Julia McMillan is a marketing manager for the EMEA region at UserTesting, the leading provider of on-demand human insights. Julia joined UserTesting in 2019 as Marketing Intern and has been promoted three times over the last three years. She has extensive experience in CX and UX, helping businesses to achieve user-friendly consistency and improve product utilisation to achieve a stronger emotional connection with the consumer.

Getting on, climbing and then dominating the ladder

The tech industry may appear vast and intimidating to enter, regardless of your chosen sector. Whether your interest lies in marketing for a mature tech company or being part of a tech startup, there are numerous pathways available. The tech sector is full of smart, enthusiastic, and inspiring women who are ready to offer their assistance, and you can be part of this community.

Where my career journey in tech began

I pursued an MA in Business and Psychology with a clear goal of working in the consumer insights sector. Consumer marketing sounded like a good fit for me, so in my third year I applied to the Entrepreneurial Scotland education programme. I secured an internship at McGraw-Hill Education as a strategies and insights analyst. This was my first experience entering into the tech world, working on their e-learning platform, user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) strategies.

My exposure to the industry made me decide that in order to break into tech, I needed to gain more versatility in my marketing experience. After gaining experience across several industries and marketing departments, this ultimately taught me that I loved the UX and CX space more. The hurdle here was that I didn’t know of any tech organisations focusing on CX in the UK – it was far more established in the US.

Getting my first role in the CX and UX tech industry

When I saw the UserTesting opportunity, it was a no-brainer. It was exactly what I wanted, UX, CX and marketing! I wanted to be part of the big splash UX and CX were making in the UK as the concept matured. So, I submitted my best application and interviewed with UserTesting knowing it was only an internship. I made my voice and experience known, as I wanted to make the best first impression possible.

I interned for three months, which then turned into four, and then they had a case for someone as junior as me to stay on the team as a full-time, permanent member of staff.

As a woman in tech, you MUST advocate for yourself! In this instance, I made a business case for why I needed to be kept-on to my manager. I showed every project or task that I added value to, I highlighted areas that needed support and how I could fill gaps and I pointed out things that wouldn’t have succeeded without my involvement. Thanks to this, I secured my first, official entry level position in the CX and UX tech industry.

Climbing the ladder in tech

Since beginning my role with UserTesting three years ago, I’ve been promoted three times. Once you’re in your tech role, it’s crucial you get as much involvement and experience as possible if you want to climb the ladder. Tech is so versatile and what people don’t realise is you need to focus on your soft skills, not just knowing all the mechanics of the tech space. Many people are passionate about tech because it is so fast moving and adaptive, so you need to work for what you want to make it.

Invest time in making connections – it’s important to use platforms such as LinkedIn and social networking platforms, not only to identify career role models, but also to ensure you’re creating your own personal, professional profile. This is especially helpful for securing exposure for promotions or new job roles.

A top tip that I was told at the start of my career is to always look at the bigger picture, break it down to understand the basics and then build it up from there. If you get a solid understanding of the company goals, you can identify gaps in the workforce where you can make yourself useful and thus valuable. This’ll help you to create a business case for your progress and why you deserve THAT promotion.

Make sure you set up time with people in different departments too. This helps build an internal support system. It’s your job to build the foundation blocks for what you would like to achieve in the long-run, so having a global support network within your company is only going to open up more opportunities. It’ll show that you’re well-versed in the processes in different departments.

Need an expert? BECOME an expert

For any areas you spot that are missing an expert, make yourself the expert! I trained myself on internal systems and processes so that I could fill that gap for my regional team and support training others.

When it comes to actually fighting for pay rises and promotions, always make your presence known. It’s crucial you advocate for yourself, but also natural to be intimidated at the thought of doing this. A great way to make a solid case for yourself is to keep track of everything you’ve done and everything you’ve bought value to. Drop this to your manager during catch ups and be frank about the part you have played in the project. “I’ve accomplished this over the last year”, “I’ve brought this value to the team over the last three months”, it’s really helpful to show your quarterly progression.

Ultimately, you need to know your own value in order to be your own advocate – know that you’re valued and make sure others know too – be able to portray it in a confident but not demanding way, and show the business why they need YOU.

If you are interested in how to build a positive mindset, why not join us at One Tech World, our global virtual conference on 27 April.  Our keynote speaker Pinky Ghadial will be sharing her top tips on imposter syndrome and how to dispel your inner critic.

Pinky Ghadiali

Unmask your inner critic and create your killer mindset

Pinky says: Sometimes the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’ can creep in and it’s knowing how to manage the negative inner voice when it pipes up. Unmask the negative inner critic and the old stories that limit you. Feel more confident, make better decisions and be more motivated. You will have the foundation and strategy in place to unlock your true potential and get the results you want.