Life as Head of Technology at Sky

Natasha Sayce-Zelem Head of Technology (Digital Service) at Sky, was a proper computer game geek as a kid. So you would assume she would end up in a career in gaming or coding, right? This would have been the case had there been more information about getting into computing at school and dedicated computing classes either in school or outside. She did consider pursuing a career in games development and back then got told that these sorts of jobs didn’t exist in the UK.

Natasha ended up getting a degree in Moving Image Production, spending three years learning how to make films. She managed the production process from start to finish and learnt how to do Flash/Front-End coding in which she built on after leaving university and are now the skills that got her to where she is now.

Working in Digital is really good fun, it allows you to be creative, whilst playing to your strengths around delivery, communication and problem solving. The Digital industry is not highlighting enough all the other jobs available in digital/tech and crucially they are the ones that are much easier to sidestep into from another career like Natasha did. Jobs like project managers, team facilitators, business analysts, product owners, design, content writers and the list goes on.

In June 2016 the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee declared that, “The evidence is clear that the UK faces a digital skills crisis.”

What makes the skills crisis more interesting is that there is a significant gender disparity within the IT sector where women are vastly underrepresented, making up only 17% of IT professionals according to the Tech Partnership, with less than 10% in leadership roles. Pretty awful statistics if you think about what a role technology plays in all our lives.

Over the last few years, less than 10% of students who sit A Level Computing are female. But if you look at the demographic of who sits A Level Expressive Arts/Drama results, it’s hugely dominated by females. A previous study said that a huge majority of women (80%) wanted to gain a ‘creative, independent job role’ however only 30% of them believed that a tech job could provide this.

The main issue is how tech is perceived and perhaps even taught. An NIC study asked boys to think of words they associated with computers, they came up with “design”, “games” and “video”. When females were asked, they associated computers with “typing”, “maths” and “boredom”.

We need to show that tech is inherently creative. Seeing coding for what it is, as a creative pursuit, has the potential to attract more diversity across the board. We also need to do a better job of signposting other creative led roles available within tech, and perhaps rebranding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) to STEAM, to add Arts (and creativity) firmly into the mix.

Natasha has 2 things she would like to highlight:

  1. Working in tech is really fun and creative, and through it you get the chance to work on projects that hundreds/thousands or millions of people will use.
  1. If you’d like to explore what opportunities are available in digital/tech, there is a vibrant meetup community in most cities who meet monthly and these are free to attend. You’ll usually encounter a really friendly bunch who’ll go out of their way to support you. Just hunt on Meetup and Eventbrite for what’s running locally. There are also free courses and training days available, I can highly recommend Sky’s free ‘Get Into Tech’ coding courses for women and the Sky ‘Women In Tech’ Scholars Grant