Today is International Women’s Day. So, we asked a few of the women working in technology at Made Tech to share insights about equality and working in the industry, including how they’d change the tech industry for the better. Here’s what they said…
How did you get into your field? What resources would you share with those following in your footsteps?
Catherine Deas – Academy Software Engineer
I’m a career-changer. I switched from tutoring English and French. I did a bootcamp and attended tech meetups. I recommend them – especially those oriented towards women – as a fantastic way to discover the tech industry and get support.
Chasey Davies-Wrigley – Principal Software Engineer
Over 20 years ago, I did a BscEcon in international politics, but then wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. In my final year, a friend told me about the computer science conversion MSc. So I went straight back to uni and did it. It was a bit of a shock to the system as it was 60 hours a week with no holidays for 18 months. But I just loved it and knew it was the career for me!
Laxmi Kerai – Delivery Principal
I did a one-year industry placement university course. I realised I learn better through “doing” whilst in my industry placement year. Since then, I’ve moved around a few places from large corporations like Google, to small niche consultancies. My core background is in project management and from there I slowly transitioned into agile delivery.
I like Session Lab for workshop planning ideation and planning. The Team Genius YouTube channel has lots of tricks in short nuggets. Nonviolent Communication has been a really powerful approach in how I communicate.
Mo Oshiberu – Senior Business Analyst
I navigated into this field in my quest to do work that actually makes a difference and positively impacts lives. Also, the diversity and different flavour of projects and areas of work was a great appeal to me. I didn’t get this working in accounting, hence my change in career direction. My starting point was BA training with a professional trainer and self-study of Business Analysis, a book by Debra Paul, James Cadle and others.
Onyela Ogah – Software Engineer
I wrote some code at uni. It was really basic – just some simulations and models, but I thought it was really fun. I liked the problem-solving aspect of it. I went away and learnt some more in my spare time, and then I applied to Made Tech!
I learn best from tutorials and I’ve found that there are tons of helpful ones on YouTube, as well as places like Learn Enough To Be Dangerous, Codecademy and Udemy. I also noticed it really helps to consolidate my knowledge with katas and small projects. Finally, I’ve gained a lot from listening to people talk about engineering and the tech industry. Having a mentor and joining community groups really benefited me. And there are also many great podcasts – including Making Tech Better!
Razi Riahi-Reay – UX/UI Designer
I majored in product design, then completed a Master’s in design management. Still, I struggled to find design-related jobs in Manchester. Instead, I made my way up the marketing career ladder to director at a creative agency. When the pandemic began, I evaluated my life. I realised how much I’ve missed design, and decided to get back to it. I changed my career to become a UX Designer, which turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made in my career. I enrolled on an online bootcamp. It wasn’t easy, but I stuck with it and graduated. Following a short contract in health-tech to gain experience, I joined Made Tech.
There are many ways into UX design. There are online course providers like Google, Skillshare and UX Design Institute, and many more. One of the best ways is through an employer, as with the Made Tech Academy. I recommend this route because you get paid from day one, and learn from the best in the industry in a positive and diverse environment.
Spyri Oikonomou – Lead User Researcher
I was artistic as a kid and design engineering felt like the closest thing to something that would allow me to be creative while giving me a degree that could “secure” a financially stable future. From design engineering I jumped to strategic design then service design and finally user research.
Starting broad, as an engineer, and then specialising on something I think holds a lot of power as it allows you to pick your actual careers at a point in your life where you know a lot more about what you want.
Who is someone you’d like to highlight and celebrate for IWD?
The Women’s Tech Hub in Bristol and the CodeHub Bristol meetups, who provided me with a mentor and gave me continuous support throughout my transition journey.
Made Tech’s very own Clare Sudbery! I joined MT because of the talks I’d heard Clare do – in particular Let’s stop making each other feel stupid. I really liked Clare’s down-to-earth approach and that led me to look more into all things Made Tech.
My sister, Manisha. She’s a high school teacher and her passion for education is really admirable. She believes every child has the right to an education and does everything in her power to ensure every child she teaches has the right opportunities when it comes to learning.
Michelle Obama for sharing her story and inspiring many especially women all around the world with her book Becoming, where she tells of her story from childhood to forging her own career, and also talks about her roots and how she found her voice.
I don’t have a single person to highlight but I’m really lucky to work with a group of really amazing women both at Made Tech and in our joint team at the Department for International Trade. They are all kind, brilliant individuals, who I’ve learnt tons from, and I feel extremely grateful to have them in my life!
I take inspiration from many women around me, including my friends and family, and many inspiring figures. One woman who stands out to me is Adriene Mishler, the American yoga instructor, actress and entrepreneur. Adrienne is proof that an ordinary woman can achieve great success by following a passion, overcoming challenges, and being fair.
All the mothers that have to work like they don’t have children and raise their children as if they don’t have a job. (That line isn’t mine – I read it somewhere). Also, all the women that exist in male-dominated environments like tech.
If you could change one thing about the technology industry what would it be?
I’d make it easier for women to feel empowered, and believe that they can work in technical roles.
The perception that it’s a boring career choice. It’s far from boring. It’s so diverse and it’s relatable to all areas of our lives. Take Netflix, which pioneered chaos engineering to make sure that, if an outage occurs, it won’t affect streaming. Or in-car satnav systems linking users’ data together to locate traffic jams. And so much more!
Unfortunately, this can start in schools where the subject is taught without context and so becomes “boring”. It’s important we don’t just teach how to use technology. It’s the why that’s really the interesting bit. That’s what inspired me to become a STEM Ambassador and why I enjoy talking to students about careers in technology.
It’s not unique to the technology industry – for me it’s ensuring leaders represent the society we live in today, and understand the importance of minority voices and allyship.
The speed at which things change. You don’t even get to enjoy the full benefits of a thing before it’s on to the next. Not sure if that’s such a bad thing, but I guess it’s the world we live in. Change is inevitable.
Technology is such a fundamental part of modern life. It’s used in one form or another by everyone on the planet. Despite being so ubiquitous, all too often, technology is built by people who only represent a subset of society. If people in the technology industry could accurately represent the diversity of the people using it, then I think the technology we build (and the world itself) would be an incredible place!
I would address the lack of diversity. I know many people are tired of the diversity lecture, but it really does need to be addressed – immediately, and at the school level. During my time in marketing, I witnessed stereotypical attitudes towards women and discrimination in different sectors. It’s incredibly frustrating when you’re unsure how to deal with it or help a situation. You question yourself about what is right or wrong. And you self-doubt, and ask why you even have to deal with it when you’re performing in an equal or more significant role.
Its inclusivity and diversity: most parts of our industry are run by straight, white males from middle-class backgrounds (or higher) that believe Elon Musk is the image of success. Parental leave: I don’t think we support new parents well enough financially or emotionally. The time and pay we allow as an average in this industry is made for superhumans. The pay difference between men and women: I don’t get how that’s still a thing and why we all act as if it’s something that we, women, have to solve. (I wrote 3!)
If you could share one piece of advice to your former self, or others in the industry, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help and guidance. And join groups of like-minded people so you have companions on your journey.
Believe in yourself! You can’t know everything about everything – especially at the pace technology changes. But don’t see that as a scary or a negative thing. Embrace it as an opportunity for constant growth and learning. Remember everyone has to start at the beginning, so don’t compare yourself to someone else and panic because they know more about something than you do. There’s probably someone else comparing themselves to you!
Ask open-ended questions and count to 10. I’ve found asking open-ended questions a game changer in how I communicate and I now always count to 10 when waiting on a reply. Silence gives people (including me) headspace to think and then reply.
Never be afraid to take that next step, because if you don’t, you won’t have the firsthand experience challenges that await you to even begin to determine if you can handle them. Also, you should never give up because you are not a failure until you do – as long as you keep trying, success is inevitable.
It’s very easy to get disheartened by how much you don’t know, especially when you’re new to the industry. So my advice would be to try to ignore this and instead focus on how much you’ve learnt and how far you’ve come!
Be kind to yourself. No one ever knows everything! Stop undermining yourself and worrying about what other people think of you. Most of the time, people are worried about their own lives and don’t have time to think about you! Finally, to seize the day – go for it. Take on the opportunity or challenge put in front of you. Usually, it turns out to be something you’ll overcome and succeed in, and you can feel an immense sense of pride when you reflect.
No one will come to appreciate your hard work proactively. No one will give you a raise if you don’t ask for it. No one will give you extra time off unless you ask for it. No one will take care of your mental health and stress level unless you ask them. You need to go out of your way to get what you deserve.
Thanks very much to Catherine, Chasey, Mo, Onyela, Razi and Spyri for taking time out of their busy schedules to share their insights. Made Tech, and the tech industry, are better places for your knowledge, wisdom and energy.