Every year for over a century, people around the world have celebrated women on the 8th March in an event aptly known as International Women’s Day. It is a time to acknowledge and celebrate women’s achievements in our lives and the varying roles they play in society, in politics, in economics, and in technology at Beeks.
It is no secret that technology, historically, is a male-dominated field. It still remains to be today, to a lesser extent, with 75% of men in tech-based roles and women making up the minority. However, this demographic is rightfully changing. Progress in recent years has seen more women climb the technological ladder and excel across all roles in technology, from senior engineers to software developers to technical assistants. This should come as no surprise, given throughout the 1900s 80% of telephone operators were women, and WW2’s computer programming operations, such as Bletchley Park’s codebreaking, was the work of 10,000 people – 75% of whom were women.
To support this change and meaningfully contribute to the International Women’s Day celebrations, we want to shout about some of the women changing the game at Beeks – three women paving the way for future female leaders in technology, who every day turn outdated notions about the sector on its head.
This article is an opportunity for us to meet Jade Davis, Andrea Hopkins and Caitlyn Osborne. We ask them questions and hear their experiences as women from different backgrounds and different circumstances who have each found their place in technology.
Introducing Beeks’ three female tech leaders
Jade Davis – Network Engineer
Jade was the first female Network Engineer at Beeks, which is an achievement in itself. Having developed a keen interest for technology in her teens, she naturally progressed to study Networking at college and university and began her career at Beeks as a university graduate. Three years on Jade has grown immensely, developing new skills in technology and business and a new-found confidence in herself.
Andrea Hopkins – Network Engineer
Andrea studied IT and Computing at the Open University before joining Beeks as a Senior Network Engineer nearly one year ago. Since then, she has contributed to a huge number of client projects and proved an invaluable addition to the Network Engineer team. Andrea has continually shown her ability to overcome challenges, improve her skills and champion other women in tech.
Caitlyn Osborne – Senior Software Engineer
Caitlyn worked in the technology industry for over a decade before joining Beeks in mid-2020. Her extensive knowledge and varied experience in technical software and Full Stack Web Development have been a huge asset for the team. Being a transgender woman, Caitlyn has had a profoundly different experience to many other women in tech. Through her experiences she has shown immense courage in the face of difficulty; her success is a testament to not only her skills as a Software Engineer but her resilience as a person.
Women in technology in conversation
Q1 – Did you always want to work in technology?
Caitlin: I’d definitely say the tech bug bit me early. By the time I was a teenager, I’d already learned to program my little ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 that my older brother had passed down to me. I was fascinated with how games worked behind the scenes and wanted to work out how to create my own games in my future career.
Andrea: No, technology was not what I set out to do. After I raised my kids, I wanted a degree just for my personal satisfaction. So, I opted to go for a degree via the Open University. The hardest choice was selecting what I wanted to do. Computing and IT were always going to be around and seemed a safe bet.
The very first module covered a lot of different aspects of tech, but I fell in love with software development and did most of the software modules. I needed 60 credits to complete the first stage of the degree (Diploma of Higher Education) and the only one I could find was networking. I always tried to avoid that module as I did not think I was smart enough to do it. Turns out I absolutely loved it and sailed through it with no issues, so carried on with further Cisco development and eventually landed CCNP level routing.
Jade: In high school I took a liking to technology, so it was a natural progression to study this in higher education. I went to college to further progress my studies in a specific area of networking which included cloud computing, which was a growing trend with the majority of teams using cloud for collaboration work. To now think I work in a cloud computing company and my hard work during my studies has paid off is a great feeling.
Q2 – Are there any obstacles you face as a woman pursuing a career in tech?
Andrea: I’ve only really faced one obstacle as a woman in tech when working in my previous job as an engineer. Quite a few clients were not happy about having a woman dealing with their issues and preferred a man – they even asked to be passed to a male member of my team. However, I have a very strong character, so I did not tend to buckle when faced with such situations. In the end, they came round to accepting I did just as good a job as my male counterparts. I even ended up being the engineer that a few clients preferred to deal with because I got the job done. I am lucky in some respect because by the time I entered into tech, the view on women in tech was already changing and more and more companies are now looking for women in the industry.
Jade: One of the obstacles I had to get over was my own insecurities and confidence. I had to learn to speak up to be heard in a room full of big personalities. I always felt like I had to
prove something with being the only woman – but I am learning that the only person I need to prove anything to is myself.
Caitlyn: For me, the obstacles I faced didn’t come until later in my career. Transitioning on the job with all the time off for medical appointments and working out appropriate procedures with HR was stressful. The change in how I was treated by my colleagues was sudden and very revealing. In the space of a few months, I’d gone from being listened to and leading on projects, to being talked over in meetings. Even now, I find myself having to fight to be heard in larger group discussions, but thankfully that is not the case at Beeks.
Q3 – What are you most proud of?
Andrea: Apart from raising my kids on my own, teaching them to be respectful and now well-educated, successful young adults, I am most proud of reaching the goals I set for myself. My ability to put in a lot of effort to reach my goals is something I am very proud of. Once I focus on something, I will always go to great lengths, effort and determination to get there. When I found out networking was for me (albeit I prefer Cisco to Juniper) the immediate goal was to work within a company that has good, positive values.
Caitlyn: Managing to get to this point in my career despite all the difficulties I had to face with my mental and physical health throughout the years makes me extremely proud. To be able to sit here and say, “I’m truly happy with my life, my career, my love and my home.”
Jade: I am proud of me. I landed a job in the cloud computing industry which is something I always wanted to achieve. I always wanted to be part of an amazing team, and I made that happen. Looking back, I see how far I have come and that is why, above all, I am proud of myself.
Q4 – What advice would you give to a young female considering a career in the technology industry?
Jade: As a young female in technology considering a career in tech the advice I would give is to never doubt your confidence and always speak up. I would encourage young females to continuously learn, because technology is always moving forward. Follow and join ‘Female in tech’ blogs and social media accounts, build your online professional platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn and importantly, never underappreciate the value of soft skills.
Caitlyn: This is difficult for me to answer as my path in life didn’t give me this experience, but all I can say is that you will vastly underrate your skill and knowledge (developers, both male and female, almost always do). Learn what you want to learn, challenge yourself to learn a bit more of something you love any time you get the opportunity. You are just as capable of working in tech as anyone else.
Andrea: The advice I would give to any women in tech is to GO FOR IT. Be your own person.
Don’t put up with any nonsense such as the notion that you are not as good as the males in the industry. Be strong and thick skinned, but gracious and understanding towards all customers and clients – this goes a long way.
The future of women in technology
We’d like to thank Jade, Andrea and Caitlyn for their personal and professional insights that shaped this article. Through their openness and honesty, they have shone a light on women’s differing experiences in technology and at Beeks. We hope your work inspires more women to take on roles in technology in the future.
The conversation about the role women play in technology is by no means a new one. As we continue to work towards a more equal and inclusive industry, it is imperative that we understand how we can empower people to be their best selves. Who can tell what the future of technology will look like? Who can say what difference you could make?
At Beeks, we choose to recognise and celebrate the role women play in technology and other industries across the UK and globally – not only on International Women’s Day but every day.
Choose to challenge, happy International Women’s Day!