Four myths about working in the technology industry

Amelia Leeson
Myth number two: you need to be a man to work in tech. Photograph: Andrew Rich/Getty Images

We’re in the midst of the internet age. With the widely hailed fourth industrial revolution gaining on us, it’s no surprise that companies around the world are actively recruiting for tech-based roles. The UK is no exception, however, PwC’s Global CEO Survey recently revealed that a staggering two thirds of UK CEOs say recruiting people with digital skills is difficult.

A lot of companies are being proactive in their search for talent but many, particularly those which are keen to encourage diversity, find themselves up against strong cultural impressions of the technology industry. PwC has found that there’s a lack of information about what it’s actually like to work in technology, or even what a job in tech might involve. And worse: there’s a lot of information out there that’s outdated, or just plain false.

Here we tackle a few myths.

1. You need a techy background to work in tech

Rebecca Kent, a recent English literature graduate, says that she and many of her friends perceive working in coding as “a cool way to make money. I think it’s less intimidating for our generation because we were raised using computers.” Kent cites initiatives aimed specifically at encouraging more young people to learn to code, such as Kode With Klossie, led by supermodel Karlie Kloss, yet none of Kent’s friends from university are currently pursuing a career in technology.

She explains that she wasn’t encouraged to consider studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects at school. She’s always perceived herself as being “terrible” at maths and “never good” at the other science subjects. Instead, she was encouraged to focus on what she was good at – the humanities. It can be easy to feel that, at 21, she’s already missed the boat when it comes to working in technology.

PwC’s Verity Chinnery, senior associate in technology risk, strongly disagrees with this outlook. “I would say you don’t need a technology degree to have a technology job,” she explains. She should know. She studied science at university, but joined PwC only knowing that she wanted to work in technology that looked at systems. She has learned the technical aspects on the job, supported by intensive training, and three years later is now delivering systems to clients with minimum support.

“Anyone with an interest in it can get involved in technology. If you’re interested in cybersecurity and how people are hacking companies, or interested in how to make video games, or even how your phone works, you can embark on a career in tech and pick it up as you go.”

2. You need to be a man to work in tech

The perception of tech being male-dominated is certainly borne out by the data: the Women’s Engineering Society found that only 15% of workers in STEM roles in the UK are female.

Motivated to change such figures, Sheridan Ash set up the Women in Technology programme at PwC with a brief to encourage more women to enter the industry and rise within it. She recognises that the gender imbalance in the industry has historically been self-perpetuating.

“We want people to know we are creating an environment which benefits both men and women,” says Ash. “There is a stereotype that techy stuff is male, and that girls and women aren’t as good at maths as men. People need to start thinking differently about gender and tech, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Chinnery admits that the gender balance was a concern for her when she was choosing a career in technology. “I was worried that it would all be boys of a certain type, but that has never been my experience. In the year I joined, the split was 50/50 between men and women. At senior levels, there are more men than women, but that will change.”

3. Tech means working alone in a dark room

One of the strongest cultural images of working in tech is that of the lone wolf in the grey office cubicle, without natural light, human interactions or – well, joy. Nina Rush works in PwC’s internal IT team, looking at how the firm can use emerging technologies internally. “This industry is really fun, and so diverse,” she says. “I couldn’t deal with a dull job, it would drive me mad. That’s the picture I want to get across.”

Chinnery agrees. “People are very quick to stereotype. Of course, there are some really technical people who do work in labs and that is a standard part of their job. But the reality for my team is that we speak to each other, work together and get to know people. It really is so interesting. I work with so many bright and bubbly people in my office.”

4. Working in technology is easy

Working in technology is fun, and certainly rewarding. But one thing it is not is easy. Although you don’t necessarily need to start with an established skillset, you do have to be prepared to learn, and to carry on learning throughout your career.

“As long as you have a set of competencies, such as being able to think logically and show attention to detail, then there are lots of jobs in tech you could do,” says Chinnery. “If you can apply a methodology, you will be able to do anything.”

Chinnery believes the fact that the industry is challenging should be a motivator, not a deterrent. It’s a career that is always changing, requiring a passion for life-long learning.

“I was nervous about taking the risk when I first started because I had no experience in tech. I was worried it would take a long time, but at the same time it was exciting to be starting a career that will shape our futures and the way we live as human beings.”

To find out more about PwC’s Women in Tech initiative, head here.

To find out more about student opportunities within technology at PwC, head here.

To find out more about experienced hire opportunities within technology at PwC, head here.

Content on this page is paid for and produced to a brief agreed with PwC, sponsor of the women in technology hub