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OVO Tech Blog

OVO Women in Tech Showcase: IWD 2024

Join us as we delve into the careers of 8 women in tech at OVO - exploring the transformative power of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation forward.

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, innovation knows no gender. Yet - despite the strides made towards gender equality, the tech industry continues to grapple with a significant gender gap.
Women remain underrepresented in various tech fields, facing barriers ranging from cultural biases to systemic challenges. However, amidst these obstacles lies a profound opportunity—to raise awareness of these barriers and champion the women working to make a difference in tech.

By shedding light on their contributions, addressing the biases they encounter, and fostering inclusive environments, we not only enrich the tech industry but also pave the way for a more equitable future.
Join us as we delve into the careers of 8 women in tech at OVO (9 including myself!) - exploring the transformative power of diversity and inclusion in driving innovation forward.

I will begin by introducing myself - I am Samantha Betts, a Developer Experience Engineer at OVO - specialising in engagement and developer relations, with a particular interest in advocating for diversity, inclusion and environmental issues within tech. I love to write blogs and speak at events, and I hope to inspire others with the work I do.

Here I am, delivering a talk at the AWS Energy Symposium in 2023 to a bunch of blokes

I had a not so traditional journey into tech myself, and without the amazing mentors and role models I had/have - I simply would not have gotten this far.

My passion for championing women in tech stems from the 10 year career I had as a hairdresser - where being a woman I certainly was not in the minority! Transitioning to tech really brought out the feminist in me, I noticed a problem in this industry which ignited my mission to disrupt and push change from within.
If you would like to read more about me and my personal journey into tech, you can head over to this blog. ☺️

I have always believed that to pave the way for the next generation of women in tech - it is important that we begin by championing ourselves, celebrating our own achievements and sharing our own stories. But maybe even more importantly than that, we need to lift each other up. So for this blog, I want to showcase some of the amazing women I work with every day at OVO.

Introducing 8 of our women in tech at OVO for this showcase - to celebrate International Women's Day 2024!
All from different areas of the tech landscape at OVO, with different backgrounds, journeys into tech and insights into how diversity really does enrich this industry.

Share a little bit about your journey into the tech industry:

Jennifer Chan - My journey into the tech industry began shortly after I finished uni with degrees in computer science and finance. I started an internship at a bank and after that was completed I secured a role in service management supporting FX systems. After 3.5 years I decided to take part in University of Birmingham’s full stack coding bootcamp pilot and enjoyed learning about the tech and building full stack applications. Mid-way through the 6 month long bootcamp I decided I wanted to move to web development and quit my job to focus entirely on completing the bootcamp and changing careers.

Phoebe Campbell-Black - After graduating uni with a math degree I landed a job at OVO working in the call centre. Not long after that I applied for a job in the second line, which is the more technical part of customer care. I soon realised I wanted to put my problem solving/technical skills more to use at OVO and so moving into tech seemed like the most obvious choice. Since joining the team I have been given so much opportunity to develop my skills.

Joan Kalanzi - During the pandemic, I switched from nursing to coding due to burnout. I self-taught HTML, CSS, and JavaScript on platforms like Codecademy before joining a three-month software engineering bootcamp.

Sara Gotham - I started with a design degree from Winchester School of art. After I got my degree I starting working in a restaurant, and worked my way up to being a manager. One day I was getting so frustrated with the point of sales system that I went to IT fuming - giving them ideas on how to fix the issues to make our lives in F&B easier. They were struggling with workload there were only 3 of them in the team and they were looking for another to join. The IT manager asked me to apply - said I had the right attitude and that I could fix the issues with the POS myself! Honest to god I thought I wouldn't get the job but he offered it to me! The people in the team then trained me up to be able to handle pretty much anything thrown at me.

Katie Russell - I have a Math Physics PhD but the real entry into tech was the coding I learnt so I could contribute ideas to an open source software gaming project. Initially markup language, then my first line of SQL was to ban a troublesome player. Next came Java, design patterns, CI/CD and release management. My first tech job was in data development for a startup in the utilities industry. I was sysadmin, drupal coder, more Java and SQL but mostly writing algorithms to understand consumption and properties. The main resource that helped me was being in small enough spaces that if I had an idea I could go ahead and learn the tech to implement it.

Zoe Mackay - I’m the classic “wanted to work with computers from a young age” - I did a Computer Science degree, then got a graduate job as a COBOL programmer (actually, I got a job as a C++ programmer, and then got told I was going to be a COBOL programmer on the day I started). I spent 25 years working in Fintech before coming to OVO. Whilst my journey into tech is quite traditional, I took a rather different path to being a woman in tech.

Zoe delivering a talk at Westminster Insight LGBTQ+ in the Workplace Conference 🏳️‍⚧️

What inspired you to pursue a career in technology, particularly within the energy sector?

Lisa Price - As I began learning more about how products are built and the variety of skills needed to excel in this space, I started to realise that my ability for creative problem solving, and when needed taking the lead of teams of people to swarm and create something special, was something that I enjoyed and felt passionate about. As I’ve progressed in my career and personal life (getting married, becoming a mum, losing people etc) it's made me passionate about not just the making of something but the diverse experiences and skills you build in yourself and those around you that are actually what make a product great. In the energy sector, specifically zero carbon living, I feel closer to a real life problem that affects everyone and I’m part of actively solving - and to solve it I get to utilise all of my skills and experience and see those of others grow as well which is where the reward is for me.

Joan Kalanzi -My inspiration to embark on a career in technology, particularly within the energy sector, stems from various sources. Although I didn't initially target the energy industry, I found myself drawn to OVO's mission of promoting green energy. Additionally, the company's inclusive and supportive culture resonated with me deeply, making it an ideal starting point for my professional journey.

Jennifer Chan - Before joining OVO I worked for a technical agency where I had the opportunity to work on various projects for clients from different industries. One of the projects I was put on was for a smaller green energy supplier and the tasks I had worked on for that client acted as an introduction to the energy sector for me and gave me insight on how energy suppliers are transitioning their energy sources to those which are renewable and more sustainable. I thought it was interesting and thought it would be fulfilling to work for a company with this as their main objective.

How do you believe your perspective as a woman in tech has influenced the projects you've been a part of?

Katie Russell - I emerged as a leader in tech I think partly because I understood people. Perhaps that’s a stereotype, or reductionist to infer that women in general have more emotional intelligence - But there was certainly a scarcity of female leaders in Data Science.

Shraddha Nayak -  As a woman I feel I bring more emotional intelligence and empathy in my role. Particularly In the projects I work on which are mostly front end customer experiences. I often find myself imagining how I would find the user experience when I use it while juggling my crying toddler, keeping an eye on the oven, ignoring the blazing football on the TV etc... and I think of design, accessibility and implementation perspectives. We all bring to life the different personas our customers represent and that diversity of thought makes our products more accessible and user friendly for our customers.

Shraddha speaking at an internal OVO Together meeting 💚

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges women face in the tech industry today?

Zoe Mackay - I think there’s still a consistent, subtle, pressure applied to women in tech to steer them out of technical roles and into “softer” roles - product, management, etc. This manifests in lots of ways, often intended rather benevolently, but having a consistent effect.  This has many negative consequences, not least that women’s voices within teams are more easily sidelined and ignored.

Lisa Price - Comparison. There’s a reason for the phrase “comparison is the thief of joy” - in tech there are differences in how these challenges impact women compared to male counterparts. Subtle forms of gender bias, lack of representation in leadership roles which can often be caused due to pauses in careers for maternity leave as an example, unequal pay, balancing family responsibilities have been demonstrated as different between men and women. We then compare ourselves to our male counterparts because we are so tuned to not wanting to be treated differently/unfairly/penalised for the additional demands we have placed on us and that we place on ourselves.

Lisa Price delivering a presentation at the OVO Zero Carbon Living Conference

Can you share a memorable achievement or moment in your career that you're particularly proud of?

Zoe Mackay - I’m still really proud of the Winter Calculator. Our PAYG customers are some of our most vulnerable, and often lacking the ability to predict and budget for their energy usage. For at least one winter, for some customers, we were able to provide some prediction of the possible cost of their energy. It would be great to provide this kind of function in the future, to our now widened PAYG base.

Joan Kalanzi -One of my most cherished accomplishments in my career, whether at OVO or elsewhere, is taking that initial leap of faith to embark on my journey in the tech industry. The decision to start was undeniably daunting, but it marked the beginning of a fulfilling and rewarding chapter in my life.

Katie Russell - It was pretty validating that my maternity cover confirmed I truly did have a crazy challenging remit. I’d always been anxious about going on maternity leave in case my cover proved I was terrible at my job. She rocked it, and in a different way to me which was a learning experience but not a career ending one. It’s no one specific moment but I’m genuinely most proud of my team - there is a beautiful spirit and supportive culture with some truly amazing minds.

Katie Russell rocking a panel discussion at Google Cloud Gen AI Live

Diversity and inclusion are important in any workplace. What initiatives or practices do you think OVO  currently does or could do better to champion women in tech?

Shraddha Nayak - OVO's flexible working policies have been a boon for many like me with young children. These are not just benefiting women working at OVO but also indirectly supporting other women whose partners work at OVO and make use of flexible working. Several men who report to me have requested flexible working or reduced hours to help support their partners in returning to the workforce from maternity leave or simply to allow them to excel in their careers by providing more support with childcare. OVO's holistic approach to work-life balance is something that has supported many of us to live better fulfilling lives.

Phoebe Campbell-Black - When I first joined OVO there was quite a significant lack of mentoring, I know there has been a recent drive - such as creating a space in Switchboard (OVO's internal developer portal). However I do feel like there is more potential to link women coming into tech with more senior women in tech to help create a bond and a stronger sense of belonging.

What advice would you give to other women aspiring to pursue a career in technology or join the energy sector specifically?

Sara Gotham - Don't be put off that currently the tech industry is very male dominated. If you find something that you enjoy - go for it! Some of the most supportive people around women working in tech have been male.

Lisa Price -The variety of roles available within technology is vast, technology doesn’t just mean software engineering or manager. To form a product you first need a problem or opportunity you want to create, from that idea you need a vision, from that vision you need analysis, design, data and then when you know it’s something you want to build - you need to build, test, maintain and enhance it and to do all that you need to nurture and coach people, bringing together skills and experience. The range of skills required, means technology can suit anyone!  

Shraddha Nayak - 1. Embrace a Growth Mindset - Tech is constantly evolving and developing a growth mindset where you are always learning and staying curious is important. 2. Embrace Your Distinct Voice in Tech - don't be shy of your unique or wacky ideas, embrace them and confidently share them. 3. Seek Guidance - don't be afraid to ask for help or be vulnerable. I have found mentors, coaches, and sponsors extremely invaluable and a game changer in my career.

This year at OVO we chose to mark international women's day and gender equality month with an OVO campaign called #GendersUnited. This is because gender equality isn't something only women should fight for or champion. It is for all of us, across all genders, to do everything we can, big or small, to make our workplace and our society more equal and equitable for all genders. Without true equality and inclusion we will never be able to achieve our mission, because it take all of us to change the world.

If you want to learn more about belonging at OVO, head to our careers page.

A big thank you to my wonderful colleagues for taking part in this blog! 💕

You can learn more about International Women's day through United Nations.

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