Epic Women in Tech — Sarah Jacob
Marketer turned software developer turned technical recruiter, with a passion for helping great people make equally great career choices. My technical knowledge comes in handy when helping companies hire developers, and developers find roles which really excite them. When I’m not in front of my computer, I’m usually reading, eating, doing pilates, eating, or watching a good series or film. And yes, I did intentionally write eating twice.
How did you get into the tech field?
I got into the tech industry a few years ago. I had been working in the advertising and PR industry for about 5 years and had started to notice that I was becoming more restless everyday. During a trip to New York to see my brother, a developer, and my sister-in-law, an editor of a tech publication, I finally verbalised my feelings. Within a split second, my brother said ‘Sarah, why don’t you just have a crack at coding, I have a feeling you’re going to love it’. I’d always liked learning new things, so over the next month, whenever I had free time or when I was working between ad campaigns, I’d complete a Beginner’s Ruby lesson online. Slowly but surely, I realised that programming was something that I wanted to fully channel my efforts into, and later that month, I applied to Flatiron’s 3 month coding bootcamp, and quit my job. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not a spontaneous, fly by the seat of your pants type of person. In fact, I would say I’m probably the opposite. However, I knew that if I over thought this decision to make a career change, the likelihood of me not going through with it was high. That was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
While 2020’s events brought forward my decision to move from London back to Sydney, I was determined to stay working in tech, and recently accepted a role to be a technical recruiter at Lookahead, a boutique tech recruiting company where every single employee has a technical background, either in development or in product! What this means is that each recruiter has genuine insight and empathy when it comes to knowing the inputs needed to build a great tech team, and this was the biggest selling point for me when it came to joining the company.
What are the main challenges in this field?
The three things that come to mind include imposter syndrome, getting your foot in the door and of course, the lack of diversity and inclusion in tech. With the first two being somewhat related, we can touch on that a bit more. Having worked with bootcamp students for the past 2 years, and also once being one myself, I think imposter syndrome is a real barrier to entry when it comes to getting into this industry. That said, what I’ve learned (and also seen first-hand at Flatiron and Lookahead) is that when it comes to hiring juniors, your ability to network, set up informational interviews, and ask pointed questions is equally important, if not more, than just acing a tech test.
What are the things you’ve learned being a woman in tech?
While I’ve always been undoubtedly conscious of gender imbalance in the workforce, because of its magnitude within tech, the importance of community and representation becomes exceedingly important. I am so appreciative of the fact that when I was at Flatiron so many of my colleagues and direct reports were women. Together, we were able to create a safe and inclusive space for students, lifting each other up and joining together to make sure that our imposter syndrome — in large part caused as a direct result of just being a minority — would not prevent us from seizing opportunities that came our way.
What advice would you give to women who would like to join the industry?
Be curious. Ask questions. The only silly question is the one the one you don’t ask. I’d also say that it’s never too late to change careers. Maybe it’s a gamble but if you’re already at the point where you’re considering a career change, chances are that you’re ready for something new. A lot of us have grown up thinking that STEM subjects weren’t really for women — the sooner that we can reverse this mentality, the better!
Who are your role models?
Career-wise I’d say that I’ve been lucky to work with so many strong, fearless and inspiring colleagues, both at Flatiron and Lookahead.
On a personal level, my grandma will always have my admiration. She lost her husband early on, ran a business by herself and raised three young kids, all at the same time. She’s genuinely the personification of perseverance and will always be my role model.
If you could go back in time to your first days in the industry, what would you do differently or tell yourself?
So here’s a fun fact — on day 3 of the bootcamp I actually wanted to quit. I thought I was well in over my head and had made a big mistake. But, I didn’t give up, I told myself to sleep on it, and ride out the rest of the week. So with that in mind, what I’d suggest to others who are considering making a career change, is — be prepared for those moments where you start doubting your decisions. It’s very normal, particularly for women. It’s usually a case of your imposter syndrome rearing its ugly head, and not at all a reflection of your actual capabilities! Be your own biggest fan.