Interview by Marija Butkovic @MarijaButkovic
Trina Watt, BEng, MBA, has been involved in the technology industry for 25 years and has done a wide range of engineering and marketing jobs in companies like Motorola, Agilent, Freescale and ARM. She has always been interested in translating technical concepts into understandable business and marketing messages. In August 2015 Trina set up a dedicated technical marketing company focusing on helping companies to maximise the impact of their technology on their business. Trina is based in the innovation hub for the UK, Cambridge.
What is the idea behind Watt Knowledge and how did you come up with it?
I have worked in the tech industry for 25 years and I have seen good technologies not reach their full potential because people did not understand the benefits they bring. During my time at ARM I learnt that for a technology to be successful you need to be able to translate the technology concepts, no matter how complex, in a way that people can understand. Then you have the chance to succeed. With Watt Knowledge I wanted to help smaller companies, who are generating the next life changing technologies, and maximise their success by translating their technology concepts in a way that investors, customers and consumers can understand.
When did it all start and do you have other members in your team?
It started with me on my own working out of my spare bedroom. A common starting place! We have grown to a team of 7 – each bringing a different perspective and knowledge base. The team skills include a range of marketing experience across the tech sector and we have recently added biotech knowledge to help the companies bridging the biotech and consumer space.
How long did it take you to be where you are now?
I have just closed my third year in business.
Tell us about your projects before you started Watt Knowledge.
I started my career in Motorola at its height and my baptism into the tech world was being involved in the marketing of the PowerPC processor which was a joint venture between Motorola, IBM and Apple. It was incredibly exciting since it was trying to shake up the PC industry at the time. My mum warned me that all jobs would not be like that one! She was right but it gave me a taste of how exciting the tech sector could be. I studied Electronics Engineering at university so I did several roles which enabled me to gain my engineering experience – you learn a lot when you are on the end of the helpline for customers who are working with new products and it served me well for working with engineers through my career. Even though I was a marketer I could talk to the engineers as an engineer. This in hindsight has been my key differentiator and is core to my current business. My last role before starting Watt Knowledge was at ARM. I held several VP Marketing roles which gave me extensive exposure to the tech sector across a wide range of market areas and new emerging spaces.
What was the biggest obstacle?
When I started Watt Knowledge I knew there was a need for technical marketing for smaller technology companies in their early years – I just wasn’t sure they would see it. So it was a bit of a risk. My network is the main element that has helped me to overcome this obstacle. Most of my business has come from recommendations from people who have seen what I have done in companies like ARM, and know I can transform the messaging and visibility of a company.
What are your biggest achievements to date?
I am very proud that I am a working mum. I have three children – 12 year old daughter and 10 year old twins. I have to be honest I thought my career was going to slow down when I had my children. Actually the opposite occurred. A few things contributed to this – I was more focused and I had to bring balance to my work/life also the support of ARM who never saw it as a problem. I also had a very supportive husband who understood what I could achieve and what I wanted to do. Our partnership was what gave the kids the security but gave us both the space to grow our careers.
What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in the niche you are in?
The tech space is still very male focused. People are still surprised that I am technical. So I still have to prove myself each time. However I know that I bring something that is difficult to find. The ability to go from in-depth technical discussions through to marcom and PR. People are either comfortable at either end – bridging the two ends is less common. Once I got the confidence then I have found the challenges more manageable.
How about being a female founder / entrepreneur?
I love it. It scared me so much to begin with. My daughter asked me when I left my job to set up Watt Knowledge if I was nervous. I answered “terrified” - she asked why I was doing it then. My response was because I had this idea and I wanted to see if it would work no matter how scared I was. Three years on I know it was the right decision. I never have a dull day – I get to work with some of the most exciting new technologies that will change our future lives. Doesn’t get much better than that.
Is #WomenInTech movement important to you and if yes, why?
The #WomenInTech movement is very important to me. The opportunities for woman in the tech space has opened up so much over my career – however they still have some way to go. I don’t want my daughters to have the challenges I had. I want woman like them to achieve what they can earlier in their careers. I feel that we have a huge creative, innovative opportunity if we enable woman to fully achieve what they can. I see it as part of my job to help them and the companies they are going to create and transform.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give to all female founders and female entrepreneurs out there?
If you have the idea – go for it. Make sure you have the support network in place to help you – don’t try to do it all alone. Utilise your network – they can help you overcome hurdles that you can’t do alone.
What will be the key trends in the IoT industry in the next 5 years and where do you see it heading?
IoT Industry has passed through the honeymoon period and the reality of what is involved to create this dispersed holistic view of the world is becoming clear. Initially the focus has been on the communication aspects but we are seeing the elements round how to power all these data collection points; how to secure them and their data; how to maintain them coming to the front of development. Once these key areas have been address then the next phase will be how the data collected can be utilised in an efficient way to bring the ultimate seamless benefits.
Who are your inspirational women in IoT?
The IoT space still has a long way to go to get the same visibility for woman compared to some of the other tech spaces. There are a lot of woman working with IoT. Several woman that I currently see moving the industry forward are Rhonda Dirvin, Director IoT & Embedded at ARM, I worked with Rhonda for several years and her depth of knowledge of the industry enables her to build influential relationships, bringing different innovation points together through the ARM partnership. As security becomes more important I see Nicole Eagan or DackTrace potentially having an increased influence bringing the learnings that DarkTrace has gained across a range of market spaces to the wider connected device space.
This interview was conducted by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.