Women make up only 17% of the UK tech sector and the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report says we are 200 years away from gender parity; it’s obvious there is still a lot of work to be done by both employers and individuals to #PushForProgress.
It is our collective belief that representation within the industry is important. This means our daughters growing up with women visible as role models in the future jobs they are interested in.
With this in mind, we gave a very open brief for some of our staff to talk about their experiences in the tech industry, how they got to where they are and the obstacles they overcame.
Being a female designer in what is often described as a very male-orientated industry can be a challenge on its own without the worry of wanting to start a family and go on maternity leave.
All kinds of things go through your mind when making that already big decision to change your life, let alone the worry of ‘leaving work’ and then ‘going back to work’ and, yes, it really does change your life. No one can actually explain to you how different it will be when this small human being enters your world – one minute you have your own time to do what you want, when you want and the next it is dedicated to this tiny life that depends on you 24 hours a day.
Being on maternity leave was a complete change. For so long I had been in one routine of getting up for work and doing my job. I suddenly had a different routine, if you could even call it that. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the time with my new baby. Watching him grow and develop and gathering new experiences in the world is such a precious thing. Everyone says ‘It goes too quickly’ and it certainly does. Then all of a sudden you are thinking about going back to work. Luckily for me, I’ve been able to return on a part-time basis, giving me the best of both worlds.
The return to work fear came over me a few weeks before I actually had to do it. I had all sorts of worries and became anxious that I wouldn’t be able to manage. There was a long list of things to sort out: childcare, back-up childcare, coordinating who’s going to drop off and pick up from childcare… That’s before I started worrying about how I was going to make it out of the house on time and leave my baby with strangers! Well, I had to do it and it was fine!
I’m only working part-time currently, but those couple of days have been good for me – a change of scenery and a bit of time without a child attached to my leg is good. Sometimes you need a break. Of course, I miss him terribly when I’m at work, but I don’t feel guilty about not spending every day with him anymore. It has been made so much easier by having flexibility over my working hours. It is a struggle sometimes to juggle a job and children, but getting into a routine has made it less stressful. It’s amazing how much more prepared I am now I am a mum!
My journey into digital/tech began with a concoction of chance, opportunity and as it progressed, the right attitude. I by no means dreamt of going into digital or tech, but it just so happened that this world suited my desire to use both creativity and logic.
Deciding to quit my law degree left me feeling unfulfilled; working in bars (which I did thoroughly enjoy at the time) didn’t quite plug all the gaps in terms of what I knew and wanted to (and could) achieve in terms of work. I eventually moved into the office world, starting at a small Health and Safety company where I was thrown into discovering office dynamics and learning how to work with different types of people in a more structured environment. Soon after joining, I got the opportunity to move from my admin position into marketing and this soon led me to realise my liking for websites, branding and event work.
I knew I was enjoying this line of work, but that I needed more. More learning and more people to learn from. One of the most important things I have learnt from being in digital/tech is the value of working within a team and how significant this is to develop your knowledge and skills. When I was approached to join one of the leading digital agencies in the region, I couldn’t believe my luck! I started my role as an SEO Executive nervous, yet excited – I didn’t think I would make it to this point so early in my new-found career.
During my three years there, I grew from someone with merely the right attitude and ability to learn, into an SEO Consultant feeling confident enough to stand in front of a room full of people to talk through a tool I had adapted and used to crawl website server logs! None of this could have been achieved without the support I received from my peers and my directors who pushed me to achieve my potential. I was also one of the only marketers without a degree, I’d stress that this does not have to be a barrier, if you have the right attitude to learn and to work hard, your only obstacle may be opportunity.
My digital career had become very technical focused, using the skills I had learnt to dissect websites and work out what could be hindering them from performing well in Google’s organic search results. I loved being a tech SEO – and I loved sharing and learning with my tech SEO friends and discovering new website “detective” skills.
My move to Norwich saw my tech SEO career continue. I was enjoying it but I had a nagging feeling that I could be doing more. I wanted to be using more of my people skills and to be more involved with clients, at the forefront of relationships and so, when an opportunity arose at ApplinSkinner to manage the Digital Marketing team, I jumped in! My role here covers so much of the skills I have acquired over my 6 years in digital – a typical day could consist of anything from carrying out a tech SEO audit to helping develop the marketing strategy for a client. Last year, I completed a management course (Forefront with ILM Level 3) at Jarrold Training. The course was great, built my confidence as a manager and left me determined to keep pushing myself to achieve more with my new skills.
I sometimes still wonder how I got here when I think big picture, but really, it’s down to hard work and attitude, taking opportunities and the incredible support of others. Digital/tech is such an interesting and exciting world to be in and I would recommend it to anyone who has a busy and hard-to-please mind like mine.
Being asked to write about my experiences as a woman and a mother with a career made me reflect on how I see my roles, what I represent and to whom. Firstly, I see my role within the workplace as being somebody who can help facilitate success. I don’t feel that my gender changes that and hopefully the attitudes of my colleagues does not impact upon that. However, my role as a mother within a workplace does feel different, especially when compared to before having children. Aside from the seismic physical changes of pregnancy and motherhood, and the unbreakably strong bonds of attachment, the practicalities of having children whilst holding down a career do single me out within the workforce. The demand for my time is never greater now I have children. I am still willing to come in early or stay late to ensure a task is delivered, however the logistical requirements to do so are far more complex. I am lucky enough to have, the reinforcement of managers and colleagues who can offer support and flexibility in order for me to do this.
In being able to work I can demonstrate to my two girls that a career is not just achievable but as ordinary as it is for their father or other men to have a job. To show that there is no expected breadwinner or homemaker. My husband works from home to help with the children and this makes us a co-dependent family unit, which in turn is a reflection of how successful societies operate. I want my children to know that their gender inhibits nothing when it comes to work or employment opportunities.
I joined ApplinSkiner in 2014 taking the role of office manager. I felt quite confident as I came from a previous job of a PA at an accountants, so I had lots of organisiational experience and skills. I knew I was entering into an industry heavily dominated by men (the accountants was run entirely by women), but that didn’t phase me.
Over the 3+ years I’ve been with ApplinSkinner, the team has grown and it’s been really exciting to see. I was the first female employee and I’ve seen the company grow to a strong team comprised of almost half women, which gives the office a nice balance.
My role as evolved over the last couple of years as I’ve been learning more about the processes and technology that are behind what we do and completing my PRINCE2 Project Management course. The added responsibility has given me loads of experiences outside my comfort zone that has helped me develop my confidence, especially in meetings.
I’m still not the most confident of people, but compared to when I started, I’ve really noticed a huge difference in myself. The whole team here has been supportive of me and given advice along the way. The next task on the list is the public speaking at our weekly networking event!