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Breaking the bias with the women in tech at Gecko

We talked to some of the incredible women at Gecko about working in technology, what brought them to the tech sector, and how we can collectively #breakthebias…

It’s International Women’s Day today, March 8, and it’s a day to recognise the achievements of women around the globe. As a technology company, it takes on more significance.

While there have been steps in the right direction when it comes to gender equality in the technology industry, there are still visibly much fewer women in the sector than men. If we want to bring about real gender equality within this sector then it’s critical that individuals, teams, and organisations work together to challenge unconscious, and overt, biases.

As part of this year’s celebrations, we wanted to spotlight some of the women who are forging successful careers in the technical side of the house at Gecko. They’re role modelling what a career in tech looks like and helping us all to #breakthebias. Let’s meet them…

Cheryl Sloan
Gecko
Technology can be seen as this big scary thing but there are so many roles within the tech industry that you don’t need to be technical to be part of.
Gecko
Cheryl Sloan
Product Manager, Gecko

Cheryl Sloan, Product Manager 

Tell us about your role at Gecko…

“Product management isn’t necessarily defined across the industry – it’s different from business to business. At Gecko, my role is about being the voice of the customer.”

“I listen to what customers need from the technology and I work with the engineering team to translate that into actuals. I have to weigh up customer needs against business objectives against the product vision and capabilities, and then we build out a solution.”

Are there any misconceptions about the tech sector?

“Technology can be seen as this big scary thing but there are so many roles within the tech industry that you don’t need to be technical to be part of. There’s no requirement in my job to write the code – there are so many good people there to do that already!”

“A sign of a great engineering manager is that they can translate the technical jargon so that the product manager can be fully present in those conversations.”

What does this year’s International Women’s Day theme #breakthebias mean to you?

“I think women can sometimes have their own internal biases about the technology sector, where they think they don’t have the right skills or can’t break into working in tech. I definitely see people thinking that because it’s a tech company they can’t do it. My mum worked as Head of IT in the civil service, so technology has always been in my life and I never felt like it wasn’t a possibility for me.”

Amanda Williamson
Gecko
I used to work as a teacher and the fact that Gecko technology makes it easier for people to engage in higher education makes me really see its value.
Gecko
Amanda Williamson
Software Engineer

Amanda Williamson, Software Engineer 

Tell us about your role at Gecko…

“My role involves creating and implementing the technical features of a product. We maintain older features within the technology and we also create new features, based on client requests and feedback and the world around us. So there’s a lot of iterations, finding resolutions to challenges, and putting yourself in the shoes of the customer.”

You used to work as a teacher. How does being a software engineer compare?

“It’s different, but there are similarities, too. There’s a lot of problem-solving, planning, and coming up with solutions in engineering. It’s rewarding in a different way – you get the reward of seeing an idea come to life and knowing that it’ll make someone’s life easier.”

“In my previous career, I’ve seen young people slip through the cracks, where they may be too shy or not know where to get information. The fact that Gecko technology makes it easier for people to engage in higher education makes me really see the value in it.”

What does #breakthebias mean to you?

“The lack of females in the technology industry is definitely apparent. There’s even a sub-conscious bias in schools and education and society needs to change as a whole. I think it’s great that Gecko are hiring more women, but there’s always work to do.”

“For example, I find that when I meet new people and I tell them my job and they’re like, ‘Oh, really?’ And they’re shocked. It’s good that there are days like International Women’s Day to raise everyone’s awareness because these biases definitely still exist.”

Steph Jenkins2
Gecko
When we’re talking about breaking biases, we need to talk about intersectionality. Breaking the bias is really about equity and expanding opportunities for everyone.
Gecko
Steph Jenkins
Quality Assurance Engineer

Steph Jenkins, Quality Assurance Engineer

Tell us about your role at Gecko…

“I’m Quality Assurance Engineer at Gecko. I always like to think of it as a quality assurance advocate or question asker, rather than a tester. It involves being part detective, part researcher, part storyteller, part advocate, and part risk assessor.”

“Ultimately, my role is about testing assumptions. I have to think about the assumptions we may make on behalf of clients, the lens of interpretation we may have put on the data, and go through everything with a fine-toothed comb, alongside our team.”

What does #breakthebias mean to you?

“I went to an all-girls school and engineering or STEM wasn’t really promoted to students unless you wanted to be a doctor. Although I never had ‘tech fear’, I’d bought into some of that pigeon-holing. I did beta testing for MMOs (massively multiplayer online games) and so I was familiar with testing but I’d never considered it as a career. It was only after conversations with friends that I started studying for my testing qualification.

“One thing I really care about is how we continue to challenge biases within education. I also think when we’re talking about breaking biases, we also need to talk about intersectionality. It’s not just about gender, it’s about how it intersects with other areas like race, LGBTQ+ issues, and disability. Breaking the bias is really about equity and expanding opportunities for everyone.”

What would you say to other women who would like to work in tech but don’t feel confident they have the right skillset?

“Never say never. It’s surprising how many spaces exist within the tech sector for different skill sets. You don’t have to be a genius of a ‘tech whizz’ for your unique strengths and skills to be exceptionally appreciated. That’s why meet-ups are so valuable.”

Karolina Kaczmarska
Gecko
I think it’s hard for people working in this sector to say, ‘I don’t know.’ If I say, ’I don’t know how to do this, can you help me?’ it gives an example to others in the team.
Gecko
Karolina Kaczmarska
Software Engineer

Karolina Kaczmarska, Software Engineer

You were one of the first female developers at Gecko. What was that like?

“There was definitely a lot of masculine energy when I first started. I wanted to show up as myself and bring my point of view to the team. I’d talk about emotions and how I was feeling with the team during our retros, where we reflect on the previous sprint. What I really loved is that I quickly felt my colleagues’ energy start to shift as well.”

“I think it’s hard for people working in this sector to say, ‘I don’t know.’ If I say, ’I don’t know how to do this, can you help me?’ it gives an example to others in the team so that they realise, ‘Oh, I can openly say I don’t know something.’ If I ask for help then hopefully others in the team may feel more encouraged to do that.”

What does #breakthebias mean to you?

“It’s a difficult subject and it’s not something that you can do by force. You can’t change other people’s minds, there’s no control over what other people think. Every woman should believe in herself and do her best. Having success in the technology sector is the best way to break the bias, and that’s how you do it without force.”

What have you learned in your career so far?

“You have to be comfortable not knowing when you go into programming. In other roles, two years in, you may be able to say you know most of what you need to know. As an engineer, you can’t. There will always be more to learn because technology is evolving all the time, and there will be challenges every day. You have to enjoy that part.”

Amy Gallacher
Gecko
"In my mid-twenties I started to see the different types of jobs available in tech and that passion I had as a kid came flooding back. I jumped into my first tech role on a Helpdesk and never looked back!"
Gecko
Amy Gallacher
Product Manager

Amy Gallacher, Product Manager

Tell us about your role at Gecko…

“My title at Gecko is Product Manager. Typically this means that I’m the voice of the customer, and represent them at various points in the product development process. Day-to-day activities can vary! One day I might be running some discovery/focus groups to get feedback from our users. Others can be spent writing up user stories, so that our developers understand exactly how a feature should behave to bring the most value to the user once it’s released.”

What drew you to the technology industry and what do you enjoy about it?

“When I was younger I always loved technology. I was always the kid in the family who got asked to hook up the new TV or fix the video player if it was misbehaving. I didn’t know that this career was an option for me when I was in high school, so I ended up in customer support roles for a while after school.”

“In my mid-twenties I started to see the different types of jobs available in tech and that passion I had as a kid came flooding back. I jumped into my first tech role on a Helpdesk and never looked back!”

What does #breakthebias mean to you?

“For me, I think it’s about making tech an even playing field. In school, girls really aren’t encouraged into the tech subjects as much as boys. This means that a lot of women end up getting into tech at a later stage and therefore they are lagging behind in terms of seniority and pay scales. If we want to break the bias, we need to start encouraging this from an early age.”

What advice would you have for anyone who wants to work in technology?

“Do it! There are so many roles in the tech industry, not just software development. Digital Marketing, Customer Success, Technical Writing, Product Management, just to name a few. Whether you want to be a really technical person or just work beside people who are, there is a place for you. “You can’t learn everything, but you can learn anything” – Steph Boyle, CodeClan.”