10 tips for how to succeed as a woman in tech

Abadesi Osunsade

“Facebook’s motto used to be ‘move fast and break things'”, says Abadesi Osunsade – former Amazon employee, and the author of Dream Big Hustle Hard: A Millennial Woman’s Guide to Success in Tech. “This captures the sentiments of most tech startups.” Osunsade shares 10 excellent tips…

Tech is a competitive career sector but it’s bursting with opportunities for all types of people with a wide range of skills, not only coders. Tech City UK reported that the UK tech industry will add over 2 million jobs to the economy in 2016 to 2020 alone.

So, what are the best tactics you can use to land a job and excel in it?

I’ve put together my ten top tips inspired by my experiences working at tech giants like Amazon and Groupon in sales and marketing roles…

Tip 1: Define your personal standard of success

This tip is true of any industry but particularly important in tech where the scene is changing at a fast pace and job roles adapt accordingly. Ensure you have spent some time understanding what a successful career looks like to you. What will you measure success by? Will it be your status or seniority in the organisation? Your compensation? Or maybe something even more personal, like the flexibility your job gives you, or the individuals you get to work with? Whatever it is, spend time interviewing yourself to get to the core of what success means to you.

Tip 2: Overcome your fear of failure

Facebook’s motto used to be “move fast and break things”, this captures the sentiments of most tech startups. Operating in a new frontier, tech workers are often encouraged to get things wrong to find out the best way to get things right. It’s important to learn to embrace failure and see it not as a setback but as a learning opportunity. Failure is not just essential ingredient in innovation but also in personal growth. Ensure you’re prepared to deal with setbacks and turn them into something positive.

Tip 3: Abandon perfectionism

As women we often feel a pressure to be perfect, pressurised by society’s expectations of us to be a certain way like beautiful, happy or caring. It’s important to stay focused on your authentic self, warts and all, and embrace your imperfections. It’s often our imperfections which make us unique in a positive way. The day I realised that, like me, no one is perfect and that means I also deserve to be in the room, was the day work life got a lot easier. Tech is a male dominated world and I’ve realised perfectionism is the enemy of confidence in women. It’s fine to just be you, as you are, and that acceptance gives you confidence and strength.

Tip 4: Map out your transferable skills

I often meet women who are bored in their traditional corporate jobs and interested in joining the tech scene. What’s holding them back is the false notion that they aren’t ‘techie’ enough for tech. Tech companies, like any other industry, require a range of workers. Tech companies have HR, legal and operations teams like all other companies. Take some time to list out all your skills — from communication to strategic — so that as you browse for roles you can focus less on the job titles, which are often unclear and inconsistent, and more on the actual skills required to excel in the role.

Tip 5: Read news about the industry and build a dream list of companies

Tech can be a minefield — one minute you’re hearing about the latest Snapchat filter and the next it’s all about the bitcoin bubble. Visit websites like Techcrunch, Wired, The Next Web or The Verge to get up to speed on the latest tech news. With so many different fields in tech you can explore, it’s important to have an idea of the ideal companies you would work for. Use your research to create a dream list of at least 30 companies whose missions or values closely align with your interests.

Tip 6: Leverage your network

Tech companies have a bias towards hiring referrals, so do everything you can to get a referral for your job application instead of just submitting one cold. There are hundreds of professional networks you can join through Facebook or Meetup.com to help you make connections with people in the industry. My company, Hustle Crew, has a huge network of mentors who are happy to help review CVs and make referrals within their companies if you’re suitable. Don’t be shy about asking strangers for help, the tech world was built on a foundation of favours. People are always open to helping you on the assumption you will return the favour somewhere down the line.

Tip 7: Use social media in your job hunt

I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of people I know working in tech right now who got their job via Twitter. I kid you not. Founders and hiring managers will often turn to social media first when posting a job — it’s quick and easy and with a request to retweet you will find your simple request gaining hundreds of thousands of views. So ensure you have an active Twitter profile and you’re using it to follow the companies you researched and want to work for. Follow the company accounts, and significant leaders within the team e.g. CEO, COO, Head of HR etc.

Tip 8: Research the company you want to work for

You would be surprised how many interviews I’ve done where the candidate couldn’t tell me the names of the founder, the year the startup launched or what our latest product was. Startups are so high risk by design, they only want to hire people who are truly engaged in the mission and determined to succeed. Ensure that for your job application and interview you are taking the time to absorb all the information you can about the prospective company; watch YouTube clips of their founders, read their company blog, follow the latest headlines. Show how much you care so you can wow them when you meet them.

Tip 9: Show off your accomplishments

The tech world is very influenced by Silicon Valley in the US. There, founders boast about their great ideas and achievements to compete for customers and investors. That way of communicating carries through into the whole industry so there’s an assumption that if you are not showing off its because you have nothing to show off about. Ensure that you hold nothing back in your communications to current or future employers. Keep a list of the great things you’ve done, quantifying them as much as possible. Know your worth and never settle.

Tip 10: Structure your interview responses in the STAR method

Most startups and tech companies are quite informal, employees will wear jeans, sit on bean bags and play table football during coffee breaks. But the casual environment doesn’t mean that you can be casual in your interview. It’s really important to structure your interview responses so that you can get all the key points across. Be sure to use the STAR method when answering competency questions e.g. “Give an example of a time you worked to a strict deadline”. In this case you want to start with S, the situation. Set the scene for this example; when and where was it? Then move onto T, the task. Here you clarify the problem or issue you personally had to solve. Then move onto A, the action. Here you explain the actions you took to find a solution. Finally, tackle R, the result. Here you explain the outcome, was the solution successful? And to what extent?

Are you a woman working in tech? Do you have any other tips to share?

Abadesi Osunsade is the founder of Hustle Crew, a career advancement community for the underrepresented in tech, and the author of new careers advice book, Dream Big Hustle Hard: A Millennial Woman’s Guide to Success in Tech, available on Amazon now. She has worked at tech giants like Amazon, Groupon and is currently a part of the community team at Product Hunt / AngelList. For more free careers advice visit hustlecrew.co or follow @hustlecrewlive