By Rosemarie Diegnan, Chief Strategy & Product Officer, Wazoku

Tips on climbing the tech ladder in a foreign countryIt can be hard enough establishing yourself in the tech sector in your own country.

But at least you know what the general mood is like, what the culture is and may have contacts or mentors that you could turn to, should the need arise.

But in a different country, you may well not have any of that. That was certainly the situation I found myself when I first came to London. I had worked in the US tech sector for a period, but I am always attracted to manageable risks and when the opportunity came up to work for idea management start-up Wazoku, I found it too good to resist.

Because I have Irish citizenship, I could move to Europe without too much red tape, and although working for an early-stage start-up in a new country could be perceived as risky, I felt it was a risk worth taking.

But living and working in a different culture was certainly an eye-opener, especially so working in technology. But as a woman in technology, I actually found it a little easier in the UK than I did in the US.

Although national stereotypes can be reductive, I do think that generally Americans are more direct than Brits. At times when working in the US, it can feel like a struggle to be heard. But in the UK, a US accent combined with that US directness meant that a little of the gender imbalance could be eliminated. I have found I can say exactly what I mean and people take notice of that far more over here.

I think also that not coming from the UK can be an advantage in other ways. I attend a number of ‘women in tech’ type conferences and events and I often notice there seems to be a disproportionate number of foreign women in positions of seniority.

A recent London event I attended had four women speakers and just one was actually from the UK. Another recent conference had five speakers out of 20 women coming from the US. I think it might be easier to be recognised and to stand out if you come from another country – I see it too much for it to be a coincidence.

But I love the UK and I love being an American woman working for a London technology start-up. Here are my main takeaways for any woman wanting to work in technology in a different country.

Be willing to take risks and be open to opportunity. If you have wanted to work in a different country and you get a sniff of an opportunity to do so, just go for it. I know I was lucky with regard to my passport situation, but I am so glad I went for it. You don’t know how often such opportunities will arise to work in a different culture, so it is well-worth making the commitment if something presents itself.

Don’t wait for the ‘perfect’ role. The perfect technology job may well be out there for you in another country, but it is unlikely to be the first one you find. Perhaps your first job abroad won’t tick all of your boxes, but it will get you over to the country where you can begin to grow your network. Once you are established you can then plot your next move in tech.

Don’t hang too much with ex-pats! Whether you are a Brit in NYC or an American in London, it can be tempting to spend your time with ex-pats. We are all drawn to the familiar and the comfortable, but by hanging out too much with ex-pats you will be denying yourself a lot of insight and opportunity. You will learn more about tech by building local contacts, so immerse yourself in the eco-system of your adopted country and you will reap the rewards.

Take advantage of the new culture. This builds on the previous point. Your new country will be culturally very different and you should absorb as much of that as possible. Even if you only spend a brief time in that country you will still have broadened your network, horizons, outlook and experience. It therefore stands to reason, that the more you put into your new country and its tech sector, the more you will get out of it.

Rosemarie DiegnanAbout the author

Rosemarie Diegnan is Chief Strategy & Product Officer at idea management start-up Wazoku. She began her tech career in the US, before moving to the UK in 2012 to work for Wazoku. She has held a number of roles in product development (as well as a five-year stint as a lawyer) and in her current position is responsible for leading Wazoku’s product strategy and the planning and development for Wazoku’s suite of idea management applications.