Co-Founder of Digital Mums
Nikki is Co-Founder of Digital Mums – a digital education business that is transforming the working lives of mums by empowering women with flexible work, educating mums with in-demand social media and digital skills via Social Media Management training programmes.
Women are connected to a powerful support community so they can find rewarding work that works around their families.
The aim is to enable more women to find flexible work, creating 21st century workplaces by supporting businesses to be more agile in their approach to the working day.
Nikki was formerly a social media marketer at M&C Saatchi who went on to set up Hackney Social, helping small local businesses with social media and digital marketing before setting up Digital Mums.
Nikki’s biggest inspiration is her Digital Mums business partner, Kathryn Tyler and together they have won multiple awards including Red Women of the Year, Marie Claire Future Shapers and Campaign Digital Mavericks.
Hi Nikki, Welcome to the Leadership Interview
How do you start your day?
My day usually starts around 6.30am. I check my emails and our company slack channels to catch up with the team. My team all work flexibly and are on before 8am, so there is usually a buzz on Slack about what’s going on that day and what’s happened the day before.
Next, I get ready for a dog walk in Victoria Park. Most mornings I meet my work-wife and business partner at 9am and we do our ‘walk and talk’ meetings in the park.
We come up with our best ideas on these walks. One idea being our new course the Digital Retox , which was developed to support women to get ahead of the game in this new technological era of work.
What was your first job and what was the worst job you’ve ever done?
The first job I ever had was a paper round. I was 13 years old. As soon as I was old enough to get a Saturday job, I worked in a shoe shop on Oxford Street and this was my first introduction to sales! We had to up-sell shoe cleaner to everyone at the till which always made me feel slightly awkward at age 15…
My worst job was around the same time when I worked in a local chemist on a Saturday and after school. My job was to dust all the shelves and it was so, so boring. I was really motivated to work at a young age though as I really wanted to make my own money as my mum would always say “money doesn’t grow on trees, you know”. So, it was a case of just getting on with it and then reaping the rewards on payday.
What advice would you give to others about furthering their careers?
The best advice I would give someone today is to invest in your own professional development – don’t wait for your employer to do this for you.
I left school without any qualifications and then did a degree in my early 30s. I did it with the Open University and it cost me around £10K back then. It was the best investment I’ve ever made in myself. It not only gave me confidence, but it also reignited my passion for learning.
I read an article recently which said the number of adults currently learning is at its lowest point since 1996, but now more than ever we need to reinvent ourselves to stay relevant to the working world. It’s estimated that the ‘half-life’ of skill sets will soon decrease to five years.
Over a thirty-year career – say age 32 to 62 – you’d need to update, refresh or completely retrain six times to stay relevant. A scary and sobering thought!
With the pace of advancing digital technology moving at the speed it does, retraining and future proofing your career couldn’t be more important.
At Digital Mums not only do we equip our students with new job ready skills, we do it in a nurturing environment, giving them practical hands-on experience while working in supportive peer groups which has a massive positive impact on their confidence – a huge barrier to many women returning to the workplace.
Who inspires you and why?
My business partner, Kathryn Tyler, is my biggest inspiration. Before becoming the brains behind Digital Mums’ learning methodology, which has supported over 1,800 women to date, she was a genetic scientist and then Head of Digital Communications at The Innovation Unit – the UK’s leading education consultancy, where she worked with the most innovative Education bodies throughout the world.
Working with Kathryn has taught me so much about leadership, partnership and most importantly education models that really work and get real results.
Anisah Osman Britton, is my next inspiration. She’s the 24-year-old serial entrepreneur and Founder of 23 Code Street, an organisation that teaches women to code. They have a one-for-one model where, for every woman who signs up to their course in the UK, they train someone in India for free.
I met Anisah over five years ago when we worked together for a corporate accelerator on Silicon Roundabout. I was in awe of this young woman who was so impressive, focused and driven. I love watching her journey and we’ve been friends ever since – she’s even worked with us on our Digital Retox course.
Molly Gunn is an absolute inspiration. She’s the brains behind Selfish Mother and the FMLY Store and has raised nearly £1million supporting a range of charities which support women and children all over the world, particularly in countries ravaged by war such as Afghanistan and Syria.
We started up around the same time and it’s been amazing watching her brand grow. It just goes to show the power of purpose driven businesses.
Finally, the Digital Mums team inspire me every day. Digital Mums wouldn’t be where it is today without them. Every day, I feel so grateful to be working with such amazing, talented people.
Do you think a talent to lead is nature or nurture?
As a psychology graduate, I would say it’s not as simple as being one or the other. Was I born a leader? I really don’t know, but on many occasions I was called bossy, which Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg would say was showing leadership qualities.
Being a leader in my eyes is being able to accept that you are not the finished article and that you have so much more to learn. Environmental factors will impact you, so surround yourself with smart people. I’m lucky, I’m surrounded by them.
I’m on a massive learning curve as a leader and Co-CEO of Digital Mums – it’s by no means easy, but I love it.
How can a leader fail?
I’ve had a couple of leadership fails in the last five years. I’m only human and far from perfect. I’m doing a job I’ve never done before, and we built a team of over 40 people in a relatively short time. But, what’s important in these instances, is not the failure, but what learnings you take away from them. It’s only then you can become a better leader for it.
Being able to admit your mistakes and learn from them is really important. You, and how you behave, are your company’s culture – that’s a massive responsibility, so you need to be honest and know when to hold your hands up.
What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
I consider my strength as being open to everything and willing to get stuck in and give things a go. But most importantly don’t be afraid to get it wrong the first time and then learn from mistakes.
You can’t break the internet is my motto – unless you’re Kim Kardashian! And this is something I’ve instilled across our company culture and our approach to training.
As for weaknesses, I’d say unfortunately I do battle with imposter syndrome.
It’s not something that I deal with on a daily basis, however it can creep in when you feel out of your comfort zone or doing something for the first time.
The way I deal with this is to just have a word with myself, remind myself what I’ve achieved in the past five years and continue to push myself out of my comfort zone to ensure I continue to learn and grow.
My other weakness is chocolate – I gave up sugar for six weeks once, I really need to do this again!
What do you find most challenging about being a leader?
Not always having the answers and having to figure things out as we go along can be challenging. We were the first business of our kind doing what we do, so there has been no one to learn from.
Every day there is a new challenge (some big, some small) but it can also be fun figuring it out. Testing, learning, reflecting is a massive part of the Digital Mums culture and embedded in our training model. We live and breath this way of working as do our students.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of building a business that has a positive impact on people’s lives.
When we set up Digital Mums, we wanted a business that puts purpose before profit. We’ve done that.
We get emails from women who tell us regularly how our training has had such a positive impact on their lives and how they now get to spend time with their kids and do a rewarding job at the same time. That for me is everything.
What’s your biggest indulgence?
My biggest self-indulgence ‘was’ up until recently online shopping. Instagram has made it so easy for people to shop, if you are a product based business and not on there, you are missing a trick!
I’ve now placed a self-imposed ban on Instagram shopping. It is, however, a great way to support independent businesses such as Selfish Mother, Scamp & Dude, Lobella Loves, Clemmie Telford and Don’t Buy Me Flowers.
Digital Mums is an online education expert delivering innovative training designed with mums in mind. To date, they’ve upskilled over 1,800 women with 4 in 5 finding work that works for them. Digital Mums’ latest training course, the Digital Retox, is a 7 week self-paced course that builds next-generation digital skills crucial to the modern workplace. To get ahead of the game, just click here for more info.
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