Have you completed a Code First: Girls course? If yes, when, where and which Level (Level 1 Introduction to Front-end or Level 2 Introduction to Python Programming)?
Do you have a technical background? (Did you study CS etc?)
I don’t come from a technical background. I began in STEM and transitioned to social sciences. I studied Biology and Society, a degree unique to Cornell University which equips students with hard sciences combined with perspectives from social sciences and ethics. Loving the social science aspect, I later pursued a degree in public and economic policy at the London School of Economics - a course that focused on evidence based policies which meant I had a great introduction to data science, experimentation and behavioural science as a result.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to kickstart a career in Tech who doesn't have a technical educational background?
If you don’t have a technical background and want to work in tech, the good news is that with artificial intelligence for instance, the problems in this space are not just engineering problems they are human problems. To get this right, we need diversity of people in this space, especially non-technical talent! For example, social scientists are now in demand from tech companies because knowing social processes, psychology, economics you’re in a good position to understand online communities, spread of fake news, or embedding ethics into development of AI systems. This was my entry into working in tech where I utilised my background in economics and behavioural sciences to work at an AI startup that used communities and machine learning to detect online misinformation. Most of the positions listed in the job openings were machine learning and engineering roles, but I sent an email and described how with my skills in research (quantitative and qualitative methods), UX research, project management and communications, I would add something valuable to build the community needed to help the company achieve its goals. So I would say if you’re a linguist, data scientist, economist, social scientist, ethicist - your skills are and will continue to be in demand as technology continues to evolve. Apply to positions confidently, and if no positions are open yet cold-message and make the case why with your skills you can make a contribution to the company and the tech sector.
I would also strongly advise to become involved with your local tech community. After I graduated from my master’s, I continued to learn by actively participating in a range of communities such as the AI Club for Gender Minorities, R-Ladies, and Women Who Code in meet-ups, workshops, trainings and hackathons. This not only helped me to build new skills and get practical training, but also introduced me to new networks and friends in the tech space from whom I learned about new opportunities and collaborations.
I firmly believe in continuous learning and building new skills. Thankfully you can access learning very easily online - be it Coursera, edX or more project based learning like Kaggle. Community courses like CodeFirst come with the benefit of face to face and peer learning as well as chances to get an internship or a role with the company delivering the community course.
Last, be entrepreneurial. If there’s a role you want in tech and you see that you don’t have the background, think creatively about what kind of projects or experiences you can take part in or create yourself that can give you the skills to go forth and get that role. I strongly advise on working on independent projects, exploring your hobbies, applying a problem-solving approach to kickstarting a career in tech.
What did you learn from the CF:G course? (Both technically and beyond!)
Technically, I learned to build a basic website through the front-end course and learned to create a web app with the python course. The python course was especially enjoyable as I worked with a colleague to create an employee appreciation web app which ended up winning 1st place in the end of course competition. There was a lot of teamwork and collaboration involved and I really enjoyed this practical aspect of the course.
The course also inspires a lot of problem solving. It’s very interesting to observe how students evolve and become more independent as the course progresses. In the beginning of the programme, when something went wrong in the code the immediate reaction for me was to ask for help from the instructors as I was afraid of making mistakes. But as the course went on, I developed confidence and enjoyed the problem solving component to programming.
Beyond that, I learned about curriculum design. I am very intrigued about learning processes, especially about how to translate complex information (which is something I am working on now!) So for me it was a great first-hand experience to see the approach CodeFirst:Girls takes to teach programming to people who have never coded before and then end up getting jobs as programmers!
How did the CF:G course impact your career?
CodeFirst: Girls served as the bridge when I transitioned from policy and academia to the tech world. I loved being part of the CF:G community and learning along other women also interested in starting a career in tech. It was a very supportive environment and a good introduction to the tech space. Even if you’re non-technical working in tech you still need to understand the basics and the courses I took with CF:G gave me the foundation to explore different paths in the tech sector: from working in AI to creating games and gamified learning experiences.
How did you get into AI and EdTech?
AI: After LSE I became an active participant in the tech community in London - there was so much happening and I carved out my niche by becoming involved with several communities and meetup groups. After attending a design thinking hackathon where social enterprises pitched problems, we came together as a cross-disciplinary team of eight to design potential solutions and prototypes. The issue posed had to do with algorithm bias in the news industry. Even after the hackathon, keen to work on this particular issue I began thinking creatively about how to work in the space. This took me to the MIT Media Lab where I explored research coming from different groups (e.g. Civic Media, Scalable Cooperation) and learned more about how they applied tech and creativity to solve social issues. Upon returning to the UK and actively searching for early stage startups that worked on this specific issue, I luckily found one I was drawn to. A cold-email and several interviews later, I joined the team and began working on how to design systems and processes to combine human expert judgment with machine learning to detect misinformation online.
Edtech: When I first moved to London to study applied economics and policy at the LSE I was beyond excited for the opportunity. During this time the referendum results in the UK changed a lot of things and suddenly what was going on outside the classroom was a lot more interesting to learn. In my mind I questioned whether the traditional classroom model for learning was working. So I went on a little adventure to look at ways of communicating and delivering complex subjects, e.g. economics, that was relevant, useful and interesting to learn for people. This took me to the world of theatre (from participating in immersive theatre in Edinburgh Fringe to volunteering to advise on an economics-related interactive theatre that later played at the Barbican). Living in London is quite remarkable in how it serves as a source of inspiration and I was introduced to the gaming community which is quite vibrant here. Putting together the pieces I decided to go on the entrepreneurial path and create a venture where I could use these very engaging mediums (theatre, gaming) to translate meaningful but often complex content to make it more accessible.
Why are women so crucial to the continued growth of the tech sector and what advice would you give to women who want to pursue a career in Tech?
Diversity of perceptive is crucial in the tech sector. Be it an algorithm or a product a team is building, having more women and minorities as decision-makers and as part of the process is instrumental to building inclusive products and services. Tech impacts everyone and we need more diversity of voices in order to ensure we look at problems we haven’t looked at before, come up with different and new set of solutions, and ensure the continued growth of the tech sector doesn’t leave people behind.
Having support networks and community is important for fellow women who want to pursue a career in tech. When starting out, the AI club for women and minorities was so encouraging, supportive and full of mentorship to help me begin a career in tech. I belong to a variety of communities similar to this where women support other women creating a safe space to ask questions, receive advice and help each other succeed. Mentorship is also key. Finding a mentor who can offer advice and help guide you at critical steps in your career, be it when finding your first role, trying to get a promotion, or starting your own venture.
I would also say, let’s continue to be bold. We have bold ideas, ambitions and career goals. Tech belongs to everyone, so let’s be bold and not be afraid to enter this space… this happens when we elevate each other.
What do you love most about working in tech?
The problem solving, the collaborative nature of the work, and the creativity involved in bringing ideas to life.
Working in tech weaves together so many fascinating worlds. Especially in gaming where you combine the creative worlds of design, art, filming and writing with the technical side of developing the game. In this process you have to communicate between different “worlds” and become a translator. I love this.
Coming from academia, I also love that hypothesis testing, running experiments and validated learning are key parts of building successful products and company.
With developments in AI we are asking important questions about how the world works, how society works and how humans works. So it has been a social scientist’s dream to work in tech.
Are you working on anything exciting at the moment that you’d like to share with our readers?
I run AI Townsquare that brings together engineers and social scientists to train them on what developing ethical AI really means. My co-founder is an engineer, so together we created a 10 month curriculum with key readings (topics include fairness, explainability) and facilitate monthly series of curated conversations where we do a deep-dive on a single topic. We are currently running the series in London and plan to grow to the rest of the UK to train more professionals working in tech. My goal is to bring more diversity of people and backgrounds into the conversation on AI, so do join us in an upcoming series! I will also be at MozFest this year in the Web Literacy space where I will be running a role-play/simulation on (Un)fair Algorithms. This will be a test to see whether the simulation is an effective method to convey complex topics to the broader public as I would love to grow AI Townsquare from training professionals working in tech to launching an initiative to train the public on AI.
I am also working on my gamified learning venture to make learning about complex topics (beginning in economics) accessible, useful and engaging. Everything from a visual newsletter as a way to learn Econ 101, to pop-up economics games in unique venues around London, to developing narrative-driven serious games on economics phenomena. If this is something that intrigues you do get in touch!
Code First: Girls have partnered with London’s division of the worlds largest Women in Technology event series, Women of Silicon Roundabout to be held on June 25-26 in London. We spoke with Simi Awokoya, a Technical Evangelist at Microsoft and the Founder of Witty Careers about what she is excited to be presenting at this years event!
After 5 years of being a developer, I joined Microsoft as a Technical Evangelist where my role involves working with a range of companies across different sectors to build impactful solutions on Microsoft’s AI platform. I spend a lot of my time working with engineering teams so my previous experience as a developer is invaluable. I love my job because I get to work on bleeding edge technology and no two days are the same!
Technology is dictating the direction of the future. It is the core driver for multiple industries, it is disrupting traditional ways of running businesses and improving life as we know it. With this high demand for impact, technology decision makers(builders and strategists) need to be representative of the users they serve. I can think of so many examples of applications I’ve used that were not made with different genders, races or disabilities in mind. Most user experience fails are down to not having diverse teams.
Diverse teams build the best products and solutions and it’s important to ensure female Tech leaders have a seat at the table to create the impact we want to see.
My top tip for any woman looking to start a career in Tech is to invest in your career development. The Tech industry and Tech trends are constantly changing, and even with being a couple of years in, I have to take ownership of my career and take time out to learn and improve my skills. A quick win for anyone interested in finding out about the Tech industry, is to attend Tech meetups/presentations/startup pitches that showcase a job role or technology you’re interested in learning about. After doing that, make sure you network! With potential mentors and also laterally with your peers at conferences like Women of Silicon Roundabout. There is so much value in building a community of people you can learn from!
I’m the founder of an organisation called Witty Careers. Witty Careers equips women from Black and Minority Ethnic(BME) backgrounds with the skills to succeed in the Technology industry. Women are underrepresented in the UK Tech sector and BME women even more so. Early on in my career, I noticed there were no communities focussed on giving women that looked like me the practical skills to get a start in the industry- so I decided to start one myself. Witty Careers is run by a team of women working across UK Tech companies and we run quarterly programmes for women and young people interested in starting careers in Technology. We are also a community for existing Women in Technology to learn, grow and pay it forward.
Want to find out more about other speakers? Head to Women in Technology website.
What makes an English Literature undergraduate who has just completed her first year decide to sign up for a 6-week intensive coding course?
Firstly, the same reason that I love analysing literature: I wanted to know how things work. We use technology every day and rely on so many apps and sites for both our work and private lives. How do they function? Do I have the potential to build these too? Secondly, I wanted to combine creativity and my interest in tech to challenge myself and see if a career in this industry was one I should consider further. Using my creativity in the digital space was entirely new territory as I came to the first session with no experience of coding. Yet, at the end of 6 weeks I had gained both theoretical and practical knowledge of several coding languages and software packages.
The most interesting thing that we explored on the course, in my opinion, was the range of design functions available in CSS, and how specific you can be with the design you create by using a single command in different ways. This ability to design something almost exactly as envisioned, with the best User Interface possible is certainly not an option with web-creation sites I have used in the past. It was even clearer when all the teams pitched their projects: every group’s site had a different cohesive design which suited their site’s ambitions and the styles that the individual developers had adopted. As someone interested in web development, the challenge of tailoring each site to suit the client as much as possible is something I find really interesting.
This course proved to me that there is space, not just for women in this industry, but for women from all different educational backgrounds – be it an English Literature student, or a woman with a more conventional path to coding, such as an engineering degree. This is because of the career talks from experts from different parts of the industry and through conversations with the course instructors about their own career paths. In fact, judging by the different strengths of the various projects by other groups in this CF:G Summer Intensive alone, this diversity serves different markets, creates different solutions, and can only improve the industry.
My current state of mind is that I will keep an eye out for other courses so that I can continue to learn coding for three main reasons: interest, differentiation in the career sector, and to make a career in the tech industry a viable option.
We've recently had the opportunity to catch up with Caitlin who switched into tech as part of the ThoughtWorks<>Makers Academy Women in Tech Scholarship programme. Below Caitlin tells us more about her journey and what she enjoys about her role.
What‘s your current role at ThoughtWorks?
I am currently a Software Developer and Consultant for ThoughtWorks.
What activities or projects are you working on at the moment?
My current project involves working on a microservices product, i.e. a collection of small and simple applications that can be plugged together, for a fashion company. We are building in GoLang for the backend and using React for our UI (user interface). I’m getting to also learn some skills regarding setting up a build pipeline, so we can see our software is working whether in development or if it is in production and live, as well as Amazon Web Services, which is where we are hosting our products without having to rely on our own server!"
What do you love most about working in tech?
For me, it is the stability of knowing I can shape my own career - that even as the industry changes, I can change with it.
You joined ThoughtWorks as part of the Women in Tech Scholarship with Maker’s Academy. How have you found the experience as a career switcher?
It has definitely been an interesting and challenging ride since I joined last February (2017)! Bringing such a wealth of knowledge with you to switching careers means that your experience is going to be unlike anyone else’s. Luckily though, I’ve been surrounded with lots of other people who have also are career changers and asking them and getting their advice has often been a life saver. There is this constant fear that without a Computer Science background I simply don’t know what I don’t know, but along the way I have learned that I know a lot of things I didn’t realise - I may just not have the vocabulary that others have yet! You also find that unlikely things help you in amazing ways. For example: having studied Gender Studies has meant that I have often been able to help with design and debugging because it has given me a strong capability to think about complex and abstract concepts!
What did you think would be most challenging when you first started out in tech? How has this changed ?
I thought that the hardest thing would be getting back into a routine - especially as I wasn’t in work for a long time due to suffering from PTSD as a result of a workplace sexual assault. Unfortunately, it is still tough for many people from underrepresented groups in tech, and it is not all that common to hear of women still being harassed or assaulted by their colleagues who are men. It has been a challenge to get back into an office environment, and when I first started my current job I suffered a lot of setbacks. Finding the right people who could support me at work and also in the tech community at large - especially women and LGBT+ in tech groups - has been amazing, and I now no longer have PTSD incidents and am part of a team where I feel supported and valued.
How have you dealt with moments of doubt, i.e. the “imposter syndrome”?
Imposter syndrome and this feeling like you shouldn’t be here, that you don’t know enough, that you aren’t a real dev is a non-stop for just about everyone I know working in tech - ranging from career changers on their first projects like me all the way up to Tech Leads with 20+ years of experience. I have found reaching out to my community of supporters that has grown throughout my journey really helps because talking to others shows that we all feel this and it just simply isn’t true. Tech is constantly changing and there is no one perfect way to do anything and this means there is no one way to be a dev, BUT there are millions of ways to learn new things! For me, when I feel in doubt I just let my curiosity take over: staying curious is the best cure for feeling falsely incapable.
Do you have any tips for how employers can support their staff, particularly groups of people under-represented in the tech space, to feel more confident about their abilities? Have you experienced a company that has done this well, and what are examples of how this worked positively?
I think employers need to think about the importance of keeping their employees in the conversation. I have often seen companies simply say “our goal this year is to focus on getting more women in” and that doesn’t actually address what it is like to work in a company as a woman - even if the company is very progressive. Just like there isn’t one way to do coding or be a dev, there isn’t just one way to be a woman in tech. In many ways ThoughtWorks has done a lot of great things to support women and girls in tech, but there is still a lot of work they can continue to do. There have still been times where I felt my male colleagues were praised more or critiqued less, and also times where I felt that decisions were made to hold me back because of my diagnosis of PTSD, without talking to me.
However, keeping a transparent and open dialogue about our experiences and remembering that we have to remain aware that everyone’s journey will be different and doesn’t just end at employment is key to improving this. Raising these issues, instead of internalising them, to our leadership team or an advisor, has allowed us to think how we might do these things without realising them and has opened the space for more women to come forward when they are struggling with something at our company.
What’s next on your journey?
I have just been put on my first delivery project after several months of waiting patiently and self-teaching, so right now I am learning as much as I can from my colleagues! Long term though, I would love to combine my previous work experience in girls education with coding and hopefully help inspire the next generation of awesome technologists.
Note: at the time of publishing Caitlin has since moved into an exciting new role as a QA (Quality Assurance) Tester!
Originally published on KKR
A few years ago, I was speaking to some friends from university who had heard about an organisation called Code First: Girls that had just launched and was causing a buzz in the London start-up network for offering free coding courses for women. Like many people, coding had always been a bit of a mystery to me, so I was intrigued and I enrolled on a course straight away. Fast forward to earlier this year when my colleague, Jean-Pierre Saad, mentioned that he was working on a partnership with a pioneering organisation called - Code First: Girls! I was obviously keen to get involved, and help an organisation I'd experienced firsthand deliver tangible benefits.
Code First: Girls is focused on addressing the gender and skills gap in the UK technology sector by providing young women with free coding courses. They've already made impressive progress, and over the past three years have taught over 5,000 women to code, delivering £2.5m worth of free coding education. But their ambitions are even bigger, and through their 20:20 campaign, they aim to teach 20,000 women to code by 2020.
As a woman with experience in the world of technology, this focus on promoting diversity within the male-dominated industry really speaks to me. Women currently represent around 17% of the technology workforce in the UK, and the issue starts with education; only 14% of students accepted onto UK computer science courses in 2016 were women, for example.
I have been passionate about promoting female participation in the workplace for some time, dating back to 2012 when I co-founded a London-based millennials network for women, aiming to connect and inspire young female professionals. Unfortunately, my experiences in the technology industry have only highlighted the disproportionate lack of female founders, technologists and investors. I'd seen KKR's announcement earlier this year with Girls Who Code in the US, and it was clear to me how much we need organisations like Girls Who Code and Code First: Girls to help us address this.
As a past participant in the program myself, I was able to experience firsthand how Code First: Girls' focus on skills and the dedication and expertise of their teaching volunteers can quickly make a big difference. The environment is incredibly friendly, collaborative, and well-run, which instantly puts you at ease. I began my lessons knowing nothing about coding, but by the end of my course I could help my parents redesign the website for our family business. Coding is a key part of so many technology jobs and some of my friends who attended their courses are now working in technology as software engineers, highlighting the efficacy of the organisation in helping women transition from different sectors into tech.
So what are we at KKR doing to help? Code First: Girls has big ambitions and while we are providing financial support, we are also focused on participation and Code First: Girls' 20,000 target. We are a big investor in tech companies and our priority is linking Code First: Girls to the KKR network, both in technology and more broadly, to generate awareness and enrolment.
Our portfolio companies are hugely excited about being able to access such a valuable resource and to help Code First: Girls hit their target. Most importantly, these courses provide women with the skills they need to effect genuine change – a mission we are all proud to be part of. A more diverse and more highly-skilled workforce benefits not just the whole technology sector, but the wider UK economy. I am also a firm believer that having greater diversity in technology will result in better products, capturing feedback from a wider range of users.
For me personally, knowing the basics of writing code has instantly made me a better tech investor. I can get under the skin of a business and its strategy much more quickly, as coding and web development are crucial to scale and growth for tech and online businesses; I can also ask questions of the business that I wouldn't have known to ask before.
We hope at KKR that this is the first of many announcements we make with Code First: Girls, as we help them hit their 20:20 target. But this isn't just about the organisation or its supporters. Making a difference and promoting diversity is a responsibility for everyone, so please join us in our efforts to educate and inspire young women, to the benefit of the whole country.
Code First: Girls will be publicly launching our 2020 campaign on the 5h December 2017. To find out how you can get involved visit www.codefirstgirls.org.uk/2020
This month CF:G caught up with Cristina Pascalau, who's joined Bank of America Merrill Lynch through one of their FinTech graduate recruitment programmes. Cristina shares her experience of the application process and what she does in her day-to-day role.
Where and what were you studying before joining BofAML?
I studied at University of York. My course was MEng Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence with a year in industry.
What was the application process for the graduate programme like?
I found it to be quite a smooth process. I applied using the online application form, after which I was invited for an assessment centre. The assessment centre consists of both individual and group exercises, and it wasn’t nearly as stressful as I imagined!
The HR team made sure that we were kept up to date from the moment we submitted our application until we heard back with more information about the offer.
What are you working on at the moment?
I work as part of the GMRT (Global Markets Technology) department and currently our focus is to successfully migrate all our legacy systems onto a new platform. This will allow us to be more proactive and efficient in helping our clients. It is a very challenging project as it requires coordination from multiple teams from different lines of business.
What is a typical day like?
My day usually starts with a team tea break before diving in. Unsurprisingly, coding takes up a big part of my day. Contrary to what you may imagine this to be I’m not sitting in a basement with no windows! There is more than coding to the job of a technology analyst, there are meetings that I need to attend also throughout the day. I’m lucky I work in a global company and this means you’re part of a global team. You have a call with someone in New York, then jump on a conference call with Houston.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
The challenges it presents both on the technical and non-technical side. Everything I work on requires me to get out of my comfort zone and speak to multiple teams in order to understand the bigger picture and not get stuck within my own mind-set. I enjoy that ‘YES’ moment I have when I find out the solution to something I obsess over. And it doesn’t last long till I obsess over something else … the cycle never ends! And I guess that’s the important bit, I do not have time to get bored.
Tell us about a woman in tech who's inspired you.
There are a lot of great women that have worked hard to shape and change the world of technology, either by actively developing new software or encouraging younger women to pursue a career in STEM.
One such woman for me is Danielle Vandyke. I met Danielle at an event last year where she told us her story of becoming a Software Manager at Google. We were in a room of approximately 100 women, she opened up to us and walked us through her career, speaking about both the ups and downs of her career. She spoke to us about the Imposter Syndrome, something that I myself struggle with and it felt very encouraging to hear that even someone in her position is not immune to it. In case you’ve not heard of it, people suffering from Imposter Syndrome do not acknowledge their accomplishments and dismiss them as insignificant in comparison to others. To these people everyone around but them seems like a mini Steve Jobs.
Hearing Danielle’s speech about her own struggles with the Imposter Syndrome was very refreshing and inspiring. I learned from her talk that even though people around me seem like they’ve got it all figured out, they probably suffer from the same insecurities. Just because you might be feeling insecure about something, it doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy of it or that you’re not doing a good job.
This month CF:G would like to welcome Selina, our key contact for liaison between CF:G and Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who are one of our major sponsors. We caught up with Selina to find out more about the amazing work she does in FinTech. Be sure to read on to hear her tips for working in FinTech!
What is your role at Bank of America Merrill Lynch?
I work as a global programme manager in Global Markets Technology covering our in house systems that generate risk, scenarios and profit and loss data for a number of trading businesses. Here are a few facts to highlight the scale our team work at - we compute and generate 250 million rows in our database using a grid of 1500 nodes for computation of the results, a week. For data required by the regulators, each time we generate 7 billion rows of data using a grid of 6000 nodes. We support a large number of trading products, 190 in total across 3 regions and up to 15 different trading desks.
What is one of the most exciting parts of your current role?
Making an impact to the Global Markets business and interacting directly with my senior business stakeholders everyday on a global basis from Hong Kong, via London to New York. I have been able to travel with work, and that has been amazing, but it has got tougher now that I have two children.
What were you working as prior to joining BofAML?
A developer building tools to optimise portfolios for a long short equity hedge fund.
As the BofAML<>CF:G Relationship Manager, what do you liaise with CF:G on?
Supporting CF:G in their courses by finding volunteer instructors and mentors from the firm. We also host and help organize the annual summer party for CF:G. As well as any other support we can offer through the year for CF:G like speakers for the annual CF:G conference coming up in November. It’s one of my favourite parts of my day working with CF:G helping to inspire and give opportunities to women to change their life.
Looking back to when you first started working in FinTech, what advice would you give to yourself back then knowing what you do now?
I would give myself three bits of advice:
This month we have an interesting blog post from Jade who is the Managing Director of HIROLA Group. Below she talks about her amazing journey from Graphic Design to Tech!
If you’d told me ten years ago that I’d be Managing Director of a tech company at aged 29, I wouldn’t have believed you. Firstly because I never set out to be 'the boss' when it came to my career, and secondly because my interests initially lay in design. Why would a woman like me ever be interested in tech-y things like coding and UX?
Oh, how wrong I was. Today, I'm the MD of app and web development company HIROLA Group, heading up a team of developers, coders, UK and UI designers, and account managers. Yet a decade ago I was just starting out on my career as a Graphic Designer. So what happened, and how did I get here?
I began my career working as a Junior Graphic Designer in London, both for agencies and in-house for a variety of different businesses. I loved it, but I didn’t yet have a degree in it. So to expand my knowledge and understanding of the conceptual thinking behind design, I decided to head to uni to study graphic design so that I could continue my career armed with the technical skills needed to stay on top.
Working in graphic design exposes you to a range of disciplines, including the need to keep up with the latest tech advances. I found myself becoming increasingly intrigued with the tech behind many of the designs I was working on. During my last year of university we could choose our own project to focus on. Mine was very technology focused, based around the idea of creating an interactive menu for customers in restaurants. It involved designing a touch screen and I was lucky enough to present the idea at my end of degree show. The project really sparked something in me, so on graduating from the course I knew I wanted to create design which had more dimensions than what print could offer. It meant I couldn't see myself going back into the traditional type of graphic design jobs which I'd come from.
Getting to grips with industry evolutions was the most enjoyable part of my graphic design career and my new found interest in the tools behind it spurred me on to combine these interests. These days, we live our lives through digital platforms (I don’t know anyone who would leave the house without their mobile), and I began to realise that knowing how to code and good design were two parts of the same whole. To put it bluntly, in our modern world a lack of technological know-how hinders good design, and vice versa.
And so very quickly I found myself transitioning from traditional graphic design into a mobile designer role at HIROLA Group. To do this I had to grasp the fundamentals of code, and fast: needless to say, it was a baptism of fire. I convinced my interviewers that they needed someone from a design background to make their apps valuable to consumers. I was a novice, and I took a risk. But I knew there was no way of gaining the technical skills needed for app development other than to throw myself into a job whose specification absolutely required a certain level of fluency in this area.
This involved a few months’ of late nights, extra studying and self doubt, but I got there. Tech moves at lightning speed, and I didn’t want to get left behind.
After nearly four years at HIROLA Group my passion for the industry has grown immensely. My hard graft paid off: I'm now the Managing Director of the company, something of which I'm immensely proud and which without doubt has been the highlight of my career to date. I'm helping build technology that feels new and exciting, particularly compared to the more static outputs of traditional graphic design. I’m sure I’m not the only woman in this sector who loves the feeling of being at the heart of something that’s changing the way in which individuals and communities interact with the world.
There have nevertheless been challenges, especially as a leader. The dawn of apps made waves across all sectors. App-based offerings have been disrupting consumer monopolies and I was part of a team building them. But, recently, other technological advancements have started to steal the limelight. Consumer friendly, cost-effective connected devices, as well as an acceleration in the accessibility of VR and AR means that developers are having to up their game. Tech (and therefore coding) is expanding beyond computer screens and smart phones to wearable objects and real-world experiences. It’s incredibly exciting, but also daunting.
Companies like mine were the original "digital disrupters", but that doesn't make us immune from further disruption. Organisations like HIROLA, who had for many years felt ahead of the curve, have recently had to upskill to ensure we could offer clients (and their customers) what they wanted. As MD I have to make sure that we’re working as quickly and innovatively as possible. We are always thinking on our feet, and coding and design still go hand in hand every step of the way. Thanks to my professional background, I’m able to handle this.
I never saw myself as a leader in this sphere, but I genuinely believe that if you have a passion for something, whether it's design or dance, there are fascinating ways in which you can combine that interest with tech. I’d really like to use my perspective to help girls and women realise their potential and how they can get involved in the tech space. It can sound like a difficult impenetrable industry to an outsider - but it's actually a fast paced, welcoming and exciting world to be part of.
I’m expecting my first baby in September, and I’m looking forward to becoming a tech mum! I want to teach my children that this sector is as varied as the people who work in it, and everyone can build a career in tech if they want. In this world, the opportunities are limitless, so long as you stay agile and grab every opportunity that comes along. I can’t wait for the adventures yet to come.
Jade Warrington is Managing Director of HIROLA Group. She is expecting a baby boy in September.
This month we have a special blog post from Edyta who was one of the competition winners for our Women of Silicon Roundabout 2017 conference passes. Read on for the full low-down on what took place that day...
“You can’t choose what happens to you in life, you only choose how you respond.” These words by Jody Davids Global CIO @ PepsiCo stuck with me ever since after the conference. Her heartbreaking story received standing ovations, and what touched me the most during her talk, was her unbreakable spirit, she was standing there strong like a warrior - to prove that it does not matter what happens to you in life, however sad and painful, all that matters is the way you respond to these events. As it will shape you as a person. So keep your faith and work hard. Life shapes leadership indeed.
Women of Silicon Roundabout is not just any conference, it is a life-changing event, it is getting inspired by the journeys the more senior of us have already travelled, it is getting to know other like-minded women, and it is us getting together and making a change, right there, right now, for the next generations of female technologists have it easier and are able accomplish even more during their lifetimes.
What is the most impactful about this event was the wide range of expertise. You will meet the women of all levels, such as Managing Director of ThoughtWorks, for example, who gave the speech on how to market yourself and improve your communication skills. Not the usual story you would expect to hear from a MD, but that is why it was so powerful. She was talking about struggling with confidence and despite the fact she reached this level of seniority, her fears are not any different than mine.
One of the most uplifting moments of the conference happened when Lucia Pino-Garcia, Head of Global Investment Management EMEA Technology at J.P. Morgan, brought with her to the stage not only so much of positive energy, but also a crew of her female technologists. Lucia shared her inspirational story, and then each of the team contributed with the advice they would give their younger selves.
As a developer, I was naturally bound to attend the technical track as well. I went to two hands-on workshops and learnt about the new technologies from Google and PwC. Google’s workshop on transfer learning with TensorFlow showed one approach to the hot topic of machine learning. During the workshop, we explored how to leverage pre-trained models to learn on much less data, and we trained our python-based application to recognise famous landmarks, such as Buckingham Palace or London Eye. Did you know the technology of this type could also recognise the skin cancer?!
Probably one of the most intriguing titles on the conference agenda, and one not to be missed by people curious about the future, was the workshop by PwC on how technology will disrupt our future. We worked in groups to build a project that combines various emerging technologies from IoT through AI, to Data and Analytics. My team successfully built the temperature telling tool.
Finally, as Alexa owner and big fun of voice assistants, I went all curious to hear about a Telegraph Story told by Solution Architect there, Francesca Cuda. She shared the recent statistics and proved that personal digital assistants are on the rise. But also she showed the other side to the story, they are still quite limited in what can do, and on my question to how can we develop them further, Francesca said it is up to us, developers, to go and play with them and keep changing the world!
All in all, truly inspiring experience, beautiful venue, beautiful weather and beautiful content and beautiful people. I cannot thank enough Code First: Girls for enabling me to be the part of this event. Already looking forward to next year’s!
This month we were lucky enough to have a guest blog post from CF: G alumni and previous CF: G Programmes Associate Beverley Newing. Read on for the full low-down...
A few days ago, as the last session of the Oxford CF:G Python was coming up, I realised that it’s now been roughly a year since I finished my CF:G HTML/CSS course. So to celebrate, I’ve written up my coding journey, the challenges of switching into tech, and some tips!
What Has My Tech Transition Been?
I started out working for Code First: Girls last January, and stayed there for 7 months. I then switched to a Web Developer Internship at Zooniverse, a citizen science research platform that’s based at the University of Oxford - an internship that was actually advertised in the Code First: Girls newsletter! When that ended, I went over to Oxford Computer Consultants, to do another paid Front End Internship, which is where I am now.
What Were the Challenges of Switching to Tech?
It’s worth bearing in mind that there is a lot to learn. I used to get a bit overwhelmed, and still do sometimes. You do have to work hard to make the switch, and it was more work than I’d expected - and at times knew. Someone once pointed out that I was trying to make up for a 3 year degree that I didn’t have though, and that helped me get everything in perspective. I now always try to focus more on enjoying the journey, rather than being frustrated at not being a Junior Developer yet. It became easier when I embraced that.
Over the past year, I’ve learnt a lot through the various opportunities and experiences that I’ve had. Here are some of the key things that helped me keep going:
Lastly, one of the most important things is helping each other. Help out on CF:G courses, share your knowledge with family and friends and do things like write blogs about what you’ve learnt. This reinforces your own knowledge whilst helping others. It also boosts your confidence, and has been one of the most important things for me this year.
The Pros of Switching into Tech
It has been hard, but I’m so glad I did. I find working as a developer incredibly empowering. I get given small problems and I solve them. I go home at the end of the day knowing that I fixed things and have tangible examples to prove to myself that I can succeed at things. I’ve also found that a by-product of spending my day job working on my problem-solving skills is that I feel better about making decisions and solving issues in other parts of my life.
If you would like to ask me anything about any of this, you can find me on Twitter at @WebDevBev. I’d lastly like to say a big thank you to Level39, who hosted the Code First: Girls course that I first learnt to code on and a huge thank you to Code First: Girls, who started me off on this path.
Code First: Girls