Verity Batchelder

Inspirational Woman: Verity Batchelder | COO & Co-founder, Good Life Sorted

Meet Verity Batchelder, COO & Co-founder, Good Life Sorted

Verity Batchelder

Verity has more than 20 years of international marketing and operations experience in senior leadership roles. She has worked for top online companies like Amazon and Yahoo, as well as exciting start-ups like Tails.com. As the first Country Manager for Snapfish in Australia she grew the business from zero to AUS$20M in three years. Verity holds an MBA from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Prior to her business career, Verity trained as a ballet dancer and performed throughout Europe.

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

I’ve had a varied career: I left school at 16 to go to dance college and enjoyed a few years as a professional dancer before moving ‘backstage’, taking a role in administration for the Contemporary Dance Trust. From there I moved over to Gramophone, the classical music magazine, and when Amazon arrived in the UK, was delighted to take a lead marketing role. I introduced a range of categories into the UK including music and toys, but it was only when I moved to Melbourne that I went back to education to get an MBA. This opened more doors and I took a role at Yahoo! Australia as Head of Marketing before launching Snapfish in Australia and New Zealand. Back in the UK, I returned to Amazon for a while and then moved to J.K. Rowling’s digital company Pottermore. I also worked at Tails.com, the leading e-commerce subscription dog food brand, which took the online model further. Amazon was the start of e-commerce, this was an early internet subscription model. This gave me the experience and confidence to get together with my ex-Amazon colleague, Constantine Karampatsos, to launch Good Life Sorted. We are a tech company that connects vetted ‘helpers’ with elderly and vulnerable people in their area so that they can provide companionship and help, enabling them to stay independent in their homes for longer. We’ve won awards for disrupting the home help sector and are growing fast across the UK.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. In my opinion, you can’t possibly know what’s round the corner: you have to keep an open mind and trust that things will come along – it’s all about timing. There will be times you feel you’re in the wrong job, or going in the wrong direction – and that may well be part of your journey. Every experience gives you something, even if it’s the impetus to move or confidence to change.

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

The transitions in work can be really challenging: that move from the person that carries out the role, to being the manager, is hard. Training is brilliant these days but there is still only so much you can learn in training. It’s very challenging to become a manager. Then life transitions too, general changes that impact on work.  But again, I see this as part of the journey: it’s important to face things head on, use the experience to learn and grow, even if it’s not altogether pleasant at the time.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Snapfish – I’m so proud of what we did there. I launched the service in Australia and New Zealand, growing it from zero to 20million dollars in just three years. I reported to one of the founders and found his entrepreneurial approach so inspiring.

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

Doing my MBA at Melbourne Business School in my early thirties. I left school at 16 to go to dance college and if I’d pursued a career in dance for the rest of my life that would have been fine, but working in business it started to become clear to me that my lack of further education was perceived negatively and was hindering my progress. Doing my Masters as a mature student, I had acquired some experiences that I could bring to the course and that made it so much more enjoyable – and successful. And then having that MBA did open doors for me.

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

Know your achievements and recognise that people will want your wisdom and your value. Get a mentor who can guide you. Network and keep learning.

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

Great strides are being made. Shared parental leave is making a difference and outlooks are changing. But I genuinely feel that some of the barriers are the ones we put on ourselves. I’ve never met someone who has blocked me or judged me as a woman in tech – I suspect some of the largest barriers are in our heads. Women who work in tech are gold, they balance the team. If you are in a minority this is a strength, as you bring a unique insight as well as your skills. So you should be welcomed with open arms and if you are not, and are marginalised in any way then move on, it’s their loss. To become the tech leaders, we need to move to where we are valued and developed and our insights and skills are recognised and respected.

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

I was assigned a terrific mentor when I worked at Pottermore. She did management training in the team but gave me good sensible advice – practical things like working out how much to speak and maximise your contribution in a senior meeting. If the meeting lasts xxx time, then your proportion of contribution is xxx minutes. Use that time effectively, don’t talk for the sake of it, prepare for the meeting and you’ll gain respect. It sounds obvious but too many of us don’t talk enough, or don’t say the right things at the right time. Mentorship provides practical advice and confidence.

There are currently only 21 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?

Young people are being given the opportunities, they are growing up with tech now and just pick it up – coding is being taught now in school – so the opportunities themselves are levelling out. But I think there is an issue with the way ‘tech’ is perceived. ‘Tech’ itself isn’t a career. The way the tech is used, and how it connects, builds and improves lives, and the industries in which that happens – that’s the interesting career bit. So we need to communicate that all the tech can be applied to different professions and target it towards individual interests. Make it relevant, move away from the tech stereotypes. Tech is the enabler, not the end goal.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Training websites. Ted Talks are so inspirational. You Tube is great. As a startup founder, I benefit from our investor network and also founders of other startups. And also general non-tech networking and industry events and podcasts – tech is not a silo industry. It impacts everything. It still all comes back to people.