in the Summer of 2017 Tech Returners was just an idea, scribbled down on the back of one of my 4-year old son Ethan's drawings.But then it began to take shape and developed over the coming days, weeks and months, with endless lists of ideas about how to bring it to life, and make a difference to those who want to re-join the exciting world of tech.
In November 2017, I launched the very first become a Tech Returner course for seven amazing returners who were all keen to upskill to launch their own business, to learn, develop and progress into a career in tech and grow their confidence.
My passion for supporting women in tech started during my maternity leave with my son. I spent time wondering if I was the only one who felt alone during my leave and lacking the confidence to go back to work, and feeling guilty about balancing work-life and parenthood. I started connecting with others in the same boat. Sharing my journey on the challenges and successes with others in the tech community up and down the country via meetups and talks at conferences.
The support, recognition and growing numbers of women with the same experiences was overwhelming. I decided to do something, and set up WIT North (Women in Technology) with a fantastic team and through that initiative I met many amazing women, rich with talent and passionate about the technology sector but facing common issues including lack of support, recognition and understanding regarding returning from a career break whether that was maternity leave, raising children or caring for others but the biggest thing that stood out for me following all of these conversations was a diminished confidence following a career break, the desire to continue personal and career development and the absence of information and networks and the elephant in the room for employers making opportunities available and flexible.
And so, Tech Returners was born With the vision that I wanted to change things for people who’d taken time out from working and to offer the right support and opportunities for development and not just for individuals but also to educate employers about the talent they are missing out on.
It’s nearly 18 months since the first Tech Returners cohort and what an 18 months it has been, having had all 7 women returners successfully complete the first cohort, we went again in April 2018 with a mixed cohort of 8 returners who went on to access careers with businesses such as AO, AutoTrader and Think Money.
We’ve also been finalists in the Northern Power Awards for Innovation in 2018, I was recognised as one of the Top 30 Women in Tech in Greater Manchester and with momentum growing and the knowledge that our model works we set ambitious plans to scale and support more returners starting out or returning to careers in technology.
In May 2018 conversations started with the BBC, they wanted to make a difference within their organisation on gender diversity and could see the real benefit of having a more diverse team.
In October 2018 they opened up application for their #stepintotech programme which supported 16 women into a career in tech offering technical and personal development support and training delivered by ourselves. They were inundated with applications (busting the myth that we don’t have women who want to work in tech). 47 women attended an assessment centre and we had to pick just 16 which was the hardest decision we faced as there was so much talent. November 2018 saw the programme kick off and over the next 15 weeks, we saw 16 women develop and grow and become fully prepared for their career in technology which is a transformation I struggle to put into word and so overwhelming.
7th March the programme finished with a bang, the cohort presented back their final projects and the CTO / Director of Platform / Head of Engineering and many more of the BBC team couldn’t be more complimentary on how far they had come on their own unique journeys into tech.
During this time we have also been finalists in the Women in IT awards for e-skills initiative of the year.
Since 2017 we’ve enabled 23 people into careers in technology, 22 of them were women and we’re not stopping there. We now have 16 talented returners (75% women) embarking on their journeys into technology with us and who are being supported in their journeys by businesses including Lloyds Bank and Manchester Airport Group. Following the success of the BBC programme we’re in talks about how to repeat that success and we’re having lot of exciting conversations with businesses who really understand the impact and benefits of our accessible programmes (free and flexible) and in Summer 2019 we will be releasing first of its kind research in partnership with University of Manchester Business School on women returners into technology, and this is just the start.
__We hear about the talent skills gap, lack of talent pipeline and the lack of gender diversity in __tech all of the time and we’re here to make a real difference so watch this space.
If you'd like to learn more about our returner programme get in touch h[firstname.lastname@example.org](mailto: email@example.com)