Empowering Women in STEM: Exploring the careers of the women leading 3R
The world of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) covers a variety of industries and sectors and as a result, STEM jobs make up a significant portion of the UK economy. Notably, the thriving UK FinTech landscape (of which 3R is a part) is playing a major role in the continuous creation of global, category-defining innovation and advancements.
Jobs within STEM sectors can be higher paying, with the FinTech sector offering up to 57% higher salaries than the average salary in the UK. Despite the abundance of exciting opportunities within STEM sectors, women only make up 29.4% of the workforce.
The 3R team is led by women who come from a variety of STEM backgrounds, and we are proud to be championing their development. Your career path is unique to you, and you can develop a successful career no matter how you get started. To support women considering careers in STEM fields, our team share their stories.
How can people get experience in STEM sectors?
Whether you’re just starting off your career or looking to make a career shift, your start in STEM can come from various avenues outside of the traditional higher education route. Here are five possibilities to consider:
A great alternative to university and for acquiring qualifications and skills. From multinational corporations to small start-ups, organisation across the UK provide a diverse array of apprenticeships. As paid opportunity, get on-the-job training without accumulating debt from higher education as well as potential permanent employment. To get started, get searching www.apprenticeships.gov.uk and find out more www.gov.uk/become-apprentice
With an abundance of educational resources online, learning a new skill or mastering a specific software has become more accessible than ever before. Kim Pritchard sugests "There are lots of jobs and qualifications for experts on specific systems... a lot of learning is available online, you just have to be interested and willing to get stuck in, have a play, try and learn something”.
3. Entry-level STEM positions
Entry-level positions provide a valuable stepping stone to gaining practical experience and skills in your chosen field. They often come with mentorship and training programs and provide a platform for networking and building professional relationships within the industry.
4. Join a start-up company
Working in a start-up also serves as a valuable learning opportunity. They are often small teams, giving you a varied role from which you can pick up a diverse range of skills. Start-ups also tend to be dynamic and innovative environments where creativity and new ideas are encouraged, with lots of opportunity for career progression.
5. Upskilling through your company
Developing soft skills such as effective communication, problem-solving, and creative thinking is essential, especially for a seamless transfer to STEM roles. Also, as technology exponentially develops, the jobs that exist today will evolve in their nature and many organisations and the government have recognised the STEM skills gap in the workforce and are creating initiatives to help upskill and reskill workers in-house.
Ultimately, there is an abundance of opportunity in STEM sectors and there is a desperate need for female leaders, innovators, managers, and creators. Through showcasing the inspiring career paths of the talented women in our team, we hope you're encouraged to take a look at what is available for you.
We believe that the future is bright for women in STEM, and we hope to empower more young girls and women to explore STEM sectors as a viable career choice. With the right mindset and a commitment to continued learning and growth, you can achieve great things in the world of STEM.
Conquering Maths - A Journey from Apprentice to Head!
“I kept thinking ‘It’s a bit too technical for me’. It was a mental thing; I needed a different way of thinking - to actually take a real interest and try harder.” Despite finding STEM subjects challenging at GCSE, Plamena stayed determined and worked hard to overcome her struggles with Maths, leading her to pursue accountancy at A-levels.
From there, she contemplated her future after college and determined “Although I had the option to go to university and do a degree in Accountancy, I felt like it was important for me to actually get a real-life feeling of what it was like to be in finance.” As a result, Plamena completed her A-levels and attained an apprenticeship in Accountancy at one of the top four firms.
An amazing achievement and an eye-opening experience for her to witness the corporate finance environment in practice. One thing became clear to her, this was not the role and environment she had envisioned, it was a daunting, male-dominated world that didn’t support her as a young woman. “I really struggled. It wasn't where I wanted to be.” So, she decided to move on and keep searching for a more empowering accounting environment that enabled her to grow.
After crossing paths with Mike Bowler, Co-founder of 3R, Plamena learnt about 3R and was offered an Accountancy apprenticeship with the opportunity for further career progression. She joined 3R in 2014 and found that working in a supportive and collaborative environment with a team of talented women has greatly supported her in flourishing into the role of Head of Finance.
Today, she also collaborates closely with our developers to optimise the functionality of our Back-Office platform, ensuring our customers are getting the best possible experience. This provides her with valuable opportunities to acquire new skills in the realm of technology development. She concludes that the learning never stops, “I’m in the process of finalising my Accountancy qualifications, but even beyond that, there’s always someone that knows something you don’t, so I’m always going to be developing.”
What's exciting about working in STEM?
“I really enjoy what I do. Throughout my journey at 3R up until now, I was focused on the finance side of the business but as the company is growing, I find my role expanding into the tech side of the business.
I see it as a challenge where at times i have to ask for help, but that’s in the moment because eventually you get comfortable with it and it comes to you naturally – you know how it works.
In general, I have a real passion for finance, so I enjoy my job and it feels like you’re making a real difference, the technology we make and how that automation makes people’s life better. So, I get to see first-hand how the tech side works to help the finance side, which makes my job easier, and I can focus on making a bigger impact.”
On a mission to master digital with an unending quest for knowledge
As the presence of ‘digital’ increased across industries, Kim, who was working at a recruitment advertising agency, eagerly volunteered to explore the realm of ‘Digital Media’ and learn about its potential. From here her journey in Tech began, traversing multiple areas of ‘digital’ such as digital marketing, web development, product development, data management, and project management.
The interconnected nature of digital technologies led to seamless transitions from one area of expertise to another. For example, crafting digital marketing campaigns evolved into web development projects for microsites and careers websites. “Throughout my career, so much has been self-taught - my technical knowledge, just from working with people and around people, being interested in it and just having a brain that’s wired to be very logical and process driven, so I get digital.”
Being knowledgeable on such a wide spectrum of areas helped her communicate with a wider group of people, from developers to designers to senior and junior members of the team. “I did a lot of project management, so I pride myself on being able to talk to a technical person, like a developer when you're building a website, and translate that into ‘English’ and communicate that language to a client.” In addition to acquiring technical expertise, Kim's eagerness to learn and open-mindedness helped her develop strong communication, creativity, and problem-solving skills.
“I think you never know everything in Tech, there’s always some element of learning because it’s always changing.” Kim notes that a crucial factor in her thriving career has been her willingness to say ‘yes’ and give things a go with a genuine interest, which has allowed her to evolve with the dynamic world of tech and bolt on a diverse range of skills along the way.
Since joining 3R earlier this year, Kim has embedded herself in the business, unleashing her marketing skills and has become instrumental to our internal operational efficiency and product development processes, which is due to her substantial experience and skills from her multifaceted career. “I’m enjoying sharing my knowledge for the betterment of what we produce and deliver, and how we service. And it’s being taken really well, which is really nice – to feel listened to and for people to get where you’re coming from.”
“Be bold, own what you do know and be honest about what you don’t know and excited to learn more. Don’t be afraid and don’t put yourself down if you don’t know the whole system, there’s always an element of learning.”
What's exciting about working in STEM?
“It’s fast-paced, there’s new things happening all the time, new ways of doing the same things. The innovation side of STEM is really fun because it doesn’t stand still, you can’t stand still. There’s always so much learning to do and you have to always be tuned in, so when you look back at all the knowledge that you have gained, all the things you’ve accomplished, you realised it’s a very robust set of skills.
So, I think enjoy the journey.
And I think the tech industry is particularly robust and it’s constantly growing. There’s always opportunity in it and you can shift and change your career path. I think it’s a really secure industry that transcends so many different business types and sectors that it’s ingrained across everything. There’s tech in farming, space travel, retail - There’s tech in everything. For someone starting out and thinking about their career, it’s a very sensible place to start learning. The future is bright.
For me personally, I’m learning the financial side now and going into a new industry [FinTech] so I’m bolting on even more knowledge and still adding to my skill set.”
No stone is left unturned to ensure compliance
With an eye for detail, Debbie started her journey as a recruiter, working in many large recruitment agencies such as Adecco and MatchTech and providing recruitment services to well-known businesses like HSBC Bank, P&O Cruises, Lloyds Bank, and IBM. MatchTech was her first introduction to STEM as she recruited for the Managed Services division.
Throughout her journey there, she worked with a range of interesting clients and traveled up and down the UK to meet them, which further developed her people and organisations skills. In addition, Debbie had the chance to explore the technological aspects of MatchTech by conducting an in-depth review of one of their portal system. “I held a number of sessions with our second-tier suppliers to improve the system, implemented those improvements, and then rolled that out across the whole of MatchTech.” The experience of working with the development side of tech gave her the opportunity to learn new skills and abilities.
Joining 3R when it was in its infancy, Debbie found herself being responsible for various departments across the business “3R was just starting out, I had the opportunity of wearing lots of different hats. I've worked in nearly all the different departments other than marketing.” There was a lot to learn as she went on this journey of growth with the business, and through that experience, the in-depth knowledge she gained about the operations makes her the best fit for her role as Head of Risk and Compliance.
“I’m very attention-to-detail-orientated and I’m really disciplined, organised and thorough. All these skills that I’ve acquired and enhanced over the journey of my career have really supported my role with risk and compliance.” Debbie leaves no stone unturned when it comes to ensuring our technology and financial systems are compliant, so that our customers can rest assured knowing they are compliant, and any risk is minimised.
What's exciting about working in STEM?
“For many women, having to choose between a career or having a baby was a known worry and often the choice was made for you. It wasn’t obvious, there were subtle changes that made it difficult for you to do your job and perform well. For example, I was working part-time during my pregnancy and I was still being given the same targets as those working full-time.
So, what I find exciting now is the general growing presence of women in STEM workplaces paired with the changing norms of the world of work that allow women to feel valued in their companies without having to compromise their careers.
I think the perception of women in these fields is changing and more women are receiving the recognition they deserve for their skills and talents in STEM. Remote and hybrid working opportunities, particularly, are opening doors for women to pursue fulfilling careers in these sectors with greater ease and accessibility.”
Cultivating a thriving career by being curious
Upon graduating with a degree in English Literature, Kim discovered her passion for the recruitment industry, and through her pursuit for a career in the industry, she began her unique pathway into STEM starting as a recruiter for STEM positions.
Beginning her journey at MatchTech, renowned specialists in STEM recruitment, Kim recalls “with their strapline being ‘The STEM talent partner of choice’, MatchTech gave me such a great introduction to the different careers and pathways within STEM that had never crossed my radar before.”
At its core, the recruitment industry revolves around the essence of human connection. “I am naturally quite curious and inquisitive, I really enjoy people and talking to people.” For Kim, this meant she could pursue her passion for meeting new people and building meaningful relationships, and exploring her curiosity for the intricacies of people and their diverse backgrounds.
“Be curious, do your research on what’s out there, who and what’s in your area. Be inquisitive about the different sectors and opportunities available and identify your skills, your motivation, and your drive.”
Next, Kim took her first step into a STEM field when she joined 3R, a FinTech provider for the recruitment industry. This new chapter came with its own learning curve, which she recognised and accepted quickly. “I really had a lot to learn about technology, particularly back-office technology, and funding. How each part works, how they’re used by our customers, how the systems operate together, and how they’re used by and benefit our customers.”
“I do think my inquisitive nature and the skills and knowledge I retained from my recruitment career really helped with me moving into the tech sector.” Advancing from the Sales and Marketing Manager to Director of Client Experience, Kim’s journey at 3R enabled her to learn various types of new skills, particularly in relation to technology, leadership, and product development.
Having a comprehensive understanding of customer needs and effectively collaborating with developers to meet those needs requires dynamic communication and problem-solving skills in the fast-paced world of a FinTech business. As a result, Kim has been an integral part of the growth of 3R and in supporting the success of our clients.
What's exciting about working in STEM?
“I find being in FinTech just as interesting as I did when I was a recruiter for other STEM sectors like built environment because there is always so much going on, there’s so much technology that exists and that’s constantly being created – particularly in the recruitment industry.
It’s interesting to see the evolution - it’s never-ending. You can’t sit on your laurels with it, you really need to keep reading, watching, and listening to what’s going on out there.
That's why I love what we do at 3R, our focus on prioritising the evolution of our technology is so important because you can’t be complacent with tech, it’s constantly moving forward. Our clients are also evolving, so it’s about making sure that we’re being proactive with the development of our technology, and making sure we’re meeting the needs of customers. “