Tech Trailblazers

Tech Trailblazers: Dr. Rachel Gawley

  • Name: Dr. Rachel Gawley

    Role: CTO, Whitespace

    What does your typical day look like?

    It includes everything from whiteboarding, chats with clients, strategy meetings, to problem solving, user research, designing new business ventures and experimenting with technology. My role is very much outward focused with our innovation community of over 1000 members, working with clients to understand their technology and innovation needs and driving the strategy around our own products and IP.

    What are you currently working on?

    Being a CTO isn’t about being stuck in code all day, it’s about driving strategy, being visible inside and outside the company, growing and nurturing the team and engaging with the wider community. My current focus is on three main areas:

    • Driving the innovation and venture design strategy and process which we use internally on our new products and with our corporate clients
    • Building collaborative digital communities around innovation and technology to solve complex world problems, for example, I am the Programme Director for the not-for-profit Emergent Alliance answering big questions around economic recover during and post-covid19
    • Commercialising our own research and IP into high-growth scalable ventures

    What inspired you to join this company in particular?

    Whitespace is scaling and I like the challenge of having to change and shape the strategy as we grow. Also, there is a tendency in the tech industry to put someone at my stage of career in a non-technical role; Whitespace saw the benefits of having a creative technologist as part of the team and keeping me aligned with technology.

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

    No, I wasn’t sure even when I did my Computer Science degree. I only really started to embrace technology as a career during my PhD, which focused on software architecture. Research is what has kept me in technology all these years. I like being involved with the early ideas, researching and solving problems.

    What’s your favourite part about your work?

    Meeting new people with different ideas, concepts and points of view to me. It helps me understand the world, which is vital for my role. Also a good whiteboard session, technical experimentation or good old-fashioned desk research. 

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

    Just do it! There are so many roles and opportunities out there. I’m a big fan of apprenticeships to get people from different industries into technology. Now, more than even is the time to consider technology careers. Even if it’s not for you long-term you will learn so many transferable skills.

    How do you see this technology impacting on our lives?

    Technology is an enabler, the key it is to use it in the right way. Technology should free us from the mundane and repetitive and enable us to think, create, and open up the world to us.

    Who inspired you to work in this field?

    No individual person, it was seeing the positive impact of technology and solving problems for people that continues to inspire me. It’s great that the NI community has so many amazing techies, I’m energised by being around them and encouraged to push to keep learning when around them. I learned a lot from Stephanie Maher when we worked together at PwC.

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

    The computer in my pocket, aka iPhone. I constantly say I have no idea how I backpacked around Europe when I was a teen without a smartphone. One day if I’m brave enough, I’ll do it again.

    What tech gadget could you not live without?

    It is pen and paper. I am old school when it comes to solving problems and cannot think without doodling and that has yet to be replaced by a technical alternative for me.

    About the author

    Brendan is a Sync NI writer with a special interest in the gaming sector, programming, emerging technology, and physics. To connect with Brendan, feel free to send him an email or follow him on Twitter.

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