Women in Technology

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Posted September 26, 2017 | Industry Interviews, Technology Industry, Women in Technology | No Comments »

[Interview] Women in Digital: Kelly Molson at Rubber Cheese

We’re chatting to Kelly Molson, co-founder and managing director of Rubber Cheese, this week! After reading her thought-inspiring blogs in which she interviews female digital agency directors in order to provide others with real-life experiences of what it’s like to be a woman in business, we thought it was about time that Kelly takes her turn. Kelly shares with us how she became co-founder and MD of Rubber Cheese, what her experiences have been like as a woman in business, what advice she would give to others in her position and loads more interesting stuff! So, let’s find out what she has to say…

Hi, Kelly! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Can you firstly tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at the moment please?

“I’m co-founder and managing director of Rubber Cheese, an award-winning digital agency supporting visitor attraction and food and drink brands.

Rubber Cheese design and build online systems, websites and apps that improve conversions, save resource and increase sales. Trusted partners of Chivas Brothers, Plymouth Gin, and Eureka! The National Children’s Museum.

Passionate about the value of networking and relationships, I co-founded double award-winning Grub Club Cambridge  – networking events for food & drink professionals.

I’ve recently launched kellymolson.co.uk a campaign to support, inspire and increase the number of female agency owners in the digital sectors.

I live in Cambridge with my fiance Lee and our two dogs, a 13-year-old chocolate lab Buster, and 7-month-old dachshund Doris. I LOVE food. You’ll find me eating my way around Cambridge, working out (because of all the food) or growing veg in the garden allotment.”

What’s your background/career path?

“I trained as a graphic designer when cow gum, Letraset and gouache paints were still a thing. Back then I was too eager to start working, I deferred my place at Uni and got a junior job instead.

I worked mainly in print, branding, marketing and packaging were my specialisms. I loved the creativity my roles brought, but I never really felt settled anywhere and moved job every couple of years to find the next challenge or learn the next thing.

In 2002 I started working at an e-commerce agency just as online shopping began to explode. I thought it was the most exciting thing that had ever happened! Suddenly I was thrown into a digital world where anything was possible. I was hooked. It was here I met my business partner.

By this time I’d started to wonder if I could work for myself. My grandfather was a successful business owner so I suppose it was the norm in our family. I wanted to take ownership of my future and build something that was mine. I knew I wanted to work more as a partner to my clients, to really understand their businesses. I guess I wanted to be more of a strategist than a visual designer. I loved meeting new people and thrived on understanding their challenges and how a digital approach could solve them.

In 2003 at the age of 24, I co-founded Rubber Cheese alongside good friend Paul Wright. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

You mentioned above that you are co-founder of Rubber Cheese; we’d love to hear more about your agency and how you started it…

“We started from our bedrooms like all great agencies do! Our lucky break came just 2 weeks in when we secured a contract with an architect’s firm working on a 2-year project for Tesco. Suddenly we were attending high-level design meetings at Tesco headquarters and we knew this was what we were supposed to do.

Around 6 years in our client base had grown organically. Paul and I were working long hours on client work and pitches, but we were struggling to run the business around our production roles. It was this point we decided to build an agency. We hired our first team member to take on my design role, and I became the Managing Director and began to grow and develop the business.

It was a huge learning curve for us. Building a company culture, understanding the figures, balancing cash flow, keeping the sales pipeline full. I’ll admit I felt slightly resentful of Paul still being in a creative role and me starring endlessly at spreadsheets!

We’re now a team of 6 with a focus on digital, creating online systems, websites and apps that improve conversions, save resource and increase sales. A mix of designers, developers and strategists make up the team who all share a core mission: To make a positive impact on the lives of others through the systems and products we create.

The food & drink, and visitor attraction sectors have become specialisms over the last few years, having been selected as a digital partner to a number of Pernod Ricard brands, including Plymouth Gin, Beefeater Gin and Chivas Brothers. An incredible project with Eureka! The National Children’s Museum followed which has been nominated for a number of awards.”

As a woman in business, what challenges have you experienced throughout your career?

“I was 24 when we started Rubber Cheese. Full of confidence, fearless and I took every opportunity put our way.

Over the last few years, my self-confidence and self-belief have taken a huge hit. Being completely honest, the biggest challenges I’ve faced have been due to the effects of infertility. The last 2 years we have suffered miscarriage, multiple rounds of IVF and the devastating early loss of our twin girls.

All of that has had an effect on the agency. It’s incredibly difficult to put yourself out there as the “face” of the company when you are grieving, but still have sales pitches and meetings to attend.

The time I was able to dedicate to it around seemingly endless clinic appointments was very limited. It was almost impossible to plan my diary as things changed on a daily basis.

The tipping point came when I couldn’t commit to a pitch date for the most amazing project. It’s important to me to be honest and authentic in everything I do, so I took a risk and explained my situation to the potential client. Thankfully everyone was understanding, flexible and extremely supportive.

Being transparent is a key factor of business success for female agency owners. We should be able to speak openly about these things without fear of being judged.”

Your blog series focuses on female founders who run their own digital agency; what prompted you to start the blog?

“Initially, the challenges I experienced over the last few years prompted me to start the blog. When these things happened, I realized there would be others who’d had similar experiences and that we could learn from and support each other.

I then began to wonder what the percentage of female agency owners actually was, and if challenges like these would have any effect on that. I wanted to understand if anything was holding us back, if there was a common theme, if we needed extra support etc.

The blog is also a platform to celebrate female agency owners, creating a showcase of inspiring role models in the industry which will hopefully inspire future leaders.”

In your blog series, you share the statistic: ‘@The Wow Company’s recent survey of 471 agency owners across the UK has the figures as Female 27% – Male 73%.’ What do you think about this figure?

“I can’t say I was surprised, but it was disappointing to see. Having said that, I’ve attended a number of industry-specific events and I would have put the percentage a lot lower based on those.

Vickie Allen founder of SyncDevelopHER, and the DevelopHER Awards is a truly inspiring woman. She gave a talk recently “Where did all the women go? A trip back in time to when women ruled the code!” and joked that it’s her aim to make the toilet queues for the ladies’ loo’s longer at industry events!

Is it down to children and childcare? I can’t speak from experience, but I can understand how difficult it would be to grow an agency and a family at the same time. But if anything, my agency now gives me the utmost flexibility with my time and allows for a better work/life balance than I’ve ever had, which I know will support our family when the time comes.

I think it starts long before this. We are not encouraged into leadership roles from an early age, there’s a disconnect somewhere along the education path. I’m keen to get back into the classrooms to show young women what they can do, and not necessarily taking the university path either.

Companies perform better with women on the board, there have been endless studies in this.

Male and female directors provide a different perspective which team and clients benefit from. I know Rubber Cheese is stronger for it.”

Can you tell us about your support network and how you access the support you need to run your business?

“I threw myself into networking as soon as we launched Rubber Cheese. I’m a great believer in givers gain, and I built a solid local network based on this, attending local events and actively looking for ways I could help others.

It’s not around any longer, but I was an active member of Ecademy – an online membership organisation for entrepreneurs and business owners. I made great friends and contacts on there, and I’m lucky to have the support of many of them still. A few of us make up a regular mastermind group. We meet every 6 weeks to discuss successes and challenges, supporting each other in any way required. It’s a format that I love because it’s about giving first.

When I moved to Cambridge I knew very few people in the city. I found a fantastic co-working space to base myself, The Cambridge Business Lounge. Owner Ed Goodman was instrumental in helping me make new connections, even leading to co-founding an award-winning networking group of my own, Grub Club Cambridge.

We recently launched a local meetup for the digital industry Digital Herts, A community of designers and developers working to improve the web design and development industry in Herts & Essex. We meet every 2 months to share ideas, network, learn and promote local talent.

At times my business partner and I have worked with a coach, and we had support from the now-closed Growth Accelerator fund. I am actively looking for a mentor, someone that has been through the agency journey already or is two or three steps ahead of where we are now.”

What do you think about the level of support available for women looking to progress their career within the digital/technology sector?

“I think it depends at what stage you’re at and what you’re looking for. There are a lot of organisations aimed at women in the creative and tech sectors which seem more focused on startups or getting you to Creative Director level. Next Tech Girls is a fantastic initiative, they aim to improve gender equality in the technology sector by providing 5,000 girls with tech work experience by 2020.

Specifically, for agencies, The Agency Collective is a fantastic resource and there’s BIMA and the Drum Network. Agency Collective are actively working to encourage more women within their community which is fantastic to see.

I have a vision to create a peer to peer network based on shared experiences. Small trusted mastermind groups with a focus on support and advice from other agency owners. I believe peer to peer learning is the best form of mentoring you can find. The aim of my network would be to increase that percentage of female agency owners by inspiring up and coming leaders and supporting existing founders on their journey.”

What do you think makes a great agency? (How do you approach company culture?)

  • “A talented, skilled and happy team
  • Great clients with challenging projects
  • A deep understanding of each other and your client’s businesses
  • Results are what matters, it’s vital anything you deliver makes a real difference
  • Authenticity in everything you do

Our culture is based on a shared vision and values which the whole team is inspired and driven by. Everyone is treated with kindness, tea and a shed load of biscuits.”

What is your one key piece of advice for women looking to build their career?

“If the last two years has taught me anything, it’s that life is incredibly short and precious.

When the worst thing that could happen has already happened, there’s nothing more to be scared of.

You have no idea or control over what comes next. Stop waiting for everything to be perfect. Just start.”


Enigma People is an award-winning technology recruitment consultancy. Visit our job search page for the latest vacancies in digital, electronics and software in Scotland. You can get in touch with us hello@enigmapeople.com or call us on 0141 332 4422.

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Posted April 18, 2016 | Recruitment Advice, Recruitment Industry, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Recruitment to Retainment – Part 1 – Industry Challenges

Enigma People Director Ben Hanley was recently asked to present his expertise on Recruiting and Retaining Talent at Thrive for Businesses latest Technology Club.

We wanted to share his advice on Talent Management with our readers and have broken this down into 2 blogs. This week we explain the key challenges facing the industry and why. In part 2, we tell you exactly how to attract and hold onto skilled people in the industry.

So without further ado…

The technology sector in Scotland is suffering from some key challenges :-

  1. shortage of candidates
  2. shortage of candidates
  3. shortage of candidates
  4. shortage of candidates

With over 86% of Scottish tech companies predicting growth and 76% looking to actively hire in 2016, the competition for scarce talent is fierce. The sector currently employs 80,000 people with a predicted 70, 000 new technology jobs being created over the next 5 years. That’s an incredible number of jobs to fill with not enough being done to fill them. Currently 40% of technology jobs exist in non technology sectors such as Public Services and Finance with the most in demand skill being software skills. There are now a number of significant niche software sectors being established such as Fintech, Fashtech, Healthtech, Cloud Services, Big Data and Data science and IoT. The demand doesn’t end there however; businesses are also demanding skills across technology sales, marketing, data analytics, SEO & PPC.


Enigma People have been recruiting in the technology space for over 10 years and have seen 3 key areas which have contributed to today’s shortage of candidates:


During the recession, many businesses weren’t in a position to hire and so graduates struggled to gain any industry experience or skills. Fast forward to a growing technology sector we have today and businesses are demanding skilled talent with several years experience, when it simply doesn’t exist.

Businesses are beginning to realise this and now demand for graduates is at it’s hottest for years. In fact, Edinburgh University’s recent internship programme was oversubscribed by companies all looking to hire graduate talent, with many students offered paid internships.

Ability to recruit non EU candidates:

Businesses need to be able to recruit talent from overseas if they can’t fill their roles with talent at home. Last year the Government agreed to loosen the restrictions on work visas for the UK tech sector, which was widely welcomed by the industry.

Previously we found many businesses were unwilling to take the necessary steps to sponsor work visas from outside the EU, believing it to be a difficult process. The closure of post graduate visa schemes meant the UK suffered from a bizarre scenario where our universities are full of PhD and Masters students from outside of the EU that were unable to receive sponsorship to work in the UK once they graduated.

One industry in particular we have gladly seen a willingness to employ non EU based staff is the Electronics industry, with most of our clients sponsoring work visa’s or taking contractors from abroad.

Women in technology:

The low numbers of women working in technology roles has been a much debated subject, with a 13% decline between 2001 and 2011. With women representing 50% of the potential resource pool businesses need to do more to attract them into the sector. We love this article by FastCompany “These Female Developers Explain How To  Recruit More Female Developers” as a great food for thought for businesses trying to expand their development teams with female talent.

The industry in Scotland has some fantastic communities helping to bring together women working in technology such as Girl Geek Scotland, however it also comes down to education and encouraging girls from a young age to see past gender stereotypes and study STEM subjects beyond school.

Our interviews with highly successful women working across Software, Electronics and Digital Media shed light on how the industry can do more to help women in technology:

So now we know what the issues are how do we suggest you recruit?

Look out for part 2 of “Recruitment to Retainment” next week on the blog or hit subscribe below to find out exactly how to attract and retain talent, including work place benefits and rewards!

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Posted March 14, 2016 | Industry Interviews, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Enigma People Meet Girl Geek Scotland

Enigma People Solutions recently attended the re-launch of Girl Geek Scotland, where First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivered an inspiring talk on the importance of women’s roles in technology. Girl Geek Scotland is a community for women working with technology, digital media, business and creativity in Scotland. We spoke with Morna Simpson, the brains behind this community in Scotland to find out more:

Hi Morna! So what is Girl Geek Scotland?

“Girl Geek Scotland (GGS) is a network for women working with “Creativity, Computing and Enterprise”, in Scotland. GGS aims to develop a network of women, who are able to support each other at entry-level, and throughout their careers.

We primarily have dinner events, as we find these suit women’s networking style so well. We have also run Business Breakfasts, and workshops in programming, and start-up skills. Going forward we also aim to develop some scholarships in computing for women. It really is an economic imperative to get more women into tech related careers. The area is so male dominated and as a country we are already suffering from a skills deficit.”

How did you get involved in the community?

“I first heard about the Girl Geek Dinner network when I was working as a Lecturer of interaction design, at the University of Dundee in 2008. I think I must have been searching for events for women in my sector. I felt like I was constantly surrounded by men or people who ‘thought like men’, and I wanted to connect with other people who were just a bit more like me.

Like many people I thought Girl Geek Dinners, was a government, funded endeavour and I really thought that they should hold events in Scotland. So I contacted the founder Sarah Blow, and suggested she held events in Scotland. She got back in touch and said “Why don’t you do it.” It always makes me laugh to think about how arrogant I must have sounded, but she gave the right response. It was a fair cop!

So I flew down to London to attend an event myself and met up with Sarah. She gave me the “Girl Geek Dinner Rules of Engagement”, and a month or so later I reached out to a lot of people across universities and other organisations and the whole thing just snowballed.

We had our first event with only 30 people in early 2009. I asked an ex-student to design and build a website for us – which I paid for. Then kept my fingers crossed that we would sell enough tickets not to run at a loss.  

By 2010 we had a regular programme with international speakers in 4 Scottish cities, and were running workshops as well. The School of Informatics in Edinburgh became our parent organisation, and Informatic Ventures was a huge support.

Then I had an accident where I needed quite a bit of surgery, there were a lot of knock on issues so I was out of work for a number of months. We slowed things right down at GGS for a while and I was actually planning to shut the community down earlier this year. I ran some interviews on LinkedIn as a way of saying goodbye and soon discovered that there was a lot of goodwill towards us, and a hunger for our events. 

Jane Grant at Red Triangle and Napier University got in touch and offered their support in December so we have continued on with Napier taking over as parent organisation. It been a very rapid journey since, and I’m loving it!”

Tell us a bit more about the recent relaunch event in February?

“We have just had our relaunch with Nicola Sturgeon as guest of honour, announcing our new partnership with Napier University, Bright Red Triangle. Informatic Ventures once again demonstrated their support with sponsorship for the evening. The evening attracted around 150 delegates showing support and discussing ideas and plans for future success.

We dream big at Girl Geek Scotland and plan to have at least 3 of our ‘trademark’ Girl Geek Dinners and 2 workshops this year.” 

Nicola Sturgeon Girl Geek Scotland Interview

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon helps launch GGS and Napier’s new partnership

This is an exciting time for the growing technology industry in Scotland, however the gender imbalance is still holding businesses back. What, in your opinion, can the industry and employers do to help?

“The key thing people need to do is to educate themselves, in unconscious bias. Women have a different culture. They will select different role models, be inspired by different things, overcome their fears; and in every context, they will present themselves differently from men. The blending of work and family life is also more apparent in the way they tend to communicate. We all need to educate ourselves in the cultural differences in language, so that we can better understand each other.

Next, men must stop telling women that the reason they are not progressing is to do with a lack of confidence. That is an entirely unhelpful comment. Research has shown, that for many women lack skills and experience is the most likely obstacle to progression. This can often be the result of a career break, taken for maternity or childcare. Mentors tend to treat women differently than they treat men, and fail to tell them about this gap in their profiles, or how they can address it.

Imagine if a man had an accident, that resulted in a 5 year patchy career. It is normal for women to have 2 – 5 years when their career is patchy due to maternity and childcare. It’s not just that technology has moved on. Processes, working practice, suppliers, buyers and organisations have most likely moved on too. Most importantly your contacts have moved on, making a high level of performance impossible. You cannot expect women to hit the ground running if their career network has gone cold. Businesses need to do more to support women back into work.

Successful women can be unsurprisingly resentful, of being treated as ‘token’ speakers on topics around gender bias, when it is not their area of expertise.  Although many women want to give back to the community, it can be an extra pressure if they are always called on for this role.  Work and family are already a huge commitment. Then they are expected to come out with personal anecdotes – and these might not be things they want to share. It is far better to have women speak on topics in their area of expertise.”  

Morna currently works freelance as a Product Manager and Digital Strategist for a Nano Technology company, and developing Corporate Training in Business Analysis.

She started her career in textile design. Looking for a more intellectual challenge, she taught herself web design on a computer borrowed from a friend.  She found there was something incredibly comforting about coding, reminding her a lot of weaving, where she had a natural ability to see patterns in it. She began working for a digital agency, in a role, which would now be considered a blend of UX (design and code) and Product Management.  She then spent 8 years working in a lecturing and research post, in digital and interaction design, at a local university.

If you are interested in offering your financial support or volunteering to help at Girl Geek Scotland, please contact hello@girlgeekscotland.com or visit http://www.girlgeekscotland.com for more information.

Girl Geek Scotland (GGS) is a network for women working with “Creativity, Computing and Enterprise”, in Scotland. GGS aims to develop a network of women, who are able to support each other at entry-level, and throughout their careers, working at the intersection between these 3 key areas.

Although GGS markets its products towards women, it welcomes people of all gender identities, and particularly recognises the need to include men, who can offer support in working towards a gender balanced, career ecosystem.

Bright Red Triangle (BRT) is based at Edinburgh Napier University and offers a one-stop shop for extra-curricular student enterprise activities. Our offer is open to students, staff and graduates of Edinburgh Napier University, as well as local businesses.  We support innovation and enterprise and offer a range of pathways to connect our students, staff and alumni to the community through enterprise start-up activities, business support and consultancy services, and social innovation projects. Bright Red Triangle aims to positively impact our student experience, local businesses and the wider community.

Girl Geek Scotland Interview With Enigma People Solutions

Bright Red Triangle Girl Geek Scotland Enigma People Solutions

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Posted February 29, 2016 | Industry Interviews, Software, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Women in Technology: An Interview with Vet Solutions

In this weeks blog we interview Carol Shuttleworth – Head of Implementation and Development at Vet Solutions – the largest provider of practice management software to the UK veterinary profession.

Enigma People Solutions has worked with Carol throughout her successful career. She shares with us her experiences of working in Scotland’s technology industry, as an employee and an employer, and discusses the role of women in technology.


Carol Shuttleworth Vet Solutions Women in Technology Enigma People Solutions interview

“There seems to be less female software developers in the pool now – whether that is to do with the particular personalities drawn into development, I’m not sure.”

Carol began her career working as what would nowadays be considered a modern apprentice and business studies student, where her department rotation into the IT Support department sparked her interest in technology. She found the role enabled her to see real results for her efforts, working closely with customers and solving their technical issues. After the company acquired a Software house in Scotland, Carol took the opportunity to relocate and went into a field based role, acquiring a range of hands on technical skills from building systems to installing servers.

She then joined Kingston Communications, working closely with overseas startup mobile telecoms companies, one of which was acquired by Vodafone. This was an exciting move to make as the mobile market was just taking off at that time. She continued working closely with customers and analysing business processes as an Applications Specialist and then progressing to a Training Manager Role and Project Lead.

Carol now heads up Implementation and Product Development at Vet Solutions, where she is responsible for ensuring a smooth experience for customers throughout the implementation process of their software.

  • Hi Carol! Tell us what first interested you in working in a technology environment?

“As an apprentice I rotated between departments every 6 months. I quickly realised I enjoyed the IT Support role above anything else that I had done in other departments.

I enjoyed working directly with customers and making a real difference, adding value to their business and training them how to get the best out of their application.

The role allowed me to see the results of my efforts, and I gained satisfaction from getting a crashed system up and running again. For example, you would go from a situation where the customer feels their business is in a little bit of a crisis and they may not be able to pay their payroll because a machine has crashed, to getting them back up and running and able to make payments.

It was that kind of saving the day and solving problems for a customer which was very rewarding.”

  • Did you perceive any obstacles or were there any obstacles that you had to overcome in terms of the industry and role?

“When I began working on the support desk the majority were female. I think that’s down to the softer skills that women, in the main seem to have over a male. There was a need for patience and curiosity to ask the questions to get the answers you needed, because back then the technology didn’t exist to be able log on to the clients system and see what was going on. So it was all about questioning to help resolve the issues.

It has had a subtle change, certainly throughout my first role where the majority of staff on helpdesks were female and those in the field were male. Over time the ratio had really evened itself out.”

  • Was the career path not as open for women at that point?

“From my experience you do see a lot of opportunities. As a woman you do have access to these opportunities, but I felt I needed to work a lot harder to be successful and get recognised. I think to some extent that is the same today.

The consistent message is that women feel, and it certainly seems to be the case that they have to work harder to be recognised.

I am lucky here that I work for a General Manager who sees the value of female managers and sees what a woman with my experience brings to the business.”

  • In terms of women in technology you have been in a great position to observe the industry for many years as an employee and as an employer. What is your experience of recruiting women in the industry? 

“My current recruiting experience is that there seems to be less female software developers in the pool now – whether that is to do with the particular personalities drawn into development, I’m not sure.

There are increasing numbers of young females starting courses but often they move into roles that have more to do with utilising communication skills.

When I worked at Response we participated in the  modern apprenticeship scheme and out of 20 candidates I interviewed, only 1 was a young female and she was successful in gaining the apprenticeship. She was way ahead of the males in terms of communication skills, she maybe didn’t have the level of technical skills that the others did but that was the easy bit to teach somebody. I coached her and mentored her and she won the award for the West of Scotland best apprenticeship in 2012. I was very proud of her.”

  • What advice would you give to women and girls trying to get into the technology industry? What can the industry do help improve things?

“If you have found something that you enjoy doing be it programming, training, business applications, just go for it.

If you don’t have a degree then find employers that will give you the time and education you require. We have invested in people here at Vet Solutions who have displayed this kind of enthusiasm. It is up to us as individuals to be more assertive.

Employers have to be open to sponsoring, developing and challenging individuals but that takes time to allow people to grow. That is how I behave as an employer.”

Vet Solutions is the largest provider of practice management software to the UK veterinary profession. They are a part of Henry Schein-  a Fortune 500® Company and a member of the S&P 500® and NASDAQ 100® Indices. Together they are the world’s largest supplier of healthcare products to medical, dental and veterinary professionals, which has enabled Vet Solutions to become firmly established as the market leader in the field.

For the latest job opportunities with Vet Solutions contact Daria on 0141 332 4422 or email Daria@enigmapeople.com!

For the latest Scottish technology news and jobs follow us on Twitter @enigmapeople and LinkedIn.

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Posted August 12, 2015 | Electronics, Industry Interviews, Scotland, Women in Technology | No Comments »

Women in Engineering: Interview with Mairi Torrie

With the role of women in engineering proving to be a hot topic in the technology industry recently, we spoke to Mairi Torrie, Project Manager and Principal Engineer at indie Semiconductor – a fast growing fabless semiconductor company that designs and manufactures custom, microcontroller-based chips. Having attended state school in the North East of Scotland in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Mairi may have been an unlikely candidate for a career in engineering. However, with a very successful career spanning over 25 years in Scotland’s engineering industry Mairi helps us understand the challenges facing women in the industry and how to overcome these.

Women in Engineering: Interview with Mairi Torrie | indie Semiconductor | Electronics Scotland

Mairi Torrie, Project Manager and Principal Engineer at indie Semiconductor

  • Can you give an overview of your career post university and how you got to where you are now?

After obtaining my undergraduate degree I chose to work for GEC and studied part time for a masters degree whilst working for them. I learned a lot but decided that after 3 years it was time to move on. I chose a new opportunity with a very small company. I went from a company with 10’s of thousands of employees to one that had 11 employees. That gave me some very good experience of working in a small company and a small team which I enjoyed. This experience helped me get my next job with more experience of different tools, skills and a broader range of the design lifecycle. I joined VVL, an Edinburgh University spin out specializing in camera imaging technology, which was later acquired by STMicroelectronics. VVL was a team of 37, joining when it was still quite small meant that I was able to be involved in all aspects of the design and silicon bringup process. When ST acquired us, that opened up many new opportunities – I travelled to work with people in other countries, I moved out of pure design to be technical team lead and design team leader. ST was particularly supportive of me, and of other women, in that role.

After 16 years essentially in the same company (VVL and ST) I moved to a new opportunity at SKF, the world’s largest bearings manufacturer, to work as a Project Manager in their condition monitoring centre. This gave me exposure to a new environment and new challenges.

After a very productive and enjoyable 2 years there, I was approached by a former colleague from ST, with the opportunity to join an interesting startup headquartered in California, who was looking into setting up a design centre in Edinburgh. As I had shown in the past, I like joining new innovative projects and so the opportunity to be in at the start of something new was too attractive to turn down.

I was the first of the team in Edinburgh to start working for indie in 2013, initially as a contractor, then as a permanent member of staff when the design centre opened with 2 other core team members. I am excited to be part of a fast growing company. Next month we are moving into a bigger office that will accommodate a design team of up to 20 people. indie is growing fast and shipping millions of chips each year into applications ranging from automotive and medical to industrial and consumer, so the work is varied and interesting.

  • What first interested you about STEM subjects and how did you find you perform in these?

I had always enjoyed puzzles and this led to me enjoying maths and physics at school. My teachers made the STEM subjects interesting and relevant and helped me see how they related to every day life. They could see my talent in the subject and encouraged me to attend a 5th year promotion for women in engineering where we learned how this can be an ideal industry for girls. Before that I had never thought about a career in engineering but it inspired me to look into it. As part of this promotion, I applied to several companies asking for sponsorship and was invited to interview with a few. I accepted an offer from GEC Ferranti (now Selex). They sponsored me through university (the only female student out of 12 that they sponsored), and gave me a summer job working in different groups within the company, gaining valuable industry experience from the age of 17 onwards.

  • What obstacles, real or perceived, did you have to overcome?

At secondary school I had to get my Dad to convince the school to allow me to do O-grade technical drawing and engineering science. Up until then only boys had been allowed to do that – equally only girls were allowed to do home economics.

Upon entering University I was disappointed to be told by a senior lecturer that I was taking a space that could have been given to a boy, that the degree would be no use as I would “just go off and breed”. When I performed well I was told I did “not bad, for a woman.” That just made me more determined to succeed and I won a first year engineering prize, which surprised some of my classmates.

In my first job full time at GEC I was the only woman out of 71 in the department, where everybody assumed I was the administrator just because I was female. The people that treated me with the most suspicion and negativity were some of the more senior, older engineers. My contemporaries and those younger tended to be more used to and accepting of women in the engineering workplace.

I am pleased to say that this has changed for the better in recent years and women in engineering are now treated equally.

  • What is your take on the reason behind such low numbers of women working in the tech industry and the low number of girls coming into the tech industry?

I hear often that there is a continued push to encourage girls to take on the STEM subjects but I also hear that girls are outperforming boys in these subjects. What disappoints me is that there are so few women then entering the engineering profession. I think all children are interested in and excited by engineering and science and the Edinburgh International Science Festival is a fantastic example of this. It is just for some reason there is a gender stereotype that means that girls are less exposed to it.

I feel that generally engineering is misunderstood and misrepresented in the UK. In other countries engineers are seen to have the status of a professional like a doctor or lawyer, but this is generally not the case in the UK. There are other countries that are ahead of the UK in terms of equality in society in general. Engineering is often wrongly perceived to be hands on with machinery but actually most of my time is spent in the office, sitting in front of a computer screen. It is a wide and varied profession with a range of opportunities in different area disciplines. I have chosen to do electronic engineering where you have the opportunity to innovate, design, explore, and problem solve – no two days are the same. Whilst you have the opportunity to create and innovate you do so as part of a team, with support. For me designing something for a customer is like solving a puzzle. It is really a thrill to design something, see it go into production and see it being used whether it is a phone camera or a sensor for a huge bearing.

  • What advice would you give to girls/women now?

Have a thick skin. Although it is has lessened now, there are still people out there who think engineering should be for men only, so learn to handle that. There is still the perception that, as a female engineer you have to be that little bit better to be treated equally, but don’t let people’s perceptions put you off – just like male nurses or primary teachers shouldn’t let gender stereotypes influence their careers.

  • How can we encourage girls/women into the industry?

Sell the industry better and make it clearer what working as an engineer is really like. If you want hard hats and machines, it can be that. However, it can also be sitting at a computer designing or coding in a fun environment, with flexible working and career progression. This is a great industry for women, there are career choices that allow you to continue to develop and work structure can be flexible, which does work well with a family. There are opportunities to travel, progress, and take on leadership roles, stay technical or move on to project and people management. In my experience, women that are attracted to engineering tend to be organised, logical and problem solving, utilizing softer skills to handle customers or managing engineering teams and projects.

I think it’s important to continue the current initiatives which do a fantastic job in raising awareness and continue promoting the industry to school girls (and boys). I also think that it is helpful for women who are working in the industry, such as me, to go into schools and show young girls that there is absolutely no reason why they can’t have a career in engineering.

Women in ICT and Digital Technologies sector – Scottish Government and SDS study

With this in mind, The Employment Research Institute at Edinburgh Napier University have been commissioned by the Scottish Government and Skills Development Scotland to undertake a survey to understand the gender imbalance in the ICT and Digital Technologies sector in Scotland. 

The survey seeks the views of anyone in Scotland who is currently working in the sector, who manages or recruits those in ICT roles, or who teaches or studies on a relevant college or university course through a short questionnaire. It will remain open until 28 August.

The survey can be accessed here: https://survey.napier.ac.uk/n/WomenInICT.aspx.

Other resources

IEEE Women in Engineering

Women’s Engineering Society

Equate Scotland

Scottish Resource Centre for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology

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Posted July 29, 2014 | Digital Media, Industry Interviews, Software, Technology Industry, Women in Technology | 2 Comments »

Spotlight on Solus: the technology transforming our libraries

Spotlight on Solus: the technology transforming our libraries

When you think of Libraries, what is the first thing to come into your mind? Books? What place do books have in this digital age I hear you ask? Well thanks to Glasgow based digital communication experts, Solus, this perception is quickly changing. Recruiting for the digital media market in Scotland, we are impressed with how Solus’s digital solutions have pioneered the technology which is transforming traditional libraries into digital community hubs, allowing libraries to meet the demands of our 24/7 instant information culture.

I spoke to Liz McGettigan, Head of Digital Experiences and Strategy at Solus, about their innovative digital solutions and how they are changing the role of libraries within the technological bubble that we all live in.

Liz’s impressive career included Head of Library and Information Services at City of Edinburgh Library and Information Services, where her passion for technology quickly gained her a reputation for making things happen (demonstrated by her pioneering the introduction of social media to the library!) Liz’s hunger for innovation meant she was fascinated by the strategic uses of technology and what problems it could solve, which after all is the point of technology isn’t it? Rather than getting bogged down with the schematics of the technology, Liz preferred to focus on what it can achieve and what needs could be met. With this frame of mind Liz recognised a gap in the library market and approached Solus to design the highly successful Library App in 2009/10. This was one key element which contributed to the service gaining Best UK Library and Information Service Award in 2012.App edinburgh

The app is the first of its kind and has changed how users engage with library services, allowing e-downloads of books to various devices or just quick and easy online access to the library services. The product isn’t an ordinary app, it is sophisticated in that it links all the back end systems to account management and catalogue search, allowing users to search and hold books from their devices. It has been so successful that Solus have rolled it out to libraries all over the UK, allowing them to be branded as desired.

Of course nowadays, having an app for your product or service is the norm however 5 years ago this was a rather innovative move facilitated by Liz, and especially in the Library market this was unheard of. As we know, the app market has grown at an incredible pace, but as little as 5 years ago this could be seen as a highly innovative move to recognise this gap in the library market and to fill this gap preceding the surge in app demand from all markets and industries now.

Following development of the Library App, Solus established a rapid growth in the libraries division and it has subsequently grown a large product portfolio on the back of integration with library management systems suppliers, helping Solus to achieve 40% of the UK Library market, setting standards for competitors and pioneering the quality and service of libraries and helping drive the development of SOLUS into a world-leading global library brand.

Solus’s solutions work hard to pull not just libraries into the digital age but all sorts of public services. From their augmented reality digital Mythical Maze app helping over a million children brush up on their reading skills during the summer holidays to working with Glasgow’s Caledonian University Library, revolutionising how students make use of their library service. For Solus, the future of libraries is very much going to be globally interactive. Liz believes that “the future of libraries is so not about books, nor has it ever been. It’s about people, place and technology. A place for digital learning, for people to come together and for the digital inclusion of everybody by offering them free access to technology.”

Solus’s digital solutions are inspirational to all Scottish Businesses, having received unprecedented global demand for their products from suppliers and partners wishing to introduce them to their public services.  Their digital solutions have changed how libraries in the UK are being perceived and changing how we interact with them as digital hubs offering access to exciting and essential technologies.

Interested in working with Solus? Get in touch with Liz below:
Twitter @lizmcgettigan

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Posted January 27, 2014 | Electronics, Technology Industry, Women in Technology | 1 Comment »

Women in Engineering

Last week saw Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg as the newest member of the female billionaires club. More and more women are making it to the top of leading global technology companies such as Cher Wang, Cofounder and Chairperson of  HTC, Virginia Rometty, President and CEO of IBM and Marissa Mayer, CEO of  Yahoo to name a few.

So why was it when I recently attended the Scotland IS event Technology Trends 2014 my first reaction when entering the room was, why so few women?!

Women in Engineering Technology

Enigma People Solutions have long championed the idea of increasing the number of women employed in engineering and technology. The problem seems to stem from schools where cultural stereotypes stop girls from excelling in mathematics and physics. Gender misconceptions of what subjects should be studied by boys makes girls who want to study these subjects nervous and anxious to do so, with only a fifth of girls who get an A* at Physics GCSE going on to do the subject at A level, compared with half of boys. Studies also showed that in single-sex schools, more girls go on to study physics to A-level. Without the cultural stereotypes in single sex school girls feel more confident to go on and study mathematics and physics. The problems still manifests at university level however where only 17% of engineering students are female with this resulting in only 8% actually pursuing the engineering profession. Compare this with Sweden where 25% of professional engineers are female and 20% in France, Italy and Norway.

Careers in software development and computer science are now listed as the highest paying and most in demand careers so why is it this industry is seemingly not open to 50% of its potential talent pool? The fear is that if, as a society/industry we choose to only consider half our talent pool we will quickly be overtaken by those societies which are encouraging more of their skilled individuals into the industry rather than allowing them to be trained up and utilised in other industries which are seemingly more suitable to women. We will be all the poorer for it if we continue to let that happen!

As a leading IT recruitment consultancy Enigma People Solutions is passionate about increasing the number of women in technology because we know all too well that in order to stay ahead as an industry we need to nurture the skills and talent from an early age and consider the brightest minds coming out of our education system.

The problem is that this has been a consistent topic for years and whilst some if not many men are clearly holding open the doors even women seem to be at a loss as to how to encourage girls and young women into engineering.

In a recent article for The Telegraph Dame Ann Dowling, the first female president of the Royal Academy of Engineering, discusses the lack of fellow women in the industry, stating the profession is perfect for girls. If she herself is ‘baffled’ as to why we don’t have better representation of women in engineering then we really may be in trouble!

There is no doubt that the tech industry has been growing, with 39,900 jobs added between January and September 2013, and a massive 60% of these positions going to women. This is fantastic news for women in tech however still only represents a fraction of what can be achieved if more women were to embrace the industry. What we need to see is more women entering Product design for Software and Electronics in the UK. Let’s at least catch up with and improve on the representation that we see in countries like Sweden and Norway!

Tell us your thoughts, how can we encourage more women into engineering?

Follow Enigma People Solutions on LinkedIn and Twitter to keep up with the latest news and industry updates.

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Posted November 12, 2012 | Digital Media, Industry Interviews, Scotland, Women in Technology | 2 Comments »

INTERVIEW: Ally Watson (Screenmedia) & Polly Purvis (ScotlandIS)

Ally Watson (Screenmedia) & Polly Purvis (ScotlandIS)Ally Watson is a developer at award winning Glasgow based digital design agency, Screenmedia.

Firstly, can you give a brief description of what you do at Screenmedia?

At Screenmedia I am involved in the specification, development and maintenance of a number of Umbraco CMS driven websites. As part of this role I also conduct training sessions with our clients. An average (productive) day for me at the ‘meedja’ will consist of 1000 lines of code, 3 cups of tea and a few too many Kit-Kats.

Were you intimidated by entering what is still considered to be a male dominated industry?
Big time. I can’t deny that when I first started my career I had a very big chip on my shoulder and felt I had a lot to prove because I was a girl.  This personal vendetta gradually withered with the help from all the fantastic developers I met along the way. No one ever treated me different and the best thing I’ve learned is to never be afraid to ask for help. Let your insecurities go and just ask because people, male or female, are always willing to help you and no one will ever judge you for it.

Did you feel like it was male dominated or has the male/female ratio been relatively equal in your experience?
In my third year at University there were about 80 people in my class. 5 of them were girls.

My first job as a graduate software developer I was the only female developer and only female in my side of the building. To put that into perspective there was about 60 men on our side of the building, 40 of those were developers.

Screenmedia has been the first place I’ve worked where the odds have started to even out.

When did you decide that you wanted to be a Developer and what influenced your decision?
When I run into old childhood friends they are often surprised at my career choice. When I was younger I loved all things creative and fancied a career in fine art. However I could never leave my lust for problem solving and mathematics behind. All the drawing and painting couldn’t satisfy the analytical side of my brain. So one day I decided to apply for a degree in Computing Science at Glasgow University. For about the first 6 months I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. It wasn’t until I took a class in Human Computer Interaction that I knew I had a place in this industry. I realised that being a developer required more than just code, code and more code. It required psychology and well thought out design and it was that moment that I realised it was the perfect fit for me.

What do you think could/should be done to get more women into the technology industry?
So making a “Computer Engineer” Barbie was definitely a nice attempt at getting girls on our side but it’s really not enough. I feel if youngsters got more exposure to the kind of jobs out there and creative environments they could work in then I think more girls would aspire to have a career in technology.

I’ve even considered myself getting more involved in the cause and making visits to schools. Even to spend 5 minutes with a girl like-minded as myself to tell her about the opportunities out there and roles that could suit her skill set would be so worthwhile.

We need to get rid of the stigma that it’s a geek-fest. I’m a girl who loves shopping, baking, arts and crafts and I couldn’t be happier being a developer. It’s not just for World Of Warcraft lovers!


Polly Purvis is Executive Director of ScotlandIS – the expert voice that supports the success of Scotland’s ICT industry.

Ally Watson (Screenmedia) & Polly Purvis (ScotlandIS)Were you intimidated by entering what is still considered to be a male dominated industry? 

Not at all –  I didn’t see it as an issue and whilst the industry needs many more women I have never felt that being a woman has  been a disadvantage in my career.

Did you feel like it was male dominated or has the male/female ratio been relatively equal in your experience?
There’s no doubt that the industry has too few women in it, but many technology companies have women working in a wide range of roles. However there’s still a lot more to do to address the gender imbalance.

When did you decide to focus on a career in IT and what attracted you to the industry?
I didn’t  – I ‘stumbled’ into by chance having worked in financial services and economic development previously, but I’ve loved every minute – it’s a very exciting, fast paced industry with lots of fascinating people working in it.

Executive Director of ScotlandIS is an incredibly impressive achievement. What has been your personal greatest achievement in this role?
ScotlandIS role is to promote the industry and it’s very much a team effort.  We’re building our membership and campaigning on skills, procurement and the value of the digital economy.  Ask me again in a couple of years?

What do you think could/should be done to get more women into the technology industry?
I think the time has come for some positive discrimination – recent evidence shows that companies with women in senior roles are more profitable[1] so this should be a straightforward business decision.  We need a programme that encourages women to give serious consideration to careers in the industry, starting at schools, in college and university as well as seeking to attract women from other industries.

[1] http://www.businessinsider.com/women-make-companies-more-successful-2012-10

We’d love to hear more opinions on the industry – so whether you’re a woman working in the technology, a graduate looking for a job in the industry (male or female) or an employer (again, male or female) who would like to comment on the topic, please get in touch! Email christina@enigmapeople.com if you’d like to get involved.

If you think you’ve got what it takes to make it in the IT industry, send your CV to dmains@enigmapeople.com or ramassa@enigmapeople.com

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Posted November 05, 2012 | Technology Industry, Women in Technology | 6 Comments »

Technology needs more women; drop the old stereotypes.

Technology needs more women; drop the old stereotypes.

Amber Case (www.caseorganic.com) by rocketcandy on Flickr

IT no longer means a career in a dark, stuffy room slumped at your computer, occasionally stepping outside to fix somebody else’s. This is 2012 – technology is everywhere. The day the iPhone 5 was released that was the only thing anyone was writing or reading about.

It was all anybody cared about.

The news was not gender specific.

So why do men still account for 84% of the UK’s IT professionals?

IT isn’t what you think it is

It has been said that women are scientifically proven to use the right side of their brain – the creative side. Well that’s what technology is now and it needs to be recognised. Key qualities of a good technologist at the moment are “creativity, idea generation, multitasking, problem solving and a general keenness to find new ways of doing things”. Of course these are traits that any gender can possess, but it’s perhaps traits that some women don’t realise are as imperative to technology as they are.

FACT: Since 2001, the number of female IT graduates entering the profession has fallen by almost half.

Geeks are cool and technology is girly

Lady Geek’s “Little Miss Geek” campaign is striving to change the perception of the technology industry. However, even the name ‘Little Miss Geek’ gives the impression of cutesy little girls and doesn’t particularly bode well for being taken seriously. I appreciate the hard work going into this campaign and I fully support it, but I feel like nobody has quite decided on the correct message that we need to send.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that I know what message we should be sending; but I do think that confusing, contradicting messages won’t help matters. There’s no use telling girls that IT is something that it technically isn’t just to get them in the door – they’re smart, they’ll soon realise that they’ve been lied to.

They do need to be told the truth, and the truth is that if they want a career in IT that doesn’t mean they’ll have to code all day and learn the rules of World of Warcraft to join in on the conversations at lunch.

A new Art Department

The general consensus that I’ve gathered from talking to women in the industry is that we need to engage with the girls at school.

Their first impression girls should have of IT isn’t the dark, dated classroom in the Bermuda Triangle of the school that you always get lost trying to find (maybe because you don’t actually want to find it).

This needs to change. It should be another Art Department; somewhere creative where they can get away from any problems they might be having and just spend some time designing, developing and problem solving in their own world.

What can we do?

It’s all well and fine telling each other the way things should be, but how do we make it so?

  • Find a way to get into the schools, present the reality of the industry to the younger generation and show them the vast opportunities that are available to them in the technology industry.
  • Revamp the IT departments of schools. They need to be as exciting and up to date as the industry is.
  • Encourage exciting and creative IT work experience placements. Gone should be the days of being sent to an office for 5 days of learning how to make a smashing cup of coffee.

Whether you’re a woman currently making a mark in the technology industry, know one who deserves some recognition or are a student who’s looking to make her way into the industry in the near future, we’d love to hear from you.

E-mail hello@enigmapeople.com to get involved or if you’re interested in opportunities in the technology industry please send us your CV. 

Interesting Links

Wwwonder Women: Top 30 Women In Digital Under 30
Lady Geek
Geek Goddesses – The Guardian
Why don’t girls want to be geeks? – BBC
A primer on sexism in the tech industry – by an actual girl
More women needed in technology – BBC

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