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Carla Harding

Product Director (Enabling Functions), Tesco

A global retail company is offering women a range of opportunities to carve out rewarding careers within the tech sector. 

After 15 years working in technology within the financial services sector, Carla Harding made the switch to retail as she steered her career in a new direction. The move brought her closer to the customer interface, working in a team developing products that make a real difference to her colleagues as end users.

“I’ve always liked change and had considered retail,” says Carla, “but I never thought of this company from a technology perspective until I got off a train and saw a poster for Tesco technology.”

Innovative apps

She joined the supermarket two years ago, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, as a Senior Technical Programme Manager. Promoted to Product Director (Enabling Functions) in February, she oversees a team creating technical products and applications that improve the working lives of the company’s 280,000 colleagues to build and deploy innovative apps and products.

She covers back-office functions such as finance, legal, property and communications. Her team has a ‘vision, roadmap and strategy’ looking at key features, benefits and longevity in these areas.

After doing a split business studies and computer science degree at London’s Brunel University, she initially worked in admin roles. As her interest in technology grew, she moved to project and programme management positions in other — primarily financial services — companies before switching to Tesco.

Technical products

During her time with the company, she has been involved in technical innovations, including digitising paper-based processes such as colleague overtime (extra hours), improving scheduling in stores and holiday booking.

That saw the evolution of the MyTesco app, which provides in-store colleagues with the ability to directly take up additional shifts, rather than fill in paper forms. “We are on a journey of enabling colleagues to work more flexibly, efficiently and earn more when they want to — and that can all be done through an app that we have built,” she explains, “we will continue to add more capabilities to the app over the coming years.” There are plans to extend the app’s availability to more departments.

Other projects include the Your Contribution app that covers mid-year and annual performance reviews, enabling staff to digitally track conversations with line managers. Carla adds: “It is satisfying to deliver digital services that make colleagues’ lives more flexible. We have had some really good feedback.”

From a cultural perspective, they are very
open, transparent and supportive;
and teams are very welcoming.

Opportunities for women

While there are now 4–5 women out of a staff of 20+ within the technology directive, Carla emphasises that the gender balance is changing. The supermarket company — which builds its own tech from scratch — offers many opportunities as more women consider a career in tech.

She says: “From a cultural perspective, they are very open, transparent and supportive; and teams are very welcoming.”

The advice she offers to women interested in a tech career is to investigate the available roles and the different routes into the sector. “You do not need to have worked in an engineering role to work in technology.” She also underlines the benefits that a more diverse team offers. “Women may bring a different perspective when thinking about colleagues, beyond just thinking about it solely as delivering technology products,” says Carla.

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