Inspirational Woman: Natalie Foster | Scrum Master, Curve

Inspirational Woman Natalie Foster

I originated from a different career editing and cutting TV programs, producing video and general production work, which eventually led me to teach other people how to do it.

My career then quickly evolved in education management where I worked various roles as a Head of Media Training, Curriculum Manager, Quality Assurance Manager, Training Manager, teacher and assessor until eventually, I reached as far as I could go without a degree. There was always an element of tech to what I was managing, so I decided to pursue a degree in Computer Science, achieving a first for every module.

After graduating, I freelanced and was offered a contract with a University incorporated with a charity to produce online educational services in mental health that went to the House of Commons. There, I managed a small team using scrum and progressed to working with other companies directly as a Web Developer, focusing on eLearning services. After that, I got a temporary role for a company where I was brought on to create assets for Instructional Design. I observed pretty quickly that the scrum framework was not being implemented correctly and was asked to step in, based on my prior experience.  Within days, I secured buy-in from all the teams and put a full plan in place on how to work more effectively. This positively changed the teams progress and educated them in working with the scrum framework more effectively. I then did further work to forecast the coming projects over the next 2 years advising them on the current infrastructure and framework to achieve overall success in their projects. After successfully completing the contract, I took a full-time role as an MI Analyst but realised that staring at a spreadsheet all day wasn’t my thing. That was when I realised that working in the scrum framework and empowering teams to self-manage was what I really enjoyed, so I decided to certify as a Scrum Master and the rest is history.

I joined Curve about six months ago and my role as an Agile Delivery Manager / Scrum Master is to apply to relevant agile framework to ensure that our teams self-manage and can deliver our innovative products and features. It’s an exciting time to be working at Curve as our product is truly unique.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never sat down and planned my career, but that said, I reevaluate myself all the time. I like to think that my career has evolved as I’ve realised what I enjoy and what I’m good at. As a scrum master, there are so many elements of my educational background that I still use every day and continue to learn and improve every sprint.

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

There have been a few challenges but one that sticks out is early on in my career I had a female manager who was not supportive of the fact that I’d just had a baby. That was very challenging and is sadly still common for women today. They attempted to make me redundant whilst on maternity leave and due to bad practice in the organisation, I filed a grievance and went back to work. Sadly, this ended up making things worse so I timed my resignation for a year later.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

For me, the most rewarding element is helping other people and changing someone’s mindset from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset. I work best when empowering other people.

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

My parents were hard workers and I was exposed to this at a young age. My dad worked as an artist and distributor in the music business and I would drive with him to record stores and help him with collecting funds and arranging contracts with stores and studios. He’d always ask for my opinion on how to do things and would listen to me. Involving me from a young age helped develop my work ethic and a thick skin.

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

The only limitation you have is yourself!

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

The barriers for women are often structural but having more women in leadership roles is a start. If we have more women leading, we can pave the way for more women to enter the workforce and create a more gender-neutral industry from the inside-out.

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

I think companies can be doing more work with schools to get girls interested in tech from a young age. STEM subjects typically aren’t marketed to women which put females off career opportunities at an early age. Many people don’t even know what tech careers are out there outside of coding - I never knew what a scrum master was until studying computer science at University.

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?

Most tech companies focus on getting the youngest grads straight out of University, whereas I think there’s a huge opportunity to support women who want to change their career later in life, like I did. If we supported this more, I believe we’d have way more women in the tech industry. It’s about what we can do now, not just the grassroots.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

It really just depends on what you’re into - follow your passion and the rest will come to you. I’m really into AI and Machine Learning so I focus on any emerging technology resources in that field. I would also recommend going to meet-ups and meeting people with similar interests, as people with practical knowledge can give the best insights into the tech world.