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Inspirational Woman: Lisa Goodchild | Founder, Digilearning

Lisa GoodchildI come from comparatively humble beginnings.

I grew up on council estate in South East London, raised by a single mum that struggled with mental health issues. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change a thing as it made me who I am, and I appreciate that my mum tried her best to drag us up, but it was tough.

We had no choice but to quickly learn about the realities of life, as hustling, crime, drugs and violence surrounded us and it looked like that was on the only option open to me. I burgled a house and sold drugs as a kid, as well as avoiding school. I always knew that I wanted more out of life though, and I was determined to fight and claw my way into earning it. I wasn’t interested in being handed anything. I wanted to prove – to myself, and everybody else on that estate – that it was possible to overcome adversity and make something of yourself.

I credit a lot of my success to being influenced to attend university, where I gained a First Class honours in Digital Media. Fast forwarding from there, I built an agency that worked on selling early ecommerce systems to major, world-leading brands like Ted Baker, Panasonic and MotherCare. I also gained £250k in investment and grew one of the UK’s leading digital female brands, Aigua Media, as well as mentoring women to enter the male-dominated world of technology.

Unfortunately, success always comes with side effects and I realised that I had no interest in the politics and backstabbing that were becoming associated with the agency. I walked away, with my worthless shares – and Digiwoo was born, a social media agency that has been going strong for over ten years now.

I was also lucky enough to be chosen to take part in the Marketing Academy, which was life-changing. The real eye-opener for me was attending the Living Leader bootcamp, with the amazing Penny Ferguson. That helped me realise that I was destined to build something to help young people, and help the next generation enjoy some of the opportunities that were not open to me when I was their age. I had my youngest child five years ago now, and my best friend and business partner Sarah Wilson had twins at the same time. That gave us all the motivation that we needed to change the approach of digital education and children’s entertainment for our young people. Digilearning was born.

We created Digilearning as a revolutionary way to teach children and young people about the opportunities digital has to offer. If adults want to sharpen their digital skills and get involved, they’re welcome too! We have a range of books, hold Digihack open days, and we are developing our #Edtech platform.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I’d love to claim that I’m a type A personality and everything is progressing as part of a master plan, but that’s really not the case. I’m a firm believer in following my heart, as that ensures that I’ll be passionate about what I’m doing. That approach hasn’t let me down so far, so I think I’ll stick with it! I am particularly passionate about helping the underdog, and the opportunities that can be created for underprivileged children using digital.

One thing I will say is that I have always wanted to change the world, though. I’ve never been one to sit idly by when I see something that I consider to be an injustice. I remember visiting the headteacher’s office when I was 8 years old, asking for an explanation as to why I couldn’t join the school football team. I didn’t get a satisfactory answer, so I vowed to create my own, girl’s only team. That part of my character has always driven me.

Attending the Marketing Academy did change my approach a little. I now create a vision board of what I would like to achieve in the year, and I have a 2-year plan that is regularly updated. That is not just career-focused, though. It covers everything that I want to achieve in my life.

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

Yes, there have been many challenges. That’s life, after all! If something is easy, it’s probably not worth doing. Personally, I love a challenge to sink my teeth into. When I look back, what felt like problems at the time always seemed to develop into opportunities.

My background was arguably the first challenge I had to overcome. Growing up on a council estate with the experiences I had, I didn’t – and still don’t – talk, dress or act like the many people you meet in the business arena. I make no apologies for that, and I’m not going to change who I am to conform to somebody else’s ideals.

I also happen to be female in the tech space, which is never easy. Women are often underestimated in this industry. I try to own it, but I’m human. Sometimes I get scared to the bone, and wonder what I have agreed to! That’s when I take a deep breath, remember that I am in this situation because I have worked tirelessly for it, and own the moment as best as I can.

I also love the sheer shock and surprise on people’s faces when I tell them that I run my own business, and work with some of the biggest brands in the world - and always have done throughout my career. Every time a woman walks away from me meeting thinking, “if that South London girl from a council estate can do it then so can I”, I consider it a win.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Gosh, my biggest career achievement... that’s tough, it’s like choosing a favourite child! I recently got to take our Digilearning books to Jamaica and visit three local schools while I was there. The young children in attendance were immaculate in every sense of the word. They had hardly any resources, one fan on the wall, no computers and limited books. In fact, two of the three schools were literally shacks.

Despite having such limited facilities, especially compared to British education standards, their beautiful little faces started to glow as they watched me read our Digilearning books. We also met with Prince Charles in Barbados, and will be holding a Digihack with the Prince’s Trust International, which is a massive opportunity to really make a difference. Watch this space and get in touch if you could like to know more.

Alongside the UK, the Commonwealth is hugely important to Digilearning. We need to help as many young people rise up using digital as we can. Technology can help the next generation have the lives they deserve, and we believe we can make a massive impact.

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

People. I can never explain the gratitude I have for the many people that have helped guide and push me along the way. I’m not saying that they all did so intentionally, and they didn’t all necessarily guide me in the right way. However, I can say that I learned something important from each and every one of them.

Without these people, I have no idea if I would be the person I am. That’s the advantage of growing up the way I did. We may not have had much in a material context, but what we did have were countless characters in our lives. These are the people that provided me with skills that money can’t buy, and to people that grow up in less-than-ideal circumstances those life experiences are like gold dust. I can comfortably talk to anybody now, and that ability has provided me with so much success.

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

Find the area you love, and dedicate yourself to it whole-heartedly. If you’re interested in Artificial Intelligence, learn everything you possibly can about that that. Make sure that you’re speaking about it to everybody you encounter, including on your social media channels, and the rest will follow. Become a thought leader in the field that you love, and the career will follow. That’s only going to happen if you’re an expert in one subject, though. Knowing a little about a lot will only get you so far.

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

Yes, there are barriers for everybody in one way or another. In particular, however, women working in tech face more –isms than any of us have time to list. June Sarpong explains a lot about this in her book, Diversify. I advise you get a copy!

To overcome these obstacles, we need to stand together and speak up. There are now more support groups for women in tech now than ever before, and we do not have to think we are the only ones with these experiences.

Look at the recent #MeToo campaign – we have all thought that we were alone for too long, and now we know that’s not the case. Women in all industries must speak up, and stand united. Only then will we overcome these barriers.

More and more women are showing interest in tech, and they need to be encouraged instead of deterred. That means creating a more welcoming environment for everybody. Let’s stop making excuses for the industry, and force change. It’s an evolve or die situation, and I firmly believe that we can all evolve!

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

I believe they must take massive steps, and start forcing the situation. We have been speaking about equal pay at length, and to be honest I think we’re all bored with it now. The time for words has passed, and we all want to see some action.

I mean, seriously. It’s ridiculous that we still need to push the issue. I believe that Iceland has moved in the right direction, as over there it’s now illegal to pay women less than men for the same job. I’m not willing to wait another 100 years for that to happen in my own country though, and there is no way I will allow my daughters to.

There is currently on 15 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?

We need to start the education process earlier than we currently are. That means getting into schools, and engaging girls about the possibilities of tech at a pivotal stage.

We really need to start from the root, and this is our main mission at Digilearning. Once we educate girls (and boys – female empowerment doesn’t have to equal male oppression, we just want to be treated fairly and equally!) from a young age about the myriad of opportunities digital has to offer there will be no holding back.

Digital needs to be the fourth pillar of education, alongside Maths, English and Science. It’s vital that the education system accepts that we are moving into the Digital Age, whether politicians like it or not. Education is currently stuck in the Victorian times, and values and beliefs need to be changed to reflect life in the 21st Century.

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

WeAreTechWomen, Super Soul Sundays podcast, Gary Vaynerchuck, The Drum, LinkedIn, the Cannes Lions Conference (you don’t need to get the big conference ticket for this– Google, Facebook and The Girls Lounge all have amazing events in Cannes for the festival you can attend for free), events hosted by The Marketing Academy and of course the book Diversify by June Sarpong.