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More and more people claim to have “fallen into” a technology career rather than actively pursue one. According to a panel of entrepreneurs, this is because technology is slowly penetrating every sector and profession.
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Girls in ICT Day, which took place on 28 April 2016, is designed to encourage more young women to take an interest in technology.
During the event, entrepreneurs who started technology companies explained how they had found themselves in their current job.
The panellists admitted they had not originally pursued a career in technology, but had used technology as an enabler to address their business needs.
“Technology is so much more accessible than ever. Building a website 20 years ago would cost you £20,000. I could put one up today for around £20 that would still look good,” said Henry Ludlam, CEO at startup Team First.
“Accessibility to tech is going up, and we’re underestimating how big a part technology is going to play in everything.
“Tech will be the industry, it will touch everything. You can’t escape it,” he said.
Ludlam told the girls at the event that they have the opportunity to start technology business now, and should do so as soon as possible.
“You are in the best position to start a business because you don’t have any costs,” he said.
Diversity in technology
After starting his business as a university student, Ludlam advised that the best course of action for young people is to “get going” and set up a technology business, as participating in the technology industry feels like an “awesome party” that is getting better every year.
“Our society needs technology, it’s one of the biggest, most important and fastest growing sectors. Our society needs girls to be more involved because, with the huge under-representation, we’re just giving ourselves a brain drain,” he said.
Many believe that organisations with diverse teams are more successful. However, a stereotype exists around science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) based careers, leading many girls to avoid jobs in technology.
Louise Easterbrook, CFO at the GSMA, emphasised that a career in technology does not necessarily require a background in technical skills.
“Technology is challenging, but it’s never boring,” she said. “You don’t have to be a technologist. There are other routes, such being an economist or lawyer, where you can still work in tech.”
Tech as an enabler
Vana Koutsomitis, founder of DatePlay, said technology can be used as an enabler to explore subjects you are passionate in. She used tech as a way to scale her small dating business.
“There’s so much potential in these girls, and just because they don’t necessarily like math or science doesn’t mean they can’t go into tech,” she said.
“You get so much more access to people if you go into tech and you translate your passion into technology.”
Koutsomitis, whose app uses gamification to make suitable dating matches, encouraged girls to go into the technology industry, even if it feels like taking a leap.
“I want to encourage girls to go outside of their comfort zones, even if they’re scared of tech,” she said.
“They are the generation that can really make an impact on tech. Girls have the opportunity to become a part of that.”
Girls showing little interest in Stem subjects is often put down to a lack of industry role models.
Melinda Nicci, CEO and founder of Baby2Body, said the lack of role models available to young women made the technology industry “daunting”, and claimed the industry should work harder at dispelling tech stereotypes.
“You don’t have to be a technologist or a scientist. You don’t need to like maths. If girls are frightened of technology, they’re not going to be able to find their place in the world.”
Tips for technology startups
As part of the event, the girls were encouraged to pitch an idea for a technology startup to the panel, who acted as Dragon’s Den style judges.
Marina Atarova, co-founder of Dreamstake, gave the girls the following advice:
- It’s never too early to be an entrepreneur: “You might think you’re too young, but entrepreneurs come in all sizes and shapes.”
- Love what you do: “You have to be passionate in your field. Try to do it in an area that you’re passionate about.”
- Learn from others: “Try to find a mentor in your early stages, it’s all about learning and getting a mentorship.”
- Get a ‘dream team’ that can help you with your cause: “You can’t do everything yourself, even if you’re great.”
- Have a plan: “Having a plan is very important to help you understand where you’re going, and for when you start to pitch.”
- Take baby steps: “Building a business is really tough because it’s a big thing to do. Use milestones. It’s so much easier to build your goals step by step than to jump in straight away.”
- Always take action and “don't think too much”.
- Learn how to sell, starting with self-promotion: “Be confident, talk about yourself to everyone and it will teach you how to present yourself.”
- Build your brand: “You can start creating your brand right now. You can use social networks to start to create your business and your personal brand, which is really important.”
- Stay positive: “Things will get tough, but you need to get out there and be as positive as you can.”