Our 3rd Annual Women in Tech Stories event aboard the Sunborn was a great success, and we are very grateful to the four fantastic speakers who so generously shared their stories of struggle and triumph with us for the evening. Here’s a short recap of the evening’s talks.
Kicking off the show was Lucy Neilson, Head of User Experience at Lottoland. Lucy began by talking about her Geordie roots in a call centre in New Castle, working her way up in Northern Rock, where she spent about ten years. We listened as she spoke about the various challenges she faced relying on her pragmatism, rationality and a good dose of humour, to get her through.
Feeling a sense of helplessness over the fluctuation markets she had to deal with, she decided to focus on the customer’s experience.
Lucy took the plunge into UX design when she moved to a tech startup, woefully unprepared for the role, but what she lacked in experience she made up for in drive, willingness to learn and genuinely caring about making the best product she could.
“I’ve gone from one to one, to one to a million,” said Lucy. What does this mean? The range of her impact changed when she changed from call center work to user experience work. In a call center, she could only help a single person at a time, but by putting herself in the customer’s shoes to understand the full customer user experience, she now helps millions of people at a time.
Throughout her journey, Lucy learned that it always comes back to the customer and design is the tool that threads the customer experience together.
Lessons from Lucy
- Get involved and learn about other aspects of your company, even if this means attending meetings you have no business being in!
- Focus on what you can control.
- Customer experience is a holistic experience – it’s not just an email here, a product there, and so on – the whole business is a network of customer experiences which threads the entire thing together.
- Take the plunge – you don’t need to feel ready, you can learn on the job – go for it!
Watch Lucy’s full talk below:
Next up we had Johanna Andersson, Project Manager at GIG. She began by sharing her journey in her formative years, moving from Columbia to American to Sweden, where she lived with her grandparents who had a profound influence over shaping the person she became today.
Being adopted and not knowing her biological parents, embracing a spiritual understanding of the universe has been a way Johanna felt she could connect to her roots.
In 9th grade, she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Sweden provides children with learning disabilities various benefits to help them succeed, but Johanna chose to work through her difficulties instead of relying on additional help to get her through school.
Her career in business began in the hotel industry but wanting more challenges, she moved to the tech industry doing door-to-door sales. Here, she learned to embrace her competitive side, something she didn’t always think was a good quality but now learned to love and use to her advantage.
Wanting a more significant challenge, she decided she wanted to learn Spanish and moved to Malta to achieve that, mistakingly thinking Malta was in Spain. Malta introduced her to the igaming industry, a field she has worked in ever since. After a few years, Johanna resolved to learn Spanish for real this time, and move to Spain where a role in GiG was waiting for her.
To finish off, Johanna spoke about the importance of role models and mentors and made a special shout out to her personal role model – her manager, Linnéa Löw-Larsen.
Johanna’s fierce tenacity and determination were inspiring to behold and demonstrated that taking chances and believing in yourself can lead you on the most unexpected journeys.
Lessons from Johanna
- “Go your own path” – a lesson from grandma Andersson
- Reevaluate your qualities that you view as unfavourable – and learn how to use them to your advantage. They may turn out to be just the qualities you need to succeed.
- It’s ok to make mistakes – go with the flow, you never know where they may lead.
- Knowing you know nothing is the beginning of wisdom. Don’t make assumptions. Ask all the questions you need to understand the problem entirely.
- Get to know and respect the knowledge and resources of people on your team. You might be surprised by what they can teach you.
- Celebrate yourself. Take time to pause and take a moment to be proud of yourself and everything you achieved up to that point.
Watch Johanna’s full talk below:
Third up was Chelsea Heskins-Hallam, Product Operations Manager at William Hill, who decided to focus on sharing some of the lessons she learned from the failures in her career.
Her story starts out with her in her car at 4:45am with tears rolling down her face because she was so burnt out from work. After driving past Amazon on the way home she decided she was going to go work there, or anywhere – but she was going to take some time to reevaluate her career and skill herself up in a field she was more interested in.
She didn’t end up going to Amazon, but the motivation helped her grow in her role in the retail industry until she felt she had plateaued and asked for a new position, which she was given after a round of redundancies. This made her decidedly unpopular but instead of letting the negativity overwhelm her, she responded to it with a smile and cheerfulness. Slowly, people started to come around.
Chelsea soon discovered the Business Analyst role in her company, which suited her inquiring nature. Wanted to explore other industries, she moved into the finance industry but quickly realised that pensions, for her, was dull and uninspiring. She also learned that she prefered the stability of an established larger company rather than startups. After sticking it out for four months, Chelsea got a message on LinkedIn from William Hill where she found a position and product she could connect with. This lead to her move to Spain, and then to Gibraltar.
Lessons from Chelsea
- Take time to invest in yourself – whether that’s taking time to upskill and train yourself, or taking a break to reevaluate where your career is going.
- Be considerate and stand on the right side of the escalator.
- When life gets difficult, remember your good qualities – use them to get you through.
- Respond to negativity with positivity.
- Who says you can’t leave a job because you don’t like it? Write your own rules. If you’re not happy where you are, it’s perfectly fine to move on, even if you’ve only been in your previous role for a short tenure.
- Take charge and don’t feel like you need to change who you are in order to get where you want to be.
- Surround yourself with supportive people who encourage you to be yourself.
Watch Chelsea’s full talk below:
The talks were rounded up by Nina Pettersson, Managing Director at Playtech BGT Sports.
Nina began her talk with a comparison to her sister, who knew early on in her life that she wanted to be an engineer. Her career path was clear from the start, whereas Nina took a more unconventional road.
She was born in Sweden, and while she wasn’t particularly interested in science and technology, she was naturally good at mathematics. Upon leaving school, she had one goal, and that was to move to Los Angeles and marry a rock star. Fortunately, this aspiration didn’t last long and upon arriving back in Sweden for a holiday, she discovered her mother had secretly enrolled her into Lund University. Her goal in university wasn’t clear until she took a statistics class which she aced. Trusting in her natural abilities in maths, she enrolled in a computer science program and eventually graduated with a Masters of Science degree.
Nina’s early career began at Microsoft in Stockholm working in a newly created trainee role. After four years there, she went back to studying at Stockholm University and graduated with another masters degree and a teaching diploma.
After teaching high school for two years, she decided that teaching was not for her. She moved back to her home town, met her husband, had a child and bought a house. It was at this point where she returned to the tech industry and found her calling, which was project management.
A manager at Baxter thought she had the potential to be a good development manager in her organisation and gave her the chance to prove herself and learn on the job. This led her to her next position in Playtech BGT Sports.
While Nina recognised the challenges women face working in a male-dominated industry (what you wear matters, how you phrase your emails matters, even the pitch of your voice), her biggest challenge has come from working with other women, especially non-technical women. Women can be mean to each other, and this is counterproductive as it means we’re fighting the battle at two fronts.
Nina closed off with three things she wanted to share with the audience:
- Be yourself. Don’t listen to what others say they think you should be.
- Trust your instincts. People will always have opinions about the decisions you make.
- Cherish your network and support each other.
Lessons from Nina
- Trust in your natural abilities, they’re an indication of the fields you will be good at.
- It’s ok to change your mind about what you want to do. If you have a degree in a particular field and discover it’s not for you, you’re free to change your path and try something new.
- If you have passion and drive, you can learn the rest along the way.
- Working in a male-dominated industry is hard enough without having other women tear you down as well. Women should support other women.
- Build a supportive network as this will help you navigate challenges and it is where you can find new opportunities.
- Most importantly, trust yourself and your instincts.
Watch Nina’s full talk below:
Finally, we’d like to thank our sponsors who make events like this possible. GIG – our platinum sponsor; Playtech and William Hill – our gold sponsors; and our event partner, Colorworks. And thank you to Piece of Cake for our signature branded cupcakes.
Our next event will be a weekend-long bootcamp. Keep an eye out on this blog and our social media channels for when we announce tickets will be made available.