GleeTalks: Women in TechMember News
Welcome to GleeTalks: Your fix of industry tips, tricks and inspiration. We have been busy interviewing some of the industry’s leading experts, to gain an insight into some of Marketing and Digital’s secrets to success. In this session, we have James Orton (Digital Director) and Momena Ibrahim (Client Services Manager) of Stickee: a creative technology agency that creates enjoyable and immersive software and digital experiences that stick. James and Mamina are not just representatives of Stickee, but they are established ambassadors of the Tech industry – they aim to level the playing field in the male-dominated industry, one female hire at a time. So, what’s their story? Find out below…
Tell me about Stickee – what makes stickee unique to any other digital agencies?
James: We are more of a technology-based agency than a creative agency. We are problem solvers, making the complex simple; clients come to us with a brief and we provide unique solutions to suit their needs. A good example is the work we’ve been doing with NatWest, supporting their sponsorship of the England Cricket Team. NatWest wanted an exhibition that would show off their new voice and facial recognition security features. So, we built a facial recognition app to work alongside the VR game we had created for them previously; people could go up and see which England cricketer they looked like. The results would give a percentage score out of 100 so something like, ‘you’re 63% Joe Root, but there’s only one you.’ It was a great, interactive and creative way to promote NatWest’s security. They’ve been using our VR cricket game ‘Balls!’ for two seasons now and the reception from the public has been fantastic.
Do you take these products from conception right through to completion as a company?
James: Yes. We have an R&D team that work on things like that, but we are really collaborative – everyone likes to jump in and help out on major projects.
What does the future look like for Stickee?
James: We are going through a period of tremendous growth at the moment, in the last couple of years we’ve added clients such as Asda, NatWest, EE etc so it’s been an exciting ride. For me, the future is about two things; firstly growing our client base and forging further long-lasting relationships and secondly the development of current and new members of the team – greater skills for us means bigger & better projects for the company and the team to work on.
Why is it important to have females on board the team?
James: Having a mixed team is great for culture. I want to continue producing the best products that we can, in order to do that we have to have different perspectives. It’s the same in every job, if you don’t include women then you’re not including the perspective of 50% of the population. You have to have balance.
I’ve got a daughter myself and she comes into work quite often and I want her to see that women are working alongside me, that that’s the norm. She’s only seven and schools don’t really offer a lot of coding-based learning – but she absolutely loves it.
So, you go into schools with these events?
James: We’ve held events at local schools with the hope to inspire future generations. We teach children about coding and give them an insight into an industry that they may know little to nothing about. The tech that they are teaching in schools… is not where it needs to be if they hope to produce top tech talent. So, it’s important to me that we give back – and that’s why we hold our events.
Momena: We’re just trying to get our faces out there. We recently attended an event at the University of Birmingham. We’ve been really proactive in trying to recruit more women, especially at careers events. It’s important that the women attending these events can see female presence within our company – I think a lot of people assume that this is just another all-male company – so we do what we can to put ourselves out there and be as approachable as possible. Not just for our company but for tech in general.
How have you found trying to hire women?
James: It’s been tough, as the shortage of women in the field makes it a smaller talent pool to find the resource in. In the UK, about 17% of tech job roles are filled by women, as a company, we’re in line with the national average. In an ideal world, it would be 50/50 but I would like to think by the end of next year we will be nearer to 30%. That is reliant on the talent that’s out there though.
Momena: As James mentioned, it can be difficult when there are fewer women than men even in the interview process. When trying to increase the number of women in digital, we know it’s not just about hiring women for the sake of having women. It’s about having women who feel empowered and happy and valued within the company.
What do you look for in a candidate?
James: Talent, ambition and skillset. The next step is all about culture; will they fit in here? If you don’t consider the cultural fit of people it will affect the atmosphere in the workplace, especially when you’re the size we are. With the talent pool being so small at the moment training and development is more important than ever. We are finding ourselves hiring more interns & junior members of staff that fit in with our company culture and training them up.
Momena: As a close-knit company who regularly organise social events for the team, a positive attitude is important to us. We try to keep the morale high; If you’ve got big deadlines and it’s getting a bit difficult at work, you want to be surrounded by people who remain positive when things are getting a little tough. So, it’s skills, culture and attitude – that’s what’s important to us.
So Momena, tell me about your background and how you’ve worked your way up to where you are now…
Momena: I’m a local girl, from Solihull, I studied at UoB. In my final year, I did an internship here [at Stickee], in a marketing role. Despite me being a student, who hadn’t even graduated yet, I always felt that my voice was heard here. As a young woman, that’s what you need. Especially when you are the minority in a company. I felt valued and it gave me the confidence I needed to speak up. Progression just happened organically; James recognised my potential, he offered me a role in project management and here I am today.
Given that the talent pool is so small, and male-dominated, when/how did you decided that tech was the career path for you?
Well, I didn’t start out in a technical role; I started out in marketing, project management etc. Fortunately, I was in a role that highlighted my strengths, in a company that valued my potential. I think that, in this industry, women struggle to see progression for themselves within a company; they fear that men will progress more quickly, and they don’t feel like they can speak out. It’s about challenging that. Thankfully here, we have a diverse group, not only in gender but in age; even the well-established men who are in their thirties or their forties will make the time to listen and hear you out.
What is the importance of having women in the team (for you personally)?
Along with adding to company culture, it also benefits clients to see a diverse team – they get different perspectives, they get different people and personalities that they can work with. I do feel privileged that I can represent our company, to face clients and show them what kind of company we are. Having female representation also encourages more women to come; when you have women start, it’s nice to see other women around, which breaks that stereotype.
What would you advise anyone that wants to get into the digital workspace?
Don’t be afraid and go for it. We feel that there are going to be more struggles than there actually are. Push yourself out of that comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to ask, because if you don’t ask you don’t get. When James asked me to change roles, I had no previous experience it that role, but I had to make that decision. So, I asked myself - do I want to push myself? Do I want to progress? You won’t know until you try it. So, I say try it; see how it goes and push yourself, because you will, and you can succeed. There are lots of avenues within digital/tech companies, along with data and development, there’s sales, marketing and HR as career prospects.
Is there anything you would like to add?
James: There are a lot of female leaders in technology now and the majority of them aren’t coders. There’s being in technology and then there’s being technical and I think that they are two different things. We have come a long way, but there is still work to be done (and I think most of that is culture). The first step is to give women a voice at the table and include them in the decision making – whether that is in technical or non-technical roles. Even if they cant fill the technical roles, open up spaces for women in other areas of the business.