Current Role - Head of Technology at Brightside
Joined Brightside - 2010
Years at Brightside - 13
Anna’s been at Brightside for thirteen years and overseen four versions of our online platform. Our technology enables us to reach and deliver mentoring to thousands of young people across the country and beyond. Young people couldn’t make life-changing connections from the comfort of their sofa without it.
We asked Anna a few questions about what Brightside used to be like and how the platform developed under her watch.
Why did you apply to work for Brightside back in 2010?
Actually, it was the name Brightside that caught my attention! I’d decided to leave the private sector because I was in search for something more meaningful than just improving profit margins. I had been searching for new job for a while but nothing really caught my eye until I came across the name Brightside. It struck a (Monty Python) chord immediately and I applied.
My first interview was at no. 1 London Bridge; a huge building with amazing views of the Thames. I remember thinking this would be an excellent place to commute to every day. The best thing though was that there were women everywhere. My background is computer science, and I’m used to being one of the only women in the room, but at Brightside women were in charge.
By the second interview, I’d already fallen in love with the vision for delivering mentoring at scale. It spoke to what I really believe in: 'tech for good' and making a positive change for young people in society. I had many questions about education and careers options growing up and I didn’t know what to do or who to ask when I was younger. I loved that Brightside was tackling that very issue with its mentoring programmes. I was hooked, and I still am, because I haven’t left!
What was it like when you started working here?
There were ten of us and we had a small section of an open-plan office, with a beautiful view overlooking the Thames on one side and Borough market a short walk away on the other. The location was amazing but I soon came to realise that the thing that makes Brightside special is its people. Everyone was so lovely, kind and clearly driven by the mission to support and empower young people. I felt that I had finally found what I had been searching for. It was a world away from the cutthroat private sector I’d just left.
How has Brightside’s online mentoring platform changed over the years?
By the time I joined in 2010, Brightside was already on version two of the mentoring platform. Our programmes then were largely geared towards the medical/health sector and not as wide-ranging and tailored as they are now. I remember the first project I worked on was with Realising Opportunities, and they’re still a key partner.
Version three was a huge improvement because we built in so many customisation options to suit our expanding partner portfolio and a gave it a completely new look and feel compared to the old clunkier system. V3 had dynamic feeds and cute avatars which were very popular! We even had a mentor matching tool that would suggest which mentors would make the best match for mentees based on shared interests and hobbies. For version four, we had come to understand how important it was for mentees to be able to choose their own mentors based on what’s relevant and meaningful to them, and so we created a tool to do just that.
We’re now on version five of the platform, having completely overhauled the existing architecture for performance and scalability and launched our first app! I love the agile way in which we work, where we’re constantly iterating, learning, testing, refining to deliver the best user experience and build the best product we can. We’re always collecting and responding to feedback – from our mentees, mentors, schools, business we work with – there's always improvements to be made and our platform continues to evolve. Working in tech is never dull!
Excitingly, we’re about to launch version six which features a new redaction moderation and real-time notification system. Version seven is already in the pipeline and will include video call integration and new gamification features. We also recently launched a new Welsh-language platform and app to deliver mentoring across Wales which fulfils one of Brightside’s long-standing ambitions. Like I said, working in tech is never dull. Watch this space!