Invaluable Career Lessons from BBC’s Girls Can Code

I’ve just finished watching the second and final episode of BBC’s Girls Can Code and I have to admit I found it fascinating – although not for the reasons I’d expected. From the title I’d assumed this would be a look at ‘coding’ whereas in fact it was more about inspiring women to consider careers in the tech industry and female entrepreneurship. Something I wholeheartedly support.

I’ve always been equally bewildered and yet entirely unsurprised by the lack of women in tech. Bewildered because I can’t help finding STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects utterly and completely fascinating myself – and it’s always hard to imagine everyone disinterested in something you’re passionate about. Yet unsurprised given the experiences I’ve had. Yes – in my first work experience role in an Engineering firm someone actually said “But you’re a girl” (and I’m pretty sure all the rest thought it) and despite knowing how keen the industry was to attract girls at the time I learnt young that you really did have to dare to be different to fit in as a female engineer.

I hope this situation is slowly changing – certainly teaching the new generation to code as part of the national curriculum will provide the opportunity for many girls to realise how good they are at this (and equally many to discover it’s not their thing). However, the BBC’s Girls Can Code was not about turning young women into coder – it had an entirely different focus.

Photo credit: BBC

The focus was on encouraging women to consider the tech industry as a place to work – in any role. The programme really did open the viewers (and participants) eyes to the huge array of opportunities in tech. Too often people think the tech industry will be all about coding, engineering and science and discount it out of hand or as Cait O’Riordan (VP of Product and Music at Shazam) observed during the programme they may not consider it at all:

“My assumption might have been that they’d thought about jobs in the tech industry and thought its not for them. But the truth is something completely different. They’ve never thought about it” Cait O’Riordan, VP of Product and Music, Shazam

However the programme made 2 key points:

  • Women are increasingly huge consumers in the tech industry particularly of social media and apps.
  • The tech industry, just like every industry, includes a huge range of professions within it beyond the tech specialists: creatives, marketeers, sales, advertising, finance, management, HR, legal, IT etc.

They make the point that I wish was the foundation of all career advice: people should work in a industry that inspires them. Whether you work in admin or run the business the subject as much as the role is key to your enjoyment. If you love sport then why not look for a job in the sports industry (you don’t need to be a sportsman), if you love books why not work in publishing (you don’t need to be an author). The same is true for tech, regardless of whether you are male or female, if you love social media or are hooked on apps then please consider a career in the tech sector. After all, if you understand what consumers want from tech (because you’re one of them) your insights may well be extremely valuable.

That’s certainly what drove me to my career. I’ve been lucky enough to combine two areas I’m passionate about into one career – tech and child development. In my role I get to help steer the next generation of tech products for children whilst also advising parents on how to make the best choices – what could be better.

The programme also encouraged an entrepreneurial approach and provided a wide range of invaluable lessons to anyone who wants to consider becoming an entrepreneur in the tech industry or in any industry: the importance of the pitch, the value of market research etc etc. As an entrepreneur and user / market research specialist myself this is a subject I could talk on for hours! Suffice to say for now, I hope many viewers came away inspired to turn their fledgling idea into a real business. However, please don’t feel that’s the only route into the tech industry. Being an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone but working in a role and industry that you’re passionate about – that’s something that I really believe is in reach for us all.

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