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Helping Women Returning To Work After A Career Break: My Tech Returners Experience in 3 Words


Returning to working life after having children or taking a career break is not always easy for everyone, partly because companies are not able to accommodate the flexibility a parent would need. Secondly, because being out of work can have a knock-on effect on a person’s confidence. And thirdly, because of the lack of skills accessible to people to get back into a job.

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Northcoders actively want to help make it as easy as possible for people to up-skill and become employable. And that’s why they have been supporting Tech Returners on their mission — providing people with the technical and people skills they need, enabling them to return or enter into the tech industry.

When I heard the news they needed a team member to support their cohort of 8 women, I jumped at the chance and am very glad I did. Laura and I worked together to deliver the content for the sessions. She, like me, is a Northcoders graduate and now works as an Idea Implementer with Beckie — the founder of Tech Returners.

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The Tech Returners, CLOS, Northcoders and Barclays Eagle LabsWe have been getting to know these wonderful people and helping them discover technical skills by introducing them to the tools they need to build a website.

Bit by bit we grew on skills by exploring HTML, CSS, Bootstrap, and JavaScript. We even introduced best practices of version control using Git, git-hub and the command line. There was also a session where we explored a little Python and made Microbits display our names! The students have written all about their week by week learning and you can read all about them here.

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Python, Node-RED, Microbit and my name! Last week was the final session, where all the returners showcased what they have been working on and how the course has been beneficial in planning their next steps. We’re so proud to see how far they have come and how much they have learnt! They explained their website functionality using technical terminology and described their design decisions with business logic.

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Some of the words used to describe their experience included: Inspiring, informative, fun, motivating, eye-opening, rewarding, inclusive, positive, confident, creative, forward-looking, energising and future looking.
Which three words can summarise my time with Tech Returners?

1. Educational
The sessions run once a week from 10–2. We kick off the day with a recap of the previous week and then feed the students with new tools and information. We squeeze a ‘brown bag lunch’ in and then expand on the topic we are exploring with exercises and more demos.

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Practising their new skills! Three and a bit hours, once a week is not a lot of time, especially for those who are brand new to technology and code concepts. However, in this limited amount of time, the ladies managed to grasp each subject really well, and abstract thinking was something they nailed very quickly: it’s praise-worthy! They asked the right questions to help them fill gaps in their understanding, and they absorbed everything like a sponge!

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You can learn a lot in such little time. These ladies proved that it is not necessary to gain formal education like a four-year-long degree to get back into tech. Just having the initiative to acquire more skills and the determination to educate oneself can help generate new opportunities.


2. Inspirational

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Valuable lunches! We nibbled on sandwiches and exciting desserts while gaining insights from people in tech. While attempting to munch on our crunchy kettle crisps silently, we learnt stories of how people came upon the path of tech, what troubles they faced, overcame and how they flourished in the end.

It has been uplifting to hear stories that people can relate to, coming from real individuals who can become role models to those who are still new to tech.

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Harriet, a former Northcoders tutor, explains how she transitioned from being a Librarian to building a career in the tech sector. With tech being such a fast-evolving industry, it was great to find out what new and exciting tech or tools people are working with right now. The speakers were loaded with tips and had many useful links to resources that left us eager to want to learn more!

It’s warming to be surrounded by women who have already accomplished so much in their careers and life. Being in a room filled with people who have a shared passion for wanting to learn is very inspiring.

3. Responsibility
Before I started at Northcoders, my understanding of what programming involved was pretty off the mark.

I imagined it to be a ‘boring’ job exclusively for the those who love computer games and like spending all day indoors hiding from the outside world. A ‘geeky’ culture that is just made up of virtual games and males.

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A little bit like this! My misconceptions have been corrected!

While joining Tech Returners, I felt the responsibility of sharing my learning and helping other women realise that tech is so much more than what the typical stereotypes illustrates it to be. Anyone from all backgrounds, gender and industries can work in the industry. You just need to enjoy problem-solving, and this mixed with skills such as creativity can be the perfect concoction to building exceptional products and services.

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My #WIT pledge: Change the view of what women think ‘developers’ do. Rachel, a Tech Returner and current Northcoders student, commented that her views of programming are different now and this was very satisfying to hear :)
During the presentations, some of the returners mentioned that one of the biggest takeaways for them was the fact that they are having a positive influence on their daughters. They feel the responsibility of educating them early about all of their options and not limiting their learning to gender driven categories. We’re one step closer to bridging the gender gap!

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When I was given the opportunity to be part of Tech Returners, I was terrified but excited! Tech has opened up many doors for me, and it is so lovely to be able to share this sentiment with all the Tech Returners.

We’ve had a great time from programming our microbit to flash, munching on delicious desserts, enjoying the festive season, stalking the royals, dealing with gitastrophies to watching all the fantastic presentations!

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It has been a great pleasure working with the students, and we are very excited to see what the future holds for each of them. A couple of students have applied to join Northcoders to learn how to code on the new Developer Pathway! Hope to see them in Software Developer jobs in the coming months 😄

Kavita Varsani
Kavita is a Growth Engineer at Northcoders

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