Narmada Guruswamy featured

TechWomen100: What happened next for Narmada Guruswamy

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

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

We spoke with Narmada Guruswamy, who won a TechWomen100 Award in 2018.

My career in tech started in India many moons ago and has spanned geographies as well as sectors. This has given me the opportunity to observe and experience the role women have in the world of technology. As a woman returner, for instance, I experienced first-hand the huge challenges faced by anyone trying to re-enter the workforce after a long break. This journey has highlighted several issues that I believe need to be addressed in the tech sector to help women deliver their best to society.

In my current position as a senior leader in a big-4 consultancy, I work to shed light on technology skills and diversity issues by working with both EY Women in Technology and the Diversity and Inclusion team.  I particularly enjoy helping and mentoring early entrants to the company, some of whom come from non-technology backgrounds but are deeply interested in the area. I am also a board member on the techUK Skills and Diversity council and work with peer groups to further this agenda.

Diversity in technology is not just desirable – it is a necessity. As illustrated by health apps that were released without a period tracker, not having a seat at the table means not being part of the solution.  That is simply not an option for fully half of the human race. Women need to be involved technology to shape the story.

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

I felt a rush of joy that my work was being noticed. I was grateful that so many of my friends and colleagues had voted for me. I felt humbled that so many before me had paved the way.

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

Since the award was announced, I have been featured prominently on the intranet, in the daily news, at gatherings and even at the annual seminar within EY. Winning this award gave me a confidence boost, so I stepped up to head the BAME workstream within the techUK Skills and Diversity council. My social media engagement has increased: I post often on Twitter and LinkedIn with a particular emphasis on positive female stories. About a month ago, I also started mentoring a female entrepreneur in Nigeria through the Cherie Blair Foundation.

The increased visibility as an awardee has meant that women who are interested in technology can reach out to me.  Whether it is recognising a young employee’s interest in coding and giving her a chance to try it out in my project or advising someone in the food industry on the best way to work their way back to a career in tech, I have found it hugely rewarding helping others. Baby steps, each one, but so crucial if we are to get more women into technology roles.

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

Embrace the opportunity. Reach out to your colleagues, friends and family for their support. Enjoy the support and camaraderie of your fellow awardees.

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

Shush that voice that says you are not ready. Don’t let anyone else define who you are. Seize the day.

The 2019 TechWomen100 Awards are open for nominations on 1st August 2019.

Find out more here.


Inspirational Woman: Tanja Lichtensteiger | Engineering Manager, Sky Betting & Gaming


Tanja Lichtensteiger

I'm Tanja Lichtensteiger and I'm an Engineering Manager at Sky Betting and Gaming based at its offices in Wellington Place, Leeds.

I manage six software engineering Squads and we are all responsible for making our Sky Bet product the best in the industry. I have been working professionally in technology for 18 years since starting as an apprentice software engineer at 16 years old.  I discovered my enjoyment for software engineering when I started coding at eight years old and haven't stopped since.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Not at all, which would surprise many friends as they have me down as a planner. I stumbled into tech after learning how to code at eight years old and that led me to where I am now. I knew Technology was an industry I wanted to get into as I grew older but I struggled to find the right path. A lot of doors closed on me, including University, so I can't say things ever went to plan. I feel lucky that I was able to land a very good apprenticeship in Switzerland which set the foundation of my career. Since then I've just focused on working hard, learning as much as I can and consistently building great tech products. I never sought the next step, somehow the right opportunities just naturally came my way and I grabbed them.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

 As a mixed-race woman in Tech I can say from my experience that sexism and racism existed in technology when I started 18 years ago and are present even now. Phrases as "Women aren’t as technical as men",  "Women don't belong in tech" or "why are you here? Aren't you the cleaner?" bring up memories of past challenges. Thankfully the environment has much improved with a lot more support and people willing to stand up to do what's right. More of us willing to use our voice.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

After a long career it's pretty hard to decide on one. Personally I feel it's the individual achievements I gained through working with technologists more than technical achievements that mean more to me now. Whether if it's helping coach a budding software engineer into an extremely capable technical lead over the span of a few years or helping a squad upskill on new technology that they're excited about. Don't get me wrong, I love building and successfully delivering amazing technical solutions, but the tech we build will eventually go out of date. Those individual moments of growth are with these people for the rest of their lives.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Resilience. I'm passionate about technology, but I believe that passion would've died a certain death if I listened to the feedback that I "did not belong here" or took every stumble as the end. That bouncebackability needs to be practiced and nurtured, embrace the struggle and come out stronger for it. Because if you can stand up after every fall, you can achieve anything.

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

I believe mentoring is a very valuable opportunity for both mentor and mentee to grow. I mentee a couple of women in technology and I find the process not only benefits them, but msyelf as well. It gives me a lot of food for thought. Either different perspectives on tackling a problem or new challenges I would not have come across. It's satisfying to see my mentees successfully take the steps forward that they want in their career. By being a mentor I am paying forward what others have done for me. I have a couple of informal mentors both in Tech and outside, who I came across naturally and now consider good friends. I believe in having a growth mindset and allow myself to constantly learn from people around me.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

Employers need to realise that hiring those only from traditional paths (University degrees) isn't wise as it excludes amazing talent who come with transferrable skills from other walks of life.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Some people will find fault in you no matter what, do it anyway!

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

I'm looking forward to watching my squads grow not just as excellent technologists but as great human beings while we, together, go solve some extremely complex technical challenges that face Sky Betting and Gaming. It's exciting and something I can't wait to get my teeth into. I know that after it, myself and my squads would have gained so much in knowledge and levelled up significantly.

Worldpay Refresh Programme featured

Worldpay Refresh Programme

Worldpay Refresh Programme Girl with headphones using digital tablet on sofa

Have you or someone you know been out of work due to family commitments for two years or more?

Are you or they thinking about going back to work but not sure where to start? If you answered yes to either question then our return to work programme called ‘Refresh’ could be of interest.

At Worldpay we are committed to supporting colleagues with busy lives. We know that most people leave work at the end of the day with responsibilities for young children and elder care. Refresh is an inclusive programme that provides a supportive environment for people to use their skills and experience while maintaining work-life balance.

The Refresh programme includes a structured training and coaching programme to build on existing skills and help you develop your confidence as you settle back into work. You will be invited to apply for any of our open roles or take part in a placement to help you settle back into work.

Do you love technology as much as we do?

We’re looking for creative thinkers, engineers, inventors and entrepreneurs who have a passion for working with technology. We have exciting roles in software engineering & testing, architecture, infrastructure, data transformation, enterprise security, project management and business analysis. As we are a fast moving business our need for experts in different fields changes all the time so we encourage applications from a broad spectrum of technology backgrounds.

Covering approximately 146 countries, 126 currencies, and more than 300 alternative payment forms, we process 40 billion transactions for more than a million merchant locations worldwide each year. Our global technology team is responsible for the design, build and maintenance of systems, products and services that we sell to customers.

When you join our team you will work on some of the most exciting, technology-led projects in the FinTech sector and you will make a huge difference to our business and the tens of millions of people that use our services every day.


To qualify for the Refresh programme you will have been out of work for at least two years due to family commitments, whether it be caring for children, elderly family members or someone with a disability. The programme is inclusive to men and women.

The process

  • Applications open 25 March 2019
  • Application closing date 1 May 2019 (with screening commencing from 7 May)
  • We will then host a one day meet-up on 6 June 2019
  • After the meet-up day, if there is a potential match for one of our open roles, you will be invited to interview for the position
  • Final Interview process will commence from 17 June 2019
  • The start date for new roles will be 30 September 2019

The 6 June meet-up will take place in our London office in the City. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about Worldpay and the different technology teams. There will be a skills workshop to build strengths and confidence in the workplace, and you’ll get the chance to network with Worldpay colleagues and hear about our flexible culture, inclusivity networks and returner experiences.

Balancing work and family life

As a family-friendly employer, we know that getting the right work life balance is important especially as life has its way of throwing in some surprises. We want our colleagues who are juggling a busy career and family life to have the support they need, when they need it. In addition to our internal Worldpay Family Network and partnership with My Family Care - providing support and the chance to network with people in a similar situation - we are also open to exploring flexible working arrangements. The standard working week at Worldpay is 35 hours, core hours being 9-5, and as a company, we support colleagues working from home one day per week.

Next steps

If you would like to apply to Refresh please do so with your CV, outlining the following:

  • Your motivation for applying to Refresh and what you hope to gain
  • Any technical skills you have and / or experience of working in a technology environment
  • The role types to which you believe you would be most suited

Applications will be reviewed from April onwards, with initial conversations taking place in May. Successful applicants will then be invited to attend the 6 June meet-up event.

Should you have any questions you may contact us on




Inspirational Woman: Malaika Paquiot | Master Product Manager in International Markets, nCino


Malaika Paquiot 1

Malaika Paquiot is a Master Product Manager in International Markets at nCino, the worldwide leader in cloud banking.

She brings a breadth of technology expertise and experience to nCino as an early team member, former Tech Support Manager, Software Development Manager and Developer. As Master Product Manager for International Markets, she leads the globalisation and localisation of the nCino Bank Operating System. During her 15 years in software, she’s served as Product Manager of the InfoSphere Data Replication suite of products at IBM, won the US National Women of Colour Technology Award, and lent her technical expertise as a judge for Triangle Start-up Weekend and as a digital strategist for ARRAY film collective. Committed to serving her local community, she sits on the boards of Working Films and Cucalorus Connect.

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

I grew up in Jamaica, West Indies, and later moved to the United States for University, where I earned my undergraduate degree in electrical and computer engineering and my graduate degree in computer and information systems engineering from Tennessee State University. When I completed my studies, I went to work for IBM in their mainframe division as a software developer, eventually moving into a management role. Eager to expand my skills, I seized an opportunity to become a Product Manager in their Information Integration group and have been in love with product management ever since.

I joined nCino in 2015 as a Product Manager focusing on the Document Manager solution. I grew within that role, eventually supervising the product managers of nCino’s platform portfolio. Today, I am charged with helping scale the nCino Bank Operating System internationally.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to have many mentors of all colours and stripes who supported and inspired me in many ways, from giving me advice to recommending me for leadership opportunities.

When I first started as a software developer, I was determined to become a development team lead. However, as I gained more experience, I cast a wider net so as not to limit myself. I’d see what someone else was doing and say, ‘Oh, that looks really interesting. I want to learn how to do that too.’

If there was a skill I wanted to further develop or a challenge I wanted to overcome, that would often lead me to a new role. For example, one of the management roles I held in the past was Technical Support Manager. I pursued this opportunity because my mentor told me it would help me develop a tough skin and learn to work under pressure. He was right; I learned how to accept critical feedback and work with a sense of urgency. While it was a challenging role, it helped me develop leadership skills and focus on the things I am passionate about.

What do you think could be done to encourage more girls into STEM?

I believe we are all responsible for making sure that we see more women and girls in STEM, and here are five ways we can make that happen:

  1. Parents can encourage curiosity about how the world works. Nothing beats this.
  2. Media can augment out-of-school learning and empower children to engage in STEM activities and careers.  A great step forward would be, for example, to televise awards like the Women of Color in STEM Awards.
  3. Governments can reward companies who have diverse boards and leadership teams, and should help formalise educational initiatives that support the notion that all students have access to high-quality learning opportunities in STEM subjects.
  4. Educational institutions can work better to link STEM subjects to everyday life by giving children more outside time. Research has shown the benefits of allowing children more time to investigate, play and explore the outside world can encourage an interest in STEM subjects.
  5. Hiring managers can focus on hiring a more diverse workforce. By breaking up workplace homogeneity, people become more aware of ingrained ways of thinking that can lead to errors and bias in decision-making processes.

What skills and knowledge do you think are vital for a career in STEM?

Practical skills will certainly depend on the particular career, but there are a few traits that are transferable to almost any subject. First, having curiosity about how things work and why they work, and the drive to explore that curiosity will lead to the development of analytical, problem solving and critical thinking skills. Second, having the ability to articulate an idea in a clear, bold and compelling way. If you have the “next big thing” but are not capable of communicating it, then it will fall mute. Finally, having confidence in yourself and knowing your worth are critical to ensuring career longevity at a sustainable pace.

Do you have any advice or tips for women looking to get into STEM?

While STEM fields are currently male-dominated, it’s important to realize you can and should be yourself and that will lead to the most success.

Some tangible advice is to look for and take on weekend projects to deepen your skills and build a portfolio of work. The more hands-on practice you can get, the better. Don't be afraid to tell your network about your interest in a STEM job. You never know who they may know.

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

My next challenge is to leverage the knowledge I’ve gained in managing products at large and small organizations to help nCino with its international expansion.

Cyber Security

Securing our future with a more diverse cybersecurity workforce

diversity in cybersecurity
Image provided by Shutterstock

Cybersecurity has been fighting many of the same serious challenges for the past 20 years: malware infections, phishing attacks, identity theft, and more.

When you think about the state of security, it’s safe to say, we haven't solved all of the problems. I can’t help but wonder if we’re in this situation partially due to a lack of diversity and innovative thinking. In the late 1990s, the percentage of women in cybersecurity was often reported to be less than ten per cent. By 2011 we reached about 11 per cent. Today, it's around 24 per cent, a generous representation thanks to a broad view of who works in the cybersecurity field, including individuals who spend at least one quarter of their time on cybersecurity activities.

It’s widely accepted that diverse teams, companies, and industries are more innovative. Many studies show this, including this one that says diverse teams generate 19 per cent more revenue. You see diverse teams build off of one another as they develop creative, inventive, and exciting concepts that drive excitement within the organisation.

Unfortunately, it’s not just cybersecurity, but all science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers where we see an unfortunate lack of diversity. Thankfully, there are many things we can do to improve diversity and recruit and retain younger women.

One of the things younger women, just entering the field, should consider is identifying male colleagues who see you as an equal. Work as closely with them as you can. They will be the men who can be your champion. For instance, if someone is dismissive to you in a meeting, these are the men who will jump in and reinforce your views.

It's also essential that established women in the field put themselves out there as mentors. Women who have faced women-specific challenges have all of their experience to offer younger women coming into the field. These established women also need to go out and participate in as well as speak at events. So many women in this field are incredible at what they do, but often they are too timid to share their expertise. I believe many of them don’t like presenting or leading discussions for fear of coming off too confident, or worse arrogant. We have to change this by encouraging women to network and share what they know. Younger women will see this and realise that security is a field where women not only exist, but are welcome and can thrive and contribute in meaningful ways.

We also need to start young. My company engages with the Girl Scouts, ages six through twelve. We’ve invited close to 100 Girl Scouts to our offices on two separate occasions to help the girls earn either a STEM badge or a cybersecurity badge. For the events, two women on my team and I were heavily involved and shared our own experiences with the young girls. It may seem like a small step, but it’s important that girls see successful women in the cybersecurity field so that they realise Wow if I wanted to do this, I could, too.

One action I see that is not helping, is holding women-only events to discuss this issue. Women talking to women about this problem isn't going to solve anything. Men have to hear what women have gone through for there to be progress. Men have to be invited to the conversation and play an active role in the conversation. It's crazy, eye-opening for men when they listen to our stories and they then are motivated to change.

Things have definitely gotten better in the past twenty years when it comes to getting more women in the cybersecurity field, yet there’s still so much more to be achieved. We will finally have success when we not only have about 50 per cent parity in the field, but also find it’s no longer necessary to discuss this as a topic.

Jadee HansonAbout the author

As chief information security officer at Code42, Jadee Hanson leads global risk and compliance, security operations, incident response, and insider threat monitoring and investigations. To her position, she brings more than 15 years of information security experience and a proven track record of building security programs.


Inspirational Woman: Camila Namor, Product Engineer, Hubble

Camilla NamorA self taught Javascript developer, I’m very interested in all things related to the Internet as a community, education and learning.

When I’m not programming you can usually find me learning languages, reading and traveling. I'm a Product Engineer at Hubble working on the international platform.

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

My name is Camila and I’m a Javascript developer from Buenos Aires. I have a little over four years of experience working as a programmer, as well as some writing and teaching experience too. I recently moved to London and started working as a Product Engineer for Hubble.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I can’t say I started thinking formally about my career until recently. When I started getting into programming it was just for fun and I didn’t really know anyone on the field or working in IT at the moment so I wasn’t even aware of the possibilities. For the most part after that I was open to new ideas and opportunities that would come my way and luckily for me I think it worked out pretty well and it got me some interesting experience. Recently I’ve been thinking about what I want to do more purposefully and started generating change to get there. It’s been working great, mostly because it never felt forced.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Yes. Impostor syndrome is a pretty big thing for me, and it’s the same for every woman I meet in the industry. It’s harder when your professional environment lacks diversity and you really feel like the odd one out. I’ve been working a lot on it and trying not to let it spoil my energy but the majority of days it’s a conscious effort. It helps a lot right now that Hubble has such an amazing culture, and I’m really having a good time coming to work.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

I think it was being self-taught even without knowing anything about the industry at first. And more recently, making the leap and moving alone from the other side of the world. I’m very proud about that as well and happy with the decision.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

Always being open to the different opportunities that present themselves along the way and trusting my gut.

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

I love mentoring. I’ve worked as a teacher for some time and got to help a lot of people when they were just starting out. It’s a very rewarding experience for me and I recommend it. And I think it works both ways, both the mentor and mentee always get something out of it. One of the greatest things about working in tech is being able to form part of such an active community, there’s always an event you can go to to meet people and learn from each other.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

I think it’s important for companies to take an active role in trying to get more equality in the work place, and it’s not just about hiring more women. I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come by now but there’s still so much to do, especially regarding mothers in the workplace. We also need to hear more about different personal experiences, because these are endless and it’s always a bit easier when you can see yourself in someone that’s already where you want to be in the future. Sharing experiences inspires us and makes us feel less lonely.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

To not doubt myself and my own capabilities, and to be more assertive about what I want. To be able to walk away if I don’t think I’m in the right place. But overall to always try to have fun with what I do.  At the end of the day, it’s important to be comfortable and work in meaningful projects.

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

My move was very recent so I’m very focused on building my new life here. I also want to be useful within my team and company, learning more about back end development (as I’ve always worked in the front end) and developing new ideas to improve our product are my main goals right now.

Code First Girls featured

Code First: Girls teaches 10,000 women to code for free in the UK


Code First Girls

Code First: Girls, the multi-award winning social enterprise working with women and companies to increase the proportion of women in tech, has announced that its taught 10,000 women to code in-person for free in the UK and Ireland, a new milestone for the tech sector.

In the 18 months since the launch of its 2020 campaign, an initiative aimed at teaching 20,000 young women how to code for free by the end of 2020, the organisation has made strong progress, with Code First: Girls now halfway to this target and on track to achieve its final goal.

Code First: Girls launched their 2020 campaign at the end of 2017 with a clear objective to significantly grow their existing free in-person coding course offer and set a target to teach 20,000 women to code by the end of 2020. As part of this campaign, and with the support of several corporate partners, they have now taught 10,000 women to code for free across 35 cities hosting 297 courses.

This record result comes at a time of stark underrepresentation for women in the UK’s technology sector. According to the UK Office of National Statistics, in 2018 women made up only 11.6 per cent of software professionals in the UK.

Allison Krill , head of EMEA global banking and markets technology at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said, “As a business committed to responsible growth, we recognise that it is essential we equip women with the tools and training they need in order to play an active role in building the digital economy."

"Our partnership with Code First Girls has flourished since it began in 2014 and it is excellent to see the progress that has been made since the launch of 2020 Campaign. We look forward to seeing more young women thrive and fulfil their potential.”

One year after announcing the partnership with Trainline, Clare Gilmartin, company CEO, said, “We’re incredibly proud to support Code First: Girls and it’s fantastic to see them reach this landmark achievement."

"The 20:20 initiative is an excellent example of how the industry and charity sector can pull together to create a more level playing field in tech."

"We understand first-hand the benefits a more diverse workforce can bring to any business and are excited to continue to help Code First: Girls achieve great things.”

Jean-Pierre Saad, Managing Director and Head of Technology for the CFG partner KKR added, “Code First: Girls is doing fantastic work in encouraging gender diversity in technology, and in particular helping young women achieve their ambitions and play a more important role in the digital economy."

"We believe their efforts will benefit the UK economy and society more broadly, and we are very pleased to be able to support them in their mission and in hitting their targets as part of the 20:20 campaign.”

Code First: Girls’ CEO Amali de Alwis was awarded an MBE award for services to women in technology at Buckingham Palace and is one of the leading voices on the topic in the UK. Prior to that, Amali was elected as the 2018 most influential women in UK tech and was also shortlisted in the top 10 most influential BAME tech leaders in the UK by the Financial Times.


How to make tech more accessible for all?

Women looking at their phones

Article provided by Rebecca Rae-Evans, co-founder of Tech For Good Live

From banking to food shopping, many of our day-to-day tasks can now be completed online and generally this digital-by-default society is making people’s lives easier and more efficient.

In fact, a third of people have become so accustomed to accessing online services 24/7, from anywhere in the world, that they would feel “cut off” and “lost” without the Internet.

However, as it stands, there are still many people with varying abilities and conditions - from blindness to autism or dementia – that cannot use digital services due to poor design practices and confusing jargon. They are therefore ‘disabled’ by these platforms; as they are unable to access the information they require.

Despite some positive, inclusive design work being carried out across a variety of sectors, such as Network Rail’s implementation of a new accessible app, a recent Ofcom report suggests disabled individuals are being left behind by technology on the whole. This is due to deployment of alienating language and design features.

So what can be done to make the UK’s online services accessible to all?

  • Cater for those with physical or motor impairments – these online services need to minimise the amount of typing required from users. Also, they should make clickable interactive elements large without demanding precision, and design platforms with mobile and touch screen in mind.
  • Be mindful of visually impaired individuals – businesses should ensure websites use a readable font size and a combination of colour, shapes and text, while ensuring to publish all information on web pages as opposed to other document types such as PDFs.
  • Accommodate for autistic users – companies must use day-to-day language – avoiding figures of speech and idioms. They should create a simple colour scheme and make sure layouts are consistent and uncluttered.
  • Adapt services for customers that are hard of hearing – businesses must provide access to subtitles or transcripts to accompany videos, break up content with sub-headings, images and video and avoid complex layouts and menus.

People with ranging abilities should also be invited to take part in usability sessions throughout the design process. This will help businesses to assess how effective certain features are and will highlight areas that need to be improved or removed altogether.

Going forward, if businesses take these changes into consideration when developing their online presence and start implementing them as soon as possible, we can expect to see a dramatic improvement in digital inclusivity across the board.

Computer Programmer

Defeating the fear factor for women in tech


Computer Programmer

Daniela Aramu, Head of User Experience at Thomsons Online Benefits

There are some popular and entrenched beliefs when it comes to technology:

  1. Technology is always right. If something goes wrong, it is the fault of the user
  2. Technology aptitude is the result of innate talent rather application

These beliefs are incredibly unhelpful, building a sense of trepidation among those approaching computer science and related subjects. While this could be felt universally, it is especially dangerous for women who are already battling gender stereotypes when it comes to building careers in technology.

I myself have been subject to these fears. My first real experience of technology came when I was 16 and my brother headed off to university leaving his computer. I took the opportunity to experiment and was immediately captivated by the way you could manipulate the screen with the click of a button. My explorations eventually led to me destroying his hard drive – a terrible mistake that left me too terrified to touch a computer for some time.

It wasn’t until I finished my degree in psychology and started looking at Masters courses outside of Italy that I noticed a course entitled HCI and Ergonomics, with the subtext being, “It isn’t your fault but the computer’s”. You can imagine my relief – finally someone telling me I wasn’t to blame!

I signed-up and the rest was history. I learnt the importance of design; its influence on how people engage with technology. I learnt that a well-considered, logical user journey was the difference between trusting a product – and the entity behind it – and being frustrated by it.

I pursued a career in technology in the end, but I might have got there a lot sooner if my brother’s computer had been better designed – and I hadn’t been so convinced that I lacked the aptitude to navigate it.

Progressing through my career, I began to realise the influence of these two deterrents, and I became more and more determined not to let other women be put off a career in technology for the same reasons.

I’m lucky that I love my job and spend every day propagating good design principles. By making technology more accessible, logical and empathetic towards its users, I reduce the likelihood that negative experiences with technology will undermine confidence when engaging with it.

While improving technology engagements universally will help reduce the fear people often feel when approaching technology, more needs to be done to get them thinking that a career in tech is a viable option.

This takes me back to my second entrenched belief, that people are somehow born with an aptitude for technology or not. This is simply not the case. Success in computer science, like any other science, depends on applying yourself and putting in the hours. However, women are unlikely to do this if they have been told from a young age (explicitly or implicitly) that a career in technology isn’t for them. We need to stop encouraging girls to conform to stereotypical gendered roles, and encourage them to follow their passions.

Families play a fundamental role in addressing this problem. Parents need to make supportive, unbiased choices for their children and be clear that it’s hard work and determination that will help them achieve their goals – not innate “talent”. Schools, universities, employers and government also need to engage in a coordinated effort to propagate this message. We need more women to talk about their careers in tech, the challenges they’ve encountered and how hard work and self-belief has been critical in over-coming these. It is only by busting the mythology surrounding the profession and making women that work in it visible that we’ll encourage the next generation of tech leaders.

Daniela AramuAbout the author

As Head of User Experience at Thomsons Online Benefits, Daniela oversees the entire design process for the company’s proprietary platform – from conception, to user research and implementation – while managing stakeholders at all levels across Europe, Asia and North America.


Inspirational Woman: Rachel Taylor | Technology Partner, Deloitte


Rachel Taylor - Brand Photo

I’m a beekeeping, vegan, teetotal, computer-game playing, scuba-diving, book-reading film-lover and I’m a self-confessed hippy at heart too.

I believe strongly in each of us taking personal responsibility in looking after our planet and those who live here. I’m a terrible singer but that doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm or my volume. I’ve got a weakness for crisps and I’m a huge fan of rainy days curled up with a great boxset.

I’m also a Technology Partner at Deloitte within the Tax service line; I work with clients all over the world, helping them make sense of the sometimes confusing world of technology and automation. I love to solve problems and share insights that I’ve gathered along the way.

I moved down to London after university without any real plan of what to do (other than knowing that I definitely did not want to be a barrister, which had been my intention at the end of my law degree). I took a series of admin temping jobs for a year, before accidentally falling into joining the Tax service line at Deloitte & Touche (as it was then); I met a recruitment consulting at a late-night party and, after talking with me, suggested that I think about a career in Tax – I shook off the feeling that this was the equivalent of a personality slap in the face and took up the suggestion.

Since then, I had in-house roles at HSBC, Channel 4 Television and Barclays, before rejoining Deloitte in 2006 as a Senior Manager, working 3 days a week. It was there that I truly found my groove in carving out a role to deliver all the tax aspects of Finance Transformation, with the current focus on Operational Transfer Pricing. Through that work, I progressed up through Partner in 2011 and have been enjoying myself doing that ever since.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

No – most of the major events in my career were actually unforeseen, whether they were an unexpected opportunities or a crisis. There have been times where I have set a goal and targeted a particular career progression, but the real accelerators have come from spotting a gap or an opening and throwing myself into making something differential happen.

The two main things I would advocate for making sure as many of those opportunities arise as possible are 1) make yourself enjoyable to be around – people are more likely to give a hand up to those who they like; and 2) keep your mindset enthusiastic and positive – being open to the joy in life and the possibilities of events will help you spot the potential.

Looking back over my career so far, it has taught me never to worry too much about the future – focus on the here and now, do the best job that you possibly can with as much gusto as possible and chances will come to you along the way.  When they do, grab them and don’t let go.

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

Many – but that can be a good thing.  I firmly believe that challenges are what build our stamina and keep life interesting.  It is my experience that the greatest learning comes from the times that feel hardest in the moment and that nothing beats the feeling of overcoming a difficulty that once felt insurmountable.

There have been times however when those challenges have tipped over into negativity – I have faced situations at different times in my career where I have had to deal with such things as discrimination, being subjected to bullying and subsequently suffering from feelings of depression and hopelessness.  Going through each of those has taught me highly valuable lessons and given me the ability to genuinely empathise with others in similar situations; however, I now do everything within my ability to try and make sure that others do not have to be subjected to the same behaviours.

I was also out of work for over four years and had to re-enter the workplace with two young daughters who were aged two and four at the time. I’ve had to manage much of my later career whilst being a single parent. For one 6 month period, I was travelling from London to Manchester several times a week to help nurse my family nurse my father at home through his terminal illness – sleeping on the floor of his room overnight and then catching the 7am train down to London to carry on the day job. During that time, I remember telling someone that I couldn’t make a meeting before 9:30 and receiving a sarcastic comment back about that being “practically the afternoon”. That taught me that you really don’t know what someone’s personal life looks like, so never judge.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Without a doubt, my biggest achievement is raising two daughters who have embraced STEM subjects without any sense of that being a male domain.  Sasha, who is 17, is taking Maths, Physics and Film Studies at A-level and has accepted an offer to study Robotics at the University of the West of England, which has the largest robotics lab in the UK; Cassia, 15, is taking the full range of sciences, maths and Computer Science at GCSE and has selected Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Psychology for her A-levels next year.

Seeing their connection with their chosen subjects is hugely encouraging to me that there is no reason why we shouldn’t have more women embracing technology and the wider STEM subjects. It’s a personal passion of mine and I carry that through to the workplace, making sure that each of my own projects always creates opportunities for women and that I have a strong gender balance on my teams.

In my group at Deloitte, Tax Management Consulting, we are also running a Women in Technology agenda – making sure that the roles we advertise are female-positive, bringing a strong gender balance into the group and through the promotion stages, providing training opportunities to women and creating a positive environment for all forms of diversity across the group.

It’s critical to me that I’m the same person at work as I am at home and that means promoting the same equality in my teams as I do within my home.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

I don’t have a doubt in my mind that the biggest factor in me achieving any successes that I have is the mindset that my father instilled in me that I could do anything if I wanted it enough.  He had two daughters and he never set limitations on he believed we could achieve or what we should get involved with – either in relation to our gender or due to other people’s expectations.

He led by example and taught us to disregard any negativity that we encountered in relation to our ambitions or goals; he taught us the joys of ‘treading the path lesser trod’ and his favourite mantra was “give a man [or daughter!] a fish and he eats today; teach a man how to fish and he eats every day”. I can’t count the number of times that a request for him to do something for me was countered with “no, but I’ll show you how you can do it” – infuriating at the time but hugely valuable in engendering independence and self-belief.

He was an enthusiastic, kind and unique man. It was only in my twenties that I started to realise the power of the gift of self-belief that he’d given me. My only hope is that I can successfully pass it on to my own two daughters and those around me.

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

I love mentoring when there is a good working connection between the mentor and the mentee. I’ve had one mentor where we just didn’t get each other and it was largely unproductive and we almost certainly just wasted each other’s time.

However, apart from that experience, I have both mentored and been a mentee on multiple occasions and actively look for opportunities to do more of both.

A willingness to share and learn on both sides can give a special relationship and really open up different mindsets and pathways; often not the initial ones that either side had in mind, but usually fruitful.

If you could change one thing to accelerate the pace of change for Gender Parity, what would it be?

We need a mandate to actively promote a meaningful number of women into positions where they can effect lasting change with a more gender-balanced environment around them. Token placements of a woman here or there often fail, not because the woman is unable to run the role or the team, but because she simply doesn’t have the support network around her that men in the same position do.

Without women in numbers at more senior levels, we are requiring women to do what we are not expecting men to do – i.e. thrive in an environment where they are the exception, the only person of their gender at the table, with a pre-established male network around them.

All too often, tokenism replaces a real agenda for change – I would like to see a mandatory gender balance at senior levels throughout our working world. There is an argument that this is too aggressive a move and there aren’t the women ready to fill those roles. My view is that we react successfully to times of rapid change in a thousand other ways – whether those are economic, regulatory or technological - so the argument that change in this situation needs to be gradual is more about protecting the status quo by those who have created it.

If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?

Don’t waste time borrowing trouble from the future or the past.

I have spent far too much time (and still fall back into this pattern now too) spending hours playing through scenarios in my head, usually with a negative slant to them.  I used to think that it was productive and that I was preparing myself better for future events; however, now I realise that the vast majority of it never actually happened in practice and I was just increasing my own stress levels.

Bringing myself back to the present and doing the best possible job in the here and now is infinitely more productive.  Meditation is extremely helpful for this; a friend was kind enough to introduce me to an excellent meditation teacher. I have since also done a retreat to learn stronger techniques and am starting a year’s Veda course in April this year. There used to be a stigma in talking about spiritual or personal resilience matters; that has gone away to some extent, but sadly I know that it has not yet left us completely.

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

My next challenge is to make 2019 my year of giving back. That was my New Year’s Resolution for 2018 but I ended up having to focus on dealing instead with a period of depression and a low personal ebb.  Having come through that period, with the support of my partner, a therapist and my family and friends, I feel ready to take my resolution back up this year.

I’m making the promotion of opportunities for women one of my key focusses – as part of that, I’m throwing myself into Deloitte’s Women in Technology programme, bringing that to my group and also participating in wider events such as International Women’s Day sessions. I’m also planning on speaking at my daughter’s school (although she doesn’t know that yet – surprise, Cassia!). I also want to embed those philosophies into daily life too, so that it’s not all about the big events but taking the time to check in with those around me and making sure that they know there’s a listening ear ready if they need it.

I haven’t worked out yet what all the details look like, so any suggestions welcome!