Communications Manager, Nextdoor

Alice SkeatsAlice Skeats is the Senior PR & Communications Manager at Nextdoor, the UK’s largest and fastest-growing private social network used by more than 16,200 neighbourhoods in the UK.

With ten years experience in PR & Communications, Alice has a wide range of knowledge and experience spanning both the private and public sector. Prior to Nextdoor, Alice spent five years working in PR & Communications in policing, in roles at the City of London Police and FACT. She’s previously lead a national campaign on fake beauty products to raise awareness of the dangers of counterfeit cosmetics and electrical items, which went global.

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

My name is Alice Skeats, i’m the Senior PR & Communications Manager at Nextdoor and was born and bred in Southend-on-Sea. I have over ten years of experience in PR and Communications, the majority of which is in the public sector, particularly policing and crime; including two years at the City of London Police leading PR for a police unit dedicated to combating fake goods and piracy and three years in the film/TV industry protecting the creative rights of film/TV studios.

I’ve always been passionate about where I live and have always wanted to work for an organisation which makes a real difference to people's lives and so when the role appeared at Nextdoor I jumped at the opportunity. Nextdoor encompasses so many passions and values I feel strongly about. Nextdoor’s main aim is to help neighbours build stronger, safer and happier local communities. Having lived in Southend-on-Sea most of my life (minus the three years I spent studying at University in Hull) I have seen how a vibrant community can help a town and its residents thrive. I began my career working in the press team at Southend-on-Sea Council and so I witnessed first hand the amazing people in the community working to bring Southend together. Local communities are at the heart of Nextdoor and I love the fact that every day I am surrounded by inspiring stories of UK neighbours who are using the platform to make positive changes in their communities. Technology, particularly social media, more recently is getting a bad name. We are a nation of smartphones, tablets, and multiple social media profiles - we are more connected than ever, but are in fact more disconnected than ever. What I love about Nextdoor, is that it uses technology and social media to combat exactly this. It is all about creating real human connection. On Nextdoor you connect with your neighbours and can get to know them online, to develop meaningful relationships offline.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? 

I remember being at school and not knowing what career path to follow but I knew I didn’t want a ‘traditional role’ that the careers teacher would have told us about. I have always loved building strong connections and working with people from all different walks of life and different ranks. I am the person who strikes up a conversation with anyone, anywhere. Whether it’s on a train, walking to the shops or in a public loo! Whilst at university I spent one summer working in the press office at Essex Police which gave me my first taste of PR and I never looked back.

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

A large part of my career has been working in very male-dominated environments. As a young woman, this can sometimes seem daunting, however, my advice would be to always remind yourself of your value. You were hired for a reason; your knowledge and expertise. Self-assurance in yourself and your abilities are so important in such environments.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I am a strong believer that no matter how old you are or where you are in your career, you are always still learning and so I look forward to many achievements still to come in the future. However, some of my favourites so far have to be landing my dream job at Nextdoor, being a spokesperson for the film/tv industry on the BBC’s The One Show on a piece about piracy, as well as launching and running a campaign on the dangers of fake beauty/electrical goods which hit the front page of the Daily Mail, and was also featured in every national UK paper and national TV and radio.

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

Always pushing myself that one step further. I recently watched Brene Brown’s documentary Call to Courage which is centred on pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. I believe not staying within my comfort zone and always striving for success and progression has certainly helped me in my career.

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

Keep yourself updated with the latest tech news and trends. Also be open with your manager about what you want to achieve, where you want to be and how you want to develop. A member of staff who is eager to learn and go the extra mile is always the greatest asset to any team.

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

We’ve come a long way but the STEM/Technology sector is still under-represented when it comes to women. There are some amazing people and organisations championing girls and women to join the tech industry. We need to do more to highlight the exciting and varied roles within the sector at a much earlier stage and continue to push things like internships, women in tech talks and mentorship programmes.

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

I feel really lucky to work for an organisation where women are so well represented. Our CEO, Sarah Friar, is a real champion for women in business and STEM and we also have a high number of women in leadership roles. At Nextdoor we also have a regular speaker series, profiling interesting and inspiring women across all industries as well as women’s network which is always looking at ways to provide additional support and development to staff.

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?

I think the key is to show people that STEM supports so many sectors. STEM roles can support all industries from fashion to film-making. By raising awareness of the varied roles and pushing this into the education system early on via mentorships, events & special programmes.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I personally don’t stick to tech specific events or resources. I love a good podcast. My favourite podcast is The Guilty Feminist and funnily enough, the latest episode was all about Women in STEM. If you haven’t listened to the Guilty Feminist or that episode go check it out. It’s a great podcast that discusses a wide range of topics from feminist marriage to women in science. Our CEO also holds the most inspiring events for women called Ladies Who Launch. I would recommend anyone looking to network or just simply to be reawoken with ambition and motivation to attend. I went to the Belfast event last year and have come away with a network of mentors, advisors but most importantly friends.

Vanessa Sanyauke featured

Inspirational Woman: Vanessa Sanyauke | Founder & CEO, Girls Talk London

Vanessa Sanyauke is the Founder and CEO of Girls Talk London, an award winning organisation that has engaged half a million women around the world and directly impacted 1,500 women & girls in the UK.

Vanessa SanyaukeVanessa is also a speaker, presenter and writer based in London. Vanessa has over a decade of experience advising FTSE 100 businesses on Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and policy. Vanessa has worked with over 50 businesses that include The Bank of England, UK Parliament, Facebook, O2, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, State Street, Salesforce, Vodafone, BT, Ericsson, Allen and Overy, Lloyds Bank, Bauer Media, UBS, RBS Legal, Rabobank, Reed Smith and CMS Cameron McKenna. Vanessa has also been an adviser on Youth Policy to the former UK Prime Minister David Cameron and The former Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

In 2018 Vanessa was listed on the 2018 EMpower 50 Ethnic Minority Future Leaders List, presented by the Financial Times and as a Changemaker on the 2018 Evening Standard 1000 most influential Londoners list. That same year she won an award at the 2018 European Diversity Awards for Best Community Project for setting up the pan-industry project, Step into STEM.

Vanessa is the Host and creator of business podcast “The after work drinks club” which is a top 100 iTunes global business podcast which interviews and features discussions with influential people of business and popular culture.

Vanessa is also the Host and Creator of Girls Talk, an online panel talk show for millennial women that has been viewed by over half a million people worldwide.

She is a sought-after Presenter and Speaker on business, women’s issues and popular culture featured on BBC Radio One and hosting the Penguin Living and Virgin Books ‘Live.Life. Better’ Podcast.

Her speaking engagements have taken her across the globe at institutions such as The Southbank Centre, Glitz Africa She Summit, UN Women UK, Cosmopolitan Self-Made Summit, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Google UK, City Hall, Institute of Directors and Women in Research UK.

Vanessa is a regular visiting lecturer and speaker on Social Entrepreneurship, Corporate Social Responsibility and Diversity and Inclusion for London School of Economics, City University London, Kent Business School, Brunel University and Kings College London.

Vanessa has written and featured in publications such as The Guardian, Stylist, The Telegraph, LOOK Magazine,, Confederation of British Industry and Entrepreneur Country. The 16th April 2017 Edition of The Style Magazine Sunday Times Supplement listed Vanessa as one of 10 people changing the workplace for women in the UK.

During her final year at Brunel University in 2008, Vanessa started her first social enterprise, The Rafiki Network, an award-winning organisation that provided mentoring & training services for over 2,000 young people in London. In April 2010 until January 2014 she was a Trustee of national youth volunteering charity inspired. In 2011 she was presented with a Peace Award from The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson for her contribution to the well-being of people in London and was Co-Chair of the Spirit of London Awards Select Committee in 2012 producing their biggest ever show at London’s 02 Arena.

After completing a Masters in Sustainability & Management at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2012 she started Girls Talk London and began working for The Brokerage CityLink as a Senior Programme Manager. The 9th March 2015 issue of Look Magazine featured Vanessa as one of the most inspiring women in the UK and in June 2015 She was named as one of 67 Changemakers in the UK at The Southbank Centre as part of their annual Festival of Love. During the same month she was also invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. In December 2015, Vanessa was nominated for a Digital-IS award for Best Online Presenter.

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

I am the CEO and Founder of Girls Talk London, which is a social enterprise that connects women and girls with FTSE 100 businesses via bespoke programmes and events to help them develop the skills and confidence to succeed in the workplace. To date we have engaged half a million women around the world and directly impacted 1,500 women & girls in the UK. I am also a speaker, presenter and writer based in London with over a decade of experience advising FTSE 100 businesses on Diversity, Inclusion and Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives and policy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, I initially was pursuing a career in medicine at university when I realised that I wanted to become social entrepreneur and help people with their careers and life.

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

Yes, getting people to believe in my vision for the programmes I have set-up has been challenging and especially getting executives to understand the importance of diversity and inclusion to their bottom line. I have overcome this by not giving up, getting internal champions to advocate for me aswell.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

My biggest achievement has to be setting up and delivering Step into STEM, our seven month mentoring programme for females aged 16-18 who want to work in Technology which is funded by O2, BT, Vodafone and Ericsson. To date we have given nearly 150 girls mentors and we won a European Diversity award for Best Community Project in 2018. What really makes this my biggest achievement is where our mentees end up as we currently have mentees studying Technology based subjects at Oxford University and MIT and they have credited the support of their mentors in helping them get there!

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

I am persistent.

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

Seek a sponsor to open up opportunities for you.

Keep being curious.

Hold the door open for someone else who wants to enter the Tech space, you will learn a lot from them.

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

Yes, because there are still small numbers of women working in Tech. We need to create a talent pipeline of young women who have the skills to succeed and enter the Tech sector. We need more mentoring schemes and work experience opportunities to prepare them.

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

Invest in training and development such as MBAs for female staff and sponsor them for opportunities at Senior Level.

There is currently on 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?

Make every Tech company have a 50:50 spit for gender balance on their boards and if not achieved fine them big bucks! Change starts from the top and we need more visible female role models in Senior roles in tech.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I would recommend attending events and conferences to get connected and learn new skills aswell as reading books and blogs in your sector.

Inspirational Woman: Leanne Bonner-Cooke | Managing Director at Evolve

Leanne Bonner-Cooke, is the Managing Director at Evolve. She established the company in 2007, after recognising that in many organisations’ IT and the business do not work well together. As an energetic and enthusiastic, leader and strategic thinker, she has established a successful business helping others get the most out of their people, process and technology assets.Leanne Bonner-Cooke_Evolve Resize 400 x 267

What inspired you to start a business? 

I was inspired by having several bad experience in dealing with software suppliers and consultancies.  When I hit the ceiling in my corporate career, I decided to set up business and really focus on the needs of the customer.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

The greatest challenge has been the steep learning curve in having to re-skill in many areas that I initially didn’t even consider, like sales and marketing!  That is the start of the process and I knew nothing about it, especially social media.  Then there is the whole recruitment process…..Suddenly I have become the CEO, H&S, HR, Finance and Sales and Marketing Director….And not the consultant I set out to be.

The greatest reward is that you have the ability to achieve whatever you want without any constraints, and operate to your own values and those of your customers.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures. You have to have a vision and set goals in order to achieve that vision.  Without a plan you will not be able to measure your success. Find a good mentor to keep you in check along your journey and to keep the pressure on you to ensure your focus is on the right thing.

Celebrate your successes, as business owners we are our own worst critics and always aspire to do better.  You will be more motivated if you recognise each step of your journey as a success.

There is no such thing as failure!  FAIL = First Attempt In Learning.  If we don’t fail, we don’t learn.  As long as you do learn, and are aware of why the situation happened, and how to prevent it from happening again you have learnt something you would never have known about otherwise.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

There are two:

The ability to generate new sales leads; this is about having the right messaging and engaging with your target market to drive more inbound activity, and not giving up!  Also being able to predict your pipeline of future work as closely as possible.

The other is cash flow.  Being a service business, our costs are instant but our customers delay payment for as long as possible. Having a cash flow forecast is so important to any business to manage and mitigate risk.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

I have had various experience with coaches and have benefited in gaining knowledge in areas where I have been weak.  Coaches charge for their time and focus on a particular activity e.g. sales pipeline.  Whilst coaches can be of great value they only work if you are clear what you are trying to achieve and are prepared to put in the hard work.

Mentoring is much different and I have had more success with mentors.  They typically give you their time and have actually done it themselves and can therefore give you sound advice as to the what and how.  Again though, it is about being clear of what you are trying to achieve and picking the right person.  Remember they are giving up their time for you, so you have to be committed.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Networking is critical to raise awareness of you and your companies brand.  There are so many networking events, be really clear about how you will measure the success. For example, good referral network, companies there that I want to do business with, specific to the sector(s) I want to work with.

Otherwise you can go along meet some great people and have a good time but never generate any new business opportunites.  You have to ‘put yourself in the room’ when networking and you will quickly work out if it is right for you and your business.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

To scale your business, have a well-constructed business plan, understand where your growth if going to come from e.g. which markets, which sector, what products or services you are going to sell more of.  Then look at your operational costs and see how they are going to increase in order for you to achieve your growth.  Be clear about what your gross profit and net profit need to be as a business to ensure it is sustainable and then measure along your journey and take action as soon as things are not in line with your plans.

Also be aware of what growth means in terms of resourcing and plan ahead.

Map out a SWOT analysis as part of your growth plans to make sure you have understood all the risks and can mitigate them, should they occur.

What does the future hold for you?

The future is about ensuing Evolve is a sustainable and valuable business moving forward that has engaged employees and satisfied customers.

As a business my long term vision is about the exit strategy.  When will that be, what do I need to do to ensure the business is of maximum value, how will I exit (sell or management buyout), where will I get advice about exiting and planning for exit and who will be involved in the exit.

When you decide to set up in business you are accountable for the business vision and strategy.  You are the leader and the buck stops with you.  Accept that you don’t know everything and take external advise from mentoring and outsource providers when and where appropriate.

Appreciate the team that help you achieve the business vision, you cannot do it alone.

Have fun along the journey and remember there is always a work life balance!