What’s it like being a woman working in tech?

I’ve worked in the tech industries and with techie people for the whole of my working life and this is the first time I’ve really considered sharing my experience. 

I love maths, problem-solving, getting things working, making things. I love a starting with a challenge, thinking big with others to figure out a design, working out the core functionality, getting excited about what this thing might do, and then getting stuck into the practicalities of actually making it happen. Evolving ideas, questioning the dream against the practical, testing whether it works. Then the thrill of seeing the finished product. 

For me, the thing that tech gives me is the ability to have a go and make something. Test it out, see if it works and if it doesn’t either go away and figure out if it could be possible, or tap into my creativity and find another way. 

In the early part of my career being in the minority was something I relished. I was proud to be the only girl taking further maths a-level, and one of two girls (with 20+ guys) in my physics class. It meant I got to know the guys well. 

There was a practical element to this too – I’d always been a bit of a tomboy – playing football, climbing trees, getting dirty. But during my early teenage years, I’d found that girls were super bitchy. Girls would be nice to your face and then talk about you behind your back. Boys just seemed so much more simple and straight forward – so as I moved into 6th form, many of my mates were boys and doing science and maths fit pretty well with that. 

I held this approach through most of university and into my career. I had female friends, but I preferred to hang around with guys. So being in a male-dominated engineering company fit me quite well as my first job. When I was first promoted into a management role I remember looking around the other managers in the company and being proud to be one of the few women to have reached such a position and feeling pretty comfortable being there. 

Me around 9 years old - I loved dressing up and letting my imagination run wild!
Me around 9 years old – I loved dressing up and using my imagination!

The turning point for me came around the time I discovered coaching. I went on a course to learn to coach and we did an amazing exercise where we looked at a photo of us as a child and described the child we were seeing and all the things we would want for that child when she grew up. 

What was interesting was that I talked about girliness a lot. Whilst I’d been a tomboy as a child I had also loved playing with dolls, getting dressed up, reading fairy tales. Things that I’d now shunned because they weren’t practical and didn’t fit in the male-dominated world I’d lived in. 

That one conversation started to unpick the way I saw my life and I realised I’d been living the way I thought I needed to in order to fit in. I wasn’t being the whole of me – and that was holding me back. I had created a life of structure and analysis, where everything needed to be logical. In the process, I’d also lost my connection to my creativity. 

It wasn’t that my logical, analytical side wasn’t an important part of me – it’s just that it was out of balance and as a result I had lost the connection with the creative, imaginative, free-flowing part.

It was around that time when I started to notice the male-dominated environment more. In many of the meetings I attended I was the only female, and when those meetings were making decisions, for example about where to invest money, I realised that those decisions were more likely to lead to investment in tech that men understood.

This increased awareness meant I started to think differently and realise that I brought a different perspective to discussions. Slowly, as my confidence grew, I was less in the background and more willing to speak out. I wasn’t always listened to – but I don’t feel that was just because I was female – I also had to learn how to use my voice. This was a really important part of my development into a leader. 

As my career has progressed further I’ve moved more into roles where I am guiding and mentoring the people I work with. Whether that’s in creating a business from their tech, how to become a leader in their tech field or even how to interact with others in different disciplines to build inclusive teams, all of these need a balance of male and female traits. 

Of course, when providing this sort of support in tech, the majority of people I’ve worked with are male, but I have also worked with a good number of women too. These women have really deepened my own reflection and understanding of what the tech industries need. 

With a little support, many of these women have gone on to become strong leaders themselves. Once they reconnect with who they are and become comfortable with the idea that it is ok to bring female energy into the tech world (in fact, the tech world is screaming out for it), once they have tapped into the confidence they need to go out and share their skills and share their message, they have stepped up and made a difference, and really start to be noticed. 

It takes a leap of faith to be different. The tech world has been created by men, and the male structures have been reinforced. But in a world that is accelerating so fast, a world where businesses need innovation and creativity to stay alive, female leaders are needed more than ever to bring these different ideas and approaches.  

Where do I fit into this now? Well, my mission is to help those female leaders stay connected to their truth. To help them to have and maintain the confidence and belief in themselves so that they instead of adapting to fit in, they know that they have the most impact when they stand out. 

Photo by Noah Näf on Unsplash
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What if failure was an essential part of the creative process?

How do you respond to failure? Are you one of those lucky people who believe the mantra “there’s no failure, only feedback“, or does the fear of failure stop you from doing things?

What if failure was an important part of being creative? What if it was actually a signal we were on the right track?

As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve recently discovered that I can actually draw and paint after many years of believing I was terrible. But in picking up my paintbrush and giving it a go, I’ve not only learnt about painting, but it’s also taught me a huge amount about the creative process.

Over the last 6 months, I’ve painted a picture of each of the places we visited on our travels – and loved it! I’ve loved getting lost in creating something and seeing what emerges. However when I say I loved it – I didn’t love every minute of it. I’ve noticed that in the process of creation there always seems to be a turning point. A point where I want to give up. A point where I want to rip up the painting and start again. A point where it just doesn’t look as good as I thought it was going to look… it doesn’t fit the image in my head!

Then, maybe after a few days away, sometimes after a couple of months, I’ve picked up my brushes again and kept on going, seeing if I can do something with it. Tweaking to start with, eventually getting lost again in the creative project. I’ve also found that after the turning point, what comes out is actually much better and more connected to me than I’d imagined in the first place. 

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The Art of Effective Listening

What does it feel like to be truly listened to? When someone is really interested in what you want to say? We like it when people listen to us, but how often do we expect people to do this for us without us taking the time to listen to them?

Listening is an essential communication skill. Improving our listening skills can have a valuable impact on all areas of our lives. It can improve the relationship with our loved ones, lead to improved connections with friends, help us to understand better what’s needed from us at work, help us to understand what a customer really wants.

I like to think of a conversation like the creation of a piece of art. The speaker is the artist (and in collaborative work, there might be multiple artists). At the core of their artwork is a message or emotion that they want to convey. As they speak they might paint a picture in your head, or a film of video, a story or a composition, or completely immerse you in an event. You will get their message most clearly if you can start with the blank canvas of a clear mind, and are able to resist adding your own thoughts, judgements and assumptions into the creative mix.

Some parts of the message will be clearer than others. By asking questions you can make sure that the understanding you are getting is what they want to communicate. Immersing yourself mentally and physically into their world will lead to a much deeper understanding, increase your connection with them, and lead to new learning and insight for you.

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How to Create Your Ideal Day

How is your typical day? Do you find yourself annoyed, stressed, feeling frustrated, or just bored of what you do? Would you like to feel energised, passionate, embracing every moment? Have you ever really thought about your ideal day and what it would look like, feel like, sound like?

Why know your ideal?

I’m willing to bet you can describe a tough or difficult day much more easily than your ideal one? Our brains are predisposed to look for problems, challenges, threats. It’s an important part of our safety – to identify things which could threaten our life so that we can protect ourselves. The parts of our brains which do this date back to the hunter-gatherer days, a time when those approaching a bush to gather berries without anticipating that there might be a tiger hiding behind and waiting to the eat them were much less likely to survive than those who were prepared. However in today’s world the threats are a little different – and yet we still seem to anticipate, prepare for and respond to them as if they are life and death. This continual focus on threats and problems has two major impacts: Continue reading

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How to Easily Achieve Your Big Goals

I ran my 99th Parkrun on Saturday! For those that haven’t come across this phenomenon, Parkrun is a free, timed 5km running event which takes place across 540+ locations across the UK (and more across the world) at 9 am every Saturday morning.  My next Parkrun will mean that I join the “100 club” and I’ll be rewarded with a lovely t-shirt! The organisers will also mention my achievement before the run, along with others who are reaching 50, 100 or even 250 runs.

Emma and Peter in front of the Golden Gate Bridge with Parkrun signAs I ran around on Saturday I considered my journey to get to number 99. My first parkrun was in November 2013, nearly 5 years ago. I went along to find out what all the fuss was about and have been going along steadily ever since. It’s a way to keep fit and to push my running fitness in a different way to going for a jog on my own. I’ve been a tourist (visiting different sites around the UK, and even managing to find one in San Francisco), but usually run around the route at York racecourse. When I first started, 100 runs seemed a long way away. But by going back week by week, the numbers stacked up – and 5 years later I’m running round in a pretty decent time, and enjoying it immensely.

Chunking down

That reflection led me to consider how this is reflected in other goals in life and I realised there was an immediate running link at a lower level. Quite often I get to the start line on a Saturday and I’m tired, I’ve been out the night before, had a hard week plus all number of other excuses and the only goal I have is to get around the 5k. I know that all I have to do is keep on putting one foot after the other, one step at a time, one breath at a time and I will get there. Once again the big goal is broken down into small, manageable steps and before I know it I’ve done it.

So how can we use this to achieve big things?

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5 WAYS TO RECLAIM YOUR WORK-LIFE BALANCE

How much does your work interfere with your life? How often do you work late or through your lunch hour because there’s just too much to do? How long does it take you to switch off from work? An evening? Or a weekend? Or do you need a week’s holiday?

When I first started work I think I had a pretty good balance – I was a junior member of staff, so had few responsibilities and the company flexi-time policy meant if I’d done my hours I could go to the pub on a Friday lunchtime and then take the afternoon off – heaven! My weekends were full of friends and living life to the full – and I came back to work on a Monday needing the week to recover! Skip forward 10 years and I found myself as a manager, working long hours, needing the weekend to relax and recover from the efforts of the working week. By the end of a weeks holiday, I could just about let go of the stresses and forget about work. My “life” – and here I mean my personal life – all the out of work stuff that I really wanted to do – had been sacrificed for the needs of the company. Continue reading

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How to overcome procrastination?

 

Do you find yourself putting off or never quite getting round to some tasks for ages? These things weigh on your mind as something you need to get to, but there’s always something more urgent to sort, or you’re not quite in the right frame of mind to tackle it? Then, when you finally get to the task, and complete it, you feel this beautiful sense of relief and lightness – and wonder what all the fuss was about!

This blog is a great example of that for me. As I mentioned in my last post I set my website up and created all the infrastructure so I could get going 4 years ago, published a couple of posts…. and then nothing!  The longer I left it the harder it was to go back to it – the bigger the blocker. In fact I earlier this year I refused to look at my website because I felt so guilty about not keeping it updated or adding anything to it. So what’s changed? What got me moving?

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30 Day Blog Challenge

It’s over 4 years since I posted anything here. I got my website all set up, my blog ready to go, loads of great ideas and so what happened?

I could give loads of reasons – the biggest being the day job getting busy (more about that later I’m sure), but the real reason was that I got scared and didn’t make the time to overcome that fear. Scared of what? Well ultimately I think boils down to fear of failure – people not liking what I write and what I do, looking for the perfect thing to blog about and putting too much pressure on in the meantime. There’s also a fear of success in there too – it may sound silly to some – but there’s that question of what happens if too many people like what I do and I get too much interest than I can deal with and I can’t deliver on my promises.

As with any fears – it’s really interesting seeing them written down on a page. Despite the fact that I journal, I don’t think I’ve written these down for myself – and just doing it now has made these fears much smaller, with the realisation that I have the ability to overcome all of these things.

About a month ago I decided that I really did need to take these fears in hand and take some action. Just get blogging… and still nothing! I just couldn’t quite get motivated to make that first post – couldn’t figure out what to write.

I realised I need some help, some structure and guidance on how to get my message out there (so that people read this thing and it’s not just a journal alternative that people find if they are lucky). So after a bit of digging around on courses, I’ve signed up to the 30-day blog challenge.

I’m really hoping for motivation and inspiration – and that it creates a some interesting content for readers follow over the next month, hopefully creating a habit for the years to come!

Person releasing dreams into the sunset

How to find your dream job

The job market can be a pretty scary place. It’s tempting to just take what we have and make the most of it – but what if you know you have more to give? What if you know that your strengths could be better used? How do you even start to figure out what your ideal is – and is there any point?

We spend at least 37 hours a week working, often longer when you include the travelling, background thinking, learning and all the other things that come with going to work. This adds up to a huge proportion of our time – so doesn’t it make sense to invest some time, upfront, figuring out what we want to do and getting as close as we can to it.

This post a series of steps that I put together back in 2012, having successfully found myself an amazing new job at the University of York – one which I didn’t know existed until I’d identified my dream. It was amazing that within weeks of writing down my visualisation of my ideal, the job appeared, a job I had no idea existed at the start of the whole process.

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Does Your Inbox Rule Your Life?

How many emails do you have in your inbox? Do you open it up knowing that somewhere in there there are actions you need to take, but you just don’t quite know where to start? So you start at the top and never quite further than the top few – and the emails just keep on growing…

3 months ago I had 2 inboxes with over 2000 emails sitting in them in a bit of a jumble. I did do fairly regular clear outs, but I (like many people I know) also used my inbox as an action list – so emails remained in there until the action was complete. This meant that in busy times I reverted to tackling the urgent tasks over the important tasks – as they were the ones topping the list.

Now I have 25 emails in the inboxes across both accounts and I’m using my email for what it’s intended – as a communication tool. My actions are nicely organised in another tool – which is (almost) as easy and simple to manage as flagging an email in my inbox!

So how did I get here over the last few months? What did I discover which I’ve been looking for for years in my time exploring time management that I haven’t seen before?

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