International Women’s Day 2022: A conversation with YuLife’s tech team
In celebration of International Women's Day, we sat down for an open and honest conversation with women from our product team to talk about their experiences launching careers in tech.
Yugi the Giraffe - 7 March 2022
In a world where technology is fast developing and ever-evolving, jobs in tech offer stability, balance and professional future-proofing like no other.
But despite the industry booming, and the demand for tech professionals being at a record high, women remain hugely underrepresented – with the proportion of tech roles filled by women plateauing at around 25% for more than a decade.
As an insurtech start-up, YuLife is proud to have a number of women within the product development and supporting tech team. Many of whom made a choice to retrain into tech in their mid-careers to fill current skill gaps within the industry.
For this year’s International Women’s Day, we sat down with Jenna, Emma and Riya to discuss their careers in tech. They share their journeys, advice and why they love their jobs – in the hope of dispelling the common misconceptions that can cause many women to overlook the opportunities available in the digital world.
Tell us a bit about you and what you do at YuLife.
Jenna: Here at Yulife I’m a Scrum Master and Agile Coach. In software development, traditional ways of working fall short; instead we follow frameworks that allow us to respond quickly to an ever-changing environment, ultimately delivering true value to customers. I coach the development team on the best way to do this, day by day.
Emma: I'm a quality assurance engineer at YuLife, and what that essentially means is we write tests which will validate the codebase functionality. So if there are any bugs in our tech products or any of our tech services, our tests should catch them before any final user purchase. And obviously, we need to make sure that our products are as good quality as possible.
Riya: My role is product analyst, which means I take customer feedback and turn it into opportunities to improve our product through the delivery of new features. I am responsible for gathering all the requirements and getting the team up and running so that they can deliver these features successfully.
How did your journey into tech begin?
Jenna: I started out my career as a kindergarten teacher, and did this for six years before realising that this wasn’t what I wanted to do.
I took a role as a sales coordinator in a traditional finance company, and for the first time was no longer living paycheck to paycheck –I was able to start dreaming about where I actually wanted to go with my career.
I recognised that I enjoy continuous delivery and shaping new processes and that I really wanted to be in the tech industry because it speaks to a generation of people that like experimentation and getting things done fast. So I made some strategic moves and started to purposefully pick up projects that would put me in the way of tech and get me where I needed to go to feed my passion.
Emma: I was in advertising for seven years, where I worked with some really awesome brands to create some really great campaigns, but I felt that I wanted to learn something new and take my career down a different path.
Everything's taking a shift towards tech at the moment. It's sort of infiltrating absolutely every facet of our lives, and every business has a tech arm, so I thought it was the best way to go.
I completed a six-month Bootcamp, which is a very common way for people from different backgrounds to upskill themselves and gain an entry point into tech, and then applied for my first engineering job at YuLife within the QA team.
Riya: For me, it was quite a random one. I did a summer internship at a corporate bank whilst at university and, off the back of that, got a place on their business analyst graduate programme.
Once I got into product delivery, it became a little clearer where I wanted to build my strengths, which was mainly in project management, feature delivery and understanding risks and requirements. And then from tech, I wanted to further develop into the healthcare insurance sector, and that's how I ended up at YuLife.
Did you feel supported as a young woman starting your career in tech?
Emma: There's a huge push at the moment to get more women into STEM, and I am a huge advocate for it. When I was at school, and we used to have career days and tests to see what your perfect career would be – STEM was never anything that was on anyone's radar.
We have always been capable of working in these fields that have been predominantly governed by men, and there's nothing to suggest that we can't be just as good as them, but it’s only recently that we've started to realise it.
At YuLife, having that female representation and diversity on the team is valued as it’s important for ensuring that our product is reflective of our end-users, and I've always been encouraged to get involved with as much as possible.
Jenna: I actually feel like tech is one of the least problematic and most inclusive industries out there. And I guess that's why I gravitated towards it.
In a traditional corporate environment, you'll see that the gender roles are more carved out. But with tech, every role is so highly specialised that it’s not about who's delivering it, it's what’s actually being delivered.
Did you have role models? Who are some of the women you've been able to look up to in your career?
Jenna: I was brought up by a very strong, independent and quite rebellious woman. My mum is definitely a little eccentric in her way of thinking, so I was always encouraged to question things and wasn't raised with the idea that my path was already mapped out for me.
Within the industry, one of my first strategic moves was to booking.com, which is one of the tech giants. One of the reasons that I chose this company was because they had a female CEO at the time, Gillian Tans. I'd count her as the role model that allowed me to strive a bit further, especially as she didn't come from an Ivy League school, like me. It was pretty motivating to work with her!
Riya: Here at YuLife, I am very lucky to have Maria, our Head of Product, to look up to. I really admire the way she works, the way she conducts her meetings, and her futuristic way of thinking. She's been an incredible support and inspiration.
How has YuLife supported you in your career?
Emma: YuLife knew exactly what level I was at when they first met me – I was super green. But they were keen for me to just get my foot in the door and see where I went. They have been very proactive in fostering my career and supporting me in whatever direction I choose to take without being pigeonholed.
Riya: YuLife has always given me a platform to be included in conversations with senior leaders both within and outside of the product team – and I’ve never once been made to feel like I shouldn't be in that space.
Although everybody is involved in slightly different things, the way we are treated is completely equal, regardless of roles and responsibilities, and regardless of who we are. This equality has enabled me to develop a lot professionally.
The theme for IWD this year is #BreakTheBias. In your opinion, what still needs to be done in order to achieve a more inclusive playing field for women in tech?
Emma: I think to ensure greater inclusivity, and that we have more women in senior positions in the future, there needs to be a disproportionate effort to find women and people of minority backgrounds in the recruitment pool – because we do exist. There may not be a lot of us yet, but we’re definitely here, and we’re just as well equipped to do the job as anyone else.
Riya: Being a woman in tech is talked about like it's a new convention because people are still not used to seeing women in this area, and that shouldn't be the case. I’d like to see the topics of conversation around the tech space equalised so it's less about just women and more about every individual.
Jenna: As a woman in tech there's actually a lot you can get involved in, events, platforms and meetups, for example, where you can gather with like-minded people. I don't necessarily think we need to create new spaces for that.
I think the main issue is why women don’t engage with these groups and spaces, and I guess that comes down to a lack of time. We’re all busier than we’ve ever been, but especially women with families. If I had kids, how would I find time to go to events after hours? The answer would be that I would probably sacrifice that for my family.
If an employer can help employees find the time to pursue these passions, whether that be during the working day or by offering hours that are truly flexible, you’re going to create a playing field that is much more inclusive, and also have a better, happier, workforce in general.
And finally, what’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to women thinking of starting a career in tech?
Jenna: Within tech, you have the ability, probably more than in any other industry, to carve out your own path. So say yes to the things you probably wouldn't say yes to, and put yourself in the way of opportunities!
Riya: Be brave. It can be scary at times, but you’ve got to be aware of your strengths and use those strengths to put yourself forward.
Emma: Definitely do it! It's not going to be easy (unless you're an absolute genius and you've been coding for years already), but personally, I haven't looked back. Working in tech has made me feel so much more powerful in terms of where the next 10 years of my life can go and it’s given me so much autonomy and control. I would say be prepared to work hard, but the reward is definitely worth it.
We are always on the lookout for great tech talent to help us build innovative insurance products that empower people to live their best lives. Find open roles at YuLife here.
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Yugi is our YuLife mascot. Like all giraffes they've got a big heart – in fact the biggest heart of all land animals.