The Blog

Mind the Gap: Five Tips for Women to Power Up Their Tech Careers

I've encountered remarkable generosity, toe-curling misogyny (being mistaken for a hooker at an international reception for technology CEOs) and plenty of sage advice from founders, authors and seasoned women in tech.

It's been a roller-coaster ride growing Unruly from a three-person start-up into a video ad tech company with 200 people, 15 offices and revenues of $43m last year.

Along the way, I've encountered remarkable generosity, toe-curling misogyny (being mistaken for a hooker at an international reception for technology CEOs) and plenty of sage advice from founders, authors and seasoned women in tech.

This post is a brilliant opportunity to say thank you to all the people who have shared their thoughts with me over the last decade. Here are five top tips that I hope will stand you in good stead!:

1. Choose your company carefully - and I mean "company" in its broadest sense

Make no mistake, the people you choose to be your life partner, peers or co-founders, have the power to make or break your career.

The judgments and decisions you make in your personal life can have profound repercussions on your professional life.

A husband who shares the childcare 50/50 or a co-founder who doesn't resent your flexible hours can help with the logistical and psychological pressures of being a working mum. And if you're entering a business as an employee then choose the company with the greatest of care: does it have a good track record of promoting women internally? Are there senior women already at the top and are there initiatives in place to help the next generation of women succeed?

2. Build the team, trust the team, enjoy the team!

Great products and great companies aren't built by great individuals - they're built by great teams and this is especially the case in agile, fast-moving tech companies where coders, UX engineers, designers, product managers, business development, marketing and sales teams have to work closely and across functions in order to ship product quickly and compete in competitive market conditions.

eXtreme Programming practices have helped the whole company at Unruly to build a collaborative, learning environment, where our programmers code in pairs, we use mobbing to transfer knowledge quickly across a team and we believe that eXtreme communication is the key to success!

3. Step up to the plate

Gotta admit it, I've always wanted to use this expression with a straight face. It's so cliched it never fails to make me chuckle when I hear it bandied about on The Apprentice (It took me a while to work out that it's a baseball analogy rather than a Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist analogy!) but it's seriously important advice for women in tech. Why? Because there's no ability gap between men and women working in tech; it's the yawning confidence gap that stops so many women putting themselves forward, accepting responsibility and benefiting from the valuable experience of leading, winning, and, yes, failing.

4. Ask for help and offer help

If you're working in a high-growth tech company, with new products, features and markets constantly coming on stream, there'll be plenty of moments when you feel out of your depth. That's not a problem - as long as you're prepared to ask questions and seek the help you need. Chances are, there'll be plenty of other people feeling the same way too - how can you make your expertise available to them? Q&A pages on the wiki, family-style dining in the kitchen, show and tells in the clubhouse are some of the ways we share knowledge at Unruly.

5. Power Up your Network

You are not alone. There are many other people at similar stages in their tech career, asking the same questions, experiencing the same self-doubts and anxieties - they are your power up! I experienced this first-hand with a regular Tech COO meet-up where I met many amazing tech founders and two inspirational leaders in particular - Divinia Knowles (President and CFO of Mind Candy) and Pete Smith (co-founder of Songkick and Silicon Milk Roundabout). If you can build a sense of cohort and shared mission and support each other as you grow, the rewards will be more than financial, more than professional - you'll have built meaningful friendships that bring a sense of shared purpose and belonging.

And a sneaky 6th tip

If anything you've read above strikes a chord, think how you can act on it right now. You could try asking "why?" in your next team meeting; set up that coffee date you've been putting off; buy some Krispy Kremes to celebrate your awesome team. Success needn't be measured in terms of crossing chasms or taking leaps of faith; success comes from taking a thousand smaller steps with travelling companions that make the journey worthwhile.

Sarah was recently named as one of the fifty most inspiring women in the European technology sector by Inspiring Fifty. Inspiring Fifty is a pan-European programme that identifies, encourages, develops and showcases women in leadership positions within the technology community. The aim is to inspire a new generation of female leaders and entrepreneurs across Europe and indeed worldwide, leading the charge to affect meaningful and durable change.