Prompted by a shortage of female job applicants and the experiences of our MD Claire, we've been interviewing a series of women about their experiences in IT and the tech sector. Vicki Jakes, techie, code-lover and account director at social insights agency Brandwatch, explains how she first broke into 'online', and has since enjoyed a range of different roles.
What (if anything) did you study at university?
I did Film Studies at university and wanted to be an editor like Thelma Schoonmaker.
How did you get into a career in technology?
I started out working in sales for a publishing company, and in my spare time used to make websites for friends who had bands. Once the magazine I worked for decided to get online I was able to move over to work on their website, doing content, sponsorship and sales, as they knew I was 'a bit techie'. After that all the jobs I have worked in have been 'online'. I was able to move away from sales and try my hand at marketing, project and product management, and ultimately I ended up in client services and management.
Do you enjoy it?
I have always enjoyed working in the technology sector, and it's a bonus that the work I do has been aligned to advertising and marketing as I always wanted to do that when I was at school. Not a day goes by where I haven't been able to learn something new, and that's where the excitement is - technology is always changing and you have to adapt.
Have you ever experienced any implicit bias or direct sexism in the industry?
Unfortunately I have. I experienced being criticised (i.e. being called 'bossy') because I have been very direct and outspoken in my management style - and the same criticism was not levied at male colleagues who performed the same. I have also surprised a few people who assumed that I would not be able to discuss the nitty gritty of an API or codebase because I am a woman. I experienced far more sexism trying to get into the film industry, though, so it's not really that bad.
Do you know any other women who work in tech?
I have a couple of friends who are coders, but mainly my women friends in the tech sector work in project or account management. It is an important part of the industry, especially in the agency world, because we are client-facing and have to interpret and relate quite boring concepts to clients and get them excited to be a stakeholder in their project.
Would you recommend IT or tech to girls who are thinking about their future careers?
Yes, yes and yes. There are so many varied roles, so if coding does not come naturally you can learn project management, design, UX, marketing... the roles are endless, and there are so many more than when I started out back in the noughties!
What’s the best thing a girl or woman can do to get into the tech sector?
If you want to be a coder then start coding, now. All the coders I know live and breathe it. The stereotype of staying up all night exists for a reason! You should study and get grades because employers like the look of those, and you should create your own projects on the side because that shows curiosity and creativity.
If coding is not your thing (and it wasn't mine in the end as I stopped at HTML4 and CSS3 when I found that you can build pre-coded websites with WordPress) then do some research and find what bit of the tech sector suits you. Creative? Web designer, user experience (UX) architect. Analytical? Social media analyst, Q&A tester - there's so much out there.
How can we encourage more girls and women to consider an IT or tech career?
Businesses need to reach out and offer more work experience and apprenticeships. Local businesses should be working with local schools and universities. We also have a responsibility to provide technology options to our children, and not pigeonhole them in the way we might have in the past.
Basically it all needs a bit of PR and some typical stereotype breaking: I hope my answering these questions helps in some way!
Read more in our Women in IT series, and share your views with @weareideal using #WomenInIT.
We'd love to hear from more female job applicants. If you want to join us, take a look at our current vacancies, and get in touch with HR@ideal.co.uk to tell us why you're the Ideal candidate.