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A personal journey to a career in tech from a female leader

Inspiring more women to pursue technology careers is something we’re really passionate about at FCDO Services. As a sector, it’s still a male-dominated world – and we want to help change that. How? Well, let’s start by sharing the personal journey of our female Director of Technology and Operations. In this article, she talks about her early career, joining FCDO Services and why there’s far more to technology than coding.  

Growing up, I never really considered a career in technology. At school there was no suggestion that it was something I could do; we didn’t even have IT as a core subject. And I grew up in my family’s pub, so not exactly an environment where there was lots of tech around either. But I was raised in a competitive household with brothers who loved gaming, so I got to see the fun side of tech – and I was always interested in it.

After completing my education, I started my career in the Civil Service at a County Court, where they were creating their first-ever computer department. They installed these ‘dumb’ terminals, which were very simple monitors with little processing power and only green text on black screens – so nothing like we have today. But for the first time, you could see how work could be automated and the difference that made: less paper, more sharing and collaboration. I was excited and intrigued by this new tech, and it felt like this was the place to be.

“It was a privilege to manage technology projects that impacted the UK public’s everyday lives.”

Eventually I thought, ‘Do I continue working in admin in the computer department where I was, or do I want to learn more about technology?’ I decided to pursue my interest in tech and moved into a more central role at the Ministry of Justice, where I could look more widely at what was happening with automation in technology. That started with project and programme management, understanding how test environments and scripts are created. I even worked on the development and implementation of the first online public service in the Ministry of Justice for Civil Claims Online. I then moved onto much bigger programmes, building up my knowledge of how software is developed and how that works with the manual processes we were still using.

It was a privilege to manage technology projects that not only changed the way we all worked, but also impacted the UK public’s everyday lives. And that meant that the security and testing we did had to be extraordinarily thorough. Soon enough, we became trained in Agile, which allowed us to work in new ways with the government digital service using emerging technologies to move from legacy systems to new ones.

I have to say, the Civil Service has been amazing at supporting my career. They’ve allowed me the opportunity to get the training I need and be mentored by both technologists and leaders. So when I had the chance to join FCDO Services, I knew I was ready for that next step.

“There are genuinely so many different opportunities that could be perfect for you.”

I moved to FCDO Services because I knew I’d get to see things with a wider perspective, and look at the true collaboration between government departments working in technology. Today, I use all of my experience and everything I’ve learned to lead the Technology and Operations team here.

I always find it incredible to watch how everyone comes together with a huge variety of skills across the whole lifecycle of technology. So if you want to do testing, project management, or to be an engineer, a data scientist, a service desk analyst – there are genuinely so many different opportunities that could be perfect for you.

There’s no denying it: as a woman in the technology sector, I’ve had to adapt to male-dominated environments throughout my career. I’ve never experienced discrimination, it’s more that I had to consider childcare and needed more flexibility, which has always been supported whatever civil service department I have worked in. I’m happy to say that there’s been a massive change in the technology sector since my early career. Historically, everything needed to be on-site or at secure locations, but because technology has come so far, there’s now lots more flexibility in where and how you work – even more so since the COVID-19 pandemic. It makes for a much more inclusive culture, for everyone.

“The work we do here is the kind of work you jump out of bed for.”

Speaking of culture, you’ll find that FCDO Services is a really fun and supportive place to be. Everyone understands that people have different commitments and responsibilities, so there’s a real emphasis on flexibility, work-life balance, mental health and wellbeing. Plus, the work we do here is the kind of work you jump out of bed for, and that’s an attitude we all share. It means you’ll feel a sense of passion and collaboration, no matter which team you’re part of.

My advice for any woman, or anyone, interested in a technology career is to not rule yourself out. Take the time to learn about the different paths available, because there’s so much more to technology than coding. Technology is evolving rapidly and will continue to do so, meaning there are infinite possibilities to explore that could positively impact everyday life. And that doesn’t just take coders. It takes all sorts of people, from all walks of life.

So, there you have it. Our Director of Technology and Operations’ personal career journey in technology. We hope it’s inspired you, or at the very least shown you that technology opportunities aren’t limited to one type of person or skillset. If you’d like to learn more about our world and how you could do your job, bigger – take a look at our Digital, Data and Technology careers.