Women in Tech: Julie Brian
Hi Julie, thank you for taking part, please tell me everything I need to know about you.
My name is Julie and I’m a stationery addict! I was born & brought up in the Isle of Man which is something I am very proud of. Despite leaving 22 years ago, I can still call it home; my family all live there, my best friends are still the girls I went to school with and I was brought up with motorbikes, so it figures!
I left at eighteen to go to study Psychology at University and never went back. It’s not something I consciously planned, but my career has always been important to me and since graduating in the late 90’s I have worked within large corporates; moving back was never an option.
It’s not only my job that has kept me here, I met my husband Chris at work and we live in St. Albans raising our gorgeous daughter Marnie who is almost 7. Living so far away from family & friends has always been difficult but being so close to London is amazing. Having one of the best cities in the World on our door step is the only compromise acceptable for not bringing Marnie up next to the seaside.
What were you doing before you created Edie & Rona?
Before Edie & Rona, I was working for the mobile network EE where I had been for the past 8 years. Leaving the security of a Times ‘Top 20 Big Company’ and a good salary & pension was daunting but not a difficult decision. I was forever telling my team, ‘if you’re not having fun, it’s time to leave’. I simply stopped having fun. We all spend far too much time at work not to enjoy ourselves and be passionate what we do.
I headed up a business unit within the Indirect sales team managing Pay As You Go and Top Ups. Although I sat within the commercial organisation, my role had a lot of cross over with I.T, Digital and Marketing. The best part of the job was working on new initiatives and understanding how the systems available could support them. It was all logic, which I loved.
Getting involved in Tech is still a new thing for women, what was the motivation for you?
My motivation comes from wanting to do something I love, something I can contribute to and something that I can make a difference to. If it just so happens I need to work in an environment where there are more men, so be it.
And it’s not just Tech; I worked for over 12 years in FMCG which was the same. At ‘The National Lottery’ operator Camelot, we had 3 female Account Managers on a team on 17; we got on with it and pulled in equally as impressive sales numbers as the boys. At the time, we had a female CEO, it never occurred to me that I would be held back for being a woman.
Whilst at EE, it was a common occurrence to be the only woman at technical workshops, project meetings and even on my wider sales team. There were women on the board so, again, I was never daunted to say my piece or go for promotions. When T-Mobile and Orange merged, I was off on maternity leave and I managed to submit a counter-proposal to the sales team structure, create a new role, interview for it and get it, all before I returned to work when my daughter was 8 months old.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a time when we had (still do!) have a Queen on the throne and a female Prime Minister behind the door at Number 10; it never occurred to me that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do.
How have you found your journey so far and what has been your greatest accomplishment?
The journey has been amazing and I surprise myself daily just how much I can achieve in one day. Corporates measure success on the presentation content at each quarterly business review and what they can tell the City. In one quarter, I have set up a limited company, designed a brand, produced the logo (with my amazingly talented graphic designer Zoe McKenzie), built relationships with suppliers from scratch, conducted market research via Pop Ups, launched my social media, run a Christmas campaign and launched a website. My head is still spinning!
What has been the most challenging thing so far?
Working alone and having fewer people around me to bounce ideas off. I am a talker, so I need to verbalise ideas to get them fully rounded and to ultimately make decisions. I feel sorry for my husband who gets me talking at a million miles an hour every evening!
Also, I have never run a website before, so I am upskilling myself in every way possible to make informed decisions when I talk to my web developers. They have been brilliant in getting me this far and using experience from other online retailers but I am keen to write my strategy for Edie & Rona and lead it.
Do you think more women should get involved in Tech and why?
If it’s an area they love and are passionate about, why not! Tech is a complex industry but don’t be put off; you don’t know what you don’t know, everyone has to learn. I have, and quickly. The most inspirational Sales Director I ever worked for was a man called Steve Lucas and he would always say ‘seek to understand’. He was right! Ask as many questions as you can, do your research, find out other people’s motivations and you won’t go far wrong.
What advice would you give to young female entrepreneurs who are stuck on an idea?
Let your idea come from something that feels natural to you, something you believe in; don’t force it. If there is something you feel passionate about, something you can make a difference to, then write it down! It’s a start.
I was collecting ideas for Edie & Rona for almost 3 years before I took the leap to start the company, so don’t expect it to come overnight. My idea started with an inability to find inspirational notebooks and stylish desk accessories; I regularly worked from home for 20 years and daily motivation came from my surroundings, not from colleagues in an office. Then, on the days I was in a huge office, my confidence came from an organised folder of notes, the right pen and a pair of 4 inch heels! I needed my armour.
What does it mean to be a female tech entrepreneur and what challenges do you think women face in the industry?
For me, being a female tech entrepreneur, has opened my eyes to just how supportive women can be to each other. It feels different to corporate life where women (or men) will tread on you to get to the top; if you let them. In this world, more effort is spent on extending a hand to pull the next woman (or man) up with you. It’s the way it should be.
As for challenges, they are the same as in any competitive industry. Tech is allowing women to getting closer to the goal of having it all. We can work when we want, put in the hours we choose and most importantly we’ve moved out of our own way!
Overview of Edie & Rona:
Edie & Rona is a brand & website built by a desire to be Stylishly Organised in an increasingly busy world.
edieandrona.co.uk has been designed around a deliberate & thoughtful range of stationery, accessories & homeware products curated from the most elegant of brands. Shopping at Edie & Rona will soften the blow of having to work so damn hard.
The aim is to have a range of price points available; not everyone can afford a Studio Sarah London notebook but everyone should experience the same amazing packaging from Edie & Rona and our focus on Customer Service. There is something on the site to suit everyone.
Many people have asked about the company name. Edie and Rona were too very inspirational women from mine and my husband’s families.
Rona, was my Grandmother, the youngest of 9, she lived through the war, served as a Wren, moved to the Isle of Man and brought my Mum up without the support of a man by her side. She was incredible.
Edie, was Chris’s Grandma, who I unfortunately didn’t get to meet. She inspired her 5 grandchildren to cherish family and follow their dreams. That’s a Grandma’s job, right?
To find out more, read the full story.
How to find Edie & Rona: