“Having more women in management roles can and will create a safe place for other women to flourish”
Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Carol MacKinlay, CPO at UserTesting.
A research study by The National Center for Women & Information Technology showed that “gender diversity has specific benefits in technology settings,” which could explain why tech companies have started to invest in initiatives that aim to boost the number of female applicants, recruit them in a more effective way, retain them for longer, and give them the opportunity to advance. But is it enough?
Last year, we launched a diversity series aimed at bringing the most inspirational and powerful women in the tech scene to your attention. Today, we’d like you to meet Carol MacKinlay, CPO at UserTesting.
Carol MacKinlay, CPO at UserTesting
Carol MacKinlay, Chief People Officer (CPO) at UserTesting, has held CHRO positions at several high profile/high potential companies such as Xero, Plantronics, Jawbone, Borland, and Coverity. Carol brings a broad perspective to her role – having spent many years as a strategic, financial, compensation and operations consultant. Her expertise is helping companies recruit stellar talent and preparing the organization to scale.
What got you interested in technology?
I grew up in the Bay Area, going to the same high school as Steve Jobs (Go Mustangs!). The tech community built up around us during my high school years. I went to the University of California, Berkeley originally to study the “new” area of computer science. While I shifted into Math, the interactions with Berkeley and the tech community were everywhere. During the years that I was consulting, many of my clients were in technology and the enthusiasm, intelligence and future thinking was palpable. When I finally joined my first tech company, there was no going back – I’m hooked on the entrepreneurial nature and brilliance I find within the tech community.
It’s been a long path to get to this career. I ended up with a technical degree because my father pushed me to be educated in “something that I could prove to him would get me a job,” or he wouldn’t pay for my college. As a Math major, I went down the path of operation research, financial analysis, treasury management and management consulting before I entered the world of HR. I’m different from most HR Execs in that I started at the top – having crossed the line from being a Board consultant to taking the reins of a fast growth technology HR department. I haven’t had many obstacles but I always need to overcome the bias that HR doesn’t matter or that we don’t deserve a seat at the table. With the breadth of my experience and background, it’s pretty easy to overcome and I’m pleased that I can be an example of what a business partner HR can be.
I receive tons of support from all over – I’ve met so many people in my life and it’s created a huge support network for me. My family is very proud of what I do and what I’ve done and they tell me so all the time. I don’t have a set role model – I try to learn from each person I encounter since each person has something interesting to offer. I feel like I am constantly learning and love an entrepreneurial spirit in anyone.
Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?
I’ve had more than my share of “Me Too” moments and I’m very glad there is advancement in dealing with a male dominated workplace. It has affected me by redirecting my career more than once. I had a notable conversation with my business partner, who wrongly felt he was better and senior to me, when he told me, “You’re not as good as you think you are.” That was a defining moment in our relationship and something I remember every time I feel my confidence waning – it is now a great motivator for me.
A day in Carol’s life
I’m currently the Chief People Officer for UserTesting, responsible for all the administrative functions of the company except finance and legal. I have a very talented group of managers working for me in multiple locations and I support what they are doing to move the company forward. As with most startups, recruiting is key to my day – keeping the pace of hiring going. I spend quite a bit of time working to improve or simplify processes and putting in automation – which gets us ready to scale. I work with the CEO on moving the organization and structure to the best model for what we are doing.
But the biggest part of my day is providing counsel to employees and the Execs on a variety of things – mostly guiding on how to navigate the company to get things done or working through difficult situations.
I feel incredibly proud of the lives I have changed during the time I’ve been in HR. From mentoring women to achieve their goals, to helping young PEO KS be successful first jobs, to redirecting someone’s career to a better suited occupation, to helping people struggling to find new, beneficial careers. There’s a lot of good that can be done in this field, if you focus on the individuals along the way.
Why aren’t there more women in tech?
As a Berkeley Math major, I was in a small group of women that went through the program at that time. Women didn’t opt into STEM and related fields, and we’ve been seeing the result of the lack of trained female engineers and scientists for years. It’s refreshing to see women start to fill the pipeline in the technical areas and I’m proud to have been part of that change.
There’s no lack of diverse candidates, but there is a lack of thoughtful approaches to the problem of finding them and altering expectations just a little to embrace them. It takes very little pushing to get hiring managers, HR teams and CEOs to recognize that diversity adds so much to a company’s culture and output. Once you have their attention, the shifts start happening quickly. It’s getting the attention that has been the problem… and now it is front and center.
Women in STEM
I’ve seen statistics that talk to projects that get funded versus those that don’t – men’s health projects being funded significantly more than women’s. I see how company cultures can shift grandly from having a diverse group lead – being more open, more thoughtful, more community oriented. I see the definition of what is “work” shifting to be work/life balance as the result of a rising female workforce.
Challenges for women in tech
From my observation, the biggest obstacles are still that it is a man’s world… but this is changing. I’ve seen women hide their need to take care of their children, be reprimanded for having to take their kids to school or stay home with them when they are sick, for wearing the wrong colors, for the way they wear their hair, and on and on.
I’m seeing some quick change happening now and it is refreshing. Having more women in management roles can and will create a safe place for other women to flourish without having to worry about what men are thinking.
Don’t miss our Women in Tech profiles:
- “Technology reflects the people who make it”
- “In the right company, working in tech is a great career”
- Why women fall out of the tech pipeline
- Breaking the mold: ‘It’s not that you’re good — it’s that you’re female’
- How to avoid the culture of male programmers
- Creating an equal playing field is about more than just teaching someone coding skills
- The more women you see in STEM, the less intimidating it is for others to join
- The tech industry tends to lose women along the way. Change is underway
- How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Tips & tricks for women
- Transitioning into a tech career? Silicon Valley culture is one of the biggest initial obstacles
- Abby Kearns: “Diversity ensures continuous innovation”
- “In technology, you become a lifelong learner — More women should embrace this career”
- Cultural impact is not driven by gender, but by diversity
- Everyday superheroes: “I don’t have a role model, my career was based on my mistakes”
- Diversity talk: For tech, it’s less about a pipeline problem and more of a marketing problem
- Diversity talk: It’s important to receive support from tech communities
- Everyday superheroes: Women just need to see more of us — techie women
- Anyone who wants to learn and grow won’t continue in an industry that tells them they are stupid
- There is too much allowance for tolerating toxic people in tech
- Coding myths and how finding communities like Hear Me Code helps you learn best
- 3 strategies to try out if you want to support women in tech
- Young women carry less career gender bias and more media influence
- Women are often pigeonholed into “soft skill” roles and pushed away from engineering
- Diversity talk: Many women suffer from the impostor syndrome
- How to succeed in tech: Shutterstock’s Rashi Khurana gives her tips
- Diversity talk: Using lingo is making tech sound harder than it really is
- Diversity talk: “We can’t expect men to hand us equality on a silver platter”
- How to succeed in tech: Agnès Crepet gives her tips
- “Many people still need to be taught that diversity is more than just a trend”
- “Many companies lack the infrastructure & career growth opportunities to support female employees”
- “Diverse teams can help prevent unhealthy competition that occurs sometimes in male-dominated teams”
- How to succeed in tech: Testlio’s Kristel Kruustük shares her tips
- “As the tech field becomes cloud-based, the flexibility and remote work culture will grow”
- How to win the diversity battle: Tips from Atlassian’s Molly Hellerman
- Diversity talk: “Women should not be herded into a career to meet quotas”
- “The tech industry can move even faster by increasing the diversity of talent”
- Diversity talk: Even if your team is not very diverse, what matters is that they value you
- Diversity talk: Exec reveals her secret to success — Always be curious
- How to win the diversity battle: Tips from GitLab’s Barbie Brewer
- Diversity talk: Tips from Lisk’s Gina Contrino on how to succeed in tech
- “The combination of tech IQ and people EQ can set you apart in the tech world”
- “Mentorship, acceptance, and trust are really important in fostering gender diversity in the workplace”
- The tech industry is not solely responsible for pushing gender diversity
- “There isn’t enough clarity on what it means to work in tech and to be a woman in tech”
- Diversity talk: Exec reveals her secret to success — Become comfortable with change
- Diversity in the AI world & how imposter syndrome is vital!
- “Even if women decide to work as developers because they are passionate and qualified, they are sometimes treated like diversity hires”
- “We need fewer WiT luncheons and more women coding & deploying projects side by side with men”
- Diversity talk: How to overcome challenges in the workplace
- “We need to increase the awareness of the benefits and challenges of diversity”
- Diversity talk: The biggest obstacle we currently face is the idea that equality is here already
- How to succeed in tech: “Go ahead and do it. This is a great option for women”
- “I think the topic of diversity is viewed very narrowly to only mean race or gender”
- Breaking the mold: “Women are not solely responsible for solving the diversity challenge”
- How to succeed in tech: Katerina Skroumpelou gives her tips
- How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Ana Cidre shares her tips & tricks
- Diversity talk: “We need to ditch the idea that women don’t love their careers as much as men do”
- How to succeed in tech: Samantha Quiñones gives her tips
- Diversity talk: People who act as gatekeepers in the tech community are part of the problem
- How to succeed in tech: Tzofia Shiftan shares her tips
- Diversity talk: “Tech is one of the most flexible and evolving industries that can work in women’s favor”
- Diversity talk: “If you want to advance, make it known and be persistent. You’ll need a thick skin”
- How to get (and stay) into the tech industry: Sherry List shares her tips & tricks
- How to win the diversity battle: “Well behaved women rarely make history”
- Diversity talk: “When dealing with challenges, it is not a time to be depressed or let self-doubt engulf you”
- How to win the diversity battle: “The tech industry is not as bad as it sounds”
- How to succeed in tech: Áine Mulloy gives her tips