sheryl sandberg

Inspirational quotes: Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook

sheryl sandberg
Sheryl Sandberg is the chief operating officer of Facebook and best-selling author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead.

Born in Washington, D.C. in 1969, Sandberg went to Harvard for her bachelor's degree in economics and worked at the World Bank after graduating summa cum laude. She attended Harvard Business School and went to work in the U.S. Department of the Treasury during the Clinton administration. When the Republicans swept the Democrats out of office in November 2000, Sandberg moved to Silicon Valley and worked for Google. After seven years she then moved to Facebook, where she has been COO since 2008. Sandberg is the author of Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, which has sold more than a million copies.

Below you will find the best inspirational quotes from Sandberg's book.

“In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders.”

“There is no perfect fit when you're looking for the next big thing to do. You have to take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around. The ability to learn is the most important quality a leader can have.”

“Careers are a jungle gym, not a ladder.”

“Fortune does favour the bold and you'll never know what you're capable of if you don't try.”

“If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, don't ask what seat! Just get on.”

“Women need to shift from thinking ‘I'm not ready to do that’ to thinking ‘I want to do that- and I'll learn by doing it.’

“But the upside of painful knowledge is so much greater than the downside of blissful ignorance.”

“Success and likeability are positively correlated for men and negatively for women. When a man is successful, he is liked by both men and women. When a woman is successful, people of both genders like her less.”

“I have never met a woman, or man, who stated emphatically, ‘Yes, I have it all.' Because no matter what any of us has - and how grateful we are for what we have - no one has it all.”

“When woman work outside the home and share breadwinning duties, couples are more likely to stay together. In fact, the risk of divorce reduces by about half when a wife earns half the income and a husband does half the housework.”

“I realised that searching for a mentor has become the professional equivalent of waiting for Prince Charming. We all grew up on the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, which instructs young women that if they just wait for their prince to arrive, they will be kissed and whisked away on a white horse to live happily ever after. Now young women are told that if they can just find the right mentor, they will be pushed up the ladder and whisked away to the corner office to live happily ever after. Once again, we are teaching women to be too dependent on others.”

“Being confident and believing in your own self-worth is necessary to achieving your potential.”

“A truly equal world would be one where women ran half our countries and companies and men ran half our homes.”

“We compromise our career goals to make room for partners and children who may not even exist yet”

“Real change will come when powerful women are less of an exception. It is easy to dislike senior women because there are so few.”

“The gender stereotypes introduced in childhood are reinforced throughout our lives and become self-fulfilling prophesies. Most leadership positions are held by men, so women don't expect to achieve them, and that becomes one of the reasons they don't.”

“The reason I don't have a plan is because if I have a plan I'm limited to today's options”

“The more women help one another, the more we help ourselves. Acting like a coalition truly does produce results. Any coalition of support must also include men, many of whom care about gender inequality as much as women do.”

“Our culture needs to find a robust image of female success that is first, not male, and second, not a white woman on the phone, holding a crying baby,”

“If a woman pushes to get the job done, if she's highly competent, if she focuses on results rather than on pleasing others, she's acting like a man. And if she acts like a man, people dislike her.”

“A feminist is someone who believes in social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

“But instead of blaming women for not negotiating more, we need to recognise that women often have good cause to be reluctant to advocate for their own interests because doing so can easily backfire.”

“Feeling confident - or pretending that you feel confident - is necessary to reach for opportunities. It's a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they're seized.”

“Long-term success at work often depends on not trying to meet every demand placed on us. The best way to make room for both life and career is to make choices deliberately—to set limits and stick to them.”

“Hard work and results should be recognised by others, but when they aren't, advocating for oneself becomes necessary. As discussed earlier, this must be done with great care. But it must be done.”

“Anyone who brings up gender in the workplace is wading into deep and muddy waters. The subject itself presents a paradox, forcing us to acknowledge differences while trying to achieve the goal of being treated the same.”

“Another one of my favorite posters at Facebook declares in big red letters, “Done is better than perfect.” I have tried to embrace this motto and let go of unattainable standards. Aiming for perfection causes frustration at best and paralysis at worst.”

“For many men, the fundamental assumption is that they can have both a successful professional life and a fulfilling personal life. For many women, the assumption is that trying to do both is difficult at best and impossible at worst.”

“We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”

“In order to protest ourselves from being disliked, we question our abilities and downplay our achievements, especially in the presence of others. We put ourselves down before others can.”

“Fear is at the root of so many of the barriers that women face. Fear of not being liked. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of drawing negative attention. Fear of overreaching. Fear of being judged. Fear of failure. And the holy trinity of fear: the fear of being a bad mother/wife/daughter.”

“Looking back, it made no sense for my college friends and me to distance ourselves from the hard-won achievements of earlier feminists. We should have cheered their efforts. Instead, we lowered our voices, thinking the battle was over, and with this reticence we hurt ourselves.”


Career in STEM

Apprenticeships: Championing alternative routes into STEM careers


It is widely known that the tech industry is made up of only 17 per cent women and that less girls study subjects in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM).

Image via Shutterstock
Image via Shutterstock

So with fewer females in the pipeline what are companies doing to attract students to join their firms and why would an A-Level student choose an apprenticeship in STEM rather than attend university?

We asked a selection of experts from technology and engineering to share their experiences of recruiting young people.

Jenny Taylor, ‎UK Graduate, Apprenticeship and Student Programme Manager at IBM, said: “We should of course not deter students from entering university, but we need to educate them about all the options available for their career path.”

Taylor said there is no denying that there is a lack of uptake across STEM subjects as well as a huge gender imbalance within industries requiring these skills.

“For many years now, only a small percentage of females have been attracted to working in the technology industry, and as leader of IBM’s graduate, student and apprenticeship programmes, I am passionate about addressing the situation. The business case for diversity in the workplace is very clear and at IBM we focus particularly on engaging and inspiring younger girls through our Girls' Schools' Outreach programme,” she said.

Taylor explained that one of IBM’s current employees - Sadie Hawkins - was inspired to join the IBM apprenticeship programme after attending one of the company’s school outreach events: “She then went on to achieve the National Apprentice of the Year Award 2013, which we are extremely proud of. Sadie is now an integral member of the team within our Global Business Services Division.

“Apprenticeships are a great way to encourage uptake in STEM disciplines and it is clear there needs to be more championing of alternative routes into successful roles with a clear career progression.”

Elaine Rowlands, Head of HR at PCMS, a retail technology developer, is just as passionate about apprenticeship programmes.

She said: “I am passionate about apprenticeships being a credible alternative to university for women looking to break into the tech world - particularly in a fast-paced industry like retail technology, where new products are shaping the consumer experience every day.

“Apprentices have an immediate edge by going straight into on-the-job training, gaining the real-life work experience essential to thrive in a competitive sector.”

Bradbury Group Ltd a UK manufacturer of steel doors, security grilles and cages and currently employees three female apprentices; two work in its technical department and another is a member of its marketing team.

Paul Sweeting, Technical Director at Bradbury Group Ltd, said: “Recruiting technical staff can be a struggle, so we want anyone — male or female — to feel that they’re welcome to join our team if they have the necessary skills or drive to learn.”

Sweeting said it can be difficult to find women for its technical roles, due to the lack of women coming through the pipeline: “It’s more difficult to find female candidates for our technical department, likely due to the fact that engineering has long been considered a male-oriented field.

“Therefore, we make an effort to encourage more women to consider a career in engineering. For example, we supported National Women in Engineering Day 2016 through our social media channels and website. Plus, we published two blog posts written by our female technical apprentices about their experiences with our company.”

Bradbury Group Ltd has been working on its strategy to recruit and retain young talent in general: “When we began recruiting apprentices, North Lindsey College helped us access and review potential students. We ran an open day and 20 students applied for positions. Six were successful and joined the Bradbury Engineering Academy, which our female apprentices are a part of.

“We recognise that these young people have become valuable assets to the company and we want to give them a career. Therefore, they’ll all be offered full-time jobs with us after completing their training.”

A new centre has opened in Oxfordshire aimed at tackling the skills shortages faced by technology and engineering companies in the area.

The centre will train 125 young people annually and is a joint venture between the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Training provider JTL has been appointed to manage the centre.

The training aims to create ‘work ready’ trainees, apprentice engineers and lab technicians through training in the workplace. As a not-for-profit, all funds are set to be invested back into delivering training.

David Martin, UKAEA’s Chief Operating Officer and ex-apprentice himself, said: “With the support of high tech sector companies in the area, Oxford Advanced Skills will help resolve the critical skills shortages we are currently experiencing. This venture highlights how seriously we take the need for exceptional quality young people making it into the workforce in this area.

“JTL has huge experience in providing work-based learning across England and Wales, with over 6,000 apprentices currently working towards qualifications with them across the building services engineering sector.”

Jon Graham is JTL’s Chief Executive, said: “These are really exciting times for apprentices in the Oxford area. We have been working in Oxfordshire for many years but decided recently that in order to be able to provide the quality of training that young people deserved we needed to launch our own training facilities, which we have now achieved with our premises at Culham.

“Through the work we do there and what UKAEA have seen while on site, it became obvious that there was an opportunity to expand our remit and join with UKAEA to develop this new facility, targeting exceptional young people who are needed by high technology companies operating in Oxford and the Thames Valley.”

IT short courses instead of apprenticeships

David Baker, Director of Datrix Training, said in today’s market we are saturated with technology, and IT skills are more important than ever.

He noted that in the competitive job market skills such as word-processing, using databases, spreadsheets, using the Internet, social media & email and even designing rudimentary self-publication web pages are often asked of as standard.

“Currently the UK is facing an IT skills gap which is affecting businesses ability to grow, thankfully more of us are showing an interest in gaining further IT skills in order to bridge this gap,” Baker said.

“Gaining digital and IT skills is a great way to equip yourself with employability armour, currently two fifths of UK businesses are having trouble recruiting staff with suitable skills to drive their business. A technical IT course, from Microsoft Office to Java Fundamentals is right for any business as the need to succeed in the digital market becomes a key part of all company’s success. These skills will be learned through university or an apprenticeship but can also be accessed through short term flexible learning courses that suit millennial living.”

Baker said gaining technical skills through a short-term course is a great way to jumpstart your career and “give you that digital edge without the commitment to a three or four year course.

“These can often be more suitable than university courses as they don’t have as much ‘red tape’ and the syllabus can evolve quickly with the demands of the IT skills market, always ensuring the courses are up to date. The digital age isn’t slowing down and gaining IT skills that are highly relevant in today’s world is a great way to increase confidence, improve employability and drive career success in a market that’s crying out to hire skilled candidates.”

Lynne Downey, Head of Online Learning at University College of Estate Management, said increasing numbers of industries, such as engineering and chartered surveying, are now focusing on widening participation – both in gender, ethnicity and more.

“This current drive to accommodate employees outside the usual demographic empowers women to pick and choose the facets of both academic education and vocational training that best suit their needs – and find viable solutions for their career path. However, the decision between attending a university and taking an apprenticeship is not as clear-cut as it once was, with many alternative options now available.”

She added: “A traditional degree programme can be the right choice for someone interested in a field of study that focuses on sharing knowledge and carrying out research. Yet for those who want to ‘earn while they learn’, the option to study a degree programme online is becoming increasingly popular. While an apprenticeship may suit someone with an interest in a more vocational field, an apprenticeship programme that takes a blended learning approach – with the opportunity to gain a degree and become accredited in the field - may be the best option all round.”

“Both traditional universities and apprenticeships providers are widening their scopes each year, and opening up more and more varied options for following a career path. With this in mind, it’s essential that the individual chooses a route which best suits their skills and ambitions; whether it’s studying a traditional degree, joining an apprenticeship scheme – or a mix of both – the options are no longer just either attending an institution every day or combining classroom education with a job.”



Career in STEM

A career in STEM: It may surprise you

Career in STEMIf the past few years are anything to go by, I’ve been very successful in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

Along with gaining my chartership as an engineer, I was shortlisted for two awards for my professional review submission. I also had the privilege to lead the structural design on the quickest hospital project ever completed for the NHS, which was the largest project to date for engineering consultancy Perega.

I’ve been a structural engineer for 15 years and currently hold an Associate role. While I love my work and knowing that it makes a difference in people’s lives, I wouldn’t describe my path into engineering as an obvious or smooth one.

Expect the unexpected

As a high school student in Poland, I hadn’t even considered going into engineering. My plan was to study architecture. I did the required preparation and drawing courses, but on the date of the university entrance exam, I was in hospital. While I was offered another date, it was for a civil and structural engineering course. University is free in Poland and it was something to do in the year before I could take the exam I really wanted, so I signed up. Six months in, I realised how interesting engineering is. I never looked back.

I was fortunate to go to a high school with fantastic teachers who encouraged us and opened our eyes to many different careers, regardless of our gender. This was exceptional for the time, which I came to realise upon starting university. Around 40% of the whole year were women, but the vast majority of lecturers were men with a very traditional perspective. As a result, we had a harder time and less support than our male peers, and at times were told that we wouldn’t finish the course so there wasn’t much point in helping us. In response, we developed a thicker skin.

A lot of work has been done in recent years to increase diversity in construction. When I finished my degree, that wasn’t yet the case. My first job out of university was on site. Out of 120 people, I was the only woman. While I had to deal with workers who weren’t used to seeing women on site along with the occasional joke, I think it helped me build more resilience at a crucial time in my career.

Top tips

There are a number of factors that helped motivate me throughout my career. The first, and one of the most important, of these was having a mentor. It doesn’t matter where you are in your career, having someone who will support you and who you can learn from is crucial. When I started my first job after university, my site manager helped me get through the difficult days and build up my confidence, offering advice on how to gain my colleagues’ trust. Even more recently, having a mentor was important as I worked towards gaining chartered status. As I balanced my chartership work with my personal life and responsibilities as an associate, there were times I thought I couldn’t do it. Having someone in my corner to encourage, push and help me along the way made a world of difference.

There is so much to be learned not only from mentors, but from your colleagues as well. Once I’d settled in at my first job, I started to talk with the other people on site, whether it was a bricklayer, a foreman or a painter. Not only did I gain insight into their specialisms, once they saw my enthusiasm and willingness to learn, they started to appreciate me as well. By working on site and talking to everyone there, I had an edge once I moved into a design office because I could appreciate the importance of buildability in the design process.

I’ve met quite a few engineers who graduated without ever going to a site. They can’t see in their heads what they’re designing. So, get out of the office. Whether you’re an engineer, an architect or anyone else behind the design of a project, go see the sites where it gets built.

Whatever career you choose or path you pursue, the final goal can seem impossible and the challenges along the way insurmountable. For me, it helped to prioritise and plan. When I was becoming chartered, I drew up a plan, identifying what needs doing, breaking tasks down into manageable chunks and setting small deadlines for myself. When you’re able to cross items off a list, you can see progress, giving you the encouragement to keep going.

Above all else, don’t be scared. If a career in STEM is what really interests you, push for it. You may not know right away exactly what you want to do, and that’s alright. If you enjoy science or maths, find something you can do with it – you may end up surprising yourself.

Ewa AmbrosiusAbout the author

Ewa Ambrosius is an associate in the London office of Perega (formerly Thomasons Ltd). She holds a masters in civil and structural engineering, designing structures for education, housing and healthcare, including the Chase Farm Hospital.

Innovation challenge, national apprenticeship week, Justina Blair featured

Why I chose an apprenticeship over university

Innovation challenge, national apprenticeship week, Justina Blair

By Justina Blair

Deciding to choose a degree-apprenticeship route over the traditional university pathway was undoubtedly the best decision I've made and one my future-self will thank me for.

Modern culture places enormous value in university degrees and celebrates them as one of life's top achievements. In doing so we have created a culture that normalises taking on debt.

It is often assumed as fact that a university degree will improve your career prospects, but ask yourself this - why are there hordes of university graduates working in low-end jobs?

I attended an all girls Catholic school, and while apprenticeships were mentioned by the careers' department, it was clear that a university degree was the standard measure of success.

I was a high-achiever at school and my A-level grades were what you might expect from a top university student.

It soon became obvious that my career advisor was suggesting that pursuing a university degree would be the right path for someone like me.

Perhaps this is the viewpoint of past generations who wholeheartedly subscribed to the belief that a university degree is a launchpad for a successful career.

On the contrary, employers I have spoken with seem to value experience equally if not more than a degree!

A significant number of  young people seem to go to university with the common misconception that their degree will be a golden ticket that will land them their dream job.

There are very few who seem to be aware that university degrees are often considered the bare minimum and that employers place equal value on experience.

So my question to those of you reading this that are considering university is simple: Why not find a way to meet the criteria your future employer is looking for?

These are the questions I asked myself while filling out my UCAS application, spending hours perfecting my personal statement and reviewing various university courses.

When it comes to academia, I excel, but being book-smart is like being a pawn on a chess board without the hands-on-experience of a queen.

Just over a year ago, apprenticeships were mainly focused on vocational subjects, but more recently an array of STEM apprenticeships have become available.

This was all well and good but I had reached my first obstacle - deep down I still wanted a degree.

With a three year undergraduate degree costing £27,750 plus 6.2% interest for every year you do not pay the FULL amount back, I felt very uncomfortable at the prospect of taking on such an enormous debt.

It seems the wording of this has changed to: “RPI plus 3%” RPI is currently 5.4%.

Even though you do not start paying this loan back until you are earning over £25,000, that interest is adding up meanwhile, and I did not want to be earning lower than that amount.

Was it justifiable to allow an 18-year-old to commit to such a large debt? To others this topic has been normalised. But for me debt is debt.

I then met with the managing director of an engineering consultancy in the city and secured myself a five year degree apprenticeship in environmental science.

This company would completely fund my degree, I’d attend university one day a week and work for them gaining that pivotal experience. But I was still not satisfied.

Was this a career that would allow me to excel as a female in business?

Back on the search, I came in contact with LTSB (Leadership Through Sport and Business) a social mobility charity that prepares and supports bright young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into meaningful roles at blue-chip level companies.

They were advertising a digital innovation degree apprenticeship with Natwest which immediately stood out to me but I was slightly nervous about applying as I am a BAME female.

My apprehension soon dissipated as I enrolled in LTSB's bespoke preparation bootcamp where I gained a lot of useful experience and learned how to talk to CEO’s within a professional setting.

It was the perfect time to come out of my comfort zone, and be around others from different age groups, all in preparation for working life.

Here I am, four months later undergoing my four year degree apprenticeship in technology and innovation, earning while I learn.

With the help of my mentor, who LTSB introduced me to, I have had support at every career crossroad throughout the last year.

I am very grateful for LTSB who have made the transition between adolescence and adulthood a lot less nerve-wracking. With their assistance I secured a job working at a bank led by a female CEO, Alison Rose, I'm being paid the same as my male peers, and I am more confident than ever that I can navigate my career beyond my four year degree.

Having a degree brings me security but for others, a level four apprenticeship could suit better - both are effective pathways to set yourself up for a successful career.

An apprenticeship in tech finance was an attractive prospect for me as I saw the industry as a growth sector and thought the position would develop my ability to be change ready.

Unlike my peers at full-time university, I am already improving my employability; I have the confidence and ability to speak to professionals and I've already begun developing a professional network.

A degree-apprenticeship offers you both workplace experience and a degree, so why wouldn't you take advantage of such a great opportunity and earn while you learn.

Choosing an apprenticeship over full-time university helped me gain confidence, independence and respect and it can do the same for you too.

Justina BlairAbout the author

Justina Blair is a digital innovation technology apprentice at NatWest. She has previously debated in parliament and is undertaking a Bsc in Digital and Technology Solutions.

Public speaking, conquering the fear featured

Conquering the fear

By Rhona Kennedy

Public SpeakingIt’s totally normal to find certain situations intimidating or even downright scary.

Some things (like job interviews) are pretty much unavoidable; others are easy enough to avoid but, if you master them, they will reap personal and professional rewards.

I’ve collated some advice I’ve gathered over the years on how to face some common fears, namely: turning up at Meetup events and networking, job interviews, and public speaking/speaking at conferences.

Going to Meetups/Networking

It can be pretty nerve-wracking to turn up to a room full of strangers and introduce yourself (the dreaded “networking”). Here’s some tips on how to conquer it.

First up, maybe it’s useful to start off small. Find a smaller Meetup (maybe a very niche technology/interest, or held in a smaller venue or somewhere friendly like a coffee shop) and head along. Or, if it feels less scary to you, find a bigger Meetup where you can “blend in”.

Take a friend or colleague along for moral support. Even is your friend doesn’t work in the same field, or doesn’t have as much of an interest in the topic as you do, it can be handy to have someone to arrive with and chat to. Alternatively, check if there’s someone going who you know - you can usually see a list of attendees on or – it makes a big difference knowing there will be a friendly face there.

Prepare your elevator pitch in advance. This is a quick spiel about who you are and what you do – it doesn’t need to be “salesy” but being able to sum yourself up in a couple of sentences is handy and takes the nerves out of introducing yourself to a stranger.

Networking is really valuable; meaningful networking isn’t about chucking your business card about indiscriminately or aiming to have as many LinkedIn connections as possible, but it is about building beneficial connections and helping each other out. It gets easier the more you do it; practice makes perfect.

Pro tip for tech Meetups: if you hang out near the pizza/refreshments then I guarantee people will talk to you!

Job interviews

Preparation is key. When you feel organised, you are much less likely to get flustered. I would also advise planning your route in advance; maybe even scope out the location the day before. Arrive in plenty of time, find a nearby coffee shop and do a final pass of your notes.

If you don’t have enough information to prepare, just ask your recruiter or the person who invited you to interview for more information. For example, it might make you more relaxed to know what the dress code is and dress accordingly. Nobody wants to be in a suit when everyone else is in jeans – or the other way around!

Even if your preparation is impeccable, there will still be questions you don’t know the answer to. Keep calm. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed; just be honest that this isn’t something you’ve encountered yet and move on.

Please know that the interviewers want you to succeed – they haven’t invited you in just to fill their diary! They are on your side and want you to do well.

The Big One: Public speaking/speaking at conferences

Again, I think it helps to start small. Try introducing another speaker before doing your own presentation, or pick a really friendly Meetup, or a quiet month to present for the first time. A five minute lightening talk at a local Meetup is less pressure than a big presentation at a conference with hundreds of people – and will allow you to practice your material and get some feedback.

It took me a while to realise that nobody really likes public speaking; even the folk you admire who are really good at it and do it all the time get nervous and forget their words. We’re all in the same boat. It gets easier – try, try, try again! Great and confident public speakers are not born with this talent; they get better with time and practice.

I also think it helps to know that everyone is rooting for you. The audience is on your side, they are interested in what you have to say (and they’re often just relieved they’re not in the hot seat). It’s

not the easiest advice to put into practice but a) try to care less about what people think and b) don’t put too much pressure on yourself and try not to be too bothered if you do stuff it up. It’s actually endearing to have a bit of personality and your audience will enjoy seeing a human side to you. I would also advise planting a couple of friends or colleagues in the first couple of rows – or finding your pals in the crowd – it helps massively to see a smiling face mid-presentation.

Use props to your advantage. If you’re forgetful, make yourself some cue cards. If you fidget (guilty!) then plan to hold a pen or something in your hand to anchor yourself.

If you are presenting and there’s a time limit – practice and make sure your talk is within the limit. Nothing is more nerve-wracking than watching someone watch the clock, and you don’t want to risk being cut off (for example in a lightening talk) if you go over. It’d be a pity if no one heard your whole talk.

The tech community benefits when everyone has a voice and we hear the opinions and thoughts of a diverse range of people. It’s challenging to speak up and we can all get intimidated by a crowd, but it’s also important that we conquer our fear and seize the opportunities we are presented with and support others in their endeavours. It gets easier with time – good luck and happy public speaking!

finding the right career, applying for jobs featured

How to Navigate the Job-Hunting Process as a Woman Working in STEM

job application, right careerOne in five UK engineering businesses list skills shortages as their most important challenge in the coming years, and in industries such as Aviation, the lack of engineering and technical skills is even worse.

Despite the gap, the British Engineering industry has the lowest female workforce in Europe – 12%, compared to Latvia, Bulgaria and Cyprus at 30%.

Businesses working in STEM are increasingly recognising the importance of female talent and are actively ramping up efforts to attract more women into the field. However, with traditionally masculine working environments, overwhelmingly male workforces and an immediate career disadvantage, how can women in STEM navigate the job-hunting process?

How to Secure Your Ideal Job in STEM

Getting Through the Door

  • Network – As industries are waking up to the importance of women in STEM, relevant organisations and conferences are increasing in frequency and popularity. Attending these events will provide invaluable networking opportunities, and becoming involved with speaker or organising activities will position you as a STEM industry expert – inevitably leading to further opportunities and helping to drive your personal brand.
  • Constantly Evolve – We’ve moved beyond ‘dress for the job you want’ – tailor your skills and attributes to match the job you want. Continued personal and professional development will help you stay ahead throughout your career. Build your personal and professional skills through coaching, mentoring, online courses or formal qualifications to ensure you’re the best possible candidate in any selection process.

CV Application Stage

  • Tailor Your CV to the Job Advert – Unconscious bias is present at every stage of the recruitment process. Even if your skills, knowledge and experience match the job description, your recruiter or hiring manager will also be looking for a personality or culture ‘fit’, and both they and the role decision-maker will have been involved in writing the job ad. Use this bias to your advantage – identify the ‘masculine’-sounding words in the job advert and ensure you use the same or similar ones in your CV wherever applicable. Use words and phrases that convey your role in leading teams or projects (however small), rather than supporting, and use action-related words rather than softer, supporting phrases. Your hiring manager will want to see their image of the ideal candidate reflected back at them, so make it as easy as possible for them to match your CV to this ideal.
  • Focus on Achievements – The average recruiter or hiring manager spends 5-7 seconds reading a CV before they decide whether an applicant is worth pursuing. Focus on achievements first and foremost in your CV, to grab the attention of the reader and reinforce your ability to compete with other candidates. Be specific – what exactly did you achieve in each of your previous roles? Why were these achievements beneficial to your employers? Use statistics and data to prove the difference you made to your company or team – for example, sales or account figures, efficiency increases, reduction in errors, client satisfaction rates or exceeding project requirements.

Interview Stage

  • Stand Out – Use your personal story as a woman in STEM to evidence not only your directly relevant career experience, but also the different experiences that you have compared to men in your field, and how your responses increased your adaptability and soft skills. Showing your passion, through your natural interest in STEM and your efforts navigating obstacles you have encountered, will help you stand out amongst other interviewees.
  • Project Confidence and Capability – Often it’s not what you say, but how you say it, that makes the most impact. Confidence, body language, tone and behaviours can significantly impact interview success rates. Ask other people about the successful candidates they’ve interviewed (or think about people you’ve interviewed yourself and gone on to hire) and note down which words come up the most to describe the candidate’s interview performance. These are likely to be words associated with masculinity, competition or strength, such as ‘assertive’, ‘competent’ and ‘capable’. Record yourself practicing an interview and watch back to see whether you would describe yourself as in this way, and if not, work on improving them. Keep these in mind when interviewing, and your hiring manager will recognise your skills, knowledge, experience and ability to hit the ground running in the new role.

Jenna BeardAbout the author

Jenna Beard leads technical recruitment services at VHR Workforce Solutions and has over 14 years’ experience recruiting into STEM. VHR Workforce Solutions provides award-winning managed services solutions in 50 countries around the world.

networking featured

How to network as a tech woman

Article by Helene Panzarino, Associate Director, Centre for Digital Banking and Finance, The London Institute of Banking & Finance

networking featuredIt may not come as too much of a surprise that good networking skills are important in any career.

Word spreads between like-minded people who are connected, including news, the latest thinking, the best events and upcoming jobs and opportunities.

Networking is particularly important for women working in traditionally male-dominated industries – like computing, technology, science, engineering and banking and finance. Fintech is a good example. According to Innovate Finance, “Women represent just 29% of the fintech workforce, 17% of senior fintech roles and of the $1.7 billion that flowed into UK fintech firms in 2018, only 3% went to firms with a female founder.”

Those successful fintech men are well networked and, as a consequence, may be the first to hear of new opportunities. Women need to break into those networks – and also create our own – but how do we make it happen?

How to start networking

First of all, don’t panic! You don’t have to spend your weekends golfing (unless, like me, you want to!) And if you’re nervous about networking, you’re not the first.

Start by thinking about your ambitions. What do you want your next career move to be? If you’re not sure, ask yourself which parts of your work interest you the most. What avenues do you want to explore? Networking is a great way of working out what your next move might be.

Next you need to find the people and organisations that will help you explore – who will answer your questions – or who you might want to work for in the future. They might even be people who inspire you – whose career paths are a bit like the career you’d like. And anyone who can help you innovate and learn is worth connecting with.

Find out about networking opportunities and events

Thank goodness for all those amazing women who developed computer science in previous centuries! Because of technology, networking has never been easier.

So you have sites like MeetUp, which is like a listings service where you can search for events around the subjects that interest you. Meetup also hosts groups like Be Equal which was set up to diversify the tech space. They run events and webinar sessions.

Working Out Loud is a completely different way of networking. The idea is you connect with like-minded people online and work on a project together. So, in their words, “You invest in relationships by making contributions over time, including your work and experiences that you make visible.” If you’re nervous about attending events where you don’t know anyone, this is a great way to start.

Most professional institutions offer a programme of events, including The London Institute of Banking & Finance where I’m an Associate Director of the Centre for Digital Banking and Finance

In the fintech space, there are many events running on every day of the week in all parts of the country, including some aimed at women. As well as making some great contacts and being inspired by successful women, women’s networks offer a space and a platform to discuss issues that are specific to women. They can also be great for helping you develop a support structure. Have a look online for events because most of the newsletters you subscribe to, or sites like F6S, publicise monthly or weekly event notices.

So once you’ve worked out what kind of event you want to go to, the next step is to book your place – and don’t forget to put some business cards in your bag before you go! May seem old school to some of you, but it’s still nice to have a tangible reminder to give and receive.

At the event

Many people are anxious about networking and hate the ‘small talk’, but the thing is, the more you go to networking events, the less frightening it becomes.

Most of the events you go to will be interesting in any case, and if you go to a talk or seminar, then you have something to talk about when it comes to the ‘small talk’. Networking is really just about asking questions and getting to know people. If you think of it in those terms, it’s like any other social event. And you will meet people you like. You may even start to enjoy it – especially as your network grows and you start to recognise familiar faces.

Making the most of social media

It goes without saying that LinkedIn is a great networking tool but are you using it as effectively as you could be?

There are some obvious things about LinkedIn that any ‘how to make the most of LinkedIn’ blog will tell you – from updating your profile regularly to following the right people and organisations. Join professional groups and make sure you interact with people, by contributing to conversations. Share posts, but only when they’re relevant to your work or interests.

Remember, it’s not about selling yourself, but sharing your thoughts on a work-related matter or area of interest. That can give you real visibility.

Nurture the relationships

Once you’ve connected with someone, be sure to follow up. For example, if you get talking to someone at an event, connect with them on LinkedIn afterwards. (Include a message when you invite them to your network.)

Once you’re networked, the next time you need advice, you can go ahead and ask for it. You might offer to buy someone coffee. People can always say ‘no’, and you haven’t lost anything. Chances are though, they will be happy to give you ten minutes of their time. Remember, they were once in your situation too.

Helene PanzarinoAbout the author

Helene is a former banker turned entrepreneur, educator and investment readiness adviser in fintech.

She is a mentor and advisor who has helped over 15,000 of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) understand, prepare for, and access funding options at all stages of their business growth.

Helene is an adviser to a number of fintechs, including Yovo, a fourth generation utility token business, and Biid, a digital identity platform based in Spain.

In 2016, her book – Business Funding for Dummies – was published by Wiley and she was named a Top 10 Influencer in SME Funding in 2016. She has also contributed to The Entrepreneurs’ Network (TEN), The Parliamentary Rose Report on Female Funding in FinTech and The Scale Up Summit on Female Founders Raising Post-Seed Finance.

Game On: Why we need to mentor female talent in gaming

Female Gamers

Robin Milton is the Pathway Manager for Games at Access Creative College, where she is responsible for nurturing the next generation of gaming talent. Here she discusses the critical role mentoring plays in attracting and retaining women in the industry.

If it hadn’t been for the support of my mentors, I wouldn’t be working in the gaming industry today.

Back in 2010, I attended an open day at Norwich University of the Arts. By pure chance I sat in on a seminar by Marie-Claire Isaaman, who talked about her course in Games Art and Design. She described games as being not only entertainment products but an opportunity to open people’s minds, a vehicle for education, mindfulness and vast worlds for storytelling. Up until that point I had never seriously considered games as a serious career option, but from that moment onwards,I was hooked and decided to apply.

Ask anyone to describe a typical person working in the gaming industry and they will most likely paint a picture of someone who is young, male, and started playing games before they could walk. When you think of a typical gamer, that description would fit the same bill. Yet 46% of all gamers are women and with more 40-year-old women playing games than 18-year-old men it's clear we need to ensure we are developing games for this important audience.

The industry can only thrive if it is made up of individuals who have different backgrounds and life experiences. Games creators need to be representative of the people who play them. An example of where a company has not considered their audience effectively would be the Apple Health app debacle, where the app claimed to be able to track ‘every one of your health needs’, but critically missed out a feature for tracking menstrual cycles. I feel this shows the dangers of not having a diverse production team – you can only make a strong product if the development team come from all walks of life.

The industry has a perception problem. Too many people believe in the caricature of a gamer or game developer, too many assume that only hard-core games fanatics work in the industry and are therefore put off. Issues like #Gamergate haven’t helped matters, but the industry has come a long way. Gaming has so much to offer – not just in terms of the design and development functions, but the back-office functions – lawyers, marketeers, HR representatives are all viable career options.

So how can we address this challenge? Mentoring plays a crucial role in helping to tackle the perception problem, and it’s most effective when it starts at the grass roots. We need to attract more people into the industry from a young age and reassure parents that their children can have a viable career in the gaming industry. That’s why I go to events, schools, hold talks and run workshops and after school clubs with young adults – to challenge perceptions of the industry and to show the huge potential that a career in the games industry has to offer – whatever your gender, nationality or background.

However an exclusively grass roots approach is not enough to make meaningful change. Awareness of the career-change opportunities for those currently working in other industries are not highlighted. People assume there is some bizarre form of an ‘entry exam’ for anyone looking to work in industry even if they have decades of relevant experience in another sector. We need to make sure we retain good people once they’ve joined the industry. A good mentor is someone who can show you not just what you can do now, but what you can achieve in five or ten years’ time. Someone who can give you that big picture perspective so that you can really understand where your career might go and what you can achieve. I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from the guidance of people like Marie Claire – as well as that of many other incredible mentors and tutors throughout my career. They have given me the confidence to pursue my goals and their support has been invaluable in helping me get to where I am today.

In the UK, the games industry is bigger than Hollywood at £4.5bn – it makes more money than the music and film industries combined. If we don’t encourage and support women into the industry, then I believe we are at risk of jeopardising its future. By mentoring women and encouraging them to pursue long term and meaningful careers in gaming, we can positively contribute to its ongoing success.

Robin MiltonAbout the author

Robin is an incredibly passionate advocate for the growth of the games industry. She has recently been shortlisted for MCV’s Mentor of the Year award as well as the Progression Advocate award by Gamedev Heroes for her work encouraging young people to consider careers in the industry. As well as her role at Access Creative College, Robin helps organise the regional community group, Norfolk Game Developers. She is also a UK Women in Games Ambassador, to support women and girls in understanding the games industry and the opportunities within it. In addition, Robin has previously worked with the Norwich Games Festival and travels the world as a regular speaker at leading events for both the NUA and UEA, talking about her experience in the industry. Above all, Robin is all about bringing aspirations, ideas and people together via the common denominator of a love of computer games.

Why a “big bang” moment is key to getting girls into tech

Article by Sinead O'Donnell is Director Human Resources at Raytheon UK

Girls in techLots of children will remember a “big bang” moment from their youth, when the world exploded into excitement, chock-full of possibilities.

That moment might be sparked by a shared experience, a new moment of learning or – in my case – a gift that spoke to a new world of technology.

Even now, I distinctly remember unwrapping my Sinclair Spectrum 48K computer, complete with a full suite of games and a manual the size of a telephone book.

I was just 10 years old at the time, and although it was a big unwieldy thing, it felt like the stuff of dreams. Whilst my siblings and friends were desperate to play the games, I was desperate to grasp how it all worked.

From the outside, it all seemed so mysterious, but there was clearly some wonderful technology at play here. And if I could understand it, who knows what it could do or what could happen? It was a lot for me to contemplate but it helped that I had some wonderful people around me to help ask the right questions.

I had a fabulous maths teacher at the all-girls grammar school I attended. She encouraged her students to think outside the box and to apply maths in our everyday lives. She also introduced a GCSE in Computers to the school, and I was therefore able to study for that and a Computer Science A-level.

The strong support and encouragement at school meant that I was not aware that tech was often considered a “masculine” profession. But I was one of just seven women on my Computer Science course at university – out of 70!

I didn’t know it at the time, but the Spectrum computer represented my first steps towards a lifelong love of technology and a career that has revolved around those early questions: How does it work? Can I understand it? What if I did this?

These questions played a vital role in my former role as a software engineer and are still relevant as I lead human resources for Raytheon UK. Even in a role that is ostensibly less technical, I’m still using the same engineering and development mindset. That might mean understanding how and where to add value, or agreeing requirements up front, and making sure to support creativity within the framework of what the deliverables should be.

We’re always looking to continually improve our HR offering and being an engineer has undoubtedly helped me to have a better understanding of how HR adds value across our organisation and the defence sector more broadly. But do many other girls and women understand that a background in technology or software development can take you beyond the obvious tech jobs like coding?

The variety of careers available to women who have a background in STEM is hardly obvious. Ultimately you can’t be what you can’t see. Although I was oblivious as a child and young adult about the gender divide in technology, it became obvious that I was in a minority when I undertook an industrial placement during my third year of university.

After a month of being treated differently on the placement- being asked, for example, to undertake more administrative tasks than my peers- I explained to my boss that the status quo was failing to teach me anything of value and could leave me unable to either to complete my degree and or become employable in my chosen field. It might sound extreme but this approach paid off– my boss became a great mentor and helped me learn how to navigate office politics.

In HR, a key part of my role is to enable entry points into STEM for women later in their careers. I have taken on as a personal challenge to ensure that we are giving a new generation of female talent a sturdy leg up. We need to mentor the next generation of women in tech by reaching out, sharing our experiences and offering networking opportunities. We must challenge unconscious bias where we see it.

I'm proud to be the executive sponsor of Raytheon Women's Network. Open to all employees – male or female – we work to address common issues in the workplace and to encourage greater equality, not only tech, but in all roles.

I hope these efforts will help broaden the tech talent pipeline. Because we don’t just need more women in tech, we want more women with technical mindsets in other roles too. Let’s strive to spark those “big bang” moments in the next generation of young girls.

Sinead O'DonnellAbout the author

Sinead read Computer Science at the University of Ulster, before spending over a decade working in software engineering.

In 2007, she transitioned into a more HR focused role. Today, she is the UK Director of HR at defence and cybersecurity firm Raytheon.

On Wednesday 22 January, Raytheon will be sponsoring the inaugural ADS Women in Aerospace and Defence Summit, as part of its commitment to promoting greater diversity within the sector.

Career change, Building a career featured

Building a career from the service desk

Claire Harris is an infrastructure engineer at managed service provider Fordway in Godalming. Here she explains how she’s built a successful career in IT based on practical skills rather than academic qualifications.

Career change, Building a career featuredI love the sense of achievement when something goes wrong and you fix it.

It’s a skill you only learn by actually going to a machine and working things out for yourself. This may seem daunting at first, but as long as you’re systematic, you’ll be fine - just make a note of the changes as you make them so you can always roll them back. It will also speed things up the next time you come across the same problem!

My career path may not have been the conventional one but I think it’s given me a much more solid base of knowledge than if I’d done things a different way.

My initial interest was encouraged by my Dad, who works in IT for a large telecoms company. Although he’s Cyber Security Design and Transition Manager so isn’t hands-on with the technical aspects, I could see that IT was an interesting area to work in. I wasn’t very academic, but after obtaining Level 3 qualifications in English and Maths I took a five-month course at the Zenos Academy in Basingstoke which really developed my love for IT. I found that I preferred software to hardware, as I enjoy the maintenance and configuration aspects. However, I can take computers apart if I need to.

My first IT role was at Fujitsu, working for the Ministry of Defence (MoD). I was the SPOC (Single Point of Contact) for users, which meant logging whatever problems they had and solving them. This gave me a brilliant foundation in understanding the day to day issues that arise and which prevent people doing their job. I then moved to the Atomic Weapons Establishment, where I progressed from the service desk to a technical engineer role, where I was managing other people. I really enjoyed working in a team and training colleagues. After similar roles at Bauer Media and at multi-channel home shopping retailer Ideal Shipping Direct, I joined Fordway last year as an infrastructure engineer in their service operations team.

Although the technical aspects of my role here are similar to what I’ve done before, in other ways it’s very different. Fordway is a managed service provider, so whereas in the past I’ve been solving problems for my colleagues, I’m now supporting our customers. My work is primarily proactive rather than reactive. On a typical day I could be handling anything from running regular disaster recovery tests to rolling out applications and carrying out server updates. I recently moved Fordway’s SMTP server from Windows to Linux as part of a major upgrade of our infrastructure. It’s a great place to work, as they provide plenty of training and you’re encouraged to gain certifications from the major vendors such as Microsoft and Citrix.

You don’t find many women in IT, but it’s a great career choice for anyone who likes problem-solving and has a logical approach. One of the big advantages of it being a largely male environment is that there’s no bitchiness! You still find people who look at you as though you don’t know as much as them, but it’s a nice environment to work in and there are lots of opportunities, so you can go far.

My tip is to always begin at the service desk, whether you are just starting out in IT or coming in at a third line level. Being on the service desk gives you valuable knowledge about the company’s unique systems and customers and a greater understanding of the business. I have found in the past that it is extremely helpful, especially if you work with a ticketing system, as you must understand the basics before you can delve deeper into the systems. I love the sense of achievement when something goes wrong and you’re able to fix it.

My family still call me if they have IT problems at home, such as a mouse not working. My mum even called me from work one day to ask me to sort out a problem there! I had to explain that I couldn’t just log onto her company’s IT system, but I ended up talking to their IT team to help them find a solution. I just can’t resist a challenge.

About the author

Claire Harris is an infrastructure engineer in the service operations team at managed service provider Fordway Solutions. She works with Fordway’s customers to ensure that their systems are kept up to date, from rolling out applications to carrying out disaster recovery tests. Claire took an IT course at the Zenos Academy and has used her technical and problem-solving skills to develop her career from first line support through roles as a technical field engineer and infrastructure analyst to her current post.