Back behind view photo of programmer lady look big monitor check id-address work overtime check debugging system wear specs casual shirt sit table late night office indoors, coding

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

Back behind view photo of programmer lady look big monitor check id-address work overtime check debugging system wear specs casual shirt sit table late night office indoors, coding, women in tech

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.”

female coder, coding, National Coding Week

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.”  

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Code First Girls surpasses 20,000 coding target & announces plans to double female tech community

woman coding on laptop, Code First Girls

Code First Girls has surpassed its goal to teach 20,000 UK women to code, and announces plans to double this female tech community.

Code First Girls, the UK social enterprise working to close the gender gap in technology, has today announced it has surpassed its 2017 campaign goal to teach over 20,000 young women how to code in the UK and Ireland. Over the past three years, Code First Girls has become the largest provider of free coding courses for women, having delivered over £14million worth of free technology education. The announcement comes at a critical time to close the IT skills gap, only 19 percent of those pursuing Computer Science at higher education level are women.

As part of Code First Girls’ ongoing commitment to increase the representation of women in technology, the social enterprise is launching its 2021 vision to give women the fair advantage. Code First Girls is pledging to double its community of women in technology in 2021, in an effort to close the growing skills gap in the UK.

As part of their new strategy, Code First Girls are working with UK employers, across a range of industries, to develop twelve week nano degree programmes, which specifically train women for jobs including software developers. The social enterprise will also offer a breadth of short and accessible online courses designed to impart technical skills, confidence or career discovery and classes to teach coding fundamentals in web development, Python or data.

The announcement comes on the heels of recent data from the Office of National Statistics, which highlights that women only make up 17 percent of IT professionals, a trend that has remained stagnant over the past ten years. There is an urgent need to diversity the industry, in order to achieve gender parity.

Speaking about plans, Anna Brailsford, CEO at Code First Girls, said, "We're thrilled to have been able to deliver on our promise to help 20,000 women learn to code."

"But we are just getting started."

"We're launching a new strategy and urging businesses to help close the gender gap further through investing in female talent that want a career in tech, and create additional possibilities for them."

“COVID-19 accelerated appetite for coding education, as we saw an unprecedented growth, by 800 percent, in registrations for our virtual classes during lockdown."

"Coding education is important, now more than ever."

"Over the last few months, we have been working to help women who have been displaced by COVID-19 redundancies or entering a tough graduate market to reskill and find employment."

"Our priority has been to help women achieve jobs, at a time of deep economic and social uncertainty.”

Alice Bentinck MBE, co-founder of Code First Girls and Entrepreneur First, added, “Over the last three years, Code First Girls has made huge strides in getting more women in technology through partnering with universities and businesses to run coding, mentorship and upskill programmes."

"The work the team is doing is fundamental to closing the skills gap and enabling young women to feel empowered to select a wide range of careers available in technology, as well as providing them with the confidence to succeed.”

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Inspirational Woman: Sheree Atcheson | Tech Business Consultant, Deloitte; Founder of I Am Lanka; Global Ambassador at Women Who Code

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

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

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

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


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.


#lifegoals | Meet Sophia Chambers, a software engineer & young mum proving you can have it all


Sophia Cooper

Sophia Chambers, 28, is a Software Engineer at Sky Betting and Gaming.

At 24, Chambers started her degree in Software Engineeirng BENG at Sheffield Hallam University.

Here she describes how she juggles motherhood with work, how she began her career in technology and what keeps her motivated.

Tell me about your young family, how was the change becoming a mum?

What isn’t challenging about becoming a mum? Lol! I have three children in total – five, nine and ten years old.

What challenges did you face practically?

The lack of sleep was probably the hardest thing to deal with! With that, the time management – making sure everyone’s where they need to be with everything they need. Whether that’s making sure each child has their PE kit on their PE day, homework or even extra curriculum activities. Between three, this can become quite a challenge, I believe I’ve truly ‘mastered’ the art of multi-tasking, ha ha, well at least I like to think so!

What challenges did you face emotionally?

Sometimes, I think working parents all get the “guilt” feeling. Putting your children into after school, breakfast or even holiday clubs – sometimes can be quite difficult. I think most parents experience the ongoing circle – you want to work to provide your children with great experiences, but you also want to stay at home and spend more time with them – it’s an ongoing circle of events – the realistic key to this is balancing the two worlds – between work and family.

What challenges did you face inspirationally?

You have to learn to balance the work – family lifestyle. Sometimes, this really can be such a challenge. Ambition to do well in your career, can sometimes make you push back on family time and vice versa. I’ve always had high ambition and a want to progress well in my career, to achieve highly, but sometimes you need to be realistic.

How did you come to decide tech was for you?

From the age of 12, I began teaching myself how to code simple websites using HTML and CSS – even at this stage, it became addictive! I had a keen interest in graphic design and created a small site that provided things like wallpapers, profile layouts etc for users to download. I then went more into the programming world, experimenting with PHP and Javascript – producing small websites for local business’ and family members.

How do you make time to study and balance the needs of the young ‘uns?

My interest in tech, developed into a degree and a career. I’m very fortunate to work for a company that allows me to work from home. I don’t actually know how I would function without the flexible work opportunity that Sky Bet provides. As a Software Engineer and a mum, if one of my children is sick or if there’s a school play etc, I don’t need to worry about not being present or being there – because I can. I can work my hours from home and be there for my children when they need me, it really is invaluable.

What did other people say? Were they supportive?  

It was very “50/50” – some were supportive, some not. I found it most difficult within my first year at university, there was around 4 girls in total, the rest male. Which made it slightly harder to enjoy the degree at first, on top of which, it was even more difficult being a parent. I couldn’t really socialise like others within my year and I wasn’t highly interested in games etc, which made bonding difficult. Thankfully, I had a few people including my Dad, Husband and Grandma that were super supportive throughout which pushed me into continuing with a subject that I loved.

Did you ever have self-doubts?

All the time. Literally, ALL THE TIME. It’s a case of “you are your worst enemy”.  I think one of my worst traits is the lack of confidence.

What kept you motivated?

I genuinely LOVE to achieve – in fact it’s probably an addiction! I enjoy hard work and I enjoy the sense of achieving a goal – completing an ambition. I suppose, I’m a bit of a “weirdo” – I have to be doing something all the time – even on holiday. But through it all the main motivation is the ability to provide my family with opportunities and a good life. On a selfish level, it’s to turn back the years in 40 years’ time (hopefully lol) and be proud of the career I achieved, with the steps it took to get there. Ultimately however, I am very fortunate as I genuinely LOVE the job that I do, being a Software Engineer within a company with such great culture and co-workers barely makes it feel like work at all!

What drove you to take the first step into tech?

Pure interest. Genuinely pure interest. I began curious with how websites and the internet worked (I know, sad right?), which was quite difficult growing up as my interests never seemed to align with those my friends had and I began to feel as though I was different.

Now though I love that I am able to support and inspire those who felt the same as me and support them with their journeys into tech related careers.

Were you ever worried it wasn’t the right decision?

Risking my previous career in Dental, to go back to university to finally start my Software engineering career always had its risks. “Was I going to be good enough?”, “What if I fail? “, “What if I don’t gain employment through the degree?” – I think all these thoughts are pretty standard.

What would you say to other women about managing their life choices?

You have to be in a career that makes you happy, if you’re in a career that you enjoy it makes life so much easier to balance. It doesn’t matter what the sector or job role is, as long as you’re happy you will always achieve – if you’re in a career that you enjoy, you’ll never have to work again. The opinions of our social peers does not matter so much when we get older, so take that risk, go back and do what you enjoy! YOLO!

Susan Bowen featured

“Geeky, boring, coder” Susan Bowen shares how she helped catch criminals in the 90s


“I can either be seen as a geeky, boring coder or as someone that was helping to catch criminals in the 90s,” says Susan Bowen, Vice President and General Manager, EMEA at Cogeco Peer1 who believes the tech industry should do more to inform students of what a career in technology entails.

“Geeky, boring, coder” Susan Bowen shares how she helped catch criminals in the 90s (F)Having spent 16 years at Hewlett Packard and Hewlett Packard Enterprise she opted to move to global web infrastructure and cloud company Cogeco Peer1 last year. She recently shared her career journey and plans for her exciting new role at Cogeco Peer1, with WeAreTheCity.

At school Bowen quickly realised that she excelled in her Computing classes, which guided her in her subject choices: “I planned to take English and politics, but I found that I was good at Computing. I took A-Level Computing and got the opportunity to go to University.”

She started her career in technology as a Systems Engineer, at Electronic Data Systems, in 1996. Here she worked on UK and International Projects for Met Police and Amex Bank.

She explained how at school she was not aware that a career in technology would enable her to travel the world and work on exciting, real world projects: “I went straight into a programming job and I got to code on the millennial bug, which was real. I had to change the coding in banking applications and you had to do every desktop in those days. I got to travel the world and worked in the World Trade Center. I also travelled to Singapore and worked in the financial sector. The trading floor was the heart of the technology industry in 1999.

“I was also on the tech team for the Met police, when it was very early days for analytics. My coding helped to created maps, which analysed communities based on crimes and individuals. I had to visit every police station to make this possible and they even showcased my code on The Bill. They didn’t tell me at college, that I would get to do things like that.

“I can either be seen as a geeky, boring coder or as someone that was helping to catch criminals in the 90s.”

She later studied further and opted to learn the business side of her work too: “I then learnt the business side of things and I later joined HP. I signed up to take Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) and I was the first one at the time. I went on the courses when Active Directory was first certified. I was previously the only girl on my A-Level course and I was the only girl at HP taking courses at that time. I was in a laddish environment, but I’m boysy. It didn’t intimidate me, but I can see how a less laddish environment would be better.”

In 1999 she took a job at HP where she managed the Mission Critical support service contracts as a trusted advisor for JP Morgan Chase, Schroders PLC and 3i PLC. During her time at HP she worked her way up to Chief of Staff UK & Ireland at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

Throughout her career at the company she was appointed by HP’s Executive Committee to lead the UK and Ireland through its Company Separation, which formed HP Inc and Hewlett Packard Enterprise. She also worked with McKinsey & Co to deploy a new sales coverage model and workforce restructure establishing a $1.5bn business and returning to growth in a recession.

She was pivotal in forming HP’s SMEngage programme to change the way HP works with Small, Medium Enterprises (SME) and as a result increased HP’s spend with SMEs by 50% in two years. She transformed HP’s Managed Print Services business increasing profitability by over 60pts and over 50% revenue growth in two years. In addition, she created a nationwide community based corporate social responsibility programme to log over 160,000 hours of volunteer time by employees in one year.

She became a techUK Board member in 2013 and was appointed by techUK as Chair for the Women in Tech council in 2015.

Speaking with a sense of loyalty and appreciation for her time at HP she said: “I really enjoyed the ride.”

Bowen said the move to Cogeco Peer1 was made at the right time and that she is enjoying the challenge: “I look after everything that enables people to go to the cloud. This can be enabling music to be collected in the cloud or even betting at Charlton.

“I had, and still have, such loyalty to HP. The timing was just right to leave as I was not going to a competitor. I am very excited to grow the UK and EMEA business here, with leading edge technology.”

A move into management

When Bowen decided to make the move into management she bided her time and waited for the perfect moment. She advised other ladies to identify a business need to show leadership first: “I spotted a gap in the way that HP was doing business with critical clients. Transition and transformation would create better customer service. I showed leadership first and then management.

“A leader also realises that someone else can take the glory for your idea and that you don’t always have to be at the front. For me it’s not about being front of house and taking the team’s glory.”

If she could go back in time and give herself one piece of advice she said she would tell herself: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. I spent time worrying about things that weren’t perfect or that I had said the wrong thing. Instead channel your energy and don’t sweat the small stuff.

“You have to think of what you control and own and what things you can influence. Don’t worry about things that you cannot fix and don’t put time into the things you know you cannot change.”

Bowen has a hectic schedule, but she is careful to keep a good balance with her personal live: “I have a long day and I work hard to see my son. Either end of the day I fit in a piece of exercise and I swim at least three times a week. I’m taking part in the Ride100 in September, so when my boy is asleep at the weekends I put my cycle gear on for two hours.

“I work with teams in Canada, France and London so that can mean early and late calls and I’m also techUK’s women in technology Council Chair. On top of that I have networking events too. There is a balance – if 60% of your diary isn’t taken up with things you have organised then you need to flip the balance.”

Women Who Code

Women Who Code is a global community of over 100,000 women tech professionals, with local Networks in 60 cities and 20 countries. We host over 1,500 free technical and educational events each year, and have a Leadership program where we are working with 500 members to help them gain valuable experience and opportunities to accelerate their career. We also give away more than $1M in scholarships and tech event conference tickets annually. Through these efforts we are working to support women in their tech careers, while giving them the tools to accelerate to leadership positions.

Women Who Code partners extensively with top companies like Capital one, eBay, Google, and Snap Chat to help them improve their hiring and retention process, and institute more inclusive policies that create a better environment for female technologists to grow and succeed. We've also developed an employment program that ensures a more fair, open, and inclusive process for women looking for opportunities in the industry.

Through our content publishing platforms and CODE Review Newsletter we work to highlight stories about incredible women in technology, who are doing things to change the world right now. Thsi acts not only as inspiration, but is also a conscious effort to shift the perception of the tech industry to include a broader idea of who can be an engineer. By transforming the way people think about tech, we can make it inherently more inclusive.

80% of all Women Who Code members report that being a part of our organization has helped their career. Our members have access to programs, services, community, and support, and our leaders gain opportunities to improve their professional profiles through speaking engagements and industry events.


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Women Who Code Network


WomenWhoCodeLogoWomen Who Code is a global non-profit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers.

We provide an avenue into tech, empower women with skills needed for professional advancement, and provide environments where networking and mentorship are valued. The organization has executed more than 1,000 free events around the world, garnered a membership exceeding 18,000, and has a presence in 14 countries.

Our key initiatives include:
  • Free technical study groups (Ruby, Javascript, iOS, Android, Python, Algorithms)
  • Connecting our community with influential tech experts and investors
  • Career and leadership development
  • Increasing female speakers and judges at conferences and hackathons
  • Increasing participation in the tech community

For more information or to join visit: