On this week's team blog we hear from one of our brilliant co-founders. Kathryn Tyler talks about growing up in the Welsh Valleys, life with Mr Coop and her top #DoTheHustle tips.
I’m Kathryn and founded Digital Mums with my talented and inspirational friend Nikki Cochrane. I’ve lived in Hackney, East London for around 12 years now. I live with my fur baby Cooper, Mr Coop or Coop Dog for short. He’s a miniature English Bull Terrier and my favourite thing in the world ever - apart from Digital Mums that is!
I unwind from the craziness of the DMs container by doing yoga regularly. I love it and I have an amazing yoga studio, Stretch, nearby that has the best vibe and the best teachers so I’m super lucky from that respect. I compliment this with a sushi obsession.
In the beginning…
I was born in a Welsh Mining Valley and grew up in the 80s in the middle of the miners' strike. Unemployment was the norm and poverty was an accepted part of life. My family were on benefits and we didn’t have much growing up, but I did have lots of love and also a family that believed in me which is more important than money.
Having this personal experience has made me passionate about giving people the opportunity to do work that works for them. I'm also especially passionate about improving social mobility. My dad was the ultimate hustler. He was seriously into music and wanted an expensive valve stereo system (very geeky) but we had no money so he taught himself electronics and built his own amplifiers and speakers from scratch. We were the only people in the Valleys who had a stereo worth around £10,000! He also taught himself how to be a mechanic from books he got from the library and bought cars at auction and sold them to make us some extra money. The government didn’t take too kindly to this though as he was claiming invalidity benefits at the time and we got a visit from the DSS one day. I remember thinking it was crazy that he wasn’t allowed to do this because to me it was an attitude that should have been applauded!
Our next door neighbour was similarly-minded and used to import cigarettes and alcohol from France and sell them illegally - he stored them in our garage and we got raided by the CID in the middle of the night. I guess I was exposed to entrepreneurial activity from a young age - just not the legal kind!
My dad left school at 16 and I think he always regretted not going to university so when my parents realised I was academically gifted the decision was made that I would go even though no one in my family had ever stayed on at school beyond 16. I loved school because I loved hanging out with my friends making trouble. I didn’t enjoy the learning experience and was bored most of the time so I was pretty badly behaved but was lucky that I found the school work easy and got the grades I needed to study Molecular Genetics at Birmingham University. A very random career start compared to what I do now!
Working Life pre Digital Mums…
I spent three years working as a Geneticist, first in obesity research and then in HIV vaccine research but I hated it for reasons that I won’t bore you with here. I left, lied on my CV to get an admin job in a small charity by saying I’d been a PA for two years and hustled to get given more and more interesting work until they gave me the role of Communications Officer. From there I worked my way up to Head of Communications within the NHS and then Head of Digital Communications at the Innovation Unit because I was more interested in the online space and the exciting possibilities it offered. I then set up a social media agency with Nikki and the idea for Digital Mums was born soon after.
My motivation to set up my own business was to be able to get a dog but also to grow something that was mine that I was passionate about and, crucially, in control of. I was tired of not being able to make the important decisions.
Digital Mums life…
I now co-lead Digital Mums and am responsible for building our amazing training programmes and getting mums job ready. I also do all manner of other random business tasks like financial modelling, definitely a new one for me!
Top Digital Mums Moment…
My top Digital Mums moment was probably being interviewed by BBC Wales Today to talk about what we do - I had to walk through my old street looking wistful which was hilarious but I loved it. I love being on the telly. It’s a running joke at Digital Mums.
My #DoTheHustle tip…
I have a natural confidence that I worry borders on arrogance at times (I think it came from always coming top at everything at school) so hustling to me has always come naturally. It’s the thing that has enabled me to believe that I can set up a hugely successful business without any real experience behind me!
It’s hustling when you’re not feeling super confident in your ability that impresses me the most and I am always so inspired by our students who have lost their mojo but throw themselves in the new challenge of learning a new trade.
I think it’s easy to give practical tips but if you’re really scared about something it’s more about attitude than anything else. To any new graduate approaching a scary task I would tell them to write down five things they have achieved in the training that they never thought they could when they started and then I would tell them to give themselves a pep talk in the mirror repeating those things. Then send that email, make that phone call.
I won a Welsh writing competition at school and the judges didn’t believe I had actually written it myself they thought I had cheated so they visited my school to check up on me. I think a lot of children in the valleys were written off. I know that loads of my friends at school were told they would never amount to anything openly in the classroom - it was fairly accepted that people wouldn’t achieve so maybe they just couldn’t believe that someone from the Rhondda had won. They had to check my parents hadn’t ghost written it for me, which for anyone who has met my mum is actually a hilarious concept.
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