Young people in tech, tech careers, mthreeArticle by Hayley Roberts, CEO at specialist cyber security distributor, Distology

Despite efforts to level the playing field and encourage more women to consider a career in tech over the past few years, the figures are still nowhere near where they need to be.

Stats from the ONS in February revealed that fewer than a third of UK tech jobs are held by women and while this is a steady increase on the past few years, when you look at leadership and technical roles, the figures are far lower.

It’s difficult for me to digest these stats when I know a) how interesting, fulfilling and dynamic a career in tech can be, and b) just how much value women add to tech businesses. The stats speak for themselves. Companies with higher levels of equal representation are more profitable and companies with at least one woman on the board of directors outperform those without any women by 26%, according to Gartner figures.

My journey into tech

My own journey into the sector almost started after I graduated in business – I had the option of working on a graduate scheme for IBM or working for a toiletries company helping to run the retail accounts for the likes of M&S and Next. Contrary to where I am now, I chose the latter. Mostly due to the fact I could conceptualise where it fit and the supply chain was more obvious. IBM and what the business did other than hardware eluded me – and the IT world seemed slightly greyer back then.

But they say everything always finds its way, and three industry moves later I landed at a security distributor, after working as a head-hunter for six years (ironically setting up the Dell team in the business’ first Moscow office). I had taken some time out to focus on family after the credit crunch in 2008 and decided a change of environment was just what I needed.

Given my skill set was mainly in sales, marketing and leadership, it was transferable – and this is the message I’m always keen to convey to those who might be working in other careers and considering a role in tech. This was 12 years ago, and I became the second in command at Codework, a small but successful security distributor which predominantly focussed on Symantec. The rest is history.

Dispelling myths about tech roles

Before delving into the myths around tech roles, it’s first worth considering the educational landscape we’re operating in. The drop off in interest around tech, and more widely STEM subjects, starts in late high-school – a 2017 Microsoft survey found that young women become interested in STEM subjects at around 11 and then lose interest when they’re 15. It’s no coincidence that this is around the time when people tend to start falling into more traditional gender roles of what a male or female ‘should’ be doing.

While women are more than capable of coding with the boys, the thing is, tech careers aren’t just about sitting behind a computer inputting code – which is where the misconceptions often start. A huge myth about working in tech is that you need a computer science degree to do it, which simply isn’t true.

A few examples will perhaps better illustrate my point. Anyone with a keen interest in fashion could take up a role at an online fashion brand at Boohoo or ASOS, looking at how people shop, for example, and how to optimise the website in line with this. Or those with a love of psychology and identifying human behaviour could relish in a role in UX or UI design. In the same vein, those with a keen interest in art could make a great web or graphic designer, or those that love building relationships could become a great tech project or account manager. For these reasons, tech is also a great career to ‘switch’ into, by applying and building on transferrable skills learned in other industries.

Another huge myth is that you need to be ‘technically minded’ to succeed in a career in tech. That couldn’t be further than the truth for many roles. What drives my recruitment strategy here at Distology is hiring based on core competencies rather than pure experience. An element of interest in the technology side of the sector is of course important but, ultimately, tech is a solution to a problem and these problems all have human factors.

The final myth I wanted to cover is that tech roles are analytical and don’t offer room for creativity. Again, this is a huge misconception and the tech world is full of creatives – from web designers and content creators, to marketers and product strategists. As I mentioned previously, tech is all about solving problems and coming up with better, more effective ways to do things; now if that doesn’t involve an element of creativity, I’m not sure what does!

A sector of opportunity

As one of the world’s fastest growing and ever-evolving industries, I’m on a mission to get more people – particularly women – interested in a career in tech. For those just starting out and know tech is the career they want to get into, and equally those that are in other careers and want to use transferrable skills to switch career without starting completely from scratch, the opportunities in tech are endless and exciting. And as many skill sets in tech cross over, there tends to be plenty of opportunities to try new things out and it can be relatively simple to move over to other departments within an organisation, so you’ll find it hard to grow bored!

About the author

Hayley RobertsFollowing a 20+ year career with blue chip enterprise businesses in retail, recruitment and technology, Hayley Roberts is the founder and driving force behind IT Security distributor, Distology. The company specialises in identifying, representing and distributing the latest disruptive technology in the cyber security arena.

Hayley has carefully nurtured a unique company culture that encourages vibrancy and ambition and as a result, Distology has won various accolades including CRN’s Distributor of the Year 2019, Cloud Distributor of the Year 2020 and the Gender Parity at the Women in Channel Awards. This year, Hayley has also been shortlisted for CRN’s Women in Channel Woman of the Year and Role Model of the Year, while the business has been shortlisted for Distributor of the Year (sub £250m turnover), Cloud Distributor of the Year and Technology Incubator of the Year.