Inspiring Figures is a monthly column where I share with you people who are catalysts in inspiring and motivating me. They are people that you should really know about. You can find the whole list of my inspiring figures over on the shiny new website, InspiringFigures.co.
Each feature first took place live on YouTube Live, this is a write-up of our conversation. Thank you once again to everyone that joined in live!
March 2020 features Ella Botting
Ella is a user researcher, currently freelancing with the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office is a department of the Government of the United Kingdom responsible for supporting the Prime Minister and Cabinet of the United Kingdom. She’s also such a fantastic advocate for women and non-binary people in tech, focusing on elevate their stories through CyberWomen’s Interview Series.
Look at me & my Twitter friend @paulienuh! It was like catching up a long lost soul mate, even though this was the first time we met. I’ve got dry mouth from talking so much 😂— Ella (@botting_ella) July 10, 2019
We’re the @gracebeverley of tech and we’re going to do amazing things. Watch this space 💘 pic.twitter.com/LCVMfmNKX5
Ella and I first connected on social media through mutual connections. Last year, whilst Ella was visiting Leeds, we had the chance to meet up which was truly wonderful. 😊 It’s always so lovely catching up with people you’ve admired on the online space for a while! I’m a big fan of Ella’s work on her blog and her openness on social media when it comes to more taboo topics.
Our chat was one of the best conversations I’ve had in a while – I left feeling motivated by our discussion. I hope that you get as much out of it as I did!
Listen to our live conversation
The journey to tech – the story so far
Ella graduated with a degree in Psychology, but when she finished, she realised that she hadn’t really thought about the next steps.
She had thought about doing further study in Psychology, but ended up doing a Masters degree in Sociology and Politics. Whilst taking her masters, she had hoped that something would come out of it. As she reached the end of the degree however, she realised that it was quite difficult to get the job security that she wanted.
Whilst studying, she took up a module on comptepary social problems which had a huge focus on the future of work. This was Ella’s first exposure to technology and what sparked her interest in pursuing it as a potential career. Being in the middle of the tech hub in the North, Ella got involved with meet-ups and communities across Leeds where people really helped her with navigating the next steps of her career.
“I’ve never met a group of people who didn’t know you but were really wanting to help you succeed.”
Around the same time, she was offered to do work experience where she learnt about being user researcher. This sparked her interest as someone who had spent years at University doing a lot of research, and led her to get her first job as a user researcher. 🎉
Taking the leap – going freelance
Ella describes that freelancing was always at the back of her mind, and as she grew her network and contacts, she decided to take the leap and go freelance in October last year. A lot of people want to try out freelancing, I asked Ella her key tips on taking the leap:
- Connect with people who are already doing it
- Ask a lot of questions to understand if this is something that is right for you
- Build your community – that support network is so important!
“I had two women especially who helped me throughout the whole process. Their support and collective knowledge made this happen for me.”
The art of setting boundaries
Being at the heart of an industry that in theory never stops, it’s sometimes quite difficult to switch off. Setting boundaries was something that Ella really wanted to master especially as she became freelance.
As a result, Ella has been learning a lot about boundaries and setting them well to help her keep things under control and balanced. “When I leave work, I rarely think about it after.” If you don’t set boundaries, you don’t set yourself time to be creative. Sometimes we just need the space, instead of continuously trying to solve the problem.
I’m writing a blog post on setting boundaries. I’m including examples of phrases not to say when doing so, which could minimise experiences. Such as “I’m being silly but,”— Ella (@botting_ella) March 11, 2020
I know you lot will have some gems. Please share any other examples you don’t mind me including 🥰
Setting boundaries has also helped Ella with her relationships with people.
Overall, it has helped her not to expect the worse as catatropising events is something that she does often (as do I!) Since she’s began doing this, the responses have been quite positive and is something Ella is extremely proud of as she continues to get better at it.
CyberWomen is where Ella shows her interest and care on the industry.
As she is a huge feminist and advocate for bringing visibility of those in minority groups, she also has an Interview Series where she celebrates the achievements of women and non-binary folks. I actually featured in one back in 2017 which you can check out here! She focuses on asking guests questions around their journey because visibility is important, their learnings and also the tools and techniques that helped them in their journey (specifically for those that they didn’t pay for – tech accessibility!)
Ella also writes about career advice and reflection around different topics.
The overly positive internet, oversharing and privacy
This was probably my favourite part of our chat.
Being open and honest on social media is so important, especially in a world where fake news is everywhere and authenticity is what people want. Ella shares her thoughts around the subject, “It’s a balance – being open and honest online is great but keeping the details to yourself is fine too.” Ella shares an example of how she is quite open talking about a sexual assault that she experienced at school that could’ve ruined her life. Although she is open to talking about it, she wouldn’t share the exact details of what happened. “It’s important that you feel safe sharing online – ensuring that it is stuff that you have processed (re: trauma for example)”
On oversharing, this is subjective to the individual. “If you think that you’re oversharing, then you’re oversharing. If you don’t think that you’re oversharing, you’re not. It really is subjective to you!” Sometimes you are going to be critiqued for what you share, but it’s important to remember all the thousands of other people who love what you post. The element of some criticism is OK, but it really depends on the person. Sharing is a good thing, because sometimes showing that this happens to other people too normalises it. And that can really help people!
But remember it is up to you – you don’t have to be open if you don’t want to.
On being positive all the time – it is dangerous! It’s down to your discretion what you want to post, but it is also important to be mindful that there are so many young people online nowadays and that the 24/7 happiness can be a dangerous example. Ella believes that there are better uses of social media!
Diversity, women and their careers
“I’m a firm believer of diversity of thought.”
For things to truly change, we need to move towards a collective. Ella addresses the importance of privilege, “As a white woman, the best way I can help propel others is to use my privilege to elevate their voice.” She shares some of her thoughts on improving the diversity challenges we see today:
- Find your community – remember it doesn’t have to be in person!
- Keep a brag document to keep track of things that you’ve done well – it can really help during those times of self-doubt especially as a minority
- Create a Failure CV – show how you overcame difficulty and how you helped yourself
- Slow down and create space
- Have a digital declutter
- Remember it’s OK to give up, and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so
“I think success means being content, and that takes time and space!”