For black business month this year, we sat down with Fey Ijaware, founder of CodePossible and CodeandStuff, to find out how she got into tech, how the industry can be more inclusive and what advice she would give to you girls looking to get tech.
How did you get into tech?
I am a self taught developer; it was a bit of a happy accident getting into tech and it really grew from there. I realised there was a whole career out there that I hadn’t previously considered, as there was still this stigma that tech was for men, but that’s not actually the case at all.
A lot of the projects I’ve worked on have stemmed from that very point and now I’m trying to change peoples’ perspectives and to make things a bit easier for anyone who might want to get into tech.
My main goal is to encourage more people to get into tech, especially women and people of colour and those who may have never considered it before now. There are so many roles in tech now which didn’t exist 5 years ago, so there is so much potential in the industry at the moment.
Diversity in tech can make such a big impact. Everyone has their own, unique experiences, which means they can contribute uniquely to all of these different opportunities in tech.
What inspired you to start CodePossible and CodeandStuff?
When I started teaching myself to code, I started writing and sharing a lot of blog posts. I was always very honest and open about my journey and this encouraged a lot of people to ask questions, but unfortunately there was not enough time in the day for me to answer these questions and to help everybody out. This is where the idea for CodePossible , stemmed from. I now have a place where I can put all of my knowledge and all of the things I have learnt into action to help others looking to re-skill into a technical tech role.
I also help to organise a two local groups in Manchester, where I’m based, but I had noticed that a lot of the women just didn’t come back to future events. Some of them feedback that they did not feel comfortable or as confident, coupled with my experiences attending tech event also, I started to think about what I could do to support these women.
But the catalyst for starting CodeandStuff was when I started my second Tech role. I remembered turning up on the first day and realising I was the only woman in the team. They looked at me as if I had entered the wrong room. I told them I was the new developer and they looked at me very surprised. For me, that was the extra motivation I needed; things needed to change.
What’s next for you?
As a new mum, my priorities have shifted ever so slightly. I’m now thinking about how we can get more people of colour, more women and more non-binary people into tech. Going forward, we’re looking to launch a work experience scheme and team up with local businesses so people can go in and shadow developers and actually see what day-to-day working life is like within a tech function. We’re also looking to expand CodeandStuff outside of Manchester. We’ve got some big things planned; it’s very exciting.
What can we do to improve the lack of diversity within the tech industry?
In society, women have huge responsibilities and I think it is important to consider this when creating courses and programmes. At our events, a lot of our attendees come straight from work, so making sure the atmosphere is friendly and welcoming with snacks and drinks is very important. We also try and make sure our veune is child friendly so those that don’t have childcare, can bring their children. To really improve diversity there needs to be more flexible opportunities made available.
There’s not a lot of flexibility in the opportunities that are available at the moment. A lot of junior people out there are struggling to find the appropriate opportunities. There are so many roles which are being advertised as “junior roles” but they also then require two or three years of experience; these are not junior roles at all. Companies need fresh ideas from fresh minds, but they’re not going to get them until they start to hire junior people with their own unique experiences.
Flexibility is very important and I think it is time for companies to start revising and creating new policies such as hybrid working, flexible working, four day week, so they can attract more diverse talents and enable their employees to have a good work life balance. For example, all you really need in a technical role is a wifi connection and a working laptop and you can get the job done from anywhere in the world.
What advice would you give to any young girl looking to get into tech?
It’s so easy to allow our differences to be the things that hold us back, but we can use that as a positive. We can use this to motivate us to challenge the stigma. A lot of black people are already so resilient, and you do need to just to keep going. Don’t be afraid to fail; be resilient in the face of failure because nothing truly is a failure, it’s an opportunity to learn something. Only when you haven’t learnt something, is that a failure.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Be flexible and be open to trying new things.
With CodeandStuff, I always say “Try it, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to come back”.