Women in Tech – the Snoop team’s thoughts on International Women's Day
To celebrate International Women’s Day we thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some of the awesome ladies in our team. We asked them what it was like being a woman in tech. And because gender equality isn’t just a problem that only women need to solve we asked some of the chaps in the team to give their take on gender diversity. Everyone needs to lean in in order to drive real change so, with that in mind…
How did you get to where you are today - what brought you to your role in Snoop?
I got into tech and computing on purpose, but into FinTech by accident. I wanted to do an internship after university to help me learn real world knowledge. I went for an internship that looked interesting and built payment solutions. I enjoyed it from the moment I started.
I started as a developer and later moved to be a quality assurance specialist. I built up my experience – whether that was certifications, freelancing or taking technical courses.
Before Snoop I was with a large retail bank, watching the progress of so many interesting FinTechs becoming increasingly critical in the conversation on the future of the industry. I was really drawn to wanting to help design that future and having a part in deciding not just what but how to build next generation digital financial services that really help people. I was lucky to find Snoop because it was a perfect fit for that ambition; we are building a brand new product, using banking data in a brand new way, aimed at making everyone better off.
What do you love about working in tech?
Working in tech, for me, is a combination of problem solving and art. Every day there is a new challenge, but it’s more than just working out how to do something, it’s how to do it well. How can you make the code easy to read for someone else on your team? How can you make it easy to maintain in the future? How do you make it safer? How do you make the code run faster, or use less resources? To craft good code you constantly go back, refine and improve it, until it’s beautiful. I also love the teamwork, learning from people, growing and teaching other people.
Working in tech is challenging, demanding and competitive at times. But then, what is life without challenges! There is always something new in technology. It also offers a very good work life balance which is so important for us! Amazingly, I was able to work after having two kids with a great amount of flexibility. I must say remote working wasn’t in fashion until about five years ago but if you have a laptop and few more accessories, you are set to work from anywhere, anytime in the field of technology!
In my role I look after a lot of our partnerships, so I am fortunate to speak to counterparts within many different tech start-ups and scale-ups. Consistent in all of those conversations is the vibe of optimism, energy and pride that comes from working at a company that’s really trying to make a difference in the world. That’s what I love about tech – it attracts enthusiastic, hard-working people who are never afraid to roll their sleeves up and give things a go. Certainly, there’s nowhere I feel that more than in Snoop itself, where I think the shared act of pioneering bonds us all together.
What's your proudest career moment?
My proudest career moment was when I first used a product I had helped make, in the real world. We made a product that allowed you to pay contactlessly with your mobile phone (that was swiftly overtaken by the current market leaders!) and I was so proud when I was able to use it myself in a shop and it worked flawlessly and in less than a second.
Working in tech, even the smallest changes feel like an achievement and a proud moment. I have also been awarded star employee and been sent flowers for my hard work which motivated me more. However, I would say I am most proud of the confidence and trust I have gained at Snoop. In difficult times like lockdown when I am distracted by various things during working hours, it was never an issue for anyone. When my team have faith in my work, I stay motivated.
To be honest, finding my feet in Snoop. It might not sound like a great feat, but to go from being a perfectionist in a structured, safe, prescribed corporation to a role where I am constantly doing things for the first time has been difficult and required a concentrated personal growth effort. Ambiguity forces you to be consistently creative in formulating approaches and gathering information. You also need to be self-motivated, resilient, efficient, and have a lot of faith (in yourself, your peers and your proposition). You have to embrace the 80/20 rule or you’ll get nothing done. At first, it felt really uncomfortable and unnerving, like diving into cold water. I’m proud of how I’ve learnt to swim and thrive in it.
What advice would you give to women starting in tech or kick starting their careers?
My advice would be that it’s never too late to start a career in tech. I went to university as a mature student, fresh out of retail, and I’ve never looked back. It’s hard work as it’s a complex discipline with a lot of jargon, and certain things have to be done in certain ways, especially in FinTech, but repetition helps the knowledge sink in. Like anything new it takes dedication and perseverance, but a career in tech is rewarding and enriching and I would recommend it to anyone.
I am not an expert in giving advice as I am still learning! One thing I would say from my experience is find the trust, confidence and passion within yourself and you are already there! Being diligent and respectful towards your work always helps. Make a profile for yourself, build your network and do some groundwork so you’re ready to step out in the work of tech. We women need to take career breaks at times which is normal but don’t be anxious to get back to business!
Identifying as a woman in tech means there will be situations where you visibly stand out and that can feel lonely, like it’s you vs. them. It’s easy to forget the diversity within the ‘them’ and assume that those who look or sound similar must feel a stronger sense of belonging than you. But while gender is one obvious angle to diversity, there are so many more, visible and hidden, that can be much harder to navigate. There is no one-size-fits-all club that being a woman excludes you from. Once you embrace what makes you unique, the pressure to fit in dissipates, and you can focus on making your own distinct mark and consciously working out how to use your differences to your advantage in driving better results.
At Snoop we are passionate about diversity but like others we still have work to do. International Women’s Day has sparked some great conversations internally about what more we can do. We know gender equality is a problem for both women and men to solve so we asked some of the gents for their thoughts...
What does gender equality mean to you?
Without being trite, what the term suggests. Equality of pay, equality of opportunity, equality of status, equality of development, equality of contribution. Everyone is different, everyone contributes to a business in different ways – so for me it’s about the recognition of that difference at a truly individual level, rather than recognition driven by gender.
For me gender equality is incredibly important- it’s an issue which has been recognised in society for some time, but which society has been very slow to address. I think gender equality is about providing equal opportunities for all and having a balance of women and men in all aspects of life.
There are structural and societal things that need to change to allow women and men to have the same opportunities to succeed, thrive and achieve their ambitions. There’s a real opportunity now, where the world of work is changing rapidly to accelerate change.
How do you think men can support gender equality in the workplace?
First of all, by thinking deeply on the subject, then talking about it and finally taking action. Speaking personally, I think it’s not easy to recognise your own biases and your own impact on others. Some issues are easier to diagnose (e.g., the pay gap), some are harder (how do you create an environment where everyone can flourish?). On the harder issues, how do others feel on this subject – men and women? What are the real concerns here? What’s going well? With a real understanding (which takes time), action can follow. It does require a real preparedness to engage though, and I think it’s hard in a busy world.
Recognising and raising gender equality as an issue in your organisation is an important first step. Whilst some progress has been made, it’s nowhere near enough.
A point that resonates strongly with me, is that culture has – and remains – a huge barrier to women remaining in and progressing through organisations.
On a practical level, speaking to women and finding out what it is about the culture in your organisation that might not be appealing, and then doing something to be part of the solution is important.
Everyone should have a voice, and everyone can be an advocate to call out where situations are not leading to people being as successful or happy as they can be.
Has there ever been a time when you've really noticed the gender divide? What struck you about it?
Very early in my career I worked in a very alpha-male culture. There were few senior women (although there were some and I worked for one) – and it didn’t strike me as a happy environment. Individuality wasn’t encouraged. Then I moved to an environment with women in three significant roles in the business (CEO, CMO, Sales Director) and men in three (CFO, Ops, IT). The result? More conversation, more creativity, more acceptance of self-doubt. Frankly, just a much better place to be.
I worked very closely with our Chair at Snoop – Jayne-Anne Gadhia – when she was CEO of Virgin Money, and had authored the Women in Finance review. The Chancellor had asked Jayne-Anne in 2016 to investigate why women were under-represented in senior roles in the sector.
I was very fortunate to join Jayne-Anne at many events and discussions post the review launch. Often there would be rooms-full of women, with me the only man – often with audiences in the hundreds! It was a small insight into the position that many women must find themselves in their day-to-day working lives.
For me that was a daunting experience. At first, I felt like I had no right to be there and didn’t have much to contribute. As conversations unfolded, I was made to feel comfortable and a valued participant.
I realised then that men have an important role in driving change on this agenda as well as women.
Why do you think it’s so important to have strong gender diversity in a team?
My experience is that driving great business outcomes requires two things (1) conversation and (2) creativity – and diversity in any form leads to those being much richer. Diverse opinions, backgrounds and experiences gives rise to ideas that can rub against each other, and from that friction comes creativity. It isn’t always comfortable, it definitely isn’t easy, and it isn’t the quickest way to a solution – but you get a much better solution. I remember the best bit of advice I got many years ago was to hire someone who would be “grit” in the system, who would stop everything flowing too smoothly. I’ve followed it, it was very good advice.
There has been a lot of research to prove that businesses with gender balanced teams and leadership have better returns on equity, and better business outcomes.
Why wouldn’t you want to take views from a broader, diverse perspective, whether that be in product design, communications, building partnerships or doing deals when customers and counterparts are likely to be a cross section of society?
However, above all for me it’s a matter of fairness. Half of the population are women, and there is no reason that shouldn’t be the case in the workplace or any role that women want.