woman holding a like a boss mug, career development

By Olivia Hill, Web Developer at Splendid and supporter of The Software Institute’s IT Girls campaign

It’s never too late to find your dream job – and the tech industry is a great place to start looking.

According to research from PwC Global, 77% of workers are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in a different field. And with vacancies for over 1 million digital experts, industry demand is certainly there, with businesses eagerly looking to fill roles in IT.

Yet, according to research from TechNation, only 26% of those currently in the tech force are women. So how can we encourage women to take a leap, and break into the tech industry?

Tech loves to talk ‘diversity’, with female representation in technology high up on the corporate agenda for the past decade, but how can you encourage women to feel confident in taking on a new challenge and pivoting to a career they may not have considered before, in the global software industry?

A recent PwC study indicates only 3% of women say a career in technology is their first choice career. Moreover, only 16% of females have had a career in technology suggested to them. Unfortunately, I was one of the 84% of women that during my schooling or early career development, was never encouraged to pursue a career in tech or another STEM subject.

In fact, I always felt that pursuing an education in humanities was my only option, or strength. I went on to study a degree in journalism and was sure that I would have a media-related job for the rest of my working life. However, I soon realised that it didn’t live up to what I’d hoped. I started to consider alternative careers, but it felt like I was stagnating. It wasn’t until lockdown in 2021, when I started to consider making a huge career pivot, into the tech sector.

I never even thought about breaking into the tech industry until then. I didn’t think I belonged in that world, and entering it seemed simply quite unachievable. Apart from a little coding I had done at university as part of a digital communications module, I had no experience at all. Nonetheless, as I continued to read about the increasing tech skills shortage and discovered a range of fantastic training and learning resources, I decided to take the leap.

The first step in making a career pivot like mine, is to do some research and find out what interests you. I think one of the main barriers preventing people from starting a career in tech is that most are simply unaware of the options available to them. There is a wealth of opportunities out there, but it can understandably be overwhelming at first. Have a read online about the different roles available and find something that piques your interest, whether that be web development, cybersecurity, DevOps, data science, automation testing, or one of the other many options available.

Once you have found an area which interests you, it’s helpful to have a look into the skills required to secure your first role in that area. There are many self-taught developers, but it’s important to know what the expectations are for entry level positions. A simple search on a job listings website will help you gauge what skills you may need and help you to visualise a realistic roadmap to gaining those skills.

There are many free resources available online to help you acquire the skills you need to break into your first role in tech. I found Codecademy and freeCodeCamp to be extremely helpful during my learning journey and they have loads of resources and great online communities that I continue to utilise to this day. YouTube is also a fantastic place to start. There is an abundance of channels devoted to tech tutorials which are usually completely free. You will find hours and hours of material to dive into to help you advance your skills, create projects and develop your understanding in your chosen area.

For some, it’s possible to be completely self-taught and secure your first tech job. It means you can learn while continuing to work and study at your own pace. However, if you prefer a more structured approach and have the time and financial resources, there are many companies which offer part-time and full-time instructor-led tech bootcamps which usually last between 8 and 16 weeks. Either online or in person, you will be led through a series of projects and material and some companies even help you to find a job at the end of the process. These boot camps can be on the pricey side, but if you can afford it and prefer learning alongside others, it could be a suitable option. Make sure to do your research and read plenty of reviews before committing to taking part in any bootcamp. I searched for a course that would offer hands on and importantly, paid training, when I came across The Software Institute which ultimately helped me to secure my placement with a global software development agency, Splendid.

Once you feel you have developed a solid skillset in your chosen area, it’s time to look for your first role. This can be daunting as you may feel inexperienced or underqualified when you’re up against individuals with tech-related degrees, but many companies are willing to invest in fresh talent. The most important thing is to find a role where you will be supported throughout your continued learning journey. Something I realised very quickly is that it is impossible to know everything and no one is expecting you to. As long as you are willing to work to the best of your ability, listen to instructions and ask for help when you need it, you will be on your way to starting an exciting career in tech.

There are lots of resources online to help you prepare for interviews. For certain positions you will often be asked to complete a technical task, either during the interview or in your own time. It’s important to conduct some research about popular questions asked in interviews and make sure you have some projects you’re willing to chat about during the interview – employers will be interested to hear about your current skills and interests. Remember to be honest and open about your hopes for the future, and don’t forget to ask lots of questions!

In short, if you have identified an area of interest, outlined a realistic roadmap which meets your needs, and have the drive and patience to learn, it’s definitely possible to break into the tech industry. While there is a huge gender gap, there is also a huge opportunity. I encourage others to take a leap, try something different and have the confidence that a career in tech might just be the perfect place for them. After all, everyone has something valuable they can bring to a role in tech and companies are calling out for these skills.