Head of Product & Design, Kate Stephen has been named: Most Customer-Focused Product Design Leader (UK)
Kate Stephen has been Head of Product Design at MachineMax for two and a half years, spearheading its product vision and strategy with the help of her team. As Kate earns success within Acquisition International magazine’s Influential Business Awards 2022, we speak with her to learn more.
Kate Stephen’s role at the company means she has seen the business, product, customers, and team change substantially. Her responsibility is to work with the company’s strategy and growth team to build on the product vision and strategy, and then work with her team to execute that in a way that meets the business values and goals, as well as customer needs.
Prior to MachineMax, Kate was in similar roles heading up UX design and research teams. She has worked in several different industries, including e-commerce, beauty, financial services, and now data and IoT. Her roles have focused on building out customer-centric, data-led design teams, understanding who is needed in the team, what skillset is required, and establishing the ways of working. In most of those places, Kate has introduced the concept of user testing and built out research capabilities.
Kate tells us about her experience of working in UX design. “When I started 10 years ago, UX and product was not a standard function within a business. There was a need for a good solid business case to invest in this skillset. Most businesses were either tech-led or sales-led and therefore required a large amount of internal change management to evolve the way of thinking to be customer-focused and problem-focused.
“This posed an interesting challenge and often pushed us to ‘practice’ UX within the business as well as in the product we were building. Now, UX and product are buoyant and front and centre of many companies – everyone is striving to be product-led.”
She continues, “My view is that as the functions have grown out and as more and more women take up leadership roles across product, design and engineering, it really opens opportunity and realisation of that opportunity to women trying to make their way in the tech industry.
“As a woman in tech, I’m contributing to a much wider goal – generating greater diversity, not only in the workplace but also in solutions we build. Whilst women continue to be underrepresented in many tech companies, MachineMax has many incredible women across our team, and I hope we can be role models for those looking to start out or take the next step in their career.”
So, what advice would Kate give to other women who are looking to succeed in the industry? “My advice to other women is to acknowledge that there is a level of inequality and lack of diversity in certain companies, roles, and at different levels within a business, but to take that and identify where you can have the biggest impact. How can you proactively drive change? Always push for more, don’t sit back and wait whilst others push for more.
“It is our jobs as women within the industry to drive change for others, so always think about how you can make an impact – you are not only driving change for yourself but also for others. Ask for more, be present, be vocal, and prove your worth the same as everyone else does – with output. Strive to be rewarded equally for that output.”
And as Kate looks towards the future, she will continue to do all she can to help women grow within the industry. This will be by showing them what’s possible and encouraging growth within her own teams, and mentoring and supporting others outside the team and business. Alongside this, she says, “I want to always be challenged. I want to learn new industries, solve new problems, meet and understand new customers. I want to continue to change the way people interact with technology to delight them.”
You can read the full winners supplement which is available here