Holly Mather | Enable
Meet Holly, with a foundation in STEM A-levels, she delved into Materials Engineering, securing a Research Engineer role in Metrology post-Masters. Holly's journey took a turn into people management and leadership, guiding teams at ASOS and currently as Engineering Manager at Enable.
She defines her leadership style as "dynamic" and authentic, driving diverse team success. As the initiator of the UK Women in Engineering meetup at Enable, she champions a global community, fosters a sense of belonging and empowerment among female engineers, reflecting in a positive impact within just three months! Holly's recruitment strategy involves decoding job descriptions, eliminating biases, and enhancing language for inclusivity.
Trust your gut, transparency, and diversity form the core of Holly's insightful career advice. Inspired by luminaries like Michelle Obama, Taylor Swift, and her empowering family, she embraces the mantra: "You can't be what you can't see."
Hi Holly, thank you for being involved with Women Rock! Could you tell me a bit about how you first got started in Tech and a little bit about who you are outside of work.
Absolutely, and thank you for having me! So I guess I started in Tech at the point of choosing my A-Level subjects which just happened to be very STEM based. Maths, science and problem solving was always something I was good at during school so at the time those type subjects felt like the obvious choice. After studying a Masters in Materials Engineers at University I got accepted onto a Graduate Scheme in the world of R&D (Research and Development) as a Research Engineer in the field of Metrology.
After progressing my career technically, I took a sideways step into people management and leadership, managing a team of research engineers specializing in data engineering, data science and software engineering. This opened up opportunities at other organisations and I took a role at ASOS as an Engineering Manager, managing teams of software engineers and QA engineers in the fintech space. About 9 months ago I joined a SaaS startup, Enable as an Engineering Manager and since then I’ve been focusing heavily on growing our diversity within Engineering and building awareness around everything DEI.
Outside of work you’ll find me either on a dog walk, having a pub lunch, or on a dog walk to a pub lunch!
As the Engineering Manager at Enable and an advocate for diversity in the workplace. How would you describe your leadership style and what do you enjoy most about the job?
I think my leadership style is “dynamic”. Everyone in my team is different right, so how I engage with and manage each of them also needs to be different to get the best out of them. I like the think my leadership style is authentic, empowering and adaptive.
My favourite part my role is working with people. I really enjoy working with different people, coaching and supporting their development, as well as building collaborative and empowered teams of highly skilled engineers. I also really like the ever-changing landscape of the organisation and the scope to be able to involve myself in many different areas of the organisation as well as focusing my time on both technical and non-technical initiatives.
As a woman in working in the technology sector, what would you say is the best and worst thing you’ve encountered within the industry over the years?
I love this question! I think the best thing particularly as a woman is the network and community you can build. So often women are under-represented in this space, there’s a statistic that 32% of women in technical and engineering roles are often the only women in the room at work, which leads us to find that representation outside of our immediate team or organisation. I know I have benefited so much from finding and connecting with other female leaders and built that network and community of support around myself. That statistic can also be used as the worst thing too, women are so under-represented within the tech space, and having all forms of diversity brings diversity of thought, you can’t have innovation with the same people in the room.
I was really inspired by your post on Enable’s UK Women in Engineering meetup, could you tell me a little bit about it, what your role is and the affect you feel it has?
Absolutely, going back to my previous point around of the power and importance of a community this was something I really wanted to bring to Enable and share with other female engineers here. So, I’ve kicked off a UK and now Toronto community with the plan that we will also have a global meetup once a quarter. The purpose is to bring all our female engineers together to share our experiences, talk through some of the nuances of being a woman in the tech landscape we are in and how we can advocate for, support and celebrate each other. One of the most important things for me is that feeling of belonging and my hope is that by spending an hour a month with other technical women gives us the sense of belonging and representation we sometimes don’t have in our own teams.
So my role is essentially facilitation, I want this community to be a safe space of empowerment so we talk through topics like mentoring, how to find a mentor, how to structure a conversation with a mentor etc. things like goal setting and how to articulate your goals in a way that feels empowered, achievable and authentic. I also take so much away from those sessions personally, so I’m grateful to all the amazing women that come along and share their thoughts, experiences and guidance. I actually did a quick anonymous survey before the first session and then following the 3rd session asking our female engineers how empowered they felt, how represented they felt and what their sense of belonging is and all three increased after just 3 months of the community so I’m hoping the numbers speak for themselves!
I know that you are passionate about building a diverse team at Enable, – How do you ensure your interview process is inclusive and what advice would you give to other hiring managers around this?
This is something I’ve been working closely with our Talent team on, there’s some really simple adjustments that can be made that can have a huge impact from an inclusivity point of view. Things like gender decoding job descriptions, changing some of the language around ‘non-negotiables’ so for example changing “Must have a computer science degree” to “Computer science degree desirable, other STEM degrees considered” hugely opens up the candidate pool and therefore the diversity you can bring to the organisation. There are now so many routes into tech, from apprenticeships and internships to bootcamps that even specifying needing a degree can be a limiting factor.
Another thing I think is really important for minority groups is having representation on the interview panel, it’s important that this isn’t a tokenised approach but authentic and representative of the organisation current level of diversity.
A really practical step for hiring managers around this is doing unconscious bias training, we all have biases we might be unaware of but being cognisant of them and bringing those biases into our conscious means as hiring managers we can be better aware of the impact and importance of biases in an interview process.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your career in tech, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Trust your gut. I think it’s taken a long time for me to fully trust my own instincts and trust myself. Often as we are progressing through our careers we think everyone more senior than us knows so much more, and has so much more insight. As I’ve progressed in my own career I’ve realised that most people experience some form of imposter syndrome, that there is always more to learn and that everyone is (mostly) just doing their best. Trust that your experience and skillset has got you to where you are and be willing to continuously learn.
What do you think the biggest thing tech companies could do to attract more female talent? And I guess if it was you looking – what would attract you to a company?
Transparency! I’m not talking about the little blurb at the bottom of job adverts, I mean being transparent throughout the recruitment process and being intentional with your transparency. Share your family friendly policies with candidates, share your flexible working policies, share information on your ERGs, share the accountable actions the company is taking to build their inclusive culture and most importantly be honest. No one is perfect, and we can’t expect companies to be perfect either. So be honest about where you have room to grow and what’s next from a business commitment, you might even find that a candidate has experience bringing that to life in another organisation!
Who is someone in your life that inspires you?
There are so many people that inspire me, and it feels unfair to name just one person! Obviously, there are the classic choices like Michelle Obama, how she balanced life as a mother, a wife, the First Lady, and a trailblazer. People like Taylor Swift and how she has built such an authentic and passionate fan base, how she celebrates other women and uses her voice to champion marginalised groups, but inspiration can come from everywhere. I’m really lucky to have quite a large family and be surrounded by so many empowering women in my mother and my (MANY!) aunts, how each of them have balanced family life with their careers, and the ceilings they have smashed inspire me to continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Finally, my cheerleaders, I have a handful of incredibly inspiring women around me, from doctors to teachers to private chefs to “head of’s” in a corporate world, each one of those women continue to inspire me, shape my life bring endless amounts of support and laughter to my life.
Finally, could you leave us with your favourite quote?
“You can’t be what you can’t see”. This is something I resonate with a lot as a woman in tech. Being able to see highly ambitious and technical women makes that path seem so much more possible, and if those women don’t exist in your current organisation they absolutely exist outside of your organisation, so go find them, build your own network of people that inspire you, that encourage you and advocate for you!
Interviewed by Rob Marsh