We interviewed Nicole Pilsworth, Software Engineer at Starling Bank on her experience and thoughts on women in tech.
I’m a Software Engineer, and I lead one of the backend engineering teams in Lending. The role involves designing and building systems to automate our organic lending processes at Starling.
I was interested in Maths during school, and found that programming had the same appeal of problem-solving. I have some family working in technology, and who suggested that I try Computing as an A-Level. I found the course really interesting, so I decided to pursue it at university. There, I met some Software Engineers at a careers fair, which helped me to decide to start my career in technology.
Yes, I studied Computing at A-Level and Maths and Computer Science at University.
Yes, the university I attended had an industrial placement year, which I spent working as a Software Engineer at an investment bank. I also spent a summer during university on an internship in Software Engineering at a venture capital firm. It was useful learning about coding in different environments, and helped me to understand what industry I’d be most interested in.
There’s definitely a noticeable difference between the number of men and women in the technology sector. There are some great initiatives like Girls Who Code that are creating more opportunities for women looking to join the technology sector, so with these I hope we’ll reach equal numbers of men and women in the sector over time.
Yes, there’s a stereotype that this industry is only for men, and I believe that damages the potential for women to want to pursue a career in technology. I think a good way to combat this is to highlight women’s continued achievements in the sector. Drawing attention to these women can further encourage women thinking about switching to this career path.
Having basic technology/ IT subjects as mandatory subjects at secondary school level would expose more young women to the idea of technology-related courses at e.g. university or apprenticeships. Since technology has become such a pervasive part of everyday life, learning about it at school would be likely to encourage women to study it further.
While I haven’t experienced any in my own career, I believe there are still some barriers to women entering the technology sector, although they seem to be less direct than in the past. Outside of stereotypes, more subtle barriers like unconscious bias, which at some companies can prevent both entry to tech and progression within it, are still a problem.
I think telling the stories of women who have either started their career in technology or who have switched careers to the sector would be helpful for giving more information on what might be a daunting decision. When women speak at venues like schools and networking events, it helps to get the word out that technology is a great career path for women.
Working in technology in a professional context can feel very different to studying a technology-related course, given it involves a lot of adjustment to how a company operates and it can take time to tackle the steep initial learning curve. I think it’s important to note that most people suffer from impostor syndrome at the start – and often during the whole course – of their career, furthered by the fact that there’s a huge scope of technology-related information that can feel impossible to keep up with. My advice would be that the best way to start is to learn at your own pace, ask lots of questions and find the parts of the role that you most enjoy.