Blog       How GivePanel’s Head of Engineering is paving the way for women in tech

How GivePanel’s Head of Engineering is paving the way for women in tech

My journey into tech is something of an unconventional one - I didn’t pursue a degree in Computer Science and have no technical qualifications to my name. When deciding what career to pursue in school, I never thought I would be going into technology, let alone that I would end up Head of Engineering!

My name’s Jen Beattie and I work at GivePanel leading the Engineering team. For the past two years, I’ve been working to help more women join the tech world and break down the barriers they face. In this blog, I'll talk about how I became Head of Engineering, what's holding women back from getting started in the field, and propose solutions for encouraging inclusivity in the workplace. 

But first, let’s rewind 25 years - how did I get here?

Unconventional beginnings

You didn’t see a lot of women going into tech back then, especially from an all-girls school (unfortunately, this is still the case, with only 30% of females at University studying a STEM subject). I wasn’t given the option of any technical GCSEs or A-Levels so I picked a degree in something I would enjoy rather than something I would get a career out of. Having completed Fashion & Textiles at GCSE I opted to start a degree in Fashion, moving to Contemporary Fine Arts for a more hands-on experience.

Fast forward a few years and as a celebration for our final year exhibition, we organized an after-party and I volunteered to build a website to advertise it. I spent far too much time on that website than was required but I really enjoyed building something and then seeing it come to life.

Could this be something I could do as a career? I had the artistic side - I just needed some technical skills to go with it.

Climbing the career ladder to Head of Engineering

I spent the next six months building a portfolio and creating websites for anyone who wanted one before applying for all the junior web design and development roles I could find. Despite my efforts, I struggled to secure a position and eventually accepted an unpaid internship for experience. Luckily, it led to a full-time paid role after the initial month.

With some experience under my belt, I moved back home and started looking for my next role. As it turns out, not a lot of people are interested in hiring someone with minimal experience and no technical qualifications. It was very disheartening looking at ‘entry-level’ roles that required 1-2 years of experience. How do you gain that experience when you need a job to support yourself?

Thankfully I didn’t have to look for long - during my induction for an admin role I’d secured to pay the bills I got to know an experienced developer. When he realized I was also looking to get into development, he urged me to apply for a PHP developer position. But there was one problem. I didn’t know PHP.

Despite this, I took a chance and applied. A week later I heard back and I’d been offered a Junior Web Developer position! Finally, someone was giving me a chance to prove myself.

Over the next four years, I worked my butt off to prove to myself and the world that I could do technical work just as well as anyone else. I had a fantastic team leader - he was my champion, made me believe in myself, and was the type of manager I aspire to be now. Without his help at the start, I might not be where I am today.

Jen Beattie on stage presenting. Behind her is a large screen where statistics on the gender gap in technology

Presenting on stage at CTOCraft Conference

Eventually, I slowly worked my way up from Junior to Senior, and then after joining GivePanel from Team Lead to Head of Engineering. If you had asked me 20 years ago where I would be now, I would never have imagined this.

Looking back, it's clear that transitioning into the tech industry presented numerous challenges. From not having the required courses at school to struggling to secure internships, and from facing doubts about my capabilities to encountering skepticism from potential employers, the path into the tech industry was far from well defined.  

Advocating for women in tech

Unsurprisingly, I’ve not been alone in the challenges that I’ve faced. I know a lot of women who have struggled to get into this industry and then stay here. In fact, 50% of women leave the tech industry by the age of 35. 

Over the past two years, I’ve been trying to raise awareness for Women in Tech, to share my story with others, and to try and be a positive role model for those starting out with their careers. I still think there is a lot to be done to improve the gender bias but there are some great initiatives out there to help promote women and support them in their careers! For example:

One thing the pandemic proved is that flexible working can work - and it can work really well. Not only has it been proven that this way of working increases productivity and retention of staff, but it also allows for those with care responsibilities to manage their time around work.

GivePanel is one of the few places I’ve worked that has flexible working down to a tee and it’s great! Although I don’t have children myself - a lot of the team here do and you can tell that having a family-first culture means a lot. Simple things like no meetings first thing or between 2:30 and 4pm mean those with childcare responsibilities can still do the school run and be included in meetings.

In addition, a supportive culture around female health is key to allowing women to thrive not only in tech but in the general workplace. Female health in the workplace is still such a taboo subject. 31% of women experience severe reproductive health symptoms every year - it’s something we need to start talking about.  

For this, it can be as simple as allowing time off or flexible working for female health issues without the stigma attached to it. Knowing the company you work for will support you, will notice when you’re struggling in meetings for example, and say something like ‘Hey, let’s take a 5 min break’ and give you the time to take a breather - it can make all the difference. No one wants to feel embarrassed about female health. The more we can do to talk about periods and menopause at work, the better!

To sum up...

It is all about the small things, that when put together, can help support women in any career:

  • Flexible working - If you don’t have it, ask for it. If as a company you don’t have it, offer it! Flexibility allows employees to better balance work and personal responsibilities, accommodating diverse needs and promoting overall well-being.
  • Culture of candor - A working environment where anyone can feel safe to speak up is important to making sure your workplace is inclusive. By encouraging open communication and honesty, you'll build trust among team members, leading to greater collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity.
  • Female health support - This includes offering time off or flexible working arrangements without stigma attached, acknowledging and accommodating reproductive health symptoms, and fostering a supportive environment where women feel comfortable discussing these topics openly. Such support contributes to a more inclusive and understanding workplace for women in any career.


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