Why dyslexia shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving great things | Sheridan Ash

Sheridan Ash leads on technology and innovation, and women in technology, at PwC. She is also the founder of Tech She Can. 

It is hard to imagine a more unpromising start to a career in technology.

I left school aged 16 with no qualifications, as well as undiagnosed dyslexia. I was a single mother in my early 20s. Pulling together a few savings, and with the help of friends and family, I decided to invest in my education as I needed a long-term career that would provide security for me and my son. With a lot of hard work and the support of some amazing people, I began to acquire qualifications: ‘A’ levels, a degree and eventually an MBA at Imperial College Business School where I became interested in technology.

I have worked in a variety of roles, including in sales for a pharmaceutical firm, and as a technology management consultant for Accenture. At one time, I became an independent consultant working for a local authority in the North of England. I have a lot of experience of the challenges of using technology in the NHS and in pharma. Two things became increasingly clear to me. First, that technology was crucially important in shaping the modern world. Second, women and girls were severely underrepresented when it came to technology careers.

The absence of females in technology careers is more than just a case of bias, it is a critical issue for business and society. By involving women you not only get both the brainpower and insights of half the world’s population, but you also access their skills of creativity and collaboration which are essential in the world of today that is increasingly being shaped by technology.

When I joined PwC ten years ago, there were very few females in its technology workforce. But, over time, with lots of initiatives, and learning about what works and what doesn’t, we have doubled the percentage of women to over 30%

There is a fundamental issue around increasing this number though, for PwC and as well as other firms: the pipeline of girls and young women choosing technology subjects at school and university is persistently low. Research I commissioned found that only 27% of females would consider a career in technology, compared to 62% of males, and only 3% of the girls surveyed said technology would be their first career choice.

I established the TechSheCan Charter alongside some other passionate women from organisations such as RBS, Zoopla and Tesco, in 2018 to address these problems. There are now 150 organizations signed up to a Charter to further technology careers for women. And we have a female-friendly technology curriculum developed for school children being used in over 200 schools, and growing daily.

When I was younger I thought dyslexia was a barrier to working in technology, but what I’ve learnt is to utilise the things I’m good at to give me an advantage. I’m not an academic or a brilliant coder, but I’m innovative in how I look to solve problems, I have strong emotional intelligence, and favour collaborative ways of working. I’m also an immensely determined person, and its these skills and characteristics that have led to my success. When you are young you don't know what you don't know which is why it so important for me to make sure that girls and young women are educated and inspired whilst still at school about the possibilities of working in technology.

Not having a tech background, or even having a disability such as dyslexia, is not an obstacle to having a career in technology. What matters is being persistent in reaching the ambitions you have for yourself, and being passionate about developing your skills and using them to do good in the world.

About Sheridan

Sheridan’s career has taken anything but a conventional route, after leaving school at 16 with few qualifications, having undiagnosed dyslexia, she was spotted by an agent and entered the world of runway modelling. She completed her first degree in her 20s and has worked her way up ever since.

Sheridan commissioned PwC’s Women in Tech: Time to close the gender gap research which tells us that a lack of female role models in technology is a barrier to more females joining the sector, so Sheridan is personally playing her part in raising this issue, but also using her own experience to act as a role model by appearing in the media and at events to champion the benefits that an inclusive and diverse workforce can bring. This includes appearing on BBC News to discuss the importance of role models in technology.

Sheridan has more recently founded The Tech She Can Charter which is now backed by over 75 organisations.


learning on the job, retraining, woman on computer

How to write a CV for jobs in tech

learning on the job, retraining, woman on computer

By Rhona Kennedy

I’m a Technology Recruiter with over six years’ experience – I look at dozens of CVs each day (I dread to think how many CVs I’ve cast by beady eyes over in my career!) and I talk to the people doing the hiring every day about what they need/like/hate to see in a CV.

I know that CV-writing is a) daunting and b) very important to get right because there’s a lot riding on it.

After years of pestering my clients for what they see when they look at a CV, here are some of my top take-home tips.

Start with the good stuff

There’s an oft-quoted statistic that the person reviewing your CV spends only 7-10 seconds looking at it before making up their mind.  With this in mind, a “skills matrix” or easy to read summary of the technology and tools you’re comfortable with is a good place to start. Avoid dumping on loads of tools you’ve only touched or read about or haven’t used since University – stick to things you’re actually capable of working with.

Your CV is a marketing document. Its purpose is to sell you enough to secure an interview. It may not come easily to you to big yourself up – but you need to do it. Asking friends/colleagues for help with words/phrases that describe you might help with the cringe factor.

Also make sure your vital information is front and centre and easy for the reviewer to access.

How long is too long?

Be concise. Choose your words wisely. Write in a succinct manner – and then take more out. Like, Coco Chanel said, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off.”

However, if your CV is longer than two pages, don’t stress – especially if you’re a seasoned professional with many years of wisdom/experience. As long as it’s all relevant stuff, then it deserves to be there. If you’re really struggling to condense your CV, bullet points might help. Bullet points are also easier for the human eye to digest than large walls of text. Helpful when you consider the point about 7-10 seconds, above.

Get your CV past the robots!

Assuming you’re applying for a job in 2019 and not relying on snail mail, the first person to read your CV will, most likely, be a robot, or at least a piece of parsing software. It is increasingly common for technology companies and Recruiters alike to use an Applicant Tracking System or ATS. Here are some tips to get your CV past the robots:

  • Don’t have critical information (contact details, name, location/postcode) in headers/footers – the software often doesn’t “read” these. In fact, skip headers/footers altogether.
  • Keep formatting simple – avoid unnecessary tables/images which will inevitably get reformatted in a less-than-pretty way.
  • Word documents are generally handled better than PDFs.

Some CV basics

Some of this advice might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised at how often these points can be neglected!

  • Please proofread your CV – if spelling and grammar are not your forte, rope in a pal (or a friendly Recruiter!) to look it over.
  • KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Keep your formatting simple; stay away from headers/footers, text boxes/columns and fancy graphics/images.
  • Choose an appropriate font (and size and colour) and keep it consistent throughout. Remember the “don’t use Comic Sans – we are a Fortune 500 company, not a lemonade stand” meme? Yeah… don’t be that guy.
  • Don’t get too smart – your CV is a video game? Cool… but how do I contact you? How do I share with my client?
  • Location (including postcode) is essential – it’s how Recruiters and prospective employers find you.
  • Weird one: be sure to use a portrait orientation, not landscape.
  • In the UK, it is not a requirement to have your photo on your CV, and many managers I’ve spoke to really dislike this practice.
  • Unless your hobbies are really interesting, I’d skip it – we’ve all read Harry Potter and we all say we go to the gym…
  • Spell check again, just to be sure!
  • Finally, if you’re ever in doubt, let us help you! We look at dozens (hundreds?) of CVs every day and we’re here to help! Rope in a “professional CV reviewer” or Recruiter, as we’re more commonly known. Or have a friend who works in your field review your CV.

About the author

Rhona Kennedy is a Principal Consultant at IT Recruiter Consultancy Cathcart Associates; for the last six years she has been recruiting Software Developers across Scotland for some of the country’s most innovative and exciting organisations. Rhona also volunteers with Girl Geek Scotland and is a passionate advocate for women in STEM and loves working with and supporting female Developers at all stages of their careers. In her day job, she leads a team of Recruiters and is responsible for motivating the team, setting targets and is heavily involved in the hiring and training of new recruits.


man and woman discussing tech, women in tech, computers, code

Why now is the perfect time to upskill in tech

man and woman discussing tech, women in tech, computers, code

Ahead of a new fully-remote web development course starting on June 22nd, Anna Stepanoff, CEO & Founder of Wild Code School, the technology educator nurturing today’s digital talent, discusses why now is the perfect time to further career prospects in the tech industry.

The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is causing considerable challenges for us all, impacting all industries and sectors.

Vocational training organisations have certainly been challenged, although some providers, including Wild Code School, have been able to migrate activities online to ensure educational continuity for students. As a technology bootcamp, we are well placed to do this, with the technological know-how and proven remote learning methodologies already in place. And with 90 per cent of our students now working in the tech ecosystem, we know that our courses are aligned to the needs of businesses.

With the pandemic resulting in more time at home, and the tech industry offering flexible and varied career opportunities, could now be the perfect time to take advantage of the fully remote courses that are available and develop those sought-after digital skills?

Everything in place

Until recently, a reliable connection to a broadband network was still a major obstacle to online training’s accessibility, especially when it came to live remote training. However, access to a fibre network from almost everywhere in the Western world has been a game changer, enabling connectivity and access to learning tools such as interactive webinars for consumers and participants across the world.

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) have been fully established and accessible since 2012. On these online learning platforms, resources are freely accessible to students who can choose the pace of learning that is best suited to them and their personal preferences. MOOC are particularly well suited to autonomous individuals who are looking to upskill or acquire new skills to develop their careers.

In recent years, the tools and technology available have grown rapidly and been introduced to ensure an even higher quality of online courses. Video conferencing platforms, online chat and communication tools, as well as document sharing capabilities have helped accelerate the possibility of indirect interactions and made it possible for instructors or course tutors and lecturers to remotely interact with a community of students. Although online courses have been around for many years, they provide a shining example of efficient, practical and effective remote working.

Remote working expertise

As the majority of us have discovered during this period of worldwide lockdown, working from home requires a new set of skills. It is making us rethink our working habits and adapt to new tools and practices, forcing us to be more than flexible and agile than ever before. And with the future looking to be more reliant on remote working, learning in a remote environment is helping our students with both the digital and soft skills that will support future remote working.

Adaptability, proactivity, and communication, for example, are not only essential skills for the tech industry, but also for discovering opportunities in challenging situations. Online learning also allows individuals to develop autonomy, rigour and the ability to organise yourself more efficiently.

But these skills are not unique to the tech industry, and in fact people from a diverse range of careers and backgrounds are well equipped and suited to the training.

Helping career changers

Our first fully remote course began in April, and we’ve been canvassing the opinions of our first fully remote students to find out how it’s working for them and why now was the right time to learn new skills and make the change.

One of our current web development students, Leonore Ghisalberti, previously worked in design and product management for a fashion brand and is now working to building her own creative design agency. She realised her new world required further digital skills to complement her design credentials and told us:

“The main draw for me was that I needed to further my skills in order to progress my business. Front-end development especially, which this course focuses on, has many synergies with my design background. It is very visual and creative, and enables you to build something, and see it come to life with your chosen design.”

Another student, Gladys Pascual is a Chemical Engineer, qualified with a PhD and working in a Dublin-based startup. It’s a career she enjoys and finds fulfilling, but she has seen the flexibility that a career in tech can offer, as well as the opportunities in Dublin and abroad:

“Technology is a big industry here in Dublin, and indeed all across the world and I was keen to see what doors I could open through training that will allow me to consider a shift in career. While I have still been working full time, lockdown meant that all my travelling plans were cancelled and I’m not able to do any of the sports I’m used to – I’ve therefore got more time on hands and so it has posed a good opportunity to upskill and do something I’m interested in.

“Like anything new, at first I was a little overwhelmed – especially with a demanding full-time job. It is quite advanced, which is a good thing in terms of its long-term use and after just a few weeks I have had the time to focus and absorb what I’m learning.

“The multi-national nature of the course is also really cool; the class is made up of students from all across Europe and it means we get to work with people from different places and with varied backgrounds. This sort of environment is common in the tech world, so it’s useful to get a taste here.”

We’re looking forward to welcoming our next set of students onto the June course and excited to see both men and women embrace technology and realise its career opportunities.

About the author:

Anna StepanoffAnna Stepanoff is the CEO & Founder of Wild Code School, the technology educator nurturing today’s digital talent.

Founded in 2014, Wild Code School has more than 20 campuses across Europe. It has trained more than 2,000 students, with 90 per cent of graduates now working within the Tech Ecosystem. The School offers part-time front-end, or full-time full-stack web development courses that take place over a five-month period. Both courses will get the student to where they want to be, with the full-time course offering a more immersive environment that gets them there quicker. The school was founded by mother of three Anna Stepanoff, and is now the fifth largest school in Paris.


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.

 

 

 


Career in STEM

How robotics competitions can help get girls into STEM

As the Competition Support Manager for VEX Robotics in the UK, Bridie Gaynor has witnessed first-hand the positive impact educational robotics can have on primary and secondary students.

Bridie’s role requires her to travel frequently around the UK to facilitate the smooth running of local and regional events, with the competition season culminating every year for the VEX UK National Finals in March. These events are comprised of the VEX IQ Challenge (VIQC) and the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC), designed respectively for schoolchildren at Key Stage 2 & 3 and Key Stages 3 to 5. Whilst VIQC robots are created by teams of students using plastic, snap-together parts, and VRC robots are built with metal & steel parts, both platforms feature impressive control systems, including a brain that can be programmed using VEXcode IQ Blocks (powered by Scratch Blocks) or VEXcode Text.

What is perhaps most striking about the competitions that Bridie attends is the increasing number of young females who are participating. At the 2019 VEX UK National Finals, more than 50 per cent of the 700 students competing were female, a highly promising figure considering the current STEM shortage and the level of engineering, programming and design skills required to compete. Bridie hopes that she can inspire even more females to take part in the future, as the events continue to grow in stature:

“It’s amazing to think just how many female students are getting involved in VEX competitions and at such a young age, particularly when you consider the lack of gender diversity in STEM industries."

"What makes VEX stand out from the crowd is the perfectly balanced practical and theoretical aspects of both the VEX IQ system and VEX EDR system."

"We need to be showing girls that engineering, coding and tech isn’t just for boys, it’s for everyone and there’s so many different avenues in STEM to discover.”

Having worked at VEX Robotics for over six years, Bridie has been part of the journey of several all-girls teams who have been successful in serving as ambassadors for STEM in the wider community, including East Barnet’s Girls of Steel and Welwyn Garden City’s Microbots, both of whom have shared their experiences with tech-industry heavyweights form across the globe.

With the growth of the VEX community and the increasing uptake of female students competing overall, Bridie says it’s important to have more women in leadership roles like her to inspire the future generations:

“What’s fantastic about my job is that I get to serve as something of a role model that girls can look up to."

"It’s great to be in a position where aspiring STEM students can see that women can really succeed in these industries and take charge of what is typically a male-dominated environment."

"I truly believe that robotics systems like VEX give females a chance to get involved in STEM in a fun, exciting and engaging capacity, whilst setting students up for future careers in STEM”.

About the author

Bridie Gaynor is the Competition Support Manager in the UK for VEX Robotics.

She is responsible for supporting VEX events and teams across Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.


Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

Understanding the role of the Chief Technology Officer

Chief Technology Officer (CTO)

The role of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) is usually one of the most misunderstood of the C-suite.

However, in simple terms, the CTO is the executive who holds responsibility for the technology within an organisation.

Depending on the type and size of the business, the role of the CTO can vary, however some of their main responsibilities usually include:

  1. Innovation
  2. Architecture
  3. Technology vision and strategy
  4. Infrastructure
  5. Software development

Of all of the C-suite, the CTO is probably the role that has been most affected by the digital age.  CTOs usually focus on external tasks such as technology propositions for customers, which has allowed more room for CIOs to concentrate on internal tasks such as IT applications and services.

Although the roles vary between organisations, there are a few core CTO responsibilities:

  1. Innovation and R&D

Technology advances are constantly changing, and so CTOs need to stay up to date with trends, or a business can quickly be left behind. CTOs also need to be able to drive business value, using a combination of competitor analysis, customer intelligence, and judgement.

As the company’s public face of technology, they will also need credibility with stakeholders, potential employees, partners, customers, and investors – something that is vitally important but will take time to build.

A CTO who does this well is Rebecca Parsons, ThoughtWorks CTO, who regularly publishes on the Technology Radar report and manages responsibility for over 7000 software engineers, all using innovation to drive business value for international companies across the globe.

  1. Technology Governance

Governance is important in any C-Suite role, but CTOs will need to be able to handle their large portfolio of projects and manage the needs of multiple stakeholders. In order to generate the most value for the company, a CTO will need to prioritise the right projects with a clear process.

A CTO is first and foremost a business leader, and so they will need strong financial skills to manage large budgets and complicated rules. One CTO who successfully managed this is the former CTO for the UK Government, Liam Maxwell. Throughout his time in office, he advocated simplified but effective governance by reducing the number of governance forums and keeping the remaining forums focused on decision making, to cut through bureaucracy.

  1. Technology Leadership

A CTO needs to be able to use technology to generate Enterprise Value and help a business reach its objectives. They will need to be able to convey complex technical concepts to non-technical employees so that the team understands the possibilities of technology-enabled products and services.

One example of a CTO using technology to drive company values is the CTO of Amazon, Werner Vogels. He gave Amazon a huge head start in the cloud services industry by building Amazon Web Services – one of the most profitable areas of Amazon.

  1. Product Development

A recent development in the CTOs role is taking a lead in product development. CTOs will need to utilise technology within products and services to make them more profitable or appealing, and will therefore require a thorough understanding of user experiences, consumer trends, user research, and digital design.

We have seen recent pairings of the CTO and the Chief Product Owner (CPO) within C-suites to develop new technology-enabled products. If this pairing works well it should mean improved sales opportunities and revenue within businesses.

Gerri Martin-Flickinger, Starbucks CTO, headed the successful development of the brand’s mobile ordering system. She did this by centring her agenda centred around product development and customer experience, using technology to deepen customer connection to Starbucks.

  1. Business IT

Business IT is one of the more traditional aspects of the CTO’s role. Something that has always been at the core of the CTO’s role is the management of critical operational systems like CRM and ERP, which are being increasingly relied on to deliver for customers.

CTO’s need to constantly be looking out for technologies that can improve the way a company operates. Innovation in core business systems is something that is often overlooked but it can add huge value to the functionality of a company.

Summary

Technology is becoming increasingly critical for business success, and the role of the CTO is something that will only gain importance. We are living in a digitally-driven technological age and the future of the Chief Technology Officer looks bright.

Arif HarbottAbout the author

Arif Harbott is a Chief Technology Officer and digital business leader who specialises in working with organizations undergoing large-scale transformation or disruption. He is the co-author of The HERO Transformation Playbook with Cuan Mulligan


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.


woman-stressed-with-a-burnout-featured

Ten techniques to combat stress and anxiety at work

Stressed woman suffering from a burnout

Article provided by Liz Walker, HR Director, Unum

Practice mindfulness

Many of the techniques mentioned involve mindfulness, which is a popular method of combatting anxiety. Mindfulness can stop you worrying by bringing your attention back to the present through acknowledging your worries and letting them go.

Mindfulness allows you to get in touch with your emotions and recognise how you feel.

Take a step back

Viewing thoughts and worries as if they are show or film you're observing can be a good way to disconnect yourself from them and to finally put them out of your mind.

Accept strange thoughts

We all have strange thoughts from time to time, such as 'what if I scream during a presentation?'. These thoughts are natural and will jump out from time to time. When this happens instead of focusing on it, describe it to yourself as the curiosity it is and move on. Remember, our minds are creative with lots of little thoughts floating about.

Recognise false alarms

Everyone has the sudden worry they didn't lock the front door or left the iron on, however rarely do these things actually materialise. When you find yourself thinking along these lines and notice your body responding with a rapid heartbeat, recognise the situation for what it is. Acknowledge the thoughts and sensations but let them pass.

Positive Self Talk

Often, we're far harder on ourselves than we would be on others. Try to talk positively to yourself rather than putting yourself down, like you would if you were talking to a child or friend who was nervous. Telling yourself phrases such as 'this feeling will pass' and 'I will be ok' could help to reassure you and reduce stress or worry.

Set Aside Worry Time

Sometimes worries can niggle at us and prevent us from doing things we should be doing. When this happens jot down the reason you're feeling anxious and resolve to think it through later. By the time you get to doing that it's likely many of the worries you've noted won't be an issue anymore.

Question Your Thoughts

Feeling anxious can make our thoughts spiral out of control and think outlandish things. When you find this happening try to question your thoughts by asking yourself such questions as 'is this worry realistic?' and 'what is the worst possible outcome and would it really be that bad?'.

Learn to Say No

Don't take on too much, if you're overloaded with work and extremely busy but given more work, try to push back. Talking to your boss about the situation will give them a better understanding of your workload and could allow you to push back deadlines or receive some help with a task.

Keep Track

Keep a diary for a week or two to track which situations make you feel most stressed and how you respond to them. Record your thoughts and feelings and what you did as a result; this can help you find out what situations make you stressed and your reactions to it.

Talk About It

Voicing your concerns, worries or feelings to an attentive and trusted listener can feel very cathartic. The person you speak to doesn't have to 'fix' things, just listen to you even if it doesn't change the situation.


assorted numbers on a board, women in data

Working with numbers | Women in Data

assorted numbers on a board, women in data

When Lyndsey Swann needed a career reboot, she studied for an HND in computing at night school and this led to her first role in data. Lyndsey now heads up ‘customer excellence’ for Gazprom Energy - a role all about maximising and monetising data and insight across the organisation. Lyndsey tells us why she thinks women are underrepresented in the data sector and what can be done about it.

The percentage of roles linked to data science being taken by women has dropped from 41 per cent in 2005, to 34 per cent in 2009, and to 27 per cent in 2019.

Despite millions of pounds being spent to encourage greater diversity in STEM careers, worryingly, jobs involving data are neither attracting, nor being secured by, female candidates.

I love working with data because it enables better business decisions. It often takes the emotion or guesswork out of decision making and will ultimately improve an organisation’s performance by enhancing service to the customer and increasing revenue to the business. It’s fantastic to create a compelling story through data that makes people think differently and introduces them to new ideas. Data can surprise, prove wrong or validate original thought – you never know what you are going to find.

The unconscious message

But clearly data isn’t the career choice for many women. I think this is due to the choices young girls make at school, as well as the unconscious messages they are given. For a large part, data analytics and data science doesn’t inspire young girls. While many enjoy maths and sciences at primary school, interest wanes when they move into senior school and become teenagers - where many conform with ‘the norm’.

The way data science is ‘sold’ in many schools is also partly to blame. Even today people assume that girls’ minds are less technical and not as logical. Although this is unconscious in many cases, it puts girls off studying these subjects due to the fear of failure. This perpetuates the vicious cycle of lacking female role models that could then inspire the female data scientists of the future.

So how can we improve the situation? Firstly, we must engage young girls when they are in high school and making those crucial GCSE choices. It needs to be made clear that a career in data is a rewarding, achievable and sustainable career choice. Bringing women in data into high schools to inspire others would help.

Secondly, a clearer career roadmap would be useful. Data science is not the only role available to those who are inspired by analytics. There are also areas like customer insight, or research and marketing roles that all utilise data and would benefit hugely from greater diversity.

Broadening the spectrum

This diversity would bring tangible benefits and improvements to industry; for example, a broader spectrum of views and different approaches to solving business problems. Women tend to excel in problem solving, agility of thought, and communications – all crucial attributes in my line of work.

I also think women are generally strong at logical decision making, are highly action-orientated and active listeners. These are essential attributes in data analytics & data science, especially when it comes to asking the right questions of the data and insight to monetise the outcomes as constantly demanded in business today.

However, we should be aiming for a place where gender is irrelevant and the most talented people should grow and thrive equally in the data sector, regardless of this. As in many areas, this requires substantial effort to remove unconscious bias.

Making a difference

Another way the sector can nurture more talent, including women, is by demonstrating the connected worlds that data science is part of. My career transcends two very different but connected worlds – deep data insights and customer experience. Connections like these are important because they highlight the wider impact that working with data has. It’s not just about being into numbers. It’s what you learn from them and how you can make a difference.

These ‘data connections’ should encourage more people who are data literate but also enjoy creative thinking and problem solving, to look further at data analytics & data science as a rewarding career path. The industry needs the right combination of technical data science and programming skills but also the ability to utilise that insight for commercial gain.

Now that so many customer interactions are digital, there are new opportunities for younger candidates to shine earlier. They can quickly dominate the field in new data areas such as web analytics, social media listening, sentiment analysis, and AI.

My own journey

I’m both proud and lucky to work for a business today that takes diversity seriously. It’s this attitude and the people within Gazprom Energy that sets it apart from other B2B utilities suppliers. Within the UK we have a balanced senior team in terms of outlook, gender, and specialism, which makes for fair leadership and a strong foundation for the business.

The skillset I need in my customer excellence team is widespread, from research professionals and process specialists, to customer insight analysts and CRM experts. This should ensure diversity. First and foremost, I want to recruit people that are passionate about creating best in class customer experience using data, insight, research, and technology, so we are continually able to grow and innovate.

Gender will not be the primary factor in choice of recruits; however, I strongly hope that I can build a diverse team that benefits from great female candidates in the mix.

Lyndsey SwannAbout the author

Lyndsey Swann is Head of Customer Excellence at Gazprom Energy.

With over 15 years’ experience in in customer insight and analytics, research, strategy development, segmentation, customer experience, CRM and customer services, Swann works to put the customer at the heart of decision making whether that be B2C or B2B.


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.


Charlotte Knill

Why study digital forensics?

 

Charlotte Knill, aged 23, is an Information Security Consultant and Forensic Analyst for Security Risk Management Ltd in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here she shares why she decided to study digital forensics.

Firstly, it might be easier if I explained why I chose it.

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It wasn’t until around the age of 18/19 I decided I wanted to take myself down the digital forensics path. I came across this field because I started seeing it become more common in the news that criminals were being caught out by digital evidence. I found it really interesting that when the police were attending crime scenes, they weren’t only seizing physical evidence they could see (weapons or DNA), they were also seizing devices where they would be examined for evidence.

The difference between physical evidence and digital evidence is that you can see one but not the other. You can’t tell just by looking at a mobile phone what evidence is on it – I am a naturally nosey and curious person, so this field of study was definitely for me! I was more interested in the evidence “you can’t see” and wanted to be able to use my curiosity to find answers. I wanted to search through phones for texts, computers for documents, emails, internet history etc. Basically, just be nosey!

I was able to put my passion for being nosey and curious into practice during my placement year in a real digital forensic environment. Working on real criminal cases affecting real victims – there was no better feeling than my curiosity helping to solve crimes and remove criminals from the streets.

So, that was why I chose it……..But digital forensics doesn’t stop there.

You also have data breaches that affect companies worldwide every single day. Part of my job now is to find out how company websites were breached, identify malicious code that hackers have placed onto their websites and see if any card details have been stolen. That could happen to me, you, your friends and family at any point – being part of what prevents these breaches from occurring/helping companies become safer in the large cyber world we all live in is a rewarding feeling.

Identifying things like malicious code or retrieving deleted texts, images or documents etc. are done so through the use of specialist software. There are many different types of software out there but the ones you will hear about the most will be:

1. EnCase
2. Forensic Tool Kit (FTK)
3. Internet Evidence Finder (IEF)
4. Cellebrite (Mobile Phones)

Digital Forensics is a field where you learn new things every day. If you go into a Digital Forensics job, don’t feel like you have to know EVERYTHING because you don’t….you can’t – it’s impossible to know everything because of the new devices, software and technology being created all the time. The cyber security industry as a whole operates on the basis of people sharing thoughts and ideas – it couldn’t operate without this.

So, if you like the idea of:

• Someone telling you “it’s deleted and you won’t get it back” and proving them wrong by retrieving deleted things using special software
• Removing criminals from the streets
• Stopping a crime before it has happened and saving potential victims from harm
• Preventing companies becoming victims of serious data breaches that could affect you or everyone around you at any time
• Helping companies stay safe from breaches
• Learning new things every day
• Sharing thoughts and ideas to help those around you stay as many steps ahead of cyber criminals as possible

You really should consider digital forensics!

TIP:

Autopsy is a great tool to download and experiment with (free and legal!) – http://www.sleuthkit.org/autopsy/ – memory sticks are ideal for experimenting with. Try placing word documents on at first and then deleting some (but remember to note down what is on the memory stick and what has been deleted, this is also great practice for taking notes as digital forensic investigators need to take down lots of notes during an investigation).

Another tip: Don’t throw away any old laptops – you could practice taking out the hard drive and plugging that into Autopsy.

If you get stuck, I would recommend using YouTube because you can follow videos in your own time and actually see what is happening. I used YouTube a lot to help me learn how to remove hard drives from many different laptops.

About Charlotte Knill

At the beginning of July this year, I graduated from the University of Sunderland with a first class honours degree in Computer Forensics with Sandwich Year. My sandwich year/placement year was spent with Northumbria Police in their Hit-tech Crime Unit. Before I graduated, I was offered a job with Security Risk Management Ltd as an Information Security Support Consultant and Forensic Analyst where I help to identify how company websites have been hacked and personal details have been stolen. Initially, this was part-time while I finished off my University studies and then moved into a full-time role once my studies were completed.

I have recently set up a blog to help encourage women into cyber security by sharing my journey into the industry and my fun stories from within it.

Social Media Links:

LinkedIn

Twitter


Navigating the Journey to Success in UX

By Elite Avner Torbit, Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK

Elite Avner TorbitElite Avner Torbit is Lead UX Designer at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK.

She is focused on introducing design thinking methodologies that put customers at the centre of the design efforts of the company’s tax and accounting solutions. She is responsible for creating the environment for everyone involved to be creative, experiment and collaborate every day, with the ultimate goal of delivering products that customers will love.

What do you do?

For the past seven years, I’ve been a digital UX designer predominantly focused on B2B applications. For the uninitiated, UX is the applied practice of guiding users on helpful, easy and satisfying user journeys, both in digital products, and physical products as well.

I have worked with a wide range of businesses, from large retailers and finance companies, to independent businesses, SMEs, non-profits and start-ups. It’s been a tremendously varied career so far, but what is common among all my roles is my focus on user experience at the centre of all design. I enjoy helping businesses relate to their customers and solving complex problems by making solutions simple. I also love the variety of facilitating workshops, running user research, sketching ideas and creating wireframes and prototypes.

How did you get into UX as a career?

In my career, it’s safe to say that pre-UX I was a bit of a digital generalist. I held different digital roles in project management, digital strategy and CRM management. I also managed project delivery for websites, and this was what piqued my interest in UX. UX designers are a bit like conduits as they talk to all the different people involved in producing a product or service. I liked that, because I’ve always been the type of person who liaises between everyone, acting as a bridge to various project needs.

I was looking for a new career direction…and began studying UX independently, applying what I’d learned along the way for charities and small businesses either on a voluntary basis, or for nominal fees. I did this for a year, and after that year, I had a portfolio I could use to begin applying for ‘real’ UX jobs, which is exactly what I did. 18 months after my self-directed journey into UX began, I got my first proper UX job as a contractor through an agency.

It goes to show how important it is to have a portfolio in UX, as, in my experience, companies won’t hire designers without a portfolio of work. They want to understand your thought process and how you approach something, whether you know the domain well or not. In most roles, the end result is usually the most important thing, but in UX, the process takes precedence in many ways. When you create a portfolio, it’s important to show your own journey through each project. You want to demonstrate how you contributed to the deliverables of each project phase, showing that you understand the UX process and everything that goes into it.

It’s all based on design thinking. Generally, I focus on B2B, but it doesn't actually matter whether you’re designing a gardening app or a large-scale tax and accounting solution, which is my current focus: the process is the same. Design thinking is about empathising with users, exploring the problem and understanding how the people who use the product or service may behave in the moment, and why.

The importance of talking to customers. We start with a short discovery phase. This gives us a chance to learn, up front, about our customers’ needs so that when it’s time to start building a solution, we’ve already had a thorough validation of our ideas, and we deliver great outcomes based on research.

What’s it like being a UX designer at Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting UK?

I enjoy the fact that we’re effectively a ‘floating resource’ and can join any team that needs us at a specific time. For example, UK UX designers recently joined the Wolters Kluwer Virtual Code Games, where teams of developers collaborated and connected to develop inventive solutions as part of our ongoing innovation stream. With over 500 participants and 100 teams across the globe, it was an amazing initiative to be part of, and we loved helping teams tell their stories by considering the user journey at all times.

Within our local community of UX designers, and more broadly at a global level, there's a lot of support and activity taking place. We have coaching and best practice sessions, and we help each other to embed UX firmly across a future-focused technology business – it’s a great place for any UX designer to be, and I’m glad my journey has brought me here.


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


coding

How a Woman Over 40 Broke Coding Stereotypes

 

Patricia Ehrhardt wanted to become a full time web developer so she enrolled at Bloc in the Web Developer Track.

Patricia spoke with Bloc about her experience of re-training to become a developer. Bloc shared the story with WeAreTheCity, which you will find below.

coding featurePatricia wanted to become a full time web developer, but being a woman in tech can be difficult. Women face stereotyping and imposter-syndrome and the best way to close the gender gap is to give female coders support systems that can help them thrive. That’s why in 2014, Women Who Code and Bloc partnered to create a Women Who Code scholarship program that offers two women each month a $1000 scholarship toward their Bloc tuition. To-date this scholarship program has funded over $48,000 in Bloc tuition.

Patricia had two mentors while completing the program. For backend web development she worked with John Sawyers, a 20 year software developer veteran who has previously worked as a software architect and CTO. And for frontend development, she was mentored by Alissa Likavec, formerly a City Director for Women Who Code who works as a software engineer at Bedrock Media Ventures in Seattle.

We sat down with Patricia to hear about her journey to becoming a developer. Patricia stated, “When I was accepted into Bloc’s Bootcamp it felt like I was making an Olympic team. I knew I would finally be getting the training I needed that eludes so many of us that don't want to go back to the traditional school environment. It felt fantastic, and like I was closer to reaching my goal. Bloc was the easiest choice because of the 1:1 mentorship commitment, and because it was 100% online.”

Patricia stated that her biggest challenge in her journey was the ever present imposter syndrome. She would constantly berate herself for not knowing general CS concepts, or not grasping the logic of an algorithm, and basically feeling like she didn't know what she was doing. Having a mentor there to help her through these doubts was key to her success.

Patricia experienced stereotyping, being a female developer. She loves attending hackathons, but every time she went to one, there would be teams of men that were not open to having a woman on their team. When asked about the hackathon she said, “The general vibe I get is that, we [women] are too slow, or want to learn things (GOD FORBID) or that we are only good for html and css. The way I get over it, is to correct people’s perceptions by actually saying my title “Hi, I’m Patricia I’m a RoR Engineer”, and let them know I am a polyglot (Ruby, Python and Javascript) then ask them to give me a task. They rarely say no to that.”

When asked what advice she would you give to women who are thinking about enrolling in a coding bootcamp she stated, “Invest in yourself. Don’t make excuses like you can’t afford it. If this is truly something you are passionate about, invest the money, invest the time, invest your heart and soul and it will all work out.”

Patricia says that Bloc changed her life by providing the one on one mentorship she so desperately needed to get over the hump of learning online and solo. It also provided a platform to work on real live projects and feature her skills to add to her GitHub and ultimately her resume.

Patricia is excited to continue learning and becoming an even better engineer at her new job at Epublishing. Eventually she hopes to create a piece of software that will be useful for organisations like the Innocence Project, Missing and Exploited Children, or the poverty abatement and battered women’s advocates.

Finally, you can read Patricia’s blog about her experience learning to code as someone over 40.

Patricia was born in Dover, DE but grew up in Southern California. Her interest in technology came from her father who was a nuclear physicist. He would always create techy experiments in the house while watching Star Trek. When everyone else in the neighbourhood had Atari, Patricia had Intellivision. Gaming was her first real introduction to tech, and she was hooked.

Patricia studied Traditional Chinese Medicine at Emperor's College in Santa Monica, and then studied Cell and Molecular Bio/Pre-Med at Humbolt State University. She entered the workforce as a touring band member, playing the bass. Later she became a bartender, and lastly worked in Administration. She loved helping her co-workers in an administrative role but after 8 years she was bored and felt she wasn’t being challenged.

She decided she wanted to learn to code when she remembered she had been interested in coding, tech and gaming since she was 13 years old. She knew it was time to do what she had always wanted to do.

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