Nicola Anderson

Inspirational Woman: Nicola Anderson | CMO, MyTutor

Nicola AndersonNicola Anderson is the CMO at MyTutor, a UK edtech startup that aims to make tutoring affordable and easy to access for all students.

Nicola studied at Bristol university many moons ago and after deciding a PhD in tadpoles wasn’t for her moved to London, landed a marketing role in a tech startup right in the middle of the dotcom boom - and has never left.

She’s worked across a whole range of sectors from sports and gambling to photography and finance and is finally in the sector she is most passionate about. Outside of work Nicola is completing a diploma in coaching and mentoring and loves skiing, yoga and travel.

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

My current position is Chief Marketing Officer at online tutoring platform MyTutor. It’s a company that matches school pupils with inspiring university students for one-to-one lessons online.

Tech lowers the cost of and widens access to this kind of personalised education, helping us towards our mission to offer lifechanging tuition for all. We've seen it boost confidence and deliver excellent results for our students (improving by a whole grade over 12 weeks!)

My original plan was to become a vet – but I’ve now been working in the tech sector for almost 20 years! My first tech role was in the online sport and gambling space, a job that happened almost by accident after being brought in as temporary cover, and since then I’ve had positions in a wide range of online companies and digital startups.

Outside of work I’ve just finished my diploma in coaching and mentoring and am also a governor of a local school, which helps to stay up to date with the latest education policies and in tune with what really matters to schools.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Honestly, never! From the word go my career has been a series of opportunities presenting themselves and me deciding to go for them.  After switching from Veterinary Science to Zoology at university and deciding a pHD in tadpoles wasn’t for me, I headed to London which absolutely no idea of what might happen next.  A career in tech was a surprise to me.

More recently though I’ve taken very active decisions on the businesses I’ve chosen to work with ensuring its for a product or service that I really believe in.The EdTech sector broadly – and definitely MyTutor specifically as a company – really fit that criteria for me.

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

Interestingly, for me, the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome in my career hasn’t necessarily been as a result of external factors, but more my own fear of not being ‘good enough’. This ‘imposter syndrome’ has even led me drop out of interview processes as I just wasn’t sure I could do the job.  Fortunately for me I’ve been lucky enough to have had the support to overcome this and take the opportunity - however terrifying I found it.

I have found this feeling to be so common among women in this industry.  It’s partly why I decided to do a diploma in coaching  and mentoring so I can support other women facing the same internal demons which can hold them back from getting the opportunities they really deserve.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I think looking back over my career I’d say my biggest achievement has been developing strong teams at every place I’ve worked, and being able to watch them grow in their roles both with me and in their next roles.  I’m incredibly proud of all of them and love seeing how they progress and where they are now.  I’m delighted to see that most of them are now far more successful than me.

I’m also really proud of achieving my coaching diploma and mentoring really talented women coming up in tech roles, especially since it was so critical to me in my own development.

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

I don’t think that I would have been able to achieve as much as I have without the support of my peers and the networks that exist within the industry. There have been points in my career when I’ve felt overwhelmed in situations, and I’ve always been able to find others who have experienced similar challenges and are happy to share their experiences and wisdom with me.

Another thing that I’ve learned is that success comes easier when you’re passionate about what you do. As I’ve progressed in my career I’ve been lucky enough to work with companies and on projects that I have truly loved, and that’s made a real difference in my ability to progress and grow.

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

The best thing to do if you want to grow in this industry is to build out your network.  I’m constantly amazed at how open, honest and supportive people in this sector are - and this isn’t just limited to  women. I’ve got some fantastic male mentors too.

In fast growing tech companies we’re frequently working on projects and intiatives that we’ve got little to no experience in.  It’s a huge challenge but an exciting one particularly when you’ve got a group of peers there to support you.  And its important to remember that whilst you may not always succeed, you’ll certainly always learn.

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

This is something that I get asked a lot, and I always give the same, perhaps controversial, answer. As far as I’m concerned, the biggest barrier to our success as women in tech is ourselves.

I’m not saying that there aren’t institutional and cultural roadblocks that prevent women from reaching the highest levels of the industry, but I think that so often women limit themselves by not thinking they are good enough to make it to the top.

Too often I hear the women I mentor saying that they don’t think they have the right skills or they haven’t got enough experience to take on a role, when I know men at their level wouldn’t consider this for a moment.

My aim for every woman I mentor is for them to see how valuable they are, and how much they would be worth to the companies they want to work for.

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

From my perspective there is a lot more that tech companies can do to improve their diversity and inclusion processes, as well as their general workplace culture for women. Often I’ve found that companies that are otherwise progressive don’t offer simple things like flexible working to allow parents to be available for school pick ups, or part-time roles for women looking to come back into the workforce.

Committing to simple policies like these demonstrates to women that a company understands what they need, and is willing to support them in their career growth. It also significantly widens the pool of candidates available to fill upcoming roles!

Currently only 15 per cent of tech employees are women, 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?

In short, create more part-time and shared roles. There are hundreds of experienced, focused and capable women who aren’t able to take on full time work, but who are just as valuable in a part time role. We need to ensure that tech companies understand this (and  where to find them - a question I get asked a lot).

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

So many but so I don’t get carried away 3 of my favourites are:

  • Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability and shame
  • Time to Think by Nancy Klein
  • How to  Fail Elizabeth Day.