Principal Digital Consultant, Newton
The tech sector is still male-dominated, but things are changing — and it’s an excellent career choice for women, says Imogen Hardcastle, Principal Digital Consultant at Newton.
Were you always good at STEM subjects?
Science subjects were my thing. At school I loved maths because there was either a right or a wrong answer, which is how I’m wired. Put it like this: I did four science A Levels – maths, further maths, physics and chemistry. I found studying them easier because the principles of one subject can be applied in another. That said, when I finished my studies, I knew I never wanted to touch advanced mathematics again! But it just so happens that the theories and fundamentals of maths make me a good technical consultant. In my current role, I lead technical designs that help release opportunity for clients. That could be anything from helping them achieve better data visibility to a complete system redesign.
Why is consulting a good career choice for women in STEM?
When I left university, I didn’t know which sector I wanted to work in or what I wanted to achieve. In consulting, however, I’ve worked with private sector companies, hospitals and the defence sector, so the variety is huge. In some technical roles you can be divorced from the people who’ll be using your products. In consulting that can’t happen because, to make sure a solution is successful, you have to work closely with clients to really understand what’s going on in their business. There’s a big ‘people’ aspect to this job, and I love that. Plus, sometimes in consulting, teams are typically small, you’re given a lot of responsibility from day one, and — because you understand the client so well — your opinion is listened to and respected.
How important is it for women to have a support network in their careers?
My support network is the peer group I joined the company with five years ago. Everyone has a development manager — a consistent presence throughout their career — who they talk to about promotion, long-term aspirations and development goals. They’ll also champion you to make sure your voice is being heard in the business. Then I have a technical mentor who helps with my technical development, and there are women’s networks and events. It can be a stressful job, so having a strong support network — regardless of your gender — is imperative.
The key thing is to get passionate, talented women in the right places to help that change along.
The tech sector is male dominated. Are things improving?
Diversity and inclusion are on a journey. It’s not fixed and it’s not going to be anytime soon — but a mindset shift is happening. It’ll take a while, but as women come up through university and into layers of management, they’ll begin to influence the future of work for women in technology. The key thing is to get passionate, talented women in the right places to help that change along. Because I really want to work in a world where women aren’t affected by imposter syndrome and don’t have to think: ‘Am I only here because I’m a woman?’ We need to take gender out of the equation and value people’s strengths as individuals.
What’s your advice for young women studying STEM and considering their future careers?
Just because you have, say, a chemistry degree, don’t think that chemistry is your only career option. The reason that consulting hires so many STEM students is because of the critical thinking and problem-solving abilities they bring to the table.
The other thing is, find a mentor or sponsor in an area that you want to work in, or a company you want to work for. There are also mentorship programmes for university students who want to get into STEM careers such as consulting. Go on Google or LinkedIn and reach out to them, because being guided by someone in a senior position can really help you shape your career.