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Amber Rowbottom: from Art & Design to Senior Tech Recruiter & Community Engagement Partner

Social media handle(s): @motherboarduk

A few words about me:

Hi! My name is Amber, I am a Senior Tech Recruiter at ADLIB Recruitment, the highest-scoring B Corp recruitment agency in the UK. I also help run MotherBoard - A Business Charter, Community, Event Series and Consultancy, that has been designed to drive tangible change for women working in the tech industry.

Out of work, I am very passionate about cooking, cocktails, and cats. I can be found most nights in my kitchen with my cat Sushi, pretending to be Nigella creating beautiful dinners for my Rail Engineer partner - who probably doesn't appreciate the culinary artwork!

Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?

Since I was a young teenager, I have had quite the journey with work - one in particular stands out, and that was being a Cook in an Indian restaurant. I had worked there since I was at school and became part of the family, which led to me learning how to cook the entire menu - curry night at my house is fantastic now!

Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?

Defiantly non-STEM related, and to be honest until I started working in recruitment, I had no idea what a career in tech looked like.

It has to be said that the IT Teachers, while I was at school anyway, were somewhat uninspiring! My education has all been arts based because that was what I was "good at” and at no point was a career in tech suggested or even talked about. I went on to do an Art Foundation Course in Totnes, the most colourful of Devon towns, which led to me starting at Bath Spa University studying 3D Design.

Where did your professional journey start?

After university, I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t know how to get where I needed to be. I do think that the education system could do more in terms of helping students find work and educating them on what careers are available. Until I started working in recruitment, I had never heard the term Project Manager, Developer, or Software Engineer and really didn’t know what was possible in the world of STEM. Working in recruitment really opened my eyes to careers and away from all of the classic jobs I had been taught about as a child. Turns out I never made it as an “Artist” as I had always planned!

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

I started working on a tech recruitment desk in 2017 and instantly noticed that a lot of the placements were men. It was hard not to notice the stark reality of the tech sector and the lack of women working in senior positions. For example, while searching by page on job boards or recruitment platforms, per 50 candidates, one would be a woman - if that.

Over the years as a Tech Recruiter, I have encountered so many women that have been mistreated in the tech sector. Women being made redundant whilst on or after maternity leave, women having to prove why they deserve a promotion when their male counterparts are promoted on potential, women not being offered any support when returning to work and then feeling undervalued, and women having to take serious pay cuts to get back into work after taking maternity leave.

With a lot of businesses shouting from the rooftops about how inclusive and supportive they are, why are we still hearing of so many horror stories and constant NDAs being handed out? This is what motivated me to join ADLIB and MotherBoard with Sophie Creese – the Founder of MotherBoard – and work on something tangible that will actually benefit women working in tech. Due to the pool of experienced females being so small, we ask the question – what are you currently doing to support women in your tech teams? And quite often the answer is sadly, not much.

Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?

Something we have discussed a lot during our MotherBoard events, has been that a career in coding is NOT just for boys. A lot of women have expressed how they felt humiliated after being asked “why they were in the class” either by their male peers or by the teachers themselves for being the only female in the room. So, it seems that there are challenges from the very beginning. MotherBoard is tackling the retention of women working in tech. A staggering 50% of women are leaving the tech industry by the age of 35, MotherBoard’s mission was founded on that drop off point and the correlation to motherhood. Although MotherBoard now covers the entire expanse of women’s reproductive health and how it can negatively impact their career, motherhood is still the largest preventer of retaining female talent.

We have faced challenges along the way working on MotherBoard including identifying businesses that have been looking to use the MotherBoard network as a marketing exercise to tick a D&I check list. As we continue the journey with MotherBoard, our product offering is increasing to help support businesses more to create positive change for their employees. It’s very exciting but also a mammoth task! Seeing our community grow is so rewarding though.

"It’s not all doom and gloom, there are a lot of businesses that really care about their staff and who are doing really interesting work within tech for good or for the environment."

What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...

I wish I knew how many opportunities are out there! My personal opinion is that our education system needs to be more inspiring and give more visibility on the careers that are available and how to get there. Although changes are being made now, the career advice I received at school was a singular questionnaire with multiple-choice questions that then generated a role that might be suitable. Mine came out as a Hat Designer! But there was no advice on how to get from A to B.

What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?

I saw an article last year about how Brownies are now teaching girls how to code, and I thought this was fantastic as opposed to the usual arts & crafts and dancing around a mushroom to get your badges. Teaching young girls something solid and something that will help them long-term as they grow into adults is imperative.

What do you like / not like about working in tech?

I love how dynamic tech is, there is always something new to learn or a new business to speak to. And the people I get to speak with from a candidate perspective are always so much fun.

Even though there is so much talk about diversity and inclusion, social media posts from every business on International Women’s Day – there is a still a lot of misogyny and unfair treatment including the gender pay gap, the pension pay gap and policies that do not support working women. There is still a lot of work to do to create more inclusive working environments.

"A career in tech does not necessarily mean a career in coding, there are so many career paths to take and avenues to explore."

What's been your favourite / most memorable / funniest 'career in tech' moment so far?

There are too many fond memories to write down, but a few notables are:

Hosting our MotherBoard events and getting to speak with incredible women and mothers working in tech – absolutely smashing it in their careers and raising a family.

Networking with businesses and having them sign up to the MotherBoard Charter. This highlights the plans being put in place for how they are going to be more inclusive of women – changing policies, implementing fully flexible working etc.

Supporting women to achieve considerable pay rises in new roles and helping them feel more confident & valued in their place of work.

And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?

Go for it! There are so many opportunities out there and with the most amazing companies. It’s not all doom and gloom, there are a lot of businesses that really care about their staff and who are doing really interesting work within tech for good or for the environment. A career in tech does not necessarily mean a career in coding, there are so many career paths to take and avenues to explore.

And when looking for new roles – don’t be afraid to ask what the maternity package is, as a woman in her thirties – I would not move to a business that wasn’t offering decent maternity and return to work policies!


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