Inspiring Women – We are Tech Women
Wilma McDaniel, Founder of Rise Business Growth.
- Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role
I was inspired from a young age to work in personal care. When I was 13 my mum went, on a good friend’s recommendation, to a health retreat and came back rejuvenated. I was inspired seeing the transformative effect those three days could have on her wellbeing.
Later that year, I read Cosmopolitan’s Health and Beauty Guide, and convinced my parents that I should leave school to pursue my dreams. Fortunately, they were on board, and I went on to study International Spa Therapy and Management at Mary Reid International Spa Academy in Edinburgh.
I will always be thankful for that opportunity as it led to a career that has lasted decades, taking me all over the world, working with renowned beauty brands such as Estee Lauder, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana. Five years ago, I decided to start my own consultancy, Rise Business Growth. From there my career took a serendipitous, albeit slightly unexpected, turn when I met the co-founders of skin-tech company, Cutitronics. Since then we’ve been building our multi-award-winning company, our patented suite of skincare and wellness technologies and most importantly our exceptional multi-disciplinary team.
I have a passion for helping people feel well, and my current role as Commercial Director allows me to do this in an incredibly exciting field, putting my wealth of knowledge and experience into practice.
- Did you ever sit down and plan your career?
I have never sat down and planned my career, but my passion for people and personal care inspired me to follow the path I have. It wouldn’t have been possible for me to foresee the opportunities I have been presented with due to advances in technology.
If you had told me 5 years ago I would be working in tech, I’m not sure I would have believed you. But, I love where my career has taken me. The technology pipeline we are developing has the potential to seriously disrupt the global beauty industry.
- Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?
My career choices have always been relationship driven. The challenges I have faced have been about balance and putting priorities in place. What I’ve found is that putting these values first has been career changing for me and provided me the access to a huge diversity of skills to work in and develop.
As a young mum, the typical work culture at that time was for a woman to either have a family or excel in her career. So, when I made the huge choice to step down as Sales and Education Executive as Estee Lauder it was due to the realisation that I loved my job, but I love my relationships and family more. The fear that family life and relationships with my young children would be disrupted if I continued to travel as much as I had, pushed me to make the decision to come back to Scotland for work.
I believe there is an opportunity for women to do everything they want in life, but there’s also an importance for them to not feel like they have to compromise family, relationships or values in the process. A large part of my mentoring now focusses on people having the realisation and support they need to not have to compromise or do everything at once.
Being able to know my priorities has been essential but this wouldn’t have been possible without great people standing around me. A problem a lot of women face is not seeing your own potential, but I was fortunate to have a fantastic support system around me. When I was worried my skills wouldn’t translate from beauty to retail, my best friend (also named Wilma) told me “Your skills are definitely transferrable, you just need to find the right fit”. This changed my perspective and gave me the confidence I needed. I also carried this with me when moving into beauty-tech.
- What has been your biggest career achievement to date?
I’m extremely proud of many things in my career. For example, when I worked on a large project for a global company earlier in my career, I was recognised as a chosen mentor for the most people at the organisation. Something I still pride myself on.
More recently, shortly after I joined Cutitronics we attended the Scottish Edge Awards and received an award as a ‘wildcard’ entry. We then returned as part of the main competition six months later and won, which was fantastic.
Winning this enabled me to fly to New York to pitch to huge industry players in iconic locations around the city. I took one of our first prototypes, which uses our patented suite of Cutitron technologies to measure skin hydration levels and dispense the exact amount of product needed by the individual at that exact moment, to Madison Avenue and 5th Avenue. An amazing experience I will never forget.
- What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?
The biggest contributing factor is the superb support system I have around me. My husband, my family and my amazing friends are always cheering me on and supporting me to believe in my potential.
- What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?
You can either walk in faith or fear, and I would say always walk with faith. Don’t compromise your values. Network as much as possible; really try to understand people, whether it is prospective customers or your team. There’s so many opportunities opening in the tech sector now, it takes a diverse team to see the possibilities from all angles.
Also remember that it’s ok to be scared and that we should push boundaries. Just make sure you have the right people supporting you.
- Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?
I believe there are still barriers for women to succeed in all sectors, including tech. Some of them may be self-imposed. We are less likely to believe in ourselves. To combat this, we need to keep ourselves surrounded with people who will push us to achieve our goals.
We also have a habit of comparing ourselves to others. We are all unique and if we can work together we can change the world.
- What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?
Culture is everything in business. Our current team is diverse, with a broad range of backgrounds and skills. With the right culture in place businesses can succeed and this is true everywhere.
Companies and tech start-ups need to implement flexible working, allowing for women to have a family and a career. Leaving room for work-life balance is essential for helping people achieve their true potential.
- There is currently only 15% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?
Invest in women. Compensate with education and learning at every opportunity.
I volunteer as a governor at my local independent school and I see the incredible work students produce in STEM subjects, but uptake is still quite low later in education and in business. Teachers are not necessarily equipped to show what excellence can be achieved in STEM. We need to bridge the gap between education and industry to showcase what is possible in order to increase engagement with young women. Taking small steps like this can make a big difference in accelerating the pace of change and equality in tech.
- What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, e.g. podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc?
I would recommend following Gillian Docherty at Data Lab on social media. She’s an inspirational woman, who has presented Ted Talks with her daughter. Another fantastic Ted Talk/book to inspire is Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”. Lean In is now a global community which facilitates mentoring and reverse mentoring. This is just one example of the importance of networking and support, and the transformative effect it can provide.