Our series of interviews with women who work in IT and the technology sector was started by co-founder Claire. It's a response, in part, to the lack of female applicants for our job vacancies.
As digital marketing manager and founder of Brighton Digital Women, Rachel Finch is a well-placed advocate for women in Brighton's thriving digital industries. Here she shares her experience, and offers advice to anyone starting their own career in technology.
What's your current job, and what do you do day-to-day?
I am a digital marketing manager for five school travel brands in Brighton, which means I do a bit of everything! Day-to-day I manage the online strategy behind the brands, monitor how our campaigns are running and monitor our web performance and reach. I also run all of our pay per click (PPC) and paid social ads, and our search engine optimisation (SEO) strategy. SEO is the best part of my job as it's always changing - so I am always learning!
Tell us about Brighton Digital Women
Brighton Digital Women is a project and community I founded nearly two years ago. I really wanted to meet other people working in digital in Brighton, collaborate on projects, share and learn ideas, and do something to work towards gender parity in terms of pay and roles for women. I met two of my now best friends who got involved at the beginning.
Things started with just a few tweets sent out to test the water, and now we have 350+ people on our mailing list and over 1,300 Twitter followers. It's such a great community, and so many people have gotten involved by speaking or blogging for us. The best thing was winning silver last month in the small business website category of the Sussex Digital Awards!
What (if anything) did you study at university?
Almost completely unrelated to digital marketing: Film Studies! I hate it when people refer to themselves as a geek, but so many people would call me that anyway so, I'm a geek. Filmmaking is still a passion of mine but I don't get to do it very often. I keep hoping it will find its way into my remit for work, one day.
How did you get into a career in digital?
Like most people around my age who I have spoken to about this, by total accident. I worked in more traditional offline marketing for a while until someone asked me to look after our social media accounts about seven or eight years ago. There was no strategy behind it at the time and so I went about finding out everything I could on search, social and strategy. That led me to Brighton SEO, and I discovered a very fast-developing industry which had so much potential and so many passionate people that I was entirely hooked. That really informed my career path going forward: passion and learning.
Do you enjoy it?
I bloody love it. Sometimes it can be a pain, like: "Stop changing so much ALL the time". But when I find out something new, or discover a different way of approaching a campaign or technical update that my brands can cash in on, it's very exciting.
Have you ever experienced any implicit bias or direct sexism in the industry?
I am maybe an exception on this one - because I know there is a lot out there - but I haven't really myself. Not explicitly anyway. I feel there have been times when I have been on the wrong end of a crappy salary and that I've had male colleagues doing the same job for a lot more. That's something I really want to tackle with Brighton Digital Women, and just as a single woman in a workplace.
Brighton is an exceptional place for digital, diversity and acceptance, and so I think outright sexism is not massively prevalent, but that's not the sexism I'm concerned about. It's the culturally embedded, everyday sexism that can go undetected or unchallenged.
Do you know other women who work in tech?
I'm incredibly lucky to know some remarkably talented, passionate and strong women in digital. My co-founders Lana and Allegra, Rifa Thorpe-Tracey from SheSays Brighton. There are female figures in Brighton's digital scene that are crazy levels of inspiring to me: Nikki Gatenby who heads up Propellernet, and Dawn Anderson who is a SEO digital marketing strategist and is some kind of mega SEO genius. I always go to hear her speak at Brighton SEO. It's very hard to finish the list of knowledgeable women in tech, and it's growing fast!
Would you recommend IT or tech to girls who are thinking about their future careers?
Like I would recommend any industry or job: if you're interested in it, good at it and love it, then do it. I'd love to get to a point where no one even thinks about gender when discussing career paths for kids. I think that tech careers are being put in front of girls more now, but I think there can be a lot more done to say to them, "This is not just for boys: it's for you if you want it."
What's the best thing a girl or woman can do to get into the tech sector?
Find someone in the sector you admire and if possible, get them to mentor you. If not possible then learn about their career, what they had to learn, what boxes they needed to tick to get where they are and what they're doing to get where they want to go. Always be learning, find a network to be a part of because the opportunities that have opened up for people within Brighton Digital Women, SheSays Brighton, Ladies that UX and more are phenomenal, and may never have happened unless people were willing to create friendly, open communities in which women meet other women.
How can we encourage more girls and women to consider an IT or tech career?
I think we need to change how we talk about those sectors to girls at a young age. But just as importantly, and maybe even more so, is changing how we talk to boys about women and girls in those sectors. If you want to help girls get into tech and be happy and successful there then the shift in dialogue about tech jobs can't just be sitting with women and girls, we have to foster change in the minds and attitudes of boys and men as well. We're all in this together!
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 jobs, and get in touch with HR@ideal.co.uk to tell us why you're the Ideal candidate.