Listed as one of the UK’s Top 35 Most Influential Women in Tech 2017 by ComputerWeekly, one of the Belfast Business Top 50 2017, and a finalist in the Women in Business NI 2017’s Young Business Woman of the Year category, 26-year-old Sheree Atcheson (@nirushika) is a tech business consultant at Deloitte, founder of I Am Lanka, and UK expansion director at Women Who Code.

As well as her day-to-day life in the industry, Sheree is a tech outreach leader across the UK.

As a passionate advocate for gaining and retaining women in the tech industry, in 2013, she brought Women Who Code to the UK. Women Who Code is a global non-profit, working to eradicate the gender bias through free hack nights, tech talks and career trainings. The UK cohort (Belfast, London, Edinburgh and Bristol) has featured in several publications, such as HuffPost, Wired, ComputerWeekly, The Guardian, Marie Claire and many more.

The aim of Sheree’s career is to ensure people are aware of the fantastic opportunities the tech industry has to offer, and that
everyone – regardless of gender, race or social stature – is able to benefit from these and reach their full potential in their careers.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Currently listed as one of the most influential women in technology across the UK, I am a 27 year old, Tech business consultant at Deloitte and a board appointed global ambassador at the world’s largest non-profit dedicated to women excelling in technical careers, Women Who Code.

I have launched and led WWCode’s award-winning UK expansion since 2013, taking their UK membership from zero to over 8,000 members. I am a thought leader in the tech outreach space, speaking regularly at global conferences, pairing women with mentors, seeking jobs for minorities and showcasing the diverse nature of the tech industry to the next generation.

At Deloitte, I am the “middle-man” between clients and developers. As an ex-developer, I am able to easily traverse the technical space, whilst being able to discuss technical efforts in a non-technical way for clients. I have worked on several high-profile, public digital transformations, of which I am very proud of.

At WWCode, my role is now focused on showcasing the global diversity work of WWCode, empowering our current leaders and mentoring when required, creating and seeking new partnerships between tech companies and the non-profit.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Yes and no. I have always had a view that I would be in technology, however I never imagined I would have the responsibility or impact that I have had on the tech industry. I actively know I will do something else in technology that will shape my career and bring me to the next level – I’m still figuring out what that is, which is exciting to me.

I always say I never turn down opportunities, and it’s hard to plan for unexpected turns – which is fantastic and stressful all at once.

Have you faced any particular challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Of course. I began the WWCode UK outreach at 22 – a fresh Computer Science graduate. I certainly received friction from those who “didn’t get it”. Negativity is always offputting however, disruption never comes easy. I was here to make a difference, I persevered and here we are today, with several successful WWCode UK branches, many new connections being made and new leaders being empowered every day.

Dealing with it was a case of seeing the bigger picture – yes, some people won’t get it, however my goal is bigger than them and that attitude.

If you could change one thing for women in the workplace, what would it be?

That middle-management fully understand the benefit of having a diverse team. Middle-management have primarily the most contact with women in technology, with more women being in junior/mid-tier positions than senior. With that in mind, middle-management are crucial in any company’s diversity initiatives being successful. Having a more understanding middle-management workforce will directly affect inclusion of women in the workforce and ensure that we do not just hire diversity, but simply promote conformity.

How do you feel about mentoring? Have you mentored anyone or are you someone’s mentee?

I actively mentor/sponsor around 25 women and men. I am privileged to be in a position of leadership and now, it is my turn to pass it on. Mentoring is crucial in supporting people, providing growth opportunities and providing useful feedback on assignments.

I am mentored/sponsored with 3 people – 2 senior leaders within my business unit in Deloitte and one entrepreneur in the UK tech scene, Mary McKenna. These are the people I actively seek advice from – those who I bounce ideas off and expect an honest response, not just positive “pat on the back” feedback.

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Empowering many women to take the next step in their career – if a 22 year old, adopted from Sri Lanka and raised in rural Ireland can make a difference – so can they.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

I am going to do something in my career that is going to be a shift for me. I don’t know what it is yet, but it’s coming. My career will eventually focus much more on diversity and inclusion and I look forward to figuring out what that is. I do not like resting easy and I strive to be challenged every single day.