In this great article “You don’t need to know how to code to be successful in tech” our Co-founder and CEO Sukhi Jutla talks about her journey as a woman in tech and how she re-trained herself to enter the challenging world of technology.
The UK’s tech sector has long suffered from a lack of diversity: only 15 per cent of the workforce are from BAME backgrounds and gender diversity stands at a mere 19 per cent, compared to 49 per cent for all other industries.
Role models and mentors are particularly valuable to the women and people from minority backgrounds who do manage to find a place in technology; an idea that Sukhi Jutla, co-founder and COO of gold, diamond and bullion buying platform MarketOrders, considers extremely important.
Having spent 10 years in banking before moving to jewellery, Jutla – who will moderate a panel discussion at Computing and CRN‘s upcoming Women in Tech Festival – has extensive experience with legacy industries. Like tech, banking as a sector has taken a long time to fully open up to women.
“When I went into my first graduate banking job…there were 20 recruits and there were only two women. So I was one of two women who joined that first graduate batch. Then when I was in banking…if there was a team of eight or 10 people, usually I was the only woman. So I got used to this environment really quickly, and it kind of didn’t faze me; I just expected it. If I did ever join a bank with more than two or three women in my team, I used to think, ‘Oh, my God, there are so many women here’.”
At the time, there were even fewer women in leading corporate positions than there are today. Jutla says that she found the few female CEOs who made it into the FTSE 100 or FTSE 500 “hugely inspirational.” However, she adds, “[T]here isn’t any one in particular [who inspired me], because I also feel that there are a whole bunch of male role models that I also have that I find inspiring. And for me, I don’t know, it doesn’t really bother me much. It isn’t men or women. I tend to look at what they do and the challenges that they’ve overcome, and I think those principles relate more to any human being regardless of gender.”
When people used to call me a technology entrepreneur I used to think they were wrong, because I don’t code, I don’t know any programming.
Today Jutla acts as a mentor herself, taking part in accelerator programmes across London and talking to other female entrepreneurs. She says that one of the questions she often hears is, ‘How can I do what you’ve done? I don’t know anything about technology.’
Jutla, however, doesn’t consider herself a technology entrepreneur – in fact, she is largely self-taught. “I think perhaps the reason why so many women don’t join the tech world…is because there’s a perception that to work in tech, you have to be a coder, or you have to be a programmer,” she says. “And that is something I always thought. So when people used to call me a technology entrepreneur I used to think they were wrong, because I don’t code, I don’t know any programming. But what I realised was that the technology industry has so many different types of roles, and it’s so creative, and that there’s so many different ways of entering this industry.
“So for example, I didn’t know anything about blockchain, so I went and I did an IBM course and I became a certified foundation-level developer. I had to do that on my own time, at my own costs and my own expenses, and I kind of just stumbled across across the course when I was Googling stuff.”
Even if women don’t want to pursue that route, there are other ways into tech besides coding; business analysts, project managers and UX designers are examples of highly valued non-technical roles.
Promoting this idea is the main reason Jutla wanted to be involved with the Women in Tech Festival: “It will encourage women to come to this centre, this epicentre, in a safe environment, and basically learn what they need to learn. By me being there and talking about my experience, I hope I can be a role model – or even if not a role model, I could just inspire someone who thinks, ‘Oh, look, Sukhi came from a completely non-technical background. She’s not a techie herself, but she runs a technology company, so maybe I can do the same as well.'”
Any attempt at changing careers or founding a business inherently carries risk, and Jutla says that while women tend to be very creative and good at problem-solving, they are often more risk-averse than men: another barrier to bringing them into technology.
Jutla confronted her fears when she left banking, when her family insisted she would need to take a huge pay cut. “What they didn’t realise was, we can reinvent ourselves, because times have changed,” she says. “It’s okay to change, and more importantly it’s okay to fail. MarketOrders is my fifth business, which means there were four failures before this.”
When asked about the main message she wants attendees who hear her speak at the Women in Tech Festival to take away, Jutla says: “You can reinvent yourself. Have the courage and confidence to do it – even if it means you stumble a bit, it’s so worth it rather than doing something that you don’t enjoy. The journey is just as important as the end outcome.”