How to survive and live in high pressure work situations…can we have it all?

-Written by Laura, Anna & Sally, DevelopHer Board Members-

In January, DevelopHer board members Sally, Laura and Anna spoke at a fireside chat as part of GetaHead Wellness Week. The topic was on how to survive and live in high pressure work situations…and can we really have it all?
Although we’re not medical experts, we shared tips and advice on how we personally manage stress.


Below are the highlights of what we spoke about it:

What is pressure and stress?

It’s all about how you respond under the constraint of certain circumstances. It might be how you respond and manage yourself in either a work context or personal context. Sometime the urgency of this situation can create strong attention or distress on yourself.

Stress can be an emotional, mental, physical strain or tension based on how you react to a demanding situation.

What does it mean to have it all?

  • Understand and identify what ‘having it all’ means to you. Having it all can depend on your where you are in your life and what is important to you at the time:
    • Based on the Bravest Path Brene Brown coaching programme that Laura and Anna joined, we learnt that’ having it all’ refers to achieving what our values in life are. A value is a way of being or believing what’s most most important to you. Knowing what your 5 values are, can help you live your life focusing on achieving your values. By achieving your values, you can live a more meaningful live. So if ‘having it all’ connects back to achieving your 5 values in life – then yes you can have it all.

What does stress feel like to you?

When noticing stress, the three of us get the following symptoms:

  • Weight and strain on my shoulders (Laura)
  • Stress-eating on sugary snacks or caffeine related (Laura & Sally)
  • Lack of clarity – can’t think straight (Laura)
  • Over-working and lack of attention to other people or activities (Laura)
  • Short fused – things get to me quickly (Laura)
  • Inability to sleep (Anna & Sally)
  • Inability to settle down – feeling weird when you have a few hours of quiet (Anna)
  • Loss of appetite (Anna)
  • Need for lots of sensory stimulation such as music (Anna)
  • Back pain (Sally and Laura)
  • Feeling like I have FOMO (Sally)
  • Rumination when I cannot resolve something – think of it over and over again

Laura mentioned that it’s important to notice these elements before you get burnout as she often notices different symptoms when facing burnout such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Unable to sleep
  • Change in mood, typically lack sense of energy/happiness
  • Losing confidence in my capabilities

DevelopHer Wellness event

How do you manage stress?

    • Identify which situations create the most stress to you, and how you respond to them. Think about tracking what causes you to be stressed or what makes you feel the tension when you’re under pressure. Knowing your own symptoms and when it happens, can help you think about the small changes you can look to implement to help manage it.
    • Establish boundaries on what you take on, how you respond to
      people/friends and saying ‘no’.

      • Anna – when working with other time zones: edit your calendar so people can’t book in meetings past 5:30pm. Only join late meetings if it’s an absolute priority.
      • Anna/Laura – I never do work on the weekend or at home. I try to keep it to the office so that when I get home, I can focus on other things. This also helps condition me to not think about work at home too.
      • Laura – Set time for yourself, even if it means saying no to a couple of social events! Ensure you take time to re-charge your batteries without other people being around you.
    • Take time to recharge – and incorporate into a routine. Practice and find out what allows you re-charge yourself.
      • Exercising, releasing natural endorphins
        • Anna –  I’m goal-oriented so setting  goals so that I have to exercise – half marathons and triathlons to work towards – means you need to exercise every week to get there
        • Laura – I try to set 20 mins three-four times a week to at a home HIIT session. I also go to dance once a week even if its a busy period. Make sure you exercise in a way that makes you happy and that will motivate you to do it again! I’m not a gym person, so I don’t kid myself!
        • Sally – I love dancing, swimming & pilates. I also make morning walks on the weekend with my dad  into a consistent routine.
      • Meditate and learn to be calm – e.g. using headspace app is a great way to start practicing mindfulness.
      • Every morning I listen to a podcast whilst I get ready for work (Laura)
        • I also love Oprahs supersoul conversations  and masterclasses podcasts, and getting curious with JVN (Sally).
      • Try and create an ‘artist date’ for yourself once a month or week. An artist date is solo adventure that I fully dedicate myself into for 2–3 hours e.g. going for a walk, reading a book, attending a class (Laura)
        • Sally loves the quote “time spent without purpose” by Brene Brown, give yourself space.
      • Do something that makes you feel good and energises you – Sally loves singing in groups
  • Maintain a healthy diet
      • Laura  – When I’m stressed I normally reach for high sugared snacks and caffeine based products. However it makes me feel quite low in energy and I lose control of when to stop. I try and food prep on Sundays to avoid going down the slippery slope during the week.
      • Anna – I try to eat what I want but in smaller portions, try not to be too restrictive so that I don’t think about eating – e.g. big lunch, very small dinner
      • Sally – I’m a fish eating vegetarian. I have always eaten healthy. I don’t drink much and don’t do drugs.
  • Keeping organised
      • Sally – I use a table diary and make lists. I also plan my day, the day before so I don’t wake up in a panic! Give yourself time to process.
      • Anna – Give yourself realistic deadlines, then add a few working days to when you think you can actually deliver something – its gives you less pressure.
      • Laura – Alongside to-do lists, I block out time in my calendar on individual tasks that I want to focus on – whether it’s for high priority tasks or self development, try and block it as a meeting in your diary.
      • Laura – I also colour coordinate my calendar, anything work or meeting related I colour it red. Anything personal that is time for myself, colour it green (even if its spending time to go for lunch or seeing friends). I try and make sure if my calendar is red, that I’ve put some green in there too to balance it out.
  • Letting go of your perfectionism
      • Laura – Avoid putting on self pressure by being too much of a perfectionism. Take 1-2 small steps each week on making changes e.g. challenge yourself to give more liberty to people working on projects. Or try doing a project in a different way then your normal tactics, to challenge how you work on something.
      • Anna – be kind to your self
      • Anna – give realistic deadlines – add a few working days to when you think you can actually deliver something – gives you less pressure to be stressed out on tight deadlines.
      • Sally – be prepared to be uncool – cut loose
  • Practicing gratitude

    • Anna – Celebrate the small things in life too
    • Anna – Be glad about friends, and speak to them when needed
    • Laura – Make sure you spend time to celebrate your hard work without moving on to the next task too quickly. Find a way to do this, whether it be updating your CV, sending thank you notes or taking the time in your day to say ‘that was pretty good, well done’.
    • Laura – remember to be thankful to those who helped you and say it out loud. If you’re ever feeling burnout, I like to use positive cognitive therapy which was suggested to me by a friend. This involves writing the 10 things that I’m grateful on a piece of morning, and read through it every morning and every night.d3ea2a98-5c71-4f57-9a66-ff3dc76e8d89.JPG

Our Reading List

Here is also our suggested reading list which might also help you manage your own stress:

  1. Seven Habits of Highly effective people – Stephen R Covey
  2. The road less travelled by M Scott Peck
  3. Daring Greatly by Brene Brown
  4. Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown
  5. Poems for Grown Women
  6. How to own the room by Viv Groskop
  7. Thrive by Arianna Huffington


Your Bravest Year Coaching 2018

-Written by Laura Chung, Founding Member of DevelopHer –

As we come towards the end of 2018, the DevelopHer team have been reflecting on some of the amazing work we’ve done this year. One highlight (out of many!) for us included launching our Coaching Programme.

In March, DevelopHer & The Bravest Path came together to provide our community a 6-month coaching programme to live their ‘bravest self’ in 2018. In total, 18 participants out of a hundred applicants were selected to take part, to receive a combination of group and one-to-one coaching sessions on the ground-breaking research of Dr Brené Brown.

The program was designed to enable women to take steps to realise their aspirations and feel brave. Over the 6 months each participant was coached on the following topics:

  1. Personal Values
  2. How to be authentic and create connected relationships
  3. Building a more resilient and joyful you
  4. Overcoming perfectionism & practising self comparison
  5. Daring Greatly and Living BIG.

“This is a fantastic coaching program. They’ve helped me find myself, my values in turn truly live to my capabilities. I’ve also met a fantastic group of amazing and inspiring women in the industry, who I’m lucky enough to call my friends now.”
Omi Ducat, Coachee


The Results:

As the 6-month coaching program came to and end in July, DevelopHer hosted a ‘Be Brave’ speakeasy sponsored by TransferWise, where each participant gave a 2 minute overview on what they learnt and what this journey meant to them infront of family, friends and the DevelopHer community. We also had Flora Coleman, Head of Government Relations at Transfer wise share her experience on finding a mentor, and how it was valuable to her.

After the event, we heard back from our participants and found that the coaching programme was able to provide a valuable support mechanism and give the ladies the opportunity to progress their career goals, feel more confident and make braver decisions.

  • 100% of participants were either extremely satisfied (71%) or satisifed (29%) with the program
  • 100% of participants believed they have now made braver decisions on a regular basis since starting the program
  • 94% of participants feel significantly more confident since starting the program
  • 94% of women believed this program helped progress their career goals
  • 24% of participants had received a promotion since starting program
  • 35% of participants had received a job offer or changed jobs since starting the program

“This coaching programme has had a huge impact on my life, and everyone deserves to know and benefit from Brené Brown’s powerful research. If you are debating whether to sign up and the thought of living bravely makes you nervous – this programme is what you need! Take a leap of faith, believe in yourself and the rest will follow. 
Phoebe Ashworth, Coachee

We are hugely thank you to all the ladies who were brave enough to apply for the programme and made themselves accountable of taking risks throughout the journey. A big thank you to Bravest Path for partnering with us to give our ladies a great coaching experience. And finally thank you to Transferwise for sponsoring the celebration speakeasy, Syzygy and Sprinklr for sponsoring the coaching meet up events and Qubit for sponsoring our kick off event.


Considering if coaching is for you?

We asked Bethan Davies, our Bravest Path Coach in the DevelopHer Coaching Programme to give a few tips on whether coaching is right for your personal or career development.

What is coaching and how does it differ to mentoring?

Firstly, be clear if it’s a coach or a mentor you need.

Coaching differs to mentoring in that coaches do not offer advice or opinion. They trust that you are the expert on you, and by having a supportive and challenging partner you can co-design the best solution that will be the most effective and sustainable.
Mentoring is a relationship where often someone shares the benefit of their learning, and ultimately may advise you on what you should or could do. Mentoring can be very useful depending on the timing of your career, but may not always affect behavioural change and can create dependency on others. Coaches help people to think for themselves, by giving them a safe space and time to explore an issue, where the quality of their questions help challenge, reframe and help them form and take tangible actions on the output of thought. It builds courage, as the coachee develops self-trust to listen to themselves

What is the top tip you would give to someone looking for a coach?

When looking for a coach its important to try a few out to make sure you get the best “fit” for you. Coaching is like dating – you need to make sure the chemistry is right!

Request testimonials, and examples of where your coach has helped someone achieve their targets – credible coaches should be able to provide these and contacts to speak with further.

To ensure your success, take some time to reflect on what you would like to be different at the end of the coaching process, where are you now and how will you know when you’ve reached your goal? What does success look, feel or sound like to you? Coaching is not a cosy tea and chat, its an action and outcome orientated process where progress can be measured against your goals, and a coach provides the accountability to maximise your chances of making it happen.

What qualities do you feel people should look for when identifying the right coach for them?

Trust is critical. You need to feel safe and supported by your coach. They should challenge and provoke you. A little discomfort can be useful, as a skilled coach should be pushing the limits of your comfort zone and encouraging you to step into a place where true growth happens.  Someone that listens beneath the surface, to not only what you are saying, but what you are not saying is important. Your coach doesn’t need to be an expert in your industry or area, in fact often the best coaches have little to no knowledge about the subject, as it enables them to be truly unbiased and curious.

In order to get the most out of coaching;

  • Bring your most important topics and be clear on the outcomes you want
  • Be prepared to be fully open and honest with yourself and your coach
  • Allow time immediately before and after the coaching session to mentally prepare and reflect
  • Challenge yourself and be brave!
Coaching has the power to facilitate deep behavioural change, and if the motivation is there, can be a powerful and transformational experience to achieve the results you want.


You can also read some of the personal journeys our coachees blogged during the 6 months for inspiration on whether coaching is for you:


Welcome to DevelopHER

To our wonderful members,

We are extremely excited to announce that we’ll be launching under the new name DevelopHER, and will be partnering closely with StartHER in Paris as well as a number of other organisations supporting women in technology worldwide.

Thank you for bearing with us while we’ve taken the time to get our new community initiative right. We are as committed as we’ve ever been to elevating women in technology and will pursue our mission of giving women the same professional, personal and political opportunities as men.

We will be transparent about our plans for the future, finances, and team.

We are committed to you, and will always do what is best for you and our wider community.

We will welcome everyone – inclusive of all genders, experiences, and backgrounds. We are best when we work together.

DevelopHER events and programmes will start running in September and in the meantime please do reach out to us with any questions you might have.

Here’s to an incredibly bright future, we can’t wait to see you all again soon,

Team DevelopHER


Contact us:  Twitter , Facebook , Email

In conversation with: Yasmina Siadatan from “The Apprentice”

Yasmina Siadatan

Every month, we catch up with London’s top girls in tech. In 2013, Yolina from Thoughtworks gave all graduates some useful tips, this month we chatted with Yasmina Siadatan.

Yasmina is an entrepreneur and BBC’s “The Apprentice” series five winner. When she is not running the award-winning restaurant she co-founded – Mya Lacarte – she is the Creative Director at Start Up Loans Company, a government funded scheme to provide loans and mentors for entrepreneurs.

Q: How can one know if being an entrepreneur is the right choice?

A: If you’ve got a feasible business idea – because you need an idea – and if you are prepared to put in the hard work, I think you should definitely come forward and explore becoming an entrepreneur. Running your own business is not easy and not everyone is able to do it. If you can show in a business plan that:

a) you know where your revenue is coming from,

b) you know who your competitors are,

c) you know how you’re going to be able to supply that product to the market,

plus, if you’ve got the confidence and the streak of character to do it, then we definitely would urge you to come forward and apply for a loan with the Start Up Loans Company.

Q: What advice you would you give to a person at the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey?

A: I think the piece of advice I’d give is “Don’t wait around!”. Time goes so quickly, because often when you’re at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey you think “I’ll put it off another year” but it doesn’t get any easier. If you have an idea, you should just go for it!

Q: Having been in the TV program “The Apprentice”, you must know media very well. What would be your marketing advice to startup entrepreneurs?

The Apprentice TV Lord Sugar

A: Nowadays, so many things are important. You need to get your branding right, social media is also essential. You need to have a good website and it has to be, in my opinion, responsive to mobile and tablets because so much traffic comes from mobile phones, so you have to consider that from the beginning. Having a good presence on Facebook and Twitter is a really easy and quick way to get the message out to the right client. And if you’re based on location I would strongly advise to go and speak to the other businesses and neighbors in your area and develop a strong network. Go and speak to people, meet with them, go to the right events, just put your face and name out there. At this stage in your business, because you don’t have a heritage, your business strength relies on your brand and you have to build it by PR-ing yourself. This is a very cost effective way to market your business and product.

Q: Let’s talk women and entrepreneurship.

A: Typically the percentage of entrepreneurs is always skewed towards males and it always has been. In the UK, women make up only 19% of registered company owners, whereas the number of women coming forward to the Start Up Loans Company is 37%. It’s a lot more than the national average and we’re of course very proud of that. We believe that the statistic is so much higher because:

  1. The job market is much more fragmented now, it’s much more difficult for everyone in general to get jobs now, including women, so more people are looking towards entrepreneurship as a viable career option
  2. The Start Up Loans Company scheme is particularly attractive to both men and women because it’s a government scheme. Everything we do, from branding to communication, we make sure to attract both genders and even though we talk about business, (often considered a masculine topic) we make sure that in our imagery we highlight more women than men, I would say, so that the scheme doesn’t feel targeted to men only.
  3. We also lifted the age cap, we were only offering loans to people aged 18 to 30, but now one demographic we’re very much interested in targeting is women returning to work after they have had children. Mainly professional women in their mid-30s and 40s that want to go back to work but not in a 9-5 environment. Because of the cost of childcare, they’d rather stay at home and set up their own business from there, so they apply for a personal loan. Being an entrepreneur suits the modern mum lifestyle.

Q: What role does technology play in startups nowadays?

A: It’s hard to define technology. If by technology you mean a business involving technology, there’s not one that isn’t. Mainly all of our businesses have websites and use computers and generally all of them have a presence on social media. Tech is at the heart of any startup. But if we talk about businesses where tech is the core of the business itself, like businesses revolving around an app or software, then we’ve seen at the Start Up Loans Company that the technology sector ranks 2nd. It’s a growth industry here in the UK and we’ve got the skills set in this country as well, with people coming out of university having degrees in that area and turning their hobbies into a business, which is great.

Q: How does the Start Up Loans Company work?

A: It is an independent company fully funded by government, which we’ve been set up to provide loans and mentorship to people who want to start their own businesses. These loans are small-sized loans; the average loan is £5,700. Loans are repayable over a 5-year term at a 6% interest rate. We require no collateral or security on these loans, which are not provided by traditional financial routes (i.e. banks), but are provided in order to get people off the ground who want to start businesses. So far, we have loaned to 9,800 businesses and we’re aiming to reach the 10,000 goal quite soon. In only 13 months, this is quite an achievement. Our goal is to help 25,000 businesses by 2016, as we’re working at the pace of 30 businesses every day.

Startup loan company

Q: What are the requirements to apply for a loan?

A: We accept people into the program at the very beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, those who have a fully prepared business plan, or those who are already trading. However, we only accept businesses that haven’t traded for longer than 12 months. If they have an idea we help them turn it into a business plan and get it funded, as well as provide a mentor for 12 months. Every loan gets a mentor based on the need of that business.

Know someone who could be featured in this series? Get in touch!

In conversation with: Yolina Sotirova

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 14.43.54

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc


Every month, we catch up with London’s top girls in tech. This week we chatted with Yolina Sotirova, a Graduate Consultant at ThoughtWorks.

Q:What is it like to be a woman who’s in a technical world?

A: It is not as scary as it sounds. As long as you get over the fact that you will have to work with know-it-all men every day, it is just great! I find it very empowering and inspiring, being part of the industry that drives the change and innovation in the world nowadays. There is no better feeling than seeing the product you have spent weeks and months of work, being used and appreciated by others who are in need.

Q: What is one piece of advice you’d offer women who want to work in tech?

A: The tech world is big and exciting, but not as scary as it seems. There is a right place for everyone, you just need to take a leap and find it. The only things you need to have are passion and love for tech, and determination. Then, you are as good as everyone else out there. And frequently even better than a lot of people.

Q: Can you share one awesome and one not-so-great experience you’ve had concerning the stigma of women in tech?

A: Awesome:
My first project in TW involved a functional programming language called Clojure. I got really into it and I started attending various user groups and trainings related to it. Last month I attended my first EuroClojure conference. There were 2 female speakers in the programme, both were so awesome! They were so geeky, techie and very confident, they inspired me and motivated me to be like them one day, to get up on the stage and give a talk about the new programming language I put together myself. Furthermore, the whole community is great. The ratio of men to women is way too small, but this does not make it an unsafe and stressful environment at all, even the opposite – people are friendly and willing to talk to you, share with you and learn from you.

I have been in multiple situations, where in a group during a technical discussion, I have been ignored in various ways from the conversation. Some people just tend to assume by default that if you are a woman, you don’t know enough to bring value to the discussion. Well, as a result, I just had to start learning to be more aggressive and make my word heard during discussions.

Q: What can be done to prompt more women to choose a career in tech?

A: I believe that to lead by example is the best way to go. More opportunities, where school and university girls could meet successful women in IT, would be very inspiring and motivating for them. I think part of the reason girls get scared away from an IT career is because they don’t actually get to meet women that are already in the field. A majority of university computer science professors are male. Mentoring programs for school girls – being able to meet, work and be taught about programming and technology by women already in IT, could help them gain more confidence that being a female technologist is something achievable. Girls need to have role models from a very early age. They need to see how cool and fun it is to be a geek.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the next big trends in tech business?

A: Functional programming languages and big data analytics – two very cool things that are rising up and will find their place on the tech scene in the foreseeable future.

Q: Tell us a little about ThoughtWorks and its commitment to creating a socially and economically just world.

A: ThoughtWorks is an amazing place to work at – a safe and nurturing environment, where people are bright and energetic, filled with positivity and drive for change. TW empowers you to be brave, to think out of the box and try to influence the world in your way. For example, in the summer they had organized a TW EU Dragons Den where we were pitching ideas for different projects (related to innovative technologies, delivering more business value to the company, contributing to the community). The prize was the support with time, funds and resources from TW to turn those ideas into reality.

ThoughtWorkers are encouraged to get involved in all kinds of open source projects, fundraising initiatives, volunteering work and much more. We try to find ways to influence the world in a positive way through technology. We are involved in various projects in healthcare, education, global development and activism, where we try to give our contribution for a better society. A great example is the contributions that many ThoughtWorkers have done, as part of the initial project or in their free time, to develop RapidFTR – a mobile app to help field workers reunite children with their families after big disasters. One of the main reasons behind TW having offices in countries like Uganda, South Africa, Brasil and Ecuador is to try and bring less privileged people into the world of technology, giving them a chance to develop their capabilities, regardless of their background or education.

Q: Why did you choose a career with ThoughtWorks?

A: I have been doing maths and programming since I was 10 years old, so when the time came for me to decide what I want to do for living, it kind of came out naturally to me. IT is just part of my life, I love it and I enjoy it immensely. I have been with TW as a grad for 10 months now.

Thoughtworks is a global technology company whose mission is to better humanity through software and help drive the creation of a socially and economically just world. You can catch Yolina and ThoughtWorks CTO, Rebecca Parsons, at their event tomorrow (November 20) – Let’s Talk About Women in Technology.