While the 2021 Women Leading Tech awards have been and gone, at B&T we are always looking to celebrate the brilliant women leading the tech industry.
Bridie Easton is Outfit’s VP for Global Customer Success. She spoke to B&T about how calling out sexism is essential for making the industry safe for women, and shared some of the women who inspire her most.
B&T: How has the last year transformed your professional life?
BE: There’s absolutely no denying that the pandemic has turned our lives (personal and professional) upside down, and in start-ups, pandemic or not, things move and change quickly.
The last year has been an interesting one for Outfit. We closed our Series A funding round in January 2020, and although the world slowed down, Outfit continued to grow. So for me, professionally, leading a completely remote team was a learning curve. The methods learned over the years for coaching, giving feedback, and supporting teams were mainly face-to-face and in person.
So shifting to more Zoom calls, Hangouts, and Slack messages than you could poke a stick at – was a fun test of communication skills and working styles. We learned a lot about each other and what gives (and takes) motivation and energy, and now we’re back in the office – we’ve brought all that knowledge with us.
What steps can tech businesses take to ensure that they are supporting female leaders?
Tech has historically been a pretty male-dominated industry, but it’s (slowly) getting better. I think acknowledging or assessing your team’s gender diversity is the first step. Then having a clear and robust hiring process to make sure you’re avoiding those unconscious biases of hiring people that are like the people you already have. Actively avoiding the “gender roles” that exist in all businesses – i.e. women in admin, HR or customer-facing roles. Get your female team involved in mentorship or offering professional development programs, and be active in the tech community so other women in tech feel seen or see a path for their future.
Internally, within your business – make it a safe place for women to work. This is an obvious one – everyone should feel safe at work, but for women and other minority groups in tech, feeling safe is one thing, but feeling heard, respected, having equal pay and having a team that doesn’t tolerate sexism or underhanded “putting down” of women is pivotal. Calling out this behaviour can lead to some awkward conversations, but not having the conversations is worse, and your business will be better for it.
What are the biggest challenges facing the tech industry right now, and do you have ideas about how to overcome those obstacles?
With COVID in mind, business risk and continuity plans are a hot topic. Identifying risk and working to have solutions at the ready can be something that start-ups tend to deprioritise – focusing instead on the question of speed, scale and payback period. However, identify future risk early is key to helping businesses scale and helps reduce unavoidable tech debt.
Integrations and automation are also exciting challenges. Being able to quickly and painlessly integrate with other platforms means staying competitive. It also means your business is not taking on the burden of building something from scratch, which takes time and money and potentially strays from your core offering.
Automation has a significant impact on reducing the risk around using legacy processes. Removing the need for your team (or your customers) to spend hours on repetitive manual tasks helps reduce burn out and human error, and allows your team to focus on more.
What do you think makes the successful foundations for leadership?
At Outfit, one of our core values is: we pursue excellence, and we’re excellent to each other. This value puts our team and leadership expectations right up front, and it’s used as a measuring stick for our interactions with each other and the quality of our work. So a fantastic foundation of leadership is being aware of your core values, being clear in your communication and being diligent and generous when upholding them.
Also, understand your team, their working styles, what motivates them, and be their advocate. Bear with me here, but leadership is like knowing how to cook; you have some recipes down pat, you have some that you’re working on improving and some recipes you don’t even know exist. This means that as a leader, you’re constantly learning and improving your skills. So have an open mind and be open to feedback from your team and coaching from your peers.
Do you have a woman in tech hero?
Reshma Saujani, the founder and CEO of Girls Who Code is constantly inspiring, and Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube holds a special place for me.
Susan was the 16th employee at Google and started as a Marketing Manager, which is also one of my earliest roles. Having nearly 10 years of experience in tech start-ups myself and seeing women like Susan, and how she went from strength to strength at Google, is encouraging. Susan suggested the initial acquisition of YouTube and is now their CEO, She’s also written a fantastic book – How To Break up the Silicon Valley Boys’ Club, definitely worth a read for women and men in the industry.
Thank you to our Women Leading Tech sponsors: