In celebration of International Women’s Day (8th March) three of Panintelligence’s SaaSy ladies – Charlotte Bailey (Panintelligence COO), Leah Woodhead (Trainee Developer) and Orla Walsh (Customer Success Manager) – tell us why they love the tech sector, how they got started, and how tech businesses can (and should) attract more women.
What attracted you to the tech industry?
Charlotte Bailey [Panintelligence COO]: I serendipitously entered the technological space, and I’ve remained here because of the ever-changing nature of the industry. Technology is the driving force behind the majority, if not all, of today’s innovations. I love the idea of being able to learn so much and still not know enough.
Technology isn’t only about coming up with new ideas – it also involves figuring out how to make those ideas work. There are few industries that shift the way the world lives and functions the way that technology does. It aims to make everything – no matter how trivial – easier, faster, and better.
In my experience, companies in tech make employee happiness a priority more often and in more ways than any other industry I’ve been in. A company that really cares about culture goes deeper than perks—it has a pervasive attitude that making the office a good place for employees really matters.
Finally, there’s something about the fast pace of product development and innovation in tech that just oozes optimism. I’ve found that people often join the tech field because they believe it’s possible to have an impact and they want to leave a mark on the way people live their lives. Being around that all day is contagious, and people who are that passionate about their work are definitely co-workers you want to have.
I have the utmost respect for the impact technology has made and will continue to make on the world.
Leah Woodhead, [Trainee Developer]: Last year I graduated with a degree in Philosophy; the tech industry wasn’t even on my radar until my third year of university while I was researching Artificial Intelligence for my dissertation.
I was amazed at how technology could be used to explore philosophical concepts, encouraging me to dabble in my first few bits of code. I found that I could transfer the problem-solving skills I had developed in my Philosophy studies, over into tech, as well as my creative skills to carry out a range of exciting projects.
I also found that, like Philosophy, coding is essentially limitless in the sense that there is always something new to learn or create, especially as it is continually developing. Due to its rapidly growing nature, I saw going into the tech industry as the perfect opportunity to contribute to something which is solving endless problems in the modern-day.
Orla Walsh [Customer Success Manager]: I fell into the tech industry unintentionally following a sales summer placement with an IT consultancy firm during University. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the sector and I’ve never looked back.
I feel so lucky to have had that experience as its shaped my career goals and aspirations but sometimes I do worry where I would have ended up if I hadn’t had that lucky accident?
The tech industry is fast-paced, exciting and no two days are the same. I start work in the mornings and it feels like anything is possible; the industry is jam-packed with the most interesting people and technology that does amazing things and solves everyday problems for society which is a particular passion for me. On top of that there is always something to learn and it would be impossible to stagnate.
What do you enjoy about your role?
Charlotte Bailey [Panintelligence COO]: I love my job because everyone at Panintelligence shares the same vision and is dedicated to the mission. This truly creates a collaborative environment where everybody is there for each other. A lot of companies want to break down their silos, Panintelligence fights against these.
COOs today have to handle all the traditional operational responsibilities while meaningfully leading a company’s strategic initiatives. The variability of my job is what gets me up in the morning; it is always changing, always evolving and I get front row seats watching the process of a simple idea grow into a global business. Every day is different, and it is a constant adventure.
What I like best about my job is that a primary responsibility involves interacting with employees on all different levels of the organization and across all functional areas. I love that I get to learn new things about the people/company/business/customers/etc every day.
Leah Woodhead, [Trainee Developer]: I have been at Panintelligence for just over a month now. While I am new, I feel as though I have learned so much and love that I can put the skills I have developed over the past year into practise within the context of meaningful projects.
I also love knowing that I will have the opportunity to explore the aspects of software development that interest me the most, and have the chance to contribute ideas that could impact our customers in a positive way.
I am really enjoying being part of such a collaborative and friendly team, which is especially important while working from home. I feel that there is always someone to go to when I’m stuck, to learn new things from, or even to just have a chat.
Orla Walsh [Customer Success Manager]: My role is amazingly varied and there is always a new problem for me to solve, a new challenge to face, a customer to onboard or the latest deployment method to get to grips with which makes things exciting but also means there is a feeling of accomplishment when you overcome a problem or situation.
At Panintelligence we work brilliantly as a team and it is great that I get to work collaboratively with every area of the business from development, support, consultancy, and we all share the same desire to make our customers happy.
The fact that our embedded analytics software is applicable within any sector means we get an insight into all kinds of software products on the market and the problems they help solve. I love interacting with our customers, hearing about their software solutions, working with them to understand how we need to evolve our own product and building lasting relationships.
What do you think are the challenges (if any) that women specifically face in the tech industry?
Charlotte Bailey [Panintelligence COO]: Technology is a traditionally male-dominated sector, women working in the industry still battle inequality in terms of salary, growth opportunities and workplace culture.
But I truly believe being taken seriously due to gender perception and unconscious bias is the greatest challenge. Women with a passion for technology, who have decided to take a leap of faith have to push that bit harder to make it in a still male-dominated world.
If there is one piece of advice I can give women, it’s don’t apologise for being a female. I have never apologised and never portrayed masculinity to advance in the workplace. I can bring to the table as much as my male counterparts, I do not feel the need to change.
The instances I’ve come across in the past have been hard to actually pinpoint as a problem, but looking back you can see them: that institutionalised, established ‘boys’ club’ feeling. More men seemed to advance faster than their female counterparts – sometimes less competent ones. This is not always the case of course and there are exceptions.
There are plenty of trailblazing, ambitious and successful women who forged their careers in an exemplary way, but the numbers were never equal. The only way I can see to get around this is to have gender equality at every level of an organisation. This takes a long time and requires a genuine commitment from top management, not just words or token placements, before we will see true parity for females.
Leah Woodhead, [Trainee Developer]: A big challenge, prior to even being in the tech industry, is not realising that it is a career option. As I mentioned, I only really became interested in technology in my third year at university, and I often wonder what it would have been like to know that going into tech was an option for me at a younger age.
In hindsight, I now realise that I didn’t give IT and CompSci a second thought throughout school, simply as I was brought up believing it was just for boys. Thankfully, this is a perception that is now starting to change.
There are challenges that come with being a woman in any male-dominated industry, whether that is the worry that your ideas will not be taken seriously or progressing at a slower rate. It is always important for managers to remain aware of the issues in order to prevent implicit and explicit bias.
Orla Walsh [Customer Success Manager]: Historically, the tech industry has been dominated by white middle-class, middle-aged males and there is still a lot that needs to be done on all fronts!
Sometimes people will make assumptions about what you do or don’t know, or your level of capability based on the fact that you don’t fit the mold in terms of what the tech industry has looked like historically, and this can be seriously frustrating. At times it can feel like women in the industry are having to peddle ten times faster to reach the same finish line.
It was important for me to find an employer where I felt I could bring my whole self to work and that’s true of Panintelligence. Many tech companies do understand the value in prioritising an inclusive and diverse culture and empowering their employees and in turn, they will reap the benefits.
What could tech companies do to attract a greater proportion of women to their staff?
Charlotte Bailey [Panintelligence COO]: I think there are several areas that organisations can focus on to help readdress the gender balance in tech (and in the workplace in general):
- Develop a diverse talent pipeline
- Prioritize an inclusive work culture
- Have women in management and leadership roles
- Look for opportunities to empower women in the workplace
Leah Woodhead [Trainee Developer]: There is currently a lack of women in technical roles, which in some circumstances can’t be helped if there are simply not enough women interested in training.
Therefore, it is very important for companies to remain educated and aware on the reasons why this may be the case and make relevant steps to overcome this issue. There are many ways to do this, such as supporting women in tech initiatives, encouraging people to explore the tech industry as an option from a younger age, or offering specialised programmes – not just a vacancy but a route to the role!
Another important factor is having or praising inspirational women that people going into tech can look up to. If women know they will be valued in a company, this will definitely encourage more women to consider a role in tech.
After all, a major reason why I fell in love with Panintelligence was that I heard so many amazing things about Zandra (Panintelligence CEO).
Orla Walsh [Customer Success Manager]: Key for me is how can we expect women, and especially young women, to be interested in a career that they do not even know exists. Tech companies should be actively looking at how they can support initiatives that educate the future talent pipeline as to what opportunities there are within the tech industry and what a path into tech can look like.
Employers should be focussing on equal pay for equal work, as well as diversity initiatives that support women such as effective maternity policy, post-maternity support, flexible working and ensuring women feel empowered through the company culture.
It is also crucial to have female role models within tech companies so that they can mentor and lift-up other women but also because this sends a message that says, you can do it too. At Panintelligence I’m lucky enough to work in a team of strong and inspirational women that give me something to strive towards.
What advice would you give to other women who are interested in working in the tech industry?
Charlotte Bailey [Paninellgience COO]: There has never been a better time for women to be part of the technology industry. The industry is realising the impact of diversity, both on the community at large and on companies' bottom line.
Powered by advancements in computing and AI, there are now huge opportunities to solve interesting social problems at a global scale. This opportunity, combined with the momentum to build a diverse workforce, makes it a truly exciting time to be part of the industry.
Don’t be discouraged by unfortunate events and stories. Be encouraged by the potential conversations about them, the progress made and the problems we continue to solve. I’d like to encourage everyone to be part of the community at whatever capacity they’re able to.
Leah Woodhead [Trainee Developer]: My best advice is that if you are even slightly thinking about going into tech, try it out. There are a variety of coding clubs, talks and taster sessions that you can attend. You will find that everyone in the tech community is super friendly and helpful, and great for providing further resources.
It is also really important to remember that you won’t become a tech whizz overnight, so don’t worry if you feel overwhelmed or get imposter syndrome. It is so important to have people from all types of backgrounds in tech in order to provide new perspectives and new ways of thinking, regardless of previous technical experience!
I am amazed at how much I’ve learned in the past year and just how much opportunity there is for me to develop. I am so glad that I made the decision to go into tech!
Orla Walsh [Customer Success Manager]: Join networks and put yourself out there to meet other like-minded women. There are some seriously inspiring stories to be found if you look for them. I am on the Steering Group of a network that was founded by Zandra, Lean In Leeds and we now have over 850 members.
We run regular breakfast and evening events as well as a mentoring scheme that has been hugely successful. I was matched with a mentor myself through this scheme and it has been incredibly valuable in terms of self-reflection, setting goals, building confidence, and creating a plan for personal and professional growth and I’d recommend anyone to do the same.
I’d also say to anyone that wants to work in tech that the first step is to believe that you can, you have to back yourself before anyone else will and understand the value that you can bring. The great news about getting into the tech industry is that there isn’t just one linear path and there’s so many options and amazing routes.
Want to come and work at Panintelligence? We offer flexible working, an inclusive, supportive culture and the opportunity to work with a cutting edge product alongside top tech companies across a range of sectors. View our jobs at Panintelligence page to see our current vacancies.