Caroline Carruthers

Partner & Chief Data Officer - Carruthers and Jackson

How did you get into data and technology, and why?

My interest in technology came before my interest in data. I vividly remember getting a Commodore 64 in my early teens and I was so excited by it. I taught myself how to programme – I’d sit there in a dark room and create my own games and was just hooked on technology from then on.  Both of my parents were so supportive and never let me or my sisters think we couldn’t become anything less than we wanted to be.

How has a setback or obstacle shaped you?  

Earlier on in my career, I was trying to pretend to be someone else, and I think a lot of young girls do that. You look at what other people are doing and you think that’s the way you also have to behave. A lot of the setbacks I had were because I didn’t quite fit that mould and my career really took off when I stopped pretending to be something other than who I am.

How important is it to have other passions in your life?

We talk about having work/life balance but that isn’t complicated for me. We’re all very multi-faceted human beings so I think it’s much more about having the right balance in your life without deciding that there’s only one way or the other. I do spend a lot of time with my family and friends and that charges the batteries back up for me, but I also work in a job that I absolutely love so a lot of the time my interest and energy generates itself. I can happily be cooking dinner, on a conference call, and have my son sat there doing his homework – and feel fulfilled.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Be comfortable in your own skin. I started my career as a six-foot woman with ginger hair so it was impossible to blend into the background. Now I don’t care. I wear heels because I have a fascination with shoes and I have no problem sticking out – this is me, take it or leave it! I wouldn’t have worn heels when I was 20 but it’s all about learning how to work it. If I walk into a room full of men my height puts me on an even keel. When I was younger, being so tall felt like a disadvantage because I stood out, but now that’s a good thing.

 

Everyone has a talent. But sometimes you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to find it.
What is the toughest lesson that you’ve had to learn?

My mum sadly passed away, but she taught me one of the biggest life lessons – that it’s all about making things better for the next generation. It’s not about you. It’s about keeping things positive not negative. I don’t want to pull men down, I want women to stand up because that’s equality and diversity.

What advice would you give to girls and young women interested in a career in data and technology?

Everyone has a talent but sometimes you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone to find it. Secondly, it doesn’t matter what subjects you do, as long as you’re interested in them. What matters more is not limiting yourself based on someone else’s preconceptions. I’ve worked in bars, I’ve been a waitress, I’ve done all different types of jobs. If you enjoy what you do, whatever that is, you’re setting yourself up to enjoy the next thing, and the next thing.

Are role models important to you?

Yes, really important. You want to see yourself in someone else’s shoes and if you don’t, how do you know that you can do it too? It’s about treading the path because everyone that comes next has a slightly easier time.

What really excites you about data and tech?

Data is at the root of a lot of the problems and issues we have in organisations, so getting to the root of the problem and solving it is what really excites me. I’m a problem solver at heart.

Who inspires you?

As a kid, Maggie Philbin was a TV presenter on the technology programme Tomorrow’s World, and to see a woman on TV fiddling around with geeky stuff made a big difference to me. I wouldn’t speak to anyone in my house while the programme was on – it was all so exciting with gadgets and science and maths.

How do you gain confidence?

When it comes to confidence, I believe in “fake it ‘til you make it.” Women especially need to step up and push themselves out of their comfort zone. Sometimes in order to be comfortable, you need to try something and do it, to prove to yourself that you can do it. Confidence becomes a self-fulfilling thing.

 

How do you lean on others to gain strength?

I have a fantastic network of both men and women and if I don’t know something I’ve got no problem picking up the telephone and asking questions. I’ve never once had anyone say they wouldn’t help me. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it’s a sign of strength.

 

Can you tell us about the significant object that you’ve chosen?

The significance of the skull is a bit of a life motto of mine. I’m a believer that everyone who lives dies, but everyone who dies, hasn’t always lived. You’ve got to embrace life and enjoy the journey. It’s wonderful but sometimes we need a reminder.