Top 10 myths about working in tech debunked

14 July 2023

What does working in tech really look like? That was the key question asked at Opencast's 'myth busting' fringe session for the 2023 TechNext festival in June. Four consultants debated the top 10 myths about work in tech as voted by the Opencast team. The panel:

Srilekha Ganesandeveloper, Opencast
Mark Halllead consultant agile delivery manager, Opencast
Ed Harrison junior user researcher, Opencast
Kerry-Anne Kanepractice lead QA , Opencast
Moderator: Khaled Nawazlearning & development business partner, Opencast

Myth 1: You have to be good at or qualified in maths or science to work in tech.

Mark: "When I was 18 I got my A levels and they were a bit worse than I expected, and I decided to take a gap year. I then found out you could be paid £1000 if you did a training course at BT, so I decided to do that. I did end up doing a degree while working - but what got me into then stay in tech was call centres.

"I'm not saying do a degree or don't do a degree – it's up to each person and their preference. Doing a degree gives you skills and organisation, but a tech-related degree is not the only way to get into tech. For instance, Charlie Hoult, who founded Opencast, has degrees in English and journalism, and Emily Allison, who is our head of UCD, has a degree in Japanese.”

Man laughing tips head back wearing blue checked shirt.
Mark Hall

Myth 2: People who work in tech are introverted and socially awkward.

Ed: "I am actually a very introverted person. I'm very fortunate to be here at Opencast because it welcomes everybody. I'm surrounded by introverts and extroverts. We also have a lot of neurodiversity here. I've also worked in a few other tech companies and they also had a variety of different personality types.

“It's definitely not true to say you have to be introverted and awkward to work in in technology. What's important is that we create spaces where people feel free to be themselves, that they feel safe to express themselves.”

Khaled: "Why is it important to bring your full self to work?

Ed: “When I came to Opencast, a key reason for joining was that it had a culture that encourages you to be yourself. You know you feel safe to talk to people about what's on your mind. We have people experience partners and mentors to support us and we have one to ones with managers. People here want you to express yourself and be open and honest. Fostering that kind of culture, letting you be yourself, is huge.

“There's a complex soup of what makes a person a person. There's lots to the mix of every person. We should approach everyone with the understanding that there are layers to them that are more than they may appear. Once you start to understand that you'll see the value that every single person around you can bring to the table, if they’re given the opportunity.”

Man talking on panel discussion, sitting on sofa wearing blue polo shirt.
Ed Harrison

Myth 3: Men are better-suited than women to work in tech.

Kerry-Anne: “I have worked within QA where I’ve been the only female on the team, but I have always found that didn't really matter. I have had leadership from both females and males, and in those situation I've always learned from everyone. For me, it doesn't matter whether you're male or female."

“I have always felt like I need to stand my ground – but that's just me overall. I always go out and be independent and strong because that's the kind of person I am."

“At Opencast there’s a 50/50% balance on recent recruitment and within my QA practice, we have 35% female, which is pretty good. But just because there is an imbalance that doesn't mean it's negative: it's not. Gender doesn’t matter.

“According to Gartner, companies with more equal representation are more profitable. Those with a minimum of one female on the board can outperform those without any women by 26%. At Opencast we've got two women on our board, and 15 women within our leadership community.

“The lack of equal pay is a massive thing, and one of the main reasons why women don't look to go in tech. If your company works towards making sure that everybody is paid equally you can eradicate it.”

Woman speaking to audience wearing red polka dot dress.
Kerry-Anne Kane

Myth 4: Work in tech is all about staring at screens and typing code all day.

Srilekha: “A typical day for me starts with a standup meeting, where the team gets aligned about the task, what they have done the day before, and we communicate what we need.

“If we want help, we can communicate that then. Sometimes I work independently, or I pair program with other developers. Once a solution is agreed, I start coding. It will be delivered to the testing team, and from then we support them until the work is done. We also do knowledge sharing sessions.

“On a typical day 20%-30% of my work will be coding. Aside from coding we interact and collaborate with other team members. So spending all day staring at screens typing code only is just not true."

Colour photo of woman on video screen
Srilekha Ganeshan

Myth 5: Work in tech is not creative.

Mark: "The definition of creative is 'relating to or involve in the use of imagination or original ideas, to create something'.

“Imagination is absolutely paramount to making a successful team, and that is not just one person's responsibility. Thinking of user-centred design, they have to be creative to understand user needs, the full end-to-end journey and the different accessibility and security requirements.

“If you're not creative, and you just do what you're told, then what will happen is you'll deliver something that isn't needed. In order to be creative, you really have to get together as teams. From what I've seen the whole of technology is moving in a better way right now.

Myth 6: Once you learn a particular language/platform, you have to stay working on that.

Srilekha: "I started my career as a mainframe programmer, then took a long career break, When I came back I needed to learn new languages because of the lack of opportunities in mainframe. I had the same self-doubt about whether I would be able to learn a new language - would I be doing mainframe programming forever?

"I started with online courses, learning python. Then I enrolled on to the Tech Returners programme, which focuses on training experienced people to get back into the tech industry. There I learned Javascript and since I joined Opencast I've been learning Scala.

"Have I mastered the full languages that I've learned recently? Definitely not. The thing is, I am able to deliver the work I’m given. As consultants, we need to be agile enough to get our work and be open to learn new technologies. I would consider moving from one language to another a useful skill. We can definitely master new skills if we have the opportunity.”

Picture of smartphone with voting poll on screen
Voting on the top tech myths

Myth 7: Work in tech is not about people.

Mark: "I think the opposite is true: tech is completely about people.

“To make it about people you need to understand what people are. It about understanding what each individual has that makes them different to one another, and how they can tell you how you can move with them and vice versa. We as humans need to be open to speaking to each other.”

"Thinking about user-centred design, we always think of the user, who is not always the customer. The user could be the customer but might also be the person in a call centre or someone running one of the internal roles. It's important to consider everyone."

“People's lives, both work and personal life, are very busy - but you have to adapt. By making time, you can get a real understanding and empathy of one another. This helps you build trust and understanding. Then you can start to work with them better."

Myth 8: If you work in tech you’ll end up working solo rather than with others.

Kerry-Anne: “If you’re sitting working on your own the whole time, you can’t deliver anything. How can you know the requirements of the job? How can you understand user needs?

"When you're working on a project you are part of a multi-disciplinary team. I work every day with developers, testers, business analysts and product owners – and have to collaborate with everyone within that team. We also have sessions with the client to make sure that what we've built is correct."

We run community sessions at Opencast, and participate in community sessions on the client side too. It's a good place to learn to understand their frameworks and models. You can learn from them as much as they learn from you.

"At Opencast, we can go into a product owner, developer or UCD meeting, and can learn everything you need to know. It's all about learning from your peers."

Colour picture of myth voting on a screen with four people looking up at screen
Top myths ranked

Myth 9: Tech professionals are always on call and have no work-life balance.

Srilekha: "I do have a work-like balance. Because I am a stay-at home mum, I was a bit anxious when my rejoined the tech workforce, but because I worked from home I was able to manage.

“Project team meetings here are scheduled in such a way that they don't happen during school run times, and we have some flexibility during working hours to attend essential appointments, which also helps us achieve a balance.

“Working from home means we don't have social interaction. That's why Opencast has community sessions, social events and conferences. There you can recharge yourself, take a break and recharge.”

Myth 10: If you've had a career doing something else you can't get a job in tech.

Ed: "I am what you would call a super squiggler or a serial squiggler. Originally I was a product designer. I graduated, went on to do PGCE and became a teacher – but I didn't enjoy teaching so became a lesson technician.

"I then went through a series of weird jobs. I was a scarecrow actor, worked in a theme park as an entertainer and was a haunted clown house manager.

“After that I entered technology for the first time, as a data protection engineer, then project coordinator. I left to become a creative consultant in the board game industry. To support my freelance income I became a cinema projectionist, then got taken on full time on as a developer for board games. I then moved back to technology for a second time, as a project co-ordinator, before leaving during lockdown and using Covid as an opportunity to go back to university and learn while the market was stagnant.

"After I graduated, I applied to Opencast to do user research. I wasn't successful, but the company gave me an opportunity to be a recruitment team coordinator. Because they wanted to help people squiggle through their careers, they give me an opportunity to move into user research later on.

"I've come into technology, and left, three times. If you've never had a job in technology, you can quite get in, even if you haven't got a tech background.

“My specialities are actually in woodwork and 3D printing, but because I'm willing to learn, people see that. Anyone can work in in in technology. It's about creating a solid foundation to give people opportunity to move into the role and to grow."

Myth busting: what working in tech really looks like – watch the full session video.
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