School of Code Bootcamp

Applications are now open for the School of Code’s FREE Skills Bootcamp in Software Development!

School of Code Bootcamp

The School of Code are giving people interested in learning full-stack web development the opportunity to apply for a FREE intensive online coding course.

The School of Code Bootcamp is a free, 16 week, online intensive web development course open to applicants of all backgrounds. The School of Code is on a mission to help give everyone a route into technology, and teach them the skills they need to leap into the industry.

Who can apply?

Anyone over 19 years old, living in England can apply. No qualifications or previous experience required. You don’t even need to have seen a line of code before! All you need is the desire to learn and a love of problem solving.

What will I learn?

By the end of the course, you will be specialised in full-stack JavaScript development. You will be fully trained in the industry best practices and standards and have learned the fundamentals of programming and how to work in a high performance tech team.

Will they help me get a job?

The School of Code will help you to get a foothold in the tech industry as not only is the course free, but they are also committed to helping place you into jobs – they bring the companies to you!

On top of creating software to solve real-world problems, you’ll receive training to be confident and job-ready.

Apply now!

The course is full-time, Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm, for 16 weeks.

APPLY HERE

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Act to Code Change: How coding can help remove barriers for women in tech

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Article by Mary Connaughton, Code Institute

A little less conversation a little more action is clearly needed when it comes to women in tech. For the past decade we’ve had more platitudes than progress – 11% of UK software developers are female – zero change.

Long-term, the economic and professional impact of this on women’s livelihoods will be disproportionately negative given the acceleration in digitisation and the hardening link between marketable tech skills, earning potential and job security.

When leaders talk about gender balance in tech, they often speak about it in a very broad sense, early intervention at primary and secondary school,  mentorships and resource groups at an industry level. Too often the focus is simply on discussing the benefits of having more women in the tech space rather than considering why this aspiration is not being realised.

Currently, 9% ( 3 million people) of the UK workforce are employed in the tech sector,  yet only 26% of these are women and  at 11% the percentage in coding or developer roles is less than half that. As the sector rapidly expands,  the gender gap is widening as fewer female graduates emerge and those that do continue to leave the sector in greater numbers. There are long standing, fundamental  barriers that need to be addressed if anything is to chage.

A practical, hands-on approach

A cohesive approach involving education, industry and learners themselves is needed, particularly to inform policy and to  create more opportunities for women who are already in the workforce or returning to the workforce.  It’s not realistic to go back to college for three or four years to get these skills – the barriers remain the same.

To that end, Code Institute hopes its Coding Careers for Women initiative provides a faster,  more practical solution. The first cohort was run 2021/22 as  a joint initiative between Code Institute, Limerick and Clare Education Board, the Mid-West Regional Skills Forum and Limerick For IT representing local industry.

Twenty women who were unemployed or out of the workplace from the Limerick and Clare region participated in the initiative that included a nine-month diploma in software development and a three-month work placement. The online, flexible delivery of the  programme bypasses many of the barriers women can face particularly the ability to travel and attend classroom based training around other commitments; the all-female cohort is less intimidating for participants; while the opportunity to use skills in a workplace setting while being mentored is a game changer for those changing careers into the tech sector.

The tech companies who backed the initiative committed to providing worplacements, many of which led to full-time jobs. A progressive alternative to traditional graduate recruitment and one which these companies see real value in according to John Cormican, General Manager, Vehicle Engineering, Jaguar Land Rover, Shannon, “This is a fantastic way to give back and, personally, learn different aspects of mentoring. The project is a huge learning curve for the mentees and really helps build their confidence after such a lengthy career break – as it can sometimes be quite challenging to go back into the workplace.”

Why an all-women cohort matters

The course is made up of an all-women cohort, which facilitator Kasia Bogucka said is important for creating a safe, supportive environment.

“Women often feel intimidated by the competitiveness, sometimes aggressive approach of some males in this industry, hence they may feel inadequate,” she said.

“This feeling is not aligned with these women’s abilities. My first female cohort I worked with was a group of women who immediately came together and created a safe learning environment. One without arrogance and so-called chest-thumping, which often may be observed in male groups.”

Bogucka added that members of the group bonded as teammates. “Students became colleagues and almost friends as they were all working as a whole team – a team of women in coding.”

Siobhan Gorman is a graduate of the Coding Careers For Women initiative, having joined after she had taken a career break to raise her family.

“If the course hadn’t mentioned targeting women I would not have considered it – I liked the idea that the course would address the particular constraints facing women who want a career in tech,” she said.

“With an all-female cohort, we understood where we were all coming from with respect to the particular demands and constraints on women, especially after taking a career break or juggling looking after children and working. Women are very supportive and we formed a tight-knit team who shared problems and found solutions together.”

Gorman’s placement is  with Jaguar Land Rover, R&D Software Engineering Centre in Shannon, Co Clare, which is helping build her skills every day and where she is mentored.

“My ambition is to work in a company like Jaguar Land Rover in a team as a junior developer with a view to becoming a scrum master possibly after some more experience in an agile team.”

We know what the barriers to women in tech are, we’ve talked about them long enough. Actual change requires actual action by a network of allies with the will and determination to create the opportunities for women to succeed. As Coding Careers for Women shows, it can be done.

About the author

Mary Connaughton works with Code Insitute on tech sector education initiatives with strong employment outcomes. These include initiatives to tackle gender imbalance in the tech sector and tech skills programmes for unemployed people and those whose jobs are at risk. These involve bringing together stakeholders from government bodies, digital skills partnerships and employers to identify the skills needs of a region and deliver a response that meets those needs in an accelerated timeframe.

If you’re interested in moving the dial on women in tech and would like to discuss partnering on a Coding Careers for Women cohort please contact [email protected]


Five reasons to become a coder in your 30s

Wild Code School_remote learning, woman learning to code

The opportunities and benefits within the tech industry have long been a draw to job seekers.

Indeed, the ONS reported in 2019 that the tech industry had amongst the highest number of job vacancies, increasing salaries and attractive flexible working benefits. And as a largely digitised industry it is no surprise that it has fared relatively well in lockdown with a high proportion of employees able to work from home.

But if you ever thought coding was a young person’s game and not for you, think again. Coding attracts recruits from far outside traditional STEM-based careers and education. In fact, students from Wild Code School, a web development and coding school, are upskilling and career changing from diverse backgrounds that range from dance and textile design to chemical engineering, gaming and communications.

And it’s not just school leavers or people early in their careers – in fact it’s people in their 30s who are leading the charge.

Anna Stepanoff, CEO and Founder of Wild Code School, explains the five reasons people in their 30s are turning to coding:

  • It’s not rocket science – there is an increasing awareness that you don’t have to be a Matrix-inspired hyper-brain to work in tech, and as 30-somethings have inevitably come into contact with the digital world in their existing careers – they’re wanting to get involved and understand how it works.
  • Coding is creative – while the initial draw might be the competitive salaries, we find what keeps people interested is the realisation that coding is a highly-creative industry that allows a person to problem solve and bring their own ideas to fruition.
  • Autonomy and Flexibility – people in their 30s who no longer want to work for someone else are realising that the tech industry provides options to go freelance, to choose their own clients and the flexibility to work from where they want.
  • Being a part of what happens next – from the way we consume music and media, eat out, work from home, communicate and stay fit, the tech industry is changing the way we live, and touches all aspects of our lives. Being a part of that is exciting.
  • In-demand skills – there is a widely-discussed skills gap in the tech industry, and we work with employers to understand what they are looking for and how to ensure training is commercially relevant. They are skills sought by a diverse range of companies and will become increasingly important.

“It’s a myth that if you didn’t get into coding at school, then it’s already too late,” Anna says. “If you’ve got the creativity and the drive, then we’ve got the school to help you realise your ambition.”

During the month of August 2020, anyone curious about tech, passionate about learning or considering a new professional career can register to Wild Code Summer School. Week after week, it is offering a month-long programme dedicated to discovering the tech world.


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


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Why National Coding Week is for the women

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In today’s digital age, coding is becoming less of a rare skill, and more of a basic literary skill. If you think about it, without code, there is no software, and without software, there are no computers. 

But as with seemingly every STEM subject and industry, there is an underwhelming percentage of women making up the amount of coders out there. This is surprising considering the first coder in the early 20th century was a woman! Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper and Annie Easley are just three examples of great women who knew how to code.

So why is there still such a tiresome gender gap? WeAreTechWomen spoke to five women in STEM – all at different stages of their careers – to hear their thoughts, reasonings and advice as to why coding isn’t just for the boys.

Starting at school

Sam Humphries HeadshotAs Sam Humphries, Security Strategist at Exabeam explains, “The technology industry has transformed considerably over the last few years, and with it brings the emergence of a new standard of employee: modern-day technologists who must possess creativity, innovation, and be talented technical problem solvers. Coders encompass these skills, responsible for both constructing complex solutions from scratch, and navigating any obstacles that come their way. Their unique skillset means employees with coding abilities are now integral personnel in the modern workforce.”

Being able to code is a skill that will only heighten in value. As Humphries goes on to confirm, “access to digital skills is a crucial enabler of digital transformation, fuelling increased demand for people with the skills to manage evolving technologies such as AI and cloud. However, despite digital skills becoming ever more important in today’s economy, according to the CBI, two thirds of businesses already have unfilled digital skills vacancies and 58 per cent say they’ll need significantly more digital skills in the next five years.

“National Coding Week serves as a great way to promote the importance of coding skills for our current and emerging business landscape. It also contributes a fun solution to help encourage young people, especially young women, to pursue a career in technology. Women represent a small percentage of the technology workforce, which makes looking for skills in an all-but untapped female talent pool an obvious solution. By encouraging women and girls with the possibilities of an education and career in technology, we can help address the skills shortage by introducing new perspectives and problem-solving skills to the industry.”

Building a career

Hannah AlexanderThe ability to code is a skill that is beneficial in many different organisations, and can open many different doors. Hannah Alexander, Graduate Data Scientist at Mango Solutions shares her reasons for choosing data science as her first role after university: “Data science is such a rapidly developing field that it is easy to feel at the forefront of innovation. It is applicable in a vast variety of areas, so there is always something exciting developing and to contribute towards.

“Code underpins our everyday lives, from taking the train to work to flicking through Instagram,” Alexander continues. “However, very few people understand how this works. By learning how to code, you get a better understanding of the modern world! Code can be applied to any workplace. Menial tasks can be automated, tasks can be undertaken more efficiently, and you can become a more valuable member of the workforce.

“Unfortunately, I think there is a misconception amongst the younger generation that working with code or in STEM is dull, when in reality it’s anything but. The boring office worker stereotype should be broken by showcasing the exciting opportunities these jobs can provide, such as travel, global events and the opportunity to work with people from a wide variety of backgrounds.”

Isabel HutchingsThis idea around STEM being dull for girls is something that Isabel Hutchings, Applications Engineer at Content Guru agrees with. Hutchings explains:

“As a woman working in a technical role, National Coding Week is a time for myself and probably many of my fellow female colleagues to reflect on the lack of women in the industry. It’s an issue as obvious in 2020 as it has been for many years and one that shows no signs of changing soon. Indeed, recent A-level and GCSE results showed a continued gender divide in students taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects. Today’s students are the foundation of tomorrow’s workforce and when it comes to encouraging girls into careers in coding and other technical job roles, the gender divide in most of these key subjects is still a telling reflection of a grass-roots issue we need to solve.

“Being an engineering graduate and now working as an applications engineer, I know first-hand how hard it can be for girls to make the decision to pursue a career in things like coding and engineering. The education system as a whole needs to do more to build not only awareness and knowledge about what coding can be as a career – but passion in the subjects more generally. Young girls are at a particularly impressionable age at school, with relatively fluid perceptions of what they want to do in the future, so it’s important to capture students’ imaginations. Unfortunately, we’re not yet getting this right. Until we expand the perception of coding in young people – particularly girls – and unlock the hidden passion in students to pursue the many opportunities this area offers, we can expect to see the same stark statistics year after year.”

Elizabeth BrownElizabeth Brown, Professional Placement Student, Data Science at Mango Solutions, is someone who is currently making this decision. Brown explains: “I chose to do a work placement with Mango because in a world where data is abundant, it is vital that we stay data driven - and data science allows us to do this. I ultimately wanted a job in coding as I really enjoy it! Coding is an important skill to learn as we are constantly surrounded by computers and what they produce, and so being able to write code is a great advantage. The idea of coding and where to start with it can be daunting sometimes and so making it easier and more comfortable for people to start learning to code would help encourage the younger generation into it."

It’s never too late to learn to code

Although encouraging the younger generation into choosing STEM at schools is a great way to help close the gender gap, you don’t have to be a teenager to be able to begin to learn to code. Essentially, learning to code is learning a new skill – something you’re never too old to do!

Svenja de Vos LeasewebSvenja de Vos, CTO at Leaseweb Global explains that, “Coding is and will remain a skill for everyone to learn, it’s not just for the male part of our population. In fact, Ada Lovelace is still remembered today as the world’s first computer programmer. When it comes to coding and programming, technical accuracy and creativity marry well together. Coders support organisations across various industries from healthcare and manufacturing to cybersecurity. With a notable rise in cyber attacks, exacerbated by the global pandemic, the latter is absolutely vital. Those able to analyse their company’s IT infrastructure for potential vulnerabilities due to their skillset, will be in high demand.”

De Vos rounds things off nicely by additionally sharing the following advice: “National Coding Week is an opportunity to shine a light on how important, and how much fun, it is to learn to code and take an interest in technology as the world around us constantly evolves. With various coding platforms and language courses available for both younger and older learners, you can start learning to code at any age.

“With the digital skills gap growing, it’s crucial that schools and universities support their students in learning to code to help widen future pools of developers."


WeAreTechWomen covers the latest female centric news stories from around the world, focusing on women in technology, careers and current affairs. You can find all the latest gender news here.

Don’t forget, you can also follow us via our social media channels for the latest up-to-date gender news. Click to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.


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National Coding Week 2021 | Bringing women into tech and closing the digital skills gap

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With the swift technological changes we are experiencing today,  there has never been a better time to invest in the digital skills of both children and adults.

This National Coding Week provides the perfect opportunity to draw attention to the importance of developing coding as a skill set and to consider what more we can be doing to actively encourage the younger generation, especially young girls, to engage with coding and STEM.

Svenja de Vos, LeasewebSvenja de Vos, CTO, Leaseweb Global elaborates, “every year National Coding Week provides an opportunity for tech companies to do more to showcase the benefits of a career in software development. You’re never too young or too old to code, and it is important to widen future pools of developers in order to help close the tech skills gap.

“The world needs talented coders and software professionals now more than ever. Especially in the last year and a half, coding has become essential to daily life by allowing organizations to continue business operations in the face of the pandemic. Every single day, software developers come up with innovative apps that are helping to revolutionize a variety of industries. Dedicating a full week to promoting coding will hopefully influence many to further develop their skill”.

The digital skills gap 

One of the pressing reasons to encourage more people to widen their technical skills is the widening digital skills gap facing the UK. In fact, “less than half of UK employers believe new entrants to the workforce have the digital-skills required”, explains Ian Rawlings, Regional VP at SumTotal Systems. He continues, “this needs to change if the UK is to plug the existing skills gap and become a leader in technology. From mandatory coding teaching in schools, to initiatives such as Code First and the Institute of Coding, there are so many ways to develop digital skills early on and show candidates all the benefits that coding has to offer.

“Building and developing digital skills within the current workforce will also be key as the pandemic continues to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. This National Coding Week, with coding fluency growing in both value and necessity, lifelong learning remains integral in future-proofing the workforce and closing the skills gap”.

Simon Gould, Chief Product Officer, Totalmobile shares this sentiment, pointing out that “it’s important to reflect on how we can encourage both experienced employees and the younger generation to broaden their skillsets, simultaneously enhancing their own employability and closing the digital skills gap. It’s an area that resonates strongly given the interesting and varied career that has evolved since that first development role.

“Organisations, in particular, should consider what they can do to encourage the whole spectrum of gender, ethnicity and social demographic backgrounds. Many businesses can set examples by engaging in initiatives in schools and places of work to show a wide range of students what a career in tech could look like, such as Women Who Code, which a number of our staff are passionately involved in. Getting female developers, engineers and senior leaders to talk to young women and girls about their jobs and highlighting that tech can be exciting and engaging is hugely powerful. It’s an approach I see first-hand, with my daughter studying computer science at GCSE. That small acorn that grows into a passion”.

Bringing women into the tech world 

In spite of the concern surrounding the digital skills gap, there is much to be optimistic about for the future of tech. In particular, as Gould highlighted, there are many organisations placing a much-needed emphasis on inspiring young women to get involved in coding and other digital skills.

Debra Danielson_, Digital Guardian“Currently, only 14% of programmers and software developers in the UK are women, a daunting statistic that must change if we are to move forward as an industry”, Debra Danielson, CTO and SVP Engineering at Digital Guardian notes.

“Increased mentorship is one way forward for diversity. As a woman working in technology, I can say that, outside of my own dogged stubbornness, my opportunities have stemmed from having a single person willing to advocate for me. That helped me break through some of the lazy stereotypes about women in STEM… being perceived to be less technical, less mathematical than men. Our allies, supporters and advocates can help open the door, and we need vocal colleagues and managers willing to give women chances and support us on our journeys.

“Recognising the dearth of diversity in the industry, I’m passionate about increasing the participation and impact of both women and underrepresented communities in technology. I volunteer at many levels, from Tech Girls Rock (secondary school girls learning to code) to coaching and mentoring tech founders on how to access capital. We must create more space for women within the industry. National Coding Week is the perfect opportunity for leaders to connect with their teams and help women boost their skills and advance their careers.”

Angela Garland_Content GuruAngela Garland, Escalations Engineer at Content Guru, seconds this statement, “science has always made sense to me – I like the certainty of it – and I knew that’s what I wanted to do from an early age. I was raised in an engineering household and lucky enough to go to a school that encouraged girls to take GCSE and A-Level science – but then again, it was an all-girls school! We had plenty of female science teachers and role models supporting us. Sadly, I don’t think this is typical of the education system. By the time I reached university, our mechanical engineering bachelors was just 10% female. This has to change.

“We need to do much more to encourage young girls with a passion for science, coding and technology to study STEM courses – both at younger school ages and further on into higher education – and to pursue careers in these exciting and rewarding fields. The stark gender divide means it’s often challenging for women working as engineers – from application engineers to mechanical engineers and cybersecurity engineers, women are almost always in the minority.

“My advice to women embarking on a career in technology is to keep pushing and challenging at every opportunity. The most important thing is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, speak up in large groups of men and put your ideas out there. Find an organisation that puts everyone – regardless of gender – on an equal playing field and pushes you into a role where you challenge yourself and those around you”.

National Coding Week is vitally important for anyone working in or around the tech scene. Not only does it open the conversation about topics such as the digital skills gap, or women in tech, but coding is such an essential skill in today’s age it is always a good idea to reiterate its importance.

Jeff KeyesJeff Keyes, VP of Product Marketing and Strategy, Plutora concludes, “Written code has become the foundation of every organisation, no matter the size, in a rapidly and constantly changing software landscape. A skilled team of coders is imperative to not only building that foundation, but also to put businesses in the best possible position to thrive. Coding has become much more than just the developer language of tech. It’s the language of business and in turn, the language of success.”


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National Coding Week 2021 | Opening up digital skills for all

female coder, coding, National Coding Week

Monday 13th September marks the beginning of this year’s National Coding Week.

This week provides us with the perfect opportunity to reflect on the importance of digital skills and how coding can offer up a world of career opportunities for people from all backgrounds. It’s never been more important – according to latest research from World Skills UK, 76% of businesses think that a lack of digital skills will damage their bottom lines, while 88% of young people understand that they will be essential for their careers.  

But while this years’ A-Level results saw a record number of students taking up Computer Science, the subject is still far more popular with boys than girls, suggesting the technology industry has more to do to open up routes for all.  

We talked to some of the industry’s leading experts and asked them to share their thoughts:  

Firstly, coding is a valuable skill  

Kara SpragueCoding is still a highly sought-after skill in the tech industry. According to Kara Sprague, EVP and GM of BIG-IP at F5, “the influence of coding continues to disrupt and transform all industries.”  

And while new innovations will also impact how developers work in future, this will not diminish the importance of digital skills and ability to code. 

Sean FarringtonAs Sean Farrington, EVP EMEA, Pluralsight comments, “despite the rise of low and no-code application development in recent years, coding skills remain critical for businesses…”

“Even legacy languages which may be deemed out of date by many are still useful to learn.”  

James McLeod FaethmJames McLeod, VP EMEA at Faethm adds, “AI won’t ever become a direct replacement for coders – after all, we’ll still need programmers to write the very programmes that will then write code! That said, businesses should recognise where it can streamline their operations, and look to proactively transition coders and programmers into roles where human elements will be needed in the future. Coding might be changing, but through targeted skills development there’ll still be plenty of opportunities for coders in future.”  

Andrea Nagel TanzuInterestingly, the importance of digital skills goes beyond the most technical roles too. Andrea Nagel, Manager, Application Services at VMware Tanzu highlights, “There are many varied roles in tech these days that don’t require coding skills. However, gaining an exposure to coding, even at a basic or foundational level, is really useful for anyone working in software or product, even if you’re not directly coding yourself.”  

For those just starting out, Jane Saunders, Head of Model Pipeline Engineering at Secondmind advises, “My advice for anyone looking to get into coding is to just give it a go. Start with a toy problem, and then quickly move onto a personal project, giving yourself plenty of small goals along the way. Remember with coding you’re mostly talking to your future self or others who will be reading your code, rather than the computers who are executing it.”  

But there’s a talent shortage when it comes to digital skills  

Ursula MorgensternHowever, the continued demand for digital skills reflects an ongoing talent shortage in the sector too. Ursula Morgenstern, President, Global Growth Markets at Cognizant, is an advocate for tackling this, commenting, “as businesses accelerate recruitment to drive growth in the wake of the pandemic, a war for talent has arisen, with skilled individuals highly sought after but with far too few qualified personnel to fill the vacancies. You need only Google ‘software engineer’ or ‘developer’ to see thousands of roles available and unfilled in the UK. 

“This talent shortage will continue to create challenges for organisations, but also opportunities to think differently about how they manage, recruit and retain staff. Coding is the crucial baseline for many of these jobs, which should in theory broaden talent pools given its accessibility.” 

David Huntley DistributedDavid Huntley, Technical Lead at Distributed points to the rise in freelance developers who could be vital in filling this gap. “Alternatively, many developers are turning to freelance work to learn new skills, given the range of projects this working model gives them access to and the opportunity to work with other professionals in the space to cross-pollinate expertise. Another major advantage of this flexible approach to developer work is that individuals can more easily find projects that fit their current skillset, meaning they have access to well-paid work while learning on the job.” 

Could improving diversity in coding help solve the skills deficiency?  

The industry talent gap also reflects a need to open up the industry to people from diverse backgrounds too – and particularly women and young people.  

Geoff SmithGeoff Smith, CEO at emerging talent management consultancy Grayce comments, “Worryingly, figures show that just 26% of UK graduates with core STEM degrees are female. This has been a huge motivation for us to fund two women to enrol on Code Nation’s 12-week Coding Bootcamp this year in our bid to inspire more females to join the industry. It’s so important that we continue to improve diversity in tech and encouraging more people to build on their skills sets and learn to code is a huge part of this – these individuals have limitless potential to add masses of value to the UK workforce.” 

F5’s Kara Sprague also adds, “It is vital that everyone is given the opportunity to learn coding. To secure a more equitable future, we must nurture a diverse pipeline of talent that can build and excel within technology organisations. I am increasingly encouraged by how some countries have adopted requirements in their core curriculums for kids to learn coding. This bodes well for their technology sectors and job-creation abilities moving forward. Outside of formal curriculum requirements, there is also a lot of work taking place across the technology industry and non-profit sector to upskill young people, with a focus on under-represented groups.” 

Ursula MorgensternCognizant’s Ursula Morgenstern concludes, “If underserved communities are provided with the right digital and coding training from businesses, their economic mobility and wider educational opportunities in turn could significantly increase. As such, this is where businesses should be looking to invest a large proportion of their recruiting budget – looking at the long game and recognising the need and opportunity to broaden and deepen the talent pool.”  


Women in Coding

A career in coding | Catherine Bowden

 

woman coding, code

I actually fell into coding by accident, as it happens.

At school, I was always strongest in maths and science. I quickly realised that I wanted a career in something technical, so when it came to choosing my degree, I applied to study Bioengineering at Imperial College London. Excitingly I was accepted, and off I went.

Bioengineering is as broad a subject as they come, and it was only by doing a bit of compulsory coding in one module that I completely fell in love with it. My remaining years at university were increasingly occupied by coding and by the time I graduated in 2017, it seemed a natural fit to apply to Luminance. I stumbled across the company by chance, knowing only that they were a fast-growing artificial intelligence platform for the legal sector. Intrigued to see where I could slot in at such an innovative scale-up, I applied for a role on the tech team, based at the company’s headquarters in Cambridge.

Cambridge was the birthplace of Luminance, where the technology was developed by mathematicians from the university. The city is a fast-growing hub for innovation and this feeds into the appeal of working there. Another hugely attractive aspect is the team. Being the first female coder has never set me apart in any way from my team mates. Luminance has a merit-based culture; we are assessed on our ability, creativity and persistence, all skills vital to succeeding in a technical role where things are often complex and require the ability to come up with cutting-edge solutions which set our technology apart.

The company is growing so fast that things are always changing. I enjoy the challenge of thinking up new ways to adapt the technology and keep it both innovative and reactive to wider industry challenges. The tech itself has also come a long way in its capabilities since I joined just over a year ago, and knowing that I have been an instrumental part of that journey is hugely motivating. We’re reaching a pivotal point in the company’s trajectory, with the technology now deployed in 40 countries across six continents after launching just two years ago. To be a coder in a company at the forefront of UK tech, with thousands of lawyers using the technology on a daily basis, is an incredibly exciting position to be in. I am very much looking forward to seeing what the next year has in store for Luminance, and to being able to play a lead role in contributing to this development at such a young age!

If I’m to share any parting advice with any fellow young girls wanting to go into coding, it’s to not be put off by the idea of being the only girl, or by the fact that it is a typically male-dominated field. I came up against all sorts of confused and outright discouraging responses throughout university when I told teachers and peers what I planned to do with my career. 14 months down the line at Luminance, I can safely say that my gender has not held me back in any way! Be tenacious, hard-working and daring and you will be well-equipped to tackle anything, whether in the field of technology or beyond.

About the author

Catherine Bowden is a Cambridge-based software developer now working at Luminance, the leading AI platform for the legal profession. With a keen interest in machine learning and natural language processing, Catherine has been instrumental in advancing the sophisticated pattern-recognition algorithms at Luminance’s core, as well as developing new algorithms for one of the company’s latest products, Luminance Corporate. Having graduated from Imperial College London with a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, Catherine pursued a career in coding due to the creative nature of the profession and its ability to ‘constantly provide new problems to solve’.


Computer-Programmer

You don't ask, you don't get | Why coding isn't just 'business for boys'

By Melissa McKendry, Vice President, Implementation Services for Retail Banking and Fraud,  ACI Worldwide

I have been working in IT for over 20 years and to be honest, until a few years ago, the issue of gender has never been at the forefront of my mind.

Dealing with complex IT issues for our banking and merchant clients has always been ‘business for the boys’ and I am used to being one of a small handful of women in male-dominated teams. I have hardly encountered any biases in what was and in many ways still is a male dominated industry but I think playing football helped with integrating in with a largely male population!

However, in recent years I have become more aware of the lack of women in our industry, especially since becoming site leader of our European head office in Watford. The payments and fintech industry is growing globally and offers fantastic career opportunities for young men and women. In years to come the industry will need many more skilled software engineers, computer programmers and data scientists.

However, historically, society has put more emphasis on boys when it comes to math and science subjects. Figures show that in 2017 less than 30 percent of computer scientists were women and that the percentage is on the decline. There is a societal mindset that needs to be changed for a significant impact to take place. Along with educating young girls about professions in STEM, our society and the parents of young girls need to be educated on the importance of including women in such professions.

That’s why a few years ago, ACI launched its Coding for Girls Initiative. The free, one-day camps offer crash courses in computer programming, including HTML, CSS and Java and are designed to introduce girls from year 7 to 9 to the world of technology and careers in high-tech professions. We have run such camps at various of our US sites, and this year we launched the initiative in the UK.

Unconscious Bias is often the point where challenges start

That said, there are fundamental differences between men and women and the way we operate in the workplace. I have found that when applying for a job, men are more inclined to raise the topic of compensation than women.  Men tend to promote themselves more broadly across job skills while women are often more critical of their skills and abilities.

Unconscious bias is often the point where challenges start, but as society changes and is becoming more aware of such biases, as we debate these issues more honestly and openly, these bias barriers will shift and hopefully cease to exist.

Lessons learnt

Some of the main lessons I have learnt during my career and the advice I would like to give others, just starting out include:

  • You don’t ask you don’t get.
  • You can learn a lot of working with men and women, we are very all different individuals so take the time to observe, learn and progress.
  • Keep in contact with colleagues and other people you meet along the way, networking is one of your biggest assets as a human.
  • Treat people as you like to be treated.
  • Be honest with yourself in what you want out of your role and career.
  • Tell people what you are aiming for and this will bring the opportunities.  The only role I have applied for within ACI is the role I took when first started at ACI in 1997, since then opportunities have been presented to me by making my aspirations known or asking for an opportunity.
  • Ensure you have solid work/life balance, it is tough but critical to your happiness

Diversity is crucial in today’s economy

Promoting equal opportunity, diversity and inclusiveness have been on top of my agenda, especially since becoming site leader at our Watford office. At ACI, women sit on our Board of Directors and Executive Leadership Team and hold senior roles across the organization, whether as software engineers, sales executives or product developers. We actively promote dialogue about issues such as gender diversity and inclusion, and we provide mentorship and sponsorship to help women with their career progression. I truly believe that diversity and inclusiveness are not just buzzwords but are crucial to the success of our company.

About the author

Melissa Mckendry is vice president of retail banking implementation services at ACI, having held numerous different roles within the organisation over the past 20 years. One of Melissa’s most notable contributions to ACI, beyond leading implementation services, is being an advocate for diversity and inclusiveness. Melissa has been vocal in addressing these issues and was instrumental in bringing ACI’s Coding for Girls Camp to the UK.


Women in Coding

From science technician to coder: how to completely change your career

Women in Coding

According to new research by professional training providers Learning People, IT and coding is now the most popular second career choice for those currently working in declining industries.

Meanwhile, the job prospects are great, with UK employment agency Reed reporting an eight per cent year-on-year rise in IT vacancies so far in 2019, contributing to a 35 per cent rise in technology vacancies since 2016. Yet only 17 per cent of all UK specialist tech jobs are held by women.

28-year-old Charlotte Skinner is a part of that 17 per cent. 18 months ago, she broke into the tech world, moving from a role as a science technician to a career in coding. As the first female developer in her current team, Charlotte is keen to encourage other women to take advantage of the many opportunities a career in code offers. Here, Charlotte shares her career change journey and advice for others to make the same leap.

I spent three years working as a biology technician in a sixth form college. While it was rewarding to work with students and watch them develop their understanding and skills, I began to feel personally dissatisfied by the lack of progression opportunities available to me – not to mention a lack of salary increase. I soon knew it was time to switch careers.

I’d always had an interest in coding so began my research, exploring what a career in code might actually look like. At the same time, I began to learn some basic programming concepts and quickly became hooked. Even being able to create the simplest website gave me a great sense of accomplishment; I immediately wanted to learn more. I sought the advice of those around me who had made a similar career jump and was seriously impressed at the speed in which they were able to make the transition and the salary increases they had achieved.

Feeling ready to make the leap, I got in touch with professional training provider, Learning People. I had a career consultation that enabled me to understand the exact steps I needed to take in order to achieve my goal of becoming a coder. I embarked on a Full Stack Developer course and within three months secured my first coding role. I’ve now climbed the ladder to my second job, as a Junior Application Developer at My PT Hub.

My current role leaves me feeling fulfilled and happy every day. I value being part of an industry that is rewarding, supportive and endlessly innovative. I’m convinced that there are many other women who would love coding as much as I do, but perhaps feel intimidated or unsure of where to begin. My advice to those women?

Do your research

…but don’t be put off by job adverts which show that your experience doesn’t fit the bill. You’ll already have transferable skills that apply and that you can build upon. Identify those and then look at what tech job might suit.

For example, I love investigating problems and coming up with inventive solutions to them, persevering until I find the best answer. This makes me perfectly suited to my programming job.

It’s also worth reaching out to relevant organisations and individuals that might be able to help, finding out more about certain roles and requirements – and what the day-to-day looks like.

Consider salary

The move to tech requires appropriate training, but it’s an investment that will absolutely pay off. The average starting wage for an entry-level role in tech is high. Since starting the course, my salary has increased by £10k. It means I’m able to save for a house deposit, providing me with even more security.

Find the right course

As mentioned above, I trained with professional training providers Learning People. They supported me in making the transition from technician to coder and also helped me to manage my hours so that I could work alongside training.

Don’t let gender hold you back

The tech industry is currently dominated by men, but many employers are actively working to redress the sector’s gender imbalance. With the right skills, qualifications and enthusiasm, you’ll be able to secure a role and progress quickly.

Further to this, do expect a warm welcome! I feel incredibly supported in my role, both by my colleagues and managers – and also by industry peers. I have found that the tech world is a supportive, nurturing environment for those who demonstrate a willingness and passion to learn. It’s normal to feel intimidated, but rest assured that others have experienced similar worries and will be happy to offer their advice, bringing me to my next point…

Connect with mentors

This could be within your own team or further afield, with multiple viewpoints providing richer advice. I have some brilliant mentors at my current workplace, who have really helped me to advance my coding skills over the past six months.

They’ve also alleviated any fears of feeling like I don’t know enough. It’s a natural symptom of working in an industry that’s forever changing and evolving – even senior developers sometimes feel that way. There’s so much to learn and it’s one of the most exciting things about the job. So finally…

Be curious

One of the great advantages of a tech career is the constant change. You get to update your skills every day on the job. A willingness and passion to learn can keep you advancing, creating and problem-solving, and this is what leaves me feeling fulfilled every day.

Charlotte Skinner - Junior App DeveloperAbout the author

Charlotte Skinner is a junior app developer at My PT Hub. She developed her coding skills through online training with Learning People and secured her first role in just three months. Prior to this, Charlotte worked as a science technician in a sixth form college. She believes it's vital that we close the gender gap in the tech industry and hopes to inspire more women to consider a career in coding with her story.


Newcastle #techmums Club

Newcastle #techmums Club

Calling all mums!

Do you want to learn about tech but you don't know where to start?

Join Newcastle's first ever #techmums Club!

In a friendly group of local mums, we'll be taking the mystery out of tech. Each week we'll get together for 2 hours to talk about tech and what it can do for you. There are no tests to take. Just a chance to learn with other mums.

Build your confidence in a variety of tech skills:

  • social media
  • blogging
  • apps
  • staying safe online
  • managing work and life
  • and much, much more!

Digital skills sessions for beginners

Newcastle's #techmums Club is made up of 10 action-packed sessions that have been designed by mums, for mums.

If you're new to tech, what better place to begin than here?!

We'll meet for 2 hours every Monday (during term time) for 10 sessions, starting on Monday 29th April.

Ideally, you'd attend all sessions:

  • Monday 29th April (10:00-12:00), Session 1
  • Monday 13th May (10:00-12:00), Session 2
  • Monday 20th May (10:00-12:00), Session 3
  • Monday 3rd June (10:00-12:00), Session 4
  • Monday 10th June (10:00-12:00), Session 5
  • Monday 17th June (10:00-12:00), Session 6
  • Monday 24th June (10:00-12:00), Session 7
  • Monday 1st July (10:00-12:00), Session 8
  • Monday 8th July (10:00-12:00), Session 9
  • Monday 15th July (10:00-12:00), Session 10
  • Monday 22nd July (10:00-12:00), Graduation!

Sessions will take place near Regent Centre metro station.

Book your place

There are lots of ways to book your place on Newcastle's #techmums Club:

  • sign up in person at one of our coffee mornings
  • or phone Elena (0191 208 4149)
  • or email Elena ([email protected])
  • or sign up here on Eventbrite

Free coffee and cake!

Do you want to find out more?

Come along to one of our coffee mornings to chat to our friendly facilitators.

While you're there, grab a (free!) coffee and cake:

  • Thursday 4th April (10:00-12:00), Gosforth Civic Theatre (next to Regent Centre metro station).
  • Wednesday 24th April (10:00-12:00), Gosforth Civic Theatre (next to Regent Centre metro station).

Supporters

Newcastle #techmums Club is hosted by Newcastle University with #techmums. We are very grateful to all the support we have received from the following organisations, without which we wouldn't be able to run Newcastle's first #techmums Club - thank you all for your encouragement and support!

  • The Alan Turing Institute
  • Altogether
  • Atom Bank
  • CYBG
  • Newcastle University
  • Virgin Money