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“Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination” – An interview with Charlotte Bella

Charlotte is one of my favourite people on Twitter, one of the organisers of Ladies that UX Bristol, a group we are really proud to sponsor. She also introduced me to CLICSargent a charity I love to support personally. She is now a Product Owner at Travel Chapter and smashing it! We caught up and spoke about her 10 year career in tech and also why looking for a job as a parent who wants to work part-time was one of the toughest things she’s ever done…….

Q1. What does your day to day look like as Product Owner at Travel Chapter?

Every day there is a new problem to solve, to get involved with and to research and provide evidence for a solution. I think that’s the number one thing I love about what I do and with an organisation with so much legacy it’s not something that will slow down any time soon. I work with a great Interaction Designer and together with other colleagues from across the organisation we will solve small problems such as ‘how might we make it easier for customers to view their booking details’ to larger scale issues such as ‘how might we make it easier for users to register and view their holiday itineraries’?

Q2. You are Co-Organiser of Ladies that UX, could you tell me a little bit about the group?

LTUX Bristol is part of a wider global social enterprise started in 2013 in Manchester when its founders Lizzie Dyson and Georgie Bottomley recognised that it was hard to find other female role models in the sector. The group creates a space for women from all levels to engage and talk about their experiences, both positive and negative, and get the support and inspiration that they are looking for. In a sector with a high proportion of men in it, Ladies that UX is all about giving women the chance to meet up to support each other, push the UX boundaries, and promote female skill and talent. We often get told that our group is really inclusive and that it makes UX accessible to any level of interest and experience and that’s really amazing feedback as other groups can often seem overwhelming if you’re new to UX due to the depth of the subject matter.

How do you juggle your career and being a mum?

Haha, I’m really not sure some days. I’m SO unbelievably lucky that I work for such a flexible employer. I only started working at Travel Chapter in January and before that I was job searching for around six months as I really wanted to find the right company to work for. I think it’s important that parents feel protected and cared for, it’s really tough, especially as my partner and I both have senior roles and obviously it is expected that you give more of yourself to your career the higher up the ladder you go, but my family comes first. I think if I didn’t have my iPhone there’s no way I’d be able to juggle it all, LTUX, work and family life, something would have to give, but it allows me to be flexible on the go and respond to urgent situations without being tied to a desk. I’m also super organised so I ensure that anyone who relies on me at work will be fully up to date where they need to be if I know I’m not going to be around. Lastly, we don’t have family around in Bristol but we are lucky to have such a flexible childminder. I literally have no idea how I’d get by without her, she will have our little girl at the drop of a hat and has even been over to babysit so we can have date nights.

You have been in the tech industry for 10 years, and I’m assuming, yep that you have been outnumbered being a female, but I know that hasn’t stopped you getting where you are today. I’m also guessing it hasn’t been easy, what has been your biggest challenge?

I think looking for a job in Product/UX as a parent who wants to work part-time (so I can spend a day a week with my little girl) has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. So many organisations are inflexible as they might work in five-day design sprints that require a product owner overseeing the process or they simply don’t allow more senior roles/roles with line management to be part-time due to other members of staff that rely on you. I was in danger of my career suffering where I was previously as they weren’t as digitally advanced as other sectors and there was literally no one to learn from and no role to move in to. I really didn’t want the fact that I was a mum to stop me from realising my ambitions so I didn’t give up (as hard as it was) until I found the right job. Although it doesn’t make it any easier when you get feedback that ‘it was a close call but we went with this guy because xyz’. The other person is almost always a man and it does make your brain go in to overdrive wondering if they really got the job because they were better than you, or was it because they were an easier person to onboard as they didn’t have the same baggage as a woman might have.

What advice do you have for Women who want to get into product roles?

Find a great female mentor and get to know the strategic and business side of things. These are all things I wish I had done early on and I am still looking for a female mentor. Look to upskill yourself across the design side of things too so you can illustrate your points clearly. I’m signed up to IDF and am taking online courses and of course I co-organise and attend the LTUX events too as well as UCD Bristol and Product Tank. A great mix of empathy, common sense and business understanding makes a great product manager. If you know you’re good enough, don’t ever give up and find a great recruiter who can fight your corner.

How has one moment got you to where you are today?

It’s hard to pinpoint one single moment as I feel that my progression has come in ripples not in waves which has given me time to take stock and learn from significant micro-events before going on to the next opportunity. I’m proactive and I am constantly networking, learning and trying to be better every day and I’m open to the opportunities that come from that.

What is your favourite quote?

I need to be transparent here and say I literally found this on the internet as I didn’t have a favourite quote that wasn’t a line from a film or TV show. Hopefully it illustrates my curious and creative nature; “Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.” Mae Jemison Otherwise; “I know a cracking owl sanctuary”

Who’s your squad?

My little girl, Emmeline – I want to help her to realise her potential and the opportunities out there for her from a very early age which will hopefully enable her to be a kind and successful person. She lifts me up, is a great cheerleader and she trusts me which helps me to confidently lead my family 

Jameela Jamil – she’s an incredible activist that uses her platform to do good and encourages women to be comfortable with who they are and not to conform to anyone’s standards but their own. She would be great at helping my all female squad get their voice heard.

My mum – My interest in technology started very early on, I had a Gamegear and an Amstrad computer in my bedroom at the age of nine. I remember my mum sitting at the PC literally typing in the code from a manual for hours so that I could use certain software. If any of the code was typed in incorrectly she would only know at the end then she’d have to go through and review it all again. That level of dedication and QA is something you definitely need in a squad!

Thank you so much for being involved in Women Rock and everything you do for the industry.

Ladies that UX Bristol meet on the last Thursday of each month. You can join the group here 

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