We interviewed Angela Todd, Senior Software Engineer at FreeAgent on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
- What does your job role involve?
I work in a small team of engineers, designers and product owners who design and develop features for accountants who are using FreeAgent’s software to help them manage their client’s accounts. My day-to-day is fairly varied as we all get involved in the planning and design phases, but I principally design and write code for our main Ruby on Rails web application.
- What made you choose a career in technology?
I think I first became interested in computing because I loved computer games as a child and I became the family ‘computer expert’ when my parents brought home our first home PC while I was at secondary school. I very seriously considered studying computer science for my bachelors degree, but was put off by both the fact that I’d had no formal computer training at school and by the total absence of any other girls looking around the department on the open day! Fortunately I met some computer scientist while I was at studying at University and I grilled them for information about what computer programming was actually like, which helped me decide to retrain after graduating.
- Did you study an IT or technology related subject at A-Level or University?
I did a post graduate masters in Computer Science, which was a conversion course for students whose bachelors was in a different subject (my bachelors was in Medical Science). My secondary school did not offer Computing as a subject – the closest we came to a computer was some extra curricular courses in how to use Windows for Workgroups!
- Did you get any work experience in IT or technology before this role?
I’ve been a software engineer for a number of years, so this is not my first software engineering role. My first job was a graduate training position, so I did have a fairly gentle introduction to the industry.
- Do you think there is a lack of females in the IT and tech sector?
In a previous role I was a Development Manager and was responsible for hiring developers, so I know from experience that the majority of applicants for software engineering roles are male. Prior to working at FreeAgent my experience had been that I was either the lone female developer in the company or there were only a handful of us. At FreeAgent, however, most of the development teams have at least one female developer and at one point we had a team that was all women! FreeAgent is bucking the trend though and I think there are still proportionally more male engineers in the industry.
- Do you find there is a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men?
For software engineers I think the stereotype does still exist and people are usually surprised when I tell them what I do. I think other areas of IT have less of a stereotype, for example project and product management and UX seem to be less gendered.
- What would entice women to study technology related courses?
Exposure early on is hugely important. I feel very lucky to have been able to retrain after my first degree, but think if I’d had any formal experience of computing at school I would have chosen computer science as my bachelors degree. I think that teaching institutions should also try to ensure that they have women at their open days and in their brochures and related literature so that they don’t subconsciously reinforce the perception of it being an all male profession.
- Are there barriers when it comes to women getting into tech?
I personally don’t feel I’ve ever been discriminated against because of my gender and I’ve never been made to feel uncomfortable working with male colleagues. I think for me the biggest barrier was the lack of encouragement from my careers advisor, which, combined by my lack of practical experience of coding, meant I did not feel confident applying for Computer Science courses at University.
- How could we encourage more women to start a career in tech?
When I was at school my careers advisor had no knowledge of the sector and as I recall was actively discouraging about it. I remember that the only useful information I had to go on was a single paragraph that described the role of a Software Developer in my Morrisby profile! Making sure that female students who are trying to make decisions about their future career are not only presented with technology related careers as an option, but also provided with the information and practical experience that they need to make an informed decision about whether it’s the right fit for them is crucial.