Tips & Tricks

Women in Tech: Meet the Women Breaking Barriers at AppFox

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Despite a significant push toward increasing diversity, women are still vastly underrepresented in the tech industry. This means organizations are losing out on incredible talent, fresh ideas and new perspectives – all because women face multiple barriers to a career in STEM.

We’re going to touch on some of these barriers later on in this post. But for now, we want to shine a spotlight on some of the superstar women here on our team at AppFox.

Whether you’re considering a career in the tech space, seek female role models in our industry, or are simply keen to meet some of our team, read on.

Meet the women breaking barriers at AppFox

We’re proud to have a number of incredible women on our team who lead by example and are making some (pretty significant!) waves in our industry. In recognition of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, we took the chance to catch up with these superstars to learn more about their experience in tech and share their advice for other women looking to get started in our space.

Emma Thomas, Head of Product

What is your role at AppFox?

I’m Head of Product at AppFox. I originally started my career in development and loved bug investigation activities the most. I decided that I wanted to work more closely with customers and gain some additional variety of work early in my career, so I joined Automation Consultants as a consultant and then moved into managing the Consultancy department, which I did for four years. One of my passions is ensuring that our solutions meet customer requirements and align with market growth – which is something my current role as Head of Product offers. This role allows me to work with our development and marketing teams to ensure that our products are the best they can be, that we deliver new features and functionality that meet customer needs through our product roadmap, and that our products are reliable for organizations of all sizes.

What do you enjoy the most about your role at AppFox?

The people! We have a fantastic team with a good ethos and attitude. The team and the environment we have created make even challenging days enjoyable. I love hearing customer feedback and working with our partners and other vendors.

How long have you worked in the Industry?

I’ve worked in tech for almost nine years. However, I didn’t realise that I wanted to work in tech earlier on in my life. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time messing around on my computer – from fully customizing my desktop to upgrading the hardware (and ultimately making our living room so blue with all the LEDs that it looked more like a kebab shop). I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to do Computing A-Level at school, and this cemented my love of programming and helped me realize my passion for tech more generally.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to join the Tech industry?

Have confidence in your abilities. It is, at least for me, far too easy to underestimate and undersell your skills, not just to yourself but to those around you. Try to look objectively at what you have achieved, the effort you have put in, and your passions. This can be anything from not starting your sentence with “I may be incorrect but…” to celebrating your achievements publicly. Try to build an environment where other women have an equal voice by actively recognizing when valuable contributions are made and calling it out if women are interrupted in meetings. It’s admittedly small steps, but I have found that it can make a big difference.

Michelle Ho, Software Engineer

What’s your role at AppFox?

I am a software engineer at AppFox. My undergraduate studies were in biomedical sciences, and I gained valuable experience working in the pharmaceutical industry for five years before transitioning to the tech sector. I pursued a Master’s degree in computer science to enhance my technical skills, which prepared me to work in software development.

What do you enjoy the most about your role at AppFox?

I like facing different tasks and challenges each day.  The diverse range of activities is enjoyable and exciting.

How long have you worked in the Industry?

I have worked in the industry for over a year and enjoy it a lot. The tech industry is fast-paced and innovative, and I have always wanted to work in this field.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to join the industry?

Believe in yourself and pursue your dreams! It’s never too late.

Any recommendations for helpful resources?

It’s inspiring to learn from others who have pursued their career in tech and learn from their experiences.

Barbora Cernakova, Lead Software Engineer

What is your role at AppFox?

I’m working as a lead software engineer at AppFox. Getting to my current role has been quite a journey – I studied maths at university, and when I first came across programming, I hated it! In my final year, I did some coding in Fortran 90, the first time I enjoyed programming. At this point, I was still sure I didn’t want to turn it into a career. I met Automation Consultants at a career fair and applied for a consultancy team job. I thought the wide variety of responsibilities and exposure to various companies would help me determine what I wanted to focus on in the long term. Over time I realized that programming was my favorite part of the role, so after spending many evenings and weekends working to improve my technical skills, I eventually jumped to being a full-time software engineer.

How long have you worked in the Industry?

I have worked in the industry for over four years, but before I joined, I never considered working in tech – I thought it was just for computer science graduates, and I didn’t see it as an option. I’m happy things turned out the way they did, though – I feel fortunate that I managed to find a career that I genuinely enjoy and where I feel like my contribution makes a difference.

Do you have any advice for other women looking to join the Tech industry?

Tech is a great industry to be in – if you think it could be a good fit for you, definitely give it a shot! The industry has a vast variety of roles, so I recommend exploring the different routes you can take. Once you find a suitable role, try to talk to a few people currently in that role to get more information about what it is like. Also, ask them for recommendations on getting into the role – courses or certifications to take or other people to get in touch with. People are generally very friendly, so whether you’re messaging someone on LinkedIn or talking to them at a meetup, there’s nothing to worry about. 

Any recommendations for helpful resources?

I recommend joining your local meetup group for women in tech. These sessions are an excellent opportunity to meet other people (not just women!) who either already work in tech or are hoping to in the future. You will also learn lots of new stuff and make valuable connections. One London-based group which I like is Triangirls (https://triangirls.com/). 

Challenges Facing Women in the Tech Industry

It’s timer to return to some of the challenges we referenced earlier.

Where do we start? Well, there’s a lack of representation in the tech industry. There are real barriers to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. And we know there can be significant issues around workplace culture.

Let’s unpick each one in a little more detail.

1. Representation of Women

According to research gathered by Advantis Global, fewer than 20% of all senior leadership positions in the tech industry are held by women, which is a significant underrepresentation. This trend continues in proprietary roles within software and IT, of which under 30% are held by women.

One of the main reasons for the lack of women in leadership roles is that there are simply not enough women in the sector. This could have its roots in the choices made by women and girls during their education. For example, a recent survey by PwC found that only 30% of women in the UK studied a STEM subject at university which is 22% less than their men. This same survey also showed that only 27% of UK women would consider a career in technology.

From our perspective, the biggest challenge facing the tech industry is how to make more women aware of the opportunities for them in this space. We also need to see an increase in the visibility and accessibility of female role models and mentors. To support this theory, when a group of female university students were surveyed, only 22% could name an inspirational woman in the tech sector. We’d love to see this number increase!

It’s clear there is an issue with women and girls considering a career in technology and we hope exciting initiatives and communities like WISE, WomenTech network, and Code First Girls can offer the support, training and motivation needed to close the gap in the tech industry.

2. Work-life balance

Did you know that women in the tech industry are more prone to burnout and feeling overwhelmed than men? A study found that 79% of working mothers reported feeling burned out and 69% of women reported that they were feeling exhausted at end of the day. It was reported by Womentech that burnout is often caused by women feeling like they have to work harder than men to prove themselves in what is still a male-dominated field.

Forbes also revealed that female workers spend 24% more time checking email on average during the weekday than their male colleagues and still feel like they aren’t checking email often enough. However, there are now a number of communities and online resources available to help women create a work schedule that suits them, despite the challenges of imposter syndrome and long working hours.

It’s great to see that things are changing and that more resources are available to support women working in the tech industry.

3. Culture in the workplace

Workplace culture has a significant impact on women in the tech industry. According to a recent survey by PwC, 40% of women in tech reported experiencing gender discrimination in the workplace. This discrimination can include being passed over for promotions or receiving lower pay than male colleagues.

The same survey found that 77% of females who are mothers have faced discriminatory experiences at work. This stems from outdated attitudes that women will be less competent at their job whilst also bringing up a family, thus making it harder for them to advance in their careers.

Current progress and future opportunities

Despite these fundamental challenges in the tech industry it’s important to recognise there have been strides toward increasing diversity in recent years.

We’re excited to see that many organizations have introduced initiatives to support women, such as Girls Who Code and Women Who Tech. These provide a wealth of resources and opportunities for women to learn, network, and advance their careers in the industry.

The tech sector is definitely progressing and we hope to see this continue into the future. Let’s see more headlines like this recent one, where over 40% of board-level roles in UK-based FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 were held by women for the first time in history (yes, history!).

At AppFox, we’ll continue to support and champion our fantastic team. Their skill and expertise enable us to create leading apps for Jira and Confluence alongside Trello Power-Ups and apps for monday.com!

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About the author:

Craig Willson
Craig Willson
Craig is a product marketer at AppFox who spends his time helping Atlassian and monday.com users get the most out of their most important (and loved) software. When he's not at work, you'll find Craig spending time with his family, watching football, or out walking his dog in the glorious British weather (aka rain).