As an openly out LGBT+ female tech entrepreneur, Hayley supports professional LGBT+ communities through WERKIN’s CSR programmes, and sponsorship and support of Lesbians Who Tech.
The technology developed at WERKIN allows more LGBT+ professionals to be visible and supported in their careers. Externally, Hayley is committed to creating a fundamental shift for the female, LGBT+ and BAME talent pipeline and uses her technology to support mentoring programmes for a number of LGBT+ organisations, including Lesbian and Bisexual professional women, and OUTstanding. Her company is a UK partner of Lesbians Who Tech, providing support by hosting and sponsoring the London Summer Party. She is also an active mentor in the Stemettes programme, currently mentoring a female BAME undergrad computer science student.
Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I am Hayley Sudbury, founder and CEO of WERKIN, the company I built with my cofounder to bring tech-enabled sponsorship to global organisations. I founded WERKIN after a career in finance. Though I enjoyed the challenges and satisfaction of that career, I saw an opportunity to use technology to make industries like finance more inclusive, particularly in senior positions. Of course, if I had chosen a different path, I’d be a professional jazz musician, the track I started out on!
Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
No, I’ve just had major pivots and have been open to the universe and throwing myself into opportunities as they come. In high school, I wanted to become an architect or professional musician. I met with my careers counselor and took a test that said I should be a counselor. I grew up in a family business so it wasn’t so radical that I would follow the path of an entrepreneur. I made a conscious decision to move into large corporates early on in my career to have some big corporate experience in my journey, starting in the energies sector and then finance.
Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?
I’ve had several roles that required me to be extremely resourceful to deal with trouble areas. It’s about recognising what you can do in a particular situation and who you can influence about what’s happening and make changes.
If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?
Unconscious bias. That’s the key to change, dealing with people’s biases and building understanding. I don’t think I am in control of that.
How do you think companies and individuals could be more inclusive?
At the end of the day, it’s about getting people signed up to create an environment where people feel truly comfortable about bringing their wholes selves to work. It’s important to encourage everyone to embrace that. The way you work needs to be inclusive if you’re going to create an environment for everyone. One easy way for companies to do this is by joining the INvolve network. They’ve worked with our teams to help harness LGBT+, ethnic minority and female talent and foster inclusive cultures. We’re working to drive a positive change in the workplace.
How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?
Mentoring is key to your professional and your life journey. How you work, how you live, the people who guide you along the way. It’s not just about formal mentors, it’s the sponsors who raise your visibility. We are looking to democratise mentoring and sponsorship. Not everyone has the time or know-how to be a mentor, we want to help more people to have that experience. I am an active mentor. I am still being actively mentored myself by technology veterans who have been there and done it.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
My current company. I am actually doing something that I love. I have my cofounder that I love working with. We are commited to this change and now product and market fit together to make it happen. The time has aligned with more attention being paid to help companies be better versions of themselves. Companies are open to change behaviour which makes a difference to individuals’ careers.
What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?
Help global companies change the mix. We have focused in the UK, but now we are looking to the US and are hoping to scale our company globally. We are scaling up our London-based company. We also want to enjoy the ride and have fun doing it. The journey is the reward. That is absolutely how I feel about what we are doing.