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International Women’s Day 2023: Women in Tech – Vicky Walker shares her story

Continuing our International Women’s Day coverage, we asked Vicky Walker, Head of People and Recruitment at Mission Labs, a Gamma company, to share her views on where the tech sector is in terms of recruiting and retaining women – as well as her own personal journey and perspectives.

Woman in tech and proud!

The technology industry offers its employees a fast-paced, dynamic environment, a variety of work, and lots of learning opportunities. One of the main challenges within this sector is its gender imbalance.

There are many factors that exacerbate the gender imbalance in the technology sector for example the number of females at school age that take STEM subjects and a lack of female talent applying to tech positions. Businesses have been working to change this disparity for decades, but as it stands just 19%* of the tech workforce are women: there is still a long way to go!

As part of Gamma’s partnership with Speakers for Schools, we are targeting young women as part of our events to help them learn more about career paths and help inspire them into the tech sector.

Recruitment is the first area that Mission Labs has transformed to help attract more females into the business. We have gender neutral job advertisements and offer benefits such as flexitime to enable staff to ensure a good work-life balance. These aspects have all resulted in more female applicants applying to job roles resulting in better representation.

Mission Labs actively showcases its female leaders and this representation has provided more females the confidence to apply for internal vacancies. The business also hosts quarterly networking events for female staff to celebrate their achievements and provides an opportunity to bring them together.

My journey into the world of tech

I began my career as a young German and History Graduate from Nottingham Trent University and I remember distinctly not really knowing what I wanted to do. I looked into teaching, translation, sales, and a number of other industries, all of which did not appeal to me in the slightest. Recruitment was an area I had never even considered, and I was lucky enough to receive an interview from a rather exciting looking tech start-up, recruitment agency that was willing to accept graduates and up-skill them. My role focused on finding tech talent in Germany which I was thrilled about as I now had a job where I could talk all day and also practise my German. It was the perfect fit for a chatterbox like me!

What was noticeable from my first interview, however, was that this was a company of six men, and that if I joined the business, I would be the only female member of staff. This did not discourage or phase me though. It came with its challenges, for example, I had to learn to stand my ground in certain.  I cannot thank my past employer enough for looking out for me and always treating me fairly and equally.

As my career in recruitment progressed, I moved companies a couple of times – I wanted to stay within the technology sector, mainly because this is where I was most experienced, but also because I felt this industry resonated with who I was as a person. I am a huge Harry Potter fan; I adore movie soundtracks from the likes of Hans Zimmer and John Williams. Therefore, to be working in an industry that accepted my nerdiness and quirkiness, made me feel worthy, strong, and probably for the first time in my life accepted, which was wonderful. Being one of the few females in the businesses that I’ve worked for made me feel empowered and gave me countless opportunities to stand out. I have been lucky enough to work for organisations that have pushed me to succeed and that have celebrated my successes, which is something I hope still happens for females starting their early careers in tech.

When I joined Mission Labs in 2021, I started off as a Talent Partner. I was really excited to work in an organisation that was supportive, kind, had a superb work-life balance and that offered me lots of progression. I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to move up to a management position, but I never thought in a million years it would happen as early as it did. Only one year into my time at Mission Labs I was promoted to Head of People & Talent. I was entrusted to make my own decisions regarding the people function with a specific focus on the recruitment process. I was also able to learn on the job by studying a CIPD course in the background. I feel that elsewhere I might not have had this opportunity and feel incredibly blessed to be part of a team that values the work that I do and recognises my efforts and that day-to-day offers a supportive working environment. I feel very proud to be where I am today.

Personally, I have also had my own female role model to aspire to, who has helped me on this journey and who I cannot thank enough, as I would certainly not be here without her. My role model is my amazing mum: she sadly passed away at the age of fifty-two from cancer when I was only twenty-one years old, when I was just about to graduate from university and start my career in tech.

She was the most incredible person I have ever had the pleasure to know because she was a fighter who fought for her success and also for her life. She was a single mum who brought up three children, she became an influential full-time teacher in behaviour support, and changed the lives of so many students due to the care and encouragement that she gave them. She taught me that no matter your gender, you can always succeed, you just have to tell yourself that you can and then anything will be possible. My mum used to tell me that “life is short, you were put here for a reason and that was to shine, you may not see it now but one day you will”. She encouraged me to make my mark on the world and I really hope that I have accomplished that, or at least that I am starting to.