EY Women in Technology (WiT) UK

The vision of EY Women in Technology (WiT) is to promote women into the most exciting tech opportunities.

Our goal is to grow & develop our members to lead technology enabled change. We attract, support and elevate our current and future members, and inspire future generations.

Barclays logo, North West Women network featured

Barclays Women in Technology (WiT)

Barclays logo, North West Women network featured

WiT aims to empower women of all levels and backgrounds to achieve their career aspirations in technology, offering our members, and our local communities, networking, upskilling and collaboration opportunities.

Its specific objectives are: to grow the presence and skills of women in our technology workforce; inspire women both internally and externally to consider a career in technology; retain and promote our internal female technology talent; provide mentoring/guidance and access to role models in technology; provide career coaching sessions and pathways for careers in STEM; support local schools and communities by hosting interactive learning sessions focusing on programming fundamentals for students to encourage youngsters to consider a career in technology.

A doctor of latino ethnicity leans on her desk and looks at a radiogram of a chest on her desktop computer.

Shaping the future as a woman in technology: Blending IQ & EQ

A doctor of latino ethnicity leans on her desk and looks at a radiogram of a chest on her desktop computer.
©Align Technology

Article by Claudia Gallo – VP, Human Resources at Align Technology

Twenty years ago, I joined Align Technology – at that point it was an up-and-coming technology start-up in digital orthodontics that pioneered the clear aligner market with the Invisalign system.

Today, Align is a global medical device company, a Fortune 500 company with more than 25 thousand employees, supporting over 250 thousand doctors and labs worldwide and nearly 13 million patients treated with the Invisalign clear aligner system. Our global teams share a passion for technology and innovation that is purpose-driven and helps doctors transform smiles and change lives for millions of people worldwide.

As I look back on my career at Align and how we have changed over the years, in an industry that has not historically had as many women in a variety of roles, I am incredibly proud of the ways I have helped increase awareness and create more opportunities for women in technology. As someone who helped build Align’s human resources (HR) organisation in the region, I have consistently focused on ensuring that we create career opportunities for all people and help them excel professionally. By creating an environment where everyone can flourish and expand their roles and responsibilities, we also foster a culture where women feel supported in their careers, learn new skills, and continue to grow through increasing opportunities.

Demonstrating the value of IQ and EQ

As we know, technology is integral to our daily lives and impacts many aspects of how we live and work. Today, there are many women in tech in leadership positions influencing the industry.  I believe that the unifier amongst many of the trailblazers is recognising specific skills of each employee, while at the same time, championing diversity and inclusion, education, and creating opportunities within the broader team. By employing and advancing more women at all levels, leaders become more attuned to the needs of all their employees. And of course, greater diversity leads to improved workplace culture, development of more innovative solutions, and company growth.

That being said, technical knowledge and skills are increasingly becoming opportunity equalizers because technology careers often don’t involve the same physical limitations that can exist in other male dominated fields, and qualifications are measured by intellect, education, and experience. Some people may worry about how the future will look with this rise in technological advancements. However, this is where I believe women can make a real impact – by being a driving force behind how technology can shape the future for the better by blending IQ and EQ. Here, I mean demonstrating the importance of understanding and managing emotional intelligence in parallel with professional skills. Women offer a range of valuable skills, including but certainly not limited to analytical, creative, open-minded, communicative, problem-solving, and more. Often, women bring an additional layer of emotional understanding to a situation. I think embracing diversity and appreciating individual strengths in women can really transform opportunities for others in the tech industry.

Support each other to grow together

There is no doubt that being a woman in tech can sometimes be challenging. And often the best resource that can help navigate through challenges may be other women who can share their own experiences or offer advice.

At Align Technology, we launched a Talent Management programme in 2021 which includes a “Women in Leadership” online course from Yale University. This programme allowed us to create a space where we could talk about our aspirations, career goals, but also doubts and setbacks, and to share that experience.

Following the completion of the course, participants continued to meet regularly and created a trusted network, which led to the formation of the “Women at Align” employee resource group. This programme provides opportunities for women in senior leadership roles to receive coaching and to mentor early career colleagues who are looking to progress their careers.

It’s incredibly valuable to be able to ask questions, seek advice and listen to real-life stories to help you face possible challenges head-on in your professional journey. Building a good relationship with your manager will be critical to progressing your career and navigating this growing and demanding industry.

You can also look to extend your presence within your company and engage with other women to build a community in which you can support each other. If your company doesn’t already have an association or group, why not use this opportunity to take initiative and help set one up? This will surely be a way to make yourself stand out amongst the crowd.

Prioritize your health and wellbeing

Working in tech can be full of excitement and the unexpected, but it’s important that you’re able to enjoy it and not burn yourself out. The past couple of years especially has put a spotlight on the importance of mental health in the workplace. Many have dealt with personal issues combined with having to work remotely and it has put a strain on maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Functioning well is important to enjoy the work that you do and to achieve your goals to the best of your ability. More and more companies are developing tools or programs to help employees feel less overwhelmed, allowing them to organize their workload as it suits them better with flexible schedules. Protecting your well-being is paramount to becoming a strong, innovative leader, which is a must in this ever-moving industry.

Go for it

I believe women have a lot to offer to the tech sector, and the tech sector itself has a lot to offer as well, so it’s important that you open yourself up and allow yourself to evolve. Your professional journey will be full of ups and downs, so to tackle any challenges that come your way, it’s important to seize every opportunity, be flexible, and adapt to changing times.

About the author

Claudia GalloClaudia joined Align Technology in Italy back in 2002 and shortly after took over the Business Operations Organization of the newly created European HQ in Amsterdam. In 2009, she was appointed Human Resources Director of EMEA, to direct and execute all HR processes and management tools across the region and working with the corporate HR team to create effective and consistent HR policies and procedures in EMEA.

From 2012 to 2015 the scope of her responsibility expanded to the APAC Region, becoming a credible business partner to the International Leadership team in supporting the growth and management of the EMEA & APAC regions.

With the continuous growth and expansion across the EMEA and APAC regions, Claudia’s scope of responsibility has been refocused to EMEA. In 2020, she was appointed Vice President of Human Resources, EMEA. Today the Region is growing extensively with the expansion of Manufacturing Operations sites and the setup of additional Technology hubs which pose new exciting opportunities to the Human Capital agenda.

Prior to Align, Claudia, an Italian citizen, has spent several years in various positions in G&A and Marketing in Wesley-Jessen, Novartis Ciba Vision. Claudia holds a bachelor’s degree in Languages & Literature and a postgraduate in Human Resource Management from the Stephen M. Ross School of Business (University of Michigan).

Career in STEM

Apprenticeships: Championing alternative routes into STEM careers

It is widely known that the tech industry is made up of only 17 per cent women and that less girls study subjects in Science, Engineering, Technology and Maths (STEM).

So with fewer females in the pipeline what are companies doing to attract students to join their firms and why would an A-Level student choose an apprenticeship in STEM rather than attend university?

We asked a selection of experts from technology and engineering to share their experiences of recruiting young people.

Jenny Taylor, ‎UK Graduate, Apprenticeship and Student Programme Manager at IBM, said: “We should of course not deter students from entering university, but we need to educate them about all the options available for their career path.”

Taylor said there is no denying that there is a lack of uptake across STEM subjects as well as a huge gender imbalance within industries requiring these skills.

“For many years now, only a small percentage of females have been attracted to working in the technology industry, and as leader of IBM’s graduate, student and apprenticeship programmes, I am passionate about addressing the situation. The business case for diversity in the workplace is very clear and at IBM we focus particularly on engaging and inspiring younger girls through our Girls’ Schools’ Outreach programme,” she said.

Taylor explained that one of IBM’s current employees – Sadie Hawkins – was inspired to join the IBM apprenticeship programme after attending one of the company’s school outreach events: “She then went on to achieve the National Apprentice of the Year Award 2013, which we are extremely proud of. Sadie is now an integral member of the team within our Global Business Services Division.

“Apprenticeships are a great way to encourage uptake in STEM disciplines and it is clear there needs to be more championing of alternative routes into successful roles with a clear career progression.”

Elaine Rowlands, Head of HR at PCMS, a retail technology developer, is just as passionate about apprenticeship programmes.

She said: “I am passionate about apprenticeships being a credible alternative to university for women looking to break into the tech world – particularly in a fast-paced industry like retail technology, where new products are shaping the consumer experience every day.

“Apprentices have an immediate edge by going straight into on-the-job training, gaining the real-life work experience essential to thrive in a competitive sector.”

Bradbury Group Ltd a UK manufacturer of steel doors, security grilles and cages and currently employees three female apprentices; two work in its technical department and another is a member of its marketing team.

Paul Sweeting, Technical Director at Bradbury Group Ltd, said: “Recruiting technical staff can be a struggle, so we want anyone — male or female — to feel that they’re welcome to join our team if they have the necessary skills or drive to learn.”

Sweeting said it can be difficult to find women for its technical roles, due to the lack of women coming through the pipeline: “It’s more difficult to find female candidates for our technical department, likely due to the fact that engineering has long been considered a male-oriented field.

“Therefore, we make an effort to encourage more women to consider a career in engineering. For example, we supported National Women in Engineering Day 2016 through our social media channels and website. Plus, we published two blog posts written by our female technical apprentices about their experiences with our company.”

Bradbury Group Ltd has been working on its strategy to recruit and retain young talent in general: “When we began recruiting apprentices, North Lindsey College helped us access and review potential students. We ran an open day and 20 students applied for positions. Six were successful and joined the Bradbury Engineering Academy, which our female apprentices are a part of.

“We recognise that these young people have become valuable assets to the company and we want to give them a career. Therefore, they’ll all be offered full-time jobs with us after completing their training.”

A new centre has opened in Oxfordshire aimed at tackling the skills shortages faced by technology and engineering companies in the area.

The centre will train 125 young people annually and is a joint venture between the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). Training provider JTL has been appointed to manage the centre.

The training aims to create ‘work ready’ trainees, apprentice engineers and lab technicians through training in the workplace. As a not-for-profit, all funds are set to be invested back into delivering training.

David Martin, UKAEA’s Chief Operating Officer and ex-apprentice himself, said: “With the support of high tech sector companies in the area, Oxford Advanced Skills will help resolve the critical skills shortages we are currently experiencing. This venture highlights how seriously we take the need for exceptional quality young people making it into the workforce in this area.

“JTL has huge experience in providing work-based learning across England and Wales, with over 6,000 apprentices currently working towards qualifications with them across the building services engineering sector.”

Jon Graham is JTL’s Chief Executive, said: “These are really exciting times for apprentices in the Oxford area. We have been working in Oxfordshire for many years but decided recently that in order to be able to provide the quality of training that young people deserved we needed to launch our own training facilities, which we have now achieved with our premises at Culham.

“Through the work we do there and what UKAEA have seen while on site, it became obvious that there was an opportunity to expand our remit and join with UKAEA to develop this new facility, targeting exceptional young people who are needed by high technology companies operating in Oxford and the Thames Valley.”



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IT short courses instead of apprenticeships

David Baker, Director of Datrix Training, said in today’s market we are saturated with technology, and IT skills are more important than ever.

He noted that in the competitive job market skills such as word-processing, using databases, spreadsheets, using the Internet, social media & email and even designing rudimentary self-publication web pages are often asked of as standard.

“Currently the UK is facing an IT skills gap which is affecting businesses ability to grow, thankfully more of us are showing an interest in gaining further IT skills in order to bridge this gap,” Baker said.

“Gaining digital and IT skills is a great way to equip yourself with employability armour, currently two fifths of UK businesses are having trouble recruiting staff with suitable skills to drive their business. A technical IT course, from Microsoft Office to Java Fundamentals is right for any business as the need to succeed in the digital market becomes a key part of all company’s success. These skills will be learned through university or an apprenticeship but can also be accessed through short term flexible learning courses that suit millennial living.”

Baker said gaining technical skills through a short-term course is a great way to jumpstart your career and “give you that digital edge without the commitment to a three or four year course.

“These can often be more suitable than university courses as they don’t have as much ‘red tape’ and the syllabus can evolve quickly with the demands of the IT skills market, always ensuring the courses are up to date. The digital age isn’t slowing down and gaining IT skills that are highly relevant in today’s world is a great way to increase confidence, improve employability and drive career success in a market that’s crying out to hire skilled candidates.”

Lynne Downey, Head of Online Learning at University College of Estate Management, said increasing numbers of industries, such as engineering and chartered surveying, are now focusing on widening participation – both in gender, ethnicity and more.

“This current drive to accommodate employees outside the usual demographic empowers women to pick and choose the facets of both academic education and vocational training that best suit their needs – and find viable solutions for their career path. However, the decision between attending a university and taking an apprenticeship is not as clear-cut as it once was, with many alternative options now available.”

She added: “A traditional degree programme can be the right choice for someone interested in a field of study that focuses on sharing knowledge and carrying out research. Yet for those who want to ‘earn while they learn’, the option to study a degree programme online is becoming increasingly popular. While an apprenticeship may suit someone with an interest in a more vocational field, an apprenticeship programme that takes a blended learning approach – with the opportunity to gain a degree and become accredited in the field – may be the best option all round.”

“Both traditional universities and apprenticeships providers are widening their scopes each year, and opening up more and more varied options for following a career path. With this in mind, it’s essential that the individual chooses a route which best suits their skills and ambitions; whether it’s studying a traditional degree, joining an apprenticeship scheme – or a mix of both – the options are no longer just either attending an institution every day or combining classroom education with a job.”



Women working with computer for design and coding program

How apprenticeships could be the solution to the gender gap in technology

Women working with computer for design and coding program

Article by Katie Nykanen, Chief Technology Officer, QA Limited

“While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last.” When Kamala Harris spoke these words as US Vice-President elect, she continued a very welcome trend that has seen an explosion in phenomenal female role models in every walk of life.

Women like Kamala are breaking glass ceilings across industries and inspiring young girls to ignore the limitations that many of us above the age of 40 would have repeatedly had reinforced throughout our childhoods. But worryingly, STEM – and particularly technology – continue to lag behind many industries when it comes to female representation. Just 17% of UK tech jobs are held by women. 19% of computer sciences and technology graduates are female. According to the UN, in cutting edge fields such as artificial intelligence, only one in five professionals globally (22%) is a woman.

Female Graduates in UK by STEM Subject (Source: STEM Women)

Above: Female Graduates in UK by STEM Subject (Source: STEM Women)

With an ever-widening digital skills gap, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution blurring the lines between our physical and digital worlds, technology skills are only going to become more in demand. It is essential that we create a pipeline of diverse and competent talent that can fill the ever-increasing number of roles that will require these skills. So what can be done to get more women and girls into STEM, and particularly into technology?

The good news is there are some incredibly bright rays of light if you know where to look when it comes to alternative routes into both tech education and work. This includes tech and digital training programmes and free taster workshops like QA’s Teach The Nation To Code, as well as options allowing you to study right up to masters degree level while earning on the job. That is what apprenticeships offer, and I believe that with the right level of visibility and support, they could help accelerate the numbers of women and girls working in tech.

Since joining QA, I’ve come across numerous cases where young girls with a passion for tech might have dropped out of pursuing those subjects if they’d continued through traditional education routes rather than opt for an apprenticeship. Roberta and Rosie are just two examples.

Roberta is an IT Compliance Officer for the Financial Times that didn’t enjoy further education, including her subject choices of chemistry and maths and the academic environment. But she knew she wanted to pursue a career in tech. Not wanting to go back to college for her second year, her mum suggested looking at apprenticeships. From a junior apprenticeship in IT Systems & Networking, Roberta has gone on to achieve a recognised degree through a Degree Apprenticeship. She has held three positions at the FT since she joined, demonstrating the potential for both employment and educational achievements that workplace learning can offer. “I haven’t looked back”, says Roberta. “Right from the start I felt empowered by the responsibility. This was the real difference for me between [college] and an apprenticeship.”

Rosie is another fantastic example of the power of apprenticeships for young women. She says she pursued computing at school because “a guy said that because I’m a girl, I wouldn’t be able to do it.” Determined to prove him wrong she took the course and fell in love with programming. She was approached by Cisco at her schools career fair to apply for an apprenticeship. She went on to become Cisco’s youngest employee globally and achieved a degree debt-free by the time she was 19. Rosie says that one of the biggest benefits of an apprenticeship is that she’s “always learning and building a network of people around me.”

I truly believe the case for growing apprenticeships is powerful and strong. There are thousands of Roberta’s and Rosie’s out there who need to be encouraged to continue their interest in tech. While traditional education might be right for some, it clearly isn’t yet solving the gender problem in STEM, so we must make women and girls more aware of the alternative options before they lose their passion. Apprenticeships are becoming more popular, employers are changing their hiring strategies to target school leavers, and with Degree Apprenticeships there is no need to sacrifice your academic goals. So I call on people in the positions to make a difference – teachers, parents, CTOs, CEOs, and anyone else involved in nurturing, inspiring and hiring talent – to get behind apprenticeships. They are a powerful force for good, especially when it comes to achieving gender equality.

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women in tech, soft skills featured

Building back better for women in tech

women in tech, soft skills

Article by Natalie Billingham, Vice President Sales and EMEA Managing Director, Akamai Technologies

It goes without saying that the past eighteen months have presented new challenges to all of us, with particular pressure on women.

According to a study conducted by Women’s Budget Group, around 133,000 more women than men were furloughed across the UK during the first wave of COVID-19. In addition, research from the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London revealed that women who were furloughed were more likely to be off work for longer periods of time than men. Several studies have also found that the demands of childcare and home-schooling have disproportionately fallen to women during this period.

We now have the opportunity to build back better from the pandemic and ensure that the “new normal” is an improved place for women in the workforce.

It’s imperative that women are well represented in the recovery from the pandemic, that their voices are heard, and that we support even more women to become leaders and decision makers both now and in the future.

So, how can this be achieved?

Overcoming unconscious presenteeism

By altering attitudes towards working from home (WFH), COVID-19 may have forever changed the way we work. As employers see for themselves that work can be achieved to a high-standard and productivity has even increased while WFH, a growing number of companies are embracing hybrid ways of working.

Although hybrid working certainly has its benefits, the danger is that some women will find it challenging to return back to the office due to caring responsibilities which have increased over the lockdowns.

In a recent conversation I had with Professor Emma Parry from Cranfield School of Management, she highlighted one of the problems that this can create. A culture of presenteeism means that those employees who are more visible in the workplace are often in a favourable position when it comes to career progression and promotion. In contrast, those who aren’t seen very often (i.e. employees who are working from home) have typically been more likely to be overlooked for new opportunities and ad-hoc, informal decision-making discussions that may happen in the office.

There is much research supporting the fact that we look more favourably on those whom we see more often, with Professor Parry and other academics referring to this phenomenon as ‘proximity bias’. Proximity bias is an unconscious tendency to give preferential treatment to those in our immediate vicinity. Like with any bias, it is a natural instinct that’s part of our cognitive decision-making process. With women more likely to work from home than men, proximity bias is a particularly worrying phenomenon.  We must be aware of these biases and directly challenge them to ensure we move forward for the better.

It’s important then that employers take the time to learn how to measure and evaluate output as well as reward people for what they actually contribute to the business, regardless of where they work from. We need to find ways to make hybrid working work for everyone – embracing new technologies and empowering managers in order to do so.

Fostering a fair and inclusive company culture

As we see a steady rollout of vaccines across the UK, how businesses plan to recover and build back from COVID-19 will undoubtedly impact their ability to attract and retain diverse talent.

Now is the time to review your organisation’s hiring practices to ensure they don’t unintentionally exclude applicants from a position based on a check box or job description. Even the language used in job adverts have a role to play. At Akamai by reviewing the wording of our job descriptions, we greatly increased the diversity of candidates applying for these roles. It’s also a good idea to include different personalities in the hiring process so candidates can get a better feel of what the workforce is like. Not only does this showcase your diverse workforce, but it allows room for diversity of thought and perspective in the hiring decision.

Partnering with community groups to attract diverse talent and target specific audiences like women, disabled, LGBTQ+ and ethnic minorities, is also worth considering. Working with these partners can help yield strong candidates and enable your organisation to become more diverse.

Working to overcome proximity bias and striving to attract and retain diverse talent, are just two of the ways businesses can try to create a post-pandemic workplace that is both fairer and more equal, both for women and other under-represented groups. And at the same time we will be fostering more productive, engaged and loyal workforces.

Natalie BillinghamAbout the author

Natalie Billingham is the Vice President Sales and Managing Director for EMEA, leading a team of 782 people across 18 countries in her region. Natalie leads the growth, expansion and all go-to-market strategies, for Akamai’s business across EMEA. She directs an international team, serving customers in retail, broadcasting, financial services, gaming, gambling, video, and mobile verticals.

Alongside her day-to-day role, Natalie is involved with several programmes and initiatives. She is the co-founder of the Women’s Forum and an Executive Sponsor of the Next Generation Leaders programme (NGL) and Akamai’s Office of Inclusion, Diversity and Engagement. She is also a member of the Akamai Foundation and Executive Women’s Committee.

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.

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Inspiring the next generation of young women towards a career in data and technology

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

A job in data and technology might not be the first choice for many young people, particularly women, looking for their first step on the career ladder.

However, Head of Manufacturers Steph Cullen, at IRI, and former gold medallist rower for team GB, discusses how schools and the fast-moving, consumer goods (FMCG) industry can take action to help more young women navigate a successful course into a data-led career.

Despite not having any real clue about what I wanted to do when I left school, I was the kind of person who believed that the right opportunity would present itself if I just continued to do what I enjoyed most. I was good at chemistry and maths so I pursued these subjects. While at university I realised that I particularly enjoyed the subjective element of numbers and how the interpretation of data could generate all sorts of interesting stories.

I think schools and colleges these days are doing a much better job at guiding young people into jobs. Encouraging pupils to attend career fairs and having people from different industries come into schools and share their experience is a useful way of discovering the different types of jobs available. However, when it comes to areas such as data and technology, I think there tends to be a view that these sorts of careers are heavily focussed on data science; that these jobs are ‘geeky’ and that you need to be incredibly intelligent to succeed. But of course, we are all intelligent in different ways. Schools could perhaps do a better job of explaining that there is a need for people with a variety of skill sets that would be suitable for a career in the FMCG data and technology industry.

I’m not a tech geek. What I do find fascinating though is what data can tell us and how insights can provide us with a wide range of information that can impact and improve our lives. That’s the amazing part of working with data; it touches everybody and it’s relevant to everyone.

Most people don’t realise it, but we use big data and technology every single day. Whether it’s using ‘tap and go’ contactless payments with our bank card or spending points on our supermarket loyalty cards. For example, the amount of data and technology that goes in to determining which products appear on our supermarket shelves is mind blowing. Millions of people shop online now, which has increased significantly during the pandemic. The fact we can order just about anything and have it delivered to our doors within 24 hours is all down to how data and technology work together.

Transferable skills to help you succeed

There are many transferable skills that you can pick up at school, college or university that will enable you to pursue a successful career, including one in data and technology. Here are my top three:

  1. Self-belief – Knowing that if you put your mind to something and consistently show up every day with that goal in mind, you can pretty much achieve anything. It’s not about being at your best every single day; it’s not about never making mistakes. For example, if you’re feeling 4 out of 10 one day, as long as you show up with that and do what you can with it, that’s the most important thing. You’ll still end up being further on than you would have been had you just not shown up. Do I walk into high-level board meetings feeling 100% confident all the time? No, not at all. But what I do have is self-belief. This enables me to feel grounded, reminds me of what I’m actually capable of and that I have a voice that is worth listening to.
  2. Resilience – As a former elite athlete and GB rower, having resilience was essential. Performance at this level entails constant knock backs, failures and losing by the slimmest of margins. From an early age we’re taught that we don’t always win in life and can’t always get our own way. It’s the same in business and in sport it can be brutal. Having the resilience to accept failure as an everyday part of life and learning how to bounce back from it is an important skill worth having.
  1. Teamwork – Don’t fear or resent being the most junior or least experienced member of a team, because it means you’re going to learn, grow and benefit from those stronger, more experienced players around you, enabling you to progress faster. As in sport, teamwork is essential in business. A crucial part of putting together a successful team is recognising that we all have different strengths and weaknesses and that everybody has a different role to play. A team of people that can offer different experiences, views, opinions and ways of doing things are ultimately more likely to win.

As well as schools, the FMCG industry also has an important part to play in attracting more numbers of young women into the sector. One of the simplest things it can do is to be more open minded and offer greater flexibility in terms of working hours. I see some really talented women in FMCG but they are often hindered by inflexible working practices. The industry could also be more supportive and encouraging towards those women that are thinking about applying for senior roles, otherwise they risk being passed over. Offering supportive peer networks and mentoring programmes are just a few examples of how the industry can help support those employees lacking in confidence.

Discover what you enjoy doing most

As with most jobs, there are some parts that you’re not going to enjoy doing. My advice would be to not look for a job, but first discover what it is you enjoy doing most and then find a job that delivers this on most days. If you’re excited by numbers and data then immerse yourself in relevant events, films, books, TED Talks etc. that explain how important data is and how it operates in today’s fast-paced digital world.

The other thing to remember is that nothing is permanent. You don’t have to decide, for example, at the age of 20 that the first job you land will be the one for life. You can change your mind at any time. When I was younger, I didn’t love doing anything in particular. I found a job and just thought to myself I’ll keep doing this until it stops being interesting.

Children at every level of education should be encouraged to cultivate an interest in STEM, but particularly girls given their under-representation in these subjects. To do this schools must demonstrate how STEM can empower girls, women and gender diverse individuals to be agents of change.

Women have a role to play in all areas of data and technology and the current under-representation of women risks losing the experiences and perspectives of over half the population to the detriment of our industry.

About the author

Steph is Head of Manufacturers for IRI, a leading provider of big data, predictive analytics and forward-looking insights that help FMCG, health care organisations, retailers, financial services and media companies grow their businesses. She joined IRI from Britvic where she spent five years as head of business insight.

Before that she worked in several client leadership roles for dunnhumby after initially beginning her career on Unilever’s Future Leaders Programme.

In 2018, Steph was named by Women in Data as an inaugural member of the ‘20 in Data & Technology’ which set out to discover stories of inspiring women in data science, to tackle the issue of gender imbalance and to inspire the next generation of data science leaders.

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Cloud computing featured

5 must-know job roles in the cloud sector - who do you need on your team?

Cloud computing

When it comes to securing the best people for your organisation, there needs to be considerable thought put into what is needed, which will vary depending on the size of the project.

Working in the cloud sector means employees require knowledge of advancing technologies, what role they play in a company, and the security features and cost involved. But there are also a range of soft skills needed, to run throughout a successful team which should not be overlooked.

To be part of a modern-day workforce in such an industry, staff members need a collaborative approach. They have to be open and embracing to change, understand DevOps, and be willing to upskill to remain relevant in an ever-changing tech arena. Organisations are increasingly working in flatter structures, meaning employees need to perform in an autonomous, agile way.  Adopting the mindset of lifelong learning is useful and people can fine tune through learning on the job – through mentoring, formal training and boosting qualities via cloud specific tooling skills, such as Amazon Web Services Training.

But what does it take to ensure a well-oiled machine operates in the cloud sector in today’s society? Elements covering infrastructure, security, storage, networking, and governance all have to be acknowledged. Rachel McElroy, sales and marketing director for cloud sector and DevOps specialist Cranford Group, underlines the five key roles every business needs, to be a success when using technology.

Product owner

Also known as a ‘project manager’ or ‘cloud project manager’, this person understands the commercial and governance sides of the firm. They’re the all-seeing eye, ensuring the team keeps in-line with the budget, and understands what’s needed – in relation to timings and resources – to complete the project. They usually work with other teams during the sales cycle, so they can outline a project’s delivery, and are adept at constructing high-level plans, delivering reports, and leading meetings. It’s a role which suits customer-facing people who can manage several projects at once, and have excellent communication and written skills.

Cloud architect

Usually an IT specialist, they oversee cloud strategy and are concerned with the design network, and the project’s infrastructure. They understand what the customer wants, and work on the best ways to achieve those needs, with a measured approach. They must possess the technical expertise to understand sysadmin, as well as have software development experience, and a good knowledge of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). It’s a position that’s very hands-on, so needs an innovative thinker, who can lead on cloud efficiency.


A strong background of specific skills such as streaming analytics, data integration, and knowledge of .NET, Java and AWS or Google Cloud Platform are a must for the strongest developers. They should be able to build cloud-compatible frameworks, evaluate emerging technologies, and ideally have DevOps experience. These kinds of positions suit those with a background in computer technology and often a qualification in computer science, or something related. There are also many soft skills involved, including leadership to plan and co-ordinate projects, an agile mind-set, and ability to adapt to lots of change within the cloud sector.

Security architect or analyst

Another highly important role within a team, this person keeps computer systems safe from cyber-attacks. They also need to translate security features to customers, so must be a strong communicator with stakeholders and colleagues. From a hard skills perspective, this is somebody who understands Windows, Cisco systems, VM (virtual machine) work, and testing, amongst other services. A security architect is likely to hold TOGAF, SABSA or CCP accreditations, and be familiar with cyber-attack pathologies, as well as cloud service models. There might also be a junior architect involved in the team, to support ongoing projects.

Service desk

Fully embraced in being customer-focused, those on the service desk completely understand their company. They have to be knowledgeable, approachable and personable with every side of an organisation’s cloud capacity – from the security aspects to the installation process, data and knowledge of the technology customers require. Strong in problem-solving, this position welcomes trouble-shooters and those with a calm attitude when the pressure is on.

It’s vital that, when putting a team together, each person has a key role to play in the delivery of a successful cloud project. A balance of soft skills and team ethic – alongside relevant qualifications – is crucial. And, those that are willing to upskill and fine tune their experience to keep up with ever-evolving industry trends, can keep an organisation ahead of the curve in a competitive sector.

Rachel McElroy, Sales and Marketing Director, Cascade Group 1About the author

Rachel McElroy is a director at Cranford Group – a cloud resourcing specialist – and passionate about a variety of tech topics including digital disruption, tech skills development, agile working, remote working, women in tech, talent on demand, and DevOps. She is currently penning a white paper which will take a comprehensive look at the effects of technology and cloud adoption on the workplace. Covering topics from AI to diversity, and change management to leadership, such contributors to her research include Microsoft, ServiceNow, Alibaba Cloud, Cloud Industry Forum, AutoTrader, Ensono, Cloud Gateway – to name just a few! An eloquent and well-respected industry commentator, Rachel spoke at Cloud Expo Europe in March 2019 and in February, was appointed as a judge at the UK Cloud Awards 2019.

Girls in tech, STEM

Showcasing technology’s creative side will empower the next generation of female leaders

Article by Nerys Mutlow, Evangelist in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow

Girls in tech, STEMThe technology sector has made improvements in gender representation in recent decades.

There were 326,000 women working in IT roles across the UK in 2020, according to analysis from BCS, meaning that more women are making up the specialist IT workforce than ever seen previously. Yet despite years of progress towards workplace equality, women continue to be woefully underrepresented. A mere 19% of employees in the tech sector are women.

In fact, getting women into technology or STEM careers in the first place continues to be a challenge. According to the latest Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data, fewer than 1 in 5 computing and engineering technology students are female. These figures indicate that the industry still has a long way to go. Getting more women on STEM courses has been a hot topic in the technology industry for the best part of a decade, with public and private sector initiatives aiming to increase numbers. But, the industry, and the people in it, need to do more.

An open-minded approach to recruitment

All companies have core values that lie at the heart their business, but it’s important to continuously introduce fresh perspectives. If the tech sector is going to improve workplace representation, employers must ensure they give both male and female candidates equal opportunities. Also, if they are going to develop a diverse and modern workplace, they must embrace an open-minded approach when it comes to hiring. Rather than simply going through the motions and hiring the same types of candidates, employers should look to bring people from different backgrounds with a variety of different perspectives into the office.

Not only will this create a more inclusive workplace, but it will also drive innovation and creativity, leading to a greater chance of success. According to a McKinsey report, companies with more than 30% of female executives are more likely to outperform businesses with fewer women. Adopting an open-minded recruitment approach will also widen the talent pool for employers as it will encourage them to hire based on potential, rather than relying on proven experience. This approach subscribes to the belief that talent can come from anywhere, regardless of background.

It’s not just about STEM skills

Once an open-minded recruitment process has been implemented, tech companies will begin to feel the benefits of a workforce with a more varied set of skills. Traditionally, companies implementing STEM initiatives have often placed too much emphasis on maths-based skills, such as coding and programming. Whilst coding is still important, today’s technology has made it easier than it’s ever been. Polished teaching methods and universal access to development tools have made it much more accessible. On top of coding, the modern tech industry is crying out for empathetic and creative skills, such as user experience design and critical problem solving.

Creativity and problem solving have never been more crucial to technology than they are right now, with concepts like design thinking requiring us to empathise and understand the challenges faced by end users. Once you truly understand the end user’s perspective then you can design solutions to meet any challenges at hand which will undoubtedly require technology in some shape or form. However, if you start with the technology, then you can become constrained by it when solving complex challenges. By contrast, starting with the problem, leveraging strong domain business skills, communication skills and empathy can lead you to design truly innovative and market leading solutions.

Showcasing creative and design thinking, as opposed to traditional coding, will challenge the outdated stereotype of technology as the domain of the male coder. By dispelling the archaic narrative of a mathematical, male-orientated environment, young women will feel empowered to choose STEM subjects at school and embark upon careers within the technology sector. And by showcasing the creativity and collaboration within today’s technology industry, we can bury the stereotypes and inspire more women to enter the sector. Perhaps we should all be widely adopting the term ‘STEAM’ now to put an equal emphasis on the artistic skills needed for a career in technology.

It’s time for tech employers to take heed and address the gender divide that continues to persist within the industry. Adopting an open-minded approach to recruitment will create the platform for an inclusive workplace that incorporates a diverse set of perspectives. This will introduce a new, modern way of working that places empathetic skills at the forefront of technology. Only then can we begin to smash down the male-dominated stereotypes of what it means to succeed in the industry and pave the way for the next generation of female leaders.

About the author

Nerys Mutlow Nerys Mutlow works in the Chief Innovation Office at ServiceNow and covers the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions. She has a breadth of technical, business and leadership experience gained over a 20 year+ career with variety of companies including Xerox, Thales and Fujitsu. She has held senior EMEA business, consulting and technical roles and is consistently recognised for her technical aptitude, business understanding and focus on driving value and innovation for her customers. Nerys also holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Information Systems Management. She is a recognised thought leader and has published and contributed to a number of digital publications and blogs. Supporting women into technology is particularly important to Nerys and she actively supports many STEM initiatives.

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