Sophie Newton, COO of Brainlabs, speaks to techUK about inspiring the tech industry's next generation of talent.
What is your current job role and what does it entail? What do you love most about your job?
I’m COO at Brainlabs, a performance marketing agency. I oversee our various departments to ensure they are run as efficiently as possible, as well as developing initiatives to improve office culture. What I love about my job is the balance between tech and business. I still get to be directly involved with things like software development and advertising strategy, whilst also being able to influence the direction of the business itself.
Did you benefit from having a role model / someone to look up to when starting your career in the tech industry? What’s some of the best advice you ever received?
I gained inspiration from a wide range of people - some I knew personally and some that I became aware of via the media. For example, successful women in the tech industry, for Huge cliché, but the best advice I received was ‘be yourself’, which I translate into being true to your own beliefs and ways of working, rather than conforming to a masculine version of success.
Are you actively involved in any initiatives promoting gender diversity in the tech industry?
Via the work I have done within Brainlabs to improve gender equality, I have been able to set a positive example to other UK tech companies (see our handbook, section 11). The national press such as the Guardian and BBC have written about our introduction of the ‘gender pay gap tax’, which eradicated the gender pay gap in our office. This has given me a good platform for advocacy about the many other ways gender discrimination can be tackled in the tech industry.
Do you mentor any girls in the industry? Or plan to?
I’ve given advice to lots of people at different levels and different stages of their lives. I have the opportunity to provide guidance and support to women in my office and those I interact with professionally. I’m also a member of a few networks, where I am often able to learn from others and provide advice, especially to younger women. Increasingly, I find myself being contacted quite randomly by people trying to decide what to do at university or seeking career advice. Quite a lot of unofficial mentoring, I would say.
How can we make young girls more enthusiastic about STEM subjects?
I would emphasise to them just how diverse STEM actually is. It’s hard not to hear that acronym and think of men in lab coats or a row of computers with a load of people doing coding. In reality, STEM incorporates so many different disciplines and roles. You can work on a computer, you can work with your hands or even animals. Instead of asking ‘am I suited to STEM?’, it’s better to ask ‘what aspect of STEM is suitable for me’?
What do you believe to be the three most exciting things about the tech industry?
It’s incredibly fast-paced, so it keeps you on your toes and forces you to keep on developing yourself. The tech industry is also driving progress. It’s thrilling to imagine how many positive changes it might facilitate in the next couple of decades. Despite the recent news, it has the potential to be a beacon for other industries in terms of improving gender diversity. It’s quite young as an industry so there are less barriers based on a tradition of male dominance.
What are the biggest misconceptions about working in the industry? How can we dispel them?
There are certain characteristics people presume you need to be successful in tech. One of them is coming from a STEM background. At Brainlabs for example, we have people from just about every background you can imagine. Some of our best coders had never done any programming before they started. The only characteristic you do need is a growth mindset and the rest can be learned and developed.
Why should readers enter the FDM everywoman in Technology Awards?
It’s a great opportunity to meet so many interesting, talented and inspiring women through the everywoman network and at the awards ceremony, and you go on to inspire people yourself.
For more information about techUK's Women in Tech Programme, get in touch with Doniya Soni: