Exceptionally Talented Woman in Digital Tech | Canadian Kayla Herbert | #TechNationVisa

It is refreshing to meet other #TechNationVisa recipients who don’t have a “tech” background but rather a business or digital background.  What’s more refreshing is that it is a woman who decided to base herself in Leeds, the North of the UK. This is because only ⅓ of applicants for the Tech Nation Visa are female and it is inspiring to know that Kayla Herbert not only applied for but she successfully received her Exceptional Talent Visa.

Originally from Canada, Kayla has a BA in English Literature from McGill University. Her background is in marketing communications and she has worked in a variety of industries including technology and other professional services.

Kayla was in the UK whilst on a Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa. This visa allows people aged 18-30 from certain countries to live and work in the UK for up to 2 years.  Kayla is no stranger to the UK though having had a Tier 4 student visa.



While Kayla was on this visa, she was looking at other visa option routes for the UK and she was already working in the technology field. She felt that the Exceptional Talent visa would give her more flexibility for starting her own tech business and saw it as a better fit than the Tier 2 General Visa.

But, like many other applicants, she was nervous because she didn’t come from a technical background. Despite reading the guidelines, Kayla felt it was a lot harder to find evidence in business since she hadn’t built anything digitally at that time, and most of the resources available seemed to be tailored to programmers.

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So Kayla decided to choose the exceptional promise route and submitted letters of reference from senior leaders that she worked with in her profession and in the tech industry vouching for her skills and experiences. On a more personal level, Kayla addressed how she thought she could contribute to this exciting industry and what her plans were to continue developing her skills.

On asking why Kayla decided to apply for the Exceptional Talent Visa, she said

Flexibility is the biggest thing for me. I knew I wanted to continue working in the tech industry, specifically in Leeds because I think it’s such a vibrant fast-growing city and industry, but I also wanted to have my own startup. Having the choice to be self-employed and to work for other companies is important to me and no other visa could give me this opportunity.

This is the reason most, if not all applicants decide to apply for the Exceptional Talent Visa.  It allows those not only in the tech and digital industries to live and work in the UK, but it also offers those in the creative arts, engineering and science industries the opportunity to also live and work in the UK for up to five years under the Exceptional Talent visa route.   The challenge though, is believing that you have an exceptional talent or exceptional promise.

Kayla offers reassuring and very practical three pieces of advice. She says

  1. You need to think about what sets you apart from everyone else. Don’t be afraid if you’re not coming from a technical background. The region needs more developers but I think what we need the most is diversity: in nationalities, professional backgrounds and skills.
  2. You also need to be comfortable writing about yourself and your accomplishments. I think this can be uncomfortable for a lot of people but there’s nothing wrong with being proud of what you’ve done. It’s thinking about what makes you different from all your peers and using this as an advantage.
  3. It’s easy to be intimated by the process but if you can create a clear and consistent brand for yourself it will make all the rest easier.

Great advice from a branding expert.  Since receiving her UK Tech Nation Exceptional Talent visa, Kayla has already started her own digital tech startup, Branswer. Branswer offers digital tools to help businesses brand themselves.

They have released their MVP which is a free brander that helps startups – or anyone thinking of starting a business – to create a mission statement, tone of voice and visual identity. This tool will help address the lack of accessible branding and marketing support that’s available when businesses look to have a logo made or start their own social media marketing.

Branswer is actually very useful for not only start ups, but also for anyone who needs to create a brand, be it for their business or for themselves. Having gone through the Exceptional Talent Visa process myself, it forced me to stop thinking about my tech start up, Made With Glove and focus on my own personal brand as Michelle Hua – the Tech Nation exceptional talent visa applicant.  Because Tech City is more interested in you, what you can bring and add value to the UK tech ecosystem.

I’m very excited for Kayla and for Leeds that they have now added another female founder to their tech ecosystem of emerging digital and tech start ups.  I will definitely follow Kayla’s journey in the UK via Linkedin and will be checking out her new website at www.branswer.com

For inspiration about another exceptionally talented woman, read my blog about Noha Amin from Egypt who applied for a successfully received her Exceptional Talent Visa.

*This is not a sponsored blog post.  Kayla and Michelle are recipients of the Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visa and maintain a genuine professional relationship.

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It is good news that the UK Government announced on 15 November 2017 that the number of Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visas to be granted will be doubled from 200 to 400 per year.  So there are more opportunities for those with digital and technology expertise to consider applying for the Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Visa as well as those in the science, arts and creative industries.


This blog was written by Michelle Hua, Speaker, Writer and CEO & Founder of Made With Glove, a UK wearable tech company designing heated gloves.  In 2016, Michelle was the recipient of the Exceptional Talent Visa and former #TechNationVisa Ambassador.  Read Michelle’s other blogs on the #TechNationVisa here.

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