19 April 2024

AQ Women in Tech event with PDS 

AQ held its latest Women in Tech event last week. The latest in a series of Women in Tech events was held in partnership with Parliamentary Digital Service (PDS) at the House of Commons, which focussed on women at all levels of their career in the digital and technology function, and how to navigate and overcome potential challenges on their career journeys.  

The event was co-hosted by Grace Tattersall, AQ Partner, and Dan Cook, PDS Interim Chief Information Officer and Managing Director. Both AQ and PDS are passionate about providing an environment which promotes inclusion, diversity, and equality, and therefore were delighted to create a space for over 100 attendees to come together to network and learn from each other and our expert panel. 

The panel, which was brilliantly chaired by Femi Otitoju, Founder of the EW group, included: 

  • Femi Otitoju (Chair), Founder of the EW group
  • Elizabeth Akorita, Group Deputy Director, Digital Delivery, Department for Science, Innovation and Technology 
  • Emma Canny, Head of Operations, Product, PDS 
  • Libby Kurien, Programme Director, Transforming Digital 
  • Heather Pike, Senior Change & Engagement Manager, PDS 
  • Emma Price, Director, Deloitte, Non-Executive Director, Major Projects Association 
  • Nikola Spicer, Director of Product, PDS 

The panel provided open and honest insights about their career journeys and lessons they had learnt. They discussed how team health and well-being are essential to delivering digital transformation, the impact of female leadership qualities during digital transformation, and how to deliver technology and digital transformation as a “non-techie”. 

Some key takeaways from the event were: 

  • Women are inspired to go into technology by other women who are already in the sector, and there’s no one route to a career in tech. Some might study it at university and go straight into a career, others may leap across mid-career, and then there are those who find their way into technology much later in life – there is nothing wrong with any of those routes. Femi Otitoju commented, “Imposter syndrome is on the way out – as we look at others succeeding, we’re less likely to believe that we can’t be the ones to do it.”   
  • At its core, change management is about preparing, equipping, and supporting people through changes, people being the key word. To support these people, you need to learn technologies quickly, find creative solutions to problems, have empathy, translate technical jargon, and understand how change will impact them. Heather Pike says, “When teams are physically and mentally well, they perform better, and their focus, creativity and problem-solving abilities improve, and the likelihood of enacting changes successfully increases. Team wellbeing is crucial.” 
  • It is important to invest in your team and create a psychologically safe and meaningful environment. This will ensure that everyone feels empowered, can do their best work, and will mean you have a high performing team that is able to push barriers and create change in any environment. 
  • When organisations are looking at ways to ensure they’re more inclusive, they should first start with their team – do they reflect look like the communities/customers/clients that they serve? We need to ensure we have teams who are building services that are evidence based and considering the inclusivity needs of everyone. When recruiting for your team, ensure that both your recruitment and onboarding processes are fully inclusive and accessible to all. Elizabeth Akorita suggested that a good place to start is “by standing up in the middle of your work day and taking a look around you. If your workforce, your leadership team, your colleagues, your talent pipeline, your apprentices, etc. don’t look like your customers or end users, that’s a good place to start”. 
  • Gender diversity is important in the sector, it is important to blend technical expertise with non-technical expertise, so that we’re creating diverse teams. Women in the sector who are role models and excelling in their careers are the ones who are confident bringing “soft” skills to their teams and organisations – listening, negotiating, influencing, being empathetic – and we shouldn’t be worried about displaying these skills, as they make such a difference in terms of building a successful high performing team. Emma Canny provided a great piece of advice, “if you’ve got broad skill sets and you’re curious about working in tech, you don’t need to be a technical specialist! You absolutely can bring really valuable skill sets and work in tech, even if that isn’t your background”. 
  • We should prioritise ensuring that there are networks and communities for women working in the digital and technology functions. Everyone, no matter where they are on their career journey, can benefit from being part of these networks and communities. They provide an invaluable source of mentors, mentees, and role models to share experiences and ideas and help individuals to thrive and grow. Nik Spicer said this is an area she is really passionate about, “it is important that when young women that start out in the technology field feel that they have a place and a sense of belonging. I’ve really tried to prioritise spending time and ensuring that there is space for mentoring, support and coaching for those joining the tech workforce”. 
  • Even for those who don’t start off in tech, it is absolutely a viable career path. Focus on your transferrable skills, and remember that a career is a marathon, not a sprint. One of the exciting things about working in tech is being able to try lots of different things and understand different perspectives, and the changes have a real impact on many stakeholders – including the public. Emma Price, who holds an English degree, says that her background means she can “interpret and extract meaning from large data sets, simplify complex information and articulate this to others. 

We are currently working with a number of panellists and speakers to create the next events in the AQ Women in Tech event series. Grace Tattersall, founder of AQ’s Women in Tech group, said: 

“The reason I set up this network was to share knowledge between women in digital and technology roles, but it has become so much more than that. There have been split off networking sessions, afternoon teas, and friendships created. There are some people that I have supported in their careers for over a decade that are still coming to our events, because they see the value and importance of having the network and community!” 

If you aren’t already part of the AQ Women in Tech network, and would like to join, or you are interested in being part of future event panels, please do get in touch with Grace Tattersall at grace.tattersall@andersonquigley.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.