From retail to tech: How one woman made the transition

Emily Axon sits on BrightHR’s Research & Development Team as a Business Analyst


Meet Emily Axon, who made the career switch from retail into the tech industry!

Emily sits on BrightHR’s Research & Development Team as a Business Analyst, a role she moved into following 12 years in Retail.

With the right support, she’s built her confidence and knowledge in this area and has been a pivotal part in delivering a brand new piece of software to BrightHR’s clients.

Emily has just been nominated for July’s BrightHR MVP award, which recognises colleagues for their achievements and willingness to go above and beyond. In addition, Emily has been praised in a recent BrightHR CEO newsletter for the hard work that she contributed to the excellent delivery of a major project for BrightHR Australia.

Emily is a huge advocate for women in the tech industry, and keen to challenge the lack of female representation in the sector. Here, she tells us her story and how she transitioned into the industry.


Prior to beginning my career as a woman in tech, I worked in the retail industry for almost 12 years. I was predominantly managed by women and went on to manage teams of women. An environment l felt safe and comfortable in, becoming an expert in my field, training and supporting others to progress into management.

A friend of mine who had made the move to tech and retrained as a QA some years earlier, suggested I would be a great fit as a business analyst. He asked me to consider switching careers and assured me there were bountiful opportunities to be had. My first instinct was to say “No thank you, I’m happy where I am” but the truth was, I’d hit the ceiling with my career in retail, I felt unchallenged, and my earning potential had plateaued.

My objection to his suggestion was less about happiness and more about my lack of confidence to take the plunge and become a junior again.

What if I failed?

It’s easy to have preconceptions about the tech industry considering the way it’s often depicted in film, a male dominant arena with multiple spoken and written languages. Team this film cliché with the reality, a lack of female representation, and fewer female role models in the industry to aspire to, it instils – whether consciously or unconsciously – a doubt that we have the merits to make it.

Thankfully my friend asked again when the role of Business Analyst came available in the R&D team at BrightHR, this time I was brave enough to consider – Why not interview? I might not have known all the lingo, but I spoke from my experience, and the transferable skills I had gained throughout my career.

It’s worth noting too, that that friend has progressed from their initial role as QA to QA Lead, then to Delivery Lead, and is now Head of Software Delivery, indicating the real opportunities and growth available within the sector.

And now I work in a role that I enjoy with no ceiling, every day, I’m responsible for developing the solutions that will aid tens of thousands of business owners with their people management and HR responsibilities. I take pride in how we deliver value to our clients, the encouragement for collaborative and creative thinking, knowledge sharing, the exposure to business directors and feeling heard by them.

My new environment is teeming with passionate people, championing each other, and striving for success.

One of the most rewarding parts of the role is seeing the success of something so many people had a hand in developing, being able to measure the value for the business owners using it, and importantly learning and responding to invaluable feedback.  

I was fortunate enough to have a wonderful mentor, an experienced business analyst called Naomi. She dedicated a great deal of her time teaching me processes and best practises, at the same time encouraging me to find my own style and way of working so that I could contribute new ideas to the business. Whenever I would say “I have a stupid question” Naomi would reply “There are no stupid questions”. She eased my fears of failure, made me realise everyone in tech is learning all the time, no matter your length of service or experience, ever evolving and a place for growth.

There’s a common misconception that being a woman in a male-dominated industry might be intimidating, but I can honestly say I’ve never experienced an issue. From the friend that gave me the confidence to apply at the very beginning, to members of the senior leadership team, my male colleagues are a constant source of empowerment and encouragement.

I have much to thank my mentor for, and for me, there were no barriers for me to pursue and excel at a career in tech. But the issue of a lack of female representation within the sector still exists across the world, in many businesses. And ultimately, that’s why there are so few people like me in tech. That needs to change.

I’m currently 35 years old, the very same age that 50% of women who go into tech drop out by. My careers just beginning and demonstrates it’s never too late to take advantage of the incredible opportunities for women in this industry.

Equality highlights the important part female representation plays on retaining talent, striving to become a role model and a mentor supports our female colleagues in maintaining long and successful careers.

As it stands, according to the Women in Tech Survey 2023, just 3 in 12 people in tech are women. That’s a huge disparity and one that could be addressed far earlier than working adult life.

In fact, 22% of people think the reason women are being put off from a career in tech is a lack of education and encouragement for the field in young girls. However, the same survey suggests seeing more female role models in tech would mean young girls would start to see the field as a realistic and attractive career opportunity.

I hope that one day, I can inspire other females to join me in what is such a rewarding career pathway.


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