Women in Digital: Claire Norburn

Claire Norburn, UK ads privacy lead at Google talks facing career challenges, and how to overcome today’s digital divide.

Posted 13 March 2023 by Christine Horton

Did you enjoy school?

There was never a day that I missed because I loved school that much… I now realise that it was because I actually love to be around people, and at school I got to be with my friends. Also, there were lots of exciting things to learn about!

What qualifications do you have?

I have an Honours degree from the University of Bedfordshire in Sports Science. I believe that education is hugely important and that we should all be given the learning opportunity within school and with teachers that cultivate a sense of belonging, strive for the best and provide opportunities for all.

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

My personal education experience was sometimes challenging because I didn’t consistently achieve the grades I expected and hoped for. Still, I have managed to persevere, be ambitious and overcome setbacks to work for one of the best companies in the world.

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

Never give up on your dreams and aspirations. I was once told when I worked as a recruitment consultant that most people will experience at least three careers in their working lifetime – and therefore you should present yourself as open to every opportunity that comes your way.  I look forward to finding out what my third career will be!

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

I have had the pleasure of working with lots of different mentors. They have all offered different levels of support and guidance, which was incredibly helpful.  But I would have to choose my Nan, from south east London. She grew up in the Blitz, before being sent to Bletchley Park to work with the famous code breaker Alan Turing. She had a strong, resilient character. She inspired me to work hard, believe in myself and to make every day count.

From where do you draw inspiration?

I draw inspiration from a variety of sources:

  • My interactions with people: I learn from every interaction I have with people, whether it is through conversation, reading, or watching.
  • My own thoughts and ideas: I am always thinking and trying to come up with new ideas and ways of doing things.
  • The world around me: I am constantly observing the world around me and looking for inspiration in the things I see and experience in day-to-day life.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced to date?

Juggling being a single parent and working in a high-pressure and demanding position. I am naturally always going to work hard and push myself, but it can be challenging when also raising a seven-year-old.

What qualities do you feel makes a good leader?

  • Empathy. Being able to understand and relate to your team’s emotions and always working to create a positive and supportive environment for your team.
  • Resilience. A good leader is resilient. They can bounce back from setbacks, and they are always able to find a way to move forward.
  • Self-awareness. A good leader is self-aware. They know their strengths and weaknesses, and they are always working to improve themselves.

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

I lead the EMEA Ads Privacy team at Google, so it has been diverse and sometimes challenging and pressured. The digital ads landscape is experiencing a paradigm shift, driven by increasing privacy regulations and technology changes that restrict user identifiers. Navigating this shift presents an opportunity, as we fundamentally change the way digital advertising is done. At Google, we believe we can improve user privacy while giving businesses the digital insights and tools they need to grow. We are collaborating with the ads ecosystem to develop privacy-safe alternatives to third party cookies that will help businesses be ready for what’s next in privacy.

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

The digital divide is a growing challenge, as those with access to digital technologies are able to reap the benefits of the digital economy, while those without are left behind. The digital divide can have a number of negative consequences, including reduced economic and social opportunities, as well as reduced access to information. Organisations need to be aware of the digital divide and work to bridge the gap. There are several things that I believe can be done to address the digital divide, including:

  • Providing access to technology: One of the most important things that can be done to address the digital divide is to provide access to technology. This can be done through different means, including providing computers and internet access, providing training on how to use technology, and providing support for those who are struggling to use technology.
  • Making technology affordable: Another important step is to make technology affordable. This can be done in several ways, including providing subsidies for the purchase of computers and internet access, and providing discounts for those who are struggling to afford technology.
  • Creating content in multiple formats: It is also important to create content in multiple formats, so that it is accessible to everyone. This includes creating content that is accessible to those with disabilities, and creating content that is accessible in different languages.
  • Providing training and support: Finally, it is important to provide training and support for those who are struggling to use technology. This can be done in different ways, including providing in-person training, providing online training, and providing support through a helpline.

What can be done to encourage more women into the industry?

It’s important for women to understand that to be a woman working in tech does not mean you have to be working in the technical side of things or be an engineer. I have spent over 20 years working in digital tech, and it has allowed me to work with my strengths – which is developing relationships, engaging with some of the most influential people and interesting companies.  It does not all have to be about coding and can really be an industry full of opportunities.

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

I am a British University Rugby champion and appeared in 1998 as likely one of the first women teams to be given airtime on Sky Sports 3, albeit for 90 seconds!  It’s now great to see women being given the opportunity in sport at a much larger scale both playing and commentating.