KJ Blog 6

Katie Jackson: My journey as a woman in tech

Mar 06, 2021

March 8th marks International Women’s Day – a date to celebrate female achievements, and look at ways to take action against inequality. Especially for the occasion, we’re sharing the stories of successful women across PHMG: including that of our Agile Business Analyst, Katie Jackson. Katie told us all about her career journey, her experiences working in a male dominated sector, and her hopes for the future.

My interest in the technology sector probably started when I took my A-Levels, and ICT was the subject I enjoyed most of the four I chose. This led me to complete a degree at Cardiff University to study Information Systems, and it was there that my eyes were opened to the variety of roles that were available in the technology sector – it wasn’t all about programming. I took a variety of modules that kept my options open, learning about change, people, and the internal and external challenges businesses face that technology can help improve.

After graduating, my first role was as an Implementation Consultant at a small software and consulting company – where I learned the foundations of everything that I bring to the table today. I was thrown into the deep end and given responsibility for every element of product delivery – from Sales and Account Management to Configuration. Thanks to the mentoring of my incredibly supportive team, I spent four years continually making mistakes and learning from everything I did.

I was then lucky enough to take a career break to go travelling, and when I returned, I reflected on what elements of my previous role I had enjoyed the most. It became clear to me that interacting with businesses, listening to challenges and facilitating the resolving of those challenges with technology solutions was what I really wanted to do, and I discovered that all this came in the role of a Business Analyst. I spent four years working in this role at the BBC, supporting production teams to implementing new processes, introduce out of the box solutions, and deliver bespoke applications alongside an in-house development team. And all this experience led me to my position as Agile Business Analyst at PHMG – providing me with the opportunity to support evolutionary development, flexible responses to business change, and above all, continuous improvement. Throughout my career, I think that having the opportunity to be mentored and be a mentor have been the most valuable experiences. Having the chance to share knowledge and set goals with someone accountable is rewarding, but experiencing a mentee accomplish goals that you have worked towards together is my proudest achievement.

My educational and professional world has been male dominant since I first set foot in that lecture theatre in Cardiff, so it is all I have ever known. In my first role, I was one of three women in a 15-strong workforce, which sounds low, but 20% is actually a high number in the world of tech. The challenge companies face is that the pool of female talent available to them is low. According to a recent blog published by stemwomen.co.uk, just 16% of women graduated with a qualification related to engineering, technology or computer science. The disparity in STEM is actually a lot to do with how certain careers are perceived, and we need to do more to ensure girls and young women know that every opportunity is open to them.

Working in the industry I do, I sometimes feel very aware that in certain situations, I am solely responsible for providing a women’s point of view or insight, which motivates me to speak up in scenarios some people might perceive as intimidating. When I have felt intimidated, I don’t think that has necessarily been because everyone in the room has been male, but more likely to that the most senior people in the room tend to be male. In terms of opportunities for progression, it’s hard to know if my challenges have been industry based – but what I have learned, is that you can’t just wait around for a promotion to be handed to you. It’s your responsibility to seek out the opportunities, highlight your achievements and put yourself forward. I think that’s something that comes more naturally to men – and is perceived a little differently if it comes from a women. Having male allies and mentors has helped me realise this, and pushed me to put myself forward with confidence. Generally, I think that businesses can improve things for women in the workplace by listening, being supportive and accommodating for the potentially different challenges that women face over men. I don’t think it is any secret that companies with greater diversity, flexible support and opportunities for staff to constantly feedback – regardless of gender – have better performance, productively and positive results.

I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve never had any cause to question whether this is the right career path for me. I really enjoy my work and I am very passionate about educating the younger generations that tech is not just for men – and encouraging women to transfer their skillsets into tech. If I could give one piece of advice to young women looking to enter the tech sector – or any similar male-dominated industry – it would be don’t be intimidated, know your own value, and have confidence in your knowledge. Recognise the responsibility of bringing a new perspective to the table and acknowledge you will always come across challenges, but with every challenge comes an opportunity – and that might result in discovering your true strength.