This week for Digital Her we have the wonderful Briony Phillips, Investment Activator for TechSPARK’s IAP and Scaleup Lead at Rocketmakers; check out our interview below to find out more about her journey into the tech world.
TechSPARK has teamed up with Manchester Digital to deliver you Digital Her, a project from the Institute of Coding. We want to showcase talented women and non-binary people from across the entire tech and digital sector who are doing amazing work in the South West.
The objective is to create a platform of role models for young women and non-binary people to encourage and inform anyone who may have been dissuaded away from tech about the opportunities in our region. Through talking to a range of individuals with various roles and experiences, we want to highlight the various career paths available whilst reaching out to people who didn’t know there was a perfect role in tech for them.
I guess the best way to describe it is that I wear three hats professionally: I am the Scaleup and Marketing lead at Rocketmakers (a software development agency in Bath), I run the Investment Activator Programme with Abby Frear for TechSPARK and I help people to feel better using food as a nutritional therapist.
What skills do you use most in your job?
That depends on the day of the week – communication (both written and verbal) whichever hat I am wearing, as well as project management and organisation. I also do a fair bit of influencing to get others involved in projects and keep them on track and that’s only possible because I’m a big people person and really prioritise relationship building and collaboration.
What’s your educational background?
I have always been a bit of a chameleon when it comes to work. My undergraduate degree was in Genetics and then I went on to gain a PGCE as a secondary science teacher. Since then, my most recent qualification is my diploma in naturopathic nutrition which I gained a few years ago. So all in all, I don’t have any official qualifications that link me to tech/digital.
How did your tech & digital career start?
By accident! The first half of my career was firmly focused on education and community building. When I left Teach First I did something I called ‘job shopping’ and took a few months to try a bunch of roles, freelance projects and explore starting my own business. From there, I took a role at The Open Data Institute and fell into all things innovation and startup from there. When I arrived in Bristol 5 years ago I took a job at Engine Shed and from there benefitted from working closely with SETsquared Bristol – and onto a role in a software company from there.
What inspired you to go into digital & tech?
I was following my values and interests – I’m really passionate about active regional development projects and I love Rocketmakers’ ethos and commitment to helping grow our local ecosystem as well as the company. In all honesty, I’ve always made choices driven more by where I can add most value or be helpful and less by the sector or industry.
What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on in your career so far?
That depends on your definition of interesting! Running the Open Data Challenge Series for The Open Data Institute in partnership with Nesta was one of my favourite projects – it really shifted my perspective and amplified my passion for collaboration and openness. More recently, working with Nick Sturge on the Scaleup Enabler project at Engine Shed was a fantastic opportunity – I learnt so much about the region, the people and the science (or art) of scaling up.
Do you think the tech & digital sector is doing enough to talk about intersectionality and create diverse workplaces?
There’s definitely still a lot of work to be done in this area. There are some great initiatives – The MotherBoard from ADLIB, this blog series(!) and the Tech Talent Charter for example, that are challenging and equipping the industry to grow and learn in this arena but we definitely haven’t got all the answers yet.
What is your favourite thing about working in the sector?
The variety – tech and digital encompasses so many different sub-sectors now and it is constantly changing, there’s always something new to learn or consider and to stretch your brain. I also love the community – especially as more and more tech companies and founders are considering how they can use tech to have a positive impact on the world.
What advice would you give to young people thinking about a career in digital and tech?
Don’t be intimidated by tech! I think it has a reputation for being an elite or inaccessible sector with a language of its own. It’s not – there are loads of jobs within the digital and tech industry that are not super technical but you still get all the benefits of being part of this ace community and opportunities to develop technical skills from there.