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Navigating the tech terrain: One woman’s journey to Head of Engineering

Tapashya Murali

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Tapashya Murali, Head of Engineering at Acumen, explores the persistent gender imbalance in the tech industry, emphasising the need for increased visibility of female role models and supportive environments throughout a woman's career. Drawing from her own experiences growing up in India and the UK, Tapashya highlights the importance of intervention at an early age, encouraging girls to pursue technical subjects and addressing career gaps that often arise due to family responsibilities.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this March, it’s crucial to acknowledge the tech industry still has work to do to solve the puzzle of gender imbalance.

Currently, 28% of women make up the tech workforce. While this is an improvement from even just two decades ago, as a woman who has worked most of my career in tech, I feel we still need to make sure we’re doing all we can to close the gender gap in this industry.  

Why does this even matter? Beyond the obvious intellectual loss of half the population, it’s about missing out on diverse perspectives. Ever wondered why your thermostat is stuck at a default of chilly 21 degrees? Turns out, it’s a relic from the 1950s when men set the default, and we’re still shivering in their chosen temperature. 

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Now, let me rewind and share my tech tale. Picture this: a 13-year-old me, grappling with my first program – 35 lines of code to detect palindromes (words that read the same backward as forward). I remember asking my teacher, “Why do I have to learn to code when I can spot such a word in a heartbeat?” Her revelation? “Code works tirelessly through a million strings without complaints, unlike you, who will become tired after 20 words.” It was a lightbulb moment for me. I realised then that tech could do my bidding while I could focus on what I really wanted to do (back then, it was dancing!).   

Growing up in India during the tech boom meant facing the classic career crossroads – Doctor or Engineer? I ruled out Biology (and Medicine as a career choice) due to frog dissections, and even considered being a chartered accountant, but the allure of the IT sector pulled me in. Not the most riveting tale – a pragmatic decision rather than a lightning bolt of inspiration, but what came next was the real deal. Those early insights from my teachers, and the growing buzz in India about the future of technology’s role in shaping our lives, inspired me to seek out the endless possibilities in tech – and I haven’t looked back.  

Tackling an absence of female role models  

However, despite numerous ‘Women in Tech’ initiatives, in my opinion, the needle hasn’t moved significantly enough for women in recent decades. We must celebrate more female leaders, showcasing diverse role models to encourage the next generation of tech-savvy girls.  

In fact, having lived half my life in India and the UK, a very important distinction I’ve observed between the two countries is the notable absence of women role models in tech in the UK.  

While India boasts women leaders who have coined phrases like ‘Think Digital, Think India,’ the UK lacks the visibility of such figures. These leaders might still exist, but I’ve always felt they are sadly not visible enough for aspiring young women. The major challenge here lies not only in creating opportunities but in fostering visibility at various stages of a girl’s life. Intervention is needed early on. This includes, encouraging girls in primary school to aspire beyond traditional roles for example, supporting their decisions to choose more technical subjects at GCSE level, and crucially, addressing the widening gap that often occurs in their late 20s and early 30s when family responsibilities come into play. 

It’s also crucial to recognise that women can be overly critical of their abilities, frequently downplaying their strengths. A woman’s confidence in her capabilities is proven to still lag behind that of her counterpart’s. This self-imposed doubt often becomes a barrier, constraining women within the confines of the ‘supposed to do’ mindset. It’s time for women to feel liberated from this mindset and embrace risks – learning swiftly from failures – and wholeheartedly own their career journeys. 

Finding the right environment to thrive in tech 

To sum up, I believe it’s important to point out the unique benefits of a tech career, and talk about why environment makes all the difference for women in feeling as supported in their careers as men. After all, tech inspires and drives the world. The sector’s passion is infectious, but the right company is crucial. Acumen, my workplace, puts diversity at the heart of its mission and provides a platform for its people to grow alongside the company. There are so many reasons to go into tech, if companies are ready to support women to thrive and set them up for the following:   

Excel with flexible career opportunities:  

Tech embodies the epitome of a portable career. You can engage in projects from any corner of the globe. At Acumen, the flexibility extends beyond borders, granting me the privilege to work from abroad for up to 60 days. This approach seamlessly integrates work, travel, and family commitments.  

Particularly in our evolving post-COVID world, Acumen has fully embraced the concept of a hybrid work model, distinguishing itself from others in the industry. Their open-minded approach not only explores untapped potential in every nook and corner of the UK but also affords individuals like me the space and opportunity to thrive and advance, all while successfully balancing parental responsibilities. 

Be proud of making a difference:  

Tech isn’t just about ideas; it’s about making them work in the real world. Solve heavyweight problems and contribute to significant issues like climate change. Marry your passions with technology – perhaps by developing the code behind the next NASA space mission. 

Enjoy brilliant benefits:  

Tech professionals are in high demand, and competitive salaries, additional perks, and a range of benefits make tech a rewarding career choice.

Unlock your potential, no matter where your best fit lies:  

In the vibrant realm of technology, you don’t need to be a coding prodigy to find your niche. The tech industry is a vast playground that welcomes a diverse range of talents – not just developers and programmers, but also graphic designers, HR experts, project managers, marketing professionals, and writers, to name a few.

Opting for a position in the tech sector not only allows you to contribute your unique skills but also presents a golden opportunity to delve deeper into the technology shaping our daily lives, expanding your intellectual horizons and career prospects. 

Embrace the journey, stay curious, pay it forwards, and enjoy the rewards!  

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