M&G – Caroline McDowall, Delivery Lead – Customer Technology

We interviewed Caroline McDowall, Delivery Lead at M&G on her thoughts and experiences on women in tech.

1. What does your job role involve?

I’m responsible for the delivery of technology change for the Direct to Customer (D2C) programme, which includes changes to our advice journeys that we’ll be delivering as part of the Advice Transformation. In a nutshell, I make sure everyone is connected and understands what, why and how we’re going to deliver a piece of work, and that all the different pieces align. This involves engaging with people from across M&G, owning Customer Technology delivery plans and commitments, and ensuring we have the correct people working on problem solving.

I’m passionate about working in a collaborative, agile way, and spend a lot of time supporting and coaching people with this.

2. What made you choose a career in technology?

My final year project at university. I was studying science but wasn’t a fan of lab work. My supervisor helped me explore different careers my degree could access, including a high school teacher placement. He challenged me to think of a ‘different’ project to avoid spending a few miserable months in a lab. Challenge accepted; I built a website to integrate 3D receptor modelling tools into an interactive web lesson for future students. This was self-taught from an HTML book (it was the late 90s!). It was lots of fun, and I even won the best final year project prize.

3. Did you study an IT or technology related subject at A-Level or University?

I have a standard grade (equivalent to GCSE/Nat 5) in Computing. My computing teacher told me this subject was best suited to boys, so I shifted my interest to maths and science for higher qualifications and university. That’s why I have a degree in Pharmacology.

4. Did you get any work experience in IT or technology before this role?

I’ve been working in technology since I graduated at 21.

5. Do you think there are a lack of females in the IT and tech sector?

Yes – there’s still a long way to go before we have a balance at all levels. As well as encouraging more females to embark on careers in technology, we need to look at how to retain and support them at every step. Unfortunately, I still often find myself as the only female in a room full of males.

6. Do you find there is a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men?

Many people outside of the industry have a stereotypical view of what a role in technology means. I don’t think the ‘beer fridge, table tennis, work hard/play hard’ culture that some smaller companies have has really helped either. That’s why events like International Women’s day and highlighting all the diverse people in technology and their roles, are so important.

7. What would entice women to study technology related courses?

Show the art of the possible by sharing the flexibility of technology career choices and stories of other females career journeys.

8. Are there barriers when it comes to women getting into tech?

Yes, there’s still a belief that technology is only about writing code, but in reality there are countless other roles. We need to get better at selling the opportunities within the industry, by showcasing how we deliver as a multi skilled team.

9. How could we encourage more women to start a career in tech?

Address it from an early age by investing in training and supporting teachers to have the most up to date skills to teach children We need to show children all the different things that technology underpins and get them excited about the various applications of new technologies. If technology is socialised with them as being a career for everyone, it should naturally gauge interest from all groups.

10. What advice would you give young women today at the start of their career?

Take every opportunity you get, especially if it’s a scary one. Don’t let self-doubt get in the way of doing what you want to do.