International Women’s Day: An interview with Kobi McCardle from Dr Fertility

Author: Emma Allison

This Sunday (8th March) is International Women’s Day and to celebrate we’re talking to a number of our amazing female clients, about their successes and what they’ve learnt so far during their career.

Next in our interview series, Forward Role’s Head of Marketing Emma, chatted to Dr Fertility co-founder Kobi McCardle about her marketing career journey and the highs and lows of setting up a new business.

Hi Kobi, thanks so much for taking part! Let’s start off with talking about what your job entails?

Hi Emma, no problem. I am co-founder of Dr Fertility, a digital health start up, that supports people on their fertility journey by providing fertility education, products and services. Being a start up, I wear many different hats and no two days are ever the same, however, from the outset Lucy, my co-founder and I, set clear overall responsibilities. In my role I am responsible for the marketing, e-commerce and technology. 

What do you love most about it?

I love that we have a rewarding and valuable purpose. We receive many messages from customers asking us for help and thanking us for our support, which is so motivating for the whole team. There is one customer called Barry that I spent some time talking to about how we could improve the support we provide and following the call I now have a post it note on the wall that says #doitforbarry

How did you get where you are? Overview of your career history to date

I started my career in e-commerce software working as European Marketing Executive for Sun Microsystems. I worked for an alliance between Netscape and Sun, which exposed me to some really inspiring people. I also worked across multiple European teams, which was a brilliant experience especially learning about different cultures. 

One of the Sales Directors at Sun then left to join a technology start up and asked my manager and I to go with him which we did! The start up, Netengines, developed integrated technology solutions for companies such as BAE to manage their 240 recruitment agencies. We didn’t even have telephones when I joined and we raised a total of £19 million investment.

I then took some time out to go travelling to the US and ended up working behind the bar at a go-karting company in South Carolina. Once the owner discovered I had a marketing degree he asked me to help develop his marketing plans and manage media production and budgets. That was the first time I worked in B2C and it helped fund the rest of my travels. After 4 months in the US I then went travelling to South East Asia and Australia for 14 months.

When I returned home, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, so I decided to offer marketing consultancy to SME’s in Sheffield, my home town. Soon after my friend joined me, and we launched a marketing agency offering integrated digital and offline solutions. We were very excited as we won larger clients, however, we soon faced cashflow issues as it often meant longer payment terms! After five years we decided to close the business and I was looking for my next challenge.

I moved to Manchester and worked at RedEye International marketing agency for 3 years where I became Head of Account Management. During this time, I worked with some of the UK’s leading brands helping them to develop and deliver their marketing strategies. I worked with some great client marketing teams and some not so great, from which I learnt a lot.

I was then looking for a new challenge and I spoke to Steve Thompson the founder of Forward Role who introduced me to a company I’d never heard of called DRL Ltd who had a website called Appliances Online. After a gruelling interview process, I became Head of Acquisition and my first job was to help rebrand and migrate Appliances Online to AO.com. Over the four years I was there my role progressed to Ecommerce Director and I worked with some fantastic people. My team and I were involved with the launch of Germany and Netherlands, as well as the new product category computing. We were encouraged to spend time learning all areas of the business, so I would go out on the delivery vans, spend time in the warehouse and listen to calls in the call centre. I took AO’s customer first ethos, focus on culture and fail fast approach to my own business.  

What were the main challenges?

I think one of my first challenges was developing my leadership skills to help me manage large teams. I spent a lot of time analysing my own personality traits and those of my teams to try and adjust my management style to help develop and drive them.

I also quickly learned how important it is to have a strong management team reporting into you, especially in areas that are not your strength. At AO I managed the front end development team without having any development experience myself. I learnt to trust my own logical approach and had an excellent Front End Development Manager who I completely trusted, which really helped.

Today’s challenge is more about balancing the needs of my family and the business (which is like my other baby!).   

Why do you think there aren’t as many women setting up their own businesses (women are behind roughly one in three businesses)?

Lucy and I discuss this often and we believe there are many different reasons. One of the main ones being that women are usually the primary carer of young children in the family. Juggling childcare and a growing business can be challenging but it is do-able when you have the right support network. We are lucky to have met a few female entrepreneurs and role models on Dr Fertility’s journey so far who have shared their experience and their advice on how they made it work for their family. I think women who say you can have it all and make it look effortless aren’t always being completely honest. There are times when Lucy and I feel guilty, especially when the demands of the business are higher, but it’s about overall balance.

After managing big teams of males and females, I would say lack of confidence and fear of failure is another barrier for women. I find it really frustrating that women who have children, including myself, often take a confidence hit when returning back to work. Instead we should recognise and value the amazing skills we have acquired becoming a mum, especially time management and prioritisation.

What would your advice be to women considering setting up on their own?

One of the first things I would do is get out there and network. Networking is so valuable and helps you to find other like-minded people, as well as mentors that can help you avoid typical mistakes and grow your confidence. This doesn’t need to be purely female networking, however, I believe it helps you to meet other women who have started businesses whilst juggling the needs of their family. When you meet female role models, learn from their experiences, and realise that they are just normal women – not superwomen - it will make it feel more achievable.

Click here to read through our other International Women’s Day interviews.

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