Jenny Huynh, second year Digital, Data, and Technology Fast Streamer, talks about gender equality at work and the culture of inclusiveness on the scheme.
I’m Jenny Huynh and I am in my second year on the Digital, Data, and Technology Fast Stream (DDaT Fast Stream), where I have had placements at the Home Office and Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). I’m currently on secondment to a charity. Before I joined the Fast Stream, I worked in the City of London as a tech recruiter.
Two years ago was a difficult time for me. I wasn’t enjoying working in sales and was looking for another career path. Whilst looking at my options, I came across the DDaT Fast Stream. I’d always been interested in tech, but a part of me did question why I wanted to become a digital professional. Like many of you interested in gender politics in the workplace, I knew the demographics for tech didn’t favour women.
Women and STEM
A recent study found that only 15% of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) roles in the UK are occupied by women, and only 5% are in leadership roles. According to the study, it’s because there is too little information on what is required to work in STEM, it is too male dominated, and not creative enough. However, 50% of women surveyed said that making the world a better place is an important factor in their career choices; something I personally identify with and drove me to apply for the Fast Stream. The responsibility to change the culture within tech lies with the industry and I think the Civil Service has taken the lead to addressing that.
Applying to the Fast Stream
One of the great things about the DDaT Fast Stream is you don’t need a technical background. The DDaT Fast Stream is a leadership scheme and only asks for a 2:1 in any subject. There is no degree requirement if you are a current civil servant. I don’t think as a politics student I would have ever seen myself on a digital scheme. In fact, most colleagues have no technical background.
The interview process was intense but rewarding. I had a different interviewer for each exercise, meaning I was fairly marked across the day. I remember a question about diversity; what did I see as the value of it and what have I done to promote diversity in my life. For my final selection interview, the panel had a woman from within the profession to assess me, which I later found out was standard practice. This showed me the Civil Service is committed to addressing the gender balance. I can see in practice how this hiring process across government has been successful; not once during my time on the scheme have I felt discriminated against.
On the Job
The Fast Stream doesn’t mess around when it comes to giving you responsibility - you are part of a team from day one. In my first placement, I was tasked with creating a strategy for on measuring performance within Home Office DDaT. Towards the end, I found myself proficient in Google Analytics, implementing best practices, and advising teams across the department on developing performance indicators for their digital services.
Creativity is something that is encouraged. Content designers are responsible for making GOV.UK accessible and understandable. Delivery managers must remove obstacles blocking their team from working. Fast Streamers are encouraged to be bold and challenge assumptions when trying to solve problems.
The industry is still male dominated, the teams I have worked in have been mostly men. But in the culture of collaboration and innovation, that stops being a major issue. In an agile team, it is a flat structure and team members have to work together to get the job done - everyone has a voice in shaping the service they are working on.
Mentoring and support
One of the great things about working within digital in the Civil Service is the network of women willing to support and mentor you. Rose, a product manager at the Home Office, helped me to develop my presentation skills, as well as offered me career advice within my first month of joining the Fast Stream. Kit a deputy director at DWP, brought me on board to help with the OneTeamGov movement and encouraged me to show confidence when working with stakeholders. Through their help and support, I’ve been able to achieve things that I never would have thought about doing in my old job.
It is for the above reasons that I’m glad I applied for the Fast Stream and would recommend it to anyone with a passion for digital and wants to make a change in society. It is a scheme where you are judged on your talent and ability alone, and where diversity and equality is encouraged.
Apply for the Digital, Data and Technology Fast Stream 2018 until 26 October 2017.