Rachel Grigg featured

Inspirational Woman: Rachel Grigg | Co-Founder & Managing Director, Voodoo Park

 

Rachel Grigg is Co-Founder and Managing Director of digital agency Voodoo Park.

She works closely with the CEO and CTO to direct the company’s creative vision, strategy and growth.

Rachel Grigg

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

When it comes to tech I’m entirely self-taught, having initially started out in the arts. Although it didn’t take me long to realise that tech was my thing. My first job in the sector was at a small company analysing text messaging. Over the years I worked my way up the ranks, via a series of roles – account manager, marketing manager, innovation manager. I was at Vodafone, initially in the (at the time entirely new) internet services team, where we worked on the first ever iPhone launch.

That was awhile ago! There were lots of firsts, I helped create the first ever data bundles and launched netbooks and mobile broadband dongles into the consumer market . I’ve been working in digital for 15 years now, so I got to experience the digital revolution from the inside, particularly in relation to mobile. Voodoo Park is my second MD role. I’m working on our expansion, strategy and innovation. It’s all about understanding our brand, looking at who we are in the market, and ensuring we expand in a grown-up and sustainable way for both ourselves and our partners.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No, never! I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist, that was my first specialism. But when it came down to it I was always most interested in the tech aspects of it, for example the newest camera or latest imaging equipment. Archaeology involved some great technology, but stuff like that was slow to develop in that sector, which I found frustrating. So, I drifted into my first tech role, the SMS job, and immediately found it fun and exciting. But truthfully, I fell into that, there was no plan. I just knew I liked tech. That’s how it often is with genuine passions, it always pays to follow your instincts.

Have you faced any challenges along the way? How did you deal with them?

Yes, lots and lots! I think working in tech and digital companies constantly challenges in multiple ways every day. I became an expert in technical delivery. That involves one challenge after another because new digital things will inevitably go wrong when they first launch. You’re working for high profile customers that want everything yesterday, and you have to make sure your crew stay motivated, enough to get them through the long hours that project delivery involves. In those situations, team morale is so important.

Staying directly involved in all aspects of a project is the best way to overcome those types of challenges. Of course, being a woman in the sector brings its own challenges, starting with often being the only woman in the room. I am finding my challenges are becoming fewer in terms of customer delivery, and are now morphing into business challenges. At Voodoo park we are passionate about ensuring we have as diverse a culture as we can in order to challenge our way of thinking and challenge the way the world has been run in business for as long as anyone can remember.

Do you have a typical workday? How does your start your day and how does it end?

The only real constant is getting up and getting my two boys off to nursery! After that I’ll probably come home, have a cup of tea and write out my to do list, cross-checking it against the day before. I love a good list! Then a daily call with the team, at Voodoo Park we’ve really embraced remote working. This means constantly exploring new ways to stay in touch with each other. Then I’ll work my way through my list, I seem to be making lots of calls at the moment. I am working a lot on strategy, so a chunk of my day consists of doing quite a bit of good old fashioned thinking.

I also make sure I take my YooDoo Time, this is for all our guys to take two hours a week in work time to do something to improve their mental health or physical well being. I close off my day speaking to the team, getting the boys and then chilling out with them before bath time. I go into London for meetings a few times a week, but mainly I’m based at home, which massively suits my lifestyle. I think giving people that kind of flexibility empowers them, which in turn leaves them motivated to work. At Voodoo Park we really encourage it, and find it works really well for us as a business.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you ever had a mentor or do you mentor anyone?

I’m a big fan of it. It’s a really positive thing to help people to develop and when done right both sides get so much out of it. I do think it’s important that the people are well matched though, otherwise it’s not mutually beneficial. I’ve had a couple of mentors over the years, one of whom was a very senior guy at Vodafone, and personality wise we matched perfectly. It was quite early on in my career and he was absolutely brilliant. However, sometimes it can be more about them than you, and that can be difficult. I have unofficially mentored others in the past, and we’re in the process of kicking off a mentoring scheme ourselves with the STEMettes organisation.

How do you think we can encourage more women and girls into a career in STEM?

It’s such a difficult problem to solve. There is a lot of work on this going on right now, it’s a big discussion point, which is obviously great to see. We need to focus on making girls know it’s accessible to them, and requires a perception shift. It’s not something that is going to change overnight, regardless of how much effort we all put in. Women and girls need to be given the confidence to give it a go and not worry about initial failures, the very nature of the sector is all about testing hypotheses. For that to happen we need to change how we teach in schools, and sometimes even how we’re raising our girls. Encouragement, access, and raising awareness all have a vital role to play, but real change is going to take time. At Vodafone all the buildings are named after inspirational tech figures, and just recently they changed some to be named after women for the first time. That’s a massive sign of change and it was great to see.

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

From a personal point of view (and I do of course understand this doesn’t apply to everyone), but for women that have chosen to have a family and go back full time, flexible working really is the most important thing. Many women really want to continue their careers but a lack of flexible options hold them back. We need to create environments that help them to feel free to return to the workplace, in a way that works for them. This applies to men as well, it’s an issue for families in general. Help with childcare would of course also have a big impact.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My current role. I’ve worked on some amazing product launches and deals in the past, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter before anyone had heard of them, but my current role has enabled me to realise what I’m capable of helping a business to achieve. I have definitely been pigeon-holed in the past and as a result been frustrated and made mistakes. But I have learnt from them and I am now able to now push Voodoo Park forward, helping us all to achieve our goals, utilising all my experience and referring to all the challenges I’ve overcome, it’s a really rewarding experience. I feel like it’s an achievement to have got where I am. The way Voodoo Park genuinely embraces women in tech, and give me so much genuine autonomy, rather than paying lip service to it, are more things to be proud of.

What are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I’d like to help more businesses to reach their potential. And more women. Personally, I genuinely feel like I’m reaching my own potential now, and I’d love to encourage others to do the same. My dream would be to move into an advisory role, for companies specifically and women more generally. I still learn new things every day, and looking at ways to harness the knowledge you accumulate to help others is always rewarding. For now, I’m focused on making Voodoo Park a big success story. Then I can convey how we did it to others. Failing all that I’d settle for running a B&B in the French countryside, cooking up a storm with my own wine cellar!