In Conversation with Michelle Hua

Michelle Hua, Founder & CEO of Made With Glove, speaker and consultant, is based in Newcastle UK. Michelle helps highly skilled tech entrepreneurs, senior executives and employees make their next career move to the UK without the need for a company sponsorship.  She also consults for companies, organisations and individuals by helping them solve their business innovation challenges, look for new opportunities and connect them with her extensive network in digital technologies. You can visit Michelle’s website at www.michellehua.co.uk, follow her on Twitter, and connect with her on Linkedin.

Made With Glove is such an innovative idea with a feminine focus. Have you always been interested in technology? When did you decide to combine that with fashion?

Thank you for your kind words. My interest in technology came about when I entered and subsequently won a wearable technology hackathon in Manchester in 2014.  Made With Glove was born as a result and we are now developing wearable tech heated gloves.  I was really surprised to see how much technology can enhance our lives and play a part in innovation and product development. Combining it with fashion was just my own way of understanding how I could add my experience and personality into building my product.

I’ve always been interested in fashion, working at a department store in Australia for 10 years for brands such as Levis, Polo Ralph Lauren and couture designers.  It gave me real life experience of understanding that customers are extremely fashion conscious when it comes to picking and choosing what they put on, when and why they make their purchasing decisions. Digital technology such as e-commerce stores, the rise of the millenials and mobile phones have since come into play and has completely changed the retail experience.  This proves just how disruptive technology can be. Google “fashtech” and you’ll find interesting content, new innovative products, collaborations and emerging technology that has only appeared in the last 5 years.

What is your advice to women and girls wanting to go into a career in STEM, or into a field that doesn’t have a lot gender diversity?

My background is in the legal profession and there weren’t many role models for young female lawyers back then.  I worked mostly with men, which I didn’t think about too much at the time because I was so focussed on climbing the corporate career ladder, learning about the law and being the best lawyer I could be for my Partners and clients. I also didn’t think I could do anything about it because it was just the way it was.  Senior female lawyers were very rare and female Partners were never around because they too were trying to maintain their own work life balance.

Now that I’ve had that experience and started my 2nd career in another male dominated industry, I now know that I can do something about it.  The rise of the internet has made it so much easier for me to have a voice and to connect with likeminded people and make an impact.  

I am now a strong advocate for diversity in STEM. My advice is to be a STEM Ambassador, get involved with STEM networks and seek support and mentorship from those who have been there particularly those who are a few years ahead of where you want to be.  Attending events and meeting people in the industry makes you feel less alone and more supported. I am a volunteer for Inspiring Your Future, She Says Manchester and a STEM Ambassador so that I can make an impact in the STEM community.

Can you tell me about #TechNationVisa and how you became involved?

The Tech Nation Visa is a tech visa that allows non UK/EU people the right to live and work in the digital technology industry in the UK. It is only granted to 200 people each year who show “exceptional talent” in digital technology.  I was very fortunate and humbled to have received the exceptional talent endorsement and visa in 2016.

I now consult and coach those who are highly skilled in digital technology and want to make their next career move to the UK.  I have helped over 100 people such as tech entrepreneurs including CEOs, CTOs, Founders, Senior UX designers, developers as well as senior executives and employees from top tier tech companies succeed in their application for their “exceptional talent” endorsement. I am inspired by them everyday and being through the process myself and succeeding, I am rewarded by helping my fellow international industry colleagues.

I also interview and write a blog series about successful applicants. It was only through writing my own story that my blog became viral and many people contacting me for help. That inspired me to write more blogs about other successful exceptionally talented applicants and eventually consulting and coaching those who need help.

My aim for 2019 is to connect with more people internationally and also help more women apply because only ⅓ of the applicants are women.  So out of 10 applicants, only 3 are from women. I’d like to change this by being visible and interview more successful women so they can be role models for other women to apply. Because without role models, you cannot be what you cannot see.

What are the differences between delivering a workshop or public speaking in the North, to doing an event somewhere else?

The main difference is the attendees are varied in London, with more international presence and sometimes the scale is bigger however that might not necessarily be better. There is a stronger sense of community up in the North as a whole. I have spoken at events and delivered workshops in London and the North covering Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool for Wired Next Generation, Cisco, Women of Wearables, FDisrupters, Salford University, International Women’s Day, We are Tech Women, Mobile Monday Manchester and the Wearable Technology Show and the tech industry is the same – that everyone is extremely collaborative, understanding, there to learn and collaborate with one another. There are issues, and we know that but we also want to change it and make it better.

How do you accelerate gender diversity in your everyday life/practice?

For me, it’s more about diversity in general.  Because I’m not only a woman in tech but I am (technically) a *BAME in tech (*Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic).  I accelerate diversity by remaining visible about my work and by continuing to work in the industry to ensure my ideas, innovations and voice is heard, whether it be online or in person.  I use my online platforms to reach those people I can’t meet physically and social media has been extremely useful for me. Being involved with influential networks as well as being the (former) co-founder Women of Wearables in London proved that what started as a UK network, grew to a global network of women spanning 20 countries with 8 international ambassadors currently.

My aim for 2019 is to be more active in promoting diversity in tech in the UK and being more visible as a BAME in tech not only in the UK but globally too. This also feeds into my goal of connecting with more people internationally and my work in consulting and coaching highly skilled tech entrepreneurs who want to make their next career move to the UK.

What are you most excited for at Northern Power Futures?

I moved to Newcastle in April 2018 from Manchester so I am excited to meet and connect with more people in the North East. The Geordies are so friendly here and the community is very helpful and collaborative. Northern Power Futures is covering a range of interesting panels relevant to the North East and the different stages on different topics covers so much interesting content. I am interested to learn what impact I can make here as well as learn from others about their vision for the future of the North East and how it all fits in with the goals of the Northern Powerhouse.

Michelle will be on the Your Career 2.0 Panel at Northern Power Futures on Monday 11th February. Find out more and get your tickets here.

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