Nadia MahgereftehI’m very early on in my career journey having graduated from UCL with a degree in Computer Science in July 2020, during which I took a year out to work at IBM as a full stack developer.

Soon after graduating I joined Solidatus, also as a full stack software developer.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes, being brought up in an Iranian household, I was highly encouraged to pursue medicine or law. I had a very precise plan of going to medical school and becoming a plastic surgeon (I watched a lot of Extreme Makeover as child!) However, after spending a few summers doing placements in hospitals, it helped me decide that medicine wasn’t for me. Another passion of mine was technology so I spoke to an alumni student from my school who worked at Amazon, and he suggested I look into taking Computer Science as an A-Level. I hadn’t really heard of Computer Science, it wasn’t a subject offered at my school but after doing some research I decided to teach myself the A-Level. I also applied for a mentor and was matched with someone at IBM who introduced me to a number of software developers, and I just fell in love.

Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

Something that I did find particularly challenging was applying for software developer roles, I just never felt like I had enough experience. Even looking back at university, I would see that a few students had maybe 10 years more programming experience than I had, and I found that very intimidating. So when I was applying for roles I would often compare myself to them and didn’t feel confident in applying unless I checked off every technical skill required on the job spec. I spoke to my female friends and they all felt the same way, which was comforting as it meant I wasn’t alone in the matter. I read somewhere that women tend not to apply for roles unless they meet 100% of the job criteria, whereas men apply once they reach around 60%, so that was a huge learning point for me. I had to remind myself that I had worked hard and I did have the experience, sometimes more then I give myself credit for.

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

I completed a year in industry at IBM as a full stack developer during my time at university, and I’d say one of my key moments was giving a lunch & learn talk on ‘What does it mean to be an ally for women in technology?’ to IBM CIO London. Coming in as an intern it was extremely intimidating, but I’m passionate about the topic of women in tech, and it brought on some very exciting discussions and actions on how we could improve as a department.

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

To ask for help when I’m unsure!

What top tips would you give to an individual who is trying to excel in their career in technology?

Find yourself a mentor

Don’t be afraid to apply for jobs where you don’t meet 100% of the criteria

Never stop learning

Do you believe there are still barriers for success for women working in tech, if so, how can these barriers be overcome?

Absolutely! We already know how low the numbers are for women getting into tech in the first place, but what I think is particularly concerning is of those who do, 56% of them leave tech positions mid-career. A lot of these women are leaving due to having a poor work-life balance; they have less time for family and spend too much time travelling – something that should be improved by having the option to work from home.

What do you think companies can do to support and progress the careers of women working in technology?

Firstly, I would consider the level of gender diversity in the company and look at areas that may need improvement. Ask your team how they feel about the company culture and work environment, and how they personally feel things could be improved, and develop a strategy that could help women feel supported in the workplace. I would also look at any stereotypical behaviour within the team that needs to be addressed.

There is currently only 17 per cent of women working in tech, if you could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing you would do to accelerate the pace of change for women in the industry?

I would encourage more girls from an early age to get into tech, that in itself would guide more girls into studying tech-related subjects which would lead to more women choosing tech as their career paths.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

Apply for a mentor scheme – there are plenty you can find online. If you can be a mentor yourself to other women or girls then that’s fantastic, but if not, then finding yourself a mentor is a great idea to help advise and guide you on your career journey. They may, in turn, be able to open some doors by introducing you to their network.

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