Inspirational Woman: Tehreem Sheikh | CEO, Hire STEM Women

Tehreem SheikhTehreem Sheikh is the Chief Executive Officer of Hire STEM Women, an avid recruitment technology entrepreneur, investor and one of the UK’s leading experts on the entry level talent market in technology.

She has built one of the largest early career’s platforms for female technology talent in the UK. With partnerships with over 90 universities and having worked with top tier firms including Capgemini, Microsoft, Cisco and Goldman Sachs. Her focus has been to push for diversity especially in technology and give women opportunities within the industry. Over the years she has been involved in many award-winning initiatives this includes recently being nominated for the best recruitment agency, best supplier innovation and having one of the best mentoring programmes for women in tech throughout the UK. Tehreem has spent the last 15 years helping students from diverse backgrounds access to blue chip employers and leading universities. She is an expert on STEM diversity and social mobility and managing the millennial employees. The organisation uses strong data driven technology to build a diverse female workforce.

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I had a plan that I will run a business, what it was going to be in I had no idea. I learnt from experiences and developed myself from there. Reflecting further when you are young you do have an academic plan but that’s what school teaches you but what happens after that? I think real life experiences taught me a lot more about business and I learnt from people around me. One thing is certain that sometimes things don’t go to plan and you shift your focus as you move along, adapting to ever changing situations is important. Plans are good as it gives you a starting point but it’s important to understand that there are a lot of hiccups along the way and you learn from there.

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

I have faced my fair share of challenges, but that’s life isn’t it? You have to pick yourself up and keep focused on the goal and surround yourself with a strong support network. If we did not have these challenges how would we grow? It’s important to learn how to “deal with failure”. “Failure” is important, it teaches you many things. I have never let” failure” put me down in fact it has always motivated me to do better.  We women often doubt our abilities especially when we are young, it takes a lot of self-investment to grow yourself and train yourself to believe you are capable. I am a completely different person to what I was in my early 20’s I’ve had to learn A LOT from life lessons.  I have to say my biggest challenge was not knowing anyone, having 0 connections and starting from scratch.

Why is it important for companies to work with Hire STEM Women?

Diversity cannot be solved by one company, we here at HSW are committed to solving key gender diversity challenges within the tech industry. As a specialist gender diversity company in technology we have a wider range of partnerships that solve key challenges within the sector, for us it not about placing a female technology specialist into a role, it is much more than that. We are focused on the retention of these women and how we can progress the best female talent up to board level and address key challenges with our partners to solve key strategic problems at a higher level.

For organisations it is a great way to demonstrate you are taking the right action than doing a tick box exercise, if organisations wish to discuss our platform and support network further they can reach out to us at [email protected]

What has been your biggest career achievement to date?

This is a difficult one! Professionally it has to be setting up a business from scratch with zero connections and making it a national success and being shortlisted for a number of awards –However, I am not finished – I still have a lot lot more to achieve, this is not enough.

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

Talent – talented people around me. I am surrounded by the brightest – my team plays a huge role in making HIRE STEM WOMEN a national success. When I hire I look for people who are better than me, who can educate me and people I can learn from. It makes a huge difference. Working closely with the brightest business people, techies, engineers, scientists and mathematicians has taught me a lot and they have been my driving force to do better every day.

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

Research, research, research as much as possible. We are in a digital revolution, there is a lot more to technology than the name. Research the different divisions and network with people online to understand what their role is within the technology space. I also encourage people to work in a start-up environment, you will get given a lot more responsibility and learn about the different areas within technology. I also encourage those that are looking at niche-specialist technology roles to take up a coding course online a lot of the resources are free these days and give yourself mini-projects to do to show you are genuinely passionate about a career within this space. A huge one is knowing your worth, understand your market salary then sell yourself according to what you are worth, do not underestimate yourself and do not allow anyone else to.

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

Absolutely, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in this space. I am however pleased to work with a lot of fantastic organisations that understand the importance of hiring more women in the technology industry, however a lot of education needs to be done about the topic of diversity and the value women can add within the sector. One common trend I tend to see that it really should not be a tick box exercise, we need to understand why we are in this position in the first place and how we can make a difference. It’s important to focus on training future females into successful leaders across various sectors which will help set the tone for the future female leader. This topic is quite a complex one, however we run a huge training platform for individuals looking to progress in technology, they can reach the team at [email protected] who would be happy to support them with any barriers they currently face.

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

Do not make hiring women a tick box exercise, it’s important to understand that whilst it is fantastic to pledge working towards a 50:50 gender split, however it is also important to understand how you will retain women. A huge part is your company culture, try to put in place measures that would appeal to females that can include confidence building activities, mentoring, training & development plans in place to achieve leadership roles, working from home opportunities, demonstrating flexibility, we provide extensive support for organisations and they can understand more about our support platform by reaching out to us.

There is currently only 17% 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?

More investment.

I would make sure that all firms regardless of gender and diversity are trained on training people on niche technical skills from a very young age and the importance of diversity everywhere. A hands-on approach in embedding key skills at school curriculum. Entrepreneurship and technology being the biggest upskilling strategy.

What resources do you recommend for women working in tech?

I am a strong believer in technology networks and using LinkedIn as a tool to network with other women in technology. I encourage women to attend the “Women in IT summit” they hold regular events both virtually and in person to give women exposure into the technology industry, topics such as diversity and the latest innovations in tech are discussed by some brilliant women.

WeAreTechWomen has a back catalogue of thousands of Inspirational Woman interviews, including Professor Sue Black OBE, Debbie Forster MBE, Jacqueline de Rojas CBE, Dr Anne-Marie Imafidon MBE and many more. You can read about all our amazing women here

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Hire STEM Women (HSW) was founded by Tehreem Sheikh in November 2015 after realising a gap in the market for more female tech talent.

Our prime objective is to help the STEM industry obtain a gender diversity balance but also retain the balance to ensure we are challenging mindsets, breaking barriers and building a diverse workforce globally.

We provide 1-1 bespoke coaching to females in the STEM industry. We have specialist skilled teams who work with corporate partners and start-ups to identify diversity needs. We provide undergraduate, graduate & professionals with STEM opportunities and support them on securing internships, placements, graduate schemes and roles with various leading industry partner firms.

Thousands of HIRE STEM Women job seekers have attended events or have been given the confidence to pursue a career within STEM with Hire STEM Women since January 2016, across the UK. We also have a strong training platform where we train individuals in specialist STEM areas.

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