Women in Digital: Roisin McCarthy

From leaving school at 13 to building an almost 30,000-strong community, Women in Data founder Roisin McCarthy, shares her career challenges and highlights

Posted 22 August 2022 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

No! I didn’t enjoy school and left at age 13 without ever returning to education, which I am regretful about. I do, however, think I made the most of the education I did have – I had a wonderful primary school which set me up with a foundation in numeracy and literacy. I left school at 13 because I struggled with the mass delivery of the curriculum, I found it deeply boring and didn’t feel it engaged or challenged me in any way. So I ended up challenging my mum instead by not going to school! I then started working from the age of 15 full-time as a rookie recruiter.

What qualifications do you have?
Zero. I don’t even have SATs!

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

I’d go as far as to call it a mountain climb. Without academics underpinning my background, I had to work 10 times as hard as everyone else to prove I deserved to be there. I feel that changed when I reached 30 by having a proven track record. Although I don’t want things to be as hard as possible, every day I create challenges for myself, as a smooth and easy pathway doesn’t excite me.

What is the best career advice you can give to others?

Find a focus. Do that through identifying your strengths, ignoring your weaknesses and creating small term goals to achieve those objectives. Listen and learn, knowledge is power and every introduction, conversation and person you have the opportunity to connect with will teach you something. Build an amazing network around you and bolster your personal brand.

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

My mum! She taught me to build relentless strength for all adversities, both in my personal and professional life. The strength she taught me, I saw her build it throughout my life and it was only natural for me to adopt it too.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I’m the luckiest woman on the planet, I have 27,000 women to pull inspiration from and it comes in bucket loads on a daily basis. I work on being able to identify the pieces I can use for myself.

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

I haven’t got just one, I have a number on the same scale. To start with, FOMO (fear of missing out). When I was pregnant and gave birth to my daughter I didn’t want to miss a moment of work, so I took no maternity leave. It was physically and mentally challenging and I probably wouldn’t do it again, but it taught me a lot.

Second, sustaining a business during the unknown moments of Covid. Being responsible for a workforce and their jobs was a huge responsibility, and it was challenging not knowing what the outcome would be.

Finally, being a control freak! I still haven’t refined the art of delegation. Whilst I have a super team, I am still incredibly detail oriented and want to know about everything which is certainly an Achille’s heel.

What qualities do you feel makes you a good leader?

Empathy and understanding that we’re all different – by nurturing the ways in which people do things differently you will get the very best from those you lead! It’s important as a leader to walk a mile in the shoes of an individual, so you can understand the pressures, challenges, objectives and failures of tasks you’re asking others to undertake.

From a work viewpoint, what has the last 12 months been like?

Phenomenal. The last 12 months have been relentless in demand, which only highlights the need and position of Women in Data® as an organisation in the world of data and technology. We have grown as a community exponentially; our partners have been far deeper and broader and of course we have now confirmed we are hosting our flagship event on March 9, 2023! Things bring a whole hope of excitement to team Women in Data, alongside a huge task and objective list to complete.

What would you say are the biggest tech-based challenges we face today?

The skills crisis. Currently the UK is in the eye of a storm – a deep skills crisis for technology and data, layered with further challenges around diversity and inclusion. Organisations are struggling to build effective tech and data capability, which is only amplified by a lack of culture, values and understanding of the talent in this space. I believe that organisations need to revisit their methods of attraction and retention for data and tech professionals to be able to win the talent war but sustain large data and technology transformations.

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

I was a professional Irish Dancer (and champion!).

You can register for free to attend the next Women in Data conference here.