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The Women Making a Big Impact in Scotland’s Tech Sector (Part 3)

Dominique Adams


Today is International Women’s Day (IWD) and, to mark this event, DIGIT is shining a spotlight on some of the trailblazing women working in Scotland’s digital tech sector. 

International Women’s Day (IWD) is a global event that takes place every year on March 8, and it has been going on for more than a century since its inaugural event in 1911.

IWD is a chance to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world. The day highlights a call to action (CTA) for accelerating gender parity and inclusivity, while striving to make a positive difference for all women.

The campaign theme of IWD 2019 is Balance for Better – the CTA is to promote awareness against bias and to take action for equality. Balance for Better seeks to make people aware that balance is not just a ‘women’s issue’,. It’s a business issue, and getting balance is essential for economics and communities to thrive.

At many of the gender events recently attended by DIGIT‘s writers, it was made abundantly clear by all the speakers that championing ‘women in tech’ does not mean excluding men. In fact, almost all the speakers advocated strongly that men are a crucial part of the dialogue and must also become agents for change.

Aligned with this theme of Balance for BetterDIGIT has spoken to women who are working for greater balance within Scotland’s tech community.

From organising support networks to encouraging STEM skills in young people, and supporting the development in digital skills for all, each of these women has made a significant contribution to gender equality and digital skills in Scotland’s tech sphere.

In this, the conclusion of our three-part series, we discover how these women came to work in Scotland’s digital technology sector and what achievements they are most proud of.

Kate Forbes, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, Member of the Scottish Parliament

Kate Forbes MSPA keen student, Kate studied history at the Universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh before embarking on an accounting career. In 2016, after several years working in the finance sector, she was elected a Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency.

“As the first ever Minister for Digital, I have made it my mission to immerse myself in the tech community in Scotland and champion Scotland’s potential as a global leader in data and emerging technologies.

“There are great opportunities through collaboration with universities, public sector and business. I want to make sure we’ve got the skills, a supportive economic environment and the ambition to turn the potential into reality.

“There are few jobs as exciting as mine, because I get a bird’s eye view of what’s happening across Scotland, and then I get to shout loudly about our success and attract further investment. It might sound small, but in this year’s Scottish Government budget I introduced a new Digital Start Up fund.

“Recognising industry’s calls for skills and a bigger pool of talent in Scotland, this fund will target those who don’t have digital skills but do have the aptitude and capability for a successful career in tech and support them through training.

“In particular, I want to encourage those working in lower income jobs, women returners and others to consider a career in tech – and we’ll provide the funding for training and pathways into jobs. It’s a small example, I believe, of listening to industry, tailoring our support and investing in the future.”

Polly Purvis OBE, CEO of ScotlandIS and Chair of CodeClan

Scottish StartupSince its inception in 2000, Polly has been a key driving force behind ScotlandIS, Scotland’s trade body for digital technologies.

She has served as the CEO of ScotlandIS for six years, and during her tenure at the organisation she led it thorough a period of substantial growth, helping it to achieve industry-wide success and recognition.

In addition to her role at ScotlandIS, she also represents ScotlandIS on the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal Regional Enterprise Council, the Scotland CAN DO Business Innovation Forum, the ICT & Digital Technologies Skills Group, and the Industrial Advisory Board of the University of Dundee’s School of Computing.

She is also director of dotScot Registry, Chair of CodeClan and a Trustee of the Digital Xtra Fund.

Polly lobbied strongly for the creation of the Skills Investment Plan (published in 2014) – a strategy developed to create a strong and steady supply of skills for Scotland’s growing technology sector. Through partnerships with industry, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council and other skills organisations, the investment plan is helping to cultivate a vibrant, resilient skills infrastructure to support future growth.

CodeClan, Digital Xtra Fund, Digital Skills Partnership and the Digital Schools Programme all have roots in the Skills Investment Plan, and work is underway to address key issues ranging from gender diversity to shortages in computing teachers throughout Scotland’s education system. Polly played a leading role in the formation of CodeClan, Scotland’s first and only SQA accredited digital skills academy.

Polly has received recognition for her hard work and significant contribution to the Scottish technology sector in the form of a lifetime achievement award from Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham MSP, and an OBE in the Queen’s birthday honours list in 2017. She was also awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 2018 Scottish Women in Technology Awards.

Most recently, she was instrumental in securing support from Scottish Enterprise to develop industry clusters in data and cybersecurity, moulding ScotlandIS into a combined cluster management organisation and membership body.

“I love working in the technology sector as everyday is different, the industry is full of fascinating people and the businesses we work with create brilliant products and solutions. Its a great industry to be a woman – many technology businesses are doing ground breaking work, tackling complex challenges that need a range of skills and perspectives.

“Most employers are actively encouraging women into their workforce, into roles from business development, to digital marketing, software development, and product management. Working hours are often flexible, pay is good, most workplaces also offer a great range of non- financial benefits from cycle to work schemes to working from home.”

It was announced earlier this year that Polly will retire from ScotlandIS. However, she will remain with the organisation until late summer 2019 following recruitment and the handover of her position.

Gillian Docherty, CEO of The Data Lab

Gillian Docherty, CEO The Data LabGillian joined IBM in 1993 and, originally, was a Mainframe System Programmer after gaining a degree in Computing Science at University of Glasgow.

She was an IBMer for 22 years but held many different roles both technical and in sales, which saw her working across the UK.

After her return to Scotland, she continued with IBM running different parts of the business, including hardware, software and services.

In 2015, she joined The Data Lab as CEO and over the past four years has been doing some amazing work.

“I probably fell into the tech sector. My school took delivery of its first computers when I was in Sixth Year so I did a short module and then took Computer Science as one of the courses in my first year at University (alongside Maths and Economics).

“I really enjoyed it and chose it as my main degree topic. Following the Milk Round as it was called then, I was offered a job at IBM and, as they say, the rest is history. I am very proud of what we have achieved at The Data Lab and am still extremely excited about what the future holds for us and for Scotland.

“We have worked with so many amazing people across Industry, Public Sector and Academia with significant support from the Government to help Scotland maximise the value from Data. I am very proud of the team and their passion and drive to make a difference every single day. They motivate me to be better.

“When you meet with companies or an individual who have been helped by what we do at The Data Lab it puts a huge smile on my face and, to be honest, we have changed some people’s lives. It’s totally awesome.”

Melinda Matthews Clarkson, CEO of CodeClan

Melinda has a BS degree in Sales and Marketing Education; and has certifications from UCLA in Women in Leadership, Executive Coaching. She also has qualifications in Mentoring from the Edinburgh Coaching Academy.

She has been recognised in the Top 100 Women in CRN Software Channel publication from 2014, 2015 and 2016.

She was recently nominated by Scottish Women in Technology as CEO of the Year 2018. Melinda has spent her 25-year career as a leader in technology and, in her current role at CodeClan, she leverages her passion for people and her business skills to drive growth into the Scottish Digital Economy.

Melinda has held roles as a VP of Sales, Global Executive of Business Development & Enablement, Director of Marketing and VP of Alliances and Partnerships. She is also a sponsor for the Smart Works Charity that focuses on assisting women back into the workforce.

An active cheerleader for Girl Guides and STEM organisations, she jumps at any opportunity to inspire and mentor women to be the best they can be. Leaving her role as a high school teacher, she embarked on her tech career by taking a job in marketing for a small startup that sold mainframe email thus leading her into the tech sector.

“I had been working at IBM for years, working my way up the ladder from a data specialist sales rep to management, and then was handed a hard new challenge – to create a data management business partner channel. That was in 1998. I worked with an amazing team and we did it, and were awarded an IBM internal award called the Star Award that was sponsored by Lou Gerstner.

“I continued my Channel Business Development role and was promoted to a global position in our Data Management team. From there on, the world of third party software vendors leveraging IBM technology and services became my career.

“I continued to lead teams around the globe to create programmes that would support all IBM technologies and small independent software developers. It was a thrilling and hard role. I learned so much from the local people and how they looked at technologies for their cultures.

“In 2009, I became the global Channel and Alliance leader for IBM’s Smarter Commerce and Smarter Cities Software (IOT) division. This was all new and, to this day, revolutionised the way businesses, cities and supply chains work. By 2014, we had made a large impact on the growth of the IBM business and the growth of the 15,000 independent local resellers, service providers and ISVs.”

Leah Hutcheon, Founder and CEO of Appointedd

Leah Hutcheon_appointedd_36Leah started Appointedd at her kitchen table with her overdraft and, since its birth, Appointedd has gone from strength to strength, winning global Fortune 500 companies and some of the UK’s best-loved retailers as customers.

Having starred in the hit BBC documentary, The Entrepreneurs, Leah’s journey was documented for all to see. Leah won the inaugural Scottish EDGE Award and was named UK Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year.

“I started Appointedd because I struggled to understand why I couldn’t book services online in the same way that I could order a pizza or book a flight. This was way before the on-demand culture of Uber, Deliveroo etc was so prevalent.

“We’ve all become more demanding, and we generally now want to book everything online, so this has led to a natural growth curve for Appointedd. We now handle bookings for a myriad of independent businesses, as well as global brands such as M&S, Westfield Shopping Centres, and even one of the Big Four accountants.

“I’ve been lucky to have a ton of amazing moments at Appointedd – I’ve been featured in a BBC documentary, spoken at Parliament, and even presented my vision for the world in front of a huge audience while having my six-month-old daughter, Hedy, strapped to me.

“Startup has been an amazing journey and a wild roller coaster. That said, if it comes down to the one thing I’m proudest of, it’s the amazing team we have been able to build. It’s a cliche to say we’re like a family, but Team Appointedd is definitely a tight-knit bunch of over-achievers who love to punch above our weight.

“Working alongside them every day, knowing that something I started has brought these people together, makes me very proud indeed!”

 Lynsey Campbell, Global Technology Lead for Communities & Inclusion at J.P. Morgan

Lynsey Campbell Lynsey has been a technologist for more than 20 years, starting out as a COBOL II programmer at the young age of 17.

She embarked on an apprenticeship while studying for a degree in Business & Information Systems part-time in the evening and still managed to graduate at the same age as all her friends who studied full-time.

Since graduating, she has worked for a number of large organisations across a number of sectors and a wide range of technologies and products. Throughout her career she has always volunteered in philanthropic initiatives and workplace groups aimed at equality.

Her latest career move was to become the global technology lead for communities and inclusion and making her hobby/passion her job while staying in the tech sector.

“Getting into a tech career was a complete accident really. I had run away from home to Liverpool aged 16 and needed to earn more than my burger counter job was paying.

“I answered a newspaper ad looking for IT trainees, beating 500+ applicants to one of eight trainee placements aged 17 and I’ve never looked back.

“One of my proudest moments was when I became Chair of Scotland Women in Technology (SWiT), which is one of the most prominent tech not for profit organisations in Scotland.

“Regardless of gender, SWiT champions inclusivity for those working in the tech sector and it’s the biggest women’s network in Scotland outside of the tech sphere.”

Rachel Jones, Founder and CEO, SnapDragon

As Rachel described it, her career journey was “slightly convoluted.” Her path encompassed agriculture and land-based industries, PR and marketing, and then design and manufacturing.

Taken to market in 2005 and exported to more than 40 countries by 2009, Rachel’s Totseat chair harness, for babies who lunch, became a global success.

In 2015, as a result of the experiences with her Totseat brand, she launched SnapDragon, an online brand protection service for SMEs.

Last year, she launched Swoop, an intelligent monitoring system that automatically identifies counterfeit products on the world’s busiest online marketplaces.

“My journey into tech began not long after the Totseat was counterfeited in 2013. Infuriated by the audacity of the counterfeiters, I had to protect both my business and my customers.

“At the time, none of the excellent but large brand protection agencies would work with an SME, so there was no option other than to fight back on our own.

“I started by employing two Chinese students from Edinburgh University to help identify and remove the fake Totseats from the online (Chinese) platforms. Tenacity and diligence won the day but not without significant financial damage to the Totseat business.

“In developing this online anti-counterfeit expertise, and after helping many other brands in similar situations for free, the gap in the market was clear – SMEs need access to an affordable online brand protection service. SnapDragon was born.

“I have three achievements that I am very proud of: making a real difference to brands and businesses through tech, building a fabulous, talented multinational team here in Edinburgh, and cycling round the Alibaba campus on a tandem with my co-director, Jet!”

Mandy Haeburn-Little, Chief Executive, Scottish Business Resilience Centre

Mandy has been working at Scottish Business Resilience Centre (SBRC) for almost nine years, but her career started in Radio, in a very hands on role.

“I quickly developed a love of interviewing and listening to people. In my twenties our radio team won four Sony awards and I also had an investigative series,” she explained.

After Radio, she ventured into brand development, change management and large scale reputational risk and management, ultimately for some significant companies.

Mandy went on to run her own successful business for eight years, which focused on business turnarounds, creating teams that had to ‘win’ and were focused on stakeholder engagement, before joining SBRC.

At SBRC, she was integral to helping the company develop. She said: “When I came into SBRC we didn’t have a cyber offering for business but they desperately wanted it. From there, in partnership with policing, we developed a range of highly accessible products and services, which any size of business could afford and which would be innovative and engaging.

“Our model has gained significant national recognition and is currently being modelled in three geographical areas. I was also invited to take the model, working with policing, to London. We started working with a team of ethical hacking students six years ago and this created a real win win, supporting students during university and also ensuring that our own cyber knowledge remains at the forefront, dynamic and exciting.”

Speaking to DIGIT, Mandy said her proudest achievements were both related to trust and reputation. She explained: “The first is the hand-in-hand partnership we have with policing and recently with Scottish Enterprise.

“We have created and moved into the first policing/business hub in Scotland, at the Oracle premises in Linlithgow. That has been a fundamentally important innovation in supporting business in the next few years.

“The second has been the work with the ethical hacking students and Abertay University, which has led us to the amazing position of being core partners to the UK’s only cyber city deal, the Tay City Deal, worth £11.7 million. This is linked directly to the first.

“This also includes creating the ethical hacking division of SBRC called Curious Frank. But hold on to your hats, because there is a lot more to come very soon…”

Sharon Moore MBE, CTO for Public Sector UK, IBM

Sharon is an Open Group Distinguished IT Architect and was promoted into her current role at the start of 2019, following success as IBM UK’s Industry Technical Leader for Travel & Transportation (T&T) and CPG.

After graduating from the University of Glasgow in 2001 with a BSc (Hons) in Software Engineering, her professional career has spanned outsourcing, consulting and sales, all based on the foundation of a technical architect profession.

She has served clients in Retail Banking, Insurance, Smarter Cities and T&T, and has built up specialist knowledge in intelligent systems and systems integration, all with increasing responsibility, and in projects spanning a few thousand pounds to a few million pounds.

“Early in secondary school I was intent upon becoming an architect. A ‘real’ one, focused on designing buildings. I did some work experience at a local architecture company, and got my hands on Computer Aided Design technology, and suddenly I realised how useful computers could be, particularly in comparison with what we did in the classroom.

“I think the rush of getting a program to compile for the first time also helped! Many years later I became a technical architect instead. So, although we embrace many diverse routes into technology, I suspect my path was what you may call a traditional one.

“Getting to my current position is definitely up there as one of my most proud achievements in recognition of my day-to-day work, but I think it’s slightly trumped by when I was awarded ‘Inspirational Woman in Leadership’ at the inaugural Scotland Women in Technology Awards in 2017. That was magical.”

Toni Scullion, Computing Science Teacher and Founder of dressCode

Toni is a Computing Science teacher, and has been teaching for seven years. Looking at the statistics of girls taking up Computing Science at secondary school, university and industry the figures were, and still are, alarming. Toni told DIGIT that this was one of the driving forces that led her to take action.

Five years ago, wanting to change this figure within her own school, she started a girls Computing club.

Since then, she has founded dressCode as a non-profit charity that will be getting rolled out across the country this year, with the goal of further narrowing the gender gap in technology.

In 2019, in partnership with the Data Lab and Turing’s Testers, she successfully launched the first National Cyber Treasure Hunt for S1 girls.

“Computing Science was always my favourite subject at secondary school. I love the wonder and excitement that Computing brings!

“I was so fortunate that throughout my education from secondary school, college and university I have always had amazing role models to look up to and who inspired, encouraged and supported me.

“This, ultimately, led me to wanting to become a teacher. With a love and passion for computing, becoming a Computing Science teacher was the perfect job for me!

“I strive for all my pupils to see the wonder, excitement and possibilities that working in the tech industry can bring.

“I’ve been on such a journey over the past couple of years, I’m struggling to choose between these highlights. However, watching my three senior girls, the Turing’s Testers, winning the Outstanding Women in Cyber Award 2018 is a moment that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Aside from this win, Toni has received great recognition from Scotland’s tech sector. In 2017, she won Cyber Security teacher of the year and Cyber Security – Champion of Champions. In 2018, she was awarded Secondary Teacher of the year by SWiT.

Claudette Jones, Currently Interim Chief Operations Officer at The National Records of Scotland

Claudette first got into IT when she worked as an admin assistant in a software company, spurred on by the inconvenience of her own PC continually breaking down.

Finding the IT guys very busy, she asked them to explain to her how she could fix it herself, which they did.

Eventually, she was providing PC support for the entire Exec Floor, and from there she taught herself programming.

“I’ve had about every technical role going, but moved more into Management in the last 15 years. My biggest achievement has been managing the IT for the City of Edinburgh Council, for 20,000 staff, 40,000 school children and half a million citizens.

“The re-procurement of our outsourced IT contract saved the Council nearly £50 million over seven years, while delivering digital transformation and community benefits.

“I still remember the stress of being that admin person with a job to do, and a non-working PC, so I always remember that experience when I put myself in the customer’s shoes.

“I want IT to be easy to engage with for customers, and I want IT to meet its potential in making customers’ lives easier. To me, the technology is the easy bit in all of that, its changing how people work that is the difficult but more valuable work”.


Be sure to check parts one and two of this series to find out more about the women making a big impact on Scotland’s digital technology sector.


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Dominique Adams

Staff Writer, DIGIT

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