Inspirational Woman: Rachel Keane | Co-Founder, Women in Data UK

Rachel Keane

Rachel Keane is a veteran recruiter with over 15 years’ experience in the industry, and a co-founder of Women in Data (WiD) UK, an organisation that aims to achieve gender parity in the field of data science and analytics.

Rachel enjoys pushing boundaries, asking questions and is passionate about liberating people from their societally-imposed boxes to realise their full potential. This drives Rachel to work tirelessly for the promotion of female participation in the sciences, in particular the field of data science and analytics.

As a fundamentally creative person, Rachel pursued a Bachelor of Arts with Honours at Nottingham Trent University where she dreamt of a career at Karen Millen but was beaten out by candidates with a stronger grasp of mathematics! Without letting this impede her, she focused on her strengths and decided to tackle bigger challenges outside of the fashion world, armed with motivation, people-centric values and attention to detail. She embarked on her journey as a recruiter and communications expert and thrived in this fast paced environment.

Some of Rachel’s notable accomplishments with WiD UK includes 2 invitations to 11 Downing Street in recognition of the work done by WiD, and interviews with BBC South Today. She mentors young women in their careers and speaks at schools to cultivate a love for STEM in children. She is excited about the launch of her new project Girls in Data UK in January 2020 and the collaboration with RANKIN.

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

My name is Rachel Keane and I have been working in the data and analytics recruitment space as a Managing Consultant for Datatech Analytics for the last 11 years. Five years ago, Roisin McCarthy and I co-founded Women in Data, an initiative that connects, equips and inspires women in an industry that is still so desperately under represented with women. Our community has grown exponentially, along with our ideas and ambitions for gender parity in this sector and it is a project that we are incredibly proud to have created and watch grow year on year – To register free, please visit

My commercial background prior to Datatech Analytics was always in a sales based role, cementing that the fact that talking too much at school (a comment frequently mentioned by teachers at parents evening!) did lend itself to the commercial world. This coupled with a natural thirst and curiosity (some call nosey) to learn, helped me build successful client relationships and started me on the stepping-stone to a successful relationship based career.

Growing up, I enjoyed two things….talking (a lot!) and being creative making things. I studied a BA Hons in Knitwear Design at Nottingham Trent, spending my placement year working on the M&S account via Courtaulds Knitwear and was lucky enough to spend some time in Hong Kong meeting new and existing suppliers.

Women in Data has allowed me to combine my two passions; a love of connecting with people and building an industry recognised network. Whilst focusing on the creative strategy overall. The Twenty in Data & Technology role model series is a project that I lead and am passionate about. I am always so excited every year meeting the new awardees, learning of their journey’s and the outstanding work they are delivering in industry. The nominations for this are open until Friday 28th August, so please do nominate or self-nominate for 2020’s campaign.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

My original plan was to be a buyer for Karen Millen, but my lack of mathematical skills brought that to an abrupt halt! Ironically, I have spent the last decade placing numerical geniuses in job roles!

I believe that on occasion your career finds you….and that the unique skills you have should never be underestimated.

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

Everyone faces challenges, with mine being self-confidence. Being a single mum for the last 15 years, I always felt that I had to over achieve to be taken seriously. Something I later learnt was in my head and no one else’s! I overcame this by investing in a smaller trusted network of people that I have met along the way in my career to guide and mentor me and make me pause and recognise my achievements to date, and taking time to appreciate the present without blindly running into the future.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Attending an event at Downing Street for International Women’s Day in both 2017 and 2018 and being a guest on Women’s hour radio show.

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

Belief! In myself and from others……when you believe in yourself, anything is possible.

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

To network and build a community for yourself of all levels of seniority and ask questions. In a field that is, forever evolving it is so important to keep up with what is going on by attending industry seminars and events. It is amazing how many people love to help you answer those questions!

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

We know you can’t be what you can’t see….Women in Data introduced a sub initiative four years ago, called “Twenty in Data & Technology” This project has recognised sixty ambassadors to date across all levels of seniority and data disciplines and has been instrumental in making role models accessible across industry. Encouraging industry to celebrate successful women is paramount – opening up the doors for more women to walk through.

Educating girls early about careers in data and technology is hugely important and inspired me to launch Girls in Data in early 2020. This platform to inspire students, teachers and parents of the wonderfully diverse careers in data is such a rewarding project and has a number of exciting projects in development stages currently.

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

Listen! If we know what women need (everyone’s are different) we can help them succeed in industry.

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?

Remove imposter syndrome from all women and watch them fly!

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Joining communities and relevant networks are imperative to building contacts and confidence. So join the Women in Data community now!

I personally would recommend reading material such as; Let it Go – Dame Stephanie Shirley, A good time to be a girl – Helena Morrissey and The Power of Choices – Janine Woodcock.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

Roisin McCarthy featured

Inspirational Woman: Roisin McCarthy | Co-Founder, Women in Data UK

Roisin McCarthyStarting her career as a junior recruiter in 2000, focusing exclusively on data and analytics, McCarthy has forged her career by building relationships between people who want to develop their careers and those who need the rare skills that these people can provide.

As a result of her own efforts, over two thousand people have moved into more satisfying roles and dozens of teams put together. Furthermore, she has managed a successful team of professional recruiters which, over the years, has placed thousands more. Today, she runs the successful recruitment firm, Datatech Analytics, and is the co-founder of the ground-breaking initiative, Women in Data UK. Over the past 19 years, McCarthy has been responsible for building some of the UK’s most cutting-edge data teams and has facilitated some of the most influential and successful careers in this sector, building relationships, influence and firm friendships along the way. McCarthy is seen as a thought-leader and an authority on careers, team development and talent acquisition in the field. Her unrivalled network of contacts, commitment to the data and analytics community and her unwavering passion for building strong, skilled teams is what makes her so unique.

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

My name is Roisin McCarthy and I am the Business lead at Datatech Analytics, alongside my voluntary role of Co-Founder on the ever-growing movement Women in Data.

I have had a career in Headhunting in the Data world for almost two decades, building strong long lasting relationships whilst building some of the most innovative data capability in the UK.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Never, like most people I fell in to it, after a lack of success in other fields.  However, after reflecting on my own achievements and the value they added to the organisation, I quickly started to define a plan of ambition.  I suppose, I needed the confidence in my own capability, which allowed me to focus further than the “here and now”.  With experience, my biggest learning is, always have a short-term achievable goal, working alongside your long-term road map and ambitions.

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

Plenty!  From tricky legal disputes, to on the job learning how to manage a team, challenges come thick and fast and often daily.  However, they are what develop your skills and growth.  They are what keep you fresh and relevant and each problem, uses unique skills and attributes.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I have been very fortunate, in that there have been so many.  Some of the key highlights have been recognition from industry peers of my contribution in industry.  Placing in excess of 3000 individuals, but my personal most cherished achievement is seeing the growth and measurable success of Women in Data.  Its trajectory of community growth, the value and safe space it offers its members.

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

Surrounding yourself with the right people, in talent, attitude, work ethic and ambition.  Women in data would simply not be the success it is without the hard work and dedication of the team who deliver.

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

Spread your learning, you cannot be a subject matter expert in all elements of technology, technique and tools.  A little knowledge of many skills, will allow you to identify your strengths and hopefully allow you to enjoy applying the skills to productive use.

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 whilst attitude and understanding towards gender equality has come a long way,  I do believe there is a huge distance still to go to ensure we are seeing parity in the years ahead.  From inclusive culture, to equal opportunities these are a long way from acceptable in many organisations.  WE alo have a longer term issue that will come as no surprise.  Women in Data’s research suggests gender equality will only get worse over the next decade and few women enter the profession to men at a rate of 4 men to 0.68 women.

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

I believe there has been some pioneering work undertaken by organisations to really drive the dial, shared maternity/paternity leave, flexible working, additional academic support, leadership development and many more great initiatives.  We still don’t see many of these inclusive strategies in the Data teams we work with and for the Women in our community.  It needs to become the normal.

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?

It has to start with grassroots.  Ensuring young girls and women are introduced, excited and educated on the word of tech.  Allowing them to understand the importance of building these skills early on and knowing there is an inclusive, well paid, equal opportunity for them to build it their careers

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Every career in tech will have a requirement for some level of data literacy, by joining Women in Data you not only will build your personal network in the space, but you will really see under the bonnet of what is needed to excel in the space.  You will find up to date podcasts on industry hot topics, blogs and interviews, opportunities to self-develop and be part of our mentoring mission.

WeAreTheCity has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

Margarete McGrath

Inspirational Woman: Margarete McGrath | Chief Digital Officer, Dell Technologies

Margarete McGrathMargarete McGrath is the Chief Digital Officer for Dell Technologies for the UK. 

Previous to that, Margarete worked as a Management Consultant where she worked for EY and PwC leading complex change programmes. She previously worked for PwC in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and more recently in Ireland. Margarete  supported many public and private sector clients with their business transformations.  

Alongside this, Margarete  previously ran two successful start up’s focusing on sharing models in food sustainability and building social networks while in New Zealand. 

Today, Margarete  works with a diverse group of Dell Technologies clients to support them with their digital and security transformations. Dell Technologies provides a wide range of solutions ranging from edge computing delivering smart solutions to advanced analytics to drive enhanced and secure customer experiences and new business model opportunities for leading financial institutions.  

Dell Technologies is continuing to invest and innovate in research and development across its seven technology businesses which enables Dell Technologies to partner with leading global clients to support them automate, modernise and transform their business models. 

Margarete is a champion of diversity in digital and a strong advocate of STEM. She is big believer in female entrepreneurship and green technology. Margarete is an advocate of Mental Health and Wellbeing in Dell. 

Margarete is also one of our speakers at our upcoming virtual tech conference, Disrupt. Innovate. Lead. on 26 June. This unique learning experience is aimed at individuals working in technology who would like broaden their industry knowledge, learn new skills and benefit from the thought leadership of some of the brightest minds in the tech industry.

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

I am the Chief Digital Officer for Dell Technologies in the UK. Prior to that, I worked as a management consultant with EY and PwC for many years driving large scale change programmes, many of which had a strong connection with technology. My current role is diverse with a focus on both internal and external change to drive digital adoption. I am big supporter of internal people focussed change initiatives such as reverse mentoring, mental health awareness and building collaborative networks with our clients.

A big part of my role today is focused on driving greater digital transformation and adoption of new ways of working particularly considering this pandemic. We are focused on supporting our clients with how they return to work safely and how we help businesses reimagine their business models to leverage existing and new technologies and platforms to drive value.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

To an extent I did have a plan or at least an idea of a plan. I really enjoyed working on big transformation programmes for global business while I was in the advisory world. That provided me with some insight into the power of technology and the value it can unlock for organisations with the right business readiness and change management support. Since then, I was drawn to a move into technology as I wanted to learn more about how it can really accelerate growth.
Michael Dell is an impressive entrepreneur and inspirational leader and so when the opportunity presented itself to work full time in technology, I made the change. In summary to answer the question, I always had an idea that technology would be part of my career journey and it hasn’t disappointed yet.

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

Yes, I think that’s where most of my learning comes from. I think the challenges and set backs we have are often the biggest teachers for us. I have had lots of setbacks from change programmes falling over at the eleventh hour, to unions refusing to adopt new protocols and embrace digital devices to drive efficiency after considerable rounds of consultation and agreements to integration project not meshing together as planned. Some of these challenges have been disappointing and frustrating at the time but I know in hindsight, there have been lessons to learn from each of these experiences. You have to take the positives from each situation, I really believe that there is learning to be had from everything.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I think many of the achievements have been personal where I have delivered a large result for a client or I have seen an organisation make a large shift in behaviours to drive and spin up a new business model.

Some of the most memorable achievements are the small wins where I know that I have shifted my perspective on something in a considerable way. One small example is the move I made from an Advisory Partnership focussed on long term value creation to a US quarterly driven technology organisation. A technology company that is looking to drive quarterly sales but also develop long term value driven transformational solutions. This was a significant shift for me, one that I really feel I have gained hugely from a learning perspective. I remember feeling that it was a bit of a leap of faith at the time.

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

I have always had great mentors and sponsors throughout my career, both at PwC and beyond. These relationships have been invaluable to me and I draw upon them regularly to seek their guidance and wisdom. I think the other factor is that quest for learning and curiousity, I have always believed that we are always learning and developing so being open minded has really helped me throughout my journey so far.

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

Firstly, I think the first thing is to believe in yourself and your value. Self-worth and self-belief go a long way when you are facing a shift or a change in career.

There are lots of pathways into technology firms whether it is through technology sales, business operations, engineering, marketing, eco system ventures etc... I think if you can identify the companies that your values align to and see what opportunities they may have available, that’s a start. Right now, there is a hold on recruitment across the technology and innovation space, but this is short term and things will reopen so my guidance would be to use this time well. Figure out what you want to do in technology, research and short list the technology firms that resonate with you and start to build your network. If you are entrepreneurial minded, you may want to consider setting up your own start up, there are lots of platforms and support mechanisms available to encourage early stage start ups with bright ideas get off the ground.

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

I think things have come along way in the past few years, but we can do better across all parts of technology. We still do not have enough STEM graduates and young girls looking at STEM courses in school and university. At a board level, female representation is still under represented despite the great efforts by Helena Morrissey in the 30% club. I think we have a long way to go in the Venture Capital space particularly around tech and innovation and it is disappointing to see the slow pace of change in terms of diversity and inclusion. I think the barriers stem from are a mix of people reverting back to old ways because that’s what they have always had and a lack of courage to invest, nurture and grow both internal and external talent in STEM roles.

In summary, I think we have a lot more to do. However, I am hopeful as we have many more senior female and male champions flying the flag for young women in technology. It’s a start but much work needs to be done to get this more balanced across all capability areas in the technology sector.

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

I think there are several ways to support the growth of women in technology and there is no single bullet. I think much of the progress can be traced to a few key mechanisms:

Commitment from senior male and females leaders in the industry to get more women and great ethnic groups in technology roles. We also need to recognise that it’s not okay to have all male executive teams. This also goes for all male panels at conferences. There needs to be wider recognition at senior levels that diverse organisations drive better financial performance, and this is not just relating to females. We need greater diversity of thought all round and greater BAME representation to bring the best thinking to the table to create the right technology solutions for everyone.

Other mechanisms include schools outreach programmes and reaching out to young girls to encourage them to take an interest in STEAM subjects from an early age. Another mechanism is to focus on returnships and attracting mums who have been out of the workforce for a while to come join us and support them with retraining and development programmes in technology and coding.

Lastly, the importance of role models cannot be underestimated. We really need more female figures at the top table actively supporting young women to follow careers in STEAM. Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, Karen Quintos from Dell Technologies, Susan Wojcicki from UTube, Angela Ahrendts from Apple. More locally Sue Black from Tech Mums, Emer Coleman, Parul Green from AXA, Jane Duncan and Fiona Capstick from EY, Jayne Ann Gahdia in Salesforce are all strong role models, we need some many more to drive this sea change.

There is currently only 17 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?

Greater focus at schools and less unconscious bias to encourage young girls to reach for their stars and set their sights on anything that want to. I think we are still conditioned to think in one way and follow certain career paths. Giving people the permission to think bigger and to broaden their perspectives from an early age by exposing them to new things whether its computer coding, access to new technologies, learning new languages, a greater focus on sustainability etc... In many countries, around the world, women are still very much considered to be secondary citizens. I think we have some amazing young talent coming through in the UK who are not shy, this brings us hope for the future.

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

There are some many resources out there now, its hard to list them all off. I think We are the City has done an impressive job making webinars and digital assets available to some many. I would strongly encourage women to get on social and really start to engage and listen to some of the live discussions underway on many tech podcasts, LinkedIn, Instagram, twitter, whatever platforms works on technology for good, ethics in technology, new innovations to solve today’s challenges using tech, green tech, med tech and many others. There are so many insightful conversations that are live on technology right now so get involved and find the ones, that interest you.

Lastly, I wanted to finish with a quote that my dear friend and mentor, Emer Coleman gave to me many years ago, Emer encouraged me to make the leap into the technology world. “There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women” – by Madeline Albright. We all need to support each other right now and I have been lucky to have some great female mentors and I hope I can encourage some young talent to be bold and make the move to a career in technology.

Augmented workingMargarete is hosting a WeAreVirtual webinar on 24 June, discussing the future of work with guest speaker, Mona Bitar.

This conversation will explore some of the emerging workplace trends and how workplaces are being reset for a new reality. You can join us for what will be an engaging discussion on the workplace reality, one that is unlikely to revert to old patterns but presents an opportunity to reshape workplaces as we know them.

Find out more and register here







Inspirational Woman: Rachel Murphy | CEO, Difrent Group

Rachel Murphy

Rachel is the CEO at Difrent, a professional services partner to ‘tech for good’ organisations delivering business efficiencies by challenging the status quo for tech-enabled business transformation’.

Rachel also led the transformation programme of all patient facing, self-care and prevention activities within the Paperless 2020 Programme in the NHS, a £270m digital transformation of all patient facing services across the NHS.

Rachel has an exceptional record defining and executing strategy at top level to deliver change, improve performance and ensure first-class digital/technology services and solutions for blue-chip organisations across multiple sectors.

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

When I left school, I was keen to start working rather than head to Uni; I suspected I would party hard for 3 years and not get a degree so the workplace called.  I started out project managing and working for the Big 4 consultancies and then moved on to running IT teams, then departments, my first CIO role was Department for Education.  I’ve always been ambitious and heavily motivated, switching off is more my challenge!  Since I led the patient-facing transformation of the NHS I had a huge desire to set up and run the company I couldn't find to buy services from when I worked in Government; that is Difrent.  I’m a step mum to three and gran to three (that’s a little Jeremy Kyle-esque at 41!)

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Absolutely not; if anyone had told me I was going to be working in IT I would have been surprised but I always had a great understanding of businesses, being commercial and doing a deal seemed to come very naturally to me from an early age.

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

Absolutely loads; I didn’t always get jobs that I wanted, I regularly disliked bosses that I worked for and it took quite a lot of soul searching for me to understand the reasons behind these.  Sometimes they just weren’t that capable and sometimes I viewed my role as a steppingstone to theirs; being shy isn’t really my forte.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Founding and growing my delivery business, Difrent.

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

Working hard - I don’t think there are any easy routes to success.  I am confident and I know I am capable, but I would fail as a leader if I didn’t work at least as hard as I expect my team to.

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

Staying relevant is key and I think being able to translate technology into business benefits is the most important piece of advice.  No one really wants to know how the cloud works; well at least I don’t!  I just want to know I have a service that works, it’s cost-efficient and on an SLA I can manage.

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

I think there are substantially fewer barriers than there were 20 years ago.  I would still like to see more women in Tech and taking this up a level I would like to see more women CEO’s running businesses globally.

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

I think to give them the opportunity to be open about the challenges they have but expecting them to also table some solutions.  Mentoring is useful and often male to female and co-coaching.

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?

If I could wave a magic wand I would have it equal at 50%. Equal pay, equal respect and equal access.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Techcrunch, Arlan Hamilton podcast: Your first million, Wired

Woman on Laptop

A day in the life of a tech woman

Woman on LaptopHelene Panzarino describes a typical day in her busy life as a successful tech professional, fintech programme director and educator.

7.00: Great day today! It’s the London Lendit FinTech conference, which is always an incredibly good learning and networking opportunity. I’ll be chairing a wonderful fireside chat in the morning, and moderating a cracking panel on ‘banking as a service’ (BaaS) in the afternoon.

But I’m not a good early person. The alarm went off at 5.12, and I hit snooze – way too early.

The rain outside is torrential. I love autumn, but I can’t stand the rain! I pad downstairs for my morning double espresso and a hearty breakfast, trying not to wake my snoozing husband. This time of the morning is very peaceful. Time to gather my thoughts before the day starts in earnest.

8.00: Donned my glad rags and made my way to the train, only to discover it was late! Again! Shoved my way on and eventually got to the next leg of the journey – Uber – where I reviewed my notes and changed my shoes.

In my opinion, moderating and chairing are tough gigs. You need to do your research on panel members, as well as know your own mind. Rewarding, but needs time to be effective.

9.00: London Lendit FinTech conference

Lendit takes place at the Business Design Centre in Islington, which I love.

And it’s handy, as in the middle of the day I’ll need to whizz over to Kings Cross to present to my next potential FinTech Pathway Masters’ class at UCL. Then I’ll have to get back for the panel at Lendit.

First order of the day is to chair the fireside chat on ‘Banking into the Unknown’ with a formidable female banking trailblazer, Olga Zoutendijk.

Olga has over three decades of global banking experience and currently sits on the Board of the Private Bank, Julius Baer. She was the first female Chair of a Supervisory Board for a publicly listed company in the Netherlands, and suffice it to say, she is not afraid of the unknown.

She’s passionate about courageous leadership, and its role in attracting and retaining talent, at the same time as leading their organisations into the digital age.

She highlights the fact that banks do thousands of things okay, but FinTechs do one thing very well.

Lesson: don’t try to be all things to all customers. Be the thing you do best and then partner or collaborate.

She reminded the audience that banking provides a service to customers and that the trust lost in the last financial crisis needs to be regained.

Banks should become the trusted players in the digital eco-system. She also reminded everyone that learning should never stop.

Very wise words from a very wise, and courageous, woman.


Poor planning on my part! My eyes are treated to two enticing lunch spreads – both at the conference and UCL.

My scheduling means the Brazil nuts in my bag will have to do!

2.00: Moderating the BaaS panel

An afternoon BaaS panel includes:

  • another female innovator, Sophie Gibaud, who is also about to be a mum again
  • Nick Ogden from Clear Bank, who just made a major banking announcement last night on ‘real-time gross settlement’ (RTGS)
  • another serial FinTech entrepreneur, Nigel Verdon from Railsbank
  • and Frank Otten from Varengold in Germany, where they help SMEs get debt funding at rates that work for the SME.

This is a formidable group of panel members, but most of them I know well, so I know it will be enjoyable but informative. They do not disappoint.

The take-away on BaaS is  to be quick – to manage the risk, maximise your distribution channels and don’t try to nick your client’s clients!

Luckily for me, the wonderful woman who is my communications secret weapon is able to attend the conference, so we refresh my speaking schedule after the panel. Multitasking all the way!

I’ve also finally got to the point where I’ve stopped doing the things I don’t enjoy or I’m not very good at, and started taking on the help I need. It’s a false economy for me to be misusing my time.

5.00: Last meeting of the day

The day ends with meeting a blockchain expert ahead of a course that’s launching in the coming year. Wonderful depth of knowledge and a passion to educate!

The rain has finally stopped, which is just as well as someone in the Speakers’ Lounge nicked my brolly!

7.00: Home time

Back home for dinner followed by more marking of dissertations after watching ‘The Cameron Years’.  I’m ‘good tired’ and off to bed before Day 2 at Lendit.

A full but rewarding day full of good reminders.

Anne de Kerchkove featured

Inspirational Woman: Anne de Kerckhove | CEO, Freespee


Anne de Kerchkove - High Res

A self-proclaimed ‘tech start-up addict’, Anne has personally invested in over twenty-five new tech companies, and has set up and invested in three early-stage tech funds throughout her career.

Anne set up and managed her first company at the age of just seventeen. From there, she pursued a career in business and finance, later progressing to a management consultant role within the tech industry and leading five tech start-ups to profitability.

Her current role as CEO of phone and messaging conversation platform, Freespee, focuses on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance the customer journey and increase the human element to customer service.

Being such a key figure in what has historically been a very much male-dominated industry, Anne’s passion and belief in diversity across all levels of an organisation has been a driving force throughout her career. She is personally invested in actively inspiring and coaching women to join boards, and in helping men and women from all backgrounds to develop the skills needed to succeed in fair and equal environments. Today Anne mentors over ten founders a year, continually re-investing into the next generation of talent and innovation.

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

I am the CEO of Freespee, a leading communication platform that creates and enables conversations between brands and their customers.

I mentor over ten founders a year, as a way of giving back to our start-up community, and am one of the few female executives in the UK to sit on two public company boards in the tech and gaming space

My career began at 17, when I set up my first company - a travelling theatre troupe - whilst studying at McGill university. I then went on to a career in finance before progressing to a management consultant role within the tech industry.

Over the last 15 years, I have helped lead five tech start-ups to profitability and IPO. I don’t have a pension plan or big savings: I reinvest all my money into the next generation of talent and innovation. I have personally invested in over 25 new tech companies and set up and invested in three tech early-stage funds.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all! I studied business at university because I thought it made sense, but quite honestly it bored me to tears. Then I became a banker; it was a fantastic learning experience and I was surrounded by great mentors, but I knew deep down it was just not something I would ever be passionate about. One mentor in particular noticed that I was always asking too many questions; he realised I was not fascinated by finance, but by what we were financing. He transferred me to a new project and innovation financing division, which was amazing. I then quit banking with his blessing and support and went on to pursue a career in management consultancy within the tech industry.

Since then I have known that as long as my path stays aligned with innovation, it is heading in the right direction. It is important to follow your passions and to do what you’re good at - and what you know how to make an impact with.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Within the tech industry, we face challenges every day - from cashflow to growing so fast that you don’t recognise your own employees! No matter what the problem is that you are facing, it is important to take perspective on it, remain level-headed and stay calm.

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

One thing that I feel still needs addressing is the gender pay gap. Unfortunately, it seems to be the case that those who shout the loudest are those who are most rewarded - and unfortunately it tends to be men that do the shouting. Pay should be based on results, and businesses should embrace a culture that not only celebrates performance, but also builds confidence in women to go for those bigger, higher-paid jobs.

How would you encourage more young women and girls into a career in STEM?

There is a lot of misconception around these industries. Growing up, I was under the impression that computers were for boys - a myth that must be broken very early on. It is vital that we have the right role models in school  to achieve this. Girls learn faster when they are younger, so it is important that gender neutrality is embedded as early as the age of eight to ten, rather than when they are making educational choices that will affect their careers at 13 to 15.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I’d say, do it! My own experience of mentoring others has been amazing. To be able to debate and talk through things with your mentee and help them to make impactful change to their own careers is extremely rewarding.

As I was growing up I was lucky enough to be surrounded by strong female role models. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, my mother, sister and grandmother all shaped my behaviour and attitudes.

There is a myth that mentoring will take up a lot of time, but I can say that even if you are catching up just once a month, you will see a change after a single session.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

It is difficult to pinpoint a single achievement; I like to think of my whole life as an achievement! Being happy at work, keeping my team motivated and being in the position to motivate and encourage other people are all important things to me.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Gender diversity has been a major driving force throughout my career to date and I hope to continue to actively encourage women to join boards, and help both men and women from all backgrounds to develop the skills needed to succeed in fair and equal environments.

As a leader in tech, I believe that to make things change, you must start from within and lead by example. Only then can you really make an impact.

Sue McLure featured

Inspirational Woman: Sue MacLure | Head of Data at Psona Data, a Communisis sister agency


Sue McLure

Sue Maclure is Head of Data at Psona Data, a Communisis sister agency.

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

I have spent my entire career in data, sometimes pure-play data agencies, sometimes as part of a creative agency, sometimes on client side.

I have held senior positions in teams that have, on occasion, been very male dominated but just as often female dominated. If I had to determine which drove that split I would have to say that the larger and more corporate the business the more male dominated it tended to be. But I don’t judge an organisation by its gender divide at the top, the overall business culture is the main driver and I believe that women are just as capable of buying into a specific culture as men are – be that one you admire or not.

In my current role I have a team of 25 split across two sites – Leeds and London – not spending lots of time together can be challenging but we speak often and get together as a whole team quarterly. We’re going through some change at the minute with new starters and looking for new propositions to take to market – it’s exciting times and they’re a great bunch.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at the beginning. The only times I have written five year plans is when I’ve been unhappy in a position and knew I wanted or needed a change.  That has happened twice in my 25 year career, and the first time resulted in me moving cities and jobs within the first 12 months.  I’m four years into my current five year plan, this one resulted in me first going part time (although I’ve backed off from that more latterly) and moving back to supplier side. I refer to it occasionally to see if I’m heading in the right direction or getting side-tracked. I suspect the five years will come and go without me noticing if I’m content in what I’m doing.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Yes. I got promoted beyond my capability – something which I’m sure happens to us all at some point if we’re always pushing for change and ‘something new and interesting’. How did I deal with it? Not well at the beginning to be honest – none of us like to admit we’re out of our depth. But I did seek and receive external support and now, having made some changes (not all of my choosing at the time!) I realise just how much I learned from that experience.

Looking back I probably wasn’t quite as bad as I thought as now feel I could be great at that original job. Sometimes it’s just about timing and the surrounding factors – that was probably one of the most painful professional periods of my career, but without a doubt the one I apply the most learnings from now, at a senior level.  The most important one being that you need to make the tough decisions and act on them – no matter how unpleasant it might feel at the time, it will be work out best in the long run. I’m also a firm believer that however you feel about yourself at any point in time, as long as you stick to doing the thing you enjoy it’ll all come good in the end. Don’t chase the money – that’ll come if you chase doing the thing you love.

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

Remove the need to talk specifically about “women in the workplace” as if they are in some way a completely different species, especially as we don’t refer to “men in the workplace”.  Why can’t we all just say “people in the workplace” and apply the same rules to both? I am fortunate in the sense that I don’t have special professional needs because I’m a woman, so I expect to be treated and rewarded in exactly the same way as everyone else.

I know it can be difficult for some, but I don’t buy the “what about those with children” question, as men are just as capable of caring for children as women are (in fact it should be encouraged far more) – it’s a family choice and there should be equal rights for men in that space as women. For me it’s about equality, not dominance of one gender over another.

What I would change for women themselves is to take a leaf out of the male modus operandi. We hear stories about women who won’t apply for a role if they are only confident in 8 out of 10 specifications on a job description, whereas a male counterpart would look at the same 10 and if he can see 3 he’s confident of, he’ll decide that he can wing it on the rest. I think us women could learn a lesson or two from that self-assurance!

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I have only formally mentored once and I found it incredibly valuable and enjoyable – both in terms of my own learning and building personal relationships.

Informally though I have several people that I think of as mentors and mentees, depending on where we’re at in the relative stages of our careers. Over time, some of them switch between the roles of mentor and mentee and that’s great.  I’m a big supporter of talking things through to find the right solutions for you.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

In my work life my biggest achievement is that I believe I’m seen as an equal in my male peer group as opposed to the girl they invited along to keep the numbers up. I’ve worked hard to be seen as a valued member of staff and my team, and I will continue to work on that throughout my career. I hope it will always be as rewarding as it is now!

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My organisation is going through a period of change as everyone else in the sector is – how to use data, where to use it, what is good use, what is bad use, how do you keep up with the Joneses whilst not copying everyone else but innovating in your data use, and how do you sell that to clients whilst keeping your own team (that you’re asking for increasing amounts of effort from) happy. Defining our direction and attempting to take the team with me is fun!

My mantra my whole life has been ‘achieve something every day’ and every morning I ask myself what today’s achievement will be – I never want to lose that sense of purpose and being master of my own destiny. I should say, a day’s achievement task for me can be “You’re tired and stressed, so today you will relax and do something for yourself and your family so that you feel ready to take on the world tomorrow” – life is not all about career progress!

Laura Hutton featured

Inspirational Woman: Laura Hutton | Co-Founder & Head of Fraud & Financial Markets, Quantexa


Laura Hutton is Co-Founder and Head of Fraud and Financial Markets at Quantexa - the start-up solving financial crime and terrorism through data analytics, AI and machine learning.

Laura has over 12 years’ experience using data and network analysis to tackle fraud and financial crime. In the wake of the 2008 Jérôme Kerviel rogue trading scandal, Laura pioneered and implemented the technology subsequently put in place by Société Générale to prevent similar from occurring again. She has since headed up teams at Detica and SAS, before co-founding Quantexa in 2016 where she uses sophisticated networking technology to help their clients such as HSBC, and Shell.

In an industry where only one in seven of women are executive committee members & only 17 per cent of start-ups were founded by women, Laura is passionate about inspiring girls to work in and establish companies like Quantexa. Laura runs work experience programs for 16/17 year old girls to encourage them to get into STEM subjects.

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

I help the world’s largest organisations to drive more intelligence out of their vast data assets. My role is to innovate, using cutting edge analytical techniques to develop new solutions to business-critical problems.

I have helped banks fight and financial crime for over a decade through the use of sophisticated analytics and I’m passionate about the power data can provide to create a good society. In the wake of the 2008 Jérôme Kerviel rogue trading scandal, I built the solution that Société Générale subsequently implemented to prevent unauthorized trading.

In 2016, I took a huge jump and founded Quantexa with a team of six colleagues, with a global mission to empower large, international companies to truly understand their customer networks. By understanding such networks, they can fully understand who they are doing business with in turn prevent fraud, money laundering, rogue trading, terrorist financing and human trafficking. Two years later, we have enabled 13 of the world’s biggest institutions (including bank, insurers and oil and gas companies) onto our technology and are growing internationally at an unprecedented level with offices in Sydney, New York, Brussels and Boston.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I am a planner by nature, I like to know where I’m going and what I’m trying to achieve. However, as the only girl in my year to study further A-Level maths, and one of just three women in my intake at Durham University to complete a masters in maths, I was shocked by the fact that there was no clear path for me to go down to achieve my goals.

At university, the options presented to me were the same and uninspiring, with teaching being the default suggestion rather than any positions that allowed me to innovate and to develop technology itself. I am always so proud that I was confident enough to walk my own path and pursued my dream of using my mathematical brain to create new things.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

One of my biggest challenges has always been my own desire to do something new, something interesting. I am an innovator at heart, yet I know that I must always balance that up with the needs of the businesses I have worked for and now run. I have become more aware of where my skills lie and have therefore been able to craft roles that best suit me. In doing so, my input and value to the business has grown significantly.

Interestingly, being an innovator within technology has led me in to a role that isn’t commonplace for women. It is a very male dominated environment, and at times, it’s been a fight for my voice to be heard. When I was 26, I built a world-first solution that would detect rogue trading, but when I was presenting my work to prospective customers, it was difficult to get ‘air-time’. I didn’t fit the typical mould of someone in investment banking, never mind, someone offering a new technology solution! In the early days, I brought an older gentleman with me, just to get in the door. This, as you can imagine, was incredibly frustrating but I learnt that knowledge would shine through, and in time, I became recognised as the leader in that space.

I strongly believe that if you face challenges with adversity, you will become a stronger person inside and outside of work. What I have learnt about myself more recently, is that I am at my best when I am challenged. It’s when I come up with the best solutions!

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

When I talk to young girls about where they envisage their future career, they are often held back by the same belief that a career in science or technology isn’t for them because they are female. Is this a lack of confidence and because they don’t believe they are equipped with the right skills? Or it is a lack of desire to work in a male-dominated environment? I’m not sure.

I don’t want girls to not reach for their goals and fulfil their aspirations because they’re nervous the company or even sector is too geared towards men. I am proud to have co-founded a successful technology business, I took a risk and it’s paying off.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

Mentoring is absolutely critical for everyone’s career development, no matter what sector you’re in. Speaking to someone to get advice on how to best reach your full potential will always give you the confidence to strive to achieve your absolute best, making you aware of opportunities that you may have not considered or even been aware of. The young women at Quantexa have all been on different journeys and all possess different skills which puts them in great stead to become mentors for young and aspiring girls who want to work in I.T. I aim to be a role model to them and indeed, others; it really is possible to be a woman with a young family in technology and to be leading the way in innovation.

I didn’t have a female mentor to guide me when I was younger which is probably symptomatic of a shortage of these. Yet over the years, I have developed a network of like-minded women from lots of different industries who guide me through challenges and with whom I can celebrate successes.

How would you encourage more women and girls to pursue a career in STEM?

The problem lies in the lack of awareness of the opportunities that are available for these young girls who want to pursue a career in STEM. It’s imperative that schools target jobs to everyone, ridding the classroom of the stereotype of the male scientist, data scientist or physician. Many girls finally realise that they are capable of pursuing these jobs whilst heading to university, when it’s often too late.

Work experience is vital, so I’d encourage businesses to launch work experience schemes for young girls aged 16/17 to make them aware of the career opportunities open to them and to have the chance to meet leading women in the industries they are passionate about. At Quantexa, we are launching a work experience program for teenage girls aged 16 and 17 to learn first hand how exciting it is to work in I.T. Hopefully, this will inspire these girls to pursue a role in I.T. because they’re passionate about it, rather than dismissing it because it’s ‘too male dominated’.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without a doubt, my biggest achievement to date is following my dream and starting Quantexa, leaving a position of stability and comfort. As I mentioned earlier, I’m a planner at heart and this was a huge risk to take; my plan was entirely thrown out of the window! Nevertheless, with such a great team of fellow founders with a passion for our solution, it was the best decision I have ever made. Within two years, we have a team of over 95 people, who each have a personal story and journey around what brought them to Quantexa and I have no doubt that we have a collection of future CEOs and CTOs sitting among us.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I want to become a role model for women in technology and STEM. I’ve been fortunate enough to challenge myself every day, have a great and varied career; creating and implementing innovative solutions, leading global teams and pursuing my ultimate dream: creating my own company. I want to inspire girls to get into STEM, I.T. and technology and for them to know that they are not held back because of their gender, they are empowered by it.

Maria Kristensen featured

Inspirational Woman: Maria Kristensen | Agile Program Manager - Release Train Engineer, Schroders

Maria Kristensen

Maria Kristensen is an Agile Program Manager - Release Train Engineer at Schroders

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

Actually I never planned to work in technology as I do now – I studied science but a move to a different county led to a change in career. I moved from Denmark to Luxembourg in 2000 with a plan to stay for six months and I’m still here, working for the same company I joined in 2000! My role within Schroders has changed almost every two years and I’m currently working as an Release Train Engineer – which means I coach our agile teams and assist them in delivering value to the company.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – I have always been curious and eager to learn and then I just took whatever opportunity was available for me to develop further. I used to think it was just a question about being at the right place and the right time – but I have also realised that it has a lot to do with being open minded and seeing opportunities in every job.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

The biggest challenges was when I had children. I felt a big push from society and women around me to stop working or at least reduce my hours. Having grown up in a society where the norm is that both parents work, it was surprising for me to feel this pressure. I choose to believe that if I was happy my children would be happy. As I have always enjoyed working and felt I made a difference it was obvious for me that I had to continue working and develop my skills.

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

Women tend to hold back and doubt themselves so I would work towards having more push and mentoring for women.

Motivate women to take risks and create an environment where you can make mistakes and learn from them.

When I have moved into new positions it has always been following a push from peers who have encouraged me to move into new territories.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I currently mentor a student and I learn a lot from this as well. It is fun to get a different perspective on our ways of working and help the student navigate and find a place in the corporate landscape.

I’m keen to have a mentor myself who I could discuss career ideas with and pros and cons of various options.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Taking on the Release Train Engineer role within Schroders and influencing the company’s transformation into agile. I found my passion in agile and I’m eager to develop my abilities in the area further.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

Given the speed at which the world is changing at the moment my next job title might not even exist yet – however I will be ready to embrace the next opportunity which comes my way in this ever-changing technology environment.

What advice would you give to others?

With the speed of change, business-related books are out of date before they are written – use podcasts to learn about the latest buzz. Convert your time spent commuting from wasted time to discovery time.

How do you re-energise during the work day?

I follow some funny people on Twitter and 140 characters from one of them can always bring a smile to my face and make me ready for the next challenge.

Inspirational Woman: Louisa Spicer | Software Engineer, Echo


Louisa Spicer is a Software Engineer at Echo.

Echo was founded just over three years ago and already has 100,000 patient downloads so far and a Net Promotor Score of 83. Echo is on the NHS Digital app store, one of the approved digital tools available to patients, and is an NHS GP Systems of Choice, which ensures GPs and practice staff have access to the best technology to support patient care. Echo were also recently awarded the Best British Mobile Startup 2018 at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and won the 1st Mayor of London MedTech Business Awards last month.

Echo is a prescription management app which empowers patients in the UK to take control of their health and has the potential to significantly ease the strain on health services. In the UK, 40 per cent of patients do not take medication as directed, costing the NHS billions each year and leading to approximately 20 million unnecessary GP appointments. Echo is on a mission to transform the future of healthcare, and is the first app to improve lines of communication between GP, pharmacist and patient.

On the app, patients are able to order repeat prescriptions when stocks are running low- and will also receive reminders for when to take medication and when to order more. Echo also seeks to improve communication lines between GPs and their patients, making sure that information is clear and informative without being either patronising or too clinical and therefore hard to understand.

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

I’ve grown up loving anything and everything to do with the Creative Arts. Finding it difficult to choose what career path to take, I just went with what I was most intrigued about at the time - the theory behind the cinematic arts. I graduated with a degree in Film Studies and went on to become a Digital Producer at a media agency. This involved helping to oversee Film and TV asset deliveries to various digital platforms like iTunes and Netflix.

I soon started to miss being able to express myself through some form of creativity though, so I started looking for other career paths that would satisfy this. That’s when I discovered the world of coding and haven’t looked back! Just over a year and a half ago I wrote my first line of code and attended an intensive 3-month coding bootcamp, Makers Academy, where I learned the very basics of Software Craftsmanship required to land a job as a Junior Developer.

I am now a Junior Software Developer at Echo; part of a team building many exciting developments of an internal software application. There’s always something new to learn and that’s what I love the most!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I found it hard to pin down exactly what I wanted to do, but the various careers I thought of always revolved around creativity. Unfortunately I didn’t realise a career in Software Development was even a possibility for me until a couple of years ago.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

A major challenge of mine was having the wrong mindset. It’s a typical story but it was/is hard to get over that “imposter syndrome” feeling and thinking that I’m not the right kind of person to be “good” at coding, due to many factors including not having the typical Mathematical or Technical background that a Computer Scientist graduate would have. This cloud was at its peak when applying for my first job as a Developer, carrying over well into that job too.

What really helped me to overcome these thoughts was being told about the Growth Mindset. In the most basic terms, this is just about realising there’s no limit to what you can achieve if you’re persistent and open to putting the effort in.

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

To always be treated with fairness and equality. What more can you ask for?

How would you encourage more women and girls into a career in STEM?

Show young girls (and boys) how creative and fun a career in STEM can really be. As much as I appreciate that I was free to choose whatever subjects I wanted to do at secondary school, I’m sure I would have been willing to learn more about STEM fields at an earlier age if I had more guidance from teachers on the exciting range of things you can do and build.

There’s an amazing amount of free or cheap online courses to learn and play with code - this means that it’s now easier to develop skills in your free time, at whatever age.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Believing in myself enough to commit to learning to code and not stopping when it gets tough.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

To gain more confidence and keep growing my coding skills to the next level so that I can pass on some knowledge in the future. It would be amazing to build up enough confidence to get out there and be more active in the movement to help inspire and guide more girls and women into STEM.