Embracing difference - diversity is the future of the tech industry
The tech sector is expanding almost three times faster than the rest of the UK economy and it is nearly worth over $1 Trillion. However, diversity remains a key challenge for this sector as only 15 per cent of the tech workforce are from BAME backgrounds and gender diversity is currently sitting at 19 per cent compared to 49 per cent for all other jobs.
Attracting and retaining talent amid a digital skills shortage is also a key challenge for many organisations especially those working in sectors such as government and defence, which are leaning heavily on digital technology to transform in the current environment. Our research has shown that over a third (35%) of these organisations say it’s harder for them to attract the right talent and 29 per cent also worry about a lack of diversity when recruiting STEM talent.
That’s because for these organisations it’s particularly important to innovate effectively and at pace – so that they can continue to protect our society.
BAE Systems Digital Intelligence is a defence and security company with a long history of helping our customers harness innovation through the successful delivery of some of the world’s most complex integrated systems. We have been helping to defend the largest nations and businesses in the world for over forty years against advanced threats.
To successfully continue the work we do, we are focussed on building a diverse and inclusive work force of the best talent from across the globe and currently employ over 4,000 experts who deliver a full spectrum of digital, data, cyber and intelligence capabilities.
Today we talk with two of our talented employees to discover more about their very different career journeys into tech. We also learn of the inspiration behind their career changes and the route they both took to secure roles within our business.
Sheb Saunders - NSAC Software Engineer, Solution Architect, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence and Simon Whiting - Operational Cyber Software Engineer, BAE Systems Digital Intelligence
What was your background prior to joining BAE Systems Digital Intelligence, and what inspired you to pursue a career in tech?
Sheb - “I worked at a supermarket as a cashier, while studying for a master’s degree in urban planning and development. What initially got me into tech was a module that looked at geographical information systems. This uses pieces of software and data to create maps that can visualise, for example, Covid or population hot spots. One of the ways to use the software is through the Python programming language. I started to teach myself Python and it planted a seed in my head.”
Simon – “For me, it was the realisation that something was missing in the job I was doing at the time. I've been interested in technology from an early age, tinkering with electronics and building small computer systems since the age of nine. Over the years I've worked my way up through roles as a Unix system administrator, a pre-sales consultant, a storage architect and finally a transformation consultant. Each role took me further away from the hot end of a soldering iron. I wanted to stop talking about cool technical stuff and actually start doing cool technical stuff. ”
What steps did you take to apply for your role at BAE Systems Digital Intelligence?
Sheb – “I looked up coding bootcamps with a view to start one after my degree. I came across the School of Code, a free 16-week bootcamp aimed to tackle the lack of diversity in tech. I got through the application process, which involved a task to create a game from scratch, then attended an interview and was selected. My dilemma was that I couldn’t postpone my degree so I took a leap of faith and decided to drop out. On completion of the bootcamp, I saw BAE Systems Digital Intelligence post a job on the School of Code. I applied and went through the application process, again this involved the task of building an app. I was then selected for an interview and successfully secured the job!”
Simon – “I saw an advert from BAE Systems Digital Intelligence for the National Security Cyber Accelerator (NSCA). As I read it, I thought "that's me!" I had only the vaguest notions of what "National Security" meant, so I did a bit of research and decided that, yes, this looked like a great opportunity and would allow me to do “cool technical stuff ". So I applied for the NSCA.
Every step of the application process made me feel I had made the right decision. From the initial telephone interview to the programming challenges which I found fun, it made me realise that all the ‘’useless’’ bits of information about programming I'd squirrelled away for years weren't actually useless.
I landed a place on the NSCA cohort that started in January 2020 and here I am, two years after graduating from the NSCA, in a role that I really enjoy (and yes, I've even used a soldering iron at work again!). Even though I'm quite a bit older than a lot of my colleagues, I'm very much part of the team and it's a great environment to work in.”
What would your advice be to someone thinking of starting or switching to a career in tech?
Sheb - “My advice would be to just give it a go. There’s tons of free resources online that can help people learn to code. For instance, if they’re like me and are working and studying at the same time, just dedicate an hour or so messing around with code. Start a free code camp and see how you like the feel of it. For me, it was just trying - having a little taste and playing around that sparked my interest to think “I can really do this!”
Simon – “If you're wondering if a career move is right for you, try asking yourself what you really want from your job, and if your current role gives you that. If you're not sure about your technical abilities, our recruitment process will help you find out. Aptitude and attitude are far more important than existing knowledge and experience. After all, the technological world we're in moves so fast, we're always having to learn new things – and the company’s training budget recognises this too. I look forward to work every day, knowing that I'm respected, supported, will learn something new and do something useful. Take the plunge too, and maybe I'll see you here!”
If Sheb and Simon’s stories have inspired you and you would like to learn more about the various routes you can take to join our business in a technology focused role, visit our careers page here to find out more about our…
- Graduate and apprenticeship programmes
- Industrial and summer placements
- Programmes such as our National Security Cyber Accelerator (NSCA)
- Our upskilling partnerships with School of Code and Code First Girls where you can earn a nanodegree and wider qualifications
BAE Systems Digital Intelligence is proud to be able to provide a platform for our employees to develop their skills, explore new opportunities and build a successful, long-term career doing something they love while at the same time working together to protect the world.
Start your career with us today.