With the tech sector now Scotland’s second fastest-growing industry, the search for future talent continues at CGI.

ACCORDING to a recent piece of research by Skills Development Scotland, the tech industry is one of the fastest growing – contributing £4.9bn to the Scottish economy and supporting somewhere in the region of 100,000 jobs.

SDS also forecasts that in the next 10 years it will be the second fastest-growing sector (second to childcare), so keeping up with the demand for talent is something that clearly has to be addressed now.

This is all positive of course, but that demand will only be satisfied if we take proactive steps to address the skills gaps. Nowhere is this more urgent than in equality. Although there are more women in tech, according to SDS, in 2018 it only sat at around 23%.
So how do we address that imbalance? Apart from women already in careers retraining in tech, there needs to be a stronger cultural shift that normalises the industry for every schoolgirl and young woman.

CGI has been proactive in not only attracting talented females to its current roster of experts, but also hosting events that allow girls to understand more about what tech can offer them as a future career path.
In the past it has held Bring Your Daughter to Work days and has also put together STEM camps. 

However, the most recent event combined both, with daughters of CGI members visiting the Innovation Centre to take part in a day of activities that lifted the veil on tech, showing them that they are already familiar with some of what happens there through their everyday connection with technology – and also offered inspiring demonstrations and activities to fire their imaginations.

HeraldScotland: Erin, 12 and Iris, eight, accompanied their father Richard Holmes, vice president for Cyber Security Services at CGI to workErin, 12 and Iris, eight, accompanied their father Richard Holmes, vice president for Cyber Security Services at CGI to work

Victoria Taylor is a junior software developer who was part of the team responsible for putting the event together. “I was always interested in working in areas such as website development, so I decided to study Computing at Glasgow Caledonian University. When I was in my second year CGI was offering Graduate Apprenticeships and I was fortunate enough to get a position with the company. 

“I graduated last November and have been working full-time at CGI, mainly focusing on front end development such as website development. From the beginning, CGI has been very supportive of my ambitions and proactive in helping me develop my skills.”

Victoria was an ideal candidate to help organise this Bring Your Daughter to Work day. 
“Colleagues and I designed and carried out activities on the day. It was mainly for the daughters of members, but parents could stay if they wanted to know more. 
“We showed them how the 3D printer works, which they all seemed to absolutely love. We also put together some app designing competitions, to see who could come up with the best idea for a new smartphone app. This really got them thinking about how technology is used in everyday life.”

HeraldScotland: Junior software developer Victoria Taylor helped organise the Bring Your Daughter to Work eventsJunior software developer Victoria Taylor helped organise the Bring Your Daughter to Work events

The girls had the opportunity to hear about the massive range of technology-based STEM careers they could pursue.  

“That really got them interested about how technology is used in almost every single career today. 
“We also did some scratch programming and drag and drop programming. Then we went on to pick a sequence on scratch programming and activating it on a robot, to make it move or dance,” adds Victoria. 
“I think it’s really important to show them the visual side of programming and how programming translates to something that happens real life.”

Once women join CGI as a member they will find what Victoria describes as “a positive environment” for women. “I’ve found that CGI has many opportunities for women and as somebody who is passionate in her field, there is a strong culture around innovation. 
“For me it creates an atmosphere where I’m happy to come to work.”

Victoria adds that the event had even wider benefits. “Even though I don’t have children of my own yet, it’s been so interesting to talk to people all around the office about what they thought of the day and what it meant to their girls. 
“CGI is a collaborative business and I really feel that it has brought a lot of colleagues even closer together. I’m sure that we will do more events like that in the future.”

Organising initatives such as these also gives members the chance to develop different skills.
“I get the chance to learn in a different way. In software development we don’t get a chance to interact with the public often but getting the chance to show what we do lets us stand back and think more about what we do.”

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Appliance of science in the real world

Girls taking part in CGI events now have a new perception of technology.

STUART Stenhouse did something of a double take when, settling down in front of the TV with his family, his eight-year-old daughter Lola commented on the quality of the Netflix user interface.

The CGI Recruitment Manager’s mother was similarly surprised and asked how Lola knew what that was. 
“I reminded her that Lola had been part of our Bring Your Daughter to Work day and I was as shocked as she was!”

Stuart adds that he has seen a definite change in Lola, in her curiosity about how things work. “She is much more methodical in how she works things out and I think that’s because Graeme Ross, one of our Technical Architects told her that when it comes to programming and coding, things can only work if it’s done in the correct order. That definitely planted the seed and has even had an impact on her maths homework - she is thinking more methodically about solving problems.”

The day also prompted discussions between father and daughter about the impact that women have had on technology. “If I had tried to talk to her about people like Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Blackwell, Radia Perlman, and Mitchell Baker she wouldn’t have been nearly as interested as she is now. It has had a much bigger effect on it than I ever expected. Lola has even been critiquing how the homework app on her iPad works, and how that can be improved. 
“It’s a massive impact for a session that only lasted four to five hours.
“It’s even having an effect on her three-year-old sister who is showing interest now.”

Stuart says initiatives are crucial to the future of technology in Scotland and adds that although the intake of women into CGI is increasing rapidly there is a shortage of tech people in the whole of Scotland. 

“Helping to encourage women into the industry will definitely help the industry grow, benefiting the Scottish economy, as well as providing an interesting and ambitious career.
“I genuinely haven’t worked for a company that is so passionate about the development of women in tech. It’s on the agenda constantly. 

“I also don’t know of any other businesses that are taking such time and care with events like Bring Your Daughter to Work day, certainly to this level. 

“We are really ahead of the curve.”