Women in Software Engineering

Top 5 Tips To Start Your Career

Female tech leaders from MHR share their advice

Now is the perfect time for women to kickstart their career in software engineering. If you enjoy logic and problem solving, then you could find your dream job in technology.

Nearly two-thirds of UK businesses have unfilled technology roles. They are looking for talent, and this demand for skills is set to escalate. The career potential in software engineering is huge and varied.

MHR beats the national trends when it comes to women in this sector, with females directing 3 out of 5 of its tech teams. In support of International Women In Engineering Day (23rd June), here’s our top 5 tips for a rewarding career in software.


1 – Apply your love of logic and problem solving

You might be an avid coder already. Or you’re interested in technology, but don’t know how to turn that into a career. There are many routes in to software engineering, and it’s never too late.

Philippa Jennings, Senior Test Analyst at MHR, started her career in admin and customer service roles. She was always interested in technology but felt she didn’t have the tech qualifications or experience to take it further. Then Philippa landed a role that combined customer service with technical support, and it involved testing software. It soon became clear that Philippa had found her niche:

“My logical approach, attention to detail, and enjoyment of problem-solving means that software testing is an ideal vocation for me. I’ve found something that I’m not only good at but makes coming to work an enjoyable experience.”

Hannah Jeacock, MHR’s Research Director, chose software engineering as a career after studying a maths degree. She took the path of a graduate recruitment scheme at BAE Systems.

“Software attracted me because it applies the logic of maths to solving problems for customers. Building software that customers can use as an end-product gives me a sense of achievement.”


2 – Show your enthusiasm

Kathryn Dimmack is Software Delivery Manager to 5 teams of developers and testers. When looking for new talent she prizes enthusiasm and a willingness to learn in a candidate:

“What’s important is a love of coding. You don’t always need a university degree or a degree in Computer Science - we assess each person on skillset not their educational background. You can be self-taught, and that’s even more impressive in my eyes. If you’re enthusiastic about programming and proactive, then we’ve got the support and training plans in order to maximise your potential. We’ll build up your professional confidence, and train you up with management skills if you want to take that path.”


3 – Join a support group for women in coding

“There’s now many coding clubs and events for women and girls out there, so get involved. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, and will help boost your CV”, says Hannah.

“Your local college or university might offer short courses, support groups and resources for self-help. There’s also networks like CodeFirst: Girls who run free coding courses around the country.

“At MHR we really want to inspire more women to get into software engineering. Last year, we sponsored the Ada Lovelace Day event at the University of Nottingham and always promote the cause for occasions such as International Women in Engineering Day.”


4 – Try different areas of software

Philippa recommends getting a range of work experience to help you find the area of software engineering that’s best for you.

“It’s a good idea to experience different types of technical work before deciding what you enjoy the most, from IT support to software development. Don’t dismiss testing as a great role in software development as this experience can lead you to many roles within software engineering. It also helps to find a product that you really enjoy, as this will make your role so much easier and more satisfying.”

Hannah’s career shows the variety of roles available in the technology sector. After joining MHR as a Software Engineer in 2011 and later becoming a Delivery Manager for engineers and testers, Hannah then moved in to research and now focuses on experimental software and new technologies.


5 – Find a mentor to support your personal development

Hannah and her colleagues are big advocates of mentoring to help boost women’s progress in what can often be mostly male teams:

“Helping women with their professional development can be more important than the tech aspect in terms of advancing their career. Having visible female role models is also crucial, especially for younger women and girls – how do you know you can be something if you can’t see it in practice? I’ve recently mentored a software engineer apprentice and another young woman in product design.”

Philippa also offers mentoring to other testers: “I help them advance both their skills and their personal development. I think it’s important to find the right mentor so you can discuss what you’re working on and any issues you are experiencing within your team.”


Now it’s time to make your move!

Are you ready to take your first steps into a tech career? Or move on up to managerial level? MHR is always looking for talent, so check our jobs board regularly.

International Women In Engineering Day is on 23rd June and organised and promoted by the Women’s Engineering Society.