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SheCanCode Spotlight Series: Ella Hislop, Head of Product Specialists, Luminance

Ella Hislop, Luminance

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Ella Hislop leads the product specialists team at Luminance, where she is responsible for overseeing the implementation of Luminance’s technology, onboarding customers and ensuring the highest standards of customer success.

Ella’s customers range from world-renowned law firms to multinational organisations. Prior to joining Luminance, Ella worked in Paris and completed internships at Blake Morgan and Eversheds Sutherland. She has a Law degree from the University of Manchester.

SHECANCODE CAUGHT UP WITH ELLA AS SHE SHARES WHAT A TYPICAL DAY LOOKS LIKE FOR HER, IMPORTANT SKILLS FOR A CAREER IN TECH AND HER ADVICE FOR THOSE STARTING IN THE INDUSTRY.

HOW DID YOU LAND YOUR CURRENT ROLE? WAS IT PLANNED?

I joined Luminance in 2019 after making the decision to move away from a ‘traditional’ career path in law and instead pursue my interest in technology. I still wanted to use the skills and knowledge I’d developed during my degree in law, so Luminance was the perfect fit. Our award-winning AI helps lawyers read and understand their contracts, flagging key information as well as pointing our risk.

Over the last three years, I’ve had a front row seat for Luminance’s growth story, from a small yet passionate team in a shared office to a world-leading AI company with more than 500 customers in 60 countries worldwide. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the best law firms and organisations around the globe – Tesco, Ferrero and Lamborghini to name a few – to revolutionise their legal processes with truly cutting-edge technology, and I’ve met some amazing colleagues in the process.

Despite starting out in sales, I quickly realised that my passion lay in getting to grips with Luminance’s product and helping our customers to get the most value out of it. Three years later, I am leading Luminance’s Product Specialists team, where I am responsible for overseeing the successful implementation of our technology, onboarding new customers and ensuring we maintain our high standards of customer success. On a daily basis, I’m able to lead an incredible team of bright minds, collaborate with customers and help to develop our world-leading AI.

WHAT ARE THE KEY ROLES IN YOUR FIELD OF WORK, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE YOUR CURRENT EXPERTISE?

When I made the jump to a career in tech, I knew I wanted a position that would allow me to work closely with Luminance’s product, whilst also utilising my people skills and working with clients.  As Head of Product Specialists, my proximity to customers allows me to have a deep understanding of their needs and challenges they’re facing, which means that I can probide invaueable insight to our R&D team in Cambridge as to how we can improve the technology roadmap for businesses around the world.

There are so many moving parts at our high-growth tech company like Luminance, but what really matters is how all these parts come together to support our growth as a business. We offer all prospective customers a three-week Proof of Value to demonstrate the power of our AI technology, so a lot of my work is focused on running and executing these trial periods to make sure organisations are getting the most out of our technology and – almost always – signing them up as a result! To make sure this happens, we have an incredible team of Account Executives, Tech Support Specialists and Product Specialists. Together we form an invaluable support function and provide strategic counsel to Luminance’s customers.

A big part of my job is getting to know a business and the pain points they’re dealing with on a daily basis. So whether that’s the sheer volume of contracts legal teams are having to negotiate and analyse, changing regulatory frameworks that they must ensure compliance with, or tightening budgets and cost-cutting measures leading to added pressure on efficiencies, it’s my job to help businesses realise how Luminance’s AI can tackle all of these and more.

WHAT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF IN YOUR CAREER, SO FAR? 

This year, we launched a brand new product at Luminance and I’d definitely say this has been the proudest moment in my career so far. Having been involved from the outset when it was just an idea on a whiteboard, this latest product – Luminance Corporate – is now used by some of the largest organisations in the world to help in-house legal teams draft, negotiate and analyse their contracts. It is actually the first AI in the world capable of automatically taking a first pass review of an incoming contract, and playing such a central role in the development of such a pioneering technology has been incredibly rewarding.

I’m also particularly proud of helping to recently secure one of the biggest companies in the United States as a customer.  Closing a deal with a customer of this size and calibre takes a great deal of collaboration from all aspects of the business, so working closely with our R&D team, as well as our CEO and COO to get it over the line was a real career highlight.

ARE THERE ANY SPECIFIC SKILLS OR TRAITS THAT YOU NOTICE COMPANIES LOOK FOR WHEN YOU’RE SEARCHING FOR ROLES IN YOUR FIELD? 

The first thing that comes to mind is a willingness to learn. I think regardless of what stage you are at in your career there is always more to be learned, and having an open mind about what you can learn from others is important for professional development. At Luminance, we hire many young, ambitious graduates who are hungry to learn and take on the challenges of working at a high-growth and fast-paced tech company.

When I think specifically about the role of Product Specialists, we exist at the nexus of tech development and customer relationships, so I think it’s all about listening to your customers and taking the time to truly understand their challenges, whilst also really understanding your product and how it can solve those challenges.

Again, listening and learning from others is critical here.

HAS ANYONE EVER TRIED TO STOP YOU FROM LEARNING AND DEVELOPING IN YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE, OR HAVE YOU FOUND THE TECH SECTOR SUPPORTIVE? 

When I transitioned from the law world to the tech world, I think a lot of people were quite sceptical. Law is generally considered a more stable, traditional career path, so my jump to an early-stage start-up was definitely seen as more of a risk! Tech and law seem like such different worlds, but really the skills required for both career paths have a lot of overlap; like critical thinking, the ability to learn on the go, and tenacity. Part of Luminance’s core identity is the drive to keep developing, and that extends to both our technology and our people. We’re big believers that age doesn’t necessarily equal experience, and that’s why we see people who are passionate and hard-working quickly rise through the ranks.

I think that’s the beauty of working for a young and dynamic tech company.

On a personal level, I’ve found the sector to be incredibly supportive, and I’m particularly proud that over half of Luminance’s senior management team are women. I always feel empowered to bring new ideas to the table, as long as it’s backed up with thought and research. I also hope to open the door for other women looking for a career change or just inspiration to get into the tech sector! Whether it’s coding, product development, marketing or sales, I’ve found there’s something for everyone.

ENTERING THE WORLD OF WORK CAN BE DAUNTING. DO YOU HAVE ANY WORDS OF ADVICE FOR ANYONE FEELING OVERWHELMED?

Don’t be afraid to take risks and follow your passion! There can be a tendency for young people to see the first path they take as the one they have to stay on for the rest of their lives, which can be incredibly limiting. I started my career at Luminance in sales but quickly realised my skillset and interests lay elsewhere in the business.

Having an open and honest dialogue with my manager and other leaders in the company was crucial here.

If your current path doesn’t match your vision for the future, there is always space for change to find a role that both speaks to your strengths and challenges you.

Also, go back to basics! As I sip my morning coffee I find it helpful to write a to-do list each day to help prioritise the tasks that need to be done most urgently. I might not always finish the entire list every day, and some days are definitely more overwhelming than others, but having this structure to my morning really helps me to feel on top of things.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHER WOMEN WANTING TO REACH THEIR CAREER GOALS IN TECHNOLOGY? 

The first is, even if you’re the only woman in the room, know that your voice and your perspective matters. The second is try and find something that you are genuinely passionate about. The people who stand out in my team and across the business are those who I can see have a genuine passion for Luminance’s technology, our people and our vision. Bringing this enthusiasm and drive into work every day goes a long way in helping you achieve your longer-term goals.

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