Kellie Hill | Gate One
The line between emotive and factual, creativity and analytical is getting more and more blurred in the world of tech and folk from creative backgrounds are finding other ways to their creativity in a way that aligns with facts and data. Just like Kellie Hill did when she embarked on her journey into the tech industry.
Continuing with this theme, Kellie would like to see STEM become 'STEMD' where the D stands for “Design” - especially as we see an increase in Neurodiverse people - who are typically more creative - journeying into the world of tech.
HEY KELLIE! THANKS FOR SHARING YOUR STORY WITH US. LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING – HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY?
I worked in both digital and creative spaces, then stepped into hardcore tech at Capgemini. I was driven by experiences in GSK, Ted Baker, Metro Bank, and worked in several roles as a Product Owner/Business Transformation consultant. I learned the hard way that I had to work hard to get my voice heard. I fell into the technology industry primarily by circumstance as I didn’t want to become obsolete. I’m naturally very ambitious, impatient, and creative, and tech has a lot of disciplines that can fulfil that hunger for knowledge.
WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED IN THE INDUSTRY?
Confidence – I didn’t study cloud computing or data science, so I had doubts around my technical understanding. I had to learn to have confidence in myself, my skills and where I came from. I experienced a serious case of imposter syndrome as I wasn’t familiar with technical jargon and I was afraid this would show a lack of credibility. I eventually tackled this just by having conversations and understanding what other roles do. I needed to understand Business Strategy to understand where other roles sat. Another big challenge was being dismissed – I’m naturally creative and emotive, and within tech, there’s typically a need to be factual and detailed with data. I was told in a meeting that “it’s not about how you feel” and it was challenging for me to find a way to express my creativity in a way that aligned with the facts and the data. With regards to being a woman in tech, I never experienced any overt prejudice, but I experienced covert microaggressions (cutting me off during meetings, undermining her points publicly, etc) which by nature are hard to prove are based on me being a woman.
HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?
My Team won an international CX award (gold) for an app that was delivered to a global FMCG company that had over 360,000 colleagues. It was tested by colleagues who had an accessibility need and had a very human-centred design based on those with neurodiversity challenges. I realised that an “inclusive-first experience” benefits everyone involved.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS WHO WANT TO GO INTO THE SAME CAREER?
Increase your skill in design. You can use free tools to get skilled in user experience and design. Get yourself accredited as a PO and Scrum Master. Join any groups that are linked to business transformation disciplines. Become multidisciplinary. Speaking specifically to a woman, I’d suggest getting a mentor, believing in yourself and having confidence in yourself. Trust that you belong there. Ensure you have psychological support outside of work to increase your mental resilience and fortitude - have the strategies and tools, and techniques around you to increase your resilience. Ensure your mental health remains intact. Outside of that, be a great servant leader.
WHAT AREA OF D&I ARE YOU MOST PASSIONATE ABOUT AND WHY?
I think we need to see more black women in tech and senior positions throughout business as a whole. To do that we need to increase equity and equality, as they are massively under-represented. Secondly – neurodiversity (dyslexic, autism, adhd any other neuro-divergencies). Neurodiverse people are typically more creative, which is the antithesis of STEM and therefore hasn’t had a firm standing within Tech. I believe “STEMD” where the D stands for “Design” is the way forward.
WHAT AREA OF D&I DO YOU FEEL IS MOST UNDERREPRESENTED AND WHAT DO YOU THINK THE INDUSTRY COULD DO TO CHANGE THAT?
Primarily, I don’t think there’s enough light shed on Black Women, but a close second would be someone’s socioeconomic status. I want to see more diversity based on socio-economic status because attitude, willingness, and ability to get the job done and isn’t exclusive to a particular status. Not having a mix of backgrounds and ethnicities limits ideas and initiatives and detracts from the overall value a company can deliver. I believe if a company changes its interview process to be less focused on academics and more focused on mindset and approach, then this would be an effective first step in creating this change.
FINALLY, DO YOU HAVE A MANTRA YOU LIVE BY?
Learn to be your authentic self, because nobody will do it for you.
Thanks, Kellie you rock 🤘
Interview by Andrew Delsol