Written by Mary Lieu on the 26th of October, 2016
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“I see technology as a vehicle to bring great change in the world.”
SheStarts is building upon the work of other initiatives and organisations in Australia in the movement to close the gender gap. Today, we’re casting a spotlight on another program, MYOB’s DevelopHER, that is empowering women to redefine their career path and pursue another – in technology.
DevelopHER is a program that aims to help promote diversity in the software industry by offering a 360-hour paid internship program to develop women into software developers. Designed by MYOB’s online delivery teams, the DevelopHER interns are trained by experienced senior developers and leaders.
As one intern told us, “We have our buddies and mentors who guide us throughout a program and help with any challenges that we face. We also work with the latest technologies which makes it very interesting and progressive.”
Launched earlier this year, DevelopHER was conceived by changemaker John Sullivan, Product Development Manager at MYOB, who is passionate about increasing diversity within software development.
“DevelopHER is for women who have a desire to move careers/jobs or restart theirs in the technology industry” said John.
“This program is developed to give people a vehicle to learn the same skills which a graduate developer would have after they leave university. The concept is that someone going through the course will bring their life skills and learn basic development skills, and together they make themselves more employable, productive and able to grow in the IT world.”
“The more people are involved in the software development industry, the better it is for its development and innovation. And diversity is one of the aspects for success.”
The tech industry, especially software development, is dominated by men despite research consistently showing the benefits diverse teams create to business and innovation. With an increasing demand for these skills, what can we do to encourage more women to pursue careers in technology?
One of the DevelopHER interns noted that there is a misconception around the tech industry and the unique, flexible working environment it can offer to women and students.
“I think the that the IT space is a great space to work in for women. It generally pays well compared to other industries, supports flexible hours, and most companies offer extra benefits like counselling, travel discounts and fun social activities like hack days.
“It is up to us as members of the community to ensure that we open our minds and our workspaces to grow an industry that will really need our support over the coming decades.”
Another intern added, “A pioneering program like this has the potential to alter the way that women see themselves in the workplace.
“It changes our viewpoints about what we are capable of, which domains we can enter and how valuable our contribution is. I love being able to tell women that it’s truly possible to re-skill and dive into tech.”
John stated that if the number of people moving into technology and development continues to decrease as the demand for these skills increases, Australia will become a consumer-based society and not a creator/inventor society. He added that diversity is critical for product development as design and UX needs to be considered for all potential users, not half the population.
“When teams have a diverse culture…they are more successful, they work better and build better products. The culture and diversity of a development team normally gets reflected in the design and user experience of the product which they build. Users and purchasers of most products are roughly evenly split between men and women. So when our teams are not gender and culturally diverse teams, the products they develop will not be fit for purpose, they will never be a great experience for the users of the products they build.”
For companies that want to be proactive about increasing employment and career opportunities for women in technology, John has two suggestions:
For the three interns in the DevelopHER program, coding represents an opportunity to re-define their own career and future.
One intern explained that with fifteen years experience working in retail, she applied to the DevelopHER program when an interest in programming was ignited after starting a web project with her sister, who is also a developer.
“In the future I definitely see myself working as a developer, past that there are so many career options I probably don’t even know what they all are! I think that is the most misunderstood area of the IT industry, the perception is that everyone sits typing code on a computer all day.
“The reality is that there are so many roles that contribute toward a successful team, and not all of them are necessarily technical.”
This excitement for the future and zest for coding was echoed by the other two interns.
“There are so many opportunities open to me now! At the moment, I’m loving being a software developer; I love the creative aspect of it, the detail involved, the collaboration, and seeing the stakeholder solutions materialise in the code!”
As for their experience within the DevelopHER program, this is what one intern had to say:
“I feel so lucky to have been part of this journey … in truth it has been very challenging. Sometimes I understand a new concept straight away, sometimes I will need to revisit something 5 times and have it explained by 5 different people in 5 different ways before I understand. Working in a developed team with skilled people can sometimes feel daunting when sentences like ‘golden key API AWS authentication Lambda DB’ get thrown around like you’re asking if someone wants a coffee. However, it’s definitely the people that help you get through the tough times, especially when they share stories of how they took 3 months or even a year to fully understand a programming concept, or before they felt confident to program on their own.
“It makes you realize that even Bill Gates started somewhere, and developments in IT and programming are so fast that everyone is always learning something new at some point.”