Entering the tech industry—breaking down gender stereotypes

Entering the tech industry—breaking down gender stereotypes

PWC highlighted in its Women in Tech report: Time to close the gender gap, that 78% of students couldn’t name a female working in tech and only 3% of females would choose tech as their first choice for a career. These shocking statistics alone show how gender stereotypes are still prevalent in the tech industry. The Women of the Silicon Roundabout is one of the largest women in tech event series which aims to breakdown those gender industry barriers which prevent females from entering the profession.

In celebration of the upcoming 2019 event on 25 and 26 June sponsored by LexisNexis, Freya Becker, Junior Software Engineer at LexisNexis, shares with us her journey into tech…

Growing up as a teenager in the nineties, my friends and I spent a lot of our time building our own PCs, setting them up in networks to play together as a group. Not sure what to do with my life after finishing school, turning my interest in computers into a career felt like a reasonable place to begin my explorations. However, I didn’t know any women/girls who had taken up a career (or even shown interest) in tech, and even more than today, the myth at the time went that to become a software engineer, you had to be all but a genius, and be really into maths—which I certainly didn’t think described me. Initial forays into coding (generally as the only girl present), further convinced me of my ill fit for the career and so I chose something more ‘traditional’, getting a degree in psychology while working in media regulation.

After finishing university, I continued my career in media regulation and media education. When I reached a point at which I felt my career was no longer allowing me the personal growth I was looking for, I decided to find a new challenge, leaving my old life in Germany behind to come to London and make a new home here. Moving into advertising regulation, in a landscape different from what I used to know, again presented me with those challenges and learning opportunities I had been missing when I decided to leave my previous job (and country) behind. After a few years, however, I was back at that point where I felt that my professional development and personal growth were stalling.

I started re-evaluating what I wanted my career to be and began seeking out online resources, re-acquainting myself with things I had first encountered years ago and long since forgotten (creating html pages, tinkering with styling), slowly working my way through courses for programming languages like Ruby and JavaScript. When I was still happily spending most of my free time working through online curricula after a few months, making steady progress, I knew this was what I wanted my future to look like: Continuous learning and problem solving, while creating something real and tangible in the process.

At this stage, I happened to be incredibly lucky to come across an opportunity that has since transformed my life:

LexisNexis (together with the London based boot-camp Makers Academy) were looking for career changers passionate to begin careers in tech as apprentices to become software developers. As one of 12 apprentices hired by LexisNexis, I went through four months of upfront training that equipped me with the fundamentals that I needed to start my first job in tech as junior software engineer in a production team.

Fresh out of training and a recent career changer, I was a little worried that I may not be able to add value in my new team when I first joined them in January of this year—or that I’d be given repetitive, boring tasks or little responsibility. To my surprise and joy, however, none of my new colleagues seemed to be worried that I didn’t come with a CS degree, or that I may not be a maths genius, or the fact that this isn’t my first career. From day one, I’ve been encouraged and expected to take ownership of my work and contribute to the team’s successes, and have felt part of the team. If I don’t know something, just like any of my colleagues, we’re expected to learn what we need to about it—and given the support that allows us to do so. Every day has brought new and interesting challenges, and the highs (and sometimes lows) that are part of the process of solving them. No day has passed where I haven’t learned something new, and I’d like to think that this is helping me (slowly but steadily) become more proficient and more confident in my new role.

I was also positively surprised to find that compared to previous environments I’ve worked in, we are a diverse group of people from a wide range of backgrounds, both culturally and professionally. While there may still be fewer female colleagues than there are male, I am certainly not the only women around. And irrespective of who we are, or what our individual backgrounds are, there’s something we all seem to have in common: A passion for tackling new challenges, continuously learning new things, and sharing knowledge with others.

Ten months into my career change, I’m thrilled to say that I haven’t regretted my decision. ‘Breaking into tech’ coming from a different background can be a daunting prospect without the right support, and this has been a fantastic opportunity for me and my fellow apprentices.

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About the author:

Hannah is one of the Future of Law blog’s digital and technical editors. She graduated from Northumbria University with a degree in History and Politics and previously freelanced for News UK, before working as a senior news editor for LexisNexis.