You don’t have to be a maths boffin

Julia Cannings, Nominet

Written by Julia Cannings, Project Manager, Nominet

Computing was one of the only subjects I found easy as a child. I was severely dyslexic, and school was a struggle. My mum worked hard to get my difficulties recognised and to find a school that would support me. She always believed I could do anything I wanted to. Everyone has something to offer, even if you find exams and writing hard. 

I could change a car tyre before I could write my name; no one showed me how to do it, I just figured it out. We have always been a very practical family and although I wanted to be an engineer, I didn’t think I’d be able to pass exams to get to university. I was all set to join the RAF when my mum encouraged me to try A Levels. My results weren’t good enough for engineering, but they did allow me to study Business IT at university – a real turning point for me. The course taught me about computing as well as business management, both of which are strong transferable skills to have.

As a young woman I was a definite minority on my course at university. In fact, there were just ten girls in a group of 150. However, despite the gulf in numbers, issues of equality were not even on my radar – that is until a visitor came to talk about career options in Saudi Arabia. I asked him: ‘what about roles for women?’ He smiled at me and said: ‘oh no, you can’t work there’.

It’s true, I think, that some employers can make you feel inferior for being female. On the occasions in my career when I’ve been made to feel that the skills women bring to the table are not as valued as the ones men bring I chose to leave the role. My skill set is in demand and I won’t work somewhere that doesn’t appreciate the contribution I have to make. Life is too short and opportunities are plentiful!

Nominet is unusual in the number of women we have in senior positions, although we still don’t have many females in the tech department. We’re working on it though, with lots of positions to fill, and we’ve just hired two more colleagues – who happen to be women – for our team. The women I work with at Nominet are amazing and incredibly talented. It’s refreshing to have a female boss too, and having so many great role models throughout the company makes a big difference.

I work as a Project Manager which involves pulling together and managing people from all areas of the business to work together for a specific period to deliver a new product or a new process in a timely way. You need to be good at communication, team work, time management and problem solving for this role. You don’t have to have deep tech knowledge but I find it helps if I can grasp what the tech team are doing so I can better understand the challenges they face and the risks of the project.

Working in IT is great. It’s an ever-changing environment and there is always something new to learn – I love that. In my role I get to interact with so many different people and so I learn a little bit about everything. Even if you don’t work for a tech company, tech is everywhere so confidence in using it is crucial for work today.    

I often try to persuade young women to consider a career in tech and find many say: ‘but I don’t like coding’. Perception is a real problem – it’s not just about coding! I don’t think there is enough focus in schools on the variety and breadth of roles within technology. It’s also difficult when teachers don’t have the experience or skills to encourage their pupils to explore tech as a career option. Some people assume you must be a maths boffin to get through the door in tech – that’s not true. I think if you’re interested and have a passion for tech, you should still pursue it as there is likely to be a role that does fit your skills.

My mum is my role model. She was always fiercely independent and had a very successful career in the media and fashion industry, which was also a male-dominated environment at the time. Later in her life she retrained as a nurse as a way to give back and try to make a difference through her work. In some respects, I think I’ve done the same – I have always chosen to work for IT companies that make a difference. Nominet keeps people who are online in the .UK namespace safe and secure, as well as supporting tech for good projects. It’s great that Nominet and many other companies in the wider tech industry can offer opportunities like that. Give it a go!

Meet more of Nominet’s women in tech.

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