TechPixies discuss upskilling and returning to work at BBC Radio Oxford ⋆ TechPixies

TechPixies discuss upskilling and returning to work at BBC Radio Oxford

We were super excited to be invited in to speak with Annie Othen on the Kat Orman show!

We were super excited to be invited in to speak with Annie Othen on the Kat Orman show at BBC Radio Oxford to discuss upskilling and returning to work – the very core of what TechPixies is all about!

A perfect time of year for this discussion – seasonal change and just a few days before children of school age return to the classroom.

As Annie highlighted “for many women the kids maybe going to school for the first time and they are now reflecting on returning to work, changing careers or even starting up a business”. Joy agreed “yes, September is like the new January; it’s an opportunity to think where am I going with this year?”

Of course, Annie wanted us to tell her and her listeners what TechPixies was all about! Joy explained “TechPixies is all about empowering women; helping them to think about who they are, what they want to be, and how they’re going to get there? We incorporate life coaching with social media, digital marketing, SEO, wordpress and paid advertising; all the skills needed to go back into the modern workplace”.

“We have courses online and face to face so learning can be in an environment with other women or they can learn on their own, in their own time and their own pace online”.

“How do the TechPixies help?”, Annie enquired, “what do you do in practical terms?”.

Helen, one of the first to undergo the TechPixies digital marketing course back in November 2015, explained “I did the 12 week course, run to fit in with the school day, so you were able to do the school run with the children and wasn’t held over half term holidays either, so it was extremely child friendly”.

“We had various different types of learning; directly from Joy, online resources and working together as a team as well, we also had a life coaching element too”.

Annie was intrigued as to how much Helen knew about digital marketing before she started the course and was surprised when she replied “absolutely zero!”.

“I was a nurse years ago and then my most recent job had been working within administration at the Oxford John Radcliffe Hospital. Of the 12 of us, in the first cohort there were people like myself who had never been anywhere near any sort of marketing let alone digital marketing but there were also women that had been out of work for anything between 3-12 years, some of whom had been in charge of large marketing departments in the past but perhaps didn’t have the recent skills that perhaps social media would give them”.

So how would you define digital marketing? Annie was keen to know. “Digital marketing from my perspective” Joy explained “is a whole range of things of which social media is just one piece. But you’ve also got email marketing, content marketing, website, blog, which is content marketing as well and analytics”. Joy added, “so many people never look at their analytics, they do all the social media posting but they never check how it’s actually impacting their business, if it’s working, if it’s not working, they never check their Google analytics to see how their website is doing!”.

“Some people wouldn’t even know there was such a thing as analytics to check” Annie added. “We have a lot of women who don’t even know what a webinar is when they join TechPixies! A webinar is a fantastic ways of learning live from experts across the world. So for example, we’ve got a webinar coming up with Lisa Unwin, who wrote She’s Back which is a fantastic book about helping women go back to work, which means means for an hour we get to pick Lisa’s brain all about her book and all about the tricks and tips about going back to work and women can ask live questions to her”.

Earlier in her programme Annie had been talking about gender equality in the workplace so was keen to know if TechPixies was just for women?

“We actually have had one male TechPixie, he was awesome, so whilst we’ve never said no to a man, I think our marketing and our general conversation is around women back into work because at the moment that’s the largest demographic – there’s 427,000 women in the UK who have taken career breaks from really great careers”.

Furthermore “the problem is that 60% of the time when they go back to work they’re going back to lower paid jobs, lower skilled jobs; they’re not going back into jobs that actually compliment who they are and to develop who they really can become”.

“What I love about Lisa’s point in her book is women need to be working, women need to be doing jobs that aren’t just coffee and admin, they need to be out there making business better and really important people like Helena Morrissey are speaking to us as well. That’s what TechPixies is all about, getting women empowered to do really important jobs”.

In the workplace Annie noted “time moves on and you don’t actually know what’s going on if you’re at home wiping bottoms, doing nappies or whatever it is you’re having to do”. You’ve helped 119 women so far upskill in social media. What do you actually specifically do to help women?”

“I think it’s important to remember that, like you said with the nappies, when you throw those nappies out you’re not throwing out the skills that you had before. So I think one of the things that we are trying to do is help women think through the skills that they were using before they had children, as well as the skills you get from having children and then really think about their future. So many women, when they focus on their children for so long, they don’t think about themselves, they have no idea who they are, they have no idea of what they want to do and they still have in many cases 20, 30 years left of a career. In Helen’s case for example, it’s just an opportunity to really think about her purpose and what she wanted to do”.

“I’d finished working three years before at the local hospital because I did have a have a term-time part-time contract but there was a reorganisation of the department and that wasn’t available any more. To make it work as a family the choice was either to stop work or to pay for additional childcare of which the latter didn’t seem to be the right option for us at the time. So I decided to have a period of not working, and got involved in the local community, setting up a youth club and reading at school. I saw the course advertised and thought this is an an amazing course but not for people like me”.

But “why not ‘for people like me’” Annie was interested to know.

“Because I’ve never worked in business, I’d never done marketing, I went on Facebook and Twitter a little tiny bit but I thought the idea was amazing. Then I pondered on it, and thought maybe I should apply, applied, had an interview then I was quite excited about it – really wanted to get a place and got a place! But on my first day I can remember sitting outside the church hall in Iffley, which is where we started, thinking I am so nervous, what the hell am I doing? Then I had to remember the day I started my nurse training, I was nervous and I didn’t know anything and three years later I was an accomplished practitioner. What was very interesting is remembering the skills you develop as a parent, remembering the skills you had before but creating that space so that we can sit and think about what the possibilities are. When you’re busy in family life you don’t necessarily always have that space. So I think that one of the things that TechPixies did for me was to have that space with like-minded women to think about what are my possibilities, what are the options for me in the future? The life coaching element bought all that out and I think hearing the stories of the other women in the room, which often we find women get quite emotional about when they’re talking; this is time for me to think about what I’d like, to work within my family, but to actually think what would work for me and therefore will work for the family, to bring in more money, to use my skills or to develop the area that I’d like to go in and not just taking little piecemeal jobs of admin here and there, but what would I really like to do and how social media can be involved in that”.

“We’ve joked a lot about needing TechPixies branded tissues”.

“What advice do you give to women who are very keen to return to work but they might find themselves either being offered something that is far less than what they were doing before or they have just got to the point where they have kind of lost their way a little bit”.

“We have put online for free a Visualise your Future life coaching toolkit, and we encourage women to create a vision board. Start by looking through magazines or look online to find pictures of things that you think represent where you want to be in your life and put those on the board”.

“But some people don’t know where they want to be in their lives”.

“That’s the beauty of the exercise, by looking through a magazine or by looking online you will find things that resonate with you, things that matter to you and by putting that down on paper you start to say ‘that’s a vision for what I want’, how am I going to get that vision? For example on my vision board I’ve got a picture of a log cabin with a Christmas tree and that for me it represents that someday I’d really like to have a log cabin with a Christmas tree. Well how am I going to get there, well I need to start saving, but how am I going to start saving, well I need to earn money, how am I going to earn money, well what do I like to do? That’s when you start to open up the ideas of what you could do”.

“How much of a gear shift has it been for you Helen because obviously you’ve trained and worked as a nurse for many years presumably within the NHS which is a very particular kind of working from what you are doing now how have you made that transition?”

“So I haven’t nursed for about 16 years but I have been, until recently, working within the NHS, so that’s the environment I’m used to working in. It is different in a way but it’s also very similar and it’s, probably the main word that springs to mind is communication. I think you’re just communicating in a slightly different way. One of the things that excites me about social media is making connections between different people. So spotting something, for example a charity or organisation, that’s doing something perhaps in one part of the country and knowing that someone else is doing it and you can act as that bridge between the two, that excites me. Getting involved in that conversation. There’s lots of things that just as a layperson using social media I’ve become aware of that I would never have known about before. So then learning the skills that sit behind that to be able to use that effectively for a client has been fantastic and fascinating and really exciting”.

“Is this open to people of any age and gender, because we’ve tended to focus on people on returning to work perhaps after childcare but there maybe people who’ve finished work but still feel that they have an awful lot of skills that they’d like to offer but not quite sure how to use them?”.

“We’ve had a lovely group of women coming through probably in their  late 50’s, mid 50’s who maybe have cared for a parent who has passed away, maybe they’ve just recovered from cancer – those kind of career breaks happen later on in life but then they still feel like they have something to give back and so it’s about getting them in the right mindset, the mindset that says I’m not fixed on what I’ve done in the past. I actually can grow and do something totally different or do something new or augment my skills and go on into another area. So yes we do have women of all ages coming through our programme – we’ve had young women in their late teens up to women in their late 50’s early 60’s”.

“Well if people would like to find out more about TechPixies, how can they do that?”

“They can go to Also we’re on Instagram Facebook Twitter and LinkedIn, you just have to look for TechPixies!”.

“Of course you are, so digitally savvy it’s scary!”.