Women In Digital – Martha Bramley – Experience Lead at Webcredible
Tell us a little bit about your role and what you do at Webcredible.
I’m Martha Bramley, Experience Lead here at Webcredible and I lead teams to deliver design projects, research projects, strategy – increasingly, omni-channel projects in all kinds of different sectors. There’s lots of variety here and we use many different methods, tools and techniques so no day is ever the same!
Was the digital marketing tech industry your first choice of career path?
Yes. I started with a degree in Art History, but one day I saw an advert for an evening class about desktop publishing that sounded really interesting. One of my friends was a programmer at the time and I saw the brochure for the SIGGRAPH conference in California that had a huge page saying: “The Electronic Revolution is Coming!”
I thought it sounded interesting, so why not give the course a try? This led to me applying for a Design for Interactive Media MA course, and I’ve never looked back.
It must be so interesting to see how the industry has changed over the years…
Yeah! It has always been an interesting industry – very fast paced! No one could ever have predicted how it was going to develop. When I was in my MA we were talking about dating apps, but we imagined them as a virtual environment because we thought everything would be virtual reality. So I guess we just got it slightly wrong. Dating apps are now huge, but they don’t have look like a virtual space.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
There have been quite a lot to choose from! I’ve worked on many interesting cultural projects because I worked in the cultural sector for a long time with various libraries, museums and galleries.
I once created an interactive touchscreen for the Magna Carta, which was just a brilliant project to work on. Everyone worked really closely on the entire project and my interactive kiosk got to sit about 3 feet away from the actual Magna Carta. So that was amazing!
But probably the highlight was when I was a UX Architect for a global CMS roll-out. I got to do a lot of travelling around the world, which was fantastic. It really opened my eyes and made me feel more connected with the world.
What tactics are in place at Webcredible to bring more women into the industry?
We already have plenty of women working for Webcredible! Three out of six of our leadership team are women, and the MD is a woman who was promoted coming back from maternity leave, so I think that tells you there isn’t an issue within Webcredible, which is really great. People are chosen on their merits here.
What do you feel will be the biggest trend for the rest of the year, or has been during 2016?
That’s so hard because there’s been so much going on! For me, there are a couple of things – personalisation has been around for a while but there are new features in CMSs that are beginning to make it a lot easier and accessible for people to actually implement. So I think that’s quite powerful, but it also has to be approached with extreme caution as you can’t make too many assumptions about people.
I’m also really interested in adaptive content strategy. I think that’s an area that will continue to evolve and is very important – especially as personalisation comes more and more on board. It means content will have to be chopped up in order to be served in a personalised way.
There’s also digital transformation, which is a pretty hot topic at the moment. It’s a big one for companies to focus on and try to ensure that digital and UX get the position they need to be invested in to help the companies achieve their business goals and remain competitive.
Has a particular example of personalisation stood out to you?
All of the Webcredible projects have involved some form of personalisation in one way or another. It’s kind of a no-brainer when you’re using popular use cases within segments that you can actually provide value to users. So if you know there is a frequent business traveller, and you know they’re going to book a ticket for tomorrow, just allow them to do that with just one or two clicks – whereas with your leisure traveller, they’re going to have to do a bit more research and want to know about offers, so you can serve up relevant, time-saving information to them. So in that instance it’s useful to the user – it’s not just what the company wants to tell them.
How would you boost the representation of women in the tech industry?
It’s a no-brainer that we should be encouraging more girls at school age, and in general tech should be really important in schools to allow more people into the industry – because actually it’s not just women, there’s a shortage across men and women for talent.
It’s important for schools to help students understand the opportunities and roles that tech can offer because there are LOTS of opportunities. It’s a growing industry and it’s a really exciting place to be if you’re interested, and that interest needs to be sparked at a younger age in school.
Should the government look to the digital tech industry to aid them in overcoming social issues?
The thing is, I don’t think digital is a ‘thing’ anymore – digital is just life. Especially with the younger generation, they don’t have much distinction between digital and any other service, so I think overcoming social issues with digital will just naturally be a part of that and if we can make use of it then all the better.
Digital in itself won’t make a difference, humans always have to be part of it and we almost forget that! It’s a great tool for connecting people.
Do you think the government could use digital or social channels more to engage a generation that isn’t necessarily watching the news?
I don’t know if they’re already doing that to be honest, because I do watch and read the news! So I guess I am less connected to the various social channels than younger people might be finding these new bulletins. But that’s also a political question as well. The government is very partisan, so for them to use digital and social in an impartial way would be challenging. Whether that would actually happen? In the real world that is questionable!
How will Webcredible embrace the rise of wearable technology?
We tend to consider wearables when we are designing to look at the opportunities, but we would never add in a wearable for the sake of it. There is a time and place for wearables. I know that one of our lead designers here has actually developed apps in his spare time for wearables, so we often get some demos from him! We haven’t seen a huge demand for it as of yet, but we will always make sure we don’t miss out on any opportunities.
The government wants to introduce gender quotas on public boards – how well does Webcredible practice gender equality?
As previously mentioned, we practice it very well. I think Zoe returning from maternity leave and being promoted to MD stands as testament to that. In an ideal world, candidates should be chosen on their merits but unfortunately we do not live in that world. So after giving this some thought, I think that quotas are actually a good thing – but on a temporary basis.
I read a quote somewhere saying “[quotas] are a good thing because they will initiate cultural change”, and that is needed. At the moment we only have targets and not quotas to fill as it’s not a mandatory requirement, and I’m worried that people are just paying lip-service to it and using the non-executive posts for women to make it look like they are hiring them.
When you look at countries that do have quotas, they are all doing a lot better than we are in terms of women sitting on boards. Norway and Sweden are amongst the best countries out there for this. Even research has shown that companies with more women on the board are actually more profitable and have better talent pipelines. It’s just a good thing generally for a company to have that diversity. So although it seems obvious to me that you shouldn’t have to have a quota, maybe it’s better to force it initially and allow the change to happen, and then remove the quotas once it’s reached a good level.
I also read that the initial push to get women on boards is now in danger of reversing because there’s not enough women in the pipeline to get them up to board level. So there needs to be a foot on the peddle somewhere, making sure the momentum is kept up.
The government wants to create 1 million new tech jobs by 2025. Does Webcredible have tactics in place to support this initiative?
We have a great graduate scheme here at Webcredible. We also contribute a lot to the digital community, with regular events in our offices where everyone is welcome. We blog, speak at events and are also very active in trying to create the right conditions for growth in general and new talent to emerge.
So we are reaching out to graduates from universities and colleges and being proactive in filling these new roles, as well as supporting people to develop once they are working here.
Looking back, what advice would you give to your 22 year-old self?
I think I’d have two things to say. I’d tell myself to be better connected with others in the industry – although to be fair, the industry wasn’t what it is now. We have so many meet ups and talks, but it wasn’t like that then.
Also, I used to have very low confidence at that age, so I would also say to invest in building my confidence up and believe in myself more, as I would have benefitted from that in so many ways. This in turn would perhaps have highlighted the need to invest more time in the soft skills side of my professional relationships, which is something I would also stress the importance of to the younger me.
What advice would you give females hoping to rise to the top of the digital industry?
I have to question this question – is climbing to the top the ultimate goal? I’d argue that it’s possible to have a really long and rewarding career being something like a UX lead. Not everyone wants to be on a board or managing – it’s down to the individual – and not everyone wants to move away from their craft to a more admin-based role, which is sometimes inevitable in management.
Having strong role models is really important and having connections with other women in the industry is really, really important. I recommend reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book ‘Lean In’, which is really interesting and powerful. Simply connect with other women, go to events, network and support one another, because there are less women in the tech industry. We do need to support and mentor each other to change this status quo.
Have you ever suffered from gender inequality and, if so, how did you overcome it?
I haven’t suffered from gender inequality in any significant way that I’m aware of, but in the past I suppose I have experienced an insidious kind of unconscious sexism in the workplace. Going back to Sheryl Sandberg, unfortunately there is still sexism in the world and there’s a lot of progress still to be made, so I’m trying to be more aware of the issues.
I think we need to be a bit more aware of that unconscious sexism – sometimes people aren’t even necessarily aware they are guilty of it as it’s so ingrained in our culture. Measures companies could adopt would be to introduce anti-bias training, which is what Facebook does. Having said that, I believe most of Facebook’s top management are still male. So I guess training doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to combat these gender issues in an organisation and suddenly achieve gender balance.
That’s very insightful. Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think getting more women onto boards or into top management positions is a much deeper problem, which won’t necessarily be fixed by quotas. Much of it is down to cultural and socio-economic inequality. It is a well-known fact that women do more domestic tasks in the home (recent studies show we work 50 minutes a day more than men).
I would like to see the day when men and women take equal charge of childcare and domestic tasks at home. If you combine that with the fact that women get all the maternity leave, and that state-funded childcare is limited, it means that a parent couple are potentially in the position of having to choose one person’s career to be the one that excels, while the other person’s takes second fiddle.
It seems harmful to a woman’s career if she takes extended time off, and I personally have heard of many instances where a woman has lost her job, or is forced to resign, around the terms of her return from maternity. Childcare is very expensive; men get two weeks of paternity leave while women get 39 weeks. So, if you look at a place like Sweden where there is state-funded, high-quality childcare, where men and women legally have to take the same time off work, and where the employment laws are strict about gender discrimination, the result is more equality in the workplace.
It’s a cultural issue but also a socio-economic issue. If you look at the economic benefits of having women in business – on boards and in leadership positions, it seems obvious there should be equality to help them get there.
Thank you so much for meeting us Martha, it was a pleasure to talk with you!