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Women in tech share their secrets to success | With Ditto

March 2020

 

When only 15% of tech professionals are women and it’s been that way for ten years, clearly there are some career challenges in the sector. This statistic was quoted by Shilpa Shah, programme director for Deloitte UK, delivery and large scale Implementations, a panellist during the Big Boost Monday event organised by business development specialists Ditto at Fora – Old Street.

 

It’s never too early to think about a tech career

Shilpa says she was destined for a career in tech after an early experiment taking apart her Speak & Spell as a child and making some data-driven improvements to her parents’ driving school business during her formative years. Today, with two decades under her belt at Deloitte, she describes herself as a ‘software engineer who fell in love with data’.

Tasha Chouhan, head of business development for banking services at Starling says the key to more women in tech is getting girls to consider it as a career option early on, way before their first pay packet. Mentoring teenage girls at school, particularly those who don’t have a professional role model, is the way to improving the gender divide in tech Tasha says. She adds that what inspired her to pursue a career in tech was the way that technology is disrupting the financial services sector, making things quicker, cheaper and easier for customers. She enjoys the pace and the flat hierarchy of her employer Starling, the digital challenger bank.

 

To uni or not?

An audience member who works in sales felt she was at a disadvantage because she hadn’t gone to university. The panel were quick to reassure her that this needn’t be the case, pointing to several senior colleagues who had got to where they are without a degree. Shilpa says you need diverse people to solve the diverse problems the tech sector throws up. The tech sector never stops developing so it’s about lifelong learning, regardless of how many formal educational qualifications you have.

 

Recruit out your unconscious biases

Panellist Jennifer Steele chose maths instead of art at A-level and after a maths degree, completed a masters in computer science. As a senior product developer at Genesis Global Technology, she feels she’s now united her creative side with knowledge and experience in the tech sector. She agrees that the market really needs to be actively looking at the ways it recruits to make sure it’s attracting a broad spectrum of people. Use a data-driven approach, she recommends, to drive out those unconscious biases and maintain equal opportunities. Thanks to a digitally connected world and the prevalence of freelancers and those working in the gig economy, there’s never been a greater talent pool to tap in to, Shilpa adds.

 

Tackling tech’s white male privilege one meeting at a time

Judging by the reaction to the question, there were plenty of others who were in the same boat as the audience member who asked for tips on successful meetings with clients who were often older and male. Tasha recommended honing in on their particular interests – if they’re a COO for instance, then the outcomes of the operations department will push their buttons. Being concise and clear in your delivery and keeping in mind that you’re in the room because you’re the expert in your field.

 

Together women in tech are stronger

Getting together, whether that’s face-to-face at a networking event or virtually via a Slack channel, will help women triumph in their tech careers. Mentoring is also the name of the game, whether that’s being a mentor or finding someone to mentor you. Jen also mentioned having a sponsor – someone to cheerlead for you in your organisation. Help each other to give a boost to the tech sector was the ultimate takeaway.

 

Fora is proud to be supporting International Women’s Day 2020 with a week-long series of empowering events. Find out more and book tickets via our What’s On page.