Inspirational Woman: Karen Barrett | CEO & Founder, Unbiased

Karen BarrettKaren Barrett is CEO and Founder of Unbiased, connecting people with trusted financial advice. 

With more than 10 million people helped with professional advice on everything from starting a business to retirement planning, now’s the time to find your perfect financial adviser.

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

What we do at Unbiased is simply helping people navigate life’s biggest decisions. What excites me is being able to improve people’s lives through a blend of technology, knowledge and empathy – and of course running a thriving business with a great team. What we’ve managed to do is move beyond mere ‘finance’ into people’s broader lives.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No!!! I fell into working in finance but found I enjoyed it mainly due to the culture of the first business I worked for which was very can-do. Given how much time we spend working in our lifetime it’s been an aim of mine to really enjoy whatever it was I did and I would have moved around until I found this.

During school I didn’t excel in anything in particular but have actually found this to be a strength as I’ve come to run a business where you need to be accomplished at a number of skills to make things work well – understanding both numbers and use of creative whilst having a good understanding of how people tick have been the skills I use most. I could have had a great career in different sectors. Luckily for me the internet was really starting to take off when I started my career and seeing how businesses use it as a tool to communicate and increase efficiency has been a core focus throughout my career.

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

I remember feeling quite frustrated by the red tape and slow pace of change when working for a large corporate. Turns out I couldn’t change it so I quickly moved on to a role where I could make a difference and work with other passionate and curious individuals. Sometimes its best to acknowledge the situation for what it is and move on

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Returning to the office recently I felt a real sense of accomplishment in growing the team and the product offering for our customers – we’ve grown our headcount more than 50% during the time we were WFH so seeing so many people together in the office really brought it home how successfully Unbiased had been growing and what we achieved during a turbulent period for the world. It’s a fantastic feeling to know that as a result of our growth we can help more people confidently manage their finances and that we can partners with more professional firms to help support the success of their businesses. I’m also really inspired by the talented team we have. They constantly amaze me with their hard work, positive energy and innovation – it’s wonderful how everyone brings something unique to the table.

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

I’m naturally nosey (curious?) and I believe wholeheartedly there are always ways round any problem we face. Sometimes it can take longer than I’d like so I’d say resilience and tenacity have also contributed.

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

Be the expert, read, listen, talk to other and learn your area better than anyone else out there. Have a passion for what you do and let that shine through. Don’t be worried about going down a few career dead ends before turning back and having a go at something else -when you look back at your unique set of experiences you will understand that’s what makes you exceptional and distinctive.

Karen Barrett

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

Yes, I think there are very real barriers being faced by women – not just in tech but in the workplace. However, in my career I’ve actually felt more ‘seen’ as a women – being the only women at a finance event of 100 people provides a level of stand out and gave me the ability to connect with more people (or maybe it was the bright pink suit and white boots?).

When Unbiased was fundraising for our Series A investment I’m certain being a female founded business with over 50% of the senior team also being female got us more attention than we would otherwise have garnered. A successful outcome was the most important factor so being pragmatic I hired an experienced colleague to guide us through the process.

Talented women in tech are in high demand so I would urge women to use this to their advantage and have the confidence and self-belief to go after what they want in their career. Now is a great time given the focus of these issues in business today.

Many tech businesses are by nature more progressive and aware of issues of gender, diversity and environmental impact making them more welcoming of women and offering an environment in which women can thrive.

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

Any women in business can lift and support other women in their own sphere of control including your colleagues, those you manage, those you network with. Reach out to someone you admire and ask to be mentored. Reach out to these earlier on in their careers and ask if they want to have a coffee and discuss their career aspirations. The hybrid way of working is offering more ability for flexibility in working which will benefit families looking to manage caring duties with careers.

With just 17 per cent of women working in tech at the moment, what are you doing as a company to improve things?

We have a senior leadership that’s 50% female and across the whole business there is an exceptionally high level of diversity, but I know we can do more. For instance, we have too few women in our tech team because not as many women apply. We’re going to have to work harder to make sure we encourage them. We know we’ve got to keep monitoring and making sure we’re on track.

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?

One of the areas where Unbiased tries to raise awareness is in the different financial pressures that women can face. This isn’t just about pay inequality, but also includes things like career breaks, part-time working, life expectancy and even an unfair share of childcare costs. Women may forget that every day they’re not working is another day they’re not saving into a pension for their retirement. Women may also end up overly reliant on their husband’s pension, which can cause major problems if the marriage breaks down. In empowering women financially, they have more choice around the career paths the select.