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Women in tech: unexpected routes in and why it matters for workplace diversity

How do many women in tech end up in their jobs? Probably not the way non-technologists often assume.

Indeed, I’m an ‘accidental technologist’ myself! As someone who founded an online learning games start-up several years ago, I know that many women in tech are exactly like me. 

While the rate of women studying technology is improving slowly, most women in tech who work in the field don’t necessarily have a computer science degree. 

What women in tech bring is often a different perspective to these fast-moving fields; adding workplace diversity at the same time. 

Coding not a pre-requisite

Women in tech don’t alway have years of coding expertise from training programmes before joining the industry.

Indeed it’s wholly possible to have an amazing career in tech and never learn how to code a single line.

Like me, they learn much on the job and delegate other part to people who love coding – increasing numbers of whom are women. 

As I talked about in  ‘Beyond the Boys’ Club’ there are many potential paths to success when you are a minority in your field, like women in tech.

Want to make a career change? Two vital truths for women in tech:

  • 1. Look past the image of a field, to how it involves people

When I entered my first hackathon weekend, I remember meeting a coder who worked 9-5 in a well-paying job for a bank. But he loved the atmosphere and ideas he’d see within hackathons.

I pitched him my idea for online training games about workplace diversity. 

Back then, workplace diversity was a topic he’d never seen. However, it seemed obvious to me with my psychology and women’s studies background. I’d also been consulting on these topics for major companies for years by this point. 

Steep learning curve

By the time of my pitch, I personally hadn’t played games since ‘Where in the World is Carmen SanDiego’ was a hit. 😉

However, I suspected I could create games that would help people understand tricky, but all too common situations at work.

Indeed many HR professionals, the kind of people who normally hired me for live training sessions and read my books, were also encouraging.

  • 2. Focus on the human impact of science or technology – what’s its purpose?

In that conversation, when I apologised again for my lack of coding experience. The coder reassured me:

‘But it’s people like you, with a completely different worldview,  who bring us ideas we’d never have thought of! We need you! You don’t need coding experience, because you can write the situations the characters find themselves in – and help them get out of tricky problems.’

Indeed, the games we went on to make were the perfect place to practice how you’d handle a difficult situation around workplace diversity. This was important practice before you might make a mistake with a real colleague!

Focus on ‘why’ technology will help

That was where I started. With his encouragement, I did get the games up and running and being played in organisations throughout the UK. 

I even got SMART funding to help drive the early development years. Not bad for an ‘accidental technologist’.

My start in this sector is something I’m hugely proud of as I”m part of a fantastic community of women in tech.  Many cover a wide range of functions and often have no historic coding experience, just like me.

Thinking about your next career move?

Take a look at my video on what to do if you are stuck in a career rut and are wondering what next? It’s got a few questions (you’ll need to answer honestly!) which might widen your thinking.

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