Meet the team

Dedication. Expertise. Passion.

They say you're only as good as your team. We are very happy to introduce you to the start of Tech Equal. We are thrilled to have some of Teesside's most brilliant and innovative minds on board and look forward all we can achieve working in collaboration with one another.

The Team

Dean Benson

Founder and CEO

I was born and raised in Middlesbrough and it’s where I’ve chosen to stay, so I’ve lived in the North East all of my life. The best thing about living and working in the North East is, undeniably, its people.

Right now in Middlesbrough, 1000s of families are living and breathing a digital divide that is not only holding them back from integrating within society and their community, but also prevents access to education, skills and employment.

We have a fantastic opportunity with Tech Equal to level the playing field from the beginning of each child’s educational journey. Subsequently, Together, we can play a huge part and have a significant impact on our local economy and communities. Imagine what could be possible for our children and our area, if we work together to give better access to digital devices, education and learning.

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Katrina Morley

Director & Trustee

I currently serve as CEO of Tees Valley Education, a multi-academy trust in the North East of England. I have been in education as a teacher and a leader for over 24 years.

In this time, I’ve developed specialist provisions, championed and delivered a range of music, art and cultural opportunities, as well as investing in leadership development.

Before teaching, I was a Chemical Engineer with BASF and ICI. Being involved with a range of STEM partners, projects, design and optimisation still inspires me in my life to date and in working with children to support their aspirations and life chances.

This is why I am delighted to work with Tech Equal. Every child and young person deserves every chance to achieve their ambitions and dreams every day! Being able to access the world digitally opens the doors to far more opportunities. It invests in the talent with today and tomorrow. “Paying it forward”, also ensures the communities, businesses and the area is at the forefront of hope, entrepreneurship, design and delivery for the future. It is the key.

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Helen Woods

Director & Trustee

My early years and secondary education were spent at Teesside High School, graduating from university with a Bachelor of Laws in 2001 I have continuously worked in the housing and property industry ever since.

I now oversee the Residential Sales and Marketing departments at the Mandale Group and have a busy day-to-day working life. I am passionate about everything I am involved with, this latest venture with Tech Equal being no different, and I am super excited to see it evolve.

Mandale has been the Patron of another Teesside charity for many years, which enabled me to see firsthand the deprivation and hardship that the region suffers from. When approached by Dean about the Tech Equal mission, I was keen to be involved from the beginning. I welcomed the chance to make a difference in a child’s education and ensure that they have equal access to learning through digital technology. Since becoming a parent and my son recently starting his education journey, I am more aware than ever of what it means for children to get the best possible start in life.

I am eager for all children to have the same opportunities by bridging the gap between families who are disadvantaged and those who are fortunate enough to take technology for granted.

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Professor Mark Simpson

Director & Trustee

I attended Athelstan Primary School, Sherburn-in-Elmet and then Deighton Gates Primary School, Wetherby. I work at Teesside University, and I am passionate about the use of technology in learning and teaching.

I lead the learning and teaching strategy at the University, which has resulted in the institution being recognised as an Apple Distinguished School and an Adobe Creative Campus. We also partner with Microsoft and were an early adopter of Microsoft Teams.

Technology has the ability to transform lives, but access to technology is not equally distributed. A focus on digital inclusion is vital to unlocking the potential of the young people in the Tees Valley. I am delighted to join Tech Equal to develop an inclusive and joined-up approach to this space. Teesside University, as an anchor institution, also has much to offer and the keen to explore how we harness the power of the University within this approach.

To get this right, we need to think much bigger than device distribution, and I like to think big.

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Matt Welch

Director & Trustee

I am a proud Teessider. Born and raised in the area it is where I call home; even if I did spend a few years up in Sunderland (for Uni).

I am a CIPD qualified HR/People Lead with an MA HR Management & Development degree and experience across the HR and L&D profession in the Tech, Education and NFP sectors. I am currently People Partner at Tech Nation: the growth platform for tech companies and leaders and I also serve as Vice Chair of Nunthorpe Multi Academy Trust.

There is so much potential, passion and drive to make Teesside great and it is inspiring to see the investment in (and from) new technologies, industries and sectors. But for this to be successful, for it to truly benefit the people of Teesside for generations to come, it is essential that we take a proactive and intentional approach to addressing digital inequality and enabling tech and digital skills development throughout education, communities and the workplace.

Every child across Teesside (and beyond) deserves to dream, to think big and to be supported in achieving their aspirations and potential. This is something I care deeply about and why I am so proud to be part of Tech Equal.

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Sarah Heward

Project Lead

Also from the North East, Sarah has lived and worked in Teesside for the last 10 years. Across various roles, Sarah has worked closely to improve the lives of the Children and Families of the Tees Valley.

Previously co-founding an off the wall childcare provision for parents who needed bespoke care packages for their families, she is passionate about driving disruptive change and innovation on our doorsteps.

Working with Tech Equal gives me the chance to really push on with my passion for helping others achieve and thrive. Driving real change and opportunity into the hands of the future - what could be more exciting or worthwhile?

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Advisory Board

Laura Hall

The Truffled Hog

A proud Northerner, now a founder & business leader of an exciting and growing hospitality venture The Truffled Hog, with a second project - Four Two Seven coming early 2023.

Committed to transforming the culture in the hospitality industry, encouraging more female leaders, and supporting aspirational women in the North East to do what matters to them most. Laura is also passionate about driving digital transformation on Teesside and thrilled to be a part of Tech Equal’s advisory board.

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Charlotte Nichols

Harvey and Hugo

Charlotte Nichols is the founder of PR, social media and content marketing agency, Harvey & Hugo whose mission it is to build lovable and memorable brands by telling stories across digital and traditional media.

She has close to 20 years’ experience in building brands from small start-ups to unicorn tech companies and is passionate about encouraging enterprise in schools. She thinks tech is vital for this.
For three years she was a school governor and has spent time as a Charity trustee, as well as working with organisations such as CEO Sleepout, Headlight Project, Wag & Co and Butterwick Hospice.
Education is also an area that Harvey & Hugo specialises in, working with Modeshift Stars, The Big Project and local schools, colleges and universities.

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Max Freer

Ook Agency

Max Freer is an accomplished multi-award-winning creative business
operator and Founder of OOK.

One of a Kind is a purpose driven creative agency who create social, commercial and environmental impact for brands and not-for-profits who are also in the process of becoming a Cert B Company.

Max is a time-served Creative Strategist who has worked with brands
both local and global. A chartered marketer and chartered public
relations expert, Max’s brand acumen is vast. She’s held senior board
roles for some of the UK’s leading media brands and during her time at
Bauer Media Max directed Cash for Kids Charity securing Ant & Dec in a patronage deal.

A qualified Princes Trust Mentor. Max is an educator and informer of
Neurodiversity and a leader on the Future Creative Economy. She
brings significant knowledge and experience to Tech Equal as our
resident Creative Strategist.

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Our Goals



To Increase Tech Equity and conscious awareness of the Digital and Creative Businesses here in Teesside.



To improve access to digital equipment for all children in education in the Tees Valley.



To create more Tech Jobs for Kids in Teeside and help them get ‘job ready’.



To offer equal opportunity for children of all abilities to access the digital and creative careers in Teesside.