WTF are the obstacles to career changing?

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On 24 July, we held our WTF is… changing careers event and not only did we have a great turn out, the evening was full of inspiring women (and a man) sharing thoughts, feelings, stories and advice that created a warm, supportive atmosphere. So much so, people were actually reluctant to leave! (Probably helped by the free prosecco, but who are we to judge?).
Most of the Women’s Tech Focus (WTF) attendees were looking to move into the tech arena from completely different industries; others were looking to move within their tech companies but across departments or divisions. Either way, all were facing an uphill battle and needed a helping hand.
As the overall aim of WTF is to be self-sufficient and self-organising, rather than an evening of being talked at – because arguably that happens to women a lot already, right? – we thought a workshop format would be a better way to instigate discussion and guide people to tackle and solve each others’ problems.
Before discussing the issues as a group, attendees were split into two groups and once they started, we couldn’t stop the conversations! Listening to everyone talk, it became clear that many of the concerns have common themes and most importantly, are shared experiences. Some are personal and ostensibly rooted in insecurity, others are wider, more global problems.
So, we jotted down the top 10 obstacles for you so that anyone thinking about jumping ship or is already on their journey, knows that everyone’s in the same boat. Don’t worry, we’ll also be sharing the top solutions with you in our next post…
Personal Obstacles

  • I don’t have a technical background – People who want to move into technology often believe they have to have a degree in engineering or computer science, or even be able to code before they can move across and this stops them applying for jobs.
  • I don’t understand or know anyone in the industryWorking for a startup or building an app sounds cool, but what is it they actually do and how? For many, it’s guesswork because beyond reading about it on the off-chance, they’ve never had any experience working within the industry or know people who are.
  • I don’t know what I could do – Similar to the lack of understanding the industry, there’s a lack of understanding about what roles are available. We can imagine it’s pretty hard to know if you’d make an excellent Product Manager or Delivery Director if you’ve never heard of either position.
  • I don’t know what I’m good at – It’s easy to identify hard skills such as analytics and being multilingual, but softer skills like communication and emotional intelligence are more difficult for people to recognise in themselves and thereby unable to confidently ‘shout’ about on their CVs or application forms.
  • I can’t afford to retrain – Whether it’s the time or the cost associated with undertaking additional training or enrolling on courses, this is an equal problem for those with and without caring commitments.

Industry Obstacles

  • Lack of transparency – Some of the women who were already in the industry and wanted to move across or up, find that the advertising of roles isn’t transparent and often, senior positions are filled via word of mouth resulting in a lack of opportunity.
  • Lack of support and development – Internal blockages within organisations, such as an unwillingness to train or develop their employees that wish to move department and/or role, results in people getting stuck on a particular career ladder they don’t want to ascend and having no choice but stick it out or leave entirely.
  • Male-dominated world – It’s no surprise that technology being a ‘boys’ club’ came up. And while the reality is slowly changing, the external perceptions are taking a bit longer. Although it was clear that this fact wasn’t putting off any of the attendees from pursuing their dreams, some had experiences where their career paths had either been stymied by men or a lack of female role models.

Societal Obstacles

  • Lack of exposure – One of the younger members of WTF said she’d grown up in an area where there was no exposure to programming or such like either at school or through the community. She has therefore relied solely on her determination and passion to get where she wants to be.
  • Lack of opportunity – For many of the women present without a technical background – and indeed others on a wider scale – moving into tech is something that is only now possible because they’ve established their careers elsewhere first. This is particularly true now that the job market has undergone a cultural and digital shift; moving away from ‘life service’ workers to people moving roles and companies every two-to-five years on average.

So there it is. Do you recognise your feelings or experience? Good. Because the most important thing to know is that you’re not alone. And the second most important thing is all of these issues are surmountable. Now that they’ve been identified, next week we’ll be sharing the possible solutions discussed by the WTF group to help anyone wishing to take control, make the change and progress their career. Keep your eyes peeled!