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“Work hard, play hard, be kind – always.” – An interview with Marina Traversari

Women Rock founder, Alicia chats to Marina Traversari who recently joined Spherics as COO.

The insights that Marina shares are testament to her amazing accomplishments in the tech industry, including representing Oracle at House of Lords events, fireside chats and chairing panels at local and international events to drive cultural change through thought leadership and most recently her role as COO at Spherics where ED&I are top of her priorities as she scales the team.

She also lists Chaka Khan as her song, displaying impeccable taste in music.

But we could sit and fangirl over Marina all day 💙

Probably best if you hear it from her! So without further ado…

Marina, thanks so much for speaking to us. Kicking us off, you have recently joined Spherics as COO, can you tell us a bit about your day to day?

We are preparing for Series A, so there are lots to do in preparation for that! Ensuring we are on point for due diligence, keeping on top of finances-P&L, working with CFO & CEO, preparing for scaling the team – interviewing, looking at premises, ensuring we are compliant and legal, HR, whilst also looking after the team we already have. We are a people first organisation, and we truly believe in creating the right culture for everyone to thrive.

Spherics sounds awesome, what is the plan for the business this year?

We are scaling and fast! As I mentioned we are raising a Series A this year, currently we are a team of 15. Priority now is scaling our tech and customer services teams to meet the additional priorities from our customers, but we are also recruiting a variety of other roles, so if anyone is interested, please get in touch! By the end of the year, we forecast to be a team of 50.

How are you going to ensure you build an inclusive and diverse team from the start?

This is very important to the founders and myself, we have equal parity of male female in our team, and the majority of our dev team are women, which I am incredibly proud of.
However, we have to ensure our team is representative of our city region. We are using software to ensure our job descriptions are not biased in terms of language, and we also protect against unconscious bias influencing our recruitment process by conducting blind selections.
We are also working with D&I specialists and organisations across the city region to maximise reach into diverse communities.

You share the same passion as us for ED&I – What advice would you give to companies to attract underrepresented talent to their teams?

There are various ways to tackle Equality, Diversity & Inclusion in terms of blind selections and unconscious bias, working with female coding orgs to reach talent that is underrepresented. I don’t think we have it cracked yet unfortunately, which is why we have started working with other local organisations to identify individuals with protected characteristics that have a passion for working with us.
We have also just completed our B Corp assessment thanks to the tenacity of Rebecca Burgess, our former Chief Engagement Officer, which we will hopefully hear from this month, fingers crossed! B Corp Certification is a great process to fully understand how you implement the passion to be a ‘people first’ organisation.

How would you measure success when it comes to ED&I?

Great question! Measuring inclusion is vital, we measure and make it a priority for the company, and it is driven by our Board – what is valued is measured, and those measurements drive action. We are tailoring our business goals to be both meaningful and truly effective within our organisational strategy.

We are a remote first team but our beating heart is in Bristol, and I want our team to scale and reflect the city we live in. We also have quarterly pulse surveys/360 reviews and team away days to ensure we are hearing from all our team, as we want our team to feel confident and empowered to offer different opinions, to bring innovation and meaningful change.

What challenges have you faced in your career?

There have been a few! I was a single mother when I moved to Bristol, this made completing my degree more challenging and commence my career however I had incredible support from UWE and this assisted my development.

I worked for an awesome organisation straight out of university, Calling the Shots, who were fully supportive and inclusive and shared their knowledge which has stayed with me as I have developed.

I have had male managers remove my name from Board reports and add theirs, if this ever happens to you my advice is to challenge immediately! Be assertive and direct, whilst remaining calm and professional.

Growing up you told me you went to a school where you we’re different and didn’t fit into the norm of other children around you. I would love to do more for the next generation especially in tech. What do you think schools and even local companies can do to encourage the next generation into tech and digital careers?

Wow, I’d forgotten I’d told you this! Yes, we were a working class, immigrant family – Irish/Italian and I remember people crossing the street, so they didn’t have to speak to my mum – that was hard but what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right!

In all seriousness, I would advise the next generation to speak to as many people as possible, take on as much work experience as you can, go to career events, network. Schools and Local Authorities are working together to ensure initiatives, such as the one led by the Career Enterprise Company – advisors work with schools on curriculum planning and bringing in companies to deliver talks.

Roles are changing with such a pace, there are jobs now that didn’t exist when I was leaving school. If young people are not aware of the scope of employment, then they can’t apply themselves and their skills.
I would also advise young people to take risks, be brave and push themselves out of their comfort zone-it’s ok to fail as a lot of learning stems from failure.

Look at alternative routes other than university, as it’s not for everyone. Apprenticeships, for example are a great way to earn and learn through hands on experience. I feel there is too much focus put on uni degrees, which leaves young adults feeling they are substandard if they don’t have one and I want to see this change.

What has been your proudest moment to date, both personally and professionally?

Personally, there have been a few – no 1 is my amazing son, Leon who is now 22 and a wonderfully caring and considerate young man, whom I am immensely proud of!

In addition, completing my degree and exhibiting at BETT at ExCel, taking part in NESTA Futurelab Design Challenge and exhibiting my work at Submerge, an audio-visual tech/arts expo, with a 3-year-old at the time!
Professionally, Representing Bristol, Facebook, Oracle and the West of England at International events and delivered keynotes, fireside chats and chairing panels at local and international conferences/events to drive cultural change through thought leadership.

Seeing through as Chair of BoD for Gapsquare’s acquisition to FTSE 100 company and representing Oracle at House of Lords events due to Women in Tech advocacy.
Winning the SW Mentoring Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award for demonstrable value to the UK SW Tech scene, and achieving #27 on the TT50 list!

It’s International Women’s Day this month and something we should celebrate every day. Have you drawn inspiration from other women both personally and professionally and who are they?

Absolutely, personally of course my mother was such a source of inspiration, she taught me the importance of compassion and inclusion.
My best friend Jodie aka wiffles, who is a kick arse Production Manager working in TV and has worked with the likes of Attenborough and Obama, she is the kindest and most inclusive individual and keeps me constantly in check.
Professionally, there are a few however top of mind are Dr Zara Nanu and Mel Rodrigues, who are, and continue to be my vanguards. Their positivity and drive provide such inspiration, and professionally they are two of the most incredible, ambitious individuals I have ever met, and I am also honoured to call them friends.

We spoke about disabilities in the workplace and whilst we still have work to do on all fronts of diversity and inclusion, I believe a lot of employers are thinking about disabilities both physically or hidden. Like myself for example, I have severe dyslexia and it was only picked up 5 years ago and my previous employers didn’t support me with this or offer any support when I failed tests for example. What can we all do to support disabilities in the workplace?

It is so important to support disabilities in the workplace, both physical and psychological, however as you say sometimes neurodiversity can go undiagnosed, unnoticed, or mis-interpreted.
Employee assistance programmes and building supportive company cultures helps, whilst also embedding accessibility into every part of your recruitment process.

Make sure you spend time myth busting with managers, modify your working arrangements to support individuals, provide unconscious bias training for all employees and obviously pay workers with disabilities equally.

I have had the pleasure to have had a career in TV, Film, and Technology, these industries tend to have a high percentage of neuro-diverse creatives/individuals – learning how to bring out the best in people is key, provide different software and hardware, be conscious of large team events as some people will struggle – take the time to get to know your team and how best to support everyone, as individuals.

If you were a song what song would you be?

Chaka Khan, Ain’t Nobody!

What is the saying or mantra you live by?

Work hard, play hard, be kind – always.

Great note to end on – thanks so much Marina!  Keep rocking #womenrock

An interview with Alicia Teagle 

I: @womenrockbristol

T: @womenrockbrstl

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