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Ideagen PLC – Multiple IT roles

We interviewed four employees from Ideagen, all in different roles within IT on their experiences and thoughts on women in tech.

Kirstin Kirk, Senior Business Analyst – East Kilbride

Sarah Hood, Development Engineer – Stevenage

Natalie Downes, Service Desk Analyst – Ruddington

Kirsty McWilliam, Technical Project Manager – East Kilbride

 

 

  1. What does your job role involve?

K.K: As a Senior Business Analyst, I help to elicit the requirements from various sources and am part of the team that forms the solutions, which we see as features within the product. I plan, manage and facilitate workshops with key stakeholders, and collaborate with internal and external customers to analyse information needs and functional requirements. I work closely with the design, development and test teams to deliver the functionality, providing the acceptance criteria and wireframes to guide the feature throughout the development lifecycle.

S.H: Occasional maintenance of legacy desktop software but mainly developing a web-based solution for financial companies, coding at all levels from the back end to the user interface.

N.D: My job role is a Service Desk Analyst and involves supporting our customers who use our enterprise content management software. Customers will use our online portal to log problems/requests, making the work different from day to day, as every problem is different.

K.Mc:

  • Project planning of the delivery of software from high-level roadmaps to detailed work packages
  • Controlling projects through regular statusing to stakeholders and handling of exceptions as they arise
  • Identifying and manging risks and putting mitigating actions in place
  • Resolve issues and obstacles to allow delivery teams to focus on the software

 

  1. What made you choose a career in technology?

K.K: It was something that I was good at. I didn’t really know which route I was going to take when I left school, initially I wanted to be a teacher, but after a work placement in a school I changed my mind! I did well in my computing and information systems classes and thought I should pursue my learning in this area.

S.H: I’ve always had a keen interest in how things work.  I think it was always going to be some form of engineering for me, although home computers weren’t common when I was growing up.

N.D: I’ve always been interested in technology from a young age and was always the one in my family to fix the ‘tech’ problems. I am interested in gaming, using design based software and video editing and always found that it was something that I was naturally good at. I love problem solving and making things more efficient and found that utilising these qualities whilst getting involved with technology, was exactly what I wanted to do.

K.Mc:

  1. Enjoyed computing subjects in school
  2. High number of career prospects
  3. Opportunity to work within a wide range of industries given how widely-used software is
  4. Technology is highly innovative and has a tangible impact on people’s lives every day.

 

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

K.K: I studied Information Systems at Higher and Advanced Higher at school, and moved on to study Information Systems, Computer Science and Software Engineering at university. I graduated with a B.Sc. (Hons) in Information Systems in 2009.

S.H: Yes – both purely IT subjects at college and university.

N.D: I studied Graphic Design at BTEC level and found that I wanted to move career pathways to a technology-based qualification. I started a Foundation degree in Computing at De Montfort University, which was an excellent starting point in gaining knowledge and key concepts in Computing. From there, I moved on to a degree in Computer Games Programming which was challenging but very rewarding. The course helped me to gain the core programming skills needed to produce games, applications and websites as well as helping me build on my problem-solving skills.

K.Mc:

  • Studied Computing in school at Standard Grade and Higher level
  • Have a joint master’s degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from the University of Strathclyde

 

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

K.K: I have had various jobs since leaving university, from a systems configuration specialist, to a training designer, to working for Blackberry facilitating the returns process for faulty phones for carriers worldwide. I moved into the role of Business Analyst at my previous job, where I really found my feet in the role. I joined Ideagen as a Business Analyst, and have recently moved into the role of Senior Business Analyst.

S.H: Yes, I worked for a software company part-time during my studies at college and university.  I worked on software designed to teach midwives in the developing world.  I also worked on  Java/XML based software as part of my training.

N.D: Yes, I worked in my previous role as a Service Desk Analyst for my placement year and really enjoyed it. It was a great introduction to the ‘real life’ IT industry and was a key contributor to improving my confidence when applying academic knowledge to real life problems.

K.Mc:

  • Solutions Consultant for a company that created software for the pharmaceutical industry, specifically focused on clinical trials
  • Graduate Software Engineer for a company that creates Smart Ticketing that is used across the country, particularly in transport

 

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

K.K: I think the sector is improving. In our office, there are a number of females within the development department, in varying roles, from Business Analysts, to testers, to developers and senior developers. Though the department is still heavily male oriented, in the 18 months I have been here the number has increased from 4 to almost 10.

S.H: Yes, although I think this is starting to change.

N.D: I do feel there is a lack of females in the tech sector from my own experience however it’s never discouraged me to pursue a career in the field. There are many sectors (not just IT) where there is an unequal balance of male and females but I think that is changing in the modern times.

K.Mc: In general, yes. There is no obvious reason for this sector to be heavily dominated by men, however I don’t believe that the problem lies with companies or even universities.

 

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

K.K: At Ideagen, there are no stereotypical people in the development department. We all have our own individualities that make us different from the next person. There’s no geek’s or nerd’s (well maybe there are!), we are all just trying to do our jobs to the best of our abilities and there is definitely no social awkwardness, everyone loves a good night out! We get on well as a team, and there is no barrier whether you be male or female within the department.

S.H: Yes, but I feel it is more that it is more a stereotype of it being an unattractive trait for a woman than it being a case of “just for men”.

N.D: Not at all. I am finding more women on technology based courses and in work, who are pursuing a career in the technology industry. I think in these modern times, people are starting to change their perception on careers and the stereotype that may be assumed with the role.

K.Mc: The ratio of women to men in my workplace are the same as those I experienced at university and even the later years of school in STEM subjects. This does give the impression that these subjects are stereotypically male however this is not an impression I’ve ever been under with my own experiences.

 

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

K.K: I think that the understanding that there are many roles within the sector that you can be in without having to code! Within the development department we have business analysts, project managers, product designers, testers… none of whom have to code to do their job. We have varied roles, facilitating workshops, eliciting requirements, wireframing, creating PSD’s of the product designs, testing the functionality of the product. An understanding of the mechanics does help, but its not essential to be in this sector.

S.H: I think women who want to do it already do – the courses are not aimed at any specific gender.  I would not want to see things deliberately targeted at women as this tends to be patronising and unintentionally sexist.  Technology is universal to everyone.  What we need to do as a society is stop making women feel from a young age the need to hide their intelligence and interests in a bid to fit in to what is traditionally expected of them.  I think that perhaps it doesn’t even occur to many young women that it is an option.

N.D: We could start encouraging girls from an early age. Technology is a big part of everyday life some (Facebook, Instagram, online banking etc), so engaging women differently could help with encouragement.

K.Mc: Understanding the opportunities that are available in technology – you don’t necessarily have to be writing software to be involved in the industry so if coding isn’t for you there are still plenty other options!

 

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

K.K: I can’t say that I have faced any barriers when applying for roles within the tech sector. I think it’s about the skills you have and how you use them. The first role I applied for as a Business Analyst, I had no experience of undertaking the role. However, I was the only candidate who engaged the interviewers and held a facilitation session with them, and I’m glad I did!

S.H: I sadly believe you often have job interviews whereby you need to prove yourself far more than a male counterpart would.  I have been with Ideagen now for 11 years, and part of that is because my initial job interview was infinitely better than most of my previous experience – I was treated fairly, I was spoken to like a normal person and I knew this was the company to work for based on that.

N.D: Drawing from my own personal experiences, it can be a bit daunting when the majority of the class are of a different sex. It can make you feel like you are different from the rest of the crowd however it has never stopped me from making amazing friendships when studying on a technology based degree.

K.Mc:

  1. I have never experienced any barriers
  2. Many companies make a deliberate and conscious effort to hire women into roles which could be a benefit. This should be done carefully though:
    1. If the goal is to have a dynamic team that approach problems from different perspectives then hiring based on diversity is incredibly beneficial
    2. If the goal is to improve the male/female ratio slightly then this is the wrong motivation. Not only will there be resentment towards women who have been offered roles based solely on gender, but it’ll also be difficult for a woman to find pride in her work knowing that the only reason she has been hired is because she’s a woman.

 

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

K.K: We need to showcase the various roles available, get out there and let people know about them. Not everyone who studies a technical subject will become a developer!

S.H: I think it would be beneficial to show women what a career in tech can give you.  The sense of achievement, the satisfaction of problem solving, the “Eureka moments” and seeing something you helped create being used.  The pay is often good, and you don’t ever have to stop learning – most tech employers offer training to keep your skills up-to-date.  Because tech infiltrates every part of our lives, you could hone in on an area that interests you, and/or make a real difference to peoples’ lives.  I think that it is also important to make sure that women are supported so that having children does not mean the end of your career.  After all, it doesn’t for men!

N.D: We could start encouraging girls from an early age. Technology is a big part of everyday life some (Facebook, Instagram, online banking etc), so engaging women differently could help with encouragement.

K.Mc:

  • Girls needs to be introduced to technology from a young age – the biggest problem is that girls are not choosing to study STEM subjects at a lower age. This will undoubtedly lead to less women choosing to study these subjects in university meaning they may never be exposed to information about the opportunities that are available within the industry
  • Effort needs to be made to highlight the career opportunities within technology early and to as wide an audience as possible
  • Alternatively, a push could be made to encourage mature women to return to college and university to retrain in computing or technology related subjects. Given the culture of many software houses, which often offer flexitime and working from home, this could be the perfect career for women looking to go back to work after having a family.