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IWD 2020: Harriet – Senior Product Manager at FutureLearn

For International Women’s Day 2020, we’re highlighting the experiences of women at FutureLearn who've proved that gender needn't be a barrier to achieving your goals.

Harriet Patterson, Senior Product Manager

Harriet Patterson is one of the Product Managers at FutureLearn and is responsible for identifying the best opportunities to improve how learners discover our courses and our site.

Read Harriet’s journey to a leadership position at FutureLearn and her advice for other women in leadership.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

I think this day gives us a moment to reflect on how far we have to go to get equality. It’s important to understand other women’s stories and to think about how we can create a space for everyone.

How did you get to this stage in your career?

I studied Geography at University and then went on to do a graduate scheme. During the graduate scheme, I got to work in different departments and roles – like the legal and editorial teams and in business development.

For my final placement, I became a product owner which was really my first experience managing a digital product.

Once my placement was over, I continued in the product owner job for a few more years. I was open to many career paths, but I knew I wanted aspects of management in my role.

When I saw the product manager role at FutureLearn it seemed to suit my skills and experience perfectly and the way I was challenged during the interview impressed me – I was excited to join the team. The support and encouragement I’ve had from my managers at FutureLearn since then has really helped propel me into a senior position.

What has been your experience working in a male-dominated environment?

Earlier on in my career, there were times when it felt like I was one of only a few women, and I very much felt like the youngest girl in the room. It affected the dynamic and I found it a lot harder to put my ideas out there at times.

I got great advice at the time and started preparing even more for meetings and thinking critically about every situation, which helped my confidence during the more intimidating times.

At FutureLearn, the dynamic is completely different. Teamwork is a huge part of my work which I think makes everyone a bit more equal because we’re all working together towards the same goal.

What advice would you give to other women in leadership positions?

  • Be prepared for meetings – it will help you feel confident no matter who’s in the room.
  • Even though it can feel awkward to be one of a few, don’t assume other people in the meetings/team will treat you differently and don’t be afraid to share your thoughts.
  • Always have the rationale and reasoning to defend a decision or put forward a new idea. 
  • Build trust and respect within your team and take the time to understand the people you work with, as they will then start to trust you too.
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