The birth of her children led Emily Sas to rip up her entire career plan and teach herself to code.
Now a software engineer for comparethemarket.com, Emily has been named a winner in the TechWomen100 awards that celebrate inspiring women in the tech industry.
Here she talks about how she came to compare
.com and what sets it apart from other jobs in tech:
After reading Philosophy, Human Rights at university and later Law, Emily Sas was on the right track to pursuing her dream career as a barrister. But all that changed after the birth of her two children. After a four-year career break, she found herself torn between a legal career and motherhood and began to weigh up her options.
She said: “I had wanted to become a barrister but realised it was not going to be conducive with family life.
‘I wanted something that offered constant room for learning and development, problem solving’
“I sat and thought about all the things I wanted from a career and what I would find fulfilling. I wanted to use my brain and I wanted something that offered constant room for learning and development, problem solving – all the things that attracted me to law – but crucially I wanted flexibility. That brought me to a career in digital.”
She began to teach herself programming and, realising she loved it, enrolled on an intensive Makers Academy coding bootcamp.
“It was three months commuting, leaving home before the children were awake, getting home before they were asleep, she explained. “They really only saw me at weekends and then I was often working but I told myself it was only for three months and after that I would be able to move into a part-time job.”
But on graduating, she found part-time work wasn’t as easily come by as she had anticipated. She said: “It was a struggle. I would have lots of companies showing interest in me. I could be getting on really well with the recruiter and as soon as I mentioned part-time that would be the end of the conversation. They would say: ‘No, that would be impossible’, or ‘That wouldn’t work for us’. I think part of the problem was they hadn’t had people wanting to work part-time before. They hadn’t tested it and they were just making assumptions that it wouldn’t work.
.com stood out with its openness to flexible working and family-friendly ethos.
'They didn’t bat an eyelid when I brought up the possibility of the role being part-time’
Emily said: “compare
.com was completely different. They didn’t bat an eyelid when I brought up the possibility of the role being part-time. After about six months, I felt like I’d like to work a fourth day but didn’t want for my 5-year-old, just beginning his Reception year, to have four long days. They therefore amended my contract so that I might work one day per week (or more) from home, something now available to all staff members.
“After a year I was promoted, and so I can testify that it is absolutely a role that can be done part time. As for it fitting in with sprints, my team try not to book any vital meetings on the day I don’t work, and beyond that it’s really not an issue. I’ve worked from home during school holidays, or when my children are sick; and I’ve changed my working hours to better accommodate school times.
“I don’t see myself moving on anytime soon – in fact, last year we moved house to be closer. Nothing gets stale at compare
.com, I’m constantly exposed to new tools, technologies and ways of working.
“I started as a C# developer; then began writing node.js microservices; and am now working with react.js. It’s a company that encourages staff to throw themselves into things they’re passionate about – organising clubs and guilds; running ad hoc events and meetups; writing blog posts; or giving talks both internally and externally. I feel heard and valued, and whilst I know many in tech feel that they need to move around to make progress in their career, I genuinely feel my career will advance faster by staying put.”
Emily credits her unconventional path into tech as her reason for wanting to help those starting out in the industry and challenge issues of underrepresentation.
As a BGL Diversity and Inclusion champion, Emily has helped make job adverts gender neutral, spearheaded the creation of code clubs in local schools and co-founded a Peterborough Chapter of Codebar, an organisation offering programming workshops to women, LGBTQ+ individuals, and members of minority groups. She was also recently asked to join the committee for the regional Developer Developer Developer! conference to drive representation and diversity.
Emily was selected as a winner in the TechWomen100 awards after a shortlist of 200 women was put to a public vote.
She said: "When I saw that I was nominated for this award I felt somewhat undeserving. I don't feel as though I do anything ground-breaking in tech. I am not one of the individuals in my company creating amazing open source projects. I work part-time and, as I have young children, am limited in what I can do outside of working hours.
"I then realised that it is thinking like this that is one of the reasons women are less likely to put themselves forward for things, or even sometimes to seize opportunities available to them. I am incredibly passionate about trying to make tech more diverse, not because I want to win applause or because I want to further my career, but because I feel driven to make things better."
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