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Top tips for transitioning into tech

Two businesswomen shaking hands, breaking into tech concept, career transition

ARTICLE SUMMARY

Gemma Donnelly, Electronic Technician at UK robotics company Dexory, shares her top tips for transitioning into tech. Gemma’s journey into the world of tech took a unique path. Her move was guided by her aunt’s mentorship, working in a nursery while mastering soldering and PCBs on weekends and in her spare time. Now at Dexory, Gemma thrives crafting PCBs and assembling wires for robots in an inclusive environment, a stark contrast to past challenges in male-dominated industries.

At the start of my career, I spent almost seven years working in a nursery, and it never crossed my mind that I could have a career in technology.

transitioning into tech

While working in childcare felt like a great fit initially, it eventually left me feeling unfulfilled and trapped. I wanted a career where I had growth opportunities, but at the same time I was worried that I couldn’t transition to a new career as I lacked the necessary skill set. However, I had an interest in the tech sector through my aunt, and inspired by her, I took a risk and started retraining with her on weekends, learning to solder and work with PCBs.

I got my first job working with her and from there my tech career took off. Since then I’ve worked on all sorts of different satellites for the space industry, advanced scientific microscopes in Oxford, and now I’m helping build cutting-edge autonomous robots with Dexory.

If I can make the pivot from babies to robots, anyone can. Here are my top tips for taking a similar turn and trying out a career in technology.

transitioning into tech

Don’t let the fear of the unknown hold you back

I had no prior experience in soldering or engineering when I started out, and it felt like there were so many skills I lacked. But I learned what I was passionate about by putting myself out there and jumping in with hands-on experience. Don’t let the unfamiliar intimidate you; embrace the opportunity to learn something new. 

Upskilling is key

While I had no formal education or training in electronics, I picked my aunt’s brain and learned as much as possible from her. Once you know where your passions lie, research what’s needed to progress and do what you can to retrain yourself. You don’t necessarily need a degree, but you might need to pick up new skills in coding, engineering, or similar areas. You can find lots of help online with courses, bootcamps, or internships. Today there are a lot of apprenticeships that will give you training on the job. Hands-on experience is best if possible!

Be resilient and prove doubters wrong

Entering male-dominated environments as I did early on in my career can be daunting. But with time, patience, and showcasing my abilities, I won over doubters and made my mark in the companies I worked in. I’ve ruffled feathers where my progress has surprised people, but whenever I faced negativity, I turned it into a greater desire to prove them wrong. Don’t let naysayers deter you; use their doubts as motivation to excel. 

Find mentors, be a mentor

Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help; there will always be people happy to support you. I was extremely fortunate to have family invested in helping me, and then found mentors in companies I worked at. The women I’ve worked with and learned from along the way have been inspirational. If you can find your own mentors, it’ll be a real help.

I now do as much as possible to help the next generation because I know how important mentorship was for me and I want to carry on helping more women into STEM fields. Paying it forward by mentoring others is incredibly rewarding.

Overcoming gender bias in tech

In some more traditional settings, the “jobs for the boys” mentality still exists. Sadly, there are still cases where you can be looked over for a role or task because you are a woman, even if your skillset is equal to or better than male counterparts. Companies need to ensure they are truly inclusive in their recruitment and foster a culture where people are appreciated as equals. This will help give women more opportunities and make it easier for them to enter and progress in the industry.

My greatest tip is to put yourself out there and go for things that interest you. That’s been at the core of my journey – being bold and trying out things I wasn’t sure I was qualified for, and surprising myself and those around me with what I can do. If you put in the time and effort, stay resilient, and find the right people to help you, it’s remarkable how quickly you can climb the ladder in technology.

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