We ask Caroline Macdonald, Head of Demand Management at Ashurst, about how her career in marketing led to IT – and why more women should consider working in tech.

We were recently impressed to see Ashurst’s ‘Women in IT Network’, which seeks to support female colleagues working in technology, and to encourage more women to pursue a career in IT that has evolved far beyond the perception of ‘computing’.

In a compelling film produced for the initiative, women from Ashurt’s IT team discuss setting up the Network, describing their own backgrounds and career highs. It is striking how many of them found indirect paths into IT roles – it turns out that studying art or archaeology, or indeed hating computing at school, is no barrier to finding success and happiness in an IT team.

In this spirit of thinking differently about the tech world, we talk to Caroline Macdonald, Head of Demand Management at Ashurst, about her route from the utilities sector into a leadership role in legal technology.


Having started her career in marketing and brand management, she found her way to the IT function via business analysis. She then moved into business architecture, bringing together systems, processes, technology and strategy – or more simply, ensuring that a firm’s ideas and objectives can be translated into operating practice and business growth. 


She became Ashurst’s first Business Architect in 2021, becoming Principal Business Architect in May 2022. She won another promotion in January 2023, becoming Head of Demand Management, and a key member of the firm’s IT Operational Leadership Team, supporting excellence in service to both internal and external stakeholders.

If you’re a woman who has dismissed the thought of IT because you’re not a ‘techy’, Caroline’s advice may well make you think again.

Tell me a little more about your background and career development – it doesn’t seem like you started out with ambitions for a career in technology?

Far from it! I always had aspirations to be a teacher, but I didn’t get the grades I needed at school. I got into university (via clearing), started a course in IT and hated it! (It was a lot of web design and coding.) I took the decision to start again and changed my course to Business and Management with Marketing and Languages. I had finally found my zone and after graduation I was keen to try out all the areas of my degree, so I worked in France for a year to test the languages, then at a communications company to try out the business side, then onto brand marketing.

From there I decided marketing was my thing and I joined the world’s largest metals and electronics recycler in a Direct Marketing position. My CEO always referred to me as the grey and spiky side of marketing because I was always concerned about business benefits and ROI, which they hadn’t been used to. About five years in, the IT manager asked me to help roll out a global CRM system in a joint marketing/IT venture. It was a great success and so I meandered back into IT via business analysis. After I had my daughter I wanted to cut down on my travelling so I went from there to another business analysis role at Sky, then onto the energy/utilities sector where I found my niche, built a great team and then progressed into business architecture. I then made the move to Ashurst about 20 months ago as their first Business Architect.

How difficult (or easy) was the transition into the professional service sector?

I think it was easier because I was ready for it. I was working in utilities, for a gas and smart meter installation company. It was a great team and I had been there for six years. I thought I would be there forever. But I always said I would only stay somewhere for as long as I felt I was making a difference. I just got to that point where I questioned it all too often and I no longer felt fulfilled. A new CIO came in, sensed my frustration and gave me some great advice. It made me think about getting out of my comfort zone.

Like so many of us, I suffer from imposter syndrome and I decided to use it to my advantage. I had to challenge myself again. I put some feelers out on LinkedIn and Gary [Jones] from Totum got in touch.

I went for the best interviews of my career at Ashurst (they felt like team meetings, that’s how immediate the vibe was!) and I was lucky enough to be hired. Before my interviews, I imagined the legal industry to be traditional and serious but was pleasantly surprised by how progressive they wanted to be.

Ashurst had never had a Business Architect before, but I didn’t find this aspect of the role daunting – I like to mould roles into what I want them to be. I progressed to Principal Business Architect within eight months and have since been promoted to the IT Operational Leadership Team, reporting directly to the CTO. The professional services sector isn’t as scary as some might think.

How has working in IT in law differed to your previous experiences?

The challenges are the same everywhere you go but the environment and the people are what matter. Ashurst owns what it’s about, we know what needs to be done, tackle the tough decisions head on and work together to be the best we can be. The main difference is it’s a partnership rather than corporate model, which brings different aspects to the same challenges – for instance, more focus on shorter term wins. Its more personal to people as they are personally invested.

Why do you think technology remains an area that is still so dominated by men?

I think it’s something that happens from a young age – it used to be girls got dolls, boys got Xboxes. However, now we have kids using all kinds of technology so much earlier, so it’s important we try to harness that.

That means we need to get to women earlier – it’s too late by the time they’re at university, or even picking their subjects at school. I see STEM making a difference in schools, but technology is only one piece of the puzzle. It has been said that women are predominantly better at what are termed ‘soft skills’. I hate that phrase as soft implies weak when it’s definitely not! But the point is that IT doesn’t survive on technology alone. It can only work for a business if it is combined with empathy to users’ problems, communication, teamwork and leadership. We need to help change the conversation – it’s not all computing and maths.

The number of people who say ‘I can’t work in IT, I’m not techy’ is amazing. I don’t class myself as techy either. We need to get better at educating people on all the non-techy skills needed to work in technology. Can you simply articulate complex language? Can you read the subtext between what people tell you they want whilst knowing what they need? Can you problem solve, do you have empathy, are you logical and organised? These are all abilities needed in IT and tech.

Finding the right talent increasingly requires law firms to look for candidates beyond their own sector – as Ashurst did with you. Do you have any tips for how firms can successfully recruit women from other sectors?

Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Don’t get me wrong, there is great value in recruiting within your industry but there is so much untapped experience out there that you can only get at by doing something different. My experience has allowed me to try, fail, finesse and grow many different skills, which Ashurst can now take advantage of. Every business, regardless of the model, is about making money. These skills are transferable.

What advice would you have for women who are interested in getting into IT/technology but are unsure of where to start?

Take all the opportunities you can get.  Even if it’s not quite the right role now, get in the door and make it what you want it to be. In my last four jobs, the role advertised wasn’t the role I ended up doing for very long. That’s not to say you take a job looking to get promoted in three months. You must be willing to do the role that’s set out. But have the courage of conviction and belief in yourself that you can shape it in whatever way is of most benefit to you AND your organisation. 

Lean into what you’re good at and make the effort to improve on the areas that need work. Seek out other women for coaching and mentorship. Know your allies (male and female) who can help move your career forward. The IT industry I started in is not the same one I’m in today. I am surrounded by wonderful, intelligent, supportive men and women – it is progressing every day. But the thing that will provide the fastest progression and move that needle on diversity of thought is more representation.

Have confidence in yourself: the time is now.

Huge thanks to Caroline for her time and help in producing this Q&A.

Find out more about Ashurst’s Women in IT Network | Ashurst

Read Totum’s technology report: Totum technology: Unlocking potential in professional services

Contact the technology team at Totum to learn more about the roles, opportunities and trends in IT and technology in the professional services sector.