It can be intimidating to do your best work in an environment that is not culturally diverse. Sheree has been able to integrate her career and life to advocate for diverse and conducive workplaces. She led the first Women Who Code chapter in the United Kingdom, and it has expanded since then.
Sheree Atcheson is a U.K. Tech Respect and Inclusion Manager at Deloitte and an advocate for diversity in tech. She is one of the UK’s Top Most Influential Women in Tech. She is the founder of I am Lanka and a Global Ambassador for Women Who Code. Sheree is passionate about diversity and inclusion in tech!
She is an amazing and shared her career journey with LFE:
How does your background in S.T.E.M influence your career?
I began my career as a software engineer, graduating with a Computer Science degree. When I graduated, I was one of few women in my team and I wanted to change that. From there, I decided I wanted to make a change, and that’s when I branched WWCode to our first UK location, in Belfast. STEM has ultimately shaped my career as it is directly what I work in and am influenced by.
As a woman of color in tech, what challenges did you face(if any) in the corporate space?
In my life, I have regularly been the only person like me in the room – whether that is female or a person of colour (or even more regularly, both!). That breeds imposter syndrome and makes you question whether you should be there or not. My view now is that of course I should be there – me being there means I can show others that they can also be there.
I remember starting out my career and people regularly talking over me. There was a switch in my career when people stopped talking over me or disregarding what I said, to sitting back and fully listening to me.
Your career path has been very exciting, you wear many hats! What advice do you have for millennials who want to pursue their passion project outside of their 9-5?
Go for it, but be ready for some strain. We are all only human, and a lot of us do too much. There is an art to saying “no” and we all need to learn it – I haven’t quite done that yet. But I think by giving us the ability to pursue our passions, we ultimately allow ourselves to determine our career, without restrictions. I began “wearing many hats” over 5 years ago – now, my passion is about to become my full-time role, in the shape of a Respect & Inclusion role. That’s pretty exciting!
What does diversity mean to you? How do you contribute to the promotion of diversity and inclusivity in the workplace?
Diversity is a whole host of things – it is gender, age, sexuality, abilities, socio-economic background, ethnicity and everything in between. I contribute to the promotion of diversity and ensuring we create a place of inclusion by holding people and organisations accountable. We are leaders in this space and therefore it is our responsibility to ensure it fits for all, not the few. I help organisations create data-driven strategies to help with their attraction and retention – ultimately, by ensuring we do not hire diversity but promote conformity. We need to give all people the same opportunities, otherwise, we are simply doing humans and the industry a disservice.
What advice do you have for millennial women of color who want to pursue a career in Tech but don’t have a technical background?
The tech industry isn’t just technical roles. There are many different avenues and roles which can suit you – research and find out what they might be. If you want to get into tech, there are lots of free ways to upskill yourself, such as Women Who Code meetups, online courses and communities which will give you the help in getting the first step to becoming a designer, developer, tester – anything!
What does being an executive woman mean to you?
Being an executive person means being in a position of leadership. And that means the responsibility of making the tech industry of tomorrow better than the one which exists today.