fbpx

EXPLORE OUR

Don’t fear the tech industry, we can change it for the better

Group of women join hands at a table

ARTICLE SUMMARY

In this article, we hear from Angela Prentner-Smith, founder of this is milk, as she talks about being a woman in tech, starting her own tech business, and making positive strides from within.

Angela left her birthplace in Calgary, Canada at 15. After completing her A levels at the City of Sunderland College she moved to Glasgow to study History of Art at the University of Glasgow where she achieved a First-Class Honours degree.  Angela split her time at university between her studies and work at the Student Loans Company and subsequently worked with Scottish Power, Tesco Bank, Clydesdale Bank and Barclays before venturing into entrepreneurship.

ANGELA PRENTNER-SMITH, FOUNDER OF THIS IS MILK

Since launching her business, This Is Milk, a consultancy, training and technology business, Angela and her team have built a reputation as innovators, creating a strong brand, and forging a unique place in the Scottish market.

From meagre beginnings in a former jail on Glasgow’s Orkney Street, to a multi-site team of 18 professionals, This Is Milk has gone on to win the 2018 BIMA Award for Innovation and Transformation in Consultancy and Angela herself was recently commended at the Glasgow Business Awards as an Entrepreneur of the Year.

Angela has become a vocal advocate for equality, particularly in gender roles, neurodiversity, and human-centred business practices. This focus has become a core part of the This is Milk family of products with the launch of Neve Learning, a platform which aims to disrupt the world of workplace learning and deliver inclusive and personalised learning journeys. 

I GOT INTO THE TECH INDUSTRY THANKS TO A SCHEDULING PROBLEM.

I was working in a management position at the Student Loans Company whilst also trying to do my degree (History of Art!) at Glasgow University. The hours meant there was a limited choice of modules I could do so I decided on a multimedia analysis and design module. I was recommended not to do that particular module because it was coursework heavy and I had to build a website, as well as doing a research project on top of a dissertation. My lecturers said it would be too much but if anybody tells me something will be too much, I tend to do it anyway.

After graduation, I took a job as an ‘E-business analyst’, and it was great because the role was so poorly defined, I was able to get involved with everything from frontline support with the tech teams to doing user research. From there I started working on big transformation and innovation projects for the likes of Scottish Power and Tesco Bank but through all of that I was really frustrated that business wasn’t being done in a way that was conducive to digital. It was this that inspired me to launch my own company, This Is Milk.

Then, in 2020, at the beginning of the pandemic and with a two-week-old baby on my lap, friends suggested I get involved with CivTech, a Scottish Government Accelerator Programme, which takes problems faced by public sector organisations and charities and invites anyone with a brilliant idea to work with them to create a solution.

This was a game changer.

We responded to a CivTech Challenge set by the Scottish Government’s Digital Directorate asking, ‘How can Digital Help Invent the Future of Immersive Learning?’ In response, we are developing a tool called Neve Learning which is an educational tech platform that tailors professional learning to suit the unique needs of individuals.  

Since being involved with the CivTech Accelerator our business has grown from three employees to more than twenty and our turnover has doubled every year for the past four. As a company our big challenge now is continuing to grow, which requires cash investments, but currently only 2% of venture capital funding each year in Scotland goes to women[1]. As I said before though, when people say I can’t do something….

Any business with ambition should look to employ women at all levels.

A lot of the men I know who work in tech, really value having women as part of the team, so where are things going wrong?

I think the issue starts at school. We talk a lot about the importance of STEM subjects, but tech is a really creative industry and that’s not included in such narrow STEM messaging. There are lots of jobs in tech aside from just programming but creativity, problem solving, empathy, and curiosity are all needed in abundance.

In Scotland, specifically, the high school system makes you choose between, for example, Art Design and Technology, but why don’t we bring them together? Why don’t we teach art students business skills? You need business acumen to be a successful artist, after all.

Traditionally, the biggest problem in getting more women into leadership in tech was the cultural expectation that men would always prioritise work and women would always prioritise their family. It’s an old-fashioned view of working which is bad for both men and women as it impacts women’s earning ability and keeps men away from their families.

Luckily, CivTech made it easy for me to get involved as a new mum as I was able to do the initial sessions remotely but when I went to the workshops with a baby in my arms, I was faced with a sea of men. It was a timely reminder that tech is still a male dominated environment.

I want to reassure young women, and all young people of one other thing.

Diversity in all forms matters more than ever, especially to companies like ours. 

At This Is Milk we have built our learning platform with neurodiversity first principles at its core. I am dyspraxic and I personally identify with a lot of ADHD and gendered autism traits. Tech can be portrayed as unwelcoming but an excellent report by Skills Development Scotland actually talks about the strengths of different divergences, and different labels, and why they’re so good for roles in technology. So, if you do feel different, don’t think for a second that’s a barrier to the tech industry. The right opportunities are out there, but we do need more of them, especially for women and minorities.

Many of the things women desire out of a career can be fulfilled in the tech industry and to steal SheCanCode’s own messaging, I’d say ‘She can do anything.’

CAREER BUILDING RESOURCES
FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL
RELATED CONTENT
RELATED CATEGORIES


JOIN OUR COMMUNITY

RELATED ARTICLES

Bev Markland, Chief People Officer at Agilitas, emphasises the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace. With a third of Agilitas' workforce...
Anna Paci from Specialist Pharmacy explores why it's important for female pharmacists to be supported as they innovate women's health.
Lydia Kothmeier, VP of Operations at enterprise CMS Storyblok, explains why hiring for the right mindset rather than skill set can be a powerful strategy...
Gayle Terry, Chief Marketing Officer & President of Domestic & General US, looks at how we can attract and retain more women into tech and...