This week for Digital Her we have our very own Abby Frear, Director at TechSPARK and Projects & Account Manager at Immersive Labs; check out our interview 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.

Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

I have a really varied role. I’m a Director of TechSPARK and run/ get involved in various programmes that TechSPARK offers, and I also do freelance project management work for tech Startups and Scaleups.

At the moment I co-run our Investment Activator Programme which aims to stimulate investment into the South West, running events and activities for startups and investors. I also support our Trading Better Online (TBO) programme to help companies improve their digital marketing and sales strategies.

With the startups and scaleups, I freelance with I tend to get involved in any project that doesn’t strictly fall into one team, from systems implementations to agile development projects, helping refine product backlogs and work out sprint priorities, to managing office moves and working with key clients for specific projects.

What skills do you use most in your job?

The key skills I use would be project and account management – and they’re so transferable across all my jobs!

What’s your educational background? And how did your career in tech begin?

I actually did a degree in languages – I love the technical aspect of learning a foreign language, the sentence structures etc and obviously, it’s super handy living in Europe. However, after university, I wasn’t sure what to do careerwise and so spent 3 years in London training to be an accountant with Anderson.

I was working late in the night when they became Deloitte which was an interesting experience. Watching the brand police change everything from Anderson orange to Deloitte blue literally overnight!

After 3 years, while an amazing way to learn how businesses tick, I realised audit wasn’t for me, so decided to travel for a while and ended up in Sydney, where I started a career in recruitment. It’s a tough job, but it taught me so many skills in client management and business development.

What inspired you to go into digital & tech?

I didn’t make a conscious decision to get into the tech world. I met my first boss, Andrew, in a pub at a debate in Bath and he asked me to do some freelance recruitment for him. When he described the role (his 2ic – helping him set up a Big Data startup) I realised that I wanted it myself, and it was awesome. A lot of my role was organising meetups to help him network in Bath and London, and as part of that, we worked with BathSPARK’s founder, David Maher Roberts to grow the meetups.

Once we created TechSPARK I decided I wanted to focus on that part of the role and I have since loved being part of growing this network.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve worked on in your career so far?

I really enjoy the variety of work I do and being involved with many different projects. With TechSPARK, I love meeting the new startups that take part in the Silicon Gorge competitions and Pitch Me! events; there are so many interesting early-stage businesses that have huge potential.

TechSPARK itself has evolved so much over the last few years thanks to our awesome MD Ben Shorrock and our really collaborative team. Projects such as the TBO scheme have been fascinating as you get to help companies reach new customers.

With the freelance work, at the moment I’m working with Immersive Labs which has been super interesting as they have scaled so quickly in the last couple of years which has brought some really interesting challenges. Working on an office move 3 times in about 14 months was one of them!

How you feel about working in tech/digital?

Well I love it – it feels like it crosses over most sectors so it’s massively varied, but I love reading a business idea in our Silicon Gorge applications and thinking ‘I can’t believe this doesn’t exist already!’

I do feel the sector itself is becoming less male-dominated – which is brilliant, and it is great to see a more diverse selection of founders coming through, though there is definitely more work to be done here – and we’re hoping programmes and features like SHIFT and Digital Her can only help with this.

What advice would you give to young people thinking about a career in digital and tech?

There are so many different roles within any organisation, I think you just need to get out there and talk to as many people as you can who are working in areas you are interested in, whether via networking events and meetups, or even just reaching out via LinkedIn for a quick chat. I’m not sure whether it’s just a South West thing, a tech thing or just a people thing, but I find if you ask nicely people are generally really willing to help!