Shares her story of balancing family and start-up life
So first of all, tell us about Wattl and your role in it….
Wattl is a tech startup, specifically a video discovery platform. We want to create the app that you go to first when you want to watch something new.
We are not competing with YouTube and other video platforms and we can blend content from lots of different places, like Netflix, Instagram, Amazon, making a richer more engaging viewing experience.
I’m the co-founder and CEO, grand title for a team of two! My husband is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer.
What is your background?
I graduated with a mechanical engineering degree and had a successful and exciting career at Ford Motor Company, designing engines, launching new vehicles and defining company strategy across Europe. However, after 7 years I wanted to have more control over implementing my own ideas.
It was quite a traumatic day walking away from a very safe managerial job with great prospects, not to mention the car for life scheme and pension, to the unknown of starting my own business. I’ve never looked back though and absolutely love being my own boss.
What motivated you to start working on Wattl?
My husband and I set up our software development business about 14 years ago. We delivered web applications and then moved into smartphone apps when they were launched. We delivered large complex projects for clients such as the BBC but ultimately always crave the creativity that comes from creating our own project. After a brainstorming session Wattl was born! A video discovery platform that would give people all around the world an opportunity for their voice to be heard.
How is it being a female founder of a tech startup?
Being a female founder of a tech company I don’t think is that much different to being a male founder. Some of the differences I don’t notice, as I have always worked in STEM, the obvious being there are always more men at tech exhibitions and networking events but this has never caused me any issues. Tech aside though I do think there are differences as soon as you have children. However, being a female founder I think I have bypassed a lot of the changes that do go on in the workplace after taking maternity leave. I’m able to dictate when and where I work, and this is very important to me.
What has been the most challenging part of developing Wattl?
Wattl is a massively scalable video solution that’s taken hours and hours of development. The hardest part about delivering such an ambitious product is the size of our team. We do have advantages, communication is incredibly easy and we can remain focused on the direction we are going. However, with so much to do in running a business and split between just two people, we easily do the jobs of 4 or 5 people, the knock-on effect is the speed at which things can be delivered. This can be frustrating at times but fortunately, we work very well together so it’s just about being realistic and honest with ourselves on how much we can deliver in a certain amount of time.
You have 3 children (and a dog!), how do you balance driving Wattl forward with your family commitments?
That’s a good question! You just do it! I think I have a very fixed view on what I want for my family and that does take priority. As my children are young I pick them up from school every day and we spend time every evening going to clubs, doing homework and eating dinner together as a family.
We’re a busy, noisy family so adding a puppy into that after our old boy died last year was an obvious thing to do.
I’m able to switch between work and family in an instant, so if a message needs answering I’ll tend to that at any time, I do not have fixed working hours. I do see things changing as my children get older and this will help Wattl. A slightly longer working day would be beneficial, however, I find a shorter day means you just have to be more focused. I like using the Focus Keeper app (Pomodoro technique) for getting things done. Also, a lot of networking takes place in the evenings and this is something I just have to miss out on until my children are older.
Do you feel you are able to work flexibly around your family’s needs?
I do feel that I can work flexibly around my family. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect on both fronts. I’ve just learnt to let things that don’t matter that much slide and try not to get hung up about them. For example, we are renovating our whole house and we extended the kitchen. We were starting to spend so much time focusing on what needed doing in the kitchen that the business was starting to suffer. So we just stopped the kitchen work altogether. We have a beautiful extension built, but breeze block walls and the old kitchen reassembled in a different place! It will get finished and we just live with it, my friends joke I’ve paid a lot for an industrial urban look!
What are your top tips for juggling busy work life with being a parent?
I think you should be clear on what really matters to you and make that your priority. It shouldn’t be what you think others would do and don’t worry about what others may think of your priorities, you don’t need to tell them anyway! You may have priorities just for work or family, or both, but once you know what keeps you grounded when everything else starts to go a bit crazy, as it always does, by maintaining those few things can keep you feeling in control, happy and just get used to the craziness that goes on around you.
Such sound advice from Emma! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.
Wattl benefits from two local support programmes:
⭐ Wattl recently won a Pioneer10 award http://pioneer10-stockport.co.uk giving them 12 months office space in Stockport Business and Innovation Centre and business support from the judges of the award.
⭐ Wattl also won a place on the Mi-IDEA post-accelerator programme run by MSP and Cisco. This includes office space in the brand new Bright Building on the Manchester Science Park behind Oxford Road. The programme has supported Wattl by giving them opportunities to present themselves to many different external organisations and also to take part in lots of really useful training and workshop days. MSP offer access to spaces and courses Wattl just wouldn’t be able to afford in the early days (https://www.mi-idea.com).
Emma still works a lot from home as this supports her flexible working pattern. However, when they recently had a conference call with Samsung they headed straight into the Bright Building for this, and when Matthew (CTO) wants complete silence for coding he’ll go to the SBIC office where there are no distractions.
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