Five reasons to become a coder in your 30s

Wild Code School_remote learning, woman learning to code

The opportunities and benefits within the tech industry have long been a draw to job seekers.

Indeed, the ONS reported in 2019 that the tech industry had amongst the highest number of job vacancies, increasing salaries and attractive flexible working benefits. And as a largely digitised industry it is no surprise that it has fared relatively well in lockdown with a high proportion of employees able to work from home.

But if you ever thought coding was a young person’s game and not for you, think again. Coding attracts recruits from far outside traditional STEM-based careers and education. In fact, students from Wild Code School, a web development and coding school, are upskilling and career changing from diverse backgrounds that range from dance and textile design to chemical engineering, gaming and communications.

And it’s not just school leavers or people early in their careers – in fact it’s people in their 30s who are leading the charge.

Anna Stepanoff, CEO and Founder of Wild Code School, explains the five reasons people in their 30s are turning to coding:

  • It’s not rocket science – there is an increasing awareness that you don’t have to be a Matrix-inspired hyper-brain to work in tech, and as 30-somethings have inevitably come into contact with the digital world in their existing careers – they’re wanting to get involved and understand how it works.
  • Coding is creative – while the initial draw might be the competitive salaries, we find what keeps people interested is the realisation that coding is a highly-creative industry that allows a person to problem solve and bring their own ideas to fruition.
  • Autonomy and Flexibility – people in their 30s who no longer want to work for someone else are realising that the tech industry provides options to go freelance, to choose their own clients and the flexibility to work from where they want.
  • Being a part of what happens next – from the way we consume music and media, eat out, work from home, communicate and stay fit, the tech industry is changing the way we live, and touches all aspects of our lives. Being a part of that is exciting.
  • In-demand skills – there is a widely-discussed skills gap in the tech industry, and we work with employers to understand what they are looking for and how to ensure training is commercially relevant. They are skills sought by a diverse range of companies and will become increasingly important.

“It’s a myth that if you didn’t get into coding at school, then it’s already too late,” Anna says. “If you’ve got the creativity and the drive, then we’ve got the school to help you realise your ambition.”

During the month of August 2020, anyone curious about tech, passionate about learning or considering a new professional career can register to Wild Code Summer School. Week after week, it is offering a month-long programme dedicated to discovering the tech world.


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Inspirational Woman: Arusha Gupta | Head of HR - Europe, LTI

Arusha GuptaTell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

It may sound cliché, but I’m a people’s person. I grew up in India, and when I came to Europe on my professional journey, I fell in love with the diversity and work ethos here. After spending over two decades in the tech world, I take pride in adding the human element to the brilliance of technology. In the various roles that I play as a woman, my current role as a professional is to deliver an exceptional people experience for the LTI teams across Europe and Africa. I feel privileged to work with such diverse teams, and I am honoured to enable a sense of inclusion. I am a champion of inclusivity, and I believe that it is our inability to be inclusive that deters women from joining and thriving in the tech industry. I aim to make a difference to people’s lives. I am currently working towards inspiring our youth in the STEM realm, and I am also creating an early career program that is centred on nurturing female talent.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I think that we all have our early ideas, and I was always interested in observing human behaviour and understanding the human mind, the most sophisticated machine of them all. When choosing a career, I initially wanted to be a psychoanalyst, but my parents thought that it was a strange profession and asked me to reconsider! Therefore, I decided to study HR. Graduating in the year 2000, I was touched by the increasing impact of IT on society at large. As such, joining a technology services company was a natural choice for me and, in a blink of an eye, it has already been 20 years.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Changes and challenges are a constant, and I have certainly had my fair share of those, and I continue to do so. In the thick of it, it can be difficult, but later when you reflect upon it, you realise that those situations have defined you. I once had a difficult manager, and I really wanted to quit. However, I channelled that energy into another project, which led to my next role. When faced with a testing situation, I take ownership of it and work towards the solution. Being an emotional person, it is easy for me get stuck in the situation, and at that point, what helps is staying objective. Objective views of situations enable you to naturally disassociate from it. And whilst it is not easy, it has always worked well for me.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I believe that my biggest achievements are my relationships with the people that I have worked with. Everyone has taught me so much, and it is humbling to see how I have touched their lives. I am privileged to have worked with great leaders and led diverse teams.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Believe in yourself. My parents taught me that I can achieve whatever I set for myself and be my own benchmark. I believe in challenging myself and raising the bar. We all have heard this multiple times, but it is important to live it. It works miracles, and also saves energy that would otherwise be consumed in comparing!

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Keep learning and stay human. Tech is an exciting space as it touches people so significantly. The only way to thrive is to keep on learning. Invest in yourself and do not leave it to others to decide what you should be doing. Ensure you have mentors who could guide and challenge you positively to thrive in what you do well. Many women spend time on things that they are not good at: I would recommend working on your strengths and build on that. It will take you where you deserve to be.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Societal barriers prevent women from excelling in their careers. I believe that as a society we need to differentiate personality traits from gender. For example, the idea that being aggressive is masculine. As parents, we must rewire ourselves to be more inclusive in our language and in our conduct. Most of the time, out of love, we attribute pink to girls or blue to boys, and then unconsciously we develop this distinction as we grow. These behaviours then get amplified, and in the workplace, we struggle to correct that behaviour. While companies are doing a lot to correct these biases, much more needs to be done at the grassroots to avoid falling into this trap.

The pandemic has helped erode some workplace barriers, like flexible working. It has helped address some of those misconceptions around productivity that are associated with working from home. These forced changes in work patterns will enable more female workers to excel on equitable ground. There could not be a better time to crush these barriers than now, with data and determination.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

LTI is leading the female cause, which has helped women tremendously. As an organisation, in Europe, we are proud to say that 40% of senior roles are filled by women. When developing inclusion programmes, it is important that we understand that women may be in different stages of life, and therefore need to be helped accordingly.

For example, mentorship programmes, if run with the correct intentions, can produce wonderful results. 2020 helped emphasise the importance of holistic wellbeing and highlighted the flaws of a ‘one size fits all’ approach. So now, we are talking about a customised experience: at LTI we are strengthening our ‘pod’ service model where members have complimentary skills that they deliver as a team.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

While this may sound strange, I believe that tech focuses too heavily on qualifications, and not enough on personal attributes, like work ethic. We must look beyond degrees and focus on soft skills and attitude. This would accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry. Necessity is the mother of invention. There could not be a better time than now when there is demand for tech talent. As of 2020, the global talent shortage already amounts to 40 million skilled workers worldwide. Our ability to upskill and reskill will enable women and address the gap between tech talent demand and supply.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

As I mentioned earlier, it is essential to keep on learning. Given that we all have different learning styles, choose the method that is aligned to your learning style, as that will help you retain knowledge. It could be reading, listening to a podcast, or watching tech videos. I also have spoken about the importance of mentors, so networking can help significantly, and it can also enable crowd-learning. I personally prefer a combination of all of these learning techniques. I strongly suggest that we invest in ourselves and ensure that we take time out to do so on a daily basis.


Inspirational Woman: Anna Stepanoff | CEO, Wild Code School

Anna StepanoffI am married with three children and the CEO of Wild Code School, a technology educator with the goal of nurturing today’s digital talent.

I founded the School in 2013 and with more than 20 campuses across Europe, and my role is in the global management and strategy of the business, helping to ensure we have the best teachers, technology and culture to attract and further tech talent. Our latest courses (the next starting on June 22nd) are fully remote as a result of the global lockdown so we have all been working hard to ensure students have the best remote experience.

My education has included a Bachelor of Arts at Harvard University in social sciences, after which I moved to Paris to do a PhD at La Sorbonne on the History of museums, where I also taught for three years. During this time, I was also working as a consultant at the Management Consultancy, McKinsey.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No. And I would never have imagined I would be where I am today! Even five years ago I couldn’t have known where my interests in education and technology would have taken me, and indeed how Wild Code School has developed.

I was once given what I have found to be very valuable advice. If you want to hit a target, you should shoot first and then decide your target. Being too precise too early limits your understanding of potential opportunities and can stop you from discovering the exact area that interests and motivates you.

I used this thinking when I realised while doing my PhD that I was not meant to be a researcher or a professor as I had previously felt was my direction. I wanted to do something more entrepreneurial and felt that educational environments and approaches to learning needed re-thinking. I also realised in my professional work that the biggest issue facing businesses today is a lack of talent, and this is most pronounced in technology.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I have and continue to do so. At university I sincerely thought I would become a professor but had to accept I was not happy and this direction was not right for me. I knew I wanted to work in education so had to re-think how I could achieve this goal outside of the existing educational structures and hierarchies.

I began by creating a summer school and organising international conferences – which is where I found the meaning of what I intended to do. There were important technological advancements being made in education, and I believed that technology needed to be coupled with a new approach that inspired and engaged students, and that was more aligned to the needs of companies and the commercial world.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

It has to be Wild Code School. It now employs over 100 people and we have more than 1,000 students every year. I believe it has had a positive impact on, not just the students, but also the educational system in general, demonstrating alternative teaching approaches, the inclusivity of the tech industry and the need to make further education more aligned to the needs of business.

What motivates me is that technology talent is all around us, but it needs to be nurtured and encouraged in order for businesses and society to access to that talent.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Timing. Quite simply, I embarked on the Wild Code School project at the right time. At the time I was also interested in other projects around childcare, but did not pursue them as I realised I was too late and the innovations had already happened. Technological advancements were new and ready for me to take advantage of in 2013 in the field of further education.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Be comfortable with uncertainty and understand you can never know everything, because the tech world changes continuously. Some of our students struggle with this, especially when they have come from other fields that are more settled. It’s important for them to understand early on that being comfortable with uncertainty is a fundamental requirement of working in tech.

Do you believe there are still barriers to success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, there are certainly still barriers for women working in tech and I have been lucky that I have not been confronted with these too directly or harshly. The main barrier, and this is not specific to the tech world, is in having children and raising a family.

There is no simple answer to overcoming the fact that many women bear the brunt of the physical and mental responsibilities of looking after children. With three children, juggling responsibilities can of course be challenging and it is about managing stress as well as possible. I completely understand women deciding not having children, in favour of pursuing a career, but moving forward there has to be a stronger cultural change in men and women sharing the responsibilities of childcare. While there is some bias towards careers that men and women are drawn to, I very much believe that women can achieve the same things that men do.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

The most important thing is to ensure that there is a good percentage of women in any team or company. If percentages are low, there is a risk that women will be less comfortable and less likely to succeed. It is a question of making a conscious effort to address, and where necessary, adapt work cultures to ensure there are successful female role models in any business.

There is currently only 17% of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

It would be to increase the number and visibility of role models of women working in important positions and to be better at promoting tech as a creative and diverse career option. For us at Wild Code School we can do this by supporting women and developing stories about students that succeed. However, the promotion of tech as an attractive career path needs to start much earlier; with changes in the curriculum that will help to inspire teenage women.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

At Wild Code School we offer a number of free preparatory courses to introduce people to the world of technology. We make these accessible for people of all educational and career backgrounds; teaching students how to create memes, for example, knowing they are a popular piece of tech that most people are familiar with, but might not realise are created through coding. We also use storytelling to demonstrate our approach to learning; for instance, using ancient Greek mythology and the story of the Argonauts as a useful analogy to the basics of software development.

Our paid data analyst, web development and front-end web development courses take five months and are full- or part-time depending on the course. Under lockdown we shifted our courses to be fully remote and are extremely pleased with how little we need to rely on face-to-face interactions to maintain the energy and fun that our course supervisors inject into learning. Our students come from a diverse set of backgrounds, from finance and engineering to design and even dance, and for our next June course, we are all very excited to see both men and women embrace technology and realise its career opportunities.


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Romanie Thomas featured

Inspirational Woman: Romanie Thomas | CEO & Founder, Juggle Jobs

Romanie Thomas

Romanie is a non-white (BAME), female entrepreneur who successfully raised over $2.1m in VC and angel funding for her start up.

She’s a leading authority on the topics of AI in recruitment, diversity and inclusion, flexible working, learning and development. As an energetic and confident speaker, her expertise has featured in The Daily Mail Andrew Pierce Show, The Dominic Monkhouse Podcast, The Telegraph, Management Today, and BITE (Creative Brief).

Romanie is an experienced headhunter who has spent the last ten years helping companies find outstanding senior staff. During that time, she saw very little progress on gender diversity at the leadership level. Today, less than 10% of business leaders are women. Romanie’s vision is to grow this percentage to 50% by 2027.

She believes that companies can increase the numbers of women in leadership positions and improve diversity in the workplace by implementing flexible working practices and adopting technological innovation. Romanie is incredibly passionate about equality in the workplace with her personal belief being that the adoption of innovative technology and forward-thinking will enable us to move towards a more equal society.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

After spending almost 10 years as an Executive Head-hunter, I decided to found Juggle Jobs – a platform for companies to find and manage experienced professionals, on a flexible basis. I believe that if we make flexibility the de facto and easy way for companies to hire senior professionals, the gender split between men and women at business leadership levels will look much healthier for the next generation.

I am also a Board Advisor at Circl – a fantastic company connecting amazing young professionals from underprivileged backgrounds to leaders in corporates. They gain coaching skills, valuable mentors, everything that those from more privileged backgrounds receive, therefore levelling the playing field and making sure that great people have opportunities, regardless of where they come from.

I am also soon to be a new mum and just figuring out how I’m going to manage it all! An exciting and scary time.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. I had an inkling from an early age that I was strong on the commercial and sales side, and I value meritocracy, so recruitment was a natural fit. I didn’t have a set plan as such, but I did know in the back of my mind that I would setup my own business, and so the decisions I took contributed to that ultimate goal (however unconscious those decisions were at the time).

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I would describe myself as privileged, in that I never wanted for anything and parents sacrificed a great deal to ensure we were accomplished. They were loving and deeply interested in what we were doing too, so even though our circumstances weren’t grand, we were immensely lucky. However when I joined the workforce and recruitment in particular, it was clear I stood out, coming from a State school vs a public or private school. I was also the only non-white (or one of 1-2) in reasonably large companies.

My accent has subtly changed from Staffordshire to more of a well-spoken Londoner. I believe this has happened so that I fit in. I shaped a narrative around being an ethnic minority, but now that I look back, I can see that some of this wasn’t entirely healthy as it was all about fitting in rather than being proud of a different identity. I’d really like things to be different for the next generation.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Getting the business through Covid-19 and into a very strong position now. It was a test of nerves, strategy, vision, and work ethic. I’m immensely proud of getting us through that time and excited about the business now as it’s clear the flexible angle is the right one!

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

A very strong sense of “why”. This journey is extremely hard at times and frankly, there are more lucrative careers (in the short term) with far less pain. But I’m passionate about the gender mission, equality really means something to me and that fuels me up during the bad times.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Don’t focus too much on what you’re not good at, really hone in on your strengths.

Mindset is everything. Pay as much attention to your mental health and strength (this isn’t about escaping from things; it’s about developing resilience).

Be a team player but don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. It’s easy to be a selfish person and a doormat – it’s much harder to balance your interests with the company or team – but it’s a vital skill to learn.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, and I dislike how much we focus on things at an individual level rather than discussion the obvious systemic ones: maternity leave, discrimination, the gender pay gap.

The solutions I believe are rooted in big changes, but they’re quite simple:

  1. Flexible working – normalise this entirely
  2. Rewards – change exactly what behaviour we reward in organisations so that we move from recognising people who shout the loudest, to those that are delivering the most
  3. Transparency – from the gender pay gap and maternity leave, there’s no shame in admitting we don’t have it right, but how we can achieve any progress if companies are still hiding things?

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Focus on the systemic changes rather than encouraging women to modify their behaviour. That narrative needs kicking to the curb once and for all.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

Change the C-suite across the board so it’s 50:50. The visibility of great women leading the organisations, coupled with the diversity of thought that will enter into the decision making (with AI for example) would be transformational.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I love the Radical Candor podcast. Live Better Feel More is also great for mindset and has a broad range of wellness experts on there – essential when you’re thinking about furthering your career. I recently read Matthew McConoughey’s “Greenlights” which I know looks like an odd choice but honestly, try it, it’s great for making you realise the world is your oyster.


From charity to coding: Why it’s never too late to change your career  

It was on my return from travelling South America with my fiancé that I decided I didn’t want to go back to my old career. I had spent 10 years in the charity sector and it just didn’t bring me the enthusiasm that I had experienced when I first set out.

Beyond that I didn’t have a clue, I just tried to be as open minded as possible.

What I could never have imagined was that, age 30, I’d be an apprentice software developer – and, on top of that, loving it!

Not only did I think apprenticeships were for much younger people, but I had never shown any interest in IT. I had all these preconceptions about it, I hadn’t any interest in computers and didn’t think it was very sociable. Even though my boyfriend was a software engineer, I just never thought it was for me.

After spending weeks trawling networking events and workshops, I stumbled across a one day coding course put on by a global charity called Django Girls, where I learned how to build a blog site. I thought knowing how to build a website would look good on my CV, but when I had a go myself I really got into it – I wanted to know more, how and why.

Suddenly I became excited about it, I thought about all the other things I could do with these new skills and how I could achieve it. I hadn’t gone looking for coding, but it was like something clicked – I was suddenly interested in it all.

The next step was having the confidence to apply for an apprenticeship.

The workshop I had taken part in held at Code Nation, a Manchester-based software development and apprenticeship provider and coding school. Through them I learned about a role at EMIS Health.

The company is the UK’s leading provider of software to the NHS – supporting more than 10,000 organisations including GP practices, community pharmacists and hospital trusts in their daily work on the frontline.  It has played a key role supporting service delivery during the coronavirus pandemic.

The company runs an apprenticeship scheme in partnership with Code Nation, giving applicants the opportunity to train and then become junior software developers.

I didn’t expect to get it. I’m not someone who’s had a passion for coding my whole life or knew an awful lot about it, but because I enjoyed it so much I decided it was worth applying for – and I’m glad I did! Something I’ve learned since is that EMIS Health is very keen on getting women into the tech industry, and they weren’t looking for someone with all the answers, they just wanted someone with problem solving skills and a passion for it.

I started the course with Code Nation in September 2019 and started my full time role as a junior software developer with EMIS Health in January.

There’s something about the industry that’s very exciting. The world is taking such strides in terms of technology advances it’s really interesting to learn about. And, contrary to my early misconceptions, it’s very sociable! You work as a team with people who share the same passions and are interested to hear about what you have discovered.

There’s also a real push to get more women into the tech industry, so if anyone is interested in either starting a new career or learning more about it, there are lots of opportunities.

As well learning new technical skills, it’s great that I’ve been able to continue making a difference to society. I worked in the charity sector because making a difference is important to me. One of my concerns with moving jobs was whether I would find something that fulfilled that side of things.

EMIS Health’s technology directly supports the frontline work of clinicians across the UK, including GPs, pharmacists and hospital trusts. I’m a small cog in a big machine, but it’s still a machine that’s making a difference and I’m proud to be part of it.

So, to anyone thinking they are too old to change their career, you can still go on to be successful in a completely new industry, there are lots of opportunities out there – you just have to take that first step!

To find out more about careers at EMIS Health, visit https://emisgroup.careers

Vicky HotchkissAbout the author

Vicky Hotchkiss, from Chorlton, in South Manchester, is one of EMIS Health’s newest apprentices - developing software that supports frontline NHS clinicians.

Originally from Barnsley in South Yorkshire, she earned a degree in environmental studies at the University of York and worked in the charity sector for around 10 years before retraining to become a junior software developer.


Alice Pelton featured

Inspirational Woman: Alice Pelton | Founder & CEO, The Lowdown

Alice PeltonAlice Pelton is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Lowdown, the world’s first review platform for contraception.

She studied at the London School of Economics, before working in strategy and product management at the publisher News UK. She set up The Lowdown in 2019, and is based in London.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I grew up in Salisbury, Wiltshire, and left to study Anthropology at the LSE. After graduating, I launched an e-commerce brand selling dog food (!) before getting on the marketing graduate scheme at the publisher News UK. It’s been quite varied 🤣

I spent seven years at News UK – and during my time there, realised I liked working with developers and tech teams more than I did briefing creative agencies. Whilst I was on sabbatical in 2017 I thought of the idea for The Lowdown, after ranting to my boyfriend about my terrible experiences with contraception. I used my experience working as a digital product manager for some of the UK’s biggest news brands to make it happen and bootstrapped and built the site as a side hustle, launching it in 2019.

The Lowdown really took off, so I quit my job at News UK in 2019, went travelling, and then came home in peak lockdown to focus on the business full-time last year. We recently closed an investment round, hired a team and launched our consultation and prescriptions service. We’re currently hard at work rebuilding our website, which will be launching in September.

Helping women with their contraception and building this business is my dream job and I absolutely love it!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – my only plan was to try out lots of different things in my twenties, to find out what I most enjoyed. I would treat the early stage in your career as like browsing a buffet, and not get too hung up on what you choose. Just try and work in an environment that gives you flexibility, fast promotion and loads of space to learn. It’s all about your rate of learning, and there’s nothing wrong with being a generalist in my (biased) opinion.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I was very impatient in the early stages of my career and had to take advice to slow down and let things happen. My main challenges have all been internal – trying not to worry or stress about things too much, and being insanely hard on myself.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Probably being interviewed about The Lowdown by The Times for their T2 supplement. I read The Times every day and it made my Dad proud.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

Relationship building. After a few years of working in an office, I realised how much success is down to getting to know people and working well with them. The Lowdown was built with the help of friends, ex-colleagues and passionate community members. Without relationships with these people, it would not exist.

The Lowdown is the world’s first review platform for contraception – How important is it that women have a platform to be able to discuss their health openly?

It’s long overdue and absolutely critical. Traditional healthcare isn’t working, and women are desperate for a safe space where they can share their experiences and get the real lowdown on how things may impact them.

Our organic success is testament to this; since launching the site we’ve collected over 5,000 experiences from women and are visited by thousands of people every day, without spending any money on marketing.

What top tips would you give to someone looking for a career in Femtech?

Contact start-ups like The Lowdown and pitch to write, help out, or tell us what we’re doing wrong! It’s a really nascent industry so jump on board a rocket ship as one of them will take off! 🚀 Try out brands and products, and become an expert in an area that interests you.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Build a stronger pipeline by investing in ways to teach women how to code or get into tech in the first place. Start paying us the same as men. When recruiting, don’t put names on CVs to help avoid bias.

There are currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I think it starts in schools – with the gendering of our education system and the assumption that women don’t want to or aren’t encouraged to code or look into STEM subjects. Is anyone properly selling tech to them? If you told a 16-year-old she could earn over £100k per year as an Android developer, building products for the coolest companies on the planet, I think she’d be interested.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I don’t subscribe to that many newsletters as a lot of them are just noise – but I do highly recommend Femtech insider. Women of Wearables and Femstreet are good also. Twitter is a great place to find interesting threads from founders and investors in a space you’re interested in. I love listening to How I Built This podcast for inspiration when I’m feeling in a pit of doom.

My top three books are the oft recommended (for a reason) Four Hour Work Week (on side hustles), The Hard Thing about Hard Things (on leadership) and Who: The A Method (on hiring)


Anna Brailsford featured

Inspirational Woman: Anna Brailsford | CEO, Code First: Girls

Anna Brailsford

Anna is the CEO of Code First: Girls and a Board Member for the Institute of Coding.

Before joining CF:G Anna was the CEO and co-founder of Founders Factory incubated EdTech startup Frisbee. Prior to that, Anna was the Commercial Director of Lynda.com and LinkedIn. When LinkedIn acquired Lynda for $1.5 Billion in April 2015, she became part of the fourth-largest acquisition in social media history and subsequently contributed to the creation of LinkedIn Learning.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m CEO of Code First: Girls. We have educated and built one of the largest communities of female tech talent in the UK. My current focus is connecting women to economic opportunity and jobs in the tech industry. Over the years I have co-founded my own EdTech startup and was the Commercial Director of Lynda.com, which was bought by LinkedIn for $1.5bn. I started off in family-run businesses and have always gravitated towards entrepreneurial roles.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not really. On reflection, the only thing I have ever really planned is my education. I think success is often what happens when you are making other plans. I find being overly prescriptive can often curtail opportunity. The best decisions I have made about my career aren’t necessarily safe or predictable.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

I’ve faced countless challenges. I find the fear of personal and professional failure can often hold people back. It’s taken me some time to accept that you can’t always get it right and that sometimes the difference between success and failure is being in the right place at the right time.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

On paper, it would probably be contributing to the fourth-largest acquisition in social media history. However, on a personal level, it is definitely the extent to which I have benefited from hyper-growth environments. It leads to a different type of mindset. I think career achievements are simply labels, but mindset will shape you.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success? 

People. If you have the right people around you and the requisite talent, you can achieve almost anything. The biggest thing I look for in a hire is intellect, creativity, and the potential for mutual growth. Ironically, that is exactly what a previous mentor said about hiring me. Success is not isolated to a certain point in your life or one person, it is an ongoing process and recognition that the best people will challenge you to see the world differently.

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

One of the greatest experiences you can get is in a startup environment, it teaches you about the different layers of a technology business. Many corporations are actively looking for some startup experience and it is often perceived very positively for both business and technical roles.

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Yes, that is a well-established fact. The ‘why’ is actually very complex and is subject to countless studies. In my opinion, we need to reframe the debate. It’s not enough to get more women into tech; we should focus on developing future female leaders across the sector. Leadership helps set the tone and in my opinion barriers are often a product of culture.

What do you think companies can do to support to progress the careers of women working in technology?

Stop talking and start acting. There have been some phenomenal moves forward recently with some well-known brands pledging a 50:50 workforce in coming years. The challenge for many of these companies will be retaining women so they can start to influence the leadership pipeline. Some clear wins include mentorship programmes, flexible family working, equal paternity leave, career mobility and focusing on authentic leadership.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would make future technologies, entrepreneurship and business a considerable part of the national curriculum, with a particular focus on strong female role models from within the industry. Young women are statistically outperforming men when it comes to many academic subjects, however we are not equipping them with the support, confidence and environment to perceive themselves as future leaders in a male-dominated space.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech, (eg Podcasts, networking events, books, conferences, websites etc? )

I really believe in networks. Being in the tech industry can be lonely; it pays off to know that others may be experiencing similar emotions and insecurities. I’d recommend being at events where you can share without fear of judgement; there are many fantastic women out there who are willing to listen. I’ve also recently started listening to the Guilty Feminist - it combines two of my favourite things, comedy and some kick-ass women.


women in tech, soft skills featured

How to de-risk career switching for women looking to take advantage of the technology skill gaps in the UK

women in tech, soft skills

Article by Fabio Forghieri, CEO and Founder, Boolean

It’s no secret we have a technology skills gap in the UK.

We are Europe’s biggest tech hub, with a large start-up ecosystems and over 100 tech unicorns, but demand for talent outstrips supply, with a recent Totaljobs survey reporting that 71% of technology employers expect to face at least a moderate skills shortage in the next 12 months.

A career as a software engineer is one that has great appeal. The demand for programming skills is on the rise as everything goes digital, and it’s a field that certainly offered more job security through the pandemic with the added benefit of flexible working options and competitive salaries.

Technology has traditionally been a male-dominated field, with a persistently low representation of women. Tech Nation’s recent survey found only 19% of people working in tech are women. On the flip-side, many employers are actively seeking to address this disproportionate representation by changing their hiring practices and engineering team environments to be more inclusive to women.

The challenge these employers face is that the traditional recruitment process relies on university graduates with computer science degrees. Not only are 80% of these graduates men, but also the three-year study period means current roles can’t be filled quickly. Any changes made today that positively impact course demographics won’t impact the hiring pool until at least 2024.

In a bid to resolve the current skills gap, employers are updating their new hire processes and considering candidates from other educational backgrounds, such as tech academies and bootcamps, creating a more accessible path for women wanting to pursue a career in software engineering.

Career switchers

This change in mindset from employers also provides a great opportunity for women looking to switch careers and reskill. University is rarely a realistic option due to the time and cost involved, whereas tech academies reduce the amount of time spent studying and are only a fraction of the price.

Those on a new career path require training that is more focused on career outcomes. Simply ‘learning to code’ isn’t enough.

There is increasing recognition that university degrees are not offering the necessary practical skills to prepare students for the life of a professional developer or keeping pace with changing industry demands.

Career switchers need a faster start. They require tailored training programmes that allow them to build and demonstrate practical, industry-ready skills to find a job.

Tech academies, like Boolean, provide a valuable service for students through hands-on training with experienced software engineering teachers with a heavy emphasis on learning by doing.

Before the pandemic, these ‘fast-track’ courses were perceived as a useful ‘first step’ towards a career in tech. However, the quality and relevance of this type of education is improving as demand for tech skills increases.

These courses now offer a very viable alternative to quickly transition into a new tech-focused career, and we’re seeing an influx of sign-ups from women wishing to move away from positions in marketing, retail and hospitality into more lucrative and flexible tech positions.

Choosing the right course

Not every tech academy is created equal. There are many options available and those serious about starting a career in tech need to find the appropriate course with the right curriculum and the right methods of teaching.

Career switchers should look for courses that teach a range of modern programming languages:

  • Javascript — the dominant language for writing full-stack web applications, and the most commonly used programming language on Stack Overflow’s developer survey for the 9th year running
  • js — allows students to create servers and APIs and build full-stack Javascript applications
  • React — currently the most widespread UI framework and highly sought after in the job market
  • Typescript — a technology growing in popularity that introduces students to statically-typed languages and the concept of types

It’s also important to choose a course that offers the right structure for you. For example, Boolean offers a six-month full-time course with live lessons and one-to-one support to accelerate the pace of learning.

Another consideration is location. Online learning offers students flexibility to fit education around their lives, yet it’s not as simple as running all your classes on Zoom. There needs to be a digital infrastructure that provides support to both students and teachers to create a positive and efficient learning environment.

Lastly, investigate whether a course provides careers support after graduation. Courses such as Boolean offer students six months of support after completing their course, to help graduates find their first job. If unsuccessful, graduates receive a full refund.

The pandemic has led to many women re-assessing their career and life choices, whether that be for opportunities to have a more fulfilling career, a greater sense of purpose in their job or flexibility for a work-life balance.

Few people have the luxury of retraining without some certainty of employment, but modern education methods are creating new, less risky options and, with closer links to industry, there has never been a better time to make that leap.


Women working with computer for design and coding program

Why we need to encourage more girls into coding and STEM

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Article by Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO and Founder, Cypher

Think Different. A great Apple ad campaign from 1997. The fact that we all think differently is at the very root of why girls - and everyone for that matter - should be encouraged to get into coding.

The reason we should encourage girls into coding is not just about feminism or equality, it’s not just about fairness or a ‘level playing field’, it’s not just about opening up glass ceilings and filling quotas. It’s far more important than that. It’s about solving problems for the future of our world.

Talking about the ‘female’ mind or ‘male’ mind is fraught with difficulty - so I’m not suggesting these are two different opposing gender-based options, but broadly painting a picture of a rich spectrum of the diversity of thought amongst individuals. A bit like we use ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ ways of thinking. It’s the combination of this diversity, facilitated through inclusivity, that leads to the ability to solve problems in new and unpredictable ways.

As a teacher I have observed children approaching tasks in different ways which reveal different mindsets. Early on in my experience of teaching children to learn to code, I taught a class of boys a lesson about making a space invaders game. The lesson taught concepts about coding and computational thinking. The boys picked up the concepts fast, were highly competitive, designed efficient invader killing programs and were totally goal orientated. Soon after I had the opportunity to teach the same lesson to a group of girls. I was fascinated by the alternative way of working that they displayed. This group took twice as long to complete the task. However, they were collaborative, discussed different options, considered the design and colour scheme of the game and even considered the wellbeing of the aliens - providing ways for them to get food. They completed the task differently.

This got me thinking about the value of different approaches to problem solving. And also the very evident fact that there are less women working in technology than men. Women make up just 17%  of IT specialists in the UK. While the concept of computer science was invented by a woman, once it was turned into an academic subject to fit into an educational system designed largely around how boys learn, it lost it’s connection with the ‘poetic science’ displayed by Ada Lovelace’s mind. Ada Lovelace, an English mathematician working with Charles Babbage in around 1843, first developed the idea that computers had the capability to go beyond mere number-crunching.

The benefit of learning computational thinking, the core concepts behind developing code and algorithms, is that it gives students the tools to both think around problems and promotes the idea that there are many ways to solve a problem. Thinking computationally isn’t just about the questions you answer, but about the questions you ask. What I might call a male approach might be to set the question ‘What is 2x2?’ We can all do that - 4. But what if we ask the question, ‘How do you make 4?’ Immediately the mind expands and starts thinking of different angles. How about  8÷2, 1+1+1+1, 22, 60÷15, √16……there are so many ways. With different people working together - different genders, different heritages, different social backgrounds - the approaches are instantly diversified. And women tend to bring together a range of approaches rather than stick to a straightforward path.

In my own career I have an example where my approach, bringing together two different principles, led to a new and exciting solution. With my background in both computer science and architecture, I have developed the code to create a space planning app to improve office space usage. It was also the result of a great partnership with my husband, Bruce. By putting together two types of algorithms, a particle based system and a graphical based system, I was able to create algorithms to solve the space problems faster. Bruce, interestingly, says that’s something he would never have done and credits my ‘female mind’ as being able to think in a more lateral, pick’n’mix way. When it came to getting the algorithms patented however, he was the one to drive that process through and get it registered. Teamwork.

So how have we managed to put off so many girls going into computer science? Just 9% of female graduates in 2018 studied a core Stem subject - science, technology, engineering and maths. Some girls are keen on computing and I’m the last one to stereotype anyone into a particular role. I was both the president of the Computer Science club at high school - and the Cheerleaders. I love gaming. But I love other things too. I’m a Mom, and I like being in charge of how my home is, what the kids do and getting to know their teachers and the other school Moms. It’s my choice to take on that role in our marriage (as well as being CTO of our company). We just don’t make computer science sound that attractive to most girls. What’s the point? How does it relate to me? I read an Instagram post only yesterday from a woman who’d just got a house to herself after being brought up with three brothers - doesn’t this just paint a picture of what life can be like for some girls?

“There has always been noise, there has always been things everywhere that were the possessions of others, that weren’t for me, and I wasn’t to touch…amps, wires, guitars, drum kits, video games and televisions that I was never interested in but wasn’t ever allowed to use anyway - the year PlayStation came out was really shit, just saying.”

It’s not encouraging!

Things have to change. Everyone needs to get to understand technology better. The 98% of people who don’t want to be computer programmers have to have an elevated level of understanding of technology to be able to function in today’s and especially tomorrow’s world. An understanding of how computing works, what computational thinking is, how algorithms work - takes away the fear of technology. Technophobia is only overcome when you have a go, you discover it’s not so clever, it’s just about giving a machine a few instructions. And wow, those instructions can make a real difference.

By broadening the understanding of technology we can also help increase the numbers of women working in and understanding technology. When I spoke at a conference for International Women’s Day last year I was impressed by the recognition of the breadth of what ‘women in tech’ means. The marketing team was proud to stand up and say, “We are women in tech’. No, they aren’t labelled CTO but they do run the Facebook campaigns and understand the algorithms, they do run the website, they do analyse the data from all the technological interactions with customers.

How do we encourage girls into coding and STEM? By creating environments that welcome women. By appreciating that not everyone thinks the same and that there are many ways to peel an orange. By showing that they can tap into their creativity when learning computational thinking. That it can help their creativity. I set up my company, Cypher, to inspire children to learn the language of the future - code. From the outset, I wanted to make it as girl friendly as possible. The whole premise of Cypher is that we teach through creative themes - we want to catch a kid’s imagination and curiosity with subjects that mean something to them - whatever their gender. Our themes range from exploring marine ecology and conservation, to a virtual world tour meeting robots and building pyramids, to making magic, to fashion shows and composing music. And whatever the theme, we connect it to technology, learning to code and developing computational thinking. STEM by stealth if you like. The greater the range of children we can excite about coding now, the greater the diversity of thinking and problem solving that will be in the next generation of leaders, designers, thinkers - bringing new and surprising solutions to the problems we face in the future. As we say at Cypher, getting the next generation future ready.

Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO CypherAbout the author

Elizabeth Tweedale is a computer scientist, has a master’s degree in architecture, has written six books for children explaining different coding languages and is the Founder and CEO of Cypher – an edtech startup inspiring children aged 5 to 12+ to learn and apply the language of coding through creative and interactive camps and clubs. She’s also a mother of three young digital natives.

While working for Foster & Partners’ Specialist Modelling Group in 2013, she spotted the educational potential of coding. She explains: “My team used computer coding to design buildings, including the Apple Campus and the Gherkin. I saw many colleagues teaching themselves how to code and hitting stumbling blocks because they didn’t have a basic understanding of computational thinking and had never learned how easily code fits together.”

Her experience sparked a question. Shouldn’t we be teaching our young children how to code? And so she set up a company to do just that.


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coding

Why now is the perfect time to learn to code…

codingThe COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on businesses and people across the globe. People are working from home, have been furloughed or have lost their jobs, which, for some, has led to more free time than ever before.

Although this is an incredibly challenging time, it provides the opportunity to learn new skills, which can help provide a sense of empowerment, build confidence, and can set you up for future success.

Coding is an especially great skill to work on at home – whether you are starting from scratch or want to advance in your current role.  Coding is the way in which you give instructions to a computer to get it to perform one or more tasks. Just in the same way that you can use French or Spanish to communicate directions to people from either country, there are different coding languages suited to different applications, such as JavaScript (website generation), C# (computer games development) and Python (data mining/machine learning).

My career in coding

I first got into coding in my early 20’s, as a master’s student in Bioinformatics. During those times, it was a rarity to see women in coding, the overwhelming majority of people on my course were men. Although there are more female coders today than twenty years ago, the field of coding desperately needs more girls and women – they are half of all tech users and make 85 per cent of shopping decisions.

Throughout my career, I have used coding to solve problems that would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve without it. In the biomedical sector, I have used it to predict which molecules would make the best candidates for a drug development program, to automatically identify and characterise tumours from nuclear medicine imaging. I get a real buzz from translating my ideas into code which helps solve a real-world problem.

Being a female coder

As a woman in working in science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing (STEM) for over 20 years, I have rarely experienced negative attitudes towards female coders. From my perspective, it has become an inclusive industry that understands the need for a diverse range of people to help prevent issues like implicit bias in coding and foster innovation and empathy in artificial intelligence and machine-learning. Although I do remember one person telling me at a business conference that he “didn’t know that blonde girls could code.” But times are changing…

I joined leading med-tech company, Perspectum, in 2014, to help develop a prototype for a new liver imaging technology. Women make up 56 per cent of the workforce at Perspectum which, for a med-tech firm, is ahead of the curve. However, that percentage drops within the software engineering team to 24 per cent which, despite being in line with the number of applicants who come to interview, highlights that there’s still a lot to be done to encourage women into the field.

Speaking to my coding friends in other sectors, I have heard of women feeling side-lined in software teams comprised predominantly of testosterone-fuelled ‘brogrammers,’ but I think that attitudes are changing for the better, and more and more women are pursuing careers in coding.

There is no time like the present

I would advise women who are deciding whether or not to start a career in coding to just do it – don’t wait, start today even! The good news is that there are plenty of varied – and even free – options for learning the basics online, using sites such as Code Academy or Treehouse. There are also many friendly forums (some women-only) where you can share ideas and ask for help from the coding community. If you have been thinking about taking the plunge, take advantage of the free time you may have at the moment as a result of the pandemic, and start developing the foundational coding skills you need to build websites, programmes, or even medical diagnostic devices like me!

About the author

Dr Cat Kelly is the Director of Clinical Informatics and Services, and co-leads Perspectum’s Clinical Services Business Unit.

Cat has 20 years of industrial and academic experience in the biomedical space. Joining Perspectum in 2014, Cat developed Perspectum’s flagship product LiverMultiScan, before founding the Quantitative Analysis Service. Prior to Perspectum, she developed imaging methods to quantify drug-induced changes in tumours at the University of Oxford and served as Associate Director of the Life Sciences Interface Doctoral Training Centre. Cat holds degrees in Biology and Bioinformatics from the University of York and obtained her DPhil in Medical Imaging from the Department of Engineering at the University of Oxford.


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