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12 Quick Fire Questions with Caroline Gillard, Chief People Officer

March 11, 2022
4 mins

Caroline joined Marshmallow 6 months ago. Since then, she's brought in lots of fundamental processes and ways of working to empower our people.

She sat down with Maria, one of our Engineering Managers, for a quick-fire Q&A to discuss women in tech, diversity and inclusion, and the joy of building People processes that work for everyone.

What drew you to work at Marshmallow?

I wanted my next role to be at a company shaped by inspiring people and a great culture. I really valued that Marshmallow had those foundations in place already, but that there were still lots of things to build and improve on. I was also excited to join a company that really cares about people, and the People team’s agenda. 

What makes Marshmallow stand out as a company?

I love that people here are humble, and I’ve seen very little ego across all levels of seniority. People smile, care, and help each other. Everything I experienced in the interview process, the focus on culture in particular, is genuine and real. 

What’s your favourite thing about working at Marshmallow so far? 

My favourite thing is that we have a great foundation in place for a startup, and we’re now getting to build on those foundations. Our next challenge is to create ways of working and frameworks that can bring our employer promise to life, and that are suitable for a company scaling up so fast.  

Rather than being tied to an idea or their way of doing things, the Founders have given us (the People team) the freedom to do what needs to be done in terms of creating an inspiring and people-orientated workplace. There’s been a lot of consultation along the way, but I love the fact that they’re genuinely open to what’s possible. It’s really inspiring to have that freedom and flexibility. 

What motivates you day-to-day in your role?

I like to be able to make a difference. But I can’t change the world as one person. Ultimately, if I do my job well, I can help create an organisation that feels really good to work in. The questions that excite me are: how do we unlock people’s potential and help them do their best work? How do we build a culture that people genuinely feel inspired by? How does everybody play their role in that? 

What challenges have you faced as a woman, or more generally, throughout your career in the tech sector?

I’ve faced far fewer challenges in Tech than I faced starting my career in the 90s. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’ve come far enough. But to answer your question honestly, the biggest challenges for me were early on in my career when it really felt very different (and sometimes very difficult) to be a woman in the workplace.  

What I'm aware of within Tech is that there are areas that are heavily male dominated, often in engineering or more senior positions. I haven't felt a personal challenge in terms of who's sponsoring or championing me. But I've always been concerned with shifting the optics, making sure there are diverse role models for everyone to look up to.

Do you have any anecdotes to share with us about the challenges in your early career? 

I worked for a large retail organisation and it was a very macho culture. One day I was sent home for wearing trousers… because women were supposed to wear a dress or a skirt. Thankfully, things have come a long way since then!

Can you describe the inspiring women you've worked with, or for?

My two last managers were both women and were very good at challenging me, but they deeply cared for and supported me. It helped me to think about how to shape a performance philosophy of “high challenge, high support”.

How are we approaching diversity and inclusion at Marshmallow?

I want diversity and inclusion (or D&I) to be embedded in everything we do. If we make sure we’re looking at everything through a D&I lens, we will be more successful than running D&I as a standalone initiative. The first job we had to do was to get data. That data is already changing how we hire and onboard people, and is helping us to get far better insights from our engagement surveys.  

How are we supporting the careers of women at Marshmallow? 

I’m conscious that I’m the only woman on the Senior Leadership Team. I genuinely believe the best people were hired for their roles at Marshmallow, and I’ve sat at enough tables to know it’s not a boy’s club. But we need to support everyone’s career at Marshmallow, which means creating more female role models.

The career frameworks we’ve launched at the company give everyone a shared understanding of what “good” looks like. They set out clear career paths and remove potential bias. This work puts in the foundations to make the promotion process consistent, clear and fair. For me, that’s super important.

What’s next for Marshmallow’s diversity and inclusion work? 

Once we understand the data, we need to challenge ourselves on what needs to change. How do we unlock the potential of people so we start to enable more minority groups and more women to progress? Later this year, we will run a D&I survey so we have the data to drive even better conversations and the actions that follow. 

Which woman inspires you day-to-day? 

My friend Caroline. We’ve known each other since we were 5 years old. She and her husband adopted 3 children. It’s an amazing thing to do and by no means easy. I’m in awe of how she manages her work and home life.

 Who would be your dream all-female dinner guest list?

This isn’t in any order of preference, but I’d have to say:

  • Michelle Obama - no explanation needed 
  • Stefi Graf - my tennis hero
  • Alice walker - ‘The Color Purple’ was the first book to truly move me 
  • Kirsty Wark - amazing political journalist with a killer wardrobe
  • Sue Perkins - she makes me laugh
  • my Mum - I just adore her!

If you'd like to work at a company where people are at the heart of what we do, make sure to check out our current job openings here.