Welcome to Tech In Her Words. My first interview is with Amelia Hayward, a brilliant BBC multi-skilled technical operator who’s working towards becoming a documentary self-shooting producer and director. In our conversation, we talk about how Amelia found her way into the tech world after starting out in journalism, how she handles gender stereotypes and challenging situations in the field, and why visibility into all the possible careers in STEM is so important to encourage young women and girls.
Marlene Spensley: Hi, Amelia. I just want to start by congratulating you on your recent TechWomen100 award! What does this kind of recognition mean to you?
Amelia Hayward: I am so pleased to have won this award, but also genuinely surprised, too. It was an amazing highlight during what was an awful, awful year. I was nominated by Sarah Lambley from the BBC because I was making films during the first lockdown about the amazing technical women in my department at the BBC and also short videos about useful skills like personal branding, writing CVs and interview tips for people who were stuck at home.
Marlene Spensley: That sounds like a great thing to be doing during the lockdown. Can you tell me a bit more about your role and what a typical day looks like?
Amelia Hayward: I’m a multi-skilled technical operator for BBC News and the World Service. I specialise in sound and mix all sorts of programmes, from bulletins to sports shows to lifestyle and discussion programmes. There are millions of people across the world who watch our work and it’s a really interesting job. I actually got this role through a traineeship scheme. Over 850 people applied and I was the only girl to get one of six places!
Marlene Spensley: That is amazing! Did you always want to go into that field, or how did you find your way into it?
Amelia Hayward: Oh no! During my teens I was in an online school because I was on crutches and in a wheelchair. I had nerve damage in my knee, which is thankfully now healed. I got to do loads of amazing technical projects like creating my own radio plays and going to a BAFTA children’s film exhibition, but I actually started in journalism. That love of tech stayed with me, and when a traineeship came up about seven or eight years into my career, I thought, “I’d really like to go for that,” and the rest is history.
Marlene Spensley: Wow, that’s fantastic. You mentioned you were the only woman in your cohort. What’s that experience been like for you? In times when you’ve been one of the only women in the room, what kinds of challenges have you faced?
Amelia Hayward: That is a really interesting question. At the BBC I work with male and female technical operators, and if I’m the only woman and the rest of the crew is all male, nobody is going to treat me any differently. I don’t think they would dare, to be honest!
However, when I am out on location filming with my broadcast camera, I have had comments. People have come up to me and said, “Oh, are you doing a school project?” because they don’t believe that I own the camera. Or, they look at me like “Where’s the cameraman?” because I’m holding the camera and they assume that I’m the presenter or reporter. On one occasion, I was on the train going to film a big multi-cam interview in London and I was carrying all my kit. An older gentleman said, “Well, why don’t you just film everything on your mobile phone?”
“At the BBC I work with male and female technical operators, and if I’m the only woman and the rest of the crew is all male, nobody is going to treat me any differently. I don’t think they would dare to be honest!“
Marlene Spensley: And how has that affected you? Or, how did you deal with it?
Amelia Hayward: Well, the reaction that I’d like to give, and how I actually react are two very different things! I’m polite, but firm. I usually reel off a list of my credits like Glastonbury, BBC News, Panorama and BBC Click. Some of these programmes have millions of viewers across the world. That shuts up most people! I think that people make an assumption about me, because I do look younger than I am, I don’t usually wear makeup and have a higher pitched voice. However, if they actually spent five minutes talking to me, then they’d probably learn that I’m just as good as the cameraman stereotype.
Marlene Spensley: Being firm, as said, “They won’t treat me any differently. I don’t let them.”… I think that’s a great attitude to have. Do you think there’ll be any challenges in the future for women in this type of work, or is it an improving picture?
Amelia Hayward: Oh, it’s definitely getting better. In our department, I have mentored two female BBC technical apprentices so far. They’re fantastic, and I’m so proud of them because they’ve actually both gone on to work in full-time technical jobs. However, we can always do more. I don’t think it will ever get to a point where we go, “Oh, tick. That’s done.” I think we always need to keep going.
“However, we can always do more. I don’t think it will ever get to a point where we go, “Oh, tick. That’s done.” I think we always need to keep going.“
Marlene Spensley: It’s a great career by the sound of it – very interesting and rewarding. I want to encourage more girls to pursue a career in tech. Do you have any ideas on how we can do that?
Amelia Hayward: I think the most important thing is visibility: showing girls that there are the women out there who are already doing the roles they dream of, which is why doing things like this is fantastic. Even as an adult, I’ve found that visibility is really important to me. Only recently, I (virtually) met a woman who was doing a particular job role that I would love to do. Up until recently, I had never met a woman doing that role and it made me feel like, “Oh, actually I can do this.” So as an adult woman, if I’m saying, “Wow, that’s given me inspiration,” then I think we do need to make sure that young girls from a very early age are seeing inspirational, amazing technical women, and they can go, “Oh, actually I can do that, too.” That’s really important.
Marlene Spensley: You mentioned that some of those female technical operators supported and coached you: I think doing the same for others and having that circle is a great piece of advice. Is there one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?
Amelia Hayward: When I started my career, I’d just come out of an online school and off crutches and the world was a very big, scary place. I now look back and I think, “Wow, I’ve actually achieved quite a lot, considering.” Although, I hope I’ve got many years of my career left! I guess I’d tell my younger self that, “It will be okay, but you just need to put the hard work in and things will work out if you try your best.”
Marlene Spensley: Thank you Amelia, that’s fantastic. Thank you. I really appreciate your time and insights today.
Amelia Hayward is a BBC multi-skilled technical operator who is changing careers to become a documentary self-shooting producer/director. Her production credits include BBC Panorama, BBC Glastonbury, BBC Click, BBC Radio 2, BBC News and Give Me Sport Women. As well as winning the TechWomen100 Award, she has also been chosen for the BFI NETWORK x BAFTA Crew and the BBC Women in Technical and Production programme. Amelia mentors other women in her spare time and makes films about amazing technical women to inspire students considering a TV career.
Marlene Spensley is a Strategic Partner Manager at Hitachi Vantara, developing the UKI channel ecosystem to build incremental profitable revenues with our partners. Marlene has spent her career within the technology channel, working within a number of large partners and distributors. She has a background in hybrid multi-cloud, DevOps and digital transformation and is passionate about the potential of technology innovation. Marlene was a recent TechWomen100 winner and is an advocate for women in technology.