Ceejay Momoh featured

From operations to agile delivery: Solving problems for citizens

Ceejay MomohCeejay Momoh is an agile delivery manager in the integrations team at DWP Digital. She’s based in Manchester, and joined DWP Digital in March 2018.

She says: “I’m an agile delivery manager, which entails leading on agile and lean practices for my team, removing impediments and just ensuring team health. I make sure my team can get on with building great services.”

Ceejay has been a civil servant for a few years, but only recently moved into delivering digital services.

“I studied microbiology at university,” she says, “and went on to a career in the health service in the laboratory. I dabbled in teaching, then joined the civil service.

“I actually worked on the front line in operations for about five or six years, then joined the Digital and Technology fast stream. I wanted to build great services, and to make life and the experiences of my colleagues on the front line easier. I thought ‘we can do this better’ and, hey, why not volunteer and do that?”

Scale and variety

Ceejay was already a civil servant when she joined DWP Digital, and she knew the challenges facing colleagues and customers at the front line of services.

“I’d worked in operations, so I knew the impact our services have on people’s lives. All of us are going to use DWP services at some point, so the scale is massive, and there’s a lot of variety of projects. In just over a year of being in DWP Digital, I’ve already worked on infrastructure, building software, and agile delivery.

“Initially I was worried about not having the skills. But the team were so welcoming, and I had the support of senior delivery managers, and a whole community of delivery managers.

“Agile is a mindset. If you come from any other background, it takes some adjustment to get into that mindset. I don’t have formal authority in the team structure, but I need to influence them.

“That was a difficult challenge, but I eventually got there.”

Delivering for impact with the integrations team

Although Ceejay was completely new to agile, she was given a project, along with the support of mentors, coaches, and self-led learning. She trained in agile methodology, including Scrum, Kanban, and sprint planning.

“I love applying learning to my work, so that was really interesting for me,” she says. “I set about learning as much as possible in a short space of time, using the 70-20-10 rule of formal and informal learning.

“I was networking at agile meetups in Manchester, watching videos about Scrum, going to community of practice meetings. Just talking to other delivery managers – I found that really helpful.”

Ceejay’s team – integration services – has nine members. As well as an agile delivery manager, there’s a digital delivery manager, product owner, business analyst, software engineers, Dev Ops engineers, and a user researcher.

“We’re currently working on the strategic API exchange platform, which is a solution for the whole of DWP,” says Ceejay.

“Our overall aim is to improve the experience for our end-user. For example, one of the projects I worked on reduced the average application process for claimants from two hours to 20 minutes, though a simplified triage process.”

Using innovations and technology to solve problems

Working with new innovations and technology is one of the things Ceejay finds interesting and rewarding in her role. Particularly when there’s a positive impact on the end-user.

“Sharing and reusing technology and systems is a key thing for us,” she says. “We’re currently exploring the Mulesoft Anypoint Platform, in order to migrate our API gateway and API portal.

“Ultimately, the benefit of that will be that people in DWP Digital will be able to log on to the API portal and look for something they can use, instead of building their own APIs from scratch.”

Life in the Manchester hub

DWP Digital delivers its services from six hubs across the country. Ceejay works in the Manchester hub, which she says is a fantastic collaborative space.

“I remember walking in here and thinking how big, bright, and open it is,” she says. “There are loads of shared spaces, big meeting rooms, and it’s flexible, so it lends itself to collaboration.”

Ceejay says she’s still enjoying life in the civil service, and the move into digital has given her new and varied experiences.

She says, “I’ve gone from software engineering to infrastructure during my time at DWP Digital. There’s a huge breadth of work to get involved in, and lots of opportunities to do different things.”

She’s also enjoying “working from home, which had me re-thinking wellness and wellbeing. I was now in a position to take advantage of the 24 hours in a day. I took up running good for my mental and physical health, created time for self -development and fully took advantage of the day. The resultant productivity in terms of time management has been truly liberating. I have found working more fun with less pressure.”

“I have 24 hours to do it and the autonomy within reason to do it at a pace that works for me.”

DWP Digital’s specialists use their digital skills to play a fulfilling and meaningful role in the future of our society. To join us, visit DWP Digital Careers site or subscribe to their newsletter to keep up to date with the latest roles and information.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vicky HotchkissAbout the author

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

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


Listen to our latest She Talks Tech podcast on 'The Wonder of Wearables' with Marija Butkovic, Women of Wearables

She Talks Tech - The Wonder of Wearables

Today we hear from Marija Butkovic, Founder and CEO of Women of Wearables.

Once considered a niche market, femtech is one of the fastest growing health industries, estimated to reach $50 billion by 2025.

With the surge of innovations in fertility, menstrual health, sexual health, pregnancy, menopause, Marija discusses how the rise of the women in tech movement has led to women building femtech products that solve real problems using technology as an enabler.

Marija shares insights on how the tech industry is delivering next generation solutions to female health issues that were neglected and under-researched for far too long.

If you want to find out more about Marija, you can connect with her on LinkedIn or visit www.womenofwearables.com

LISTEN HERE

‘She Talks Tech’ brings you stories, lessons and tips from some of the most inspirational women (and men!) in tech.

From robotics and drones, to fintech, neurodiversity and coronavirus apps; these incredible speakers are opening up to give us the latest information on tech in 2021.

Vanessa Valleley OBE, founder of WeAreTheCity and WeAreTechWomen brings you this latest resource to help you rise to the top of the tech industry. Women in tech make up just 17 per cent of the industry in the UK and we want to inspire that to change.

WeAreTechWomen are delighted to bring this very inspiring first series to wherever you normally listen to podcasts!

So subscribe, rate the podcast and give it a 5-star review – and keep listening every Wednesday morning for a new episode of ‘She Talks Tech’.

Produced by Pineapple Audio Production.

Discover more from our
She Talks Tech podcast

LISTEN HERE

Avye Couloute

Inspirational Girl in Tech: Avye Couloute | Maker, coder, Tech Advocate, Social Entrepreneur & Founder, Girls Into Coding

Avye CoulouteAvye Couloute is a maker, coder, Tech Advocate, workshop leader and Social Entrepreneur.

She began attending coding & physical computing workshops at 7. Nowadays she is very active in the tech & maker community, dedicating a lot of her spare time to exploring & learning about coding & technology.

Among other activities, Avye led a regular coding & physical computing workshops for Coder Dojo at Kingston University & the University of West London and have entered and won competitions with the robots which she designs and makes.

Avye is enthusiastic about sharing her skills & experiences with others and she is an Arm ambassador, part of the GenArm2Z program which enables young people to talk to tech leaders about how technology is being used & shaped for the future.

Aware of female under-representation in STEM education & careers, Avye was motivated to found Girls Into Coding to encourage more girl involvement in tech, to offer them the opportunity to develop their digital and making skills. She has received the Diana Award, the Diana Legacy Award and the FDM EveryWoman Tech Award in the “One To Watch” category for her work to create opportunities for girls to engage with tech and for fundraising to provide girls with microcontrollers, physical computing kits & STEM themed books.

You can follow Avye and Girls Into Coding on Twitter.

Tell us a little bit about your background?

My name is Avye and I’m 13. I started coding & attending physical computing workshops at 7. They were fun, so I began joining loads of similar events and continued to explore what I was learning at home. To share my skills & experiences I started co-running coding workshops alongside two adult mentors & soon took on the responsibility for preparing & leading my own for CoderDojo at Kingston University and at other community tech events.

I noticed that the majority of attendees at my workshops were boys and so, almost three years ago I founded ‘Girls into Coding’ to get more girls into tech. I also design & build robots, and have won a couple of competitions with them. One of my wheeled robots has gone through a tonne of iterations and I use different versions of it in my different robotics workshops.

What sparked your interest in Technology?

I’ve always loved making stuff with unwanted objects, stuff from the recycling or anything that was going. I remember making a Time Machine  (not a real one). I got the family involved & together we conjured up this contraption which had loads of dials, levers and the insides of old electronic devices glued all over it. Later I would start adding basic electronic components like bulbs, buzzers & switches to make my creations more interesting. This sparked it all off and when I later discovered the microbit and components like servos and motors I saw how tech could really bring my creations to life.

Tell us a little about your social enterprise, Girls Into Coding?

I founded Girls Into Coding in 2018 and since 2020 my mum Helene has been project managing and giving the mission the full time attention it deserves. Girls into Coding offers girls aged 10-14 free opportunities to explore Coding, physical computing, robotics & 3D printing. – developing confidence & a sense of belonging in tech settings, while enabling girls to see their potential. Our overarching objective is to contribute towards a situation where girls & women are engaged in STEM activities, education & careers, equally comfortable, with an equal sense of belonging and in equal numbers.

To promote inclusivity and keep our workshop events hands-on through the pandemic, we developed materials & resources, designed & manufactured a range of robotics kits suitable for remote workshops.  We post these out to the girls along with other hardware, so they all have everything they need at home to participate in our live online workshops led by myself & our team of dedicated mentors.

What has been a highlight for you since working on Girls into Coding?

I am really proud of what I’ve accomplished with Girls Into Coding, we’ve helped to inspire more girls to give tech activities a go. I’m delighted to see more girls engaging with STEM  and that these opportunities have been  accessed by hundreds of girls throughout the UK and internationally, including girls from India, Kenya, Canada, USA, France, Ireland, Spain, Nigeria, Singapore & South Africa.

How do you manage your time with your schoolwork?

At times it’s very challenging because I have a lot to prepare, but once it’s done, it feels good. When you’ve prepared, you focus more on the outcome, and if you decide to put lots of effort into it, the outcome is going to be a better experience for all.

You have won lots of awards for your work, how does that make you feel?

Winning awards is a great feeling, it’s always a massive boost and reminds me that what I’m doing  with GIC is important and has real value. The awards always allow me to reflect on all the support & opportunities that I’ve benefited from – from different groups & individuals in the wider tech & maker community. Winning the awards really helps to raise awareness of issues that we’re trying to change.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on an IoT project for my Girls Into coding workshops.

I am also working on a personal AI project linked to reducing our use of plastic food & drink packaging . It’s very challenging, quite a slow process but I am learning a lot.

I am also working on a voice recognition project.

If you could change one thing in the world to create a better society, what would it be?

I would like people to work together to ensure that everyone can benefit from new developments more or less at the same time, so no one gets left behind.


Girls into Coding crowdfunding campaign

Help Avye empower girls through tech!

Girls Into Coding aims to engage at least 1000 girls every year with hands-on workshop opportunities and inspiring talks. This is to contribute towards addressing the gender gap in tech and to sustain girls’ interest, initially so that they continue pursuing Tech activities and ultimately, so they are engaged to consider STEM education & careers.

Crowdfunding to help give at least 1000 girls FREE access to Tech Opportunities

For Girls Into Coding to continue to make these opportunities inclusive and accessible to girls from a diverse range of backgrounds we work tirelessly throughout the year building relationships, applying for grants securing sponsorship, and fundraising.

Our target is to reach at least 1000 girls per year and so far this year we’ve reached just under 500 girls.

Through this campaign, we want to raise £10,000 to help us achieve or exceed our goal of reaching at least 1000 girls a year.

The money raised will contribute towards:

  • Delivering FREE Girls Into Coding workshop events
  • Buying components, materials, and equipment to develop new hands-on activities & resources for the workshops
  • Posting  the kits out to the girls (including return postage) for the hands-on workshops
  • Providing coding kits for girls to continue their STEM journey at home and beyond.
  • Providing STEM-related books for the girls.
  • Covering Project Management & Logistics Cost

FIND OUT MORE & DONATE

Back behind view photo of programmer lady look big monitor check id-address work overtime check debugging system wear specs casual shirt sit table late night office indoors, coding

National Coding Week 2021 | Bringing women into tech and closing the digital skills gap

With the swift technological changes we are experiencing today,  there has never been a better time to invest in the digital skills of both children and adults.

This National Coding Week provides the perfect opportunity to draw attention to the importance of developing coding as a skill set and to consider what more we can be doing to actively encourage the younger generation, especially young girls, to engage with coding and STEM.

Svenja de Vos, LeasewebSvenja de Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global elaborates, “every year National Coding Week provides an opportunity for tech companies to do more to showcase the benefits of a career in software development. You’re never too young or too old to code, and it is important to widen future pools of developers in order to help close the tech skills gap.

“The world needs talented coders and software professionals now more than ever. Especially in the last year and a half, coding has become essential to daily life by allowing organizations to continue business operations in the face of the pandemic. Every single day, software developers come up with innovative apps that are helping to revolutionize a variety of industries. Dedicating a full week to promoting coding will hopefully influence many to further develop their skill”.

The digital skills gap 

One of the pressing reasons to encourage more people to widen their technical skills is the widening digital skills gap facing the UK. In fact, “less than half of UK employers believe new entrants to the workforce have the digital-skills required”, explains Ian Rawlings, Regional VP at SumTotal Systems. He continues, “this needs to change if the UK is to plug the existing skills gap and become a leader in technology. From mandatory coding teaching in schools, to initiatives such as Code First and the Institute of Coding, there are so many ways to develop digital skills early on and show candidates all the benefits that coding has to offer.

“Building and developing digital skills within the current workforce will also be key as the pandemic continues to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. This National Coding Week, with coding fluency growing in both value and necessity, lifelong learning remains integral in future-proofing the workforce and closing the skills gap”.

Simon Gould, Chief Product Officer, Totalmobile shares this sentiment, pointing out that “it’s important to reflect on how we can encourage both experienced employees and the younger generation to broaden their skillsets, simultaneously enhancing their own employability and closing the digital skills gap. It’s an area that resonates strongly given the interesting and varied career that has evolved since that first development role.

“Organisations, in particular, should consider what they can do to encourage the whole spectrum of gender, ethnicity and social demographic backgrounds. Many businesses can set examples by engaging in initiatives in schools and places of work to show a wide range of students what a career in tech could look like, such as Women Who Code, which a number of our staff are passionately involved in. Getting female developers, engineers and senior leaders to talk to young women and girls about their jobs and highlighting that tech can be exciting and engaging is hugely powerful. It’s an approach I see first-hand, with my daughter studying computer science at GCSE. That small acorn that grows into a passion”.

Bringing women into the tech world 

In spite of the concern surrounding the digital skills gap, there is much to be optimistic about for the future of tech. In particular, as Gould highlighted, there are many organisations placing a much-needed emphasis on inspiring young women to get involved in coding and other digital skills.

Debra Danielson_, Digital Guardian“Currently, only 14% of programmers and software developers in the UK are women, a daunting statistic that must change if we are to move forward as an industry”, Debra Danielson, CTO and SVP Engineering at Digital Guardian notes.

“Increased mentorship is one way forward for diversity. As a woman working in technology, I can say that, outside of my own dogged stubbornness, my opportunities have stemmed from having a single person willing to advocate for me. That helped me break through some of the lazy stereotypes about women in STEM… being perceived to be less technical, less mathematical than men. Our allies, supporters and advocates can help open the door, and we need vocal colleagues and managers willing to give women chances and support us on our journeys.

“Recognising the dearth of diversity in the industry, I’m passionate about increasing the participation and impact of both women and underrepresented communities in technology. I volunteer at many levels, from Tech Girls Rock (secondary school girls learning to code) to coaching and mentoring tech founders on how to access capital. We must create more space for women within the industry. National Coding Week is the perfect opportunity for leaders to connect with their teams and help women boost their skills and advance their careers.”

Angela Garland_Content GuruAngela Garland, Escalations Engineer at Content Guru, seconds this statement, “science has always made sense to me – I like the certainty of it – and I knew that’s what I wanted to do from an early age. I was raised in an engineering household and lucky enough to go to a school that encouraged girls to take GCSE and A-Level science – but then again, it was an all-girls school! We had plenty of female science teachers and role models supporting us. Sadly, I don’t think this is typical of the education system. By the time I reached university, our mechanical engineering bachelors was just 10% female. This has to change.

“We need to do much more to encourage young girls with a passion for science, coding and technology to study STEM courses – both at younger school ages and further on into higher education – and to pursue careers in these exciting and rewarding fields. The stark gender divide means it’s often challenging for women working as engineers – from application engineers to mechanical engineers and cybersecurity engineers, women are almost always in the minority.

“My advice to women embarking on a career in technology is to keep pushing and challenging at every opportunity. The most important thing is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, speak up in large groups of men and put your ideas out there. Find an organisation that puts everyone – regardless of gender – on an equal playing field and pushes you into a role where you challenge yourself and those around you”.

National Coding Week is vitally important for anyone working in or around the tech scene. Not only does it open the conversation about topics such as the digital skills gap, or women in tech, but coding is such an essential skill in today’s age it is always a good idea to reiterate its importance.

Jeff KeyesJeff Keyes, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy, Plutora concludes, “Written code has become the foundation of every organisation, no matter the size, in a rapidly and constantly changing software landscape. A skilled team of coders is imperative to not only building that foundation, but also to put businesses in the best possible position to thrive. Coding has become much more than just the developer language of tech. It’s the language of business and in turn, the language of success.”


women in tech, soft skills featured

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

women in tech, soft skills

Article by Fabio Forghieri, CEO and Founder, Boolean

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

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

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

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

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

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

Career switchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the right course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


female coder, coding, National Coding Week

National Coding Week 2021 | Opening up digital skills for all

female coder, coding, National Coding Week

Monday 13th September marks the beginning of this year’s National Coding Week.

This week provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on the importance of digital skills and how coding can offer up a world of career opportunities for people from all backgrounds. It’s never been more important – according to latest research from World Skills UK, 76% of businesses think that a lack of digital skills will damage their bottom lines, while 88% of young people understand that they will be essential for their careers.  

But while this years’ A-Level results saw a record number of students taking up Computer Science, the subject is still far more popular with boys than girls, suggesting the technology industry has more to do to open up routes for all.  

We talked to some of the industry’s leading experts and asked them to share their thoughts:  

Firstly, coding is a valuable skill  

Kara SpragueCoding is still a highly sought-after skill in the tech industry. According to Kara Sprague, EVP and GM of BIG-IP at F5, “the influence of coding continues to disrupt and transform all industries.”  

And while new innovations will also impact how developers work in future, this will not diminish the importance of digital skills and ability to code. 

Sean FarringtonAs Sean Farrington, EVP EMEA, Pluralsight comments, “despite the rise of low and no-code application development in recent years, coding skills remain critical for businesses…”

“Even legacy languages which may be deemed out of date by many are still useful to learn.”  

James McLeod FaethmJames McLeod, VP EMEA at Faethm adds, “AI won’t ever become a direct replacement for coders – after all, we’ll still need programmers to write the very programmes that will then write code! That said, businesses should recognise where it can streamline their operations, and look to proactively transition coders and programmers into roles where human elements will be needed in the future. Coding might be changing, but through targeted skills development there’ll still be plenty of opportunities for coders in future.”  

Andrea Nagel TanzuInterestingly, the importance of digital skills goes beyond the most technical roles too. Andrea Nagel, Manager, Application Services at VMware Tanzu highlights, “There are many varied roles in tech these days that don’t require coding skills. However, gaining an exposure to coding, even at a basic or foundational level, is really useful for anyone working in software or product, even if you’re not directly coding yourself.”  

For those just starting out, Jane Saunders, Head of Model Pipeline Engineering at Secondmind advises, “My advice for anyone looking to get into coding is to just give it a go. Start with a toy problem, and then quickly move onto a personal project, giving yourself plenty of small goals along the way. Remember with coding you’re mostly talking to your future self or others who will be reading your code, rather than the computers who are executing it.”  

But there’s a talent shortage when it comes to digital skills  

Ursula MorgensternHowever, the continued demand for digital skills reflects an ongoing talent shortage in the sector too. Ursula Morgenstern, President, Global Growth Markets at Cognizant, is an advocate for tackling this, commenting, “as businesses accelerate recruitment to drive growth in the wake of the pandemic, a war for talent has arisen, with skilled individuals highly sought after but with far too few qualified personnel to fill the vacancies. You need only Google ‘software engineer’ or ‘developer’ to see thousands of roles available and unfilled in the UK. 

“This talent shortage will continue to create challenges for organisations, but also opportunities to think differently about how they manage, recruit and retain staff. Coding is the crucial baseline for many of these jobs, which should in theory broaden talent pools given its accessibility.” 

David Huntley DistributedDavid Huntley, Technical Lead at Distributed points to the rise in freelance developers who could be vital in filling this gap. “Alternatively, many developers are turning to freelance work to learn new skills, given the range of projects this working model gives them access to and the opportunity to work with other professionals in the space to cross-pollinate expertise. Another major advantage of this flexible approach to developer work is that individuals can more easily find projects that fit their current skillset, meaning they have access to well-paid work while learning on the job.” 

Could improving diversity in coding help solve the skills deficiency?  

The industry talent gap also reflects a need to open up the industry to people from diverse backgrounds too – and particularly women and young people.  

Geoff SmithGeoff Smith, CEO at emerging talent management consultancy Grayce comments, “Worryingly, figures show that just 26% of UK graduates with core STEM degrees are female. This has been a huge motivation for us to fund two women to enrol on Code Nation’s 12-week Coding Bootcamp this year in our bid to inspire more females to join the industry. It’s so important that we continue to improve diversity in tech and encouraging more people to build on their skills sets and learn to code is a huge part of this – these individuals have limitless potential to add masses of value to the UK workforce.” 

F5’s Kara Sprague also adds, “It is vital that everyone is given the opportunity to learn coding. To secure a more equitable future, we must nurture a diverse pipeline of talent that can build and excel within technology organisations. I am increasingly encouraged by how some countries have adopted requirements in their core curriculums for kids to learn coding. This bodes well for their technology sectors and job-creation abilities moving forward. Outside of formal curriculum requirements, there is also a lot of work taking place across the technology industry and non-profit sector to upskill young people, with a focus on under-represented groups.” 

Ursula MorgensternCognizant’s Ursula Morgenstern concludes, “If underserved communities are provided with the right digital and coding training from businesses, their economic mobility and wider educational opportunities in turn could significantly increase. As such, this is where businesses should be looking to invest a large proportion of their recruiting budget – looking at the long game and recognising the need and opportunity to broaden and deepen the talent pool.”  


Women working with computer for design and coding program

Why we need to encourage more girls into coding and STEM

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Article by Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO and Founder, Cypher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s not encouraging!

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

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

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

Elizabeth Tweedale, CEO CypherAbout the author

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

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

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


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coding

Why now is the perfect time to learn to code…

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

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

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

My career in coding

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

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

Being a female coder

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

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

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

There is no time like the present

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

About the author

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

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


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Stacy-Ann-Sinclair

Inspirational Woman: Stacy-Ann Sinclair | Co-Founder & CTO, CodeREG

 

Stacy-Ann Sinclair

Stacy-Ann Sinclair is the Co-Founder and CTO of CodeREG, a regtech startup codifying financial regulation into machine executable rules.

Stacy-Ann is a Computer Scientist who has spent the last 10 years building trading systems and globally scalable data platforms for UBS, Barclays Investment Bank and Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She is interested in building complex systems and intelligently extracting meaning and insights from data.

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

I was born in Kingston, Jamaica and moved to the UK when I was 16. I studied Computer Science at City University London and spent the next 10 years working in investment banking. I always knew computer science is what I wanted to do from a very early age; so the technical challenges posed by the investment banks were exciting. I found my passion in algorithmic and high frequency trading, soon transitioned into building large scale data pipelines, deriving and enabling data driven strategic decisions and predictions.

I join Entrepreneur First in March 2018, to start my own company.  I was accepted onto the Entrepreneur First(EF) programme, EF is a founders first company builder, investing in exceptional founders with deep technical ideas.   I found my cofounder at EF and together we created CodeREG.

At CodeREG I drive both commercial and technical decisions, This involves customers, product, fundraising and technical solution designs. As a founder you need a wide range of skills and be willing to take on a lot of responsibility to get an idea and business off the ground.  Luckily,  I enjoy a varied role and straddling multiple roles is where I am most happy.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I never really sat down and planned it, however I am aware of what makes me happy and I always seek out interesting challenges. The moment the challenge curve wore off or if I am no longer excited by my role, I know it is time for a change.

I love problem solving and technology, and usually that was enough to keep me happy.  It's very important that I love whatever it is that I am doing.  The moment that is no longer true, I know it time to reassess the situation.  This is the compass I live by.

I need to be solving an interesting problem, it needs to be technically challenging and I need to be happy doing it, if these aren’t aligned then that’s my trigger.  Money was never really a motivator for me, it was more of a nice to have :-)

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Interestingly a lot of the challenges I faced were only realised retrospectively.  Working in a male dominated industry has its own challenges.  I fought with fair pay for women compared to our male counterparts and bonus transparency - these were both outrageously disproportionate in the investment banking industry, I believe this is changing now, but you had to fight harder to be heard and taken seriously.

Unfortunately the default was that you had to prove why you were good, instead of it being a given, whilst my male colleagues wouldn’t go through the same thing. Their default starting position was the opposite.  I could back up the things I say and could demonstrate why I was good at my job, so I never really noticed what was happening at the time.  I also quite enjoy proving people wrong, so I didn’t notice the negativity behind it all, it shouldn’t be that way.  It discourages women from really growing in that industry.  The barrier to entry shouldn’t be harder just because of your sex.

Most male engineers I come across are actually very cool, helpful and thoughtful in a progressive way - the biases most of them showed were unconscious and wasn’t intended to deliberately cause harm.  Majority of the negativity would stem from non-technical people interacting with the tech community funnily enough and wasn’t just limited to men.

Not having enough female leaders in tech was always a struggle, and it probably affects how you learnt and improve. I had great male colleagues and friends who have helped me along the way, but there are some unconscious biases for sure, I don’t think it was something they did knowingly, it just exists from being a history long male dominated industry. Encouraging more women into tech will undoubtedly change the subtleties.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s Mentee?

I like the idea of mentoring, I’ve had mentors help me along my career and in return I ensured I passed it on, as I’ve seen firsthand its benefits.  I am also a mentor myself, it’s important to give back.

I’ve had some great mentors in the past, both men and women - at different points of my career I had different requirements, so I’ve had mentors who were successful women working in technology at senior levels, I’ve had mentors whose managerial style I really like and I wanted to embody more of their values.  I had mentors from particular industries or areas I was keen to find out about.  I had mentors who were technically brilliant.  I had mentors as an intern, learning from the experience of other recent interns.  The requirement for a mentor may change many times throughout your life/career, this is very normal.

I believe a mentor mentee relationship should be two sided and beneficial for all involved.  Learning from someone else’s experience is super valuable when there is direct and deliberate insight. Being open to new ideas, interesting perspectives, and discussing issues/problems from different angles can add another dimension you were not privy to before.  Always try to give as much as you receive, a mentor/mentee relation that’s one sided may not return the results you might expect.

What you bring to the table could be a variety of things, experience, your views, your approach, your background, your ambition(s), your skills.  Mentors and mentees at different stages of their careers can be massively valuable to each other.

These relationships also need to be fun for both, a mentor/mentee should be someone you get along with well, someone you can talk to in a very relaxed, stress free manner.  Its shouldn’t be rigid, with a well structured official mentor/mentee assignment.  Some of the best mentor/mentee relationships are the ones that are achieved organically.

What do you want to see happen within the next five years when it comes to diversity?

I want to see diversity and diverse skills celebrated and not seen as a tick boxing exercise, I want to see more girls being encouraged to write code at an early age, there is no real reason why there is this divide, it was just something that was always seen as something boys did.

If we teach them how to code and create from an early age with no bias, they may actually just love it.  My little sister at the age of 9 was designing and making games, just from a non biased exposure, it was just something she enjoyed doing.  This stigma of what is a ‘girl’ activity and what is a ‘boy’ activity which is so present in our society usually have lasting effects on the skills we tend to develop.

How would you encourage more women and young girls into a career in STEM?

I am a firm believer in getting them started early.  The pool is very small to begin with and we need to increase that pool of talent from the very early stages - as an example I was the only female to graduate computer science at my university, one from a graduating year isn’t a lot at all; but it just goes to show that the amount of women studying computer science is very small. So seeing technical women in the industry is even harder, at executive level it gets worse, because the pool is so tiny to start with.  The root of the problem needs to be addressed.

I am very involved in initiatives that encourages women into tech, especially younger girls.  Whilst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch I co-founded the Women Developer Group,  the aim was to encourage women interested in learning how to write code, learning from experienced female developers, and delivering solutions together - instead of the traditional male dominated environment.  This is not a setup that you would find easily within tech and we felt it brought a lot of advantages, that weren’t initially obvious.

I love and support the Code First Girls initiative, run by the amazing CEO Amali de Alwis - they aim to increase the number of women in tech, especially women who fancy a career in technology, but don’t yet have the required skills. I have been a keynote speaker at their last two annual conferences and just being able to talk to so many young female entrepreneurs and tech enthusiast is extremely rewarding, I have mentored quite a few of them looking to make a start or grow in the industry.  I try to play an active role in this community whenever possible, it’s really dear to my heart.

I have studied computer science and have always pursued a career in technology, however if you don’t fit that profile, don’t let that stop you entering the industry - writing code is a skill and it can be learnt.  Initiatives like Code First Girl tackle this problem, they teach women with no prior technical skills on how to get started.  ‘Technology’ is a big field and getting started somewhere is a great start.  No matter how long you’ve been doing it, there is always more to learn and more to do, so the best thing you can do is get started and keep going.

Stemettes is another great initiative I’ve had the pleasure of working with and they do target the age group I have the most passion for - they encourage girls from the age of five to pursue a career in STEM - this is a fabulous thing.  Tackling the problem at the root will yield amazing results.

Being a programmer is a creative job, it’s analytical, but it is very creative.  Building something from nothing is a very rewarding experience and I would love to share that feeling with more people.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement to date is probably CodeREG, being able to create a company that is now venture backed is just amazing. Being able to solve hard technical problems that underpin our intelligent regulation solution is highly rewarding.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

My next challenge is to take CodeREG to global significance, changing the way finance operates and changing the face of compliance, making codeREG the defacto for systematic compliance.

Growing a team and driving a culture within the company that is fresh and spearheaded by how I beleive the workplace should be is something I want to make a reality.