Lateral Thinking: The Many Paths to Diversified Technological Excellence

Lateral Thinking: The Many Paths to Diversified Technological Excellence

One of the challenges facing the tech industry is the perception that it is mostly populated by predominantly white, male computer science graduates who were destined from an early age for a life of coding, perhaps replacing social abilities. You could argue how much of that was really true (coding was mostly done by women in the 1950s and 60s until the industry decided they wanted to change their low status image, and the stereotype “nerd” didn’t really take root until the 1980s), but nevertheless many would-be tech employees of all ages still buy into it – and it’s part of this belief that helps maintain the gender imbalance. in technology.

Part of the fun of the Women in Tech festival is showing how outdated these stereotypes are and examining the myriad paths to technology. Many of the event’s speakers and panelists, as well as other high achievers in technology, have transitioned into technical roles after previously working in other areas such as finance, project management and programs, customer relations and creative roles. They may have entered tech through apprenticeships or by taking a course with the deliberate aim of retraining and seeking more lucrative employment. Or they could have gotten into it completely by accident and decided they liked it instead. The paths to technology are as diverse as the roles available.

Many Women in Tech Excellence award winners (several of whom are now involved in the 2022 event as judges) did not plan to work in the industry. Kate Beverly, Global IT Executive at Pearson, started her career working at a craft magazine and ended up acting as a one-woman helpdesk. She took a coding course, landed an entry-level development role, and worked her way into delivering complex projects.

University is not the only path

The success of some of the other judges ably illustrates the reality that getting into tech doesn’t have to be through a graduate route — or even a technical route. Sarah Lucas, Head of Migration Services at Lloyds Banking, started her career in accountancy and gradually moved into technology as finance became increasingly digitalised.

Nerissa Thakurdas, winner of the Outstanding Transformation category in 2021 and now Head of IT Security at Falanx Cyber ​​​​is a great ambassador for both having followed a learning path in technology and also for moving laterally from context providing cybersecurity technology services. She explains how she made the leap into a field that has interested her for a long time.

Nerissa Thakurdas

“I didn’t have a background in cybersecurity, but of course there’s a lot of crossover between IT and security and I had worked with security teams before. What my line manager wanted was was finding someone with service delivery experience, who could apply it to the maturation of cybersecurity service delivery.”

Technology is getting more creative

The diversity of WITA judges’ backgrounds extends to those from creative arts backgrounds such as 2021 Rising Star winner Milly Batchelor. Batchelor believes that a creative background, far from being a barrier to a tech career, can actually be a big advantage as the type of technical roles required evolves. His own move into technology from finance was driven by a desire to exercise his creative skills to enhance Nat West’s customer experiences using digital platforms.

Russ Shaw, founder of the not-for-profit organizations Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates is also a firm believer in the need for creative skills in technology.

“We’ve talked a lot about STEM, coding, programming, data scientists, etc. and we desperately need that talent, but we also need people with creative skills, we need people with creative skills. in project management, we need great content writers, we need people with marketing skills, technology extends to many areas, we need to do a much better job of saying, “if you’re interested in writing, art or design, always think about a career in digital and tech”. There are really cool things happening with immersive technology – AR and VR, with the metaverse, with the web3 – the creative industries and the tech sector are colliding.”

Tech London defender Russ Shaw
Russ Shaw, Tech London Advocates Computing & CRN Women in Tech Festival 2022

The UK is a world leader in creative industries and technology, but will struggle to maintain this position if we cannot fill the hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be created. As Shaw puts it, “we’re going to have a hard time filling them not just with coders and programmers, but people who have digital production, art, and design skills.”

Shaw also brings up the fact that it’s not just about recruiting young people into the industry. The possibilities for lateral career development are many and varied.

“We need to give the 40s, 50s and 60s a message that says ‘you may not have the skills needed today, but with a retraining and retraining on digital and tech, would you be willing to work in the sector? Maybe you ” “I’m a great project manager and you’ve been doing it for 25 or 30 years. There are a multitude of start-ups and scale-ups that need you. “It’s one of the biggest job opportunities out there.”

Women often have transferable skills

Naomi Timperley, co-founder of Tech North Advocates, stresses the importance of not just creative skills, but also transferable skills, as well as the fact that tech jobs cover a much wider range than people often realize.

“A friend who was a marketing manager took a self-funded UX course. I know not everyone is able to do this, but there are plenty of fantastic boot camps out there, such as the 12-week ministry-funded ones. Education. which are free. But as a marketer, you need to know as much about the customer as possible and that skill set is so transferable to UX.”

Lopa Patel MBE Chair of Diversity UK agrees that fields like marketing can be full of people with transferable skills.

“A lot of people working in AI are often women, because they got there through data marketing or program and project management, and their problem-solving skills are exactly what we need. .”

Technology offers a wealth of career choices and paths, and the roles are becoming more diverse as well as the people who fill them – a trend that logically must continue if the industry is to continue to grow. The Women in Tech Festival provides an opportunity to celebrate this diversity of roles, career paths and successes, and to persuade potential tech industry employees that old stereotypes no longer apply.

Computing is hosting the Women in Tech Festival live in London on November 3 and digitally on November 9.

Join us to find out how the industry can continue to champion diversity and effect positive change. Find your sense of belonging as we bring the tech industry together to collaborate, learn and grow.

Learn more here

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