Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Pauline Keys

  • Name: Pauline Keys

    Role: Senior Software Development Manager, Bazaarvoice.

    Biography:

    I studied Software Engineering at Ulster University, Jordanstown. After graduating in 2003, I started my career as a java developer but have never ‘stayed inside the lines’. I have always been curious about how the business works, the larger ecosystem, and understand the importance of relationships. This naturally led me into senior technical roles, and leadership. I spent a few years as a Principal Engineer/Scrum Master leading teams, before moving to Bazaarvoice as the first Belfast Development Manager in Feb 2018.

    My passion, the reason I get out of bed in the morning, is because I get to work with a smart bunch of people, solving problems.

    What does your typical day look like?

    I get into the office early, it is the quiet time of the day that I use for focus. My mind is alive with ideas and thoughts from the gym session the previous evening. That first couple of hours in the office explores and solidifies those ideas.

    My typical day ranges from working with global retailers/brands, Product, Services, Support teams to getting involved in the details of delivery with the team in Belfast

    The most exciting part of my day is coordinating all of the pieces of the puzzle together in the right way to solve a problem - be it a people or delivery focused problem. I love it when a plan comes together.

    What are you currently working on?

    I am leading the delivery of a new business-critical platform, “Sampling”, which enables brands and retailers to generate product ratings and reviews on their websites, especially for new products.

    In November 2019, we launched a “Sampling” campaign program with a global retail client. The campaign/program enabled this well known retailer to reward loyal customers with free products in exchange for their honest reviews - building brand advocacy. The client has a community of 1 million members (consumers).

    We’re using what we’ve learned to plan the next phase of the roadmap. We want to  extend “Samplings”MVP capabilities, and enable 260+ clients to migrate from an old version of the sampling platform to the new, while also launching new clients. The Sampling business is booming. Exciting times!

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    I had reached a point in my career where I needed a new challenge. Bazaarvoice was an impressive company. Over 1 billion people shop on the Bazaarvoice network each month and they store a very significant 78 million customer reviews. So scalability, resilience and performance are critical. To me, this was more important than anything I'd worked on previously; where the impact of issues would be high. Terrifying but an exciting challenge. I was intrigued.

    When I met with the leadership team in Bazaarvoice during my interview, I had a lot of commonalities with folks - passionate about people, passionate about tech. I found senior leaders I aspired to be like. This continues to be shown in action, not just words.

    Did you always want to work in this industry (tech)?

    I’ve always had a passion for puzzles, problems and numbers. By accident, I had a conversation at a career stand, and seen beyond that standard ‘coder’ stereotype. I investigated a bit more and made the decision to study software engineering at Jordanstown. I had a ‘wobble’ in second year uni, as I struggled with coding. I couldn’t ‘get’ it.

    The ‘penny’ dropped when coding during my placement year. I had a good mentor, a strong team and a real problem to solve. I developed a well rounded set of skills (organisation, communication with non-engineers, curiosity with business, tenacity for troubleshooting). I’ve loved it ever since.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    Helping people achieve new things and grow. Every team member is unique. Understanding people and coaching them to achieve their individual goals while delivering as a team is extremely satisfying. I recently worked with a team member to upskill from PHP to NodeJS. While I can’t claim any credit (his drive is what got him there), I gave him the support, space and encouragement to make the jump.

    What would you say to other people considering a job in this industry (tech)?

    There is a wide range of roles available and skills that are valuable. Look beyond the stereotype. Be bold. Time spent in the industry (even for a week) will allow you to explore that, and talk to people. Come find out about us!

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    Bazaarvoice “Sampling” helps brands and retailers to boost product ratings and reviews on their websites and then propagate these across their network. Research indicates that even one customer review is can impact conversion by 10%. Consumers trust the opinions and reviews of other consumers and content is proving to be more important and influential than standard marketing.

    Content influences what/where/how/when we make purchase decisions. Content can also validate the purchase choices we make. As a result of its influence and impact, the authenticity of content is of paramount importance in today’s world and something Bazaarvoice is passionate about protecting.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    My tech lead during my placement year. Claire Montgomery opened my eyes to the broad range of skills needed to be an engineer. She was phenomenal to watch in action, whether it was coding, drawing up architectures, mentoring others, or communicating with stakeholders. An exceptional individual and role model.

    What do you consider to be the most important tech innovation or development in recent years?

    It has to be the mobile phone, right? As with any new technology it is neither good or bad it is what we as humans choose to do with it, “with great power comes great responsibility”.

    While none of us can deny the positive impact mobiles have had, I wonder about the counter effects on our health. Always available, constantly distracted, most of us struggle to switch off and just ‘be’. We miss things. Switching off takes real discipline these days.

    With a teenage daughter and two ‘almost teenage’ boys I worry about their view of the world. A lot of which is through the lense of a mobile phone. Their world is so much bigger and more complex than when I was young. Even the tech savvy among us struggle to guide our kids safely through the maze of messaging, YouTube and TikTok videos ... hoping they make it out the other side as confident, intelligent but also socially adept humans.

    So that is the challenge for us all in the technology industry, we have a responsibility to design and develop technology that improves our lives.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    A whiteboard marker and a conversation. I’m all for gadgets, but the simple things are the most effective. Talk to people, and be a human being! My team and I could not function without these two things.

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