Woman in Tech of the Month: Tara Brennan
Celebrating Women in Tech is our series exploring the achievements of women who are breaking gender stereotypes to build technology-based careers. Tara is a member of our Women in Tech (WiT) team and cloud expert at PA. She leads our ‘In a Nutshell’ events series, which aims to help women get a better understanding of what a role in tech might entail. In our interview with her, she reflects on her career in tech and top tips for women starting their journey into technology.
What attracted you to a career in technology and what steps have you taken to get to where you are today?
My interest in technology started when I was four – I was always really fascinated with programming, and would program the TV and video recorder back when they were manual! I’ve always had a keen interest in fixing things and, after I graduated in Italian and Linguistics, I did a masters in information systems – it was a real challenge coming from an arts background, but I loved the analytical side.
Career wise, after I had my first job, which gave me a deep dive into technology, I got a bug for it. I have learnt so much on my journey so far, taking on various technology roles and travelling around European markets, the US and Qatar to work across different industries. Currently, I’m working on an exciting project that follows my passion for voice-enabled technology, leading a group of people to build a sentiment analysis module that can be embedded in the Internet of Things.
What was it like starting your career in tech as a woman?
At one of my first jobs, I turned up and there were only three other women in the whole office floor, which was quite daunting. The industry was, and to a certain extent still is, a very male dominated one. It’s disappointing that nearly 10 years ago this was the problem I faced, and there are still too many women facing the same thing now. I know it will take time, but I am hopeful that with cloud computing and its accessibility, and careers such as UX, that we’ll start to correct that imbalance.
Why do you think there’s an imbalance of women in tech?
Part of this is that IT as a career choice is not widely advertised, I remember the graduate fairs are about being in accountancy or engineering, nothing about IT, which is something I’m really passionate about addressing.
What do you think can be done to encourage women to pursue a career in technology?
I think we need to be better at recruiting graduates from universities and breaking down the myth that you need to be a computer scientist or have a mathematical degree to get involved in IT. I think WiT and Code First Girls, which runs free coding courses for women with no coding experience, are great initiatives and we need more of these to encourage women to get involved. We need these advocacy groups to be more prevalent, hosting specialist events on campuses across the country that advertise cloud roles. Another important step to take is to reach out to career changers and graduates to set up a mentoring scheme that would help women understand how they can break into the industry.
Why is it important that more women pursue a career in technology?
The benefits of having people with different experiences and backgrounds are huge. This brings diversity of thought and a mix of skillsets to draw from. For example, some of the research on ‘invisible women’ shows that through unconscious bias, we have a series of technological developments that don’t work so well for women (even the simple stuff like the rapid growth in smartphone size making the too big for the average woman’s hand). It’s vital to have that diversity involved in creating and innovating so technology serves everyone.
What advice would you give to women starting their career in tech?
- Attend as many events as you can to get a base understanding of what the technology you are interested in is. For example, Google and AWS run fantastic events and labs to get involved in.
- Take every networking opportunity you can! This allows you to get exposure to different roles and hear from other women’s experiences.
- Find what you’re passionate about and follow that passion – it might be designing things, coding or UX. Then look around to see what’s involved in that role and what you can do to learn more.
If you’d like to nominate someone for the next WiT of the Month and help us celebrate female technical talent, drop us an email explaining why you’re nominating them firstname.lastname@example.org