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35 Women Under 35: Lisa Ditlefsen, Head of Search at Base One

By: Elizabeth Harrin

The same week that Lisa Ditlefsen turned 30, she collected her prize at the BlackBerry Women & Technology Awards for the best use of technology by a woman under 30. She received the award for the work she has done creating an SEO (search engine optimization) department at Base One. Not bad for someone who three years ago admitted she knew nothing about online marketing.

Lisa came to London from Norway in 1999 on a gap year and fell into B2B marketing more or less by chance, after a stint working on a travel magazine. After a break to have her daughter, she returned to Base One and was offered the chance to do something the company had never done before – search engine marketing.

“I had been at home with my daughter for 9 months and was ready to start using my brain again,” Lisa says. “I threw myself into the opportunity to really build a career and read everything I could about Search.” Luckily she found that it was an interesting and growing field, dominated by technically-minded men but open to everyone.

“I worked out how the information I was learning would be valuable to, and therefore funded by, our clients,” Lisa says. “I put the information to use and implemented activities that helped them to get noticed on the web. Three years later and Base One Search is a separate department, I have my own team, 15 clients [and] offering a range of search services.” Lisa’s department is now the fastest-growing area of the company.

“It’s amazing thinking back, just over three years ago it was just me, wanting to learn more. Now I run my own department, speak regularly at industry events and write articles regularly both on and off-line. It proves enthusiasm, passion and hard work really can get you places.” Including the short-list of the UK’s premier award ceremony for business women working with or managing technology.

Lisa collected her BlackBerry Award last month and believes that the recognition that comes with the Stewart Hearn hand-blown glass bowl will enable her to inspire more women to further their careers. “It was amazing to be in the room with so many high powered and inspirational women,” she says. “I know it’s soppy but this is the kind of thing I have always dreamt of! I don’t have a university degree and at one point I was a single mother, juggling a lot of work, but I never once thought I couldn’t do this.”

Being recognized for your achievements is a key driver to fuel enthusiasm for any role, but Lisa doesn’t think that it’s necessary to get constant pats on the head from other people. You can recognize yourself, whether or not other people do too. “Women tend to be more humble and modest than men, so stand tall and be proud when you do something well,” she says.

Believing in herself is perhaps the most important thing that has helped Lisa to advance her career. She’s the youngest Head of Department at Base One in a largely male management team. However, she insists that the company is “very good” at providing equal opportunities and helping all employees create an appropriate work/life balance.

Having said that, Lisa admits that it’s hard work getting the balance right. She’ll sometimes work in the evenings or on the weekends once her daughter has gone to bed. “I have just become better at planning and juggling,” she says. “You have to be quite disciplined with your time as time is the most precious thing you have when kids. Don’t be put off by thinking you can’t start a family and still have a career. My career didn’t really start before I had my daughter, having children makes you more disciplined and focused. You can have your cake and eat it!”

And she’s only 30. Pass me the donuts – I’ve got cake to eat!