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How to stand out in a male-dominated industry

Stand out from the crowd, male-dominated tech industry concept

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Standing out can be difficult in an imbalanced job market. Jen Fenner, co-founder and managing director of DefProc Engineering, shares her experience and advice on how women can reach the top of the tech industry, even without prior technological experience.

Little did Jen know, a Textile Design degree would lead her to co-found and manage an engineering and innovation-partner company.

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Jen graduated from Loughborough University in 2005, with a bachelor’s degree in Textile Design. 

Struggling to secure a job in the fashion industry, she took on various roles in bars and administration in the years after her studies. 

However, Jen now pushes boundaries as a female leader in engineering, delivering singular prototype designs and proof of concept projects for clients seeking to breathe life into their innovative ideas. 

Noteworthy clients like the Environment Agency, Liverpool 5G and Northern Gas Networks have sought her company’s expertise, and now Jen wants to spotlight the exceptional qualities of women in tech, from all walks of life. 

If no one else can help you, help yourself

DefProc Engineering was born in 2013 when my husband, Patrick and I discovered a gap in the engineering and manufacturing market. 

We had been trying to develop our own product from a spare room in our house and had put an incredible amount of time and effort into the design work, but when it came to making a prototype, we found that manufacturers wouldn’t help us with sourcing a small run of custom parts. 

This seemed to be a common issue for early-stage designers so we decided to do it ourselves and after developing our manufacturing skills with DoES Liverpool, launched DefProc Engineering as a company that manufactures prototypes and products on a smaller scale before they go to large-scale production.

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Now is the time

I have always had an interest in the fundamentals of design and creation and had a particular interest in researching innovations of the past to inform the future of tech. 

Following my degree, I found myself in job roles that paid the bills but were creatively stifling; I was never challenged, given new opportunities, or any responsibility to produce anything distinctly different that would set me apart from the crowd, so I had to make my own opportunities. 

However, that wasn’t without its challenges as a woman in a male-dominated industry…

Unfortunately, the challenges that women face are still centred around traditional gender roles of taking on more care responsibility for the family and therefore requiring flexible working, often making them appear unreliable and impacting their career progression. 

But companies are becoming more aware and proactive about the importance of having women in leadership roles, and as this becomes more commonplace, the tech sector will be an increasingly open and inclusive place.

For example, according to the Women in Tech Survey 2023, women accounted for 26% of people working in IT in 2023, up from 19% in 2019.

61% of people surveyed said that their organisation is actively working on gender balance, compared to 36% when last asked. 

This suggests that now is the most promising time for women in tech and girls considering a career in technology. 

How can you stand out to potential employers / what do employers look for? 

New tech needs to benefit a large cross-section of society and requires input from people from different backgrounds.

As the industry expands, there is also an increase in roles within the sector that don’t require extensive engineering knowledge but need periphery skills, such as people and project management.

Love it or hate it, networking is a great way to connect with others in the tech industry before applying or interviewing for a role.

Before attending an event, consider what sets you apart – what sector are you interested in and why? What skills or services can you offer? How are your skills transferable?

Seek out people with similar roles to what you want and use it as an opportunity to learn more about what they do, how they got into their role, and what opportunities are available, most importantly be confident in your skill set, stand up for yourself and sell yourself.

All of this can be applied to LinkedIn too.

Skills development is essential, especially if you have little to no experience in the technology field. 

Have a clear understanding of what area you want to go into, e.g. manufacturing, energy, aviation, IT. 

With this in mind, what skills do you have now and what might you need to develop? 

Online courses and skills bootcamps are a great way to enhance and develop your skills at your own pace, many companies also offer incredible opportunities for women to enter the tech industry with no experience required.

When I started running DefProc, I had to learn really quickly how to deliver technology projects, it was completely out of my comfort zone, but I also had to learn not to beat myself up about things I didn’t know. 

You’re not going to be an expert at everything overnight, give yourself time to learn and understand like you would any other subject and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Good luck and maybe one day our paths might cross.

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