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January 20, 2021 Women in Digital

At Women in Digital, we are fierce advocates for connecting, educating, and empowering women to give them the skills and support they need to thrive in the tech industry. We are very lucky to not be alone in this mission and another great organisation trying to build up women (and software) is She Codes. We were beyond ecstatic to be able to attend their She Codes Plus Brisbane Showcase last month. Keep reading to learn a little more about She Codes and some of our key takeaways from the night. 

Facts are facts. Despite national conversations about diversity in tech, women are still largely misrepresented in the tech industry. According to ARN, only a fifth of Australia’s IT graduates are women! While yes, diversity statistics are slowly improving, clearly, there is still a long way to go and this is why we love to support organisations such as She Codes.

In late 2020, we had the incredible opportunity to attend the She Codes Plus Showcase at Lightspace in Brisbane. If you haven’t heard of She Codes, you’re missing out! She Codes is on a mission to teach women coding skills, get women into technical careers, and build communities of like-minded women. Their vision is to increase diversity in tech by inspiring 100,000 women across Australia by 2025 and this is absolutely something we at Women in Digital can get behind.

Run in partnership with BHP, the She Codes Plus program is a six-month part-time course that focuses on supercharging the tech careers of women. This showcase was an opportunity to celebrate their achievement, share their portfolios and connect them with other professionals in tech including recruiters, hiring managers and potential industry mentors.

We were thrilled to attend this fantastic event and celebrate the 2020 graduating class. We were equaly excited to listen to a range of fabulous panellists including Sammy Herbert, Peta Ellis, Emily Taylor, Rene Chappel and Sorcha Abel (who was also the 2020 Women in Digital Awards Technical Leader of the Year – go Sorcha! See all our winners here). These women are five powerhouse leaders with an accumulative 78 years in the industry (woah!). They are also key role models for young women in tech. If there’s anything we’ve learned at Women in Digital, it’s that ‘you can’t be what you can see’ which is why showcasing these role models in this industry are so important.

Here are our key takeaways from the SheCodes panel discussion…

Connect with your network around you

You might have heard the saying that ‘your network is your net worth’ and it’s true! Although it may not be your all-time favourite activity, I think we can all agree that networking is a key skill for any professional. Building a network filled with strong, quality relationships is just as important. So if you find yourself wanting to level-up your networking game, start small and try ‘nudging’ one person a day. Watch over time as good things happen!

Be okay with not knowing all the answers

As much as we wish we could be experts in everything, that is never going to be a realistic goal. But that’s okay. This is your opportunity to ask questions, collaborate with others and build connections with other professionals in areas you may be unfamiliar with. However, if this is not your vibe, another way you can learn is by simply throwing yourself in the deep-end! What better way to learn than through experience?

Value your experience

Your experience is unique to you and to be honest, it is more than a lot of people have! Though many people follow similar career paths, it is highly unlikely your pathway is identical to any other individual and you, therefore, you have different (and meaningful) insights to bring to the table. So make your experience and career journey be your unique point of difference and flaunt it!

Find a mentor to support you through the journey

This all goes back to the importance of your network. Finding a mentor to guide you or simply offer advice throughout your career plays a key role in your network. Whether that’s a former teacher, past employer, or maybe someone you have looked up to in your industry, it’s always worth reaching out. Most people are more than happy to provide some form of mentorship and share their experiences with you.

Appreciate it’s not going to be amazing immediately – it’s a journey

The idea of a linear career is long gone. Hey, we’re not saying that you won’t thrive immediately at the beginning of your career journey (some people do!). But in the 21st century, most people will find that their career pathways become ‘squiggly’ rather than straightforward. This means it is important to accept and embrace that there is more than one way to achieve what you want in your career. You can read our insights from the Women in Digital Squiggly Careers Panel here.

Imposter syndrome is something we hear a lot of women in digital struggle with and a narrative we desperately want to change! Here are the She Codes Showcase panel’s top tips on beating imposter syndrome:

Go to meetups – once you’re there, doors will open

Can you tell we love networking? Guilty as charged! But we can’t stress this enough and neither could the SheCodes panel… whatever your experience or background, it is so important for women in digital to take opportunities to connect with others in your industry. If a door opens, assume inclusion, (don’t talk yourself out of it) and walk right through. You never know what might happen! Especially in the tech space, there are more and more networking and professional development events popping up for you to enjoy. We recommend challenging yourself to attend at least one event a month and bringing a friend to back you up if you’re nervous.

Personify your negative persona and tell it to go away

No one likes a ‘negative Nancy’. If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this! A lot of people have a nagging voice in their head that feeds on and metastases any feelings of inadequacy and failure. Does this sound like you? Go ahead and visualise this voice as a personification of your negativity. Name it, picture it, and every time you catch [insert name of inner critique here] being a voice of irrational negativity, just tell it to bug off! Don’t be your own worst enemy!

Go to your crew to gas you up

We are all social creatures. Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, we naturally crave communication in some capacity (some more than others, of course). This is why finding your work crew may very well be the secret to both personal and collective success. If you need a boost after a rough day or just need some general motivation, connect with your crew and have them refuel your drive – sometimes you just need to let someone else be your cheerleader (we all know you are always being a cheerleader for someone!)

Verbalising the issue

If you’re a ‘fake it til you make it’ type of person and this works for you, then go for it. But truthfully, a lot of people struggle with nerves and it’s 100% okay to 1. Feel that way and 2. Verbalise that you feel that way. Remember, your coworkers, employers, and employees are human too. Most likely, they will appreciate your honesty and be able to sympathise. Plus, sometimes it can be a great ice breaker to verbalise your nerves.

Stop looking up at the things to do, look back at all the things you have done

My guess is that a lot of people reading this are looking forward to opportunities to level-up in their career. That’s great! You’re probably ambitious and hungry to succeed and we can’t fault that. But every now and again, it’s important to also look back at things you have done, take time to reflect and appreciate your accomplishments along the way. You earned it!

You should only be comparing yourself to you

Too many people fall into the trap of comparing themselves to others. It’s an easy thing to do and we have all done it at least once (or more 😂) in our lives but as soon as you stop that, the better off you will be and likely happier in general. There’s always someone who you think knows better when reality is, someone is thinking that about you in the same way! So next time, keep that in mind. Your career journey is YOUR journey. Keep doing you and go after what YOU want!

Final Top Tips:

  • Keep learning – It’s okay not to know everything. Google is your friend and so are industry workshops!
  • Find your tribe – Who are those special people in your life that will support you and your career no matter what?
  • Go and pitch yourself to someone else – Take a chance and put yourself out there! If nothing else, it will become a fantastic opportunity for feedback and confidence building.
  • Stay mainstream and don’t specialise too early – ‘Early specialisers’ may find themselves disadvantaged because they have boxed themselves into a corner in the ever-changing modern tech world. Broad experience is key for long-term success so learn as much as you can before deep diving into one specialisation.

A huge thank you to BHP, Amazon Web Services and BDO for sponsoring these amazing community events/ initiatives. Make sure you follow She Codes on LinkedIn to stay up to date on any upcoming events and workshops!

If you yourself are looking to hire some tech superstars, seeking your next opportunity, or wanting to partner with us to support diversity in digital, get in touch! We would love to connect with you. Follow us Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin!


January 10, 2021 Women in Digital

Introducing the 2020 Women in Digital Awards Technical Leader of the Year, sponsored by COSOL, Sorcha Abel!

Sorcha is a Software Developer at Genie Solutions with over 15 years’ experience. As part of her winning entry, Sorcha was involved in all stages of a project designed to automate the process of importing private health fund fees through a sophisticated script. But where she really shines is her industry contributions. Sorcha is passionate about mentoring women in technology. She regularly organises, mentors and presents at events including Rails Girls Brisbane, Elixir Girls, Brisbane Installfest, Coder Academy, Muses and Coder Dojo, introducing women to tech and showing young people what a career in tech could look like. Sorcha is a true advocate for women in digital.

We were thrilled to talk to her about her career, contributions to women in tech and of course, diversity in digital.

Watch the live announcement of the Women in Digital Awards Technical Leader of the Year here.

Congratulations Sorcha! These are incredible professional accolades, but tell us, who is Sorcha the person?

Thanks so much, honestly I’m still floating. Who is Sorcha… gosh… I guess I’m a few things. First and foremost I’m a mum of three fantastic kids. Grace, Harry and James. I’m Irish, my Husband is Australian and we moved to Australia almost 9 years ago. But a lot of people know that about me already 🙂

If I were to pick one word that describes me but equally a trait that I look for in others, regardless of position, it’s respect. I think this is the key to a successful person and a productive team. They may sound like empty words but I’m really passionate about this.

I truly believe if people feel respected, they feel valued. This in turn leads to a greater contribution in terms of collaboration/code etc. However, if people don’t feel respected they tend to withdraw, contributions to group discussions stop, morale drops, team collaboration stagnates and it usually ends up in high turnover. This is never a win from any perspective.

I don’t believe that respect is something you earn, I feel everyone should demonstrate and receive it from the get-go. Respect in the workplace really brings out the best in people.

What is something that not many people know about you?

I once played the piano well and now I play it badly. It’s on that long list I keep and I genuinely hope to start playing it again in 2021, this is the first of my 2021 New Year’s resolutions

What are you currently watching/reading/listening to?

Actually, I’m currently reading the Harry Potter books, my daughter is crazy about them so there came a point when I needed to educate myself on the values of Dumbledore vs Voldemort. Actually, the books are great!

On the tech side of things I’ve just started to read Clean Code and I’m also studying for the AWS Developer Associate exam. That’s all keeping me pretty busy!

It is commonly recognised that there are fewer female leaders in digital and technology -specifically in technical roles like you. How did you end up working in this industry?

I love problem solving and I love talking to people. Software development requires both. I’d probably say communication skills are the most important. If you can’t understand a problem then it’s impossible to develop a solution for it.

I started in a support role which ticked the above ‘problem solving’ box but I soon realised my passion was for software development.

What’s your most recommended business or technology-based resource?

I use a range of resources, I regularly sign up for a course on Udemy or use Pluralsight. I switch between blog posts and Medium articles and physical books. Currently, I’m using the DigitalCloud Training for the AWS exam.

As a kid, were you always drawn to computers. What made you enter a career in software development?

I have always been a keen student and studying technology gave me the opportunity to hone in on my passion for solving problems. Once I got the opportunity to write code for a career, I knew I had made the right choice.

Genie Solutions is obviously an incredible organisation to work for (and were actually the winners of the Diversity Employer of the Year award at the 2019 Women in Digital Awards). But tell us, what is your favourite thing about working at Genie?

It really is an incredible place to work. It’s actually difficult to pick just one thing! I guess the culture is a huge part of what I love. There is a feeling that we are all in it together, everyone helps everyone without question. It’s such a supportive place. Coupled with that is a genuine encouragement for all staff to grow and be what they want to be. Genie gives you the tools, resources, support and mentoring you need. For me that is massive.

What I love most about my day to day role is coding with the most supportive, amazing developers who truly make work a joy. That might sound a little cliched but it’s true. As a developer it’s so important to learn and grow, technology is always changing so to work with people who mentor and guide me is of paramount importance.

The executive team leads by example which is refreshing. My manager constantly asks what I need and how he can help me get there. They are not empty words. The CTO guides and empowers everyone and is one of the most approachable people I know. And we have a CEO who knows everyone’s name, chats to all and has a positivity that radiates.The company is like one big team of people who help and support each other to get things done. I feel blessed to be part of that.

What has been the biggest career challenge you have faced so far and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I had that impacted my career was moving to Australia, I had just had my second child, I had left the banking sector in Ireland and had lots of experience but with legacy code. My biggest challenge was while dealing with the stress that comes with relocating there was an added stress of learning a very different tech stack. That coupled with not having any IT connections in Australia made it quite the challenge.

But it all worked out, and I guess that’s important to remember, most challenges do work out and looking back really helped me grow personally and professionally.

What tips do you have for students, graduates and early-in-career professionals set on a career in software development?

Tech wise I would suggest in the career early days not to specialise too much. Stay abreast of the current technologies and try not to pigeon hole yourself into any one stack. Ask lots of questions and listen.

Focus early in your career on good structure, good logic and always keep in mind the outcome your code is trying to achieve.

Be patient with yourself and your progress. When you come across something unfamiliar, remind yourself you simply don’t know it “yet”. Nothing is magic, all answers are out there. And finally not to forget that no one was born knowing how to code, it’s a skill we learn and perfect over time.

On the soft skills side, believe in yourself and give everything a try. When something doesn’t work learn to move on fast. Listen to everyone’s opinions, especially the ones you don’t agree with. Keep an open mind and view everything as an opportunity to learn something new.

What do you wish more people knew about working as a software developer?

I wish people knew how rewarding it is. My average day incorporates some great discussions, some great code, great support and fun. I think that’s the key to any happy role. Maybe people don’t think of IT as a fun role but great people are scattered throughout every profession and IT is no different.

I worry there is still a misconception about software development as a profession. Sadly I have heard the following sentiment more than once: “As a women you have to prove yourself more”. Maybe that was once true, but it’s not an accurate statement these days. I really want people to know that. Tech is a welcoming industry and you will be assessed on your ability/dedication. Gender really doesn’t play a role.

What’s next for you? You have already achieved so much but do you have any professional aspirations you still hope to achieve?

This is by far the hardest question so far. I have so many things on that list. The more I learn the more I realise there is to learn. The AWS Developer Associate exam is the next concrete thing on my list. Recently, an app that I developed for Xero has gone into BETA testing mode by both users and Xero. I’ve got my fingers crossed that it could be added to the Xero Marketplace soon… So busy but exciting times ahead.

We are so impressed by your community involvement in encouraging women to follow STEM pathways, are you working on any projects now?

I have lots of plans for 2021, I hope to run the next Rails Girls event ASAP. This year we have AWS Educate onboard and we are all set and ready to go.
We have new guides, new presentations, new mentors and an AWS dev many exciting things. We are just waiting for these times to get safer before a date is announced. I also intend to mentor and panel talk at other Brisbane events once everything is safe to do so.

What do you think can be done to improve diversity in the digital industry, particularly in more technical positions?

We need people to study tech, that goes without saying but equally we need people to stay in tech. That’s the key. Diversity is more than encouraging women into tech. That is of course one piece of the puzzle and a key piece at that, but keeping women in tech is of paramount importance. Diversity, as we know, encompasses more than gender, it includes life experience, travel, children, family and everything that makes us who we are. We want all those experiences around a table when we are trying to solve a problem.

Flexibility is the other piece of the puzzle. As a mum it is so important to me. I’m lucky to work in a company that supports part-time hours and I also have the flexibility to work from home. These ‘perks’ are huge, a great benefit for all employees but for a mum it can be the difference between staying in the industry and leaving it.

What do you believe is the importance of industry awards such as the Women in Digital Awards?

So important, sometimes life is so busy we don’t see our achievements or we completely take them for granted and therefore discount them. For me the WID awards made me stop, think, forced me to reflect and document my achievements. This helped me to change my perspective, from one that is always focused on looking at my future goals to look at my past achievements. It actually helped me to believe in myself more.

What technology development is most exciting to you at the moment?

At the moment for me it’s all about cloud computing. I am actively studying AWS certifications, having recently passed the AWS Cloud Practitioner certification and currently studying for the AWS Developer Associate certification. The more I learn the more I am amazed by the capabilities of AWS.

Congratulations Sorcha on this accolade and thank you for your many contributions to women in digital!

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To read more Q&A blogs from our line-up of Women in Digital Award Winners, head over to our blog and keep an eye out for more success stories on our Facebook and Instagram. You can also see our list of other winners here.