Speaker Spotlight: Catrina Baker-Bassett on Leadership, Community and Growth in the Tech Industry

Join us as we catch up with Catrina to discuss her tech journey in this blog post. She shares insights on her career evolution, pivotal moments, and predictions for the tech landscape in 2024. Plus, she gives a shoutout to the individuals making outstanding contributions in this field.

Learn how Catrina’s diverse background shapes her leadership style, community involvement, and relentless pursuit of growth in the tech industry. Read on…

Can you share a bit about your background?

I’m a generalist who is good at context switching and building relationships – great communication and teamwork is my bag.

Did you come up through a “traditional” techie route or has your career taken twists and turns along the way?

Definitely plenty of twists and turns! I spent a few years travelling in my early twenties before finding my way in marketing and business development. Having not gone to university, I never felt I really had a ‘specialism’ but this has actually allowed me the freedom to craft a career I’m proud of.

When I moved into tech, my original focus was project and product management. I still love the work and processes associated with these roles, such as figuring out what requirements are, how to improve workflows and experiences for end users, and to deliver exceptional digital products. I love working within a team to solve problems.

Reflecting on your career, is there a specific moment that stands out as pivotal or defining?

In 2012 I went to a Brighton SheSays event for women in tech and decided I wanted to make a change. I shifted towards a career in tech and I’m so glad I did – over the past decade I’ve been able to hone my management skills in the STEM arena, and build teams that I love to work with. I’ve also given two SheSays talks on International Women’s Day since then which felt serendipitous!

What piece of advice would you give your younger self as you embarked on your professional journey?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something – you don’t have to know everything and never will! Learning new stuff is how we grow and change. Empower others, listen to people, take what they say on board and actively ask for feedback.

Looking ahead, what’s your big prediction for the tech landscape in 2024?

More fast paced change with ongoing developments in AI. It’s a broad umbrella term but there are loads of opportunities for ‘collaborative intelligence’ where human interactions and AI intersect. Like us, companies should be exploring these opportunities, where the tech can add value and benefits, whilst being mindful of the ethics, risks and bias. There are some great companies in Brighton working in this space, not least my fellow panellists at a recent Brighton AI meetup: Mary Kemp at Simpler With AI, AI Artist Duncan Thomsen and Matt Thompsett at Green Lemon Company.

Globally speaking this is a time of instability. There are 60+ elections this year too, so lots of change worldwide, which will inevitably impact the economy.

Considering your involvement in Silicon Brighton and community-building, what does the concept of ‘community’ mean to you personally? How important is it in the tech industry?

I think it means you’re part of a group within which you feel safe, cared for, and listened to.

As a queer person and a woman in tech (and the world), belonging to communities and building relationships with people who have experiences that align with mine makes me feel supported and empowered.

I will also say that it’s also really important to speak to people outside of your communities and hear different views, as well as to share your own. Shout out to Mo Kanjilal at Watch This Sp_ace for highlighting this and the importance, value and power of difference in her recent TEDx Brighton talk.

How do you balance staying updated with the latest industry trends while ensuring continuous personal and professional growth? Any specific resources or practices you find particularly valuable?

In a role like mine I think blocking out time to work on the business is really important. It’s so easy to be consumed by the day to day. Recently, I’ve started committing to focused reading and thinking time, which is massively important for my own headspace as well as the success of the company.

There’s a wonderful community in Brighton and having peer support through these networks is invaluable, particularly for women in tech and in leadership roles. There are so many brilliant events – many run by Silicon Brighton – covering a wide range of subjects, allowing for community and relationship building, networking opportunities, mentoring and learning.

As someone who has contributed significantly to the community, how do you see mentorship playing a role in the development of the next generation of tech professionals?

I think mentoring in its many guises is of huge importance. As someone who didn’t go to uni or specialise in a subject, I’ve learnt so much from the wonderful people I’ve worked with or have been introduced to, through work. I haven’t formally had a mentor before (it is something I am considering!) but so many people have helped and supported me along the way, and continue to do so.

I think actively asking for feedback and being able to have open, honest conversations with people in your networks is invaluable. If we really listen to others and respect each other’s views, we’re likely to learn something and grow. Empathy and compassion are powerful traits.

Is there any additional wisdom, experience, or anecdotes you’d like to share with our audience?

There’s no such thing as a stupid question so don’t be afraid to ask them. Empower other people around you – particularly those who are a minority in the room.

Get involved with organisations and initiatives that make you tick outside of your day job. I’m on the advisory board for TechNative Digital who are doing great things to close the skills gap in tech and increase diversity in the sector. Helping to shape their brilliant new bootcamp, sponsoring a placement, spending time with the students and seeing their progress is really rewarding. At DabApps we also run work experience programmes with Brighton MET and BHASVIC each year which are always so much fun and a learning curve for everyone involved! It feels important to engage with future generations and share opportunities.

Anything else you would like to promote to our community?

Get in touch if you’d like to chat about what we do at DabApps and how we can help you make some great software. I’ve been with the company for 10 years now and I’m really proud of the reputation we’ve built, our team and the work we do.

Seeking a speaking opportunity to foster personal growth or advance your career? Reach out to us, and we’ll link you with the right meetup group. Contact us via email at contact@siliconbrighton.com