Amy’s role is to understand clients’ needs and transform them into technical solutions that suit their users. Since joining Hyphen8 in 2022, Amy has rapidly become a core part of the team, working on our ongoing programme of work with Wellcome, the global charitable foundation. She’s also become chair of our Women in Tech Community of Practice, as well as a mentor.
I spoke to Amy to understand her experience, her motivations, and how she’s working to make the tech sector a more equitable place for women.
How did your education help shape your career plans?
I’ve never really had any career plans set in stone except to make a positive impact and do some good – I’ve generally been steered by the thought that “I can do that”!
I studied for a masters in Conflict and International Relations. Surprisingly, I found myself surrounded by people keen to profit from conflict, who talked openly about their plans to become lobbyists or work in the arms industry. This SHOOK me, as not everyone was there for the same reasons as me. While some classmates were getting excited about military hardware at arms fairs, I was there to see how we could help. It was a huge eye opener, and showed me that not everyone is on the same page as me. This made me even more determined to keep going and to explore how I could do some good in the third sector.
Plan International sounds like a dream job for you, why did you leave?
Being part of Plan was incredible. I loved being part of what they do, and advocating for everything that they stand for. Then I had a baby.
The project I’d been working on was enormous, and I found myself struggling to justify a stressful full-time job while working out how to be a first-time parent during a pandemic! Something had to give, and my role was the one thing I could control. It was so difficult to make that decision, but I had to prioritise my family. I love what Plan International do, and I still support them as a donor.
So how did you end up at Hyphen8?
I was clear with recruiters that I would only consider roles with organisations that had a clear and genuine social purpose, and who took their responsibilities seriously. My own satisfaction and peace of mind are based on making a positive impact, and this isn’t something that I’m willing to compromise.
Hyphen8 demonstrated that commitment so clearly. Even though I was no longer working for a nonprofit, it didn’t feel like a compromise. In some ways, I feel like I’m having a more positive and direct impact, as I’m not a small cog in a much larger machine.
It’s so important to me that time I spend away from my family is well spent. Working for Hyphen8 just felt “right”, and I can feel proud when I explain to people who we are, and what we do. When my daughter asks what I do, I’m always happy to explain. She’s only two, so she doesn’t quite understand what I do beyond tapping on a keyboard though…
You’ve clearly settled in fast! What attracted you to Hyphen8’s new mentoring programme?
I felt at home so quickly! Within just a few months of starting, I’d already volunteered to become a mentor.. I’ve always been able to lean on colleagues for support and expertise, and I wanted to be that person for someone else – I know how beneficial it can be. I’ve always struggled with Imposter Syndrome and can find it hard to believe what other people tell me about myself. I saw mentoring as an opportunity to be the person that people tell me I am, and to re-affirm that I do have something to offer.
I became a Mental Health First Aider at Plan, and I’m now part of the Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) team at Hyphen8. This involves being able to identify, understand and help someone who may be experiencing a mental health issue at work. The chance to become a mentor aligned really closely with my MHFA responsibilities, and hopefully will help me to support my mentees.
Alongside mentoring, I was also asked to chair our new “Women in Tech” Community of Practice.
What is the “Women in Tech” Community of Practice?
We’ve launched a new approach to development, including Communities of Practice (CoPs). These communities are structured groups to develop our capabilities, support our teams and deepen internal networks.
When our CEO Elaine asked me to lead the “Women in Tech” CoP, I was so excited and pleased to be asked! I see advocating for Women in Tech as a responsibility, because it’s not just a cause that needs supporting, but also something that women within Hyphen8 should have to champion their needs. It fits with everything that I’ve been thinking, working, and shouting about for years! This role is the first time that I feel I can truly say that “I am a woman in tech”, not just a woman in a tech role in the third sector.
At Plan, gender equality and advocacy were central to the organisation’s mission, and it was natural to have conversations, raise awareness, and highlight issues around these. Now I’m in an industry where advocacy isn’t the reason we’re here. I’m trying to find where that advocacy space sits, and to understand how important it is to the industry. What opportunities are there, and what appetite is there for change? Through this Community of Practice, I want to advocate for and support the women who work here, as well as signposting the wider company to resources on how they can learn and do more.
What do you see as some of the key challenges that Women in Tech face?
In a recent survey, I saw that only 28% of roles in Tech are held by women, and that’s before even looking at inequalities between role types and representation in leadership positions. I don’t like to describe Tech as “male-dominated”, as this often only serves to pre-load the conversation and only prefaces that industry to assume that women have less than a voice. However, it’s a clear fact that women are under-represented in this space.
How do you feel about feminism in the UK in 2023?
As an unashamed, flag-waving, bleeding-heart feminist, I feel positive about the state of feminism in the UK right now. I understand it’s not everyone’s experience, but I do feel that the UK is a safer space to have discussions about feminism (generally speaking) and I feel optimistic about that.
I want a world where the default isn’t that a doctor is assumed to be a man, or a carer assumed to be a woman. I want my daughter Penny to look at world leaders, and to see someone who looks like her!
Penny turned three this year. Becoming a parent (especially of a girl) has made me examine things from a different perspective. I wonder how this will look for her, what opportunities she’ll have, and how she’ll experience the world. This changed my priorities. It hasn’t changed what or why I do things, but it’s turned the volume up for me.
Hyphen8 seems like a great place for women to work, why do you need this new Community of Practice?
The Women in Tech CoP is so important, even though we’re starting from such a positive position. We’ve got a lot to be proud of! A majority female leadership team, a female founder and CEO, a 50:50 gender split, and a new career framework where everyone can see what they can be paid in their role. That level of consciousness in an organisation is such an advantage, and we should be helping others to learn from that.
Coming from this position of strength is empowering; when we launched the Women in Tech CoP, the feedback from everyone was so positive. Our values are based on respecting, valuing, and supporting each other, and everyone reflects that back to us.
This should be standard practice! But we can’t just pat ourselves on the back and say “job done”, we need to interrogate ourselves, and ask “is there anything that we’re doing unconsciously that’s disadvantaging women in this organisation”?
How do you see this directly benefitting the women who work for Hyphen8?
We’ve got a lot we can do to assess if we’re going in the right direction to learn and improve. We’ll be starting a policy review to ensure that all policies and procedures work for everyone that works here.
Shortly after starting, I challenged the leadership team on our wellbeing leave policy, where staff get an extra half-day off per week over the summer. At the time, this hadn’t been updated to consider the growing number of part-time staff like myself. I raised it with the leadership team, I was heard, and this policy was amended before the CoP even existed.
Could this make a difference for women across the tech sector?
There are loads of organisations that have a long way to go. This approach takes self-reflection and awareness, and there’s no single way to do that. It’s a movement, and I want to be part of that movement, shouting about and normalising what we do in order to have positive, knock-on effects across the sector. Even if that prompts just a couple of other employers to review their flexible working or parental leave policies, I’m hoping that the domino effect will kick in. That’s how advocacy works, and that’s where I’m hoping the power can come from with this group.
There are other voices in the industry, but we need to join with them and be louder and more noticeable – it’s difficult to be the first! If more people realise that they’re not alone, it makes it easier for us all to push for change.
What’s your first priority as chair of the Women in Tech CoP?
My priority is to be the chair – I’m not the group! I need to give them the space to speak, the opportunity to share what’s important to them, and to uncover areas that we’re not all aware of. We may need to talk about the menopause, maybe we need this to be written into policies around reproductive health and medical leave? It may be that we need to focus on working on imposter syndrome, maybe we’ll run a workshop on this?
The beauty of this is that it’s a COMMUNITY, not a working group. They’re about us as people, and I can’t (and won’t!) speak for every woman.
Which other Communities of Practice have you joined?
Our Senior UX Designer Tim McGraw chairs our UX & Inclusive Design CoP, and this was my top choice to join as a member! I’m passionate about making sure that everyone has access to what we build, and making sure things are designed holistically rather than from one person’s perspective. I’m really interested to see what’s involved in UX, and to see what abstract conversations around design come out of it!
I’ve also joined the Hyphen8 Book Club. I love reading, but since I became a parent, I don’t have time anymore. This was the kick up the backside I needed to get back into reading for pleasure, and I’ve really enjoyed it! It’s helped me to have some time to do something just for myself, and I’ve loved the conversation and having the social interaction with the team that can be difficult to do remotely.