With International Women’s Day fast approaching I’d like to share my experiences – the good, the bad, and the ugly – of carving out and progressing a career in the tech industry. It’s an industry where only 15% of employees are female (PWC, 2017) and which has a well–deserved reputation of being a boy’s club.
My interest in tech stems back to my early days of being in an all–girls secondary school that had just received an ICT specialist status as I was approaching my GCSEs.
I loved the diversity of ICT as a subject and because I didn’t have it all figured out at A–level (who does?), it felt like a sensible option that could lead me down many paths and I could figure it out thereafter.
I went on to study Interactive Multimedia Design at university; I remember a pitch for the degree included the idea that the jobs that we may end up in in the future may not even exist at that time – that idea excited me!
My first ugly experience of the gender gap was when I was looking for an internship. I applied and got the position as a front–end developer. After I had accepted the internship, agreed a start date and responsibilities, I received an email to say that the company was no longer in a position to offer me the internship. The real shock followed when a friend from university asked me about the job as he had been offered an internship at the same place. At that time and still to this day the company employs all male staff. Needless to say, my friend turned the opportunity down.
It’s true what they say about silver linings; I went on to secure a placement with a start–up, and that’s where my real journey began. I was exposed to lots of different parts of the business, had a fabulous leader who instilled confidence and really brought the best out in me and was supportive of the ideas I had for my role within the business. It was a small business and I wore many hats, from producing outputs on the delivery team to meeting clients through to invoicing at the end of the month.
When the company merged with a competitor, I carved my new roles and responsibilities out and bundled my design tools knowledge with strategy and a love for meeting new, interesting people and helping them pursue their business ambitions digitally. I made the move to account management and never looked back.
Outside my ugly internship experience, I’ve had positive experiences and am extremely grateful for the journey that led me to project management in UX, blending the world of tech with a human–centred design approach.
We have no shortage of role models as three of the most powerful tech companies in the world are headed by women:
- Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook
- Marissa Mayer, Yahoo!’s chief executive, who held executive positions at search giant Google after starting her ascent as the first female engineer in the company and
- Virginia Rometty, president and chief executive of IBM, graduated with honours from Northwestern University with a double major in computer science and electrical engineering.
That’s not to forget our local tech heroes, women such as MT McCann who heads up Belfast’s Ladies that UX and Sheree Atcheson from Women Who Code.
My advice to women thinking about a career in tech is to go for it! Everyone has their own path, and there are unlimited possibilities and endless learnings.
PWC (2017) Women in tech: time to close the gender gap (P. 1). Available at: https://www.pwc.co.uk/who-we-are/women-in-technology/time-to-close-the-gender-gap.html [Accessed: 05/03/2019]