Women in Digital: Franki Hackett

Franki Hackett, head of audit and ethics at AI-driven audit technology company Engine B on why you don’t have to be an extrovert or a strategic game-player to be successful in your career

Posted 23 August 2021 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

I loved school, I have a school report where one of my teachers calls me a geek (in a nice way). I loved everything except PE and IT, which is interesting now I work in tech!

What qualifications do you have?

I have a BA in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics and an MA in Political Theory, plus I’m an ACA-qualified chartered accountant. It was while training as an ACA that I got into data science and I learned on-the-job, so I don’t have any ‘technical’ qualifications at all. That hasn’t slowed me down though, it means I’m an effective business translator to non-technical people.

Has your career path been a smooth transition, a rocky road or combination of both?

I’ve had ups and downs. I started off working in third sector communications, which didn’t suit me at all. I’ve tended to take the door that’s opening in front of me, which leads me to interesting places, but I think the variety means I’ve got broad strengths.

What’s the best career advice you can give to others?

You’re rarely as stuck as you feel. So if you’re not happy and you feel like you have no options, think about the things you’re telling yourself you can’t do and challenge that word “can’t”.

If you had to pick one mentor who has had the biggest influence on you, who would it be?

This is a hard question! I’ve been really lucky in working with and for a load of great people, and often I’ve found that having the right mentor at the right time makes a big difference. So I’m going to dodge the question and say I can’t pick.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I have a very strong sense of fairness and a desire to make the world a more just place. That’s been a thread running through my work. I do believe technology can make the world better and fairer for people, but that it will only do that if it’s designed well and if we have decent governance structures in place. We’re at a critical point at the moment on the ethical use of tech, and that possible better future is inspiring.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced to date?

My biggest struggles at work have been when I’m trying to become someone I’m not, whether that’s trying to be an extrovert (not me!) or trying to be a strategic game-player in organisations which prized competition over transparency. The insecurity of knowing I didn’t fit, and thinking that was a problem with me, had huge impacts on my mental health and on my sense of self. I go forward hopeful that as I get to know myself better that will be less of a challenge in future.

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

Transparency, humility, curiosity, and play. I think it’s easier to lead if people know where you’re going, why you’re going there, that the journey will have fun and creative moments and that you’ll listen to them on the way.

From a work viewpoint what has 2021 been like for you so far?

I started a new job in 2020 and had never met any of my colleagues in person until a couple of weeks ago, so that’s been very odd. I love being (almost) fully remote too: I can live where I like and I’ve developed much better relationships with colleagues at the other end of the country than I ever would have otherwise.

Give us a fact about you that most other people wouldn’t know.

I do a pretty great karaoke version of ‘Ask’ by the Smiths