Women in tech: reducing the gender gap in the technology industry
According to a recent PwC report only 15% of people working in STEM roles in the UK are female. In their infographic, PwC report that some of the reasons females don’t consider a career in tech is a lack of information on what these roles entail and a lack of role models to look up to. We are lucky enough to have a few women working in tech roles at Telesoft Technologies. One of which is Gemma Curtis, who joined as an Apprentice Systems Test Engineer in 2017.
We sit down with Gemma to find out what made her pursue a career in tech, what it’s like working in a traditionally male dominant environment and what can be done to decrease the gender gap within the technology industry.
1. What influenced you to pursue a career in tech?
Women in tech are sparse. I knew it would be daunting for me to pursue a career in tech, however the industry is massive and I knew there would be endless opportunities and career paths I could follow. Technology is forever evolving and changing, so I knew I would always be ‘kept on my toes’ and enjoy working within a dynamic field where each day I would face a different challenge. I am passionate about constantly developing and learning new skills and I knew that a career in tech would allow me to better myself and improve my knowledge.
2. Tell me about your role at Telesoft Technologies?
At Telesoft, I am in the Operations department and part of the System Test team. I am currently an apprentice, which is great as I have the opportunity to learn from people who have an extensive amount of knowledge and many years of experience within testing. This has allowed me to progress quickly and make me an effective part of the team. As an apprentice, I work 4 days a week and go to university on the 5th. I attend Solent University and study a digital and technology solutions degree apprenticeship, and my career path is software engineer. My day to day role consists of testing our cyber products, identifying as many bugs and defects as I can and ensuring baselines are fit for customer site. I also write and develop test automation suites.
3. Describe a typical day in the life of a Systems Test Engineer?
We start our day with a meeting to discuss if there are any baselines being released to us to test, how current test cycles are progressing and if there are any defects or bugs identified on site that we need to replicate. We will carry out our test cycles on released baselines from engineering and raise defects on issues found. We organise meetings with engineering to ensure we are prepared for testing, know all new features, requirements, and issues they have fixed in the next release. If a test cycle has been finished, we will create a Build Test Report and discuss all issues identified with engineering and decide if it is suitable for customer site or not – so either passing or failing the baseline. If we’re not running a test cycle, we’re developing our test automation scripts!
4. What has been your greatest achievement so far in your career?
My greatest achievement so far is completing my ISTQB Certified Tester Foundation Level qualification. It is an international software tester qualification that is highly recognised. The course was very useful and has further developed my skills as a software tester. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into my next course!
5. What do you think are the biggest challenges in getting more women into tech roles?
I think it is the environment of the business they are walking into. Tech roles can be very demanding and come with a high work load (and a lot of stress at times!), so chatting and getting to know everyone can be difficult as they are all so busy. Engineering is traditionally a very male dominated environment. At Telesoft, there is only myself and another female in the team. Women can find this intimidating, I know I did at first! But after time I got to know everyone in my office, and soon the company, and I get on with and enjoy working with everyone, although it would be nice to have some more female company!
6. How do you feel being in a traditionally male dominant industry?
When people ask what I do, they always respond with ‘oh I didn’t picture you doing that’ and are very surprised. I feel empowered and excited to change the traditional stereotype of someone working in a tech role! I have four brothers, so walking into an office full of men hasn’t been too challenging for me! It is an interesting and massive industry, with endless opportunities for women so I’m excited to see where my career takes me!
The number of women in technology based roles is growing, there is a lot more press about women in tech now and this is being fed down to schools and universities. I’m looking forward to developing my career and getting more involved with women in tech events to help raise our profile and encourage other women looking at a career in tech.
7. What or who has helped you get to where you are today?
I would not be at Telesoft without knowing Rob Downham, the owner and founder of Telesoft. Rob encouraged me to pursue a career in tech and enlightened me with all the potential possibilities there are. Ryan Andrews, my manager, has given me a huge amount of support through training, developing and my university studies and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. His depth and vast knowledge of the industry and patience have allowed me to start from minimal knowledge in tech and cyber to be half way through a degree and overseeing test cycles with little to no guidance.
8. What career would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?
In 5 years’ time I can see myself at Telesoft with a more senior position, hopefully a team leader. But right now I’m focusing on my internal training and finishing my degree!
9. What advice would you give to any women out there looking to get into an IT engineering role?
Go for it! There are loads of opportunities out there for women in tech, and a wide range of career pathways. If the first one you look into doesn’t suit you, look for other engineering roles in different industries! The great thing about engineering is that the skills learnt and developed can be used in a range of engineering positions so you can be as diverse with your career as you please!
10. What do you think are the biggest myths about working in the technology industry?
The first, and biggest myth is having to be a male to work in the tech industry. It is far from the truth, and it’s incredible to see more women entering the industry and doing amazingly well! You don’t have to be particularly good at maths and science either! I have not had to use either to be successful in my job role. Also, the myth that technology is all about coding is not necessarily true, I may spend one day every two weeks looking at test automation, it all depends on my work load and if I have time to develop the suite.
Another one is ‘you’ll work alone’ which is definitely not the case at Telesoft. We all work as a team and support one another. Each person has different areas of expertise such as networking, debugging or coding so we all work collaboratively to get the job done. We also work very closely with the Engineering Team to ensure we know what to expect from them each week, they are aware of issues we have identified and deadlines that are approaching.
Charlene Burkmar, Head of Marketing at Telesoft says…
At Telesoft, our motivation is pushing the boundaries of intelligence and technical development across the industry. As such we get excited about bringing the best people into the business. Gemma is the perfect example of people within our organisation demonstrating the commitment, excitement and passion that allows us to be the cutting edge intelligence business that we are today.