Inspirational Woman: Katherine Codlin | Founder, Cambridge Women in Tech

Katherine Codlin

Katherine Codlin is the founder of Cambridge Women in Tech, a Cambridge-based network for people who are interested in furthering the roles of women in STEM across the UK.

Through a variety of meetups, workshops, networking and mentoring opportunities for women at all levels of their careers, WIT is helping to support and grow gender equality across the STEM space by thinking globally and acting locally.

The goal of Cambridge Women in Technology is twofold: to advance women in all STEM roles, from the classroom to the boardroom and beyond, and provide a network for interested and proactive people to meet locally, to discuss topics relevant to women in the industry and the wider world in the 21st century.

Katherine has a wealth of experience acquired in the tech sector in several commercial roles, largely managing enterprise accounts. Katherine worked as part of the accounts team at Redgate Software from 2008 to 2018 before joining start-up Speechmatics as a Strategic Accounts Manager. Katherine prides herself on using a common-sense approach combined with the ability to develop effective relationships to successfully deliver projects, programs and partnerships to maximum impact. She has solid partnership management experience, including securing income and the delivery of strategic long-term community and sustainable initiatives.

Katherine’s educational background includes an English Literature BA from London Metropolitan University and an extended certificate in Post-Colonial Theory.

In addition to working at Speechmatics and Cambridge Women in Tech, Katherine is a mum to two boys, avid traveller, novice photographer and keen cook – often experimental.

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

I never expected to have a career in software – in fact 20 years ago when doing my A -levels and choosing my degree, it couldn’t have been further from my mind. I graduated with a BA in English literature and went on to focus on Post-Colonial Theory. Fast forward a couple of years to 2008 and having not really had a job I enjoyed, I took a role with an upcoming tech company that was making waves in the software industry – it all went from there, my love affair with technology had begun. I was very aware that learning the tech didn’t come naturally to me and set about looking into breaking down the training into manageable learning modules for new starters.

Since my whole career has been in tech, I never really paid much attention to the fact that I was always the only woman in my team. I always worked hard, aimed to impress and progressed in my role as a result. As I grew within the company and my priorities changed, it began to dawn on me that while new positions and desired skill sets varied, one thing remained constant – everyone that joined seemed to be males and I needed to do something about it. At Redgate I worked on several initiatives to address gender diversity and inclusion. I started by mentoring other women employees and taking on a training role.

After ten years, having seen huge success, I made the hard decision to leave that company and use my skill set to join an exciting start-up, Speechmatics and onboard an outbound sales team.

During all of this I had my two children – now aged five and six, who I raise as a lone parent.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – I have adapted and pushed and took on new roles as I went. I am a firm believer in learning as I go.

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

There have been a couple of challenges along the way. I faced discrimination as a female lead on projects and commercial discussions, being asked if “a male colleague would be joining”. In response, I stood my ground, remained professional and showed I was highly capable.

I also faced discrimination post maternity leave when I was told to take a “less stressful role as my priorities will have changed”. This was a bit of a hard one, and I suffered from a huge loss of confidence initially and felt like I wasn’t valued. However, I refused to take the easy route and roved myself in the role I had done before having children. It was a really hard pill to swallow that the employer thought I would suddenly not be good at my job, but I made the best of the situation.

Being the only woman on a team has also proved to be a challenge, as I was  constantly feeling like I had to prove myself again and again.

Tell us more about Lean In – how does it help women in the tech community?

I was incredibly inspired by Lean In.

A direct quote from Sheryl Sandberg and something I am fully behind: “A place where women can be unapologetically ambitious. Where we can give voice to our dreams and find the encouragement to start chasing them. They’re a place for sharing ideas, gaining skills, seeking advice, and showing solidarity. Most of all, they’re a place where we help each other become our very best selves. Whatever your goal – whether you’re working toward a promotion or building your confidence, re-entering the workforce or starting a business – your Circle will help you get there.”

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

There are so many things I would change, but there’s isn’t one silver bullet only.

Two key aspects to work on would be putting support structures in place for women in the workplace and providing tools to help them overcome the belief that they are not enough. There are many successful and inspirational women leaders in business, but they are very much in the minority for the business world in general. What I see more than anything in women is a lack of belief in themselves and their abilities, often times when their skills far outweigh that of a male colleague who they watch climb the career ladder.

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

It’s something I feel strongly about! Currently I am not officially mentoring anyone, but I have done so many times over the years. I am unofficially mentoring the female in my team at Speechmatics and those that have come on board to help me scale Women In Tech.

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

I strongly believe that we need to engage females at a younger age and in a different way. I have watched so many code clubs fail to interest and retain girls – I don’t believe they respond as well when a bunch of components are put in front of them and they are being asked to build something and then compete. This is the formula I have seen many clubs use and it has never sat well with me. We have a lot of younger girls (aged 11+) in the Cambridge WIT group and I have had feedback from all of them that the best thing about Cambridge WIT is the inspirational speakers and the journeys of how they got into their chosen careers. They responded well to the end product and goal as they needed something visual to aspire to.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

With Cambridge WIT, the growth of the group and selling out our events.

On a personal level, ,the ability to raise my children on my own.

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

To continue to grow and expand Cambridge WIT into a centralised hub / platform for women and girls in STEM. My aim is to signpost it as a relevant and worthwhile event and also develop our collaboration with partners.

I will also look into the possibility of turning Cambridge WIT into a commercial success in the future and dedicate more of my time to diversity and inclusion initiatives at Speechmatics.

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