https://hmrcdigital.blog.gov.uk/2019/04/25/celebrating-international-girls-in-ict-day/

Celebrating International Girls in ICT Day

Rosie Woodhead at the Women In IT Awards finals night
Rosie Woodhead at the Women In IT Awards finals night

Today on 25 April, to celebrate International Girls in ICT Day, we hear from Rosie Woodhead, a senior user researcher. Rosie is talking about being a woman in what is sometimes seen as a traditionally male working environment and how she would like to encourage girls to consider a tech career. She is joined by two colleagues, Chloe Walker (scrum master) and Rebecca Smith (tester).

I never would have considered a ‘tech’ career when I was at school and when I left university, I felt a lot of pressure to get a job quickly. After seven or eight failed attempts, a friend told me about his work as a user researcher at HMRC, and that they were recruiting. I looked at the job spec and thought, "I can’t do any of this!" But, with some encouragement from friends and family, I applied and got the researcher job. It's just about the best thing that has happened to me.

I love my job. I observe how users get on with our services so that I can understand any issues or feedback. I analyse these findings and present them back to the team and wider stakeholders, and my analysis used to make changes to the service to improve the user’s experience.

The proudest moment of my career so far was being nominated for Young Leader of the Year at the Women in IT Awards in January 2019. If I'd not had a friend who was very supportive and showed me the job, then I'd have missed that experience and everything else I've achieved in my career so far. I absolutely love this job and it feels like the right fit for me, and that motivates me to ensure that everyone has the support that I did.

My colleague Rebecca had a similar experience:

I am currently a quality assurance (QA) tester within HMRC's Newcastle Digital Delivery Centre. I joined as an apprentice developer in 2014 and have since completed the apprenticeship, moved into a tester role, and started working towards a degree qualification. I travel to London once a month to attend a workshop for my degree, and spend about one working day a fortnight focusing on my degree work.

Rebecca Smith from HMRC
Rebecca Smith

As a girl in secondary school, I had no idea about ‘tech’. There were never any presentations from people within the tech industry encouraging women to follow a career in technology. For me now, I love the idea that I can encourage other young women and share my experiences to make a positive impact. I want to give girls all of the information they need and show them that there is a fun side of technology. Something that, reflecting on my own experiences, I never received.

Another colleague, Chloe, knew she wanted to work in something IT-related and reflects on how mentors have helped on her journey:

I’ve been lucky enough to have many advocates and mentors throughout my career, both in my professional life and personal life. At work, I’ve had very supportive managers who have given me the opportunities and confidence to progress, and I have had huge encouragement and support from my husband and parents.

My current role is a scrum master. My job is basically to help an Agile team (a group of different experts who all have a role in bringing a new digital service to life) to be the best they can be, and to help remove anything that's blocking progress on the service they are working on. I try to keep the team happy, and a typical day for me is supporting different aspects of their work, monitoring the tools we use to track progress and anything else that comes along!

For me the best thing about being a woman in IT is being a part of something bigger, and breaking moulds. When you think of tech, you don’t think of women. We have some amazing talent and I want to change people’s mindsets – particularly the women that think ‘I’m not techie’.

Chloe Walker presenting in front of a large screen and seated audience
Chloe Walker presenting

I asked Rebecca and Chloe what advice they'd give a girl or young woman considering a career, or just starting one, in the tech industry.

For Chloe, it was just go for it:

Pursue it! It's so rewarding to be part of building great services for customers. I work with amazing and diverse people, who are passionate about what we do and I love it! I wish someone had told me to consider a career in tech when I was younger; I think I’d be a developer if I could start again.

And for Rebecca, it was about everything that a tech career can encompass:

I’d tell them that the tech industry is not all about coding. If that’s not for you, there are lots of other fun, creative roles that you can get involved in!

I wish I’d known about the wide range of roles available: in the early stages of my career I was scared I might get stuck in one role that I didn’t enjoy. However, I've had opportunities to try other roles and found that this one is best suited for me. I’ve never looked back!

 

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