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Profile: Caroline Carruthers, CEO and co-founder of Carruthers and Jackson

Women in Tech: “Be the positive inspiration for someone else!”

Chris Stewart
women in tech

Women are underrepresented in the tech sector —myth or reality? Three years ago, 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 Caroline Carruthers, CEO and co-founder of Carruthers and Jackson.

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?

Three years ago, 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 Caroline Carruthers, CEO and co-founder of Carruthers and Jackson.

Today’s Woman in Tech: Caroline Carruthers, CEO and co-founder of Carruthers and Jackson

Caroline Carruthers is CEO at Carruthers and Jackson, a company she co-founded to improve data literacy and help companies understand how to treat their data as an asset. She is a recognised expert in all aspects of data management, data transformation and enabling business strategy through data, and is regularly asked to speak at events both in the UK and internationally to put a human face on what can often be seen as a ‘dry’ and difficult subject.

She has worked across multiple industries in strategic data and IT roles, including being the first Chief Data Officer for Network Rail. As Chief Data Officer, Caroline was responsible for building the data capability from the ground up, delivering real change to how the organisation valued their data as an asset. Her engaging, practical and pragmatic approach means that, while understanding and leading strategic change, she can bring people on the journey with her.

Caroline is a recognised global data leader who is sought after for international speaking engagements and media commentary. She appears regularly to provide expert insight on breaking technology and data-related stories for broadcasters such as the BBC, and co-authored two books to date, including ‘The Chief Data Officer’s Playbook’ which was described as ‘a must read for the data leader’ and most recently, ‘Data-Driven Business Transformation’, which continues to reside in the Amazon Top 1000 list.

What first got you interested in tech?

When I was a teenager, I got the Commodore 64. I’d end up sitting in a pitch-black room, having taught myself to code on that machine, playing my own games. From then on I knew I wanted to do something “techy”. The biggest reason I was able to pursue this was definitely my parents- they were always incredibly supportive and never allowed me or my sisters to think we couldn’t become anything we wanted.

How did you end up in your career path? What obstacles did you have to overcome?

I actually ended up in my career by just following my curiosity- I guess there’s a little bit of Alice about me! I would love to say that there was a grand plan and everything that has happened was all mapped out but that would definitely be a lie. Sure, I plan and write lists but the main driver for me is the next problem to solve, the next thing that I think will be fun and push me outside my comfort zone.

The biggest obstacles I have ever faced have been the ones that I have created for myself in worrying about how I would be perceived or how I would fit in.

The biggest obstacles I have ever faced have been the ones that I have created for myself in worrying about how I would be perceived or how I would fit in.

Did you receive support from your family and friends? Do you have a role model?

I have a fantastic network of men and women who I can always rely on when I need help! As a kid, my inspiration was Maggie Philbin- She was a TV presenter on the tech programme Tomorrow’s World. Seeing a woman on TV alongside all the geeky, techy stuff I loved, really had a massive impact on my life and inspired me to pursue my career!

Did someone ever try to stop you from learning and advancing in your professional life?

There’s definitely a situation that I think of when people ask me that question which actually occurred back when I’d just graduated from university. I bumped into a neighbour who had heard that I was going to university- instead of congratulations, he asked why I was going, as I wasn’t ugly!

It was one of those moments which so many women who pursue careers have faced, and certainly helped me to learn that thick skin would be an absolute necessity to make a success of my time in tech.

A day in Caroline’s life

I’ve always worked in tech, and specifically with data. I’m currently the Chief Executive of Carruthers and Jackson, which I co-founded in order to raise awareness of data and improve data literacy around the world. Before this, I worked in several senior roles including as the first Chief Data Officer of Network Rail.

Working alongside so many different companies, no two days are the same- which is both seriously hectic but seriously exciting!

What are you most proud of in your career?

I’m so lucky that I have a rich set of experiences to draw from for this question- I don’t take any of them for granted!

Launching our first book is up there, as is setting up Carruthers and Jackson to help other companies improve their data maturity. However, I think my top one was in Riyadh. I was coming off stage after giving a presentation on data strategy- I had five women come up to me and tell me that I was an inspiration to them. They had been given a copy of my first book and they had shared it amongst themselves before I had got there. That was a truly humbling experience, and certainly the proudest moment in my career.

Why aren’t there more women in tech?

There are some incredible women in tech but crucially there are not enough. I think part of the problem is that we don’t spend enough time demonstrating to young girls that they can do this stuff too. We need to give them more role models- let’s show them how interesting and exciting roles in tech can be and let’s encourage them not to worry about other people’s supposed limitations.

Could you name a few challenges (or obstacles) women in tech face?

In terms of obstacles, I think that in every woman there’s a little internal voice, this little internal doubter. Its constantly telling us that we’re not good enough, slim enough, clever enough. Every woman has faced that obstacle at some point in their lives.

Would our world be different if more women worked in STEM?

WOW that’s a big question! I’m sure that everything would be covered in pink sparkles and just be happiness, sweetness and light… No, that’s ridiculous!


We all have a talent but sometimes we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones to properly discover it.

We have no way of knowing what would change- there are women who can be just as big a pain as some men and of course vice versa! What is changing, and I think it’s for the better, is how we work together. We are valuing diversity of thought and constructive criticism much more. I think that the more we embrace diversity, the bigger the positive impact for everyone.

The discussion about diversity is gaining momentum. How long will it take to see results from the current debate?

We have already seen progress but there is so much to do- we don’t always remember that. Let’s be happy about the progress while acknowledging that we still have a lot to strive for. We see results every day- maybe not monumental ones to the rest of us, but they are earth shattering for that young girl who gets her dream job or for that mum who climbs the ladder.

Just remember that if you do manage to take a step forward, be the positive inspiration for someone else!

What advice (and tips) would you give to women who want a tech career?

I think the advice I’d give to women looking to get started in tech is the same as the advice I’d give to women starting in any career- We all have a talent but sometimes we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zones to properly discover it. We can’t limit ourselves to what other people perceive we should be- If you enjoy what you do then you’re on your way to a fab career.

More Women in Tech:

For even more Women in Tech, click here

Author
Chris Stewart
Chris Stewart is an Online Editor for JAXenter.com. He studied French at Somerville College, Oxford before moving to Germany in 2011. He speaks too many languages, writes a blog, and dabbles in card tricks.

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