An Unconventional Path into Tech

18 Oct 2018
people starting to take to their seats for an event

I took part in a panel discussion this week, organised by the HSBC Digital team and held here at CodeNode, London. We discussed issues around diversity in tech, with lots of rich, actionable advice coming forward.

I’ve only sat on a few of these events and always come away wishing I’d said more. So here are my afterthoughts…

I was so pleased to chat with individuals  and hear how they feel encouraged to start working towards or keep pushing forward to make a transition into a career in tech. I’m living proof that it is possible to do it, without a degree and without formal training in computer science. It’s why I feel it’s so important to be visible and have these conversations.

But what strikes me is that it’s one thing for companies to set these quotas and targets on diversity and inclusion, but it’s another to actually ‘mean’ it. I am always clear to give full disclosure, that whilst I have succeeded in getting my first door to open, there were plenty before that were slammed shut in my face.

You have to be prepared to play the long game when you are looking to move across into tech. It’s not an easy task to set yourself if you’re without the standard ‘3 years experience’ that most job descriptions routinely quote, even for junior positions. It doesn’t matter how much experience you have if all that experience is gained working as an independent freelancer. It doesn’t matter if you have industry recognition. Unless you have what is deemed ‘commercial’ experience, then you have none.

Most recruiters are looking for round pegs to fill round holes. It doesn’t matter how hard you work at smoothing off your rough edges, you’re never going to be that polished candidate they’re looking for. This attitude hits returners the hardest.

So my advice? Steer clear from agencies and try to speak to companies direct. Look for organisations like HSBC who have signed up to the Tech Talent Charter pledging their commitment to delivering greater gender diversity in the tech workforce. Get yourself along to job fairs, start conversations and network in person. It gets you past that first barrier of CV rejections. It gives you the opportunity to show your passion, commitment and determination first hand. Keep an eye out for events just like this one organised by HSBC. There’s always valuable networking to be had, a maybe conversation waiting that could lead to you opening your first doorway. And to HSBC, yes please, let’s have more events like these. It’s so refreshing to see a company taking real action to push that diversity needle in the right direction.