For Black History Month this year, TechSPARK has teamed up with B in Bath to shine a light on some of the established and emerging Black tech and digital leaders in our community. This time we’re talking to Digital Project Manager Emilie Harryman.
What is your job?
Digital Project Manager at Tech agency, CookiesHQ. We partner with startups and scale-ups to design, build and scale bespoke mobile and web apps. There’s no real ‘typical’ day but it can involve liaising with clients, gathering requirements, communicating progress, managing the team day to day, deploying features, documenting processes and team and management meetings.
Your path into the sector?
I graduated with a BA(Hons) in Media so I spent the early part of my career working in the Creative Industries. After having my daughter I was looking for a change of direction and it was during an interim role on the front desk at Engine Shed that a whole tech world became visible to me that I had never considered before! With previous experience in project coordination and delivery, entering the digital and tech sector was a career side-step for me. In order to prepare for the move, I undertook an 8-week intensive course with From Her Digital, as well as completing foundations in Prince 2 and DSDM Agile.
What interests you about tech/digital? What do you like about working in the sector?
I have been fascinated by the world of technology for many years and am passionate about tech for good. As a project manager every day is different; some days may be spent testing the product build, others discussing and planning sprints with clients and most days involve problem-solving of some description and I really enjoy that challenge. I feel really fortunate to be part of such a great team and although Covid has brought about a change in how we work we’re still really connected with each other and with our clients.
I’m new to the role having been with CookiesHQ for a year, so I’m always learning new ways of working and improving my processes. I’ve been fortunate to work on some really exciting projects so far including Good Sixty, a hyper-local supermarket which champions independent retailers; a features build for a product planning prototype for an investment consultancy firm, Platform Action and we’re about to launch an exciting video platform!
Do you have any thoughts on diversity in the tech/digital industries?
I’d say tech still suffers from an image problem in that it’s populated mainly by straight white cis-gendered guys, and its a narrative the mainstream continues to uphold. While some already working in the industry may dispute or have a different experience of that, that stats are pretty dismal and the experiences of marginalized groups working in tech are not altogether positive.
I’m a believer in the adage ‘you cannot be what you cannot see’ and this lack of visibility outside of the stereotype can create the perception that the industry is not ‘for them’ (I was one of those people!). Let’s remove those initial barriers. By switching the narrative and regularly platforming those members of the tech and digital community who belong to other or intersectional demographics, be that more women, lgbtq+, black and people of colour, those who are disabled or neurodiverse. There are some amazing people outside of the ‘traditional’ demographic making waves in the industry. That would go some way to normalise that tech careers are suited to all types of people. I think it’s vital to attract talent from all backgrounds and experiences if we want to keep creating great products and services that benefit society more widely.
While work is being done to increase diversity, I think that more work needs to be done to offer a fair and inclusive working environment. This ranges from better hiring practices, extending networks, ensuring pay equality for staff in a similar role regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or physical ability, providing a safe space for employees to air their concerns without judgement, and where possible, access to mental health support. This list is not exhaustive but would go some way to creating a better working environment for all employees regardless of background.
Renée Jacobs is a Project Manager at Actual Experience and the Founder of B in Bath. She is passionate about empowering and supporting people from underrepresented backgrounds in the workplace, and she recognises the importance of ensuring diversity of thought and experience in those people who create the technology that permeates all of our lives. Through B in Bath she hopes to enable employers and employees to cultivate a sense of belonging in the workplace; creating an environment where everyone, from all backgrounds, can grow, thrive and belong.