Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Women in tech: Briony Goldsack, VP of Engineering, IRIS Audio Technologies 

How did you get to your current position in the tech industry?

From the age of 12, I was interested in coding as a hobby, but I never considered tech as a career and planned to study Classics at university. This all changed when I attended a women in tech event. I radically changed my goals, switching my A levels to allow me to study Computer Science at Imperial.

While at university, I undertook internships every summer, including Google’s CodeF program and a longer six-month placement in my third year. These opportunities gave me vital work experience and equipped me with a better understanding of opportunities in my chosen sector. I graduated with the skills to succeed and a healthy knowledge of the industry.

The biggest leap in my career came when the bank I was working for asked me to move to San Francisco to work in a fintech startup they founded. This was a formative experience and really pushed me to challenge myself and my technical skills. It was while in the US, I met my future co-founders of Grüpie, a music startup. Founding a startup as CTO helped me to understand who I was as a leader and the qualities required to succeed.

One of the character traits that has got me to where I am today is that I can’t just leave things be. If I see something broken, I need to fix it! There’s not a part of me which can sit back and coast. In Silicon Valley, I realised how competitive I am – something which my colleagues had all known immediately upon meeting me. Coupled with an insatiable appetite for problem-solving, I knew I wanted more of the startup environment.

The pandemic brought me back to the UK, but I brought back a love for the way you can challenge yourself within a startup environment and try new things. In my current role at IRIS Audio, I love solving technical problems. As a VP of a growing startup, some of my favourite time spent is ideation, system design and architecture sessions with the engineers. This gives us a chance to use our creative flair and to think outside the box, solving real audio issues in contact centres, motorsports, and beyond. The work my team and I do facilitates better communication and allows mission-critical conversations to happen more effectively.  

What are the main causes of the gender gap in tech?

Despite the technology opportunities available to everyone, many are put off by misconceptions about what tech roles involve. I, like many others, struggle with maths and have worked hard to master the required elements. However, I thrive in using creativity in problem-solving and love the human element of my job: working with the team. I really believe there are tech roles to suit every skill set and persona. And with a better understanding of these positions, they will become more accessible to a wider field of candidates with less traditional experiences.

When candidates are not aware of what’s out there, or there aren’t easily identifiable role models, individuals, and the industry as a whole, are collectively held back. I was fortunate to have exposure to the broad roles available through the outreach day, but had I not, I would have likely chosen a different path. Diverse hiring is about more than meeting quotas. It is about leveraging varied experiences to optimise team productivity and challenge the status quo.

How do we address inequality in tech?

If we want to address the gender gap in tech, we should begin exposing girls to different career paths from a young age. This will give them a better understanding of the roles available to them outside the ‘traditional’ norm. These efforts could come in the form of internships or be incorporated into the curriculum at any age. I am a big advocate for mentorship, having coached at initiatives such as Clojure Bridge and given talks at groups like PyLadies, which focuses on helping more women become active participants in the Python open-source community.

No one really argues with the fact that a diverse team is a better team anymore. Companies with more diverse teams have the advantage of better decision-making and more lateral thinking from varied experiences. This definitely makes it an employee’s market when it comes to hiring more women in the sector. As such, it’s even more important that companies are proactive in attracting, retaining, and promoting women into leadership positions to get the greatest benefits. When it comes to hiring, we should use neutral language, blind CVs and a diverse hiring team. These processes challenge bias and encourage a more diverse set of candidates to apply. 

On paper, these opportunities are available to everyone, but we must be proactive in encouraging women into tech roles. Throughout my career, I have met some inspiring women changing the world through tech such as my Grüpie co-founders, and the many engineers I’ve met at conferences, in sports, at drinks, and at university. I’ve worked with so many people who I would love to work with again or hire. Visibility in tech is also important. We need to give women in senior and leadership roles visibility to encourage the next generation. I would love to pass the torch, inspiring the next generation to pursue their goals and break boundaries.