Women in Tech: The challenge and rewards of a career in the tech industry

By Fiona Lucas, Director of Product, HelloFresh.

  • 8 months ago Posted in

1. Have you always wanted to work in the technology industry, and how did you end up in the sector?

No actually, I didn’t! I believe my career in technology is the result of consequences rather than my initial choices, with my background definitely offering some advantages along the way. I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to computers at a young age, as my parents bought a family computer for use at home. Something I appreciate not all people of a similar age would have had exposure to as a child.

As a child I initially used the computer to play games, before going on to develop simple websites in my teen years. Having that access allowed me to feel at ease with technology early on in life, and without this I may not have chosen to pursue IT as a subject at GCSE and A-level.

My career actually began after attending a jobs fair on my university campus where I was studying International Management and French, with an aspiration to go into business or strategy consulting. Impressed by the company Accenture, and their benefits package, I applied and was soon offered the vague entry position of “Analyst.” The first role I was assigned happened to be a Product development type-role, in systems integration, in which I was responsible for overseeing the customisation of modules of an Oracle system for a telecoms provider, Vodafone. Later roles at Accenture gave me a wide range of technology and business experiences and skills, and opportunities to travel to work internationally on technology challenges commonly faced among Accenture clients.

Prior to my current position at HelloFresh, I worked as a Director of Operations for an ecommerce start-up in the Ivory Coast, working across supply chain and logistics management. Like with most roles of this nature, I needed to use my tech skills to support the rolling out of new technology in the warehouses and collaborate with the in-house product development teams as a business stakeholder. My role as Product Director for Fulfilment Technology at HelloFresh combines the industry experience in supply chain operations and my tech experience at Accenture together.

2. Having relocated to Paris and the Ivory Coast for previous roles, what would you say are the benefits to relocating?

In Paris, my role changed slightly as I started working in mergers and acquisitions, exploring the impact of these on the technology used within businesses. I relocated to the Ivory Coast for

personal reasons, however moving allowed me to gain significant business and managerial experience that I found challenging but also highly rewarding.

I personally found that relocating has helped shape me into the person and professional that I am today. With every role change, I levelled up in terms of responsibility and experience, especially in the Ivory Coast where I found myself in a role that I wouldn’t have had access to in Europe at such a young age. I now feel more fearless about pursuing opportunities I may otherwise have not considered, as I’ve learnt to be confident in my abilities. Working abroad seems to be an increasing trend among women, with a representative survey that HelloFresh recently conducted, finding that 40% are either working abroad or have done so previously, and 48% would love to make the move.

Relocating also gave me the opportunity to experience new cultures and ways of working and opened up new perspectives. By taking the leap to move to another country and stepping out of my comfort zone, I was able to support my personal and professional innovation and development.

3. What rewards have you enjoyed in your career within the technology industry?

My first five years in the industry offered an amazing learning opportunity where I had exposure to different tech organisations and new technologies. It is also where I learnt most of my soft skills, from critical thinking and communication to stakeholder management, which are key to being a successful leader.

The Product role at HelloFresh has been extremely rewarding, working with a number of teams that develop products for internal business users. Internal product development means you have access to first hand feedback from employees who are using our tools, and I get a great sense of accomplishment from seeing products and features through to deployment in our warehouses, and being able to measure the tangible impact on business metrics such as efficiency, error rate and even job satisfaction. This actually aligns nicely with results from a more recent survey from HelloFresh. We found that 29% of women between the ages of 16 and 27 shared how the potential to have a positive impact on society was one of the top reasons why the tech industry appeals to them as a career option.

4. Do you think there’s more that needs to be done to encourage women to work within the technology sector?

Yes. There needs to be more transparency about the roles available and the connected responsibilities. If I had known about my current role when I was younger, I definitely would have pursued it earlier than I did.

As we know, a computing or technical background isn’t necessary for all roles, but I feel that women should have exposure from a young age, to equip them with a better understanding of what they can do with their skills. They also need to remember that all companies, no matter what industry they primarily operate within, need employees that support their tech capabilities.

I’ve read that women begin to leave tech careers around the age of 35, so more needs to be done to address this. Companies need to be focused on promoting gender diversity, and making sure women continue to be supported throughout their careers. One key way to do this is to equip them with the correct toolkits and training. I personally went through six months of professional coaching to support my transition and progression to tech leadership roles. This has enabled me to develop a clear leadership style and define my career goals, but also given me the skills I need to coach others. I practice these skills daily with my direct reports and as part of the HelloFresh mentor programme. From the survey referenced earlier, HelloFresh found that 45% of women want to see more role models, however it’s so important that women have a role model that they can actually speak to, and not just observe from a distance.

In order to bring more women into technology we need to start exposing women to the opportunities in this industry at an earlier age, removing any stigma or gender stereotypes associated with the type of job. The earlier that we make it clear to young women what are the various career paths available, the easier it will be for them to select education courses and apply for jobs in this domain.

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