A woman wearing a red top is smiling at the camera while a man works on a laptop in the background.
Aude Barral. Image: CodinGame

For diversity in tech, ‘skills-based hiring should become the norm’

5 Jul 2021

CodinGame’s Aude Barral spoke to Siliconrepublic.com about creating diverse tech teams and making the sector more inclusive as a whole.

Aude Barral is the co-founder of CodinGame, a training and recruitment platform for developers that aims to bring more diversity to tech teams.

She graduated from the Institute of Political Studies at Oxford Brookes University and began her professional career as a public policy consultant, before creating CodinGame with co-founders Frédéric Desmoulins and Nicolas Antoniazzi.

‘Tech jobs are evolving at an incredibly fast pace and new professions are emerging every year’
– AUDE BARRAL

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

Did you always want to work in tech?

I haven’t always worked in tech or set out to work in tech. I started my career as a consultant for public organisations in the field of employment and vocational training. This experience allowed me to investigate innovative learning methods, including simulation-based training and micro-learning, which are at the core of the CodinGame platform.

Seizing the opportunity to work in tech as a first-time entrepreneur, and without having a tech background, was both a challenge and an adventure. Technically, I was backed by my two co-founders who are software engineers. That said, finding the best route to market a tech product, and having it adopted by the masses doesn’t necessarily mean drowning people in tech jargon. The tech sector should be accessible to people from a non-tech background.

What is the tech world like for women professionals today?

Progress has been made to attract more women into the tech sector, but I believe women who want a career in tech still have to work twice as hard to prove that they can do it. Tech remains very much a man’s world and biases remain, which are obstructing women from progressing and succeeding in many tech professions.

There’s no doubt women can thrive in the tech industry and overcome any obstacles if they are passionate about what they do and are given the platform, opportunities and support to succeed.

As an example, on the CodinGame platform we have a worldwide community of 2m developers. Four years ago, around 6pc of the community were women – today it is 12pc. This increase has been achieved by improving inclusivity on the platform, for example by starring female characters in our games and by organising events dedicated to female coders.

Also, working in tech doesn’t necessarily mean becoming a developer. Women can also blossom in tech jobs such as product manager, growth hacker, data scientist or launch their own tech start-up, without necessarily having an engineering background.

Recognising that girls need active role models to identify with definitely inspired me to keep working in the tech industry. If we want to see more women choosing a career in tech, role models are going to play a huge part in that evolution.

When young girls are able to see, talk to and be inspired by a sister, cousin or aunt working as a developer or any other tech job, this will be a giant step forward.

I’ve seen female friends of mine struggling to raise funds for their start-ups and I feel men in the same position wouldn’t encounter the same problems. Things are changing, with funds aimed specifically at helping women entrepreneurs but change is happening slowly.

You only have to look at the typical gender balance of co-founding teams of many new tech start-ups to see how far we still have to go.

What problems still exist that need greater attention?

Putting the diversity issue to one side for a moment, I feel very strongly that programming should be taught to boys and girls from a much younger age.

Programming will be the new literacy of the 21st century. It is such a powerful way to empower people in today’s world. If you know how to program, you can easily create a prototype for an app or administrate a website you’ve developed. Life becomes so much more complicated when you’re having to rely on external programming skills.

With regards to diversity and inclusivity in the tech industry, companies are making slow progress. At the forefront of change should be tackling unconscious bias during the hiring process. Skills-based hiring should become the norm, to give an equal chance to minority groups to be recruited in positions traditionally occupied by white males.

Is there anything specific that leaders in tech need to be doing differently?

Leaders in tech must be proactive, especially when it comes to diversity and inclusivity. Gender equality in tech won’t be achieved in isolation, there needs to be a concerted effort to change. Employers need to reshape their branding, educate their employees and managers, and assess how they can improve and infuse more inclusivity in their business processes.

This end goal can’t be achieved without senior executives having the commitment and energy to steer their organisations forward in the right direction. It involves looking not just at external hiring but also internal mobility. Anonymous applications processes, skills-based hiring with hands-on assessment tests, and diversity-prone employee referral programmes can help companies achieve their inclusivity goals.

What advice would you give to people who want to pursue a career in tech today?

A good starting point is to have a better understanding of the type of tech jobs that are available today. A simple internet search of the most in-demand tech jobs will show you which jobs are ranking highest and why companies have a particular need for certain tech expertise.

Tech jobs are evolving at an incredibly fast pace and new professions are emerging every year, so keeping up to date on what tech positions are hot right now is key to stand the best chance of securing that dream role.

Once you’ve identified which tech jobs are in demand, check the educational paths that lead to these professions. Some tech jobs require several years of higher education, but others can be accessible within a few months.

Short-training courses and online resources can help those people willing and motivated to retrain. In many instances, having a previous background in a totally different field is an asset, as cross competencies are becoming more sought after in the tech industry.

Finally, consider an internship. It will give you a clearer idea what’s required from an employer and give you the chance to assess whether you are the right person for the job.

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