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What I’ve Learnt: Gemma Handley, Managing Director, Code Computerlove

Gemma Handley

 Code Computerlove is a digital transformation agency based in Manchester.

Appointed as the agency’s managing director in November 2022, Gemma Handley has over 15 years of experience working across digital and technology businesses in the region.

Her passion for leadership stemmed from a role at, where she initially worked in content and UX before moving into a role managing the multi-disciplinary product team. Since then, her career has taken her from managing small teams, to overseeing transformation programmes, all the way through to her current role as managing director.  

During her time at Code, Handley has held various operational roles before transitioning into a leadership role where she is responsible for driving the company vision forward and empowering the leadership team.  

Here, she shares all the lessons she’s learnt.

Which single daily habit or practice could you not do without?

I don’t have one daily habit, but I try to ensure I start each week with a positive quote, that I use to drive my approach, as well as a very robust and categorised to-do list.

What’s been your luckiest break?

My luckiest break was getting a content role, a couple of months after university as I was already working within the contact centre for the company. This ultimately helped me move into user experience, then delivery, and eventually, leadership roles. Without that break, I may never have seen the world of tech delivery.

What’s your best failure?

I threw in the towel on a contract job after just seven weeks, which in some ways, made me feel like a failure. I knew I couldn’t work in the way they needed me to, and I couldn’t just take the money and ride the gravy train without feeling like I was taking advantage.

Quitting here meant that I ended up going back to work for a superb agency that I had freelanced at previously and running their comms team. This gave me a new set of skills to add to my personal toolkit and gave me a passion and respect for more creative execution and ideation.

When I came to move on from this place a few years later (as the team were so amazing, they didn’t need me!) I started to look for a tech agency that had a strong design and creative leaning which fortunately led me to Code.

What is the best investment you’ve ever made, either financial or time?

A therapist. I’m lucky enough to be able to invest financially in my mental wellbeing and have done so for several years. The continuous self-reflection and self-development have helped me through difficult situations, allowed me to address long term challenges and given me the armoury to deal with whatever life – both professionally, and personally – throws my way.

That’s not to suggest I’m skipping through each day catching bullets, I will always have to work hard and invest in my mental and physical wellbeing.

Which podcast or book would you recommend others to read and why?

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. This is the most energising and motivating book I’ve ever read! It’s a lesson in doing what you love, and not chasing money or fame, looking to improve, being fair and rewarding those who helped you get there.

What one piece of advice would you give your 21-year-old self?

Don’t assume you need to behave like a man to get where you want – plenty of places will encourage and enjoy a female leader.

Who or what has had the single biggest influence on your working life?

So many people have had an impact on my working life, so I’m going to avoid the directness of the question, and say the people who have encouraged me, and pushed me out of my comfort zone, as well as exposed me to situations and clients where I was a little bit out of my depth. Those people know who they are – I hope!

Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I studied Literature & Journalism at university and had grand ambitions of presenting the breakfast news, alongside Fiona Phillips!

How will the COVID crisis change work for the better?

I feel like people are a lot more respectful of people’s home lives, and more forgiving of things like later starts, earlier finishes, midday sports days and cat appointments!

 What does success look like to you?

Professionally, having a job where you’re happy and motivated, and make others feel the same way. On a personal level, success for me is raising happy, kind, and grounded children.

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