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3 women from Code First: Girls 25 'ones to watch' list share their tips for tech success

Celebrating young women making strides in the technology industry, Code First: Girls has released its list of 25 'ones to watch'.

The social enterprise works to increase the proportion of women in technology and for the last five years has recognised 25, aged 30 and under, who are forging successful careers in the industry.

Code First CEO Amali de Alwis said of this year's list: “It demonstrates what a rich resource of female talent we have in tech across business, entrepreneurship and academia, and the outstanding contribution they are making to their industries.

“With the tech sector continuing to be the fastest growth area in the UK, these women are not only role models for other men and women looking to develop careers in the sector, but also signal to business the benefit of continuing to train and support diversity in the industry."

Here, we speak to three of this year's 25 'ones to watch'.

Stephanie Itimi, 24, Cyber Analyst with UK Government

Stephanie Itimi (Supplied by Code First )
Stephanie Itimi (Supplied by Code First )

A cyber analyst with the UK Government, Stephanie Itimi has a track record of facilitating significant development initiatives and was part of the team that pioneered the world’s first public health information service inside the WhatsApp platform. Tackling fake news on Ebola, it provided content in text, images and audio to users in West Africa from the BBC World Service, as well as through partners Unicef, World Health Organisation, World Food Programme and the Centre for Disease Control.

As an economics and politics graduate, Stephanie Itimi had little formal tertiary education in the coding and technology sphere.

Despite this, the 24-year-old has invested time in learning new technological skills that have proven invaluable to her career.

The UK government employee said technology was something she had always been interested in, but hadn’t pursued as a university degree. However, she felt compelled to build on her skills in this area and couldn’t turn down the opportunity of a free coding course with Code First.

It helped her progress in her career and opened opportunities she might not have gotten otherwise.

“One thing I’ve realised is that, in terms of policy and government, being able to understand the technical aspects has allowed me to break down complex information in simple ways,” Itimi said.

As a young woman who didn’t have a university-level qualification in the technology sector, she admits she sometimes felt she had to prove herself to her male, older counterparts.

“You often feel as if you have to work twice as hard to prove your worth,” she said.

While she’s learnt to overcome these challenges, Itimi now hopes to encourage other women to seek opportunities in the technology sector.

“Because I see how it has changed my life, especially being an immigrant, being open to this world of possibilities. Not everyone is aware of the opportunities, but this is there for them if they want it.”

Her top three tips for success

1: Be resilient; success is not easy

2: Get involved in a community you can identify with and who can support you through the challenges

3: Network. LinkedIn is your best friend. Reach out to people

Holly Boothroyd, 23, software engineer at Microsoft

(Supplied by Code First )
(Supplied by Code First )

Holly Boothroyd is a Microsoft software engineer on Cortana for Windows who has previously worked on Paint 3D and Xbox. Her code is on over 800 million devices. Outside her development work, she’s on Microsoft’s Connecting Women in Technology Core Team and works with Microsoft’s DigiGirlz to empower women and future female technologists.

When Microsoft software engineer Holly Boothroyd, 23, was just starting high-school education in Seattle, she attended her first coding camp - one of just two girls to go.

While getting into gaming with her father meant she had been interested in technology from a young age, she admits it wasn't love at first sight.

“I wasn’t sure if coding was for me. But I tried it again later in high school... My teacher there helped inspire me and show me this was a good career for me.”

Starting in the industry wasn't easy. “It was a dilemma where you don’t have enough experience to get a job. But you have no experience because you can’t get a job.”

So she decided to move to the United Kingdom in search of new opportunities.

She studied computing and information technology at the University of Surrey and from there she got an internship at Microsoft.

Two years on she is now a full-time employee.

“What inspires me is being able to work on projects with a far reach, to help improve the lives of others around me and being able to work on something that is innovative.

“Technology was really the thing that gave me all of these options and the lifestyle can be really flexible, dynamic and rather fun.”

Boothroyd said she now wanted to give back by helping other women in technology through Microsoft’s DigiGirlz programme.

“We need more women in the boardroom to ensure a better design of products and services for everyone on this planet. The world will be better off with more diversity in the boardroom.”

Her top three tips for success

1: Find a community, posse or mentor to help you overcome challenges and celebrate wins

2: Keep learning. Embrace new challenges and step outside your comfort zone

3: Discover what inspires you in the technology industry. Identifying your passions will help focus your efforts and land you in a sector where you can thrive

Halimah Omogiafo, 29, Founder/CEO at Koody

Halimah Omogiafo (Supplied by Code First )
Halimah Omogiafo (Supplied by Code First )

Halimah is an Oxford MBA, Software Engineer and Ex-Retail Banker. She is currently the Founder/CEO at Koody, a crowdfunding platform for post-graduate student loans. She is an alumna of Code First: Girls’ beginners and advanced courses and also a volunteer coding instructor. She has built an ethical payday lending app in the past and is currently building the Koody app

Halimah Omogiafo first began looking into building her technological skills while working in a bank in her home country of Nigeria.

What was initially a journey of personal growth opened doors for the 29-year-old, who founded crowd-funding programme, Koody.

She said coding was vital when it came to the development phase of her project, which she initially established as an ethical payday lending app, before tapering it for students in need of a loan.

While creating codes for programmes such as her app might look complicated, Omogiafo said it wasn’t as hard as it might seem. “Without coding knowledge, it’s something that’s just so strange. But once you get into it, you realise you can do it. People who build software aren’t super humans.”

Omogiafo taught herself to code through an online course while still in Nigeria, before making the move to the UK for her Master of Business Administration at the University of Oxford. While studying, she also took coding courses at Code First and found she thrived on the challenge.

“I really enjoy coding as I can build my products myself. When I build something I get really excited and when I meet developers I can talk about code with them,” she said.

Omogiafo now wants to share her experiences. “Beyond building my own product, I want to ensure other women are also confident in their skills and building their own products,” she added.

Her top three tips for success

1: First thing is to start - conquer your fear, and start

2: Continue. Don’t give up

3: Be open to sharing your knowledge

Discover the other inspirational women who made the list by visiting Code First: Girls.

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