Masabi – Jessica Gilbert, Head of Engineering

Jessica-Gilbert-HeadshotWe recently interviewed Jessica Gilbert, Head of Engineering at Masabi on her thoughts and experiences on Women in Tech.

  1. What does your job role involve?

I lead the Engineering Team at Masabi and what I love is that no two days are the same. The team is made up of developers, QA’s, designers and ops engineers. Some days are operationally focused, looking at budgets, approving expenses, interviewing candidates, incident managing issues, staying on top of delivery commitments and just supporting the team in general. Other days are more strategic, looking at career development frameworks, mentoring and training programmes, mental health first aid initiatives and looking at how we plan to grow and scale the team.

  1. What made you choose a career in technology?

As part of my degree I completed a coding module and just loved it. I found programming so much fun and so powerful. I also found it incredibly creative and when things didn’t work, there was always a logical path to follow to troubleshoot the problem.

After that I decided that programming was what I wanted to do, and I taught myself to code.

I get bored quite easily and the thing I loved about programming and technology was that there was always something new to do and you rarely do the same thing twice. It was evolving at such a pace there was no time or space to get bored, the challenge was keeping up!

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

I did a degree in Digital Media Production. I attended a girl’s school and programming wasn’t really being taught there back then. It was through my degree though that I got into Technology and Programming.

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

My first job in the industry was doing email marketing and updating flash websites. Although I had a degree, it wasn’t required for the role. I then moved into Web Content Management and then got given the opportunity to be a Junior programmer. From there I went on to lead the team and became their certified ScrumMaster. From here I took the step into Engineering Management and then went on to become Head of Engineering, which is what I do now.

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

Absolutely! It’s interesting because we have a team in Cluj in Romania where we find it easy to maintain a 50/50 split between men and women which is amazing! In London, unfortunately it’s so much harder, there just aren’t enough Women getting into, or staying in the industry. We really need to do more to understand and solve this problem.

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

Personally, no! But maybe I’m just bull-headed and have never really listened to or conformed to stereotypes.

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

I don’t think we do a very good job of selling IT roles (especially programming) to women. I think its way more fun and creative than people understand it to be. It’s really not all just 0’s and 1’s across the board.

I think imposter syndrome kicks in before we even start, and we think that we all need to be a NASA level Brainiac in order to consider a career in software development. Much as we do (and I’m sure NASA do) need those people, there’s a HUGE amount of software development jobs where logical and problem-solving skills are more fundamental than science.

People should not be scared to give it a go and we need to be giving them more opportunities to do that at a much younger age. I didn’t write my first line of code until I was 21 and I loved it! I might have made very different choices had that of been at 10.

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

Definitely! The first one I mentioned above, the second one is male dominated computer science courses, the next one is male targeted job descriptions and then it’s male dominated teams.

Things are getting a lot better, we are now seeing and recognising the problems and trying to do something about it, but with women in tech still sitting at around 20% in a good office, we’re going to be working in a male dominated environment for a while yet, before we can make that barrier go away.

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

Show them how amazing and rewarding it is and break down the misconceptions. Find them great mentors and invite them into the incredible communities. Eastern Europe and India have been incredibly successful at this. What can we learn from them?

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

Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do. Find something you’re passionate about, decide you want to do it and then follow your dream. Build your support network of people who can help you achieve it, who will pick you up on a bad day and cheer you on when you need encouragement. Find a good mentor who’s been through it all before you.

Remember that imposter syndrome is something that almost everyone experiences all through their life and it is a mental hurdle, not a barrier.

I’d also say that I’ve worked in a male dominated environment my entire life and much as it has its challenges, it has also been great fun and I’ve met so many amazing friends for life. My life has been richer for it and I really wouldn’t change it much at all.