</How can we improve the lack of diversity in the tech and digital sector?>
By Tomi Adebayo aka @GadgetsBoy (IG/Twitter), former Head of Tech at UNILAD and digital content creator.
The world of technology and digital is very fast-paced and as a result, there’s always something new on the horizon. In recent years, we have seen it diversify from something we would only see in sci-fi movies, to tangible devices that are now much more mainstream.
Today, everyone has a smartphone in their pockets or a digital device on their wrist, but the workforce behind the creation of these technologies is not so diverse. This lack of representation results in a domino effect, where young people are put off pursuing a career in the tech and digital sector. In fact, recent research conducted by the Institute of Coding showed that 70% of young people believe the sector is run entirely by those that are of white, British ethnicity. Due to this and other factors, they are understandably reluctant to enter the industry.
My journey so far in the digital sector has been an interesting one, especially in terms of diversity. Starting off at university, where I studied software engineering, I was the only person of colour in my classes. My placement year was the same, and if you don’t count the players at the football club where I worked my first job, I was also the only person of colour within the team. When I eventually moved into advertising, I was one of only three people of colour in the whole creative department. I remember being asked by my creative director at the time why there weren’t more black people working within in the wider advertising world. The reality is that while a lot of support networks and initiatives are in place, we also need to share as much of our experience and knowledge as we can to help other young people who want to enter the digital workforce as well.
From my experience of breaking into the industry and speeding past the barriers, here’s what I’d advise other young people who are interested in a digital career, but unsure where to start.
1. Know what opportunities exist, and find a supportive employer who’ll help your career growth
It’s important to know what career opportunities are out there, regardless of what you are studying. Ask your careers advice department how to pursue those paths. If you do pursue a career in the digital sector, it’s good to choose somewhere with a flexible environment. That way, you’ll have the chance to move around the business to explore what other opportunities and departments are available, and expand your career horizons even further by acquiring new skills.
2. As well as all the other support networks out there…
I was lucky to have my parents as my core support network. They saw I was hands-on and creative-minded and supported me down a career path that worked for me and my passions. If you don’t have a similar structure, rest assured there are other alternatives out there for you.
If you’re already at college or university, try reaching out to alumni who have gone into careers you’re considering. You’ll find most people are really open and want to impart their advice to help the industry become more diverse, so drop them a message on LinkedIn or social media. Employers are also often open to shadowing opportunities, which help you get a feel for what careers are out there in the digital sector.
You can also utilize the digital communities available to you. There are also forums and blogs popping up every day that can be found with a search online. On them, you can access free advice, ask honest questions that you might not feel comfortable asking face-to-face and also learn a bit more from others out there who’re in a similar position to you.
3. You can be the change!
We’ve made progress since I started out my journey into tech, but there is still work to do on changing overall perceptions across digital – and that starts with you. As much as you can, reach out to family, friends, schools, support groups and employers and open the conversation around what’s possible and what career paths are available. Moreover, the more research you can do to educate yourself, the better.
Moving forward, I hope to use my platform to share my digital journey and act as an example to young people to show what you can achieve. I have progressed from designing and coding databases, to working as a creative copywriter, to a tech editor for one of the largest online content platforms to now working for myself, all because of following my career path into tech and digital. Whether you want to do the physical coding and designing of technology, write and share your insights, or even have the courage to come up with digital ideas that changes lives, anything is possible with tech.
So, why not CTRL Your Future today and see where digital will take you?
Tomi Adebayo has partnered with the Institute of Coding on their CTRL Your Future campaign, raising awareness of the demand for a diverse workforce across the digital sector.
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