Female working in a Technical Support Team Gives Instructions with the Help of the Headsets. In the Background People Working and Monitors Show Various Information, SysAdmin Day

Article by Alexa Raad, Chief People, Purpose and Policy Officer, HUMAN Security

‘The UK is heading towards a “catastrophic” digital skills shortage “disaster”’. This warning, revealed by a think tank to the BBC in March, highlighted the slow demise of tech talent in the UK.

Before the pandemic, a survey revealed that only 11% of professionals believed that the technology industry in the UK could compete on a global scale.

The tech industry faces a diversity problem, which in turn discourages people from joining the industry. As an historically male dominated industry, the statistic that only 19% of tech workers in the UK are women is no surprise. But, the ‘Great Resignation’ is an opportunity to redress this imbalance. With staff turnover set to cost the UK economy nearly £17bn in 2021, many new jobs have emerged – with talented women vying to fill them.

Below, I share my advice for women aiming for a career in tech, whether it’s at entry level or via a career change.

  1. Skills, skills, skills

The best way to prove yourself worthy of a role is a deep understanding of the required skills. Whether you’re looking for your first role or a new career, picking up the necessary skills early into your journey will stand you in good stead. If you have a passion for ethical hacking, it can take as long as 18 months to acquire the skills to make you proficient. Whereas career-competent education in coding can be learned within six months.

While not every tech job requires coding knowledge, the relevant skills can be learned outside of formal education and remotely now, too. Edtech platform Coursera saw 21 million new joiners during the peak of lockdown – showing an appetite for continuous upskilling.

  1. Find a female mentor or role model

Research proves that women helping other women are more successful. Women already in the industry will have likely overcome some form of adversity and will be willing to pass on their words of wisdom to you. It is also true that people can’t be what they can’t see – and having a mentor whose footsteps you can follow can be beneficial to learn from.

Social media combined with the challenges posed by the pandemic, mean that it’s now easier than ever to connect with like-minded women in your chosen field. Lean on, and learn from, them.

  1. Put yourself out there

The employment and upskilling of women is high on the agenda of a large majority of businesses – especially in tech. The need to redress the imbalance, amongst other D&I objectives, has only become more paramount in recent years.

Social media can be a great tool to learn about the opportunities businesses have to offer. However, take this one step further and find the hiring managers, CEOs, or HR teams in the organisation to ask them about their company and start selling yourself.

Not only can this encourage more women to step forward for new roles, the pandemic has given them the tools to do this. Virtual events, webinars and increased social media use may have arisen through unfortunate circumstances, but also levelled the playing field. Now that the UK is open, continue to put yourself out there.

  1. Bring your whole self!

Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not. The tech sector may have a reputation for being male-dominated, but it really is changing. That means many progressive tech companies are asking ‘what can you bring?’ rather than ‘will you fit in?’. I would steer clear of the ones that don’t value this diversity.

  1. Find internships or training fellowships to make the first step

Internships can be instrumental in making a first step into a new industry. While getting the opportunity to learn, you also get to put these lessons into action and apply your knowledge – and (hopefully) get paid while doing so.

If you’re looking for a career change, adult apprenticeships can be invaluable – allowing you to learn new skills, gain experience and also transfer existing skills into your new career. Adult apprentices may also be eligible for funding if they choose to undertake advanced apprenticeships, ensuring they are supported through this career change.

Meanwhile, fellowships can be great tools to apply scholarly experience and knowledge to make the first or next step in your career – usually guaranteeing experience, reimbursement, and a learning experience, too.

At HUMAN, we recently announced the Dan Kaminsky Fellowship – in honour of our late co-founder and Chief Scientist. HUMAN is offering Fellows a year of full-time employment to dedicate to deep work on their open source project. Fellows will enjoy the same employment benefits as all HUMAN employees.

What does the industry need to do?

The sector needs to do a better job of promoting the huge range of opportunities available in tech. We need mathematicians, engineers, and coders; but we also need amazing communicators, project managers, marketers, HR people and more! With more diversity in these roles, the whole sector will benefit from a greater breadth of ideas as we attract people from a wider range of backgrounds. Tech remains one of the fastest growing sectors worldwide, but many outside of the industry still have a slightly blinkered view of what’s possible with a career in tech.

Alexa RaadAbout the author

Alexa Raad is Chief People, Purpose and Policy Officer at HUMAN Security. Alexa has deep knowledge in the cybersecurity, DNS, and internet infrastructure industries, and is the author of a US and European patent in cybersecurity. In addition, Alexa is a 25+ year tech industry veteran, P&L leader and strategic advisor to CEOs, executive teams, and private equity teams. Alexa has a successful track record of growing revenues, scaling organizations internationally, and developing new markets in US, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.