Women in Tech at AJ Bell
What team do you work in?
I work in the UX team as a UX Apprentice in the Operations and Regulations side of the business, which focuses on internal staff needs. As a UX designer, I need to understand users' needs, generate ideas to solve their problems, prototype designs and test them with users. I am involved in the entire process of acquiring and integrating a product, including aspects of branding, design, usability, and function. I work with several different teams in the business and get to talk to internal staff about their current work systems and the current pain points they may have.
How do you find the Technology Department at AJ Bell?
As in most companies, and despite best efforts to encourage more female representation, the Technology Department at AJ Bell is noticeably male dominated at present. However, I have found this department extremely warm and welcoming. There are so many different characters with different skill sets and I enjoy getting to know everyone.
What's been your biggest success so far?
Seeing my designs being built and implemented into the company has been my proudest moment. I thought my lack of technical knowledge would hold me back despite my willingness to learn. This job has really challenged me in a positive way and pushed me to come out my comfort zone. Technology was never an area I thought I’d excel in but I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished so far in my role here at AJ Bell.
Do you feel there are barriers when it comes to women getting into tech?
I think there is definitely a stigma attached to women who work in technology. However, I also think there’s a stigma attached to all people who work in technology – a criteria almost. Growing up I was a massive movie lover and loved action films. It was always the same though: the ‘nerdy’ boy with no friends takes a background role and manages to help the main character with his mad coding skills. And that’s what most people, including myself, grew up with an image of.
I remember in school once when we were all given the task of drawing a picture of a scientist. I went to an all-girls school, that specialised in STEM keep in mind, and not one of the scientists drawn were female, including my own. It’s no one’s fault that I thought that. No-one has ever told me “women can’t work in the STEM industry” or “women belong in the kitchen” – it’s not the 1950s. I’ve just grown up in a society where it’s rare to see women work in technology, or if they do, they are just really ‘geeky’ and ‘weird’. This is why I never even considered a future in technology. I didn’t fit the persona of the people I’ve seen growing up in tech.
I would say one of my all-time favourite movies is ‘Hidden Figures’ which focuses on the three black females joining the NASA team in the 1960s. It shows the prejudice and discrimination the three women faced and how they overcame it (a must-watch if you haven’t seen it!). As empowering as this movie was, I saw the energy and strength it took those women to even get acknowledged by their male colleges and I deemed it as something I never thought I could do. Now, this movie was based in the 60s, before the equal pay act and legalised abortion, and times have changed so much, but I still felt I would have to fight a lot harder to be heard in a male dominated industry.
And sometimes it is hard to be heard. Sometimes me trying to get my point across is seen as ‘overly confident’, ‘pushy’, ‘loud’, and ‘bossy’. These are all things I’ve been called within my life for just trying not get interrupted or spoken over.
So yes, I think there are barriers for women entering technology. Some of the barriers are only in our minds, but they are still there and have been planted there through experiences in our lives. But barriers are there to be broken.
What role did you have before joining technology services?
I was doing A levels in English Language, History and Graphic Design – so nothing techy at all. I didn’t feel university was the next step for me, so I started looking at apprenticeships. I nearly gave up after seeing most degree apprenticeships that were being offered were in STEM. Just the word put me off. I perceived it as being a male dominated area that I would add no value to. However, the Digital Apprenticeship at AJ Bell really matched my skill set and after reading up on it, I decided I wanted to push myself.
What progression are you hoping for in your career?
In the short term, I’m hoping to complete my apprenticeship and hopefully progress in the UX Team, gaining more experience and knowledge. Long term, I want to be able to look back and be proud of my achievements and the decisions I’ve made. I want to make a difference and lead the way for Women in Technology.
What advice would you give women thinking about a career in Technology Services?
What are you waiting for? Technology is one of those sectors where there’s so much opportunity for growth. Don’t let the fact you’re a woman stop you from starting a career in technology, or anything for that matter. Joining the technology sector has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Be proud of who you are and if you want something, go out and get it. Being a woman doesn’t limit your capabilities – use it as a driver to prove all those poorly-casted movies wrong. And who knows, maybe a movie can be made about your work too one day.
By Amy, Digital Apprentice