women in tech, soft skills

Article by Fabio Forghieri, CEO and Founder, Boolean

It’s no secret we have a technology skills gap in the UK.

We are Europe’s biggest tech hub, with a large start-up ecosystems and over 100 tech unicorns, but demand for talent outstrips supply, with a recent Totaljobs survey reporting that 71% of technology employers expect to face at least a moderate skills shortage in the next 12 months.

A career as a software engineer is one that has great appeal. The demand for programming skills is on the rise as everything goes digital, and it’s a field that certainly offered more job security through the pandemic with the added benefit of flexible working options and competitive salaries.

Technology has traditionally been a male-dominated field, with a persistently low representation of women. Tech Nation’s recent survey found only 19% of people working in tech are women. On the flip-side, many employers are actively seeking to address this disproportionate representation by changing their hiring practices and engineering team environments to be more inclusive to women.

The challenge these employers face is that the traditional recruitment process relies on university graduates with computer science degrees. Not only are 80% of these graduates men, but also the three-year study period means current roles can’t be filled quickly. Any changes made today that positively impact course demographics won’t impact the hiring pool until at least 2024.

In a bid to resolve the current skills gap, employers are updating their new hire processes and considering candidates from other educational backgrounds, such as tech academies and bootcamps, creating a more accessible path for women wanting to pursue a career in software engineering.

Career switchers

This change in mindset from employers also provides a great opportunity for women looking to switch careers and reskill. University is rarely a realistic option due to the time and cost involved, whereas tech academies reduce the amount of time spent studying and are only a fraction of the price.

Those on a new career path require training that is more focused on career outcomes. Simply ‘learning to code’ isn’t enough.

There is increasing recognition that university degrees are not offering the necessary practical skills to prepare students for the life of a professional developer or keeping pace with changing industry demands.

Career switchers need a faster start. They require tailored training programmes that allow them to build and demonstrate practical, industry-ready skills to find a job.

Tech academies, like Boolean, provide a valuable service for students through hands-on training with experienced software engineering teachers with a heavy emphasis on learning by doing.

Before the pandemic, these ‘fast-track’ courses were perceived as a useful ‘first step’ towards a career in tech. However, the quality and relevance of this type of education is improving as demand for tech skills increases.

These courses now offer a very viable alternative to quickly transition into a new tech-focused career, and we’re seeing an influx of sign-ups from women wishing to move away from positions in marketing, retail and hospitality into more lucrative and flexible tech positions.

Choosing the right course

Not every tech academy is created equal. There are many options available and those serious about starting a career in tech need to find the appropriate course with the right curriculum and the right methods of teaching.

Career switchers should look for courses that teach a range of modern programming languages:

  • Javascript — the dominant language for writing full-stack web applications, and the most commonly used programming language on Stack Overflow’s developer survey for the 9th year running
  • js — allows students to create servers and APIs and build full-stack Javascript applications
  • React — currently the most widespread UI framework and highly sought after in the job market
  • Typescript — a technology growing in popularity that introduces students to statically-typed languages and the concept of types

It’s also important to choose a course that offers the right structure for you. For example, Boolean offers a six-month full-time course with live lessons and one-to-one support to accelerate the pace of learning.

Another consideration is location. Online learning offers students flexibility to fit education around their lives, yet it’s not as simple as running all your classes on Zoom. There needs to be a digital infrastructure that provides support to both students and teachers to create a positive and efficient learning environment.

Lastly, investigate whether a course provides careers support after graduation. Courses such as Boolean offer students six months of support after completing their course, to help graduates find their first job. If unsuccessful, graduates receive a full refund.

The pandemic has led to many women re-assessing their career and life choices, whether that be for opportunities to have a more fulfilling career, a greater sense of purpose in their job or flexibility for a work-life balance.

Few people have the luxury of retraining without some certainty of employment, but modern education methods are creating new, less risky options and, with closer links to industry, there has never been a better time to make that leap.