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The journey returning to tech: Lessons learned; lessons applied

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ARTICLE SUMMARY

Delve into three lessons two women in tech learned while returning to tech and how they have applied their newly gained skills and expertise.

In 2023, the UK tech sector employed over 1.7 million people and added over £150bn to the UK economy annually.

Yet research also indicates that just 19% of UK tech workers are women. This alarming disparity must be rectified if the UK sector is to flourish. 

returning to tech
Deepana Naidu

The Tech Returners programme, founded in 2017, was born out of the mission to address the underrepresentation of women in tech and help individuals who had taken a career break return to the sector. Deepana Naidu, an Engineering Consultant and Aparna Kulkarni, a Consultant now working at digital transformation consultancy Daemon joined the programme and saw an opportunity to return to the industry. During their career breaks, they gained valuable skills that would be an asset to any company. At Daemon, they are working their way up the career ladder with a wealth of knowledge and expertise to impart to their clients. 

returning to tech
Aparna Kulkarni

In this article, we delve into three lessons they learned whilst undertaking the Tech Returners programme and how Deepana and Aparna have applied their newly gained skills and expertise to drive change for clients at Daemon. 

Lesson one: Tech is an exciting sector to be a part of 

Every day we see how technology intersects everything that we do and use daily. News articles of innovations with AI, or health tech, showcases just how exciting of a time it is to be a part of the tech industry. 

During a career break, Aparna found meeting and collaborating with other people to reach a common goal a fruitful part of her journey. ‘I always enjoyed my time working in the tech industry and missed it. I had always hoped to return but found it daunting to keep pace with the constantly evolving landscape of technologies to prepare myself to return.’ The 3-month tech returner course allowed Aparna to gain not only technical guidance, but also mindset coaching, which was crucial to overcome any hesitation for the next step of her career.  

Deepana noted that a key factor that motivated her to return to the industry was a 12-week full-stack boot camp, where she learned new languages such as Ruby on Rails and JavaScript, which changed the way she viewed herself in tech. ‘Everyone in the boot camp came from different backgrounds, and most of them had no technical experience, but we all had one goal – to learn something new and get into the tech industry.’ 

The bootcamp motivated Deepana to look at her work differently, and she realised the work was enjoyable, ambitious, and productive. These exchanges of ideas and passion drew Deepana to volunteer with a start-up as a software engineer. 

returning to tech

Lesson two: Our expertise is valuable now and will be in years to come 

The 3-month boot camps were a great starting point for Aparna and Deepana. Aparna has been able to put all the skills she developed to use for her clients, including  

the Java and Spring Boot tech stack training. “These exact skills became a requirement for a client project and in less than a month of starting at Daemon I was able to join the team there and support this.” The programme also provided Aparna with the opportunity to work in teams. She could then put this into practice with client facing projects where effective team collaboration was a must.  

Deepana has been working at Daemon for almost two years. During the bootcamp, “collaborative practices, including pair programming and project work in Agile teams were emphasised. These experiences deepened my technical expertise and enhanced my ability to work seamlessly within a team and deliver results efficiently.” This made Deepana’s transition to client work easier as familiarity with industry-standard practices allowed her to contribute from day one, and not feel like she had taken a break in her career.  

“Besides the technical training, the bootcamp included soft skills workshops focused on owning our career break and not seeing it as a setback.” This holistic approach empowered her to tackle challenges confidently upon re-entering professional environments.  

Lesson three: Tech returners need support too 

Current statistics indicate that women in tech are dropping out of the industry at an alarming rate, with 50% leaving by age 35. The Tech Returners programme is fundamental in ensuring this talent is trained and supported back into the workforce.  

However, the real work starts with tech leaders themselves. Tech leaders must advocate for programmes like Tech Returners, complete with structured coursework and hands-on skill-building in current technologies and methodologies to effectively support women back into the field. While the tech industry has made positive strides, greater investment and understanding of non-linear career paths will be essential for bringing women back into the tech workforce and upskilling them. Women have a wealth of experience and transferable skills that make them vital talent for a business.  

Secondly, women need peer support to re-engage in the tech industry and take that next step. Deepana said ‘In my previous role as a software engineer, I often felt like a cog in a machine, lacking a genuine connection to my work. However, my career break provided me with valuable insights. I fought hard to get back into the tech industry. And so, in moments of self-doubt, I draw strength from the lessons learned during my break, pick myself up and carry on.’ 

Aparna’s reasoning for why now is a great time to get back into the industry is that ‘there is recognition of the experience and skills a returner brings. Undertaking a course with live classes to bring yourself up to speed with some of the current technologies will be very helpful in the technical skills and teamwork aspect.’  This programme has been invaluable in helping Deepana and Aparna make a smooth transition into returning to the industry. The importance of having women back in tech cannot be overstated. Their presence fosters diversity, enriches decision-making processes, and broadens the scope of innovation. Once they are in the industry, it is imperative that they are supported to stay and continue growing in the industry. There is strength in numbers and together, we can build a more equitable industry. 

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