From Copt Oak to Cupertino. Apple Inc: Senior Director Karen Freer at the Rutland Biz Club



A senior female director whose roots can be traced from Copt Oak to Silicon Valley, shared her remarkable journey to Apple Inc, at the Rutland Biz Club lunch. (Friday 5 July 2019)

Karen Freer was brought up the Charnwood Forest area including Copt Oak, and attended Coalville Upper School.  She secured a place at Cambridge University with six A grade A Levels and graduated with a degree in Engineering and a master’s in Manufacturing Technology.

Karen told attendees at the lunch, held at the Falcon Hotel in Uppingham, that the  career path that took her to work for the world’s largest tech company, involved overcoming adversity as a female in the male dominated world of engineering.

“She said: “When I worked on one engineering project early in my career, all I could hear when I walked through the shop floor was the men banging their spanners on their machines, because I was a woman. In those days, not that long ago, women didn’t work on the shop floor.  So, you had to be a real engineer and ignore it.”

Karen moved to Apple in 2011 after a career in Scotland that included a spell at start up VLSI Vision Ltd, and later STMicrolelectronics where she was instrumental in pioneering Mobile Phone Camera technology and building a business with #1 global market share. With a wealth of experience under her belt from a Process Engineer in the expanding semiconductor industry, running an injection moulding factory, and operations for an imaging start-up company, she was welcomed at Apple, her expertise matching their needs.

Karen saw the move as her next big adventure, so sold up in Scotland and moved her family to live in Santa Cruz with a second home in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Karen based her success on three elements, the people who supported her, including her maths teacher, Mr Sherbik at Coalville Upper School, a willingness to take risks and mentoring other people.

She said: “I would tell the young kids of today, there’s no such thing as a bad decision; you will make it successful. It’s a matter of confidence and a willingness to take risks – see it as an adventure and have fun. That’s how I got from Copt Oak to California.”

Biz Club President Geoffrey Pointon said: “It’s fantastic that a Leicestershire lass has succeeded in the cutthroat world of business to secure a senior position at Apple, the first publicly listed US company to be valued at $1 trillion. Karen’s speech proves that gender is no obstacle to success if you have the talent, the right business acumen, confidence and ambition to reach the top.”