This week for Digital Her we have the Investment Manager for SETsquared, Rosie Bennett. To hear our full conversation on her unconventional route into tech, thoughts about how the sector has evolved throughout her career and for her top pieces of advice, check out the video below!

TechSPARK has teamed up with Manchester Digital to deliver you Digital Her, a project from the Institute of Coding. We want to showcase talented women and non-binary people from across the entire tech and digital sector who are doing amazing work in the South West.

The objective is to create a platform of role models for young women and non-binary people to encourage and inform anyone who may have been dissuaded away from tech about the opportunities in our region. Through talking to a range of individuals with various roles and experiences, we want to highlight the various career paths available whilst reaching out to people who didn’t know there was a perfect role in tech for them. We hope you enjoy!

Starting out

Rosie currently works for SETsquared as the initial Investment Manager, working across a portfolio of about 200 companies through the local regional investment incubators. She says, “It’s about companies on the growth path that are going for later-stage funding, but it’s all about innovation really; it’s all about companies that are at the cutting edge of tech.”

As Rosie reflects back on her journey, she recalls how exciting it was to engage with the first pieces of domestic technology. Rosie says, “I was at school in the 80s, when tech was very much at its frontier level.

“If you were interested in tech at this time it was geeky, niche thing to do. My dad was very interested in computers, so we had a computer in the house very early on. I used to spend my Saturdays typing out code from magazines to play little games on the computer!

“But I was never a science person at school, and I went to university to do American Studies.”

This led Rosie into a career in journalism with the BBC. Whilst this sounds worlds away from the techie work life she leads now, these beginnings laid crucial foundations for Rosie, even resulting in her “claim to fame that I was the first person in BBC Manchester to get the internet on the computer.”

Her work with the BBC naturally progressed to online spaces and soon Rosie had learned HTML and launched the Top of the Pops website.

Transitioning into tech

So how did Rosie leap from interviewing the Spice Girls to getting to grips with technological innovation?

She tells us, “I got a call from a company in Amsterdam, who was setting up a tech team to build content portals – basically setting up entertainment websites – for a big game company, like the equivalent for what Virgin Media is in the UK.

“It was at a stage where tech was becoming much more influential in how music and how media was being consumed.”

Before Spotify stormed the world, Rosie was apart of the team assessing what was going to happen to music on the internet, asking questions about licensing and monetising something that was freely accessible. Rosie adds, “because of that, I became interested in the whole business behind technology.”

Seizing the opportunity

Rosie thrives off of the sheer multitude of opportunities tech presents us with. She tells us the empowerment tech provides is what’s so inspiring about the industry: “Now you have the tools. You can sell on Etsy and on Depop – all these things – it’s just amazing that you can use it to access that global marketplace. And that’s very empowering for a teenager, very empowering for young person.”

She tells us, “I would encourage anyone to have a side hustle, and technology is a route to doing that.

“In this era of portfolio careers now, we probably swap careers every 10 years, and I think that’s really healthy because the world changes very quickly.”

Her roots in journalism have shaped Rosie’s tech career, which she says is largely defined by her interest in and admiration for the people around her. She tells us about the importance of mentoring, and her love for going to networking events to meet new people.

Rosie adds, “My favourite thing is meeting innovators and entrepreneurs, especially young innovators. So people with a real passion for using technology – in particular, I think tech for good is a significant movement with a lot of companies that have that agenda, and what is exciting is that it’s becoming mainstream. For me, my job is a way for me to meet fantastic people with great ideas..

Standing out

When the conversation turned towards being a woman in tech, Rosie says one of the biggest challenges is, “being in a male dominated environment which means don’t get noticed, or you get noticed for the wrong reasons.”

To combat this, Rosie joined the work football team. This worked for her, but she tells us, “you have to find that that little trigger, and you have to put your hand up for all the jobs.”

In order to change the landscape of inequality in tech, Rosie believes we need more women in charge. She says, “I think that will only come over time.

“The more women that come through as tech leaders and entrepreneurs, they will then hopefully bring more women into it. When I took over developing the Innovation Centre, we had no women in our mentor pool of around 50 people. So over the seven years, we’ve endeavored to make that a 5050 mix.

“It’s just making the efforts. I think if you’re not a woman in that position, you don’t notice – there isn’t the same awareness. So I think it’s got to go from the top down.”

Rosie’s parting advice for young women looking to get into tech is: “Don’t plan too much. Be very open to conversations with anyone really, ask people about their own careers, ask people how they’ve go to where they are.

“Also set yourself a goal. Set out what is your ideal job; it may seem like a big jump from where you are now to getting to that stage. But, if you can identify a path, then you start on that path and you’ll probably get distracted on the way and end up in something else. It always helps to have a goal, but really it’s about the journey, isn’t it.”