Ritika Kalia from The Access Group outlines routes into the software business and how you can retrain for this burgeoning industry.
Despite the efforts of many companies to make the sector more diverse, women have long been under-represented in tech – even though they were some of the early pioneers. Mathematician Ada Lovelace is widely credited as being the ‘first programmer’ while Mary Allen Wilkes was one of the pioneers behind PCs in the 1960s.
While there are certainly plenty of successful women in tech today, others are put off by the thought of working in a male-dominated environment or because they are worried that they lack technical skills.
Yet there is more to tech than TV shows like Silicon Valley or The IT Crowd would have you believe. If you love getting stuck into a task, solving problems, working with a team and, yes, computers, you’ll find no shortage of rewarding career opportunities with real progression.
Technology pervades every aspect of our work and home life – and developing innovative new solutions means people with the right technical and creative skills are in high demand. Latest government figures show that the digital sector contributed £149 billion to the UK economy in 2018 and its growth was almost six times larger than the economy as a whole.
This is good news for anyone thinking about moving into tech, including working mums looking to retrain. High demand for talent means firms often provide flexi-time (including working-from home) policies and other perks. Some, including the giants such as Amazon and Microsoft, are pushing the boundaries of employee benefits, offering every from generous parental leave to on-site daycare.
Depending on the field you work in, salaries are competitive, and you may have the chance to work with emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) or support app-based start-ups.
Whether you want to build websites and apps, work for a tech company or start your own, or get innovative products to market, the opportunities are almost limitless.
Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, you’ll find courses for women who want to learn coding and other skills as well as events. But remember, you do not always need to be able to write code to work in tech. A product (software) owner or manager, for example, will lead a team to get the project over the line to ensure it delivers strong commercial returns, and there are related roles in marketing, design and sales.
Ritika Kalia is an Associate Product Manager with business software provider, The Access Group. Here, she tells us about her career, what she does day-to-day and what skills you need to work in software.
Ritika studied Computer Science at Aston University. She then worked as an industrial trainee at IBM during her time at university, as a placement. Following graduation she worked at the East London Science School as a Trainee Support Engineer, before moving to a new health and social care software start-up ‘Mobizio’ based in Central London.
Mobizio was acquired by The Access Group in 2016 and Ritika quickly progressed to the position of Product Owner for Mobizio, now renamed Access Care Planning. As Product Owner, Ritika managed the development of Access Care Planning into a number of vertical-specific solutions to better fit market demand, which involved rapid, in-depth market research and corresponding product development.
After returning from maternity leave in December 2019 I was given the opportunity to work on an exciting new project, Access EarlyPay, a flexible pay solution for employers and employees. This was a departure from Access’ typical B2B software into a B2B2C product.
As an Associate Product Manager for Access EarlyPay (a flexible pay solution for employers), I define the product vision and roadmap, and ensure that we deliver a product that is strategically aligned to customer needs.
It’s my responsibility to define goals for the development projects and oversee the development until the project has been delivered. I also work closely with all internal and external stakeholders such as customers, sales, support and marketing to ensure that all product goals have been clearly communicated, and that I am aware of the feedback we constantly receive from our customers.
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I started my career as an analyst for a brand new start-up in 2014 in London, called Mobizio, which is software to digitise and automate documentation and processes in health and social care, with a greater emphasis on social care (care homes, care in people’s own homes, support for people with learning disabilities and so on).
Be confident, know your strengths, get involved and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most importantly bring passion to everything you do.
Understand what your responsibilities are and own them, for example, in my role it is my job to communicate to the developers what the product requirements should be, not the other way around!
Be willing to take calculated risks. Even if they do not appear successful at first, they will bear fruit in lessons learned and opening up new opportunities and new discoveries, both in your current role, for example, new improvements to your product, or in your overall career progression.
At the beginning, it was difficult to gain confidence of the development team because I didn’t come from the same background. However, as I got more and more involved in their jobs, asked lots of questions and started backing my opinions with data, things started to change because they could see how my perspective was important to developing the product.