Director of TechSPARK
Thanks so much for agreeing to chat. Perhaps we could start with a little bit about what you do?
I’m a Director of – and I help to run – TechSPARK, a network and community for those who work in Tech in the region. I look after our Partnerships and oversee the Meetups and some of the big events we run such as the SPARKies Tech Awards.
I also work for the Enterprise Europe Network as Digital & Creative Sector Lead for the South West of England. This is a worldwide network which helps to connect companies in the UK with companies overseas.
So you’re all about bringing techy people together?
Yep, providing techie people and startup founders with a network that they can tap into for ideas and collaboration. Founding a startup can be a lonely business otherwise.
And now we’re established we can also help new people / companies integrate when they get to the area. We even have office space to rent short term to companies as a ‘landing space’ when they move to Bristol & Bath.
That sounds great! I know that Memberoo found it difficult to find office space when we were starting. It must be great to be able to help with those collaborations. Do you have any advice for someone founding a startup?
Well I would say this given my line of work, but I genuinely believe it’s super important, especially in a startup where you can’t employ an advisory board- to get out and talk to people, get out and network. It takes time and sometimes feels pointless- but even if people don’t seem relevant to you right now, they may be just one step away from someone who could be your next employee/ investor/ partner.
Plus you can do some great market research- the more people you talk to the more ideas you gather.
Also – don’t be afraid to pivot. While focus is important, too much focus can see you miss a better opportunity. So keep looking around you!
Great advice, and not just for people in the tech industry. Is there something that drew you to tech in particular?
To be honest falling into the tech industry was a lucky accident for me.
I met the Founder of the startup I joined when I moved to Bath at a Pub Debate and then helped to organise the BathSPARK and TechSPARK events from that. I’m so glad I did now!
It’s such a thriving scene in this region, and there’s so much going on, and so many new companies starting up that it’s a fascinating area to work in.
So you wouldn’t have described yourself as particularly techy growing up?
No not at all – I studied French and Italian at Bath and then worked in Accountancy and Recruitment so I’ve never been technically trained.. I’m a people / business focussed person who enjoys working with and alongside Techie people!
Wow. French and Italian are several steps away from tech, generally. Although I guess coding has lots of languages? So have you learned lots since working with BathSPARK and TechSPARK?
In terms of coding, wire framing etc – a little! But my job mainly needs good organisational and relationship building skills which is what I enjoy more 🙂 You don’t have to be techy to work in Tech – but you do have to be able to work well with people from everywhere, whether it be in the same office or remotely, and this job’s definitely built on those skills!
And do you think that you are treated differently as a woman working in tech?
Personally I don’t feel that I’m treated differently – but I can understand that if you’re new to tech in the region you may feel underrepresented..
There are almost always a lot less women at the tech events in the region, though I do feel and hope that the balance is improving!
Do you think there is anything we can do to help it keep improving?
This is a question that comes up a lot when I’m talking to other Meetup organisers! How to attract more women and make it a more balanced environment.
I think it helps having female organisers (the TechSPARK team are over 50% female) – and really making an effort to attract female panellists, speakers and judges – which I think a lot of the tech Meetups in the area are now trying to do. However I guess the fundamental issue is how to attract more women into the career in the first place so that there are enough speakers etc! Which I don’t really have an answer to – but am sure increased visibility of the women who already work in tech will no doubt help.
Do you have any advice for women looking at careers in tech?
Well only what I’ve already covered about networking and getting involved.
I think if you want to do it go for it! Personally I don’t think it matters who you are if you’re good at your job/ have a good idea and I’d like to think most companies in our local network would think the same nowadays.
A mentor can help and there are now lots of networks that can help you meet these, including lots of women only tech groups if you’d prefer a woman.
Might be worth checking out iT girls or Girl Geeks for an initial introduction into the Tech world 🙂
Thanks Abby, great advice. 🙂