Episode 03 – Katy Bradshaw: The Extraordinary Ordinary Series.

Katy is a currently a brilliant Test Engineer, paving the way for girl coders across the world. She graduated with a first-class honors degree in Information Systems, and ever since has gone from success to success in her career as well as her personal life, the latter of which is really important to her.

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What makes Katy so extraordinary? When I asked Katy how she would summarise herself, she said ‘Northern, small, sarcastic and loves a good cuppa’, and this is why I think she’s incredible. This woman is paving the way in a male-dominated industry and has one of the strongest worth ethics I have ever witnessed, and yet she’s so modest in her description of herself.

Katy is a strong friend, devoted wife, passionate dog mum and avid reader. I love to share books with her and we regularly give each other a text to let the other know if we have read something brilliant. Her commitment to putting family first is inspiring, and I really respect her refreshing honesty when it comes to self-care, mental health and well-being.

So, here’s Katy’s answers to my twelve questions:

What makes you happy?

There are actually quite a lot of things that make me happy.

Things like hearing the rain when i’m camping, the smell of a new book, hearing laughter, playing with a dog, feeling warm sand under my feet, reading a good book, watching lord of the rings, getting into bed just after a shower when the sheets are new/cleaned and obviously food. Ultimately if I know that those I love are happy, I tend to feel a contentedness that I cannot explain.

Which book had the biggest impact on your life?

This is actually a really hard question for me. Books are my life and I always take something away from each book I read. I would probably have to say that Harry Potter has had the biggest impact overall and taught me a lot as I grew. One example of this, is a section in ‘The Deathly Hallows’ (possibly my favourite paragraph of them all) when Potter reveals himself to defend Prof McGonagall, because Amycus – the dirty snake spat at her. Loyalty and respect right there. 🙂

However, books like ‘In order to Live’, ‘White Swans’ and ‘Eggshell Skull’ have had a profound impact on my after reading (even during to be honest) and I am in awe of those women and strive to be as strong as them.

What quote or saying do you live your life by?

There are 3 specific quotes that resonate with me but the most important to me is probably:

“If you want to know what a man’s like, take a good look at how he treats his inferiors not his equals”

I fully believe that everyone deserves kindness and respect, no matter their background or circumstances (Unless that person is Dolores Umbridge of course) and I would never treat someone in a way I wouldn’t wish to be treated myself.

How do you remain or regain your focus?

I’m a big lover of a todo/checklist. I get a lot of satisfaction from been able to tick something off a list. I get a sense of accomplishment no matter how trivial or small the item. I think that’s a big part of where my focus comes from.

A sneaky tip specifically suited to work – I always make a list of things I need to do the following day to help keep me motivated (I tend to stop at 6 – too many and you can get overwhelmed which does the opposite).

If I’ve lost my focus, which can happen as I tend to get antsy and most of the time I can’t quite pinpoint why. One of the first things I do is get up and have a quick wander about; even if its a quick 2 minute wander it tends to help clear my mind. A lot of the time, grabbing a cuppa helps me to refocus..

What inspires you?

The women in my family have to be the main source of my inspiration. They are all incredibly strong, passionate and determined people. I couldn’t imagine a life without them as they’ve made such an impact, even those that are no longer here still inspire me. I’m also inspired by everyday things, and people. Everyone’s mind works in a slightly different way and especially in my job it’s something I notice a lot. There’s never just one way to look at something and that in itself inspires me to always keep pushing.

What are your top three priorities?
  • Family,
  • My dogs
  • My friends.

I know these are ‘cliche’ answers but it’s the truth. Without these three things my life wouldn’t be enjoyable. I know that people say you should make yourself a priority, and while I agree (and would probably tell people the same) – My nature has always and most likely will always be to put others first; I care too much about others. No matter what headspace I’m in, if I know someone I care about is struggling, I will reach out and do whatever is in my power to help them through it.

What is the biggest misconception that people have of you?

That I am always positive and happy.

I also feel like this is one of the biggest misconceptions people have to date for anyone. I’m not going to lie, I am happy and I do have a positive outlook on life for the most part. However, there are also times when I don’t want to get out of bed, don’t want to talk to anyone, where I want to scream at the world or have a good cry, and I don’t have an explanation or reason as to why, other than that’s just how I feel. It’s sad, actually, because my anxiety keeps me from enjoying things as much as I should at this age. Fear is inevitable, I have learnt to accept that, but I am working on trying not to allow it to paralyze me.

You never truly know what’s going on in a person’s life unless they talk to you about it. Judging people on their outward appearance and making the assumption that “that’s just who they are” is wrong. I believe that with the push to focus more on invisible disabilities this misconception will go away in time, and i look forward to when it does and people won’t be ashamed to be honest.

What two purchases have you made this year that you really value or have had the most impact? 
  1. Marriage Certificate – While there were a lot of other purchases around this specific one, this was the reason behind them all and was, for me the most important.
  2. Solicitors Fees – An odd one I know, but this meant that we were able to sell our house in Nottingham and move to Manchester with fewer complications.

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Top tips for someone who wants to do what you do for a living/work in your field?

Current role – Test Engineer at a Consultancy Firm. Previous role – Quality Engineer for a financial Services company

When I started out on my career in IT I had no idea just how many options were out there. I also had no idea what I would be good at or what I would enjoy doing for the long haul. I was lucky and able to start on a 2 year rotation scheme that allowed me to spend 6 months in a role learning the ropes and testing the waters before settling on a specific role at the end of the 2 years.

Testing as a career is now kind of split between manual and automation testing. If you didn’t have a technical background but wanted to move into this career, showing the core skills and having a passion for learning would be enough to help you get started in a manual testing job – not all companies have the need/resources for automation.

Once you’ve gained the experience you can then look at if you’d want to move into a more development style role with a company that did have the need/resources for automation. If you wanted to get involved in an automation based role (which has all kinds of buzzwords – Software Engineer In Test, Quality Engineer, Developer In Test, Automation Tester etc), then ideally you would need a tech background – this doesn’t necessarily have to be a degree in technology, having a passion for it and working on it in your spare time – uploading projects to GitHub, developing App/Websites that you can show in interviews etc. are all good ways of showing the skill set. Obviously having a technology inclined degree – maths, computer science, networking etc. would help towards this.

A lot of people think that testing is easy or not particularly ‘technical’, I disagree. As a tester, you not only need to understand the requirements but you also need to think about how that piece of work fits into the bigger system and how it would be used and then define those scenarios; both positive and negative and test them. It’s not so much about ‘breaking the code’ but about making sure its robust enough. Ultimately, the people using what you’ve built have no context of APIs or Micro Services, most of the time they think double clicking something is ‘just how you make it work’ and as a tester you need to make sure you use the system as they would.

I feel like i’m rambling a bit here so i’ll shut up – The main skills I would say a Tester needs to have are;

  • Focus
  • Love of problem solving
  • An eye for detail
  • keen to learn
  • Big picture thinking – Being able to picture the whole system
What are you most proud of that you’ve achieved?

This is a tough one for me as it’s not something I tend to think about. However, someone asked my mum a few months ago how she felt having 3 successful children.

I’m not going to lie, I laughed about it as I’ve never really seen myself as successful. I’ve just plodded along, pushing myself when I felt I wasn’t trying as hard as I could. Most people say graduating is their proudest achievement, and while i’m pretty chuffed about it, that’s not the first thing that comes to mind. I would have to say that I am proudest of who I am today. It’s something that’s harder to measure than an object or being that you can point to and say, that’s my proudest achievement, but knowing that my grandparents are proud of me, and of who I’ve become is what really matters, even with all my other flaws.

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An unusual habit of yours?

While I didn’t find it unusual – most likely because I’ve grown up with the habits. Fiddling with a label in clothing tends to help me stay calm and relaxed and I tend to do it unconsciously. I’ve also been told the fact I iron my bedding is weird – but with OCD I would never be able to settle knowing the sheets on my bed are creased so I’ll live with it.

What do you do every single day?

On an average day I will kiss my husband goodbye when I leave the house: Whether he’s asleep or not – You never know what can happen so I always give him a cheeky kiss. I always like to have a chinwag with the dogs – normally Harry, as Mol is too grumpy to grace me with any type of response. Ultimately though, this really depends on the situation. For example, If I get up last I will make the bed as i’ve always held the belief that a tidy bed leads to a tidy mind. I also try to make sure I take some time to unwind each day, that can be done in a manner of different ways – reading a book, walking the dogs, watching a film, playing a board game with John, also with my OCD tidying and sorting can also come under the unwind category ironically.

Thank you Katy. You answers are brilliant and really gave me a lot of food for thought. I agree with making the bed each day, it really does just start the day right! 

So, what is her key advice?

  • Be proud of who you are today
  • Everyone deserves kindness and respect, no matter their background or circumstances
  • To Do / Checklists really help to keep you focused
  • Thinking someone is okay because they look it on the outside is one of the biggest misconceptions we all have these days. It’s important to dig deeper and help. It’s important we are not ashamed to be honest about how we feel.
  • Try different roles to find one you really love.

Enjoyed this interview and want to read more? Look no further then here.

Let’s Talk About Content Marketing Strategy: What You Should Be Posting

Content marketing is becoming more important to digital marketers and marketing teams. Google’s algorithms are looking at whether your site includes quality content that reflects the more specific searches made by your audience on search engines.

People have access to so much content these days they are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing what to invest their time in and read. You need to make sure that your content is appealing, engaging and interesting enough to capture them, get them to click through, and keep them reading.

So how do we go about doing that? We need to make sure that we have mastered the content marketing basics before we go about creating and distributing.

Golden Rule Number One:

Make it relevant, make it unique, make it readable.

Content needs to have a function. It should at least be one of the three things below, but it could even encompass bits of all!

  • Amusing or Enjoyable
  • Informative
  • Interesting

When writing your content, think about your end goal. If you are wanting to sell more holidays, promote travel writing pieces to the destinations you fly to.

You also need to really be aware of who you are targeting. You need to be sharing content your audience relate to, and make sure you share it on the platforms that you know they visit regularly.

So let’s talk a little more about the content functions, and give an example to bring them to life.

Informative Content:

Content that helps people to understand, learn and develop. You give your customers something, in this case, new knowledge, and in return, they become more aware of your brand and what you have on offer. Some examples include:

  • Travel websites such as RyanAir. We know that they promise cheap flights across Europe and wider. What we might not know however is anything about the destinations which they have on offer. RyanAir have a destination guide that gives you insider advice about the cities they fly to. This makes travellers have more of an insight into what’s on offer, and perhaps encourage them to book flights to somewhere new.
  • A how-to guide from an expert in their field. Think about content such as How to make healthy and tasty food from Jamie Oliver, Top Ten Fiction Writing Tips from Stephen King. You get the gist.

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Interesting Content:

Get your audience interested. Teach them something new that they will probably want to share and talk about with others.

This slightly overlaps with Informative Content, but it lends itself to being more creative and visual. Interesting content can include:

  • An individuals’ opinion piece, maybe a reviewer’s insight on the latest films, or what they thought about the Academy Awards and who won.
  • A history of how something has developed, such as how a chocolate bar has changed over time and why.

Amusing or Enjoyable:

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The easiest content to think about, but the most difficult to create and get people to engage with. The problem with this function is that the content needs to be done well if it is going to be entertaining. You need to appeal to your customers, provide something unique and make sure it is actually amusing.

Examples can include:

  • Funny cat compilation videos
  • Sporting highlights
  • Buzzfeed lists such as ‘Things most people remember from high school’.

Golden Rule Number Two

What should you produce?

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There are several insights that can help inform your content marketing strategy. These will tell you what kind of content you should be publishing, what area it should fall into (Enjoyable, Interesting or Imformative) and where you should be posting it.

These insights can be gathered by:

  1. Looking at the people you are targeting. You can use a range of tools to look at your audience and try to create content that will appeal to different segments of people who are interested in your brand.
  2. Google Analytics can help you by providing insight into what keywords are bringing certain people to your site. You can then write content around these searches to ensure you bring the same people back again and again. It also tells you the demographics of your website visitors, their behaviour flows (how they navigate around your site) and what devices they might view your content on. If most people are mobile users, is your content easy to navigate and scroll through on a phone? Is it is visual and easy to understand and digest on a short commute?
  3. Social Media Analytics can tell you what people are saying about your brand online. They give you insight into what content is engaging people, what posts are encouraging people to click through to your site and read your content and when the best time to post new content is.

What content can you produce?

  1. Articles

You can write about what you know, give opinion pieces, or if you want to make them entertaining, break them up with lots of visually appealing images.

  1. Infographics or blog graphics and timelines

Make quick, easy to digest infographics that inform people about what you do, an area you specialise in or services you have on offer. Great for sharing socially.

  1. Guides and Lists

People love lists, and they are always looking for how-to guides on the internet. If you have experts working within your organisation, get people to share their knowledge. If you want to write an entertaining top ten, do it! If you are a hairdresser, maybe write about the top ten best celebrity hairstyles from the latest awards show or film premiere. Entertaining, and draws people to your business.

  1. Videos

Videos are leading the way in future content. People love videos, and by including one in your marketing or social media feeds, you will likely increase engagement by a large percentage.

  1. Social Content

People, especially millennials, are often taking in online information and content for many hours of the day. They read from their phones whilst they commute, they check forums during their lunch break and they catch up on social media after dinner. Make sure you are reaching them.

Innocent Drinks on Twitter have a great social content strategy, in that their tweets are incredibly entertaining, rarely promotional and all-in-all fun to read. They have such a large follower base because of this. Make your social content stand out. Make sure it entertains, informs or interests people.

  1. Interviews and Insights

Talk to someone your audience would be interested in. Document their views online or share the live interview on your YouTube channel.

Golden Rule Number Three

Measure, Analyse, Engage and Improve.

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So you have just pressed the publish button, that’s great news. But the fun doesn’t stop there.

The next steps are just as important when looking at content strategy.

  1. Measure the success of your campaigns. You need to look at how well they are doing. How many people click through to the new content? Where do they then go from here? Are they completing goals such as registering for further email updates or booking a flight?
  2. Analyse the people looking at your content. What age are they, what device are they using, where are they located? This way you can ensure that whatever you post next is more personalised towards your audience. Personalisation is so important, and you need to make sure you are one step ahead of the game.
  3. Improve your content. Take what you have learnt above and apply it. Apply and repeat until you have met your targets and goals consistently.

All of the above is really a beginning guide to content marketing. Over the next three weeks I will look at different levels of content marketing and how you can develop your strategy as an organisation – so stay posted!

Remember Golden Rule No.1:

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