Women In Tech - Scotland Leading The Way

By Mairead Quigley

05 Sep 2019

This week, we had the opportunity to take part in the Women In Tech Scotland Series at the EICC in Edinburgh. The event is a celebration of the success of women leading the way in the tech industry, as well as providing an opportunity to learn top tips for driving technical excellence and fostering a culture diversity and inclusion within your own organisation.

Scotland Leading The Way

Scotland currently leads the way in the UK for employing women into the tech sector, particularly in highly innovative areas including AI, big data, analytics, machine learning and cloud. Skills Development Scotland reported a 30% increase in women pursuing digital careers in 2018 in Scotland - a brilliant step forward!

This increase, we believe, is due in part to the commitment of employers to increase diversity in their organisations, the rise of female-led technical mentorship programmes, the introduction of digital skills into school and higher education curriculums and a highly supportive digital community in Scotland ( we can vouch for that!).

Given Edinburgh and Glasgow’s status as “tech hubs” of the UK, the number of tech jobs that are available are only set to increase. It’s super important that we don’t get complacent and continue to attract women to these positions and pursue careers in the industry. These events are a brilliant way to inspire the next generation of leaders.

Our xDesign Team

At xDesign, we have almost tripled the number of brilliant women in our team over the last 18 months. From software engineers, to product owners, to UX designers and project managers, it’s been really encouraging to see an increase in the amount of female applicants for many of our job roles and the passion and enthusiasm they bring.

Interestingly, we all took very different routes into the tech sector. Here's a quick view into some of our journeys.

"I actually started in a UX and design role to begin with. As I went through different jobs I picked up a lot of knowledge of front end development and taught myself how to do a lot of the coding basics. I'm now working at xDesign as a front end engineer across some of our biggest projects. Having the UX and design background definitely helps me in front end development and I'm easily able to work with designers cross functionally to do my job well" - Emma Chee, Front End Software Engineer

"I studied politics at university, something pretty unrelated to what I'm doing now, but I always had a strong interest in technology. I left university to work in a Business Analyst role in local government in a change management role. I then started getting involved in Hackathons and it solidified my ambition to work in the tech sector and to help define solutions to complex problems through technology. I am now a Product Owner at xDesign and loving the opportunity to grow my skills and expertise both technically and professionally with a brilliant team of people" - Paige Barclay, Product Owner

"I started out in customer service and retail but didn't see it as a career for me. My partner and a lot of my friends were really into technology. I ended up researching it and teaching myself how to do the basics- CSS, HTML, Javascript etc. I really loved the challenge and decided to apply for Codeclan, a Scottish Digital Skills Academy. I embarked on a 16 week intensive software development course and they also taught me some valuable interview and CV writing skills. Now I am a graduate software engineer at xDesign and getting to learn every day from some of the best in the industry!" - Maria Toscano, Software Engineer.

The Event- What Inspired Us

The Women In Tech Scotland Event this year focussed on five different core areas:

  • Hacking diversity and inclusion
  • Leading success
  • Technology today and tomorrow
  • Business strategies and new game plans
  • Career guidance and personal development

It was a good mixture of sessions focusing on everything from developing your soft skills for leadership all the way through to providing technical knowledge and expertise and learning from women in similar industries about best practice.

Here are some of our key highlights from the various talks and workshops of the day:

  • Plan your career like you would your holiday. Melinda Matthews of CodeClan gave some valuable insights into the importance of setting goals and milestones for your career and planning it out with the same detail and attention you would a big summer holiday.
  • Creating and fostering a culture of collaboration is key to bridging the gap between technology and the business. Allowing teams to experiment (and fail!) on their path to success is critical. Also, if you're working in a team with remote workers or off-site clients, to ensure that you spend at least one day onsite and video-conference as much as possible to keep that team culture alive.
  • The importance of challenging the gap between digital accessibility and cybersecurity. There was a big theme around the topic of digital accessibility and to ensure that we, as digital product designers, design and build our products to be inclusive of everyone.
  • We particularly enjoyed one of the interactive prototyping workshops, led by Lauren Atwell of Wood MacKenzie. She spoke about the three different "tiers" of prototyping, from generic sketch wireframe prototypes, to information architecture based prototypes all the way up to using sophisticated coding to build clickable and interactive prototypes. Using this methodology, we got to work in teams to come up with prototyping ideas for the women in tech event.

What We'd Like To See More Of

Despite the event itself being very good, there were definitely some things that our team would like to see more of at these kind of events. We'd collectively love to see more workshop sessions or talks that give detailed practical advice on how to solve some of these challenges in more depth. For example, with the designing for digital accessibility theme, it would have been great to see how this is being done in other industries so we can learn how to practically implement some of these great ideas. Perhaps more sessions that go into project case studies and allow you to be interactive is probably where many of us get the most value.

All in all, we are delighted that Scotland continues to lead the way with getting women into technology. Although there's still quite a way to go, the team at xDesign will be 100% behind it and supporting women in technology in every way that we can! Exciting times!

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