Women in IT: the games journalist

15 February 2017

Prompted by a shortage of female job applicants and the experiences of our co-founder Claire, we've been interviewing a series of women about their experiences in IT and the technology sector. Like many other contributors to the series, games journalist Katharine Byrne reveals how she didn't initially plan or study for a career in technology.

What (if anything) did you study at university?

Initially, I studied English and Related Literature at the University of York, and then I went on to do a law conversion course at Oxford Brookes, followed by the Legal Practice course. I had a mad idea I might make a good lawyer, so my background ended up being decidedly non-technical!

How did you get into a career in technology?

Katharine_Byrne.jpgSadly, my aspirations to become an intellectual property lawyer never quite got off the ground - mostly because all the interesting IP work was handled by patent lawyers. That required a whole set of science and language qualifications I'd left firmly behind at GCSE, so I fell back on my English degree and set about writing about technology instead. I started by freelancing for a couple of Future Publishing's video games magazines, but eventually, in 2012, I got a full-time job as a staff writer on Computer Shopper Magazine and its accompanying website Expert Reviews.

I stayed there for four years, gradually working my way through the ranks until I became Reviews Editor at the start of 2016. At first, I covered everything from laptops and monitors to projectors and TVs, but I ended up specialising in smartphones. If there's a budget smartphone out there, there's a 99% chance I've tested it.

As much as I love reviewing slightly terrible smartphones, though, I recently jumped ship back to games again, as I'm now News Editor for MCV, the UK's foremost computer games trade magazine.

Do you enjoy it?

Of course! The great thing about tech and games is that neither industry ever sits still, so there are always new innovations and experiences to get your head round.

Do you know any other women (friends, peers, relatives?) who work in technology?

There aren't many female tech journalists, but when you often get the same crowd of people attending press events and product launches, you get to know them pretty quickly. The same goes for female games journalists.

Have you ever experienced any implicit bias or direct sexism in your industry?

I've never experienced any direct sexism, but I have been mistaken for a PR person at a couple of press events - both by other male journalists when I'm on my own, and by female PRs when my other half's been attending as well. Once a PR even mistook me for a member of her own team, so we're all as bad as each other half the time. 

Would you recommend IT or tech to girls who are thinking about their future careers?

Absolutely. Tech is a great industry to get involved in and one that directly affects everything we do and the way we live our lives. It's fascinating to see products and services evolve over time as well as experience the introduction of new technologies, and there's simply nothing better than being able to see all these gadgets in the flesh.

What's the best thing a girl or woman can do to get into the tech sector?

Read everything you can and consume every last detail about things that interest you. Tech journalism in particular is becoming increasingly specialised, so finding a niche you know inside out can really help make you stand out. Of course, being able to write well also helps if you're thinking about pursuing a career in tech journalism, but enthusiasm for your subject matter is key.

How can we encourage more girls and women to consider an IT or tech career?

I'm no expert, but I've found that some recent TV campaigns aiming to get girls into tech and IT can be quite condescending. Women just need to be spoken to like normal human beings.

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.


Header image: Assassin's Creed Unity screenshot by Pablo/Flickr, Creative Commons