From logging calls to Chief Digital Officer: What it’s like to work in tech
It still makes me laugh even to this day, that during my first IT support role, there were numerous times when people would call up and think they had reached the wrong department because a woman answered the IT department phone!
Nevertheless, they quickly realised that I was technically able to resolve their queries... who would have thought eh! I am Amrit Lotay, Co-founder and Chief Digital Officer at RhythmiaBreath, a healthtech startup.
After graduating as an Economist, and not knowing what I wanted to do, I quickly came to learn that accounting and teaching careers were not for me. So, how did I enter this world of tech? You could call it a mistake, or you could say by chance. One that cost me a lot of money! Yes… £8k! So, there I was back in education again. I completed all the training, but only sat a few of the exams (and passed!)…And that is where my IT journey began.
Yep, I’m one of those people who takes risks, or what I now call, calculated risks with a bit of a gut feel!
My IT career started right at the bottom from logging support calls to later managing support and delivery teams. I was loving it (and still am!). I finally found a career path I enjoyed. Later, I joined countless organisations, public and private sectors, in roles ranging from service operations, business analysis, product, programme to chief digital officer. I have had the opportunity to work in a variety of industries from Retail, Central Government, IoT, fintech to healthtech.
I can’t say that I have always been confident in the tech world, especially being the only woman in the team in nearly all my experience. I had a lot of misconceptions, like not being accepted or not being as smart as the others and that I would be overlooked for promotions. All sorts of thoughts crossed my mind on a daily basis. Is anyone going to listen to me? Do I have enough technical knowledge compared to my male counterparts? Will I sound stupid if I ask this question? Is anyone taking me seriously? I have to admit Google search was a life saver early on in my career and sometimes even today! However, over time, as my experience was building, so was my confidence, and moving up the tech ladder became somewhat easier. Out the misconceptions went!
Spanning across the +16 years of my profession in Tech, I have only ever had the opportunity to work with six women who directly formed part of my tech team! I have been lucky enough to have the support from my team members throughout my journey. Some of them great mentors for me and always encouraging me to progress, and to help get more women involved. In my responsibilities as a hiring manager, my team always used to say ‘we need more women in our team’ but how could I do that when I only ever received one application from a woman? Who I hired, based on her skillset for the role.
Working in a male dominated environment has been interesting, better than I thought (on most days), and I have no regrets! Along my journey, I was lucky enough to meet some highly skilled guys who run a tech professional services company, Realitech. They trusted my skillset and up until today present me with great opportunities to learn and grow my skills, working on a variety of tech projects.
Fast forward to today, one of the most exciting times in my career, I am a Co-founder, along with two other women, Shere (CEO) and Nina (COO), at RhythmiaBreath. We are in the midst of launching a mobile app, RB Hub (Software as a Medical Device), for the prevention and rehabilitation of cardiovascular disease using a combination of medicine and holistic practices. The challenge on our hands is going from an offline setup with one clinic and transforming the company into a global, digital business offering virtual care. The company vision and strategy have had to change and digitally transform in order to scale the business and help even more cardiovascular patients, but this time from the comfort of their own home.
I am thrilled to finally be doing this with a female based executive team, who come from medical backgrounds, and are starting to show off the technical skills that they are picking up along the way. Who would have thought ten years ago that a doctor or nurse can launch a mobile app?! We all bring individual strengths and a great combination of skills to the table to help make this a successful startup…so watch this space!
Many people think that tech is all about coding and computer programming, even I thought that before I started my career, but actually there are a broad range of roles that form part of a technology team, for example, analysis, design, project, product, support, networks, architects, developers and a range of agile roles. I am starting to see a lot more forums and groups out there that are being formed by women, for women, to help them with tech related content, roles and mentorship.
I am so delighted to see how the industry is now changing with more women in IT! And I think that it is down to the fact that it doesn’t start from the moment a woman joins the IT workforce anymore, but from as early as the classroom. That is some great advancement and a transformation of its own! It's actually really nice to see that women have the opportunity to rise in this world of technology. It is evident when you see women successfully launching tech startups.
I recently read somewhere that executive women led startups are three times more likely to receive venture funding compared to 15 years ago. However, there is still significant room for improvement because for every six investments given to all male teams, only one investment is given to a woman led startup. Although I don't think we're going to see an equal state anytime soon, we are going to start to see a great deal more women making significant moves in the world of technology.
Women need to be bold enough to ask for what they want. Positioning themselves in the right place, with the right mentors, is key. In my experience, I have seen some women, not just in tech, work extremely hard and get offered new opportunities and others believing they can’t progress because it is a man’s world. Focusing on skills and staying current with industry trends, is important to help determine success.
There is a big difference between the corporate and startups world. I think the most obvious is the speed at which you need to work. When I made my transition it was slightly easier as I went from corporate to contracting first and then the world of startups. So I was ready for the pace. When it comes to responsibilities there is also a huge difference. In a startup, you have to be prepared to wear many hats and take on additional work. It is not quite like a 9-5 job with a defined role and set objectives. However, it does mean that you are exposed to a lot more, helping you to become highly skilled! It can also be very rewarding.
We are in some very exciting times with all the innovative startups emerging. There are so many new technologies shifting the market, such as, AI, Blockchain, AR/VR/XR, Big Data, Internet of X Things to name a few. I recently had the opportunity to do a live presentation for product circle talking about going digital in the world of healthcare for which a recording can be found here.
So, just to finish with some final words, it is a very rewarding industry where you are constantly challenged and forever learning. I encourage anyone, women or men, thinking of starting a career in the tech world, the world of startups, or looking to make that career switch, to definitely give it a go. Each industry will not only be disrupted, but significantly improved with technology. I have never looked back!