We interviewed Gemma Wells, IT Service Manager at DWP Digital on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
I’m an IT Service Manager. My job involves working as part of a team with the goal of ensuring that the right processes, people, and technology are in place. So that the many services that we look after are kept in good health, always available and any problems can be resolved quickly and efficiently with minimal disruption.
I find that the following analogy helps:
Ideally you want to pre-emptively maintain your car so that it doesn’t break down. If you have it serviced regularly, it shouldn’t.
Occasionally though things will go wrong, and they vary in severity. You may have a squeaky parcel shelf that is more of an annoyance (what we would call a Priority 4 incident). However, if a light starts flashing on your dashboard you might want to get your car to the garage soon (we would call Priority 2).
If you’re unlucky enough to be involved in a crash which may impact many people, like if your car is blocking a motorway (Priority 1, a major incident) you’re going to need somebody to call the correct emergency services. That basically sums up a Service Manager role, it’s our job to get the right people involved.
I’ve previously worked for a circus, managed hotels, managed health and safety, and then most recently worked as a DWP Work Coach. Everything changed in November 2022 when I found out, via my mentor, that there are lots of opportunities within DWP for people like me who are not from a digital background but have transferable skills.
I wanted to embrace a new challenge, leave my comfort zone because let’s face it, nothing exciting ever happens within it. To sum it up in one word, I was ready to ‘coddiwomple’ which means to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination. Every big change I’ve made over the years I’ve always done with determination, only this time I wasn’t sure what my destination was. I just knew that the next stop for me was in DWP Digital.
Absolutely not. I had pretty much avoided anything digital related as it used to scare me. I really didn’t ever see myself working in a tech environment.
My first experience in a digital role was a year ago when I began an internal secondment as an IT Service Manager. To say I had walked into the unknown is a complete understatement. But after several intense but fulfilling months, I managed to secure the role permanently. I truly feel like I’ve found my home within DWP Digital.
I’m very lucky to have had such a supportive network of cheerleaders across DWP Digital throughout the application process, with colleagues happy to chat through my ideas for both the application and the interview. This meant I could feel confident I was on the right track.
From what I have seen so far in DWP Digital I was pleasantly surprised there are quite a lot of women too in the tech sector.
I think there used to be more of a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men. However, I believe things are changing and more and more women are embracing tech, which in turn helps other women to realise that they have a place if they want one.
Both my current Director Jack Hanson and Deputy Director Alison Mood are women and are great role models. This is something I’m really inspired by as they have both worked their way up from the ground and are proof that women can achieve great things within the tech industry.
I left high school almost 20 years ago so I’m unsure how much promotion of the tech industry occurs at schools nowadays. However, if I was still in school, I would really appreciate a clearer understanding of the industry and what it has to offer.
A good way of providing this would be school visits in the earlier years of high school before the decision has to be made on which subjects you want to study
I haven’t come across any yet except for the lack of information around what opportunities are out there. From what I have seen so far, I believe that women have just the same number of opportunities as men. With hard work and perseverance, the digital world is anyone’s for the taking.
I think there needs to be more effort put in to letting the world know about the fabulous opportunities in tech. Not just that they exist but also further information to back up the fact that you can make the move into the digital world even later in your career like me. It was good that I had the internal opportunity to move to Digital from being a Work Coach.
In DWP, there’s a Women’s Network and Women in Digital network that are really encouraging. It has been a pleasure getting to know all the fabulous women and men involved. I helped organise and host three events for International Women’s Day recently for the Women’s Network which was great fun.
You are wanted. You are needed. You are not alone, if you need help, ask for it. There are lots of us out here just waiting for the opportunity to help you on your journey.
As much as I think we should be engaging younger women so that they jump straight into tech, I think it is just as important to encourage women to make the move over, like I did later in their careers. For those of you in this position, the first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you find yourself.
If you have the interest, the passion, and the enthusiasm, don’t let anything stand in your way. If something gets in your way, find a way around it, over it, or through it.
Treat every day as a learning opportunity, but also accept that you will never know everything and that’s okay because no one does. Always remember where there is a will, there is a way.