Shari Fitz-PatrickTell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

I’m currently Scrum Master at ecomm marketplace Fruugo, with over 25 years’ experience in IT. My first job was actually as a Junior Typist, but I’ve always had an affinity for computers and software. I gained a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science back in 1995, starting my IT career in the US at Janssen Pharmaceutica as an IT helpdesk consultant, and most recently was a software delivery manager at Black Pepper Software. In between, I decided to be a stay-at-home mom, gained a Masters Degree in 2016, and even had a tea retail business.

I returned to the UK several years ago and as Scrum Master at Fruugo, I help our software and engineering team provide the customer with the greatest experience possible.  We have actively been looking at hiring more women and recently hired a female scrum master. I’m proud to be working for a company like Fruugo that puts so much value on building an equitable and supportive workplace.  We work together as teams and that is what makes us so successful – yet at the same time, can make it more difficult when it comes to recruiting and finding the right applicants.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career? Have you faced any career challenges along the way and how did you overcome these?

No, never!  When I left school I wanted to be an airline hostess.  However, back when I was 17 there were no laws about discriminating against people of a certain height and as I was only 5’2”, wasn’t able to work in that field so I had to rethink what to do. I decided to go to secretarial school and see where that might lead. Starting out at the very bottom and being told constantly you need more experience was disheartening; however, I knew that if you wanted to achieve something you had to work for it and it has helped me face adversity in my future career path. I talked my way through my first tech interview, was given a chanceand it took off from there!

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

Integrating back into the Corporate World after being out of it for over 12 years was a huge accomplishment.  Even though in those 12 years I had done consulting as well as real estate, it was a challenge to get hired. My degree from 1997 was deemed ‘too old’, so I went back to school to get my Masters in Project Management. I persevered, and when a friend passed my CV to the CTO of a large corporation, I had the opportunity to show that my experience and skills were still marketable.

I’m also incredibly passionate about my current role as scrum master at Fruugo, as only 30% of all scrum masters are women, and am excited about continuing to hire more women into the team.

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

My ability to persevere, and put in the hard work that will lead to you getting what you want.  I grew up as an athlete, which teaches you about not giving up, but also about being in tune with what you need and want – which is what is required for a woman to succeed in technology. I firmly believe it’s about perseverance and doing a job that you really enjoy.

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

Learn as much as you can and never feel that you are asking a stupid question. There are no stupid questions when it comes to technology. That’s how you learn. Also take the time to figure out what it is you like doing. If you really enjoy what you are doing, you will naturally want to learn more and that builds confidence. Confidence is what is required when you are a minority.

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

There are definitely barriers to success for women and other minorities in tech, however, the best way to overcome those barriers is to learn how to deal with them.  It can be very overwhelming when you are the minority but various skill sets taught to young women in school for example, that could prepare them for how to deal with entering the workforce.

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

In my long career in technology, I have unfortunately met more than a few men who believe that women should not work in this industry, especially engineering. The good news is, I’m seeing real change, with a huge drive to ensure women receive the same respect as men in the workplace. Companies need to recognize how difficult it is to work in an environment where there is a lack of respect. It can make you consider moving to another sector of the business world that feels more inclusive.

Furthermore, companies like Fruugo that allow working remotely and flexibly are able to provide careers for a wider range of people working in technology, for example those that would find rigid office work or a commute difficult to accommodate with their other commitments. While recruiting for technology and software development roles should be about the application of skill and intellect regardless of gender, companies that work hard to foster a positive, supportive working environment where each person can be an individual while contributing to the work of their team will attract and retrain more diverse talent as they progress through their careers.

There are currently only 21 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 start at the very beginning, in schools and high schools. Governments and companies can put incentives in place for girls who are looking at technology as a career, and invest in nurturing them to feel confident and comfortable in pursuing the areas of technology they are good at and enjoy.