Women in STEM

How to succeed in your technology career

Emma Maslen, UK MD at SAP Concur

It’s no surprise that 95 per cent of recruiters viewed a competitive personal brand as a key differentiator for attracting the best applicants in today’s workplace.

Personal branding is hugely beneficial on many levels: it makes you look connected, authoritative on a particular area and can help you build a strong network of like-minded contacts.

So not making the most of this opportunity and using it to your advantage to further your career would be a mistake. Especially in the fast-moving and competitive world of technology where the importance for you to be distinctive is even more critical.

Unfortunately, doing a good job and getting the recognition you deserve isn’t always the case in businesses. But, one way of helping you progress in your career and to stand out is by developing a personal brand.

For me personally, working in the technology sector for many years, building a personal brand has been an essential approach that really helped me to drive my career in the direction I wanted.

The good news is, it’s not rocket science and anyone can do it. Below are my four tips for getting started on nailing your personal brand.

Step one: Get your thinking hat on

Do you know where you want to be in one, two and five years’ time? It might sound far ahead but having some long-term goals set can keep you focused.

Working in the technology sector, it’s easy to think in the moment and not give too much thought to life later down the line. But without planning where you want to be in the future, how can you expect to ever get there?

No one is going to invest in your future but you. So, it’s time to take control of your future by giving it some serious thought. No one else will do it for you.

Step two: What do you want to be known for?

Once you’ve got your goals in place, select three words you want to become known for. A good place to start is thinking about what differentiates you from everyone else; don’t just opt for words that you think sound good. Most importantly, they need to be authentic.

For instance, if you want to be known as a ‘doer’, or a ‘closer’, don’t just start declaring yourself as that. Actions speak louder than words. You need to show people you are and prove it to them. One simple way of doing this is aiming to go to every meeting and show what you bring to the project at hand. This means no more shrinking in them – you won’t get that recognition as someone who has their act together otherwise.

One example of a techie who has built a sterling personal brand for herself is the computer scientist and academic, Dr Sue Black. She campaigned to save Bletchley Park – home of the World War Two codebreaker and now The National College of Cybersecurity – building a following of supporters and making a real change. She was genuinely passionate about it and people bought into that.

Step three: Start engaging

Once you’ve pinned down what you want to be known for, it’s time to start working towards building that perception.

Whether you like it or not, everyone has a digital footprint. Whether its photos on Facebook with your friends, you ranting on Twitter about public transport or sharing what Spanish tapas meal you had last week on Instagram. And this probably isn’t the sort of content you’d want potential employers, prospects or indeed your network to see.

So this next step is all about starting to create, share and engage with content which ties into the personal brand you’re looking to build for yourself – LinkedIn Pulse blogs and Medium are fantastic places to voice opinions. Or if you’re not a strong writer, there will plenty of communities whether that’s on LinkedIn or face-to-face networking meetups you can become part of.

Step four: Be patient

Whatever it is you want to be perceived as, make sure the tone of voice you select also suits your overall personal brand, whether that’s authoritative, engaging or concise. But the real secret in building a successful personal brand that sticks is all in consistency.

It takes a long time to build a personal brand – in fact, studies reckon it takes people five to seven times to remember a brand – and it requires real tenacity, but the benefits you’ll get as a result are certainly worth the initial effort.

The advantages of an individual investing in their personal brand and how they are perceived are obvious. But, why should companies be incentivised to encourage their employees to establish personal brands? It might, after all, lead to a head-hunter spotting and poaching your top talent.

With levels of trust towards businesses at an all time low, and statistics showing 92 per cent of people trust recommendations from individuals (even if they don’t know them) over companies. The benefits for employees being active on social media and crafting a credible personal brand for themselves are clear. In addition, 77 per cent of consumers are more likely to buy when the CEO of the business uses social media. This makes it a clear win-win for individuals and companies alike.

Woman on Laptop

The women in the middle: Bridging the learning gap


Pioneering for women in leadership has been a journey for me and it’s important to reflect on this and our own perceptions as women on how to do this as we mark International Women’s Day. 
Image via Shutterstock

In my twenties I didn’t believe that we should make a distinction between women and men in the workplace and that to do so would do us, women, a disservice. I really thought that as I reached my thirties a lot of the gender inequality would iron itself out. Yet, I’ve vastly done a U-turn on that position. I really can’t believe that so much – more than I had realised – is still going on. Sexism in the workplace is endemic and it has to be called out.

Lean In and McKinsey conducted a 2016 research piece on this topic. They put the same CVs in front of recruiters with one vital difference - one has a man’s name, the other a woman’s. Sadly and unsurprisingly, the male CV would be selected to go through two interviews 60 per cent more frequently than the female CV.

There is still an old boy’s club, and it’s shocking. We talk about making sure your introverts and your extroverts at work are well looked after, but male bosses need to make sure that women are looked after - just because a woman hasn’t asked for a pay rise, does not mean that they shouldn’t be given one. We need to involve men in this fight - get them to help and understand that they have a role to play – we just can’t do it without them.

But it’s not only the men who have work to do.

We, as women, need to be conscious of our own judgments and preconceptions about established societal roles and how these play into gender bias. The reaction I received from women themselves when I went back to work was interesting to note. My husband stayed at home to help support with the children and it was other women and friends themselves that found this astonishing. Why so? I had been at home and working, with the children for such a long time, also, why were we both not given our dues? We also need to call out when women are being unfair to women - we all have a part to play to heal fractious infighting, cattiness and preconceived notions.

But how do we proactively tackle this in the workplace? We can’t just be calling each other out and pointing fingers all the time.

Learning is a key foundation on which I’ve built my career. From a holistic - as a person - point of view, women should stretch to do better and be better. Reading, learning and training play a pivotal role. From learning soft skills to learning how to improve confidence for presenting and understanding the right scenarios in which to proactively ask for pay rises. All of it has helped.

Being able to move beyond being polite to actively putting a stamp and owning our own ideas so that they won’t be attributed wrongly to men is also important. We have to know, and build up resilience in both soft and ‘hard-wired’ skills, from a firm grasp of digital skills to handling your manager. If we do, we will be in a better place to deal with the complex and changing business environments, earn, and ask for, the positions we rightly deserve.

And, we need to pass the knowledge and learning along. Mentoring younger females in the workplace is vital to helping them scale the ladder. That may start at home, in teaching a child that she can do anything she wants to do, to seeking out a female with strong potential to bring along on the journey. It may seem like an insurmountable task and just a drop in the ocean. But we all have a part to play, from galvanising the men in our lives to stop being our own worst enemy (or enemies). It won’t happen overnight, but it is still worth fighting the good fight.

About the author:

Tara O’Sullivan is the Chief Creative Officer at Skillsoft


Putting the M in STEM

Putting the M in STEM: Career Opportunities for Women in Mathematics


Putting the M in STEM- Career Opportunities for Women in MathematicsIt may be 2016, but when it comes to a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths), there’s still a gender gap to bridge.

Last year’s Labour Force Survey revealed that women make up just 14% of all people in STEM careers – and today, we’re looking at some of the most exciting career paths available to women putting the M in STEM.

As more and more young women are encouraged to take on STEM subjects in higher education and pursue a career in these lucrative specialist sectors, we’re exploring the range of diverse and rewarding career opportunities that await women aspiring to a career in fields surrounding mathematics.

Why do STEM careers matter?

Rather than being taught separately, the disciplines of STEM are incorporated into one cohesive subject, meaning a broad range of highly valuable expertise can be gained at once. A career in STEM promises a bright and exciting future for those with the passion to pursue it - and in an era of such exponential advances, employees in these areas are essential.

In an effort to meet the demand for experienced and qualified professionals in these crucial fields, employers are constantly looking for new ways to expand their workforce. With the female population being seriously underrepresented on the STEM career ladder, encouraging younger generations to explore the options available to them is vital.

Generating industry interest

With a predicted 100,000 UK STEM graduates needed each year until 2020 to meet the growing demand for experts in these fields, now’s the time to recruit the future’s specialist workforce. While there have been calls to tempt more women into STEM industries, there’s still work to be done when it comes to bringing bright new talent into these complex disciplines.

Universities are taking steps to create a sense of excitement around STEM careers - hosting workshops, summer schools and festivals in a bid to bring more young people into these industries - but if you’ve already established yourself in another sector, it’s not too late to consider a change in direction.

Careers in mathematics

Putting the M in STEM- Career Opportunities for Women in Mathematics 2If you’re interested in joining the thousands upon thousands of women leading the way in fields surrounding mathematics, there’s a diverse range of routes available to you - from studying STEM subjects as a student to enrolling on an apprenticeship or enquiring about financial training to expand your existing knowledge. Below, you’ll find just a few of the exciting opportunities that await women in the world of mathematics:

STEM graduate schemes: after dedicating years to a specific discipline, a graduate scheme can put you on the path towards your dream career
Sandwich year: this will help you prepare for life after university and give you real life experience in the role you’re looking to pursue
Teacher/lecturer: put your skills and experience to good use by teaching the next generation of STEM graduates
Quantity surveyor: requires you to utilise your skills in a hands-on role where both financial and numerical management are part of the day-to-day job
Corporate investment banker: a head for figures and the ability to confidently recommend an array of financial services is required
Researcher: if you have a desire to research, suggest and help to implement new and effective procedures, this could be the role for you

Whether you’re wondering how you can make the most of your mathematics degree or what career opportunities are available to applicants without higher education, the incredible range of innovative online courses mean it’s easier than ever before to learn lucrative new skills.

Is it time to think about reviewing your career options and take control of your future?

About the Author

Originally from Ballachulish in Scotland, Jay moved to London 10 years ago as a bright-eyed accounting graduate and has never looked back. As Operations Executive at IASeminars, Jay is at the forefront of accounting and wider financial news and legislation changes. She is especially passionate about equipping up-and-coming accountants and providing influential and engaging training that makes a difference.




Why women need to work together to inspire the next generation


We may be well and truly into the 21st Century, but we’re still a long way off a balanced representation of genders in all sectors and at all levels.

There’s still a mismatch of women on the board despite the quotas that have been batted around and there are numerous industries that remain male-dominated – technology, engineering and construction to name a few. So how should we go about moving this issue forward?

Woman and Child - Via Shutterstock - Gender Representation
Via Shutterstock

It’s important to state first and foremost that there are numerous initiatives that are helping to address gender imbalance, TechFuture Girls for example, all of which will continue to encourage more women into roles they might not normally consider. But if we delve deeper into the issue there’s one solution that needs to be added to the mix: more female role models.

My reasoning behind this is based on sound information from the affected audience themselves. As part of our Next Tech Girls campaign – which aims to place 5,000 more females into tech roles by 2020 – I’ve been speaking to girls taking ICT and Computing at GCSE level. What I discovered was certainly eye-opening. Many revealed that they would not choose to continue with a career in tech as they believed that roles in this field require individuals to spend hours sat at a desk reading reams of code. However, this simply is not the case.

I believe that if we are to address the gender imbalance in these historically male-dominated arenas we need to start in the classroom by not only encouraging more girls to study STEM subjects, but also get them passionate about them too. The sheer variety of opportunities that these sectors can open up to females is immense and they need to be aware of these.

If we continue looking at technology, the career potential is incredibly diverse. Every firm nowadays needs some form of tech resource, so whether a pupil is considering a job in fashion, a career in life science or they are undecided as to what they want, technology can really be a foot in the door. Clearly, then part of the education process needs to include an explanation of the fantastic and incredibly varied options a career in tech can bring – not to mention the vast array of fascinating topics that can be studied at school and in college.

In order to do this, schools, tech firms and female role models need to work together to better inspire girls in education by demonstrating just how rewarding a career in tech can be. If we think about how girls – and indeed boys - studying at the moment are inspired, real-life role models are perhaps the most impactful. We were all once – and in many cases still are – influenced by a celebrity or brand name as we learn more about them and its only human nature to mimic others. If we put inspirational female tech talent in front of the next generation of potential employees, at the absolute minimum we’ll be giving girls a more equal footing as they’ll be more aware of their options. But, the ideal outcome would certainly be that we see a whole new raft of females developing a passion for what I believe is a very rewarding career.

The huge number of women that have already joined our Wall of Inspiration is testament to the vast number of females who support this approach. One such individual is Nadine Thomson, UK IT Director for Vue Cinema. A brilliant example of someone who stumbled into the industry having accidently discovered the potential it has for an exciting career, Nadine has gone from strength to strength. Here’s her story:

“I initially went to University to become a Vet. I took computer programming as an elective subject and found it creative and interesting. The Internet and email were new technologies at the time that were gaining popularity and I could see tech was going to change our future. I switched my degree to Computer Science and I have never looked back.”

“I began my IT career in Australia. My first role was data entry and building a database for the Royal Children’s Hospital. I then went on to work in various technical roles before moving into management. I have experience working in a range of industries including Retail & Consumer (Travel, Beverages), Consulting, Education and Financial Services.”

People like Nadine, and the many others behind the campaign, are a real inspiration for future female tech talent and can really help demonstrate the vast array of career opportunities available. With greater collaboration between these individuals, schools and tech firms, I believe we can get more girls passionate about these less ‘female-traditional’ routes of employment and remove the stereotype that technology, and indeed STEM, isn’t for women.

Steve Brown is Director at IT recruitment firm, Empiric and founder of Next Tech Girls