It’s International Women’s Day this Sunday (March 8th), and in an industry that is known for its gender imbalance; we take a look at three women who are making an impact on the Jersey tech scene.
Emma Gamble is a woman who loves her tech and she’s on a mission to, as she puts it, ‘show that not all coders are geeky guys eating pizza.’ Emma is currently working as a Data Architect for Appleby, but her career path is one that shows just what’s possible when you’re driven by an interest in technology.
Emma enjoyed tech and maths as a teenager and when she became a single mother, bringing up a young daughter didn’t stop her from achieving her dream. She studied computing at University often taking her daughter into the computer labs with her to study.
Emma started as a business analyst, then went into web development and data analysis, and she has a word of advice for anyone thinking of going into the tech industry, ‘Don’t specialise too early. I have found it invaluable having a good grounding in both front and back end systems. Knowing a wide range of software and understanding how a computer actually works, has meant I could figure out a solution to a problem far quicker, or understand the help given in forums which can sometimes be full of unhelpful terminology. Learn as much as you can about as wide a range as you can, as this will help identify which type of work you most enjoy – is it front end, graphics, gaming, hardware – or working with data.’
Emma’s career has definitely had its advantages, ‘I understand my kids use of tech. They come to me for help with their computing homework, which is great and I can keep an eye on what they are doing with their devices etc. It’s generally a really good work/life balance.’ Emma now shares her skills through the Women in Tech group in Jersey, and has mentored and taught coding to both young girls and career changers.
Cheryl Kenealy was one of Digital Jersey’s first members and is the founder and Managing Director of Care Software Solutions, which has developed Zuri, an end-to-end care management system.
As a successful digital entrepreneur, Cheryl is keen to get across the message that the industry is more than just coding, ‘I’ve got no technology background whatsoever yet I own a digital company. As a nurse, my role model was Florence Nightingale. She may be a historical figure and nothing to do with tech, but she was very open minded and forward thinking. As long as you’ve got ideas it doesn’t matter what sector you’re in. My mother taught me to take on any challenge and if you face your challenges you can overcome them.’
Cheryl would also like to see more young women available for recruitment by employers like her, ‘We’ve just done a large testing schedule on our product and the girls did better in the testing than the boys did, and they came into it with absolutely no experience. It was something they’d never thought of doing in the past.’
Cheryl believes that getting children involved at a young age and helping them to realise it’s more than just coding, is important. So too does Catherine Kirby, a freelance archivist. Catherine isn’t currently working in technology, but she’s just undertaken the Mums in Tech course run by the Women in Tech Group at the Eagle Lab, ‘I did it to try to keep up with my children and also for myself to see if I can transfer my skills as an archivist to something more techy. What I do is information management and the course opened my eyes to all the jobs that are available. I’d be really interested in doing something that utilises my skills in a new way.’
Catherine is also the President of Soroptimist International Jersey and to encourage more girls to consider STEM careers, they’ve teamed up with Highlands to sponsor three ‘added value learning’ bursaries of £1,500 each for girls who sign up for one of the six STEM subjects they can study at Highlands age 16-18.
The STEM subjects have been very male dominated and Catherine thinks it’s not just about getting the message out to the kids, ‘It’s also as much persuading parents these days that STEM is a good idea for girls, and that there are a range of opportunities in IT.’
All three women have come to technology from very different backgrounds, and their skillsets are also very varied. While females are still a minority in the digital industry and we’re a very long way from gender parity, there is now a widespread recognition that it needs to be addressed for the benefit of everyone.
The Digital Jersey Academy offers a wide range of course, including a full-time degree level course the Digital Leadership Programme, as well as a number of part-time digital courses including Coding, Digital Marketing, Podcasts and Data Science – all available for school leavers ,career changers or returners.
There are plenty of women within the industry and the Women in Tech group, who are more than happy to chat to you if you’re thinking about a future-proof career in the tech industry.