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Yasmine Ahmed: from English Literature and Counselling to Delivery Lead

A few words about me:

This is Yasmine sitting in a black and white jumper and slightly smiling at a camera with a cup of coffee

Hello! My name is Yasmine and I am a certified sci fi fan, literary nerd and lover of all things retro.

You could say I’m stuck in a time warp and spend a lot of time watching 80s and 90s movies, and if I wasn’t doing my day job, everyone says, I should be doing stand up comedy but I have neither the nerve nor the time!

I’m a mum of a sassy 5 year old and a born and bred brummie. I’m also qualified in counselling services and went to the University of Birmingham to study English Lit. After living abroad in Malaysia, I’ve returned back home, and now work in digital!

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

I think I’ve had a weird and wonderful path into tech - I have always admired the industry but from a different angle which was video games and that was my first intro. I actually always wanted to be a Writer or an Artist but my parents told me to get a real job so after studying English Lit, I fell into marketing and communications roles primarily in higher education, and then more regional marketing roles for the third sector.

I’ve also worked in several roles for the civil service in Malaysia and then also the DfT for my local authority in Birmingham - but it was mainly marketing focussed, so I have ample experience in this field.

My first tech role was actually only about a year ago and I absolutely loved it. It was very different to marketing and comms and much more suitable to my skillset. And then, I finally found my way into dxw where I now work as a Delivery Lead. :)

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

Definitely non-STEM - all I ever did was read and write so languages and literature were my strong suit.

Where did your professional journey start?

I would say I started working a proper job whilst studying at university. Coming from a working class family, I really had to work hard to put myself through university - and also get exposure into the world of work. So working in the student residents offices at the university was the start, which quickly escalated to a career within higher education and then various charities.

How did you get into tech and what motivated you?

I actually got into tech because a friend of mine had a career change and self taught himself software development whilst working in a graphic design role and that was inspiring. When I was exposed to the tech team at the Department of Transport and when we had a week of service design talks at work I was so engaged. I really just wanted a role that would expose me to all of that stuff.

I randomly submitted an application to a small digital agency at around midnight on a bad work day …and bagged myself a job as a Project Manager for tech for good projects with charities. I quickly worked my way up from Project Manager to Senior Project Manager and Employee Director, before wanting a role that more amplified the GDS framework and service design stuff which I loved learning about (I still want to know more about content design!).

And that’s when I applied to dxw! I was motivated and also annoyed by the lack of diverse faces in the tech world so wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. But also more positively, I saw there were opportunities available to use my softer skills in a concrete delivery role, and was confident knowing that I could use my experience within a tech for good space.

I guess I have always been fascinated by new approaches to difficult problems and I love bringing people together and working in tech fits that bill for me. I’ve also always just wanted to say 'I work in tech' and press lots of buttons pretending to code like they do in the sci fi movies!

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

Yes 100% and it does make me frustrated. As a woman of colour I have definitely seen a difference in how I am treated amongst certain teams and stakeholders. This isn’t always easy to navigate but has definitely made me more sure about my voice needing to be heard and wanting to succeed within that space despite negativity.

I get the notion that I’m not always taken as seriously and there are definitely a lot of micro aggressions I’ve had to deal with … It hasn’t always been an easy ride, but I can say that I have some excellent allies and incredible support, so it hasn’t dampened my spirit.

"There is room for you to be yourself in tech, it’s okay to fail and learn from everything and that doesn’t make you 'less than'."

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

I wish I joined sooner! I wish there was more guidance for me when I was younger to know that there is a space for me in the tech world and having soft skills absolutely means that there is room for you.

That and also someone warning me about working in lots of different tech stacks would have been helpful.

Also that asking for what you think you are worth in a role is super important.

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

The agile manifesto - totally believe that everyone is doing the best they can with the tools they have at the time. It’s really opened my eyes to ways of working and also given me lots of empathy.

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

What I love about tech is how gorgeous it is when you and your team find easy beautiful solutions to ugly horrible problems and it just feels really nice. I love it when a plan comes together and we can fulfill a user story / need.

What I hate is the stereotype that you need to know lots of technical language in order to explain solutions - I’ve found that common frameworks and common grounds are imperative to great tech teams!

"I wish I joined sooner! I wish there was more guidance for me when I was younger to know that there is a space for me in the tech world and having soft skills absolutely means that there is room for you."

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

My funniest moment was when I was on a call with multiple stakeholders signing off on a digital product and my daughter shouted from the bathroom 'mummy I’ve done a poo!'. Needless to say everyone thought it was hilarious, and luckily it made for a really quick sign off!

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

There is room for you to be yourself in tech, it’s okay to fail and learn from everything and that doesn’t make you 'less than'.

Asking questions is essential, and finding one thing about a project or person or team member that you’re investing in will make the job easier.

Also, research companies whose values align with yours and a culture that aligns with yours because I believe everything else can be learnt in time! Also don’t let startup companies 'pay' you in granola bars and yoga breaks - look for real work life balance and benefits!


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