How women in STEM can master the job interview 

By Dr Lindsey Zuloaga, Chief Data Scientist at HireVue - the global leader in video interviewing, assessments, chatbot and recruiting automation technology

The world of work has seen fundamental changes with COVID restrictions in place, new working  structures, unemployment and expected influx of jobseekers, fueling fierce competition for roles.

In particular, women have been affected disproportionately in the workforce, with earnings declining by 12.9 per cent, nearly double the reduction for men, and being 1.8 times more likely than men to have lost their jobs.  As women look to re-enter the workforce, it’s more critical than ever that they master the skills of the interview to stand out amidst fierce competition.

Know the company, its culture, and your relevant experience like the back of your hand 

To make an impact during interviews, you should start by knowing the company, what is needed for the role, and how your previous experience makes you the ideal candidate. Research the company, understand its values and who its competitors are, and you will be more comfortable aligning your experience with the requirements of the job. This prep will shine through in your interview.

Practice answering interview questions in the way that works best for you.  The STAR framework is a well used format that can help you organise your thoughts and articulate your answers. Think about situations where you have made a difference in the past and arrange it by Situation, Task, Activity, and Result (STAR) of your work.

The STAR framework is particularly useful for open-ended questions about your experiences (e.g. “How do you work on a team”?). Research found that women more effectively use the emotional and social competencies needed for effective leadership and management than men, so make sure to showcase these skills to your prospective employer.

Prepare for your online Interview 

It’s normal to be nervous about the interview process, so being prepared will help you manage this stress as well as help you perform better in your interview. In STEM focused fields, interviews will likely require you to carry out a technical assessment, such as HireVue’s CodeVue, which assess the extent of your technical knowledge and see how you are able to practically apply it to real-life situations. Preparation is key - you know how to do this work - show them!

Many STEM fields experience high application volume, particularly at the graduate level, so it is also likely that you will need to participate in a virtual interview during your job search. While the experience does not differ drastically from an in person interview,  be conscious of your tech set up. Find a quiet spot where it is possible to devote the time needed to complete the interview without interruptions. If possible, it is also best to stabilise your recording device, whether smartphone, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer so that you’re not distracted by trying to hold it steady.

Lean into soft skills to stand apart from the competition

Having the experience and education required for any job you’re applying to is essential, however it's just as important to be able to highlight how your soft skills will benefit the company. 

More than ever, soft skills are being prioritised by employers, with 65 percentrevealing that soft skills are the most in demand and difficult skills to find in candidates. This is an area where women in STEM can particularly capitalise, with extensive data from across 90 different countries and 55,000 professions demonstrating that women are better at utilising their soft skills for effective leadership in the workplace.

By showcasing how you’re able to utilise these skills, you’ll be positioning yourself as an asset to the company, demonstrating value with skills such as teamwork, communication, creativity, and problem solving. In addition to this, soft skills are complementary to technical skills, and by describing those two together, you can help define what makes you the ideal candidate for the role.

As the workforce continues to grow and adapt to these changing times, so must candidates. It is not only imperative for candidates to refine and focus their skills, but to confidently communicate these in an interview setting. By being knowledgeable, prepared and concise, you can ensure that employers see what you bring to the table and why they should hire you.


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How to balance your work and personal life as a rising tech entrepreneur

Balance scale, Balance, work life balance

The tech world provides remarkable opportunities to those willing to embrace its complexity, as we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

People fired or furloughed due to the tough conditions have turned their talents to the online world, finding ingenious ways to succeed and achieve remarkable career reinventions — but the intense pace of internet business takes its toll, and solopreneurs can risk burnout.

If you’re growing your brand as a tech entrepreneur and inching closer to your goals, you need to keep going, but you mustn’t do so in a way that threatens your long-term prospects. In short, you need to balance your professional life and your personal life, ensuring that you find enough free time to stay comfortable without taking your foot too far off the gas.

In this post, we’re going to offer some tips for how you manage this. Let’s get started.

Stick to a rigid schedule

Burning the candle at both ends can feel like the right thing to do when you’re just starting out and eager to prove yourself, and results can back that up: bursts of intense activity can really get your operation moving. But you can’t keep them up. If you don’t proceed with great caution, your working life can bleed over into your free time, leaving you working almost all the time.

To ensure that you don’t overwork yourself, you should lay out a strict schedule and stick to it. That means stopping work at your assigned time and getting away from your computer so you can get your mind off work. You only have so much creative energy, and you need inspiration from outside of work to refresh your ideas. Working 24/7 will quickly exhaust you.

Clearly delineate your finances

When you’re busy coding a website or trialing new software solutions, the last thing you might want to do is pore over profit margins, yet it’s absolutely vital that you do so. Running into negative cash flow can be enough to derail even a promising business. It’s all but impossible to run an effective online business without stacking up small payments: you need hosting, plugins, themes, task management tools, accountancy software, PPC ads, etc.

Now add in all the other payments you make for non-business purposes, and you’ll have a length list that can cause you no end of headaches if it gets too unruly. After all, work expenses must be viewed differently from a legal standpoint, and it would surely be exhausting to have to go through all your payments at the end of a month in an effort to sort them.

This is why you need to delineate your finances from the start. Accountancy software will surely help, but splitting your payment methods will be invaluable: every entrepreneur should apply for credit card cover as a matter of priority because they can get special business-account rates and they’ll need a dedicated account if/when they form a company. If you’re not sure how to approach splitting your finances, you can go online for help with a credit card application.

Outsource when appropriate

One of the reasons why becoming an entrepreneur is so exciting is that it takes the shackles off your potential. No longer do you need to answer to a boss and pursue only the ideas that get approved. You can do what you want to do and follow whatever path you prefer, however unorthodox it may be. This instinct to exert full control is powerful, but it can be corrupting.

The danger arises when you stay in control as your operation grows. One person can only handle so much work before they’re spread too thin, and trying to handle everything yourself will ensure that you start to run into problems. Outsourcing is the right way to go. You don’t need to hire any full-time employees — you can simply take advantage of online freelancers.

Make time for social activity

We mentioned sticking to a rigid schedule so you have a set amount of time to spend on non-work projects, but how should you use that time? You could relax by watching streaming media, playing games, or reading books. And those are certainly great ways to recover from hectic days of entrepreneurialism, but they’re missing the secret ingredient: social activity.

During the pandemic, many people have been highly isolated, and it’s left their personal lives unsatisfying. If you’re bored outside of work, you’ll end up being bored inside of work. Due to this, you must make time for social activities. Do whatever you can to spend time with friends, whether it’s online or offline. This will give you some much-needed contrast.

This isn’t easy, of course, as your friends may be busy when you’re free — but don’t just give up if you can’t find the right timing. If nothing else, you should consider meeting up with other entrepreneurs. That way you can share business advice in an informal atmosphere, giving you work inspiration but also allowing you to wind down.

About the author

Alistair Clarke is a copywriter who loves to delve into all matters technical and practical. When he's not working on content, he's dabbling in everything from design to development, or carefully nurturing his beard.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here


Engineering students

What does the perfect engineering graduate look like?

Engineering students

Article provided by Sarah Acton, a metalworking fluids sales engineer, who writes for Akramatic Engineering

For some time now, there has been a bit of a disconnect between how universities and engineering companies — and even the world at large — view the ideal engineering graduate.

According to a survey by the Institution of Engineering and Technology, nearly 3 out of 4 businesses are worried about the practical, work-related skills of graduated students — and if they are able enough to enter into the work. The concern here being, that engineering graduates have plenty of academic knowledge, but in a way that doesn’t really translate well outside of educational institutions.

For engineers, this is yet another concern to be added to the pile. There is already a massive recruitment shortage in engineering. The last thing the sector needs is a skills shortage in the few who do apply.

Inexperienced graduates and the productivity gap

It is not uncommon to hear about industry professionals struggling with graduates who appear to lack the skills. I personally know an acquaintance who worked in the motorsport industry, developing engines for racing cars. His stories often involved new recruits fresh from university, who didn’t have a clue about many practical methods and protocols.

This meant that it took a while to gradually introduce students to the process, meaning up to six months of productivity was stalled by the inexperience.

If there is just one industry where you can’t fake it until you make it, it’s engineering. After all the well-put-together presentations, and all the talk of theory and analysis, inevitably an engineer will actually have to sit down and make something, using practical skills that work.

Another manifestation of this “fake it” attitude resides in graduates who think degrees from prestigious universities will automatically give them a head up when it comes to seeking employment. It won’t. And as we have been seeing, some of the top-university students are losing out to job applicants from less attractive (on paper) universities because of a lack of practical experience.

Practicality and ‘side projects’

But even if a university course itself is mostly theoretical, there’s still lots to do voluntarily within the university to strengthen a CV application.

One such thing is the Formula Student competition. It challenges students to build racing cars, and to them race them all over the world. And despite a perception that such voluntary acts are ‘side projects’ most employers will see them as integral parts to learning and development.

For example with Formula Student, what the job applicant can essentially say is that they have worked within a team of 40 or more students, with a modest project budget (or perhaps £100,000), to build an incredibly complicated, functioning vehicle.

Practical experience has been linked with better overall academic performances and, with all that learning and achievement to talk about, it’s hardly surprising that students with side projects also perform much better in interviews.

In short, the perfect engineering graduate isn’t necessarily prestigious university alumni. In fact, if anything, the opposite is true. Practical experience is king, above all, background or education.

Minorities in engineering 

What then, can we say for minorities in engineering? Both BME and women are underrepresented (with women being ‘severely’ underrepresented according to Engineering UK’s State of the Nation report). If there’s anything we can do culturally to boost their numbers — which is important given the recruitment shortfalls we are currently facing — it’s that we make sure engineering is open to everyone.

To do this we don’t even have to make changes that are terribly ambitious. We only have to speak to minorities about possibilities in the world of engineering. From personal experience, I’ve spoken to many women — engineers and non-engineers — who’ve said that engineering was never advertised to them as a possible career growing up. Engineering needs to be advertised as suitable and welcoming no matter what you look like.

It’s also true that underrepresented groups are having success in building networks to help open up the field. Networking is a great place for women and BME candidates to build up contacts, find out about opportunities, and to reframe the sector.

To summarise 

In short: the perfect engineer is one who has good practical skills. It does not matter if you attend the most expensive, most privileged, or a lesser known education centre.

In terms of physicality, how the perfect engineer “looks” shouldn’t matter. But unfortunately, it almost certainly still does in some job roles, and parts of the industry. But that is starting to change. With more inclusive outreach campaigns to younger women in education, more visible representation in the sector, and with networking for underrepresented minorities, hopefully the only thing future engineers will have to worry about is their practical experience.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


Technology Leadership featured

Unique challenges female leaders need to overcome | Dr Pippa Malmgren

Leadership

By Dr. Pippa Malmgren, Co-author of The Leadership Lab, Winner of the 2019 Business Book of the Year

Women need to overcome many things in the work place, and so do men.

So, what is more specific to women than to men? A few things. First, we have to remember that humans are still part of the animal kingdom. They respond to many things subconsciously. Studies cosnsistently show that humans are more likely to designate someone as a leader if they are tall and loud. Many organizations are thus run on the “whoever speaks first and loudest” principle. This results, as everybody knows, are not great. We end up promoting the blowhards not only because of these qualities. It is also because we believe that confidence equals competence. As Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic says in his Harvard Business School article called “ Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders?” So, women not only have to learn how to speak up. They have to learn to be more confident.

This is easier said than done. Chamorro-Premuzic found that men typically say they are ready for a job when they are only 40 per cent to 50 per cent ready. Women typically wait until they are 100 per cent ready before they will say so. What is the end result of this gap? We get many men who overpromise and underdeliver and almost no women who underpromise and overdeliver. Maybe women should step forward and alleviate this gap?

But, you cannot change your height. So, for women, competing on size is never going to work. It’s not just height as well. Notice how men will drape their arms over nearby chairs and manspread across two places at a table. They are commanding space. Women are not designed for this. But, there are ways of taking the control back. One is to be better prepared. This does not just mean doing the homework. It also means figuring out where all the vested interests are. Women may not have height, but they have convening power. They can figure out how to align opposing interests before the meeting starts. They can be ready to explain not only the best course of action but to show that she had already garnered support for her vision. If she can also show everyone why it would be in their best interest to follow her, they are far more likely to. People trust someone who has thought through the consequences for someone else. Men could do all this too. Good leaders always do this. But we have few really good leaders these days. Women can easily take advantage of the shocking shortage of good leadership.

Not all women want to be leaders. Not all men want to be leaders either. But we still have to learn how to successfully swim in a fluid environment. Too many people think a job or a role or a current project are fixed and lasting things. Organizations are not fixed like a mountain that we are learning how to climb. Organizations are fluid. They are in perpetual motion. The skill needed is less like a mountain climber and more like a surfer. The people will change. The purpose of the work will change. So, women need to get better at managing highly fluid and ever-changing environments. A smart move is to set one’s sights on the next job, role, career, organisation that looks interesting to you.

Men constantly work with headhunters so that they know exactly what their skills are worth in the open market. Those relationships lead to the phone call about a new job that the man can fill before its even advertised. Headhunters regularly complain that women won’t take their phone calls. They want to recruit them but can’t. This is often because the woman either feels unready for the role (see above) or because she is happy where she is. That’s fine. Be happy where you are. But find out what the market rate is for your skill set. Take the free opportunity to build relationships with the headhunter who will help you find the next job even if it’s years away. Know your market.

Finally, women, and men, need to build out interests other than work. Life is short. It is important to find fun and balance. Having outside interests also makes you a more interesting person. But it serves in one further way as well. Most people solve big problems at work when they are 1. Not at work. 2. Not working 3. Not trying to solve a work problem 4. Doing something pretty inane like taking a bath or washing the dishes or going for a walk. Therefore, if you want to really excel at work, you must leave bandwidth for your brain and build in time for switching your head off. Men should do this too. But it is possible that women have an advantage here. Men more frequently pin their identity on their work. This makes them slaves to work and prevents them from switching off. Women are less likely to believe that their work role equals their identity. So, they have more freedom to park work at work. This is a gift that not many men have and many others wish they had. Take advantage of it.


Technology-community-feature

Overcoming bias in the tech industry

Technology-community-feature

Article provided by Emma Sayle, Founder and CEO Killing Kittens, Safedate and Sistr

It is a stark fact that the tech industry – like so many industries linked to science, technology, maths and engineering (STEM) – remain disproportionately represented by men.

Just 16 per cent of computer science undergraduates in the UK are women, which means there is an automatic gender bias on graduates reaching the big tech companies. This bias continues deep into the economy, with only one fifth of UK businesses currently run by women and only a third of all UK entrepreneurs are female.  Balancing the books on gender is one of the most important challenges facing our society today because without equal opportunities, we put creativity, growth and diversity at risk.

The lack of female business owners and entrepreneurs is not due to lack of talent or aptitude.  Sistr – an all-female dedicated networking site for women in business – is proof that there are plenty of exceptional and talented women who have launched careers and defined new businesses with phenomenal success.  The long-standing bias towards men in the tech industry makes the achievements of these female-led ventures even more remarkable, especially when you consider only one per cent of investment funding goes to women.

But times are changing and whereas women still are very much the minority in the tech and STEM world, more women than ever before are taking advantage of the digital economy and the fact that anyone can start a business from anywhere, anytime.  The traditional playing field has already changed beyond recognition and the old rules no longer apply, which can only mean more opportunities for women as they start to populate male-biased industries and deliver new business models.

Whilst it will take a long time for more equal representation in tech industry and STEM, there is now a wealth of talented and influential female-led communities that are committed to helping women access all areas of business, as well as launching their own ventures.  This support and inspiration is key to helping today’s business-women push past attitude and gender barriers to reach their full and rightful potential.  What is remarkable about these communities, like Sistr, is the number of qualified mentors who have willingly agreed to give up their time to talk to women and share their own experiences of female leadership in business, helping them to navigate the challenges and bias they face in their careers today.

Perhaps one of the most obvious bias that many women will face is that of parenthood, a bias that is prevalent not just in male-dominated sectors but from society as a whole.  Subconsciously or not, there is an assumption that younger, childless women will want to have children and will therefore stop working at some point; whereas women with children are doubted on their ability to manage their career successfully alongside their parenting role.  For older mothers who have decided they want to launch a business, there is an undercurrent of it being seen as little more than a hobby now that they have children and are not in full-time work.

Taking on a male-led industry requires grit and determination because the fact remains that women continue to be unfairly judged on many variables that have nothing to do with their competency and ability to lead a business.  Re-balancing the gender equation in tech is key to creating a work environment that celebrates and supports diversity, rather than making women feel they have to be more ‘male’ in order to succeed.  Women need to have more self-belief in their ability to succeed and this is where a supportive mentor and access to like-minded female-networks can make a powerful difference.

Ultimately, in order to really tackle gender disparity, we need to start from the grass roots up to help educate the next generation that gender is not a barrier to any industry.  There has to be a deliberate and conscious change in dialogue, from the earliest of ages in our homes and schools, to stem the flow of gender-bias reaching the workplace, because if a young woman starts to doubt if she has got what it takes to launch her own business, the damage has already been done.

Emma Sayle featuredAbout the author

Emma is the Founder of Sistr, a platform that enables professional businesswomen to network, offer advice and mentor each other.

Find out more at sistrapp.com. You can also sponsor Emma and the rest of the Sisterhood for their Channel Swim.


female data scientist, woman leading team

The world needs more data scientists

female data scientist, woman leading team

Dr Anya Rumyantseva, Senior Data Scientist at Hitachi Vantara

Data science is often referred to as a ‘dark art’.

As a data scientist myself, I don’t think the field is that mystifying. But for those outside of the profession, there is some lack of awareness of what a data scientist actually does, and what pursuing a career in the field entails.

This can be a real problem – because today, data makes the world go around.

Most companies, regardless of industry, are seeking new ways to leverage the vast amounts of data at their fingertips as a tool to drive efficiencies and transform their business model. But like any tool, data is only useful if it’s in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. It’s easy to forget that digital transformation is as much about people as it is about technology.

The talent deficit 

The UK has been struggling with a skills shortage for some time now. As digital transformation influences every sector, businesses are turning to experts who can help them harness their data. Companies are on the hunt for data engineers, machine learning engineers and data scientists. One study found that in the UK, the demand for people with specialist data skills has more than tripled over the past five years, while another projected the data scientist role will account for 28 per cent of all digital jobs by next year.

It’s a case of supply and demand – but unfortunately, many companies are encountering a sparse talent pool to recruit from. Some estimates even suggest that Europe needs around 346,000 more people trained in data science by 2020. That’s a big gap to fill – and it’s only going to get wider unless the industry takes action.

The data landscape is getting increasingly complex – how much data we’re generating, the types of data and how we’re storing it is changing. To put this in perspective: I’m working on a project right now that uses a petabyte of data. I’m able to work with this huge amount of data because today we have the infrastructure to store it, process it and apply machine learning models. Rewind to the 80s and it would have cost around $600 billion just to store that much data.

Now that we have the tools to work with such large data sets, we’re able to leverage data in exciting new ways. However, this also means we need more people capable of doing so. Considering that IDC forecasts a massive 163 zettabytes of data will be generated by businesses every year by 2025, it’s no wonder UK businesses are worried about a deficit in data specialists.

So, how do we mitigate an impending skills shortage? Well, a good place to start is by changing perceptions of what a data scientist actually is and what they do.

Demystifying the ‘dark arts’

I’ve been a data scientist in Hitachi Vantara’s Solution Engineering team for over two years now. When people ask me what I do, the answer may not be what they expect. My role is to understand the business challenges of our customers, consider potential analytical approaches to solving these challenges and prototype solutions by using advanced analytics, machine learning and deep learning techniques.

In short, I leverage data and mathematical techniques to solve business problems. It’s an exciting field to work in – and can have a significant real-world impact.

As an example, consider the UK rail system. It’s one of the busiest in the world, ferrying thousands of people from point A to B every single day. When you’re a passenger, you probably don’t think about the intricate and nuanced system that keeps your train running. That is, until something goes wrong. Like when a train door gets jammed and is prevented from leaving the station on time. One seemingly minor fault can have a huge knock-on effect further down the line, causing delays and disruption for thousands of passengers.

That’s one real-world problem that I’m trying to help to solve right now. Leveraging data collected from thousands of sensors on the trains themselves and working directly with rail engineers, as a data scientist on the project I bridge the gap between engineering and mathematics, uncovering insights that can drive efficiencies and reduce delays.

Diversity matters

Hopefully now you’ll think of a data scientist as more than just someone who sits behind a computer screen doing equations all day! But the tech sector needs to work hard to build a more inclusive environment where young people – regardless of their background, gender or race – consider data science as an attractive career option.

At Hitachi Vantara, we run a data science internship programme in our London office for talented and intellectually curious young people from diverse backgrounds. Our interns roll up their sleeves and get stuck into analytical projects. They are an important part of the team and their opinions matter. We challenge them to think creatively, asking them to leverage publicly available data to uncover insights into real-world problems – like using data from the Department of Transport to think up new ways to reduce carbon emissions from private and commercial vehicles in the UK. It’s not just a fun thought-experiment – it’s an accurate glimpse into the life of a data scientist.

Data science is a diverse, interesting and constantly evolving field – so it needs people who can think differently, bring new ideas and offer fresh perspectives. If we’re going to tackle the skills shortage, the industry must hold the door open for people from all walks of life.

Anya Rumyantseva, Senior Data Scientist, Hitachi VantaraAbout the author

Anya Rumyantseva is a Senior Data Scientist at Hitachi Vantara. Anya received a Ph.D. degree from the University of Southampton and BS/MS degree in Physics from Lomonosov Moscow State University. Anya is also a fellow of the Nippon Foundation (Japan). Her PhD thesis was focused on using IoT data obtained from marine robotic systems for improving our understanding of phytoplankton blooms and their impact on the global climate. At Hitachi Vantara, Anya is working on projects that use advanced analysis and machine learning techniques to improve business operations in the railway, manufacturing and other industries traditional for Hitachi group. 


networking featured

Progressing your career through your network

networking

By Juliet Eccleston,co-founder of talent crowdsourcing platform, AnyGood?

Despite the constant talk about equality, statistics show that women still remain vastly underrepresented in top roles across the business world.

Figures from 2017 showed that in the UK, female professionals held only 12 per cent of jobs paying £150,000 or more.  It’s clear that traditional routes to progression are preventing a lot of women from attaining their goals. However, by utilising the power of personal networks, I believe women can further their career and bypass the obstacles put in their way.  This is something I’ve learnt from my own experience in over 20 years as a programme director. When hiring professionals for the delivery of large scale projects, my experience of the traditional hiring process was predominantly negative. It was only until I actively turned to my network for hiring that I found my best employees. Secondly, and more recently, I have witnessed first-hand just how well it works by starting my own business which empowers people to capitalise from their own networks.

Power of networks

The power of networks is huge and constantly increasing. This can be demonstrated by the recent rise in the use of peer-to-peer recommendations, something that I would attribute to a lack of trust in traditional sources of information, and to the ease at which we can now all stay connected. In early 2018, the Harvard Business Review reported a survey in which fewer than half of participants said they could trust businesses, the media, and government and non-government organisations – including charities. On the other hand, 60 per cent of respondents agreed that you can believe ‘a person like yourself’. What this indicates is that people are far more likely to believe peer appraisals than those with a vested interest. For this reason, recommendations and reviews, such as those on TripAdvisor, and Glassdoor have become a critical way for individuals to decide whether to trust a business, and the star ratings on apps like Airbnb and Uber have become so crucial in individual’s decision making

The same holds true for people

Clearly people are putting more stock into the opinions of others in their networks than ever before. For this same reason, I believe women should take greater advantage of their wider personal networks and use them for career advancement. By calling on those who most intimately know your professional capabilities, this endorsement can help remove any potential bias, allowing you to be promoted or hired based on your own merit alone.

Greater opportunity

Perhaps more importantly, your network has the potential to open up greater opportunities than those you are actively pursuing yourself. In our own company research, we found an overwhelming 95 per cent of people stated that they would be more likely to apply for a role if it was recommended to them by a peer rather than a recruiter. Recommendations made in this way are not only more personal and engender the trust that is so important for women to be given the chance to progress their careers, but also encourage individuals to go for positions they may have deemed beyond their reach.

Why is networking so important

With the potential power of personal networks so easy to demonstrate, this makes actually creating those networks even more significant. The evidence showing the importance of networking is extensive, and certain studies claim that women who avoid this are actively damaging their careers. A study undertaken by the AVTAR Group revealed that women usually begin networking at the age of 42, while men start as early as 17. Another study from the University of Notre Dame shows that more than 75 per cent of women in high ranking positions have a female-dominated inner circle, or strong ties to a few women within their network who they are in frequent contact with. However, while I encourage traditional networking, there are many different approaches to it which are also suitable, even for those who don’t feel they are outgoing enough to do so. Actively reconnecting with your existing network wherever possible is incredibly powerful because you already have a relationship in place. This can be done in a number of ways, be it through picking up the phone, email, or even through social media. Other interesting approaches are ‘career drafting’, asking someone you admire if you can help with any overflow they have. Finding a professional one or two steps ahead in your industry and letting them know you’re prepared to do this is an extremely powerful method of creating connections that could later help you advance your career.

Nothing holding you back

Unfortunately, the barriers to women progressing their career are numerous. There is much evidence to show that men are judged to a more lenient standard than women, and that gender stereotypes and unconscious bias play large roles in hiring decisions.  Furthermore, one McKinsey study found that women tend to undervalue their contributions at work, with 70% of female respondents rating their performance as equivalent to their co-workers, while 70 per cent of men rated themselves higher than their co-workers. This makes tapping into the power of networks even more important, as many women will have highly vocal advocates capable of championing them in a way they may not do themselves. I am firmly of the belief that barriers can be overcome through actively networking, and that despite the challenges, women have more opportunities to network than ever. By building your own strategic network of professional peers and using this network to your advantage, the sky is the limit.


open plan office, people working an office

Reintegrating the team effectively after lockdown

open plan office, people working an office, returning to work after lockdown

With so many people hankering to get back to working face-to-face now that lockdown is being eased, there is one group who are less enthusiastic: Introverts.

With up to 47 per cent of people in the UK identifying as introverts, they are present in every walk of life and often drawn to work in tech as it can allow them to play to their strengths.

Some of the many myths and misconceptions about introverts are that they are shy, arrogant, boring, tongue-tied and lonely with no friends or social life.  The reality is that introverts may be quiet because that’s what they need to recharge their mental batteries. Carl Jung, the Swiss psychologist, explained that the difference between introverts and extraverts is what drains and charges their mental batteries. Extraverts rely on interaction, active experiences and change to be energised, the very things that can drain an introvert. Their communication processes are different too in that introverts have the more considered and slower paced ‘think-say-think’ approach whilst extraverts tend to have a stream of consciousness, or ‘say-think-say’.  Unless people are aware of these differences, it can lead to people assuming that the introvert has nothing to say for themselves, no opinion, no contribution.  What’s more likely is that there hasn’t been enough thinking time or space in the conversation for an introvert to get to the ‘say’ part of their process. Consciously make the space, in a positive way, and you’ll often find that the quietest voice makes the most profound contribution.

It’s a sad fact that some really talented introverts will get overlooked for promotion because they are less likely to push themselves forward, hoping instead that their work will speak for itself. It’s part of the recognised extraversion bias as people mistakenly think they lack drive and ambition. Full integration and understanding this aspect of neurodiversity is an essential part of the diversity, inclusion & equity agenda.

The team-building misnomer

Listen to the chatter in some of the introvert groups and there is already a sense of impending doom about the ‘team-building’ that might take place once workplaces open up.  These types of activities are typically enjoyed by the extraverted team members as they usually involve the forced interaction and active experiences that recharge them.

Within the team, introverts are often considered arrogant and too serious when actually they just dislike small-talk, preferring instead fewer but meaningful conversations.  This means they don’t often engage in the social chit-chat and will tend to keep their heads down in an attempt to maintain their focus and preserve their mental batteries.

Many introverts have learned how to extravert in order to fit in with the norm but the price they pay can be too high.  It includes overwhelm and even burn-out, which seriously affects their wellbeing.  They’ll need to replenish their batteries just to get through the day and ultimately, feel deep sense of not being enough, as it’s only by pretending that they seem to be accepted.

Extraverted managers don’t always understand or even believe that people don’t enjoy the ‘fun’ stuff. The truth is that some might check to see if they have any annual leave left or even consider taking a ‘sickie’ on the day. The lack of understanding just compounds the bias and does nothing to integrate a team in a meaningful way.  Some people will be worried about their jobs and prospects following the lock-down, especially if they’ve been furloughed, so may feel backed into a corner, imagining they have no choice but to join in. If that happens, the results won’t be what you’re hoping for.

Having spent the last few months in lock-down, teams will benefit from establishing new norms of behaviour.  A useful process to remember here is Bruce Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing model of group development. Nothing will be exactly the same again and it’s been long enough for old habits and patterns to have been forgotten. The chances are though that introverts have quite enjoyed their lock-down experience and will be in no hurry to return to the workplace, especially if they have a quiet household. So true integration is likely to be a challenge.

So how to genuinely reconnect the whole team?

The following series of recommendations are going to enhance the likelihood of success.

  • Establish your desired outcome. In order to re-establish connection, are you looking for improved communication, reconfiguring workloads, establishing new working practices, rebuilding trust? Make it meaningful so that everyone can see the value.
  • Don’t try to make it ‘fun’ or even badge it as such. What people consider fun is very subjective and if you’re serious about integrating the whole team, don’t alienate half of them! Use exercises that positively explore the difference between extraversion & introversion so that understanding is enhanced, and the diversity within the team can be valued.
  • Consider exploring what each team member has found positive and challenging about their lockdown experience and use that to shape your team’s new norms. Tuckman later added mourning to the process, so letting go of the past and ‘what was’ is important for the healthy development of a team.
  • Design something that will really unite the team and improve trust, avoiding the old physical trust exercises. Patrick Lencioni names the lack of trust as being the foundation of a dysfunctional team. Creating a safe environment where everyone feels able to speak up, to admit to mistakes and to ask for help is the goal here. Take the time to establish people’s true strengths, rather than just what they’re good at, so you can enable them to play to those strengths wherever possible.
  • Be mindful of the introvert’s ‘think-say-think’ process, so give plenty of notice and allow sufficient preparation time. They don’t like things being sprung on them at short notice or being asked to make a decision without thinking time.

In Conclusion

Get underneath any assumptions and misunderstandings that may be present about introverts in your team.  There is no good & bad, just different. Engage the whole team in co-creating how integration and reforming might happen in an inclusive and meaningful way.  And, remember to listen to everyone’s views and voices for balance and equity.

Joanna RawboneAbout the author

Joanna has spent more than 24 years working with 000’s of international clients through her own training & coaching consultancy, Scintillo Ltd. During this time, and through her own earlier experiences, she has seen just how problematic the Extraversion bias in organisations is. It negatively impacts employee engagement, retention and productivity. It also impairs the physical and mental health & well-being of employees with the obvious consequences.

 Recognising that it was time for action, Joanna founded Flourishing Introverts, a platform to:

* support those who want to fulfil their potential without pretending to be something they're not.

* educate and inform organisations about the true cost of overlooking their introverts

* promote positive action and balance the extraversion bias

Joanna has a real passion for helping her clients make the small but sustainable changes that really make a difference. Being a functioning introvert, her clients value her ability to listen to more than the words, understand things from their perspective and co-create robust, pragmatic solutions.


If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTechWomen has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here.


empowering junior women in the workplace featured

How to empower junior women within your business

empowering junior women in the workplace

Veronique Barbosa is the Co-Founder and COO of Flux, a digital receipts and rewards platform that lives inside your banking app and is currently partnered with the likes of Just Eat, KFC, itsu, and EAT.

For women in business, it’s no secret that getting ahead can be a challenge (to say the least).

Just one in five of Britain’s six million businesses is run by a woman.

Only 32 per cent of directorships on FTSE 100 boards are held by women.

And across the top ranking companies globally, only 18 per cent have a female leader - a figure that’s barely shifted in the last few years.

When it comes to women working in the technology sector, specifically, it’s the same story - or rather depressingly, a little worse. Currently, just 17 per cent of people working in tech are women.

Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done, and it’s my firm belief that if we are to tackle and finally overcome the issue of gender equality in the workplace, empowering junior women is a huge part of the puzzle.

In my career to date - both as COO and co-founder of Flux, and prior to that as Head of Partnerships at Revolut - I’ve been lucky enough to have hired and managed many talented and inspirational women. Here are three things I’ve learnt along the way about how best to empower junior women within your business.

Recognising the barriers

It might sound counterintuitive, but the first step to overcoming the barriers for women in business, is to recognise those barriers. It’s the job of managers and senior leaders within business to acknowledge the challenges facing women, and seek to understand them: where do these barriers stem from? How are they perpetrated? How much of the problem is in deep-rooted bias (a sub-conscious preference shown towards male candidates at interview, for instance), and how much is down to practical systems in place within your business (such as flexible working policies or maternity and paternity leave)?

Once you can answer some of these questions - even if only in part - you are one step closer to being able to break down the biases and address the problems.

Champion change

Secondly, communication plays a vital role. When it comes to business leaders and business founders, there is plenty of data to back up the suggestion that women hold themselves back. In a recent All-Party Parliamentary Group survey, female respondents cited social expectations and gender stereotypes as some of the reasons preventing them from applying for a new position or a promotion.

Meanwhile, data from the Young Women’s Trust found that 54% of women aged 18-30 said they lack self-confidence when it comes to applying for jobs, compared to 39% of men.

Empowering junior women in business starts with getting them through the door in the first place, and that means championing the opportunities that are there. It starts in the education system, but doesn’t stop there; young women need to be made aware firstly that the opportunities are available to them, and secondly equipped with the confidence to apply for them.

Mentoring

Finally, I urge all business leaders to consider introducing mentoring initiatives within their business. These needn’t be directed solely at female employees - after all, we can all benefit from some guidance in our career - but what I would say is that these initiatives should be tailored, and accessible to all. For young women who are starting out in their career, there is huge value in having visible female role models, who have trodden a similar path and can share their own experiences of overcoming certain challenges.

Of course, depending on the size of a business, frequent and readily available mentoring isn’t always a possibility, so I also point my team in the direction of the many useful resources available in literature and online. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is a book I often turn to, and I’m also a regular listener to the Girl Boss podcast.

I am very thankful for the growing community of women who are committed to lifting each other up. Whatever stage of career we’re at, we can all benefit from seeing and sharing relatable, real-life success stories. We might have a way to go, but we’re making unprecedented progress: let’s celebrate that.


The World of AI featured

What are AI-driven hiring assessments and how do they work?

The World of AI featured

By Dr Gema Ruiz de Huydobro, IO Psychology consultant at HireVue

As anyone who has gone through it recently will well know, looking for a new job is practically full-time work in itself.

Every application requires a significant time investment to tailor your CV and cover letter before completing any specific requirements for the company in question (such as a multiple-choice questionnaire or aptitude test). If you’re then invited to an initial interview, you will need to spend even more time preparing for a short conversation, which too often provides limited opportunity to showcase your full potential.

Meanwhile, organisations continue to drown in endless piles of CVs and struggle to differentiate the deluge of applications. For instance, a financial services company opening new banking centers internationally has been receiving nearly 100,000 job applications each month for well over a year. Such high volumes of applications have led many companies to invest in both on-demand video interviewing and pre-hire assessment tests driven by artificial intelligence (AI). This helps both recruiters and candidates save time and begins to democratise the hiring process by offering all candidates an equal opportunity to be considered for the role. However, if you’re invited to a video interview or AI-driven assessment for the first time, it’s perfectly natural to feel a little apprehensive about how it will work.

Is there really anything to be nervous about?

The role of AI in recruitment

AI in recruitment typically involves machine-learning algorithms which analyse your answers to questions and provide insights to help hiring managers make more informed decisions at an early stage in the interview process. Rather than submitting a CV and cover letter, you may be invited to complete a short video interview and/or games-based assessment to apply for the role. We’ll explain these in more detail later.

Following your assessment, the AI algorithm (also called an assessment model) helps the recruiter to make a more informed decision by evaluating your submission and measuring data points which are scientifically proven to be predictive of successful performance in the specific job role for which you’re applying. A pool of candidates, ranked by their fit for the role, is presented to the recruiter, who then reviews the recommended shortlist, and decides which to progress to the next round.

Sounding straightforward so far? Now let’s look at how video and games-based assessments work in more detail…

Video interviews

If you’re invited to take an AI-powered video interview, you will likely receive instructions via email and will need to follow the link to enter the interview, so you can choose to complete it at a time and place convenient to you from either a computer or smartphone. Most AI-powered video interviews take 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It’s important to note that this video interview may only be the first step in your interviewing process, as those who are successful are very likely to meet one or more people face-to-face later in the process.

You should expect a format which is similar to a traditional interview in which you are asked a series of questions. The questions will be relevant to the success in the role you are applying for and every candidate will be asked the same set of questions. This creates a much fairer process for all candidates and helps to minimise bias.

While it’s natural for most people to feel a little self-conscious on camera, keep in mind that you’re u

nlikely to lose out on the job simply because you don’t smile enough, don’t make enough eye contact, or blink too much. When building assessments, only data features related to success in the role are leveraged. Physical appearance and other demographic factor-related data that have nothing to do with it are not considered - on the contrary, assessments should always be tested for adverse impact to avoid anybody to be adversely impacted in this regard.

Game-based assessments 

Games are another popular part of AI-powered assessments, as they are scientifically proven to measure cognitive skills including problem-solving and working memory, as well as job-relevant personality traits. Their accuracy is similar (and often increasingly higher) when compared to longer and more repetitive psychometric tests.

Again, you will receive an email with a link to enter the assessment, and it can be completed on your smartphone from any location and typically takes just 15 minutes. Safe to say, a game-based assessment is typically more fun than a traditional psychometric test containing hundreds of fill-in-the-circle questions!

Game-based assessments will also be tailored to the role you’re applying for. For example, both entry- and mid-level jobs require cognitive skills, but a manager may need to demonstrate more sophisticated organisational and problem-solving skills.

Preparing for success

Regardless of the type of interview, preparation is key. If you’re invited to a video interview with an AI assessment, take the time to practice potential interview questions, or take advantage of the practice tests often offered with most games-based assessments. This will ensure you aren’t taken by surprise and can showcase your full potential.

It’s also a good idea to create a calm environment where you won’t be disturbed. These types of interviews provide an opportunity to choose a time and location that suits you, so you won’t need to worry about taking time off work, the bus being late or getting lost en route!

Finally, take a deep breath and remember that the premise of this technology is to give everyone an equal opportunity to be recognised as a great candidate for a job, regardless of background, gender or race.  Given the increased awareness on the importance of hiring impartially, businesses have more need than ever to ensure they’re reflecting this in the interview process. Good luck!

Gema Ruiz de HuydobroAbout the author

Dr Gema Ruiz de Huydobro is an accomplished business psychologist with over ten years experience in both academic and business fields. In her current role as I-O Psychology Consultant at HireVue Gema is responsible for designing scientifically validated pre-hire assessments to enable organisations to identify high quality candidates while minimising bias in the selection process.