Social media handle(s): LinkedIn
A few words about me:
I am a Content designer at dxw, living in Northern Ireland with my husband and 5-year-old daughter.
If I'm not reading, colouring-in, face-painting or building dens, I'm most likely watching Real Housewives or sleeping.
Are there any professional experiences you've had that are quite unexpected compared to what you do nowadays?
I think my work history is fairly unremarkable for someone who studied English. Most of my jobs have focused on words and language in some way, from working in libraries, to teaching English and working in communications. I worked in housing for a long time and knew a frightening amount about housing legislation and policy in Northern Ireland - not a particularly transferrable skill.
Is your background more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) or non-STEM related?
Non-STEM. I studied English and Drama at university and worked for the library service when I graduated. I spent time teaching English in Japan and Poland before working in Northern Ireland's amazing charity and voluntary sector.
Where did your professional journey start?
I flitted between different jobs for quite a while and was never quite sure what I wanted to do. I ended up working for a housing advice charity that had limited technical skills among its staff. And while I have no technical background, I was able to pair up with an incredibly helpful developer who helped me figure out enough about Joomla and Drupal to manage the content and purchasing journeys on the organisation's website.
By default, I became responsible for the organisation's websites and became more and more interested in how we could use digital products and services to enhance our traditional service so that we could help more people.
How did you get into tech and what motivated you?
I don't know that I'd ever class myself as being 'into tech'. But I do really appreciate the way that digital products and services have evolved over time from something quite exclusive and frightening to the uninitiated to something that's becoming more accessible, democratic and intuitive.
Working in a charity meant we didn't have a lot of money to spend on tech. So, we had to be creative about how to solve problems. I am fairly bullish when I get my teeth into something and don't like to admit defeat so I did a lot of googling and trawling message boards any time I bumped up against a sticky problem. And I was very lucky to work with an incredibly supportive developer who spent way more time than required per the support contract helping me figure things out.
I count myself as lucky that I had a work buddy in a formative role who was also really interested in exploring how digital could enable us to help more people. The fact that we had each other to bounce ideas off, show support or just whinge to made a huge difference. And we both benefitted hugely from initiatives focused on bringing UCD concepts into charities, like the Big Lottery's digital fund.
Have you experienced any 'career in tech' challenges / stereotypes?
Coming from a charity background, the main challenge I experienced was trying to get investment in digital. For a long time, digital-specific funding was incredibly scarce and if you asked for money for a digital 'thing', it was hard to convince leaders who could only see how that 'thing' cost the same as X many full-time posts delivering in-person support to communities.
I think that's changed now and third-sector organisations have better systems and networks in place to explore the potential of digital. And they're starting to get more savvy about asking penetrating questions so they aren't cowed by firms who try to bamboozle them with technology. The pivot to digital-led services during the COVID-19 pandemic and support from organisations like CAST and Third Sector Labs have made a huge difference to how charities perceive digital.
"Find out what you enjoy doing and how this can be translated into a role in tech. Look out for free initiatives to help you develop and improve your skills. And don't let the fact that you're not a coder put you off. There are plenty of disciplines that don't require detailed technical skills."
What you wish you knew before getting started in tech...
I've been surprised at how many people at my current place of work are from equally non-technical backgrounds. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one who doesn't code.
What has been your biggest 'wow!' moment related to working in tech so far?
I'm pleasantly surprised by the level of trust and autonomy I've been given as a remote worker who is situated in Northern Ireland and working across the water from most of my colleagues. Collaborating with colleagues has never been an issue and I've felt hugely supported since the day I joined.
What do you like / not like about working in tech?
It's a cringey, expected answer, but I think the people you work with are the most important aspect of any job. And I've lucked out at the minute with a clever, interesting, supportive and highly amusing team.
Although I don't feel judged for it in any way, I still don't like not knowing how things work or feeling lost when conversations get technical.
"I've been surprised at how many people at my current place of work are from equally non-technical backgrounds. It's reassuring to know I'm not the only one who doesn't code."
And to wrap up, is there any advice you'd like to give to others interested in a career in tech?
Do your research. Find out what you enjoy doing and how this can be translated into a role in tech. Look out for free initiatives to help you develop and improve your skills.
And don't let the fact that you're not a coder put you off. There are plenty of disciplines that don't require detailed technical skills.