Tara Kelly is leading the way in Data at Specsavers. And she wants more women to join her.

Tara Kelly’s journey in data and technology started at the Office for National Statistics UK, where she worked on two Census programs, and developed specialist skills in response operations, website and program design, and data processing.

In 2017, she took the lead on the Census Management Information project, refining her expertise in strategy and design initiatives.

“I’m fascinated by the intricacies of data, its integration with systems and services and the pivotal role it can play in shaping decision-making processes and optimising operations when managed effectively,” she says.

“I’m passionate about fostering data communities and educating others on the benefits of leveraging data-driven approaches. I thrive on challenging the status quo and I am a firm believer in positively disrupting conventional thinking. I embrace complexity while consistently maintaining a holistic perspective, striving for comprehensive solutions that address the bigger picture.”

Tara joined Specsavers in 2020, in the UK arm of the organisation, and worked her way through several roles before taking the leap “down under” into the role of Head of Data Products for Australia and New Zealand.

“Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of leading numerous high-impact data projects from inception, through to delivery and completion,” she says.

“These experiences have allowed me to leverage my strategic vision to establish clear objectives and develop comprehensive plans. Collaborating closely with cross-functional teams, I’ve optimised solutions and proactively addressed challenges, continuously adapting strategies to ensure successful outcomes.”

She says during the early stages of my career journey, she was incredibly fortunate to have a manager whose unwavering support and guidance were instrumental in shaping her professional growth.

“She believed in my potential, instilled confidence in me, and consistently encouraged me to push beyond my limits and strive for more. Her belief in my abilities propelled me forward, serving as a constant source of motivation that empowered me to reach new heights in my career. With her support, I gained a deeper understanding of my strengths and interests, ultimately leading me towards a career path in Data and Technology.”

But being a woman and senior leader in technology hasn’t always come hand in hand.

“Navigating a career in technology as a woman whilst juggling the demands of motherhood is challenging. I made the decision to pause my career when my two children were born, taking a 3-and-a-half-year break to look after them while they were little,” she says.

“It’s unfortunate that the mental load experienced by women, especially those balancing careers and family responsibilities, is often overlooked or not spoken about enough. It encompasses various tasks from household management to childcare arrangements and emotional labour and can be emotionally and mentally draining at times, often without recognition or support.”

Tara says finding employers who understand the importance of flexibility and support work-life balance is crucial. But it’s equally important for a woman to recognise the invaluable skills acquired during parenthood that can translate into the workplace.

“From time management and negotiation to prioritisation and crisis management, the experiences of parenthood cultivate a unique skill set that can enhance professional capabilities,” she says.

But she is a strong proponent for more women and diversity across data and technology.

“The Data and Tech industry still has a long way to go in achieving balance, but efforts to address it are underway. Empowering women in the workplace isn’t just important—it’s essential for driving innovation, attracting top talent, and boosting business performance.”

She says the journey for women in male-dominated industries is ongoing and requires continuous support throughout their careers. Securing a job in such an environment is just the beginning. Employers must prioritise supporting women through parenthood and during menopause, as many have left organisations due to feeling unsupported during these crucial life stages.

Which is one of the many reasons Tara loves working in technology at Specsavers.

“I’m proud to be part of Specsavers, where women hold leadership positions across various key roles. With a female director guiding the way and female leaders in Data Engineering, Data Science and Analytics, Business Partnership, and Product teams, Specsavers highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion in fostering innovation and success,” she says.

“Specsavers also remains committed to supporting its colleagues, offering a range of resources including advice, , and participation in support groups. These initiatives aim to provide ongoing assistance to women in the workplace, ensuring their well-being and success.”

Tara says when it comes to the next generation of women in tech, mindset is the key.

“Mindset is undeniably influential for women navigating male-dominated environments. It’s not uncommon to wrestle with feelings of inadequacy or fear of being perceived as lacking in competence or toughness.

“It’s essential to recognise the unique strengths that women bring to the table, including empathy, exceptional communication abilities, and creativity. These attributes offer invaluable contributions and a fresh perspective to the workplace dynamic.

Tara’s advice for other women pursuing careers in technology is to embrace the confidence in your capabilities and the value of your perspective.

“By owning your strengths and advocating for yourself, you can break down barriers, challenge stereotypes, and carve out a path to achieve your goals in any environment,” she says.

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