Women In Tech –
An Interview with Tennessee Watt
Women In Tech –
An Interview with Tennessee Watt
Tech remains a male dominated industry, with data also showing that women are promoted less frequently than men.
On the journey towards gender parity we are increasing visibility, sharing stories, opening access and celebrating the small and big wins.
We asked Tennessee Watt, Brand Marketer at Google, to share her story of how she entered the tech industry, insights she’s gained from working in the sector and some of her personal experiences.
Tell us about your journey into Marketing & Comms? Why did you choose this path?
I always wanted to enter marketing and comms, so I studied business and finance for my undergraduate degree to get a broad understanding of how business worked. But I was keen to learn more about how the internet and technology would impact my future career as a marketer, so I pursued a MSc Management at Imperial focused on Innovation. This propelled me into digital marketing opportunities at different agencies. At one point I even specialised as a digital crisis analyst at a corporate PR firm. It was my first experience in a communications role where stakeholder reputation was the focus, rather than customer relationships. I quickly gained an interest in brand and reputation issues which led me to my current role at Google leading marketing for an initiative to diversify the tech industry.
What has surprised you the most about the industry?
I definitely started my career with the idea that I’d be a consumer-focused product marketer, but working on the corporate PR side showed me that every marketing role now needs an understanding of reputation and social impact issues. It’s interesting because it means that a social media intern at a beauty company needs to understand the reputational risk that comes with tweeting, and video producers need to know things like how to light darker skin correctly. It’s a time where brand and product knowledge is no longer enough to be a great marketer. There’s now a vast and complex social context to consider.
As a Black woman in tech how have you handled discrimination?
Discrimination in the UK is unique. It’s very covert and clandestine. For me it has meant facing microaggressions and stereotypes. It makes it hard to discern, which makes it challenging to fight back against. I definitely used avoidance techniques in the past, where I’d just hand my notice in. But I think, at the time, I didn’t have the language or theory to understand the nuances of it, so I felt disempowered. Now, with extensive knowledge of inclusive marketing best practices and critical race theory, I can more easily identify discriminatory behaviour and definitely stand up for myself.
“Everything diversity related tends to be big and flashy and I think it doesn’t have to be.”
Is there a gap or common thread you see across your work when it comes to inclusive storytelling for brands?
I believe that sustained inclusive campaigning is limited within marketing. I still get approached by brands most often to speak or create content in February and October, when it’s US and UK Black History Month. It’s a real shame, but it makes me feel bad for the consumers who are let down, those who see favourite brands go all out only for efforts to peter off a few weeks later. I think what the industry is missing is seamlessness. Everything diversity related tends to be big and flashy and I think it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to have the biggest influencer or celebrity front your campaign, or the huge partnership, but you must be making a consistent effort to engage with minoritised audiences. Even if it’s not the most PR worthy, but it’s making a difference, that’s what should matter.
What advice would you give to Black women who want to break into the tech industry?
Honestly, start with figuring out who you are and what you want from a tech position. There are so many opportunities in tech. Some are technical, like engineering or data science, and there are a range of non-technical roles including marketing, comms, research or insights. Doing a few online personality tests and just speaking with people in different roles can help you to identify what you’ll most enjoy. Networking is important. Get your CV in the right shape too, and ask people to help you prepare for interviews. Finally, I’d say to keep your options open. There is big tech, yes, but there are so many amazing startups and Web3 companies and even agencies that can give you a solid understanding of technology platforms and ecosystems.
Job Title : Brand Marketer at Google, Founder of Tennessee Watt Consulting
Bio: Tennessee Watt is a Brand Marketing Manager at Google working to inspire marginalised talent to become technologists. She is also the founder and director of Tennessee Watt Consulting, a diversity, equity and inclusion firm, where she supports a wide range of organisations to develop authentically inclusive campaigns, create equitable work cultures, identify minoritized suppliers and influencers, and react to trends within Black culture and social media at lightning speed.
She holds a Masters degree in Management and Innovation from Imperial College London, and a Bachelor of Science in Business and Finance from BPP University. Tennessee has been featured in Business Insider, PR Week, Campaign Magazine and more.