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Getting back into IT as a mum

According to PwC, almost two million women in the UK are inactive due to caring commitments, and 76% of women on career breaks want to return to work. Read about the experience of Babitha, a Lead Consultant at ThoughtWorks who got back into the tech industry through the Back to IT training program.

What happened once you decided to return to work?

Before taking time off to become a mum, I was working as a Junior Developer in India. Since then, my family and I had relocated to the UK, so there was no possibility of returning to my old role. I started looking at job vacancies in London, but the tech industry moves quickly, and I was worried that my skills would now be outdated. Then my husband spotted an advertisement for a women’s Back to IT training program in a newspaper, so I applied and was accepted.

How did the Back to IT program help you?

In addition to getting me back up to speed with new programming languages and styles, the course also helped get my confidence back up. It was inspiring to listen to senior women in the tech industry, and also just to talk to other women on the course who were in the same position as me.

When we completed the course, we were invited to submit a coding exercise to apply to join ThoughtWorks and, at the end of the interview process, I was delighted to receive an offer.

How has your career at ThoughtWorks been since?

ThoughtWorks has always been very supportive in my ten years here, especially at the start of my career by staffing me on projects where I could grow and regain my confidence by working with senior ThoughtWorkers. This gave me the opportunity to learn from them and also benefit from having a good support network while focusing on adapting to agile ways of working. The staffing team is also considerate of the fact that I am a working mum and makes sure not to place me onto projects too far from home.

I joined ThoughtWorks as a developer, and after a few years, I switched to being a Quality Analyst after finding that my passion and strengths lie in seeing the big picture, thinking about the end to end lifecycle and analysing in depth the different scenarios and possibilities in requirements.

As a QA, I am involved in all stages of the software development lifecycle, ie, from product ideation all the way to pushing it live into production. This involves pairing with the Product owner/BA on requirements, with the Experience Designers on design and wireframes and also working closely with the developers to make sure that the solution is well tested and all the scenarios are covered by different layers of automated tests. Coaching and enabling client team members is also an important part of the role. In short, there is never a dull moment and every day presents ample learning opportunities on both technical and soft skills front.

ThoughtWorks is passionate about diversity and inclusion, so there are many events like Dev Girl Dinners where women ThoughtWorkers meet up to share their experiences and inspire each other. We also host external events such as such as Ladies Who Code, and weekly Code First: Girls courses where coaches from our business teach young women how to code, so there are lots of opportunities to get involved or give back and support people coming into tech.

Do you think it’s getting any easier for mums to get back into IT?

There’s no denying that there is a drop-off rate due to family commitments, but the situation is getting better, with companies committed to allowing flexible working. In the past, there was a social stigma attached to women and girls choosing the STEM field, which led to very few women entering the industry.

Thanks to attention being paid to closing the gender gap, I see a higher number of women graduates joining the industry these days, and that increased diversity will hopefully lead to a higher number of women coming back after taking time off. However,  it is equally important to make sure we can retain them. As a working mum, I find it hard balancing a full-time job that is demanding and being able to spend quality time with my kids. This is where I appreciate all the conscious efforts to make it easier for women to come back after having a break in their career.

What advice would you give to get more mums back into tech?

Enjoying what you do and having a passion for the job is key to job satisfaction, and this can have a huge impact on work-life balance. So map out your skills and try to figure out what role best suits you. Attending networking events and talking to people who have to tread a similar path can be very insightful.

It is crucial to have women role models in the industry to whom women can look up and who can serve as coaches and mentors to inspire, guide and instil confidence in them.