woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Getting into tech

Article by Alexandra Morris, MD of national proptech firm, MakeUrMove 

woman coding on laptop, Code First GirlsAs managing director of national proptech firm, MakeUrMove, my biggest achievement in the tech world has been building a platform that delivered on its intention. 

I don’t come from a tech or business background, but I’ve always had a business and enterprise-focused mind. I grew up in a family business where my Mum was a serial entrepreneur and couldn’t turn down any opportunity. After school, I went into banking and then moved into conveyancing, before eventually joining a friend of mine on the journey to change the property sector using technology.

My journey in tech 

I started out as the first employee of MakeUrMove in 2008 as a customer service advisor. I then progressed to operations director and then managing director in June 2017. When I first started in the property industry, I spent most of my time astonished at the inefficiency of the services in the industry. There seemed to be an overwhelming amount of outdated and slow software which was clunky and built for the agent and didn’t have any thought or consideration for the end-users.

As managing director, it became my mission to improve the way we do things using technology without compromising on quality customer service. Ultimately, the core of my work is taking repetitive tasks and automating the service of building algorithms to enhance customer service. It took years for me to appreciate that I was in the world of ‘tech’, but the transition came naturally as I have a natural affinity to make processes easier for everyone.

With no prior knowledge or training in technology, I set my mind on understanding software and web development which has led us to where we are today - building award-winning solutions and delivering outstanding service for our customers.

One of the main challenges I faced getting into the industry was the ability to be taken seriously as a young woman in two industries (tech and property) which are both lacking in female leadership. I had to find ways to ensure my voice was heard on the board and within the market - it was tough and at times degrading but I know my worth and persevered to ensure my voice became heard.

Women in the tech industry 

There have been some changes over the last few years which indicate the tech industry is shifting from being male-dominated. There are more female founders and investors, and the knock-on effect is more women handling recruitment too. There are also plenty of female role models, who have carved out their own paths and are encouraging others to follow suit. It has never been about excluding women, but more about repositioning the way tech is seen and encouraging it as a career choice.

However, there are still barriers that women face when getting into tech. I think it starts with school. A framework needs to be created that ensures both girls and boys can learn and explore this career type, which would help create a smoother transition from GCSE, college and university into the workplace. Girls need to believe that tech is a good choice, fun, challenging, interesting, and last but not least, has endless opportunities for ongoing development.

How to get more women into tech 

Over the next few years, I hope to see a greater focus on attracting more women into the tech industry. The changes in education are a really important factor. Teaching has to be based on real-life career opportunities and application of the skills to the workplace. I’d like to see talks in schools delivered by women working in tech, or businesses centered on tech, to promote the whole range of careers available. Similarly, promoting these opportunities to working mothers and championing flexible roles in the industry.

Alongside this is a focus on reshaping the overall image of tech. Let’s showcase the variety of tech employees or leaders in the industry instead of the ‘dark room with headphones on for hours at a time’ misconception.

I’m dedicated to helping women who want to get into the world of business and tech through mentoring and working with an amazing network of super talented women promoting programmes focused on developing careers in tech for women.

In the last 12 months alone, I have worked with three different female founders at the startup stage, with my focus on communication and encouragement. I guide them through the pitfalls of pitching and encourage them to find the positive in constructive feedback, and not to dwell on feedback which can sometimes be disheartening. One of these founders had previously been told that they needed a male co-founder to be successful… you can guess my response to that!

I also work with students who are exploring entrepreneurial paths as part of their university courses and have helped with the Barclays Young Entrepreneur awards. There tends to be a significant drop-out between university and entering the tech industry, so my focus is on demonstrating to students that tech offers a rewarding career.

My advice for women looking to get into tech 

My advice for women who are looking to get into tech is to work out what interests you. In our digital world, tech is everywhere and spills over into pretty much every business or career. From building and managing IT systems, to software development, database management, project management, testing, design, chatbot and digital marketing.

There are also plenty of free online courses with the Open University, Future Learn or other universities that can help, but you don’t need to have a university degree or 10 year’s experience to be a part of the tech industry. All you need is an interest, focus and determination.

And when it comes to dealing with instances of inequality in the industry, don’t be put off. You have to believe you can do anything.

About the author

Alex MorrisAlexandra Morris is the managing director of national proptech firm, MakeUrMove.

Launched in 2008 as the UK’s first national online letting agency, MakeUrMove has worked with over 26,000 landlords and has dealt with more than 250,000 tenants. This award-winning and industry-defining Proptech firm provides a lettings platform and agency services for UK-based landlords, whilst helping tenants find good homes.

 


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PropTech Business

Growing a PropTech business in a male-dominated industry

 

family run business

Alexandra Morris, Managing Director of PropTech company MakeUrMove, comments on her experience of growing a business in a male-dominated industry.

I have worked in the industry for over 12 years, and was the first ever employee at MakeUrMove, having now been with the business for ten years.

I worked my way up the ranks from Customer Service Advisor to Operations Director and finally Managing Director in June 2017.

While competitors have struggled with the challenging housing market, MakeUrMove has thrived, with the company growing by 20 percent in the last 12 months, making it the fifth fastest growing letting agent in the UK.

Despite all that, there have been a number of challenges along the way. My experience has emphasised to me that it is definitely still a male-dominated world. Whether it’s being on the board as CTO or CEO, or the people who actually invest in business, there is a severe lack of women in the property and technology industry.

I have sat on boards as the only woman and have worked with senior teams in businesses that are dominated by men. When building my own team, I have taken a balanced view and I am proud to say that my senior team has a female majority… because they deserve to be there. I would love to see more equality reflected across businesses elsewhere too.

More also needs to be done to ensure the world of tech is more appealing and welcoming for women, particularly with research showing that women are more than twice as likely to quit the tech industry than men.

So why are women being deterred from the tech industry? It all comes down to the increasingly evident gender gap. From my own experience, I have had numerous instances where I have found myself not being taken as seriously as my male colleagues, despite the fact that I hold the most senior post as the managing director in a national PropTech company. This has arisen in all types of situations when seeking business partnerships and even when pitching to clients. It doesn’t seem to matter that I am offering significant savings and demonstrating a level of expertise that would be hard to beat.

Similarly, something which isn’t talked about as much in the media is ageism. For me, it’s not just been about being a woman, but I have also found my age has played a big part in how I am treated. As I became a managing director at 33 years old, and started out as the youngest member of the board, again, I wouldn’t be as treated as professionally as my colleagues.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my experiences and my number one bit of advice to any women who finds themselves battling to be heard is not to be intimidated to have the confidence that what you have to say holds as much value as the men in the room. You deserve to be there alongside other members, if you want equality you will have to speak up and take it.

Navigating the business world as a woman is no mean feat with sexism, and even ageism, still rife. However, this hasn’t held me back from leading MakeUrMove to where it is today.

The property and tech industries are ever changing and evolving markets. My strategy with the business has been focused on taking a considered approach and ensuring a gradual, rather than rapid, scale up. This has allowed us to monitor, improve and develop the platform and service to continually innovate and deliver for our clients and users.

As the business started out in a time of uncertainty in the heart of the recession, it was difficult to gain investment. I now see many heralded as being hugely successful simply for having secured funding. Businesses that spring up, secure huge investment on the back of big promises, often seem to fail not long after. To me, the measure of success is in the sustainability of a business and the benefit they bring to consumers. We’ve grown gradually over the years in a way that means we’re now well placed to thrive despite the market challenges.

About the author

Alexandra Morris is the managing director of MakeUrMove, an innovative technology platform, built to remove costs associated with the process of letting private rental properties.