Bringing a fresh perspective to tech

Women codingCarolyn Crandall, Chief Deception Officer at Attivo Networks

At first glance, cybersecurity can seem like a lonely profession for women, with female practitioners almost always greatly outnumbered by their male colleagues.

Research from IBM found that women make up just 11 percent of the security industry; even fewer (as little as one percent) are in a leadership role. Yet, cybersecurity is also an exciting, fast-paced career that can be hugely rewarding for anyone with a passion for technology, regardless of gender.

One myth I can dispel right away is that to get into cybersecurity you first have to be some sort of coding expert. This is not always the case. In cybersecurity, there are many different and important roles to occupy, which rely on a wide range of skills. From product management, risk management, testing, problem solving, sales & marketing to budgeting and more. This industry thrives on its diversity of experience, education, and background.

Learning and experience

A good way to get started is by taking a course, applying for an internship, or an entry-level position to obtain foundational qualifications and certifications. Not only does this allow you to develop your knowledge-base and skill set, it also shows your willingness to learn new things. Even with baseline experience, it’s still important to always continue to learn and stay current on new technology and ways to address modern challenges. I recommend seeking out managers who present opportunities for long-term career progression and understand the importance of providing continuous learning for their employees. For example, with my recent college graduate hires, I have created a learning environment that encourages them to ask questions and try out new things. I also urge them to sign up for training classes and engage with the many training resources that are made available online.

Something else that helps within this space is to stay on top of the latest trends, technologies, and news. Educate yourself about what is going on in the cybersecurity community, so as you continue to develop in your career and in your day-to-day skills on the job, you also maintain a high level understanding of the market and allow it to inform your professional decision-making .Personally, I strive to read any significant security stories in the news. An awareness of what’s going on is essential if you want to stay relevant and ahead of the competition.

Another piece of advice is to try new and different workplaces to experience what it’s like to work for both large and small organizations. A larger company will have well-defined roles that you can learn within and the budget and infrastructure to expose you to a wide range of interesting projects and life lessons. Working for a small business, by contrast, will have less definition to how a role needs to be done, teaches you to take on more responsibility and to make tighter budgets stretch as far as they can go.

Getting the job

In my experience, women are every bit as suited to cybersecurity as men. However, over the years, I’ve also noticed a distinct difference in their approach, especially when it comes to landing a job or career advancement. Men tend to be good at exuding confidence about a role even if they are not entirely qualified. By comparison, women can tend to be more conservative and prefer to successfully master every detail before committing to take on a new responsibility. I would strongly encourage women not to let the lack of a “checked box” hold you back. Hardly is there ever a perfect candidate that can do it all. It’s much more important to present yourself as someone who is very capable and is willing to learn what they don’t know. I will often bet on the “athlete” with a hunger for success over someone who has simply done the job before.

In this industry, you may find yourself going head to head against exceptional individuals with exhaustive security experience or military backgrounds. And, admittedly, it can be very intimidating to compete with or to participate in projects with these seasoned professionals. I encourage you to take a deep breath and believe in your abilities. If you know your stuff, walk the walk, talk the talk, and do it with the swagger that you have earned. Although you may encounter some jerks, you will find most people to be welcoming to women in the field and will appreciate what you bring to the table, both today, as you learn more, and as you grow stronger in your capabilities.

Regardless of where you are in your career, take the time to build a reputation for yourself, internally and externally, as an expert and a recognized authority in your field. This means demonstrating knowledge and experience to your colleagues and sharing insights with industry peers. Blogging, contributing to articles, and commenting on posts can all be excellent ways for establishing a name for yourself. Speaking at conferences can also be a great way to share your insights and for networking purposes.

Encouraging more women into tech

Women entering into cybersecurity with their fresh perspectives have so many things they can offer the industry. A different point of view or approach can be extremely beneficial when it comes to driving innovation, reducing risk, and delivering on a new product or service.

Both men and women need to make sure that women joining cybersecurity don’t end up feeling isolated, unsupported, or alone. We collectively need to create strong support networks and help each other out more. This can be as simple as socializing so that you get to know your female colleagues, mentoring other women, or even joining online groups of like-minded people to learn how they cope with similar circumstances to your own.

The tech industry has a lot to offer women, and women have a lot to offer the tech industry.  By being welcoming and supportive, we can attract incredible talent and be a better workforce to show for it. That’s why I would not hesitate to encourage any women thinking about a career in cybersecurity to go for it.

Carolyn Crandall About the author

Carolyn is a technology executive with over 25 years of experience in building emerging technology markets in security, networking, and storage industries. She has a demonstrated track record of successfully taking companies from pre-IPO through to multi-billion-dollar sales and has held leadership positions at Cisco, Juniper Networks, Nimble Storage, Riverbed, and Seagate. Carolyn is recognized as a global thought leader on technology trends and for building strategies that connect technology with customers to solve difficult information technology challenges. Her current focus is on breach risk mitigation by teaching organizations how to shift from a prevention-based security infrastructure to one of an active security defense based on the adoption of deception-based cyberwarfare.


Tribeni Chougule

TechWomen100: What happened next for Tribeni Chougule

Tribeni Chougule

In this ongoing series, we speak to our winners about life after winning a TechWomen100 Award.

 

Now in their third year, the TechWomen100 Awards recognise and celebrate the achievements of women in tech – the emerging tech talent and role models for the future.

We spoke with Tribeni Chougule, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2018.

Tribeni started her career as a Graduate Trainee Engineer in Tata Technologies, Pune, India where she was trained as an SAP Technical Consultant.

She enjoyed programming and was able to land a new job on the basis of her 4.5 months of strong technical expertise into India’s top 3 IT companies –Wipro. In her 11 years career in Wipro, Tribeni’ s roles graduated from Technical Consultant to Technical Lead to Project Lead to Project Manager and Program Manager and she also moved permanently from India to UK. Tribeni then joined Infosys where she project managed their first SAP Global Trade Management implementation for a procurement division of one of the largest telecom companies. In 2013, Tribeni joined Visa as Technical Project Manager and transformed internal IT teams from waterfall to agile model of delivery and enabled the various teams to work in the digital propositions of the organisation. This included training design and implementation, tools and process change and being an Agile coach to Scrum Masters as well as to Scrum Teams. After undertaking various  key and complex programmes and projects during the and post-merger of Visa Europe and Visa Inc, Tribeni headed the Technology team in the London Innovation Centre. Tribeni is currently the Head of Change Management in Finance Europe.

Tribeni is also the co-chair of  Visa’s Women in Technology Europe network, Enactus Business Advisor and a Cherie Blair foundation women in business mentor. She is pursuing her executive MBA from WBS, London.

How did you feel when it was announced that you’d won a TechWomen100 award?

I was delighted to have made it to the shortlist and didn’t think that I would anyway make it to the winning list. The day of the result, when I saw my name in the list, I just couldn’t believe that I had won. I was emotional and ecstatic. I found it hard to believe and rechecked  a couple of times to be sure that I was reading correctly.

Please tell us what has happened in your career since winning the TechWomen100 award?

2019 turned out to be a fabulous year from a career perspective. The biggest gain for me from this award was self-confidence and belief. All of a sudden, I was willing to take action  that erstwhile I did not believe I could do. The year saw me get a promotion at work, become a member of techUK Skills and Diversity Council and a Cherie Blair Foundation Mentor for Women in Business. I  felt extremely grateful with the best wishes and support that came my way from friends , family, colleagues, and my LinkedIn network and every single note or email that I received was invaluable. Thanks to a WeAreTheCity MBA newsletter and event, I applied for an executive MBA with WBS(London). I was successful and have embarked upon this long-time dream since September.  The appreciation at my workplace on this win  was also tremendous. I got mentioned in our Europe CEO’s newsletter and an article was published on our global intranet on me and my thoughts on Diversity and Inclusion.  The award has also made a difference to how I and my opinion is perceived.

What advice would you give to someone else going through the award’s process?

If someone has nominated you, then remove self-doubts that you do not deserve it. If they are willing to share with you why they nominated you, have the conversation and understand what is it that you are doing that stands you apart. Review your achievements and answer the questions authentically and savour the process. Even if you do not land up winning, to be shortlisted or even be nominated is a great achievement and you should be proud of that.

What tips would you give to our other members to enhance their careers?

My top three tips are as follows:

  • It is important to have self-confidence and self-belief. If there’s something that you would like to do, you should go for it and  remember that the worst outcome is that you will not get the opportunity, but you still have what you currently have.
  • Build self-awareness, I have started that journey fairly late and still developing, but one of the big things that I have learnt is identifying my own self-limiting barriers and overcome them.
  • Do ensure to have mentors and I recommend more than one. More idea,  if you can also get a sponsor as that will make a difference to your career.

encouraging girls in to tech, STEM featured

Inspiring women for a career in engineering

encouraging girls in to tech, STEMAs a female engineer, I am part of a minority group.

A miniscule five per cent of practicing engineers in the UK are women, and only 22 per cent of 16-18-year-old girls say they would consider a career in engineering. In the UK we also have the lowest percentage of female engineering professionals in Europe, while Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus lead with nearly 30 per cent each1.

Why is this the case? My theory is by the time a child turns four, it has already been instilled in them which jobs are for men and which are for women, and society inadvertently reinforces these socially constructed identities due to its own lack of understanding and preconceptions.

But when did Britain decide that women should not aspire to be engineers and help to change the world? And worse still, who thought up the ludicrous notion that women would not make good engineers?

The women of Great Britain have already proven that they can be outstanding engineers and run this country single handedly. Just 70 years ago, when the men left to fight in the Second World War, women went into factories and did the work of talented engineers more than competently.

Sadly, at the end of the war when the men returned, everyone went back to their so called “traditional roles”.

The field of engineering loses so many talented women to so-called “caring professions” because they want “to make a difference,” but making a difference is actually the bread and butter of engineering, and in today’s world is vitally important for the future.

The Engineering UK 2019 report reveals that while girls are underrepresented in STEM subjects at both GCSE and A‘Level, they tend to outperform boys in examinations at both levels of study.

This shows women should be engineers!

As we continue to live through difficult financial times, there are many other pressing problems that threaten our quality of life, such as global warming, the depletion of natural resources and challenges to health - to mention just a few. Engineers and scientists are the only people who can halt the destruction of our planet, so what better way to show you care and make a difference than to become an engineer

In 2017, the annual shortfall of the right engineering skills in the UK was between 25,500 (level 3) and up to 60,000 (over level 4 skills). The reality is that we need to at least double the number of UK based university engineering students for the UK to remain a power hub.

In my current role as President and Chief Executive of the New Model in Technology and Engineering (NMITE), we are committed to making engineering more accessible for everyone and are aiming for gender balance in our student body.

We will also be making entry more accessible with students only needing to demonstrate competence of Maths and Physics at GCSE and not A ‘Level.

We want students who want to be creative, to design, work as a team and be part of an exciting future. By working on ‘real-life’ engineering challenges rather than sitting in lectures, our future students will be providing real solutions for our partner companies including Heineken and Avara Foods.

I hope I, as a Professor of Engineering, will inspire a future generation of Amy Johnsons and Caroline Hasletts to help make a difference and change our world.

Elena Rodriguez-FalconAbout the author

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon FIET, PFHEA, FCMI

Professor Elena Rodriguez-Falcon is President and Chief Executive at the New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering. Before that Elena was Professor of Engineering at Sheffield University whilst leading various strategic priorities. Elena has received numerous awards for her work on education and diversity and is Principal Fellow at the HEA and Fellow of the IET and CMI.

 


female data scientist, woman leading team

Women in tech: How to progress to the c-suite

female data scientist, woman leading teamAli Palmer, Partner and Head of the Consumer and Telecommunications Practice at Odgers Interim, offers 5 top tips for female tech leaders looking to secure a c-suite position 

In 2017, PwC published their Women in Tech report. It found only 5% of leadership positions in the UK technology industry were held by women – a statistic that is unlikely to have changed much in the past three years.

For female technology professionals in senior management positions, it can mean having no female peers to turn to for support, suffering from a lack of role models and reporting into all male leadership teams. In short, the woeful underrepresentation of fellow leaders means breaking into the c-suite will be an uphill battle.

It is however, far from being unachievable. With the right approach, c-suite positions can be attained. Here are 5 key practices that successful female technology leaders use to progress their careers:

1. Join professional networks

Building relationships with technology leaders and influencers is a key step in generating career opportunities and developing your own knowledge of what is a rapidly evolving industry. This could be anything from a technology forum to a CIO network. It’s a simple move that will not only build your profile within the industry but will also lead to you becoming recognised within your own organisation as someone who works at bringing external relationships into the business. Make the effort to maintain this network and continuously make a note of who you do and do not know; your next opportunity could be one conversation away.

2. Break into workplace networks

As a senior manager in the technology industry, you’ll be working alongside, and managing, some highly technical individuals. If you’re a non-technical manager, then you’ll need to bridge the technical/non-technical divide that can often exist between management and the front-line. It’s a lesson in resilience made that much more difficult by the gender divide you’re likely to come up against. However, in overcoming this obstacle you will be able to break into the informal groups around the business and get key individuals on your side. This is an important step; securing the respect of the right people will make your transition to the top that much easier.

3. Work with a mentor

A mentor or executive coach is a guiding hand; there to steer you in the right direction and help you progress to the next stage of your career. Their position affords them an objective and more accurate perception of the colleagues and contacts around you; a perception they will share with you. It means they can connect you with the right people and point out colleagues you need to build relationships with, who you shouldn’t build relationships with and who you might need to manage differently. If you’re struggling to find your voice or contribute in senior management meetings, then a mentor that works in the same company can be a critical boost of confidence. They will also have their own networks and personal contacts and as a result will open doors to other opportunities.

4. Become a female role model

If you’re a senior female figure in a technology company then it’s likely you’ll quickly become a role model for other women in the organisation, and possibly the wider industry. This should be embraced; by supporting your female colleagues you will build your own relationships and gain a better understanding of the business you’re working in. Whenever you meet someone new, you should be thinking, “who do I know that it would be good for you to know?” Helping others build connections in this way is one of the best methods of building your own network as people tend to remember those who have created an opportunity for them. What’s more, when it comes to the technology industry there can often be an environment of isolation for female employees which only increases at the senior leadership level. Many successful female leaders have overcome this by championing women in the workplace, leading female leadership programmes and creating female only career groups.

5. Have a voice at the table

Senior management meetings are where you want to be recognised by your peers for the quality of your ideas and your vision for the company. However, you might be one of the only women in the room, putting you at risk of being outspoken by your male counterparts. It’s a challenge that can be overcome with preparation, ensuring you come armed with an opinion for at least one of the points on the agenda and that you’ve done enough prior research to offer an intelligent contribution. You should also cultivate your allies carefully; build a relationship with a fellow senior manager who you know will ask for your opinion or provide support for an idea you have.

In an industry dominated by men, career progression for women is a journey littered with hurdles. However, by adopting these practices, the transition to the c-suite can be made that much more possible. Yet the future of women in technology depends on more than just individuals; it requires an industry-wide effort to address the gender imbalance by encouraging more women to work in technology, championing women in the workplace and supporting more females to take on senior leadership roles.

Ali PalmerAbout the author

Ali Palmer is a Partner and Head of the Consumer and Telecommunications Practice at Odgers Interim – the UK’s largest interim executive headhunting firm. Ali works with tech industry giants including Avanade, Smiths Detection, Colt Technology Services and Nominet UK to place senior leaders across the c-suite and senior management levels.

Ali previously worked in retail banking, specialising in fund and risk management. Prior to joining Odgers Interim, she was a Vice President of a large European Investment Bank. Ali is just as successful outside of the working environment, being the Chairman of her school’s Old Girls’ Society and has recently been appointed as a School Governor at St. Paul’s Boys School.


Women in Engineering: How Can We Make The Sector More Inclusive?

Women In EngineeringIn 2016, Engineering UK released its ‘State of the Nation’ report, which highlighted a severe recruitment crisis in the engineering sector.

More people are leaving than entering. And while the estimates vary by quite a large margin — from between 69,000 and 186,000 — what is certain is that the current flow of 46,000 apprentices and undergraduate students is nowhere near enough to fit the demand.

For some time, the UK has leaned heavily on human capital from Eastern Europe. But rising wages back home, and uncertainty over Brexit, has weakened this EU labour force.

In order to solve this crisis, it seems more important than ever for the UK to tap into its abundant pool of natural resources. I am of course talking about women, who actually outnumber men in the British Isles.

UK engineering is woefully failing the female workforce

Britain, historically and now, is a hugely successful country. In many instances, it has been the British who have introduced to the world radical and key new ideas in the name of ‘progress’. Which makes it all the more remarkable (and strange) that the UK lags behind so many other countries when it comes to equality in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

The UK has the lowest proportion of women in engineering out of any European country at 11 per cent. Indeed, even many North African countries, such as Algeria and Tunisia, have greater gender parity, and far to the East, India and Malaysia also welcome more women into their ranks than the UK does.

What are the reasons for this disparity? Many theories have been proffered. Some blame the UK government’s previous arms-length relationships with business (which is now changing thanks to the requirement of gender-pay gap reporting); to the cultural differences abroad (for example, some scholars will argue that women are less likely to choose engineering when they have more personal freedoms).

The most popular cause of the problem, however, is thought to be a cultural one; and a particularly Anglo one. That includes the United States, too.

Is culture really the problem?

As mentioned above, as little as 11 per cent of the engineering workforce is female. That means 89 per cent of engineers are male — despite women making up 51 per cent of the population. This is a slight increase for women of 2 per cent over the past two years, which is almost statically slow. Currently, it is estimated that 14 per cent of women are taking STEM subjects at A-level or higher. So things are improving, but what’s been holding women back?

Sarah Peers of the Women’s Engineering Society thinks stereotyping, and an outdated, pro-masculine work structure may be to blame. According to Peers, this problem could be rectified men were given more time off for child-centric duties, such as child-rearing, and not just women. Traditionally, major roles, such as that of CEOs, have not been kind to expecting mothers, or newly mothers, who cannot be available twenty-four hours a day, unlike a male colleague — a disadvantage that, in recent times, has come to be identified as sort of mothering ‘penalty’.

Peers also thinks there is a disconnect between the well-intentioned campaigns from the HR and PR world, meaning their messages are not permeating into the company hierarchies above.

A manifest part of the culture could also lie in the way we broach the topic of engineering to our girls, of which we could look abroad for some positive solutions. For example, the president of Ashesi University in Ghana has achieved an almost 50-50 split in men and women on its computer science programme. One way the University did this was, it claimed, by reframing engineering to mean talking about problem-solving, and how engineering can help to improve the lives of others and the environment.

It has long been suspected that women have subtle innate differences that favour people, whereas men traditionally have favoured ‘things’. Talking about engineering as a way to help people, even by proxy, seems to resonate more with the minority sex.

Are we creating a welcome environment for women?

There is another issue that we may not be entirely comfortable talking about — that is, if men have essentially “shut the door” to female colleagues, either with subconscious biases, or plain old sexism.

It is not unusual for a female engineer to find herself almost alone in her world of work. There may never be a queue for the women’s toilet, and understandably, there is a lack of like-minded individuals to talk to.

This lack of a female presence can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, men might wonder, if there are almost no other women present — then what are these few women even doing here? This can conjure up prejudices or harmful stereotypes that can undervalue, undermine, and overlook female colleagues.

In fact, in one study, 40 per cent of female engineers thought they weren’t treated equally in the workplace. And 60 per cent said they thought male engineers got an easier ride and progressed further.

Perhaps more shockingly, 63 per cent said they had overheard or experienced sexism directed towards them. One engineer, who wished to remain anonymous, posted on Reddit that her male colleagues would inappropriately touch her, and even talk about her sexually when she was in the room.

Old habits die hard and are passed along from one generation to another, but they can be altered. Echoing Sarah Peers, another challenge would be to educate all engineers of the dangers of stereotyping, for a better and more understanding workplace.

Encouraging girls in the school

If one key discovery has been uncovered in the march for engineering gender-parity in recent years, it is that you have to inspire children young.

This goes for girls and boys, of course, but even from very early on, societal structures can send mixed messages about what girls can and cannot do, and what they are expected to do.

It all starts with reframing the study of engineering to that it encourages girls, too. Previously, local campaigns have targeted teenage girls at 16, or when they are doing their A-levels, but it needs to start much earlier. Some campaign groups are employing women engineer role models to give talks to children eight years of age. One organisation, Early Years Engineer, even talks to girls as young as three.

At the moment though, something needs to be done about the presentation of the sciences altogether, for all disciplines; for boys and girls. Just under 1 hour and 30 minutes of science is dedicated to scientific studies in primary school, which is, of course, woeful and needs to change immediately.

The benefits of gender parity in engineering, and the economy at large

To reiterate again how large the gender divide is, consider this shocking fact: there are more CEOs in corporate America named ‘James’ than there are women CEOs altogether.

If there is anyone still hesitant about opening up the engineering world to more women — even despite the current crisis in recruitment —  then perhaps they might want to consider the economic benefits.

It has been found that companies with women on the board perform 54 per cent better than without, which suggests that gender-parity does benefit from some diverse thinking in the upper echelons.

And a World Bank study in May 2018 reckoned that gender pay equality would enrich the global economy by £120 trillion. Currently, it is believed that the inequalities in gender pay, enrolment, and visibility, might even be sucking the UK of as much as 14 per cent of its wealth. A McKinsey report also found that, once women make up a third of a business’s board room members, a trickle-down effect warms the rest of the working culture to women — and there is a financial boost in this instance, too.

One final word…

We should not shy away from doing all that we can to make engineering a welcoming place for women. But we must also not ‘overcorrect’ and alienate men. That could be a ticking time-bomb for the future. We must ‘socially’ engineer a comfortable balance between the gender lines, and open up the sector for everyone, no matter their identity and background.

This article was written by Jayne Fielding of Weldwide, an architectural steel and structural engineering company based in London. 


diversity, boys club featured

Why the software sphere is crying out for diversity

diversity, boys club

Article provided by Daniela Aramu, Head of User Experience, Thomsons Online Benefits

Just 16.8 per cent of people working in the UK tech sector are women.

Addressing this imbalance should be a priority for businesses. And not just to reach gender parity – which is a worthy goal in and of itself – but because it’s a commercial imperative, particularly when it comes to software development.

Does it matter who develops tech?

End users’ own experiences will shape how they engage with software and technology. For this reason, all good technologists should place audience demands and preferences at the centre of their designs.

If customers are struggling to use a product or feel that its functionality isn’t up to scratch, they’ll stop using it and go elsewhere. And there’s so much choice available to consumers now that if they don’t like one option, there’ll be half a dozen more to try, with new products launching all the time.

So, unless software is really tailored to their needs, people will likely move on.

Having people on board who can relate to different users and understand how they think and operate will help these considerations to be weaved into the earliest stage of the development process.

For designers, empathy is second nature. The role is all about understanding user needs and working with developers to transform that idea into a real product with real code. For developers, empathy is not such a prerequisite, but it is an incredible advantage, as they will be more willing to change their code structure to reflect user mental models.

When considering the above, it becomes apparent why there’s such a dire need for greater gender diversity in tech – and particularly on the development side. Developers do not have that much exposure to the needs of users, nor are they really taught to empathise. Increasing gender diversity in teams is one of the simplest ways to ensure the needs of women are considered in the development process.

But is it just women?

Of course, gender diversity is not the only thing that makes software development stronger. Different backgrounds, experiences and specialities all contribute to a richer development process and better end-product.

For example, my background lies in psychology; something which I regularly apply to developing the user experience of Thomsons’ software. In fact, studying people’s behaviour and perception turned out to be the perfect fit for my job in tech.  And my team is full of people with a range of backgrounds – everything from interior designers to border control. Each one can bring new perspectives to the design process.

We’re all united by logical thinking and a real curiosity about human behaviour, but crucially, our experiences and backgrounds mean we approach problems in very different ways.

Building cohesion in a diverse team

Having a diverse team is fantastic for getting the job done – we have people from all over the world working together. But it’s really important to be conscious of people’s backgrounds when communicating with them. For example, the world of software often comes with its own, complex language and shorthand. When people are new to the field, or new to tech in its entirety, you must take the time to give proper explanations and technical descriptions.

Bringing people on board can therefore be a fairly time-intensive task, but it’s a small price to pay for the diverse ideas and perspectives you get in return.

Bringing the best on board

For those in charge of hiring new tech talent I would urge them to broaden their candidate criteria. Of course, they need to have the skills to get the job done. But beyond that, should what university you attended, or if you even attended one at all, be a deciding factor in shortlisting prospective new recruits? Should your background or prior work experience?

I would say, no. In fact, it’s not something I particularly consider when recruiting for my team. I’m more interested in how people problem-solve and what their drivers are in building a product. This naturally leads to a more diverse workforce, where women are better represented, and teams are much more representative of the people that will use their products.


Woman on Laptop

Building your future and the foundation of resilience

By Gemma Allen, Senior Cloud Security Solutions Architect at Barracuda Networks

Woman on LaptopMy first exposure to cybersecurity began when I attended a school workshop on touch typing.

This was of course a very different time, in which anything to do with the internet wasn’t considered as a viable career option and writing code in international databases or architecting modern data platforms in the cloud wasn’t an issue. Computers seemed so vast at the time, and I became intrigued by the internet when I was 13. What could I learn from this? How far does the internet reach? What new possibilities are there?

As it turns out, the internet opened up countless possibilities. My passion and curiosity for tech expanded, alongside my thirst for knowledge. This has allowed me to explore different career paths, from network engineering and IT consultancy through to my role today as a Senior Cloud Security Architect at Barracuda Networks.

What can I say about my experience of being a woman in a male-dominated industry? I think it’s certainly obvious that there is a large disparity between male and female roles in tech, and I think that giving a voice to this discrepancy is the first step.

From my perspective, we need to give serious thought to the potential for gender bias’ from a diversity quota viewpoint. The issues with this is that it has become a major contributor to the false narrative that women in technology have inferior technical competencies compared to men in the industry, due to the increasing need for organisations to fill a diverse workforce. This ‘positive’ discrimination can start to work against the women it's meant to empower. If people start hiring based upon gender quotas, then there is a risk of employing individuals who are unsuitable for a role. This is counterintuitive and threatens to make the hiring process a box ticking exercise which could ultimately reinforce the notion to co-workers and management that women are inferior. Not only can this could discourage the hiring of a suitability qualified female candidate in the future, but it can also widen the gender disparity in tech. So, how can women navigate this tricky landscape?

Let’s start with the discourse around women being criticised more for making mistakes. What women in tech should realise is that everyone makes mistakes. Learning from your network as well as having this support in place can, in fact, really help with your personal development. Take my first major screw up for example. I was working with a third party support engineer and made a programming error, resulting in a shutdown of the database and consequently, the systems went down during the working day. This taught me numerous valuable lessons including the importance of backing-up your data correctly, testing before implementing and learning to roll back, but also the importance of resilience in the face of unexpected difficulty.

This was something that I also experienced when it came to the increasing need to network using social media. For someone who isn’t active on social media, honing these skills was an important factor for me in order to gain a support network through mutual respect and word of mouth. Before the prevalence of social media ‘techies’ had relied on building our skills up before we were confident to network. Social media is a good tool for networking, but in following trends you might not be working to your best skills or discovering new ones. It is important to remember that in discovering new skills, mistakes will happen (such as wiping an entire database on your first job) and this is just a part of being human.

The cybersecurity field is vast and, with the increasing skills shortage, there is no time like the present to flex your knowledge or sharpen your expertise. Utilising free resources, such as Microsoft Learn and AWS Resource Hub, in conjunction with attending breakout workshops and tech conferences are all valuable to career progression and self-improvement. Don't let anyone stand in your way.

As I’ve mentioned before, your strongest allies in starting out in the tech world are your skillset and the internet. The great thing about modern technology is that you don't need a library to learn - there are plenty of free programmes available online and you can access great research for free.

You will be faced with knock-backs, but you have to live with yourself and your decisions at the end of the day. So, take the plunge - you never know where you might end up at the end of your journey.


women in tech, soft skills featured

How do we encourage more women into the tech industry?

women in tech, soft skillsFor an industry that prides itself on breaking boundaries, technology’s gender disparity is a contradiction which demands resolution. 

Research compiled by Datatech Analytics shows that only 27% of jobs in data and AI are held by women, and if you think this a symptom of historical gender differences in the uptake of STEM subjects and City jobs, think again: this figure is a 20-year low.

Tech needs to diversify: employers are currently underutilising 50% of the potential workforce while women are being excluded from well-paid, creative and rewarding jobs in an industry that will shape the future for generations to come. So, what are the key barriers to women in tech, and how can we overcome them?

Barriers to women in tech do not begin at recruitment: the national curriculum embeds tech within STEM subjects, so that from the age of four children start to view tech as an industry of hard science, analysis, and fortnightly ICT lessons. Restricting tech to STEM subjects narrows an industry defined by its growth potential: while logical and analytical skills are beneficial in tech, so are creative thinking and the ability to reason. The child who scored 100% on their French vocab test might one day become fluent in several coding languages. Children who do well in history might have a particular talent for trawling a wide range of sources to find solutions to problems. What about the budding artists who show great attention to detail, or the music students who memorise complex pieces with high accuracy? How can we nurture these skills which might one day be invaluable in a high-tech company? Conceptualising tech in an interdisciplinary way makes it more accessible to everyone. The education system would benefit children and the tech sector by re-addressing how tech can be integrated across the curriculum.

Changing how tech is taught in schools would go some way to opening it up as an industry, but it’s clear that the industry’s gender disparity problem won’t be solved from one side. A push for women in tech needs to be matched by a pull. Employers need to be proactive in hiring - and that starts with being conscious and well-versed in the barriers to women’s recruitment, and understanding why they exist. Generally speaking, EdTech is one of the better sectors for gender equality, and at Atom we are over 50% female - but this is unusual. Across the tech sector, only 17% of roles are filled by women and this is reflected in the predominance of men at the panels, events, and pitches I attend on a weekly basis. The figures at the highest level are even more extreme: only around 5% of senior leadership positions in tech companies are filled by women. To attract women into the industry this needs to be tackled - you can’t be what you can’t see. Managers have a responsibility to encourage engagement with this issue - whether sharing female-led tech events or connecting female leaders with their team.

My own experience in tech proves that the industry is more than ones and zeros, giant monitors and Silicon Valley, and that a non-STEM background does not exclude you from it. After graduating with a degree in English Literature, I moved to Malaysia to work in Arts and Education tuition. I was working full time as a private tutor when I met the Atom Learning co-founders, Alex and Jake, who told me about their idea for an AI-driven EdTech platform that they thought could help reduce inequalities in access to personalised education. Though I’ve always been interested in EdTech, a lot of my learning has been done on the job. I completed online coding courses which equipped me with the basic knowledge of the language of tech, enabling me to contribute to  conversations about the development of the Atom platform in a fuller way - benefitting myself, my team, and our product. I have learnt other valuable lessons without the help of online courses. In a startup, mindset is as important as skillset. Grow a thick skin to those who want to keep tech defined as a realm unknowable and inaccessible to anyone without a computer science degree. Technology is innovation, which, to the shock of some technologists I’ve worked with, is genderless.

As employers, as recruiters, as teachers, as students, as women and men in tech, developers and users of technology, we all have a role to play in diversifying the workforce that will develop the tools for our future. If you were surprised by the stats on women in tech in this article, others in your professional or social networks might be too. Share these stats - for collective action, everyone needs to be informed. If you teach, know anyone who teaches, or indeed is a student at primary or secondary school, think about whether you could reframe your conversations around tech and coding. A career in tech is within the reach of anyone interested in a fast-growth industry, and should be introduced to pupils as such. If you are a woman considering a career in tech - learn the skills, but remember, you will learn the most important lessons on the job - so go for it.

Within the industry, we need more women in senior leadership roles, and we must tackle this proactively, rather than simply pay lip service to the sentiment. This is a cause that all in the industry, whether for commercial or social reasons, should be interested in championing. Technology is set to become an even more dominant feature of our lives, and it is in the interests of all to ensure that the architects of that future represent those who will be impacted by it.

Flo SimpsonAbout the author

Flo Simpson is Head of Product for Atom Learning, a Key Stage 2 online teaching and learning platform. Atom Learning combines high-quality, teacher-made content with sophisticated technology to keep students on their individual, optimal learning paths. 
Flo graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in English Literature and is a former private tutor. Her role involves product design and development, content, and international expansion. She works closely with teachers and schools and manages a team of six.


How diversity has the power to unlock innovation

Dan Bladen, CEO and co-founder of Chargifi

DiversityDiversity is a superpower. Brands that have a diverse workforce foster creativity and become a melting pot of ideas.

Employees from different backgrounds, makes a company unique in its own skin.. But even beyond that, if diversity does not exist amongst those who are building our tomorrow, we will find ourselves with a world that does not resonate with the people living in it. What an unimaginable catastrophe that would be. This makes the notion that diversity and inclusivity in the workplace is just about brand reputation or – even more detrimentally – a compliance issue rather than a huge business asset, a monumental mistake.

The world is going through a dramatic technological change and for many businesses, that means breaking the glass ceiling and launching a ship into new waters, just as we are at Chargifi in the wireless charging industry. Whilst this is an exciting endeavour, it requires someone to dare to be the first, to challenge conventional ways and to step outside of a comfort zone to create new opportunities.

When we launched Chargifi in 2012, people were sceptical about wireless charging. Chartering in new territory requires a test and learn mindset and it’s this very way of thinking and learning that has been the critical foundation to our culture. Innovation requires someone to be brave, whether that means convincing a local neighbourhood cafe to prototype the trial of your product or service (as we did at Chargifi) or sparking conversations with some of the world’s biggest enterprises’. Courage in culture is the key to unlocking this brave nature.

There is no doubt leaders are the principal architects of an organisational culture that will stand as a firewall against exclusivity. A deeply embedded and established culture, one that is expressed in member self-image, expectations and guiding values – to the extent to which freedom is allowed in decision making, developing new ideas and personal expression – is so vital to a thriving and progressive workforce.

Culture is not and should not be treated as a tick-box exercise. There is no one-size fits all model and it’s vital leaders appreciate their role in spearheading its evolution. Diversity has genuinely been a foundation of making the Chargifi brand and product what it is today. Even when we were a 10-strong team, we were a creative mix of nationalities from across the world, and for some, joining the team meant committing to a courageous relocation to the UK, a feat in itself. We have always chosen people who are the best at what they do and the best fit for the company. Needless to say, experience has taught us that those who do not recognise the need to adapt, fail to bring together a diverse team with different skills, ideas and experiences. In doing this, a company will ultimately fail to understand different viewpoints, make informed decisions and drive solutions.

Dan Bladen, CEO and co-founder of ChargifiAbout the author

Dan Bladen, CEO and co-founder of Chargifi

Chargifi was born as a result of Dan spending six months traveling around the world in late 2012. He realised that he made strategic decisions about the venues we visited because of the availability of power sockets, so he could recharge and reconnect with friends and family back home. If he had gone traveling in 2006, he would have a connection problem: WiFi wasn’t as ubiquitous as it is today. Now, the problem is power – simply staying charged.


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.