This post comes to us from Rowan Hamill, a proud female in tech and first-year AppNexian. She is a born and bred Londoner, with a weird accent due to five years in Sydney. She is constantly blown away by the calibre of people at AppNexus -- in their knowledge and integrity.
The AppNexus Women’s Network is dedicated to opening up avenues for young women to get into tech. So, in our latest effort to make a difference, the London office welcomed a class of teenagers from Central London to show them “A Day in the Life at AppNexus.”
The class was made up of ten 14-year-old Computer Science students from Parliament Hill, a girls’ school in central London whose ethos is to “recognise the opportunities and challenges of being a young woman in a changing world.”
I reached out to this school in particular as an old high school teacher of mine is now a head there, and I wanted to pay it forward to a class of girls perhaps much like myself. So, before I tell you about our day with the girls, let me explain why this initiative means so much to me.
Why I care about getting young women into tech
I am rapidly approaching my first year at AppNexus, and my fifth year in ad tech, and like many other people in this new, disruptive industry, I could never have predicted I would have a career in technology.
I was personally passionate to get involved with this project because I wanted to give young girls an opportunity to see into a “real” office that they might not otherwise have access to.
As everybody’s ears are open to hear new ways that tech companies can invest in Diversity and Inclusion, allow me to provide background on why this was so important to me, and why the School Outreach day is close to my heart.
After completing a degree in English Literature, I was hoping to pursue a career in journalism. I had always enjoyed writing and thought this would be the field for me. What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that desirable roles in journalism required one fundamental element that was out of my control: not being poor.
Without delving too much into the details of my own personal situation, the headline is that I grew up with no exposure to adults going to work in a professional capacity. As a kid, I had no comprehension of what it meant to go to an office each day, so I never got to hear the nuggets of information that go with the typical working life. It meant that a “career” was something I knew I had to completely create for myself.
Without the financial support to complete the unpaid internships that have become the norm in journalism, I decided to take a different route: I started my career working in the advertising departments at Sky TV, and then Bauer Radio. With those salaries supporting me I could use my holiday days to gain work experience as a reporter on a local paper, and the News Desk at Sky on Sundays.
Six years in, I realised that I was pushing for a “dream” that wasn’t for me. I was really enjoying my time working in advertising, and there was a new buzz word I kept hearing: “digital.” The people in this emerging field were smart and dynamic -- as smart as the people generating the programmes and news the advertising teams were supporting.
I moved into ad tech in 2012 and haven’t looked back since. The ad tech companies at which I’ve worked focus on the wellbeing of staff rather than just the wellbeing of the work. They pay their interns. They value diversity. They have some of the smartest people working here at AppNexus that want to support and celebrate the content on the internet – not diminish it. I joined AppNexus Women’s Network the day I started at AppNexus and I have relished being able to have a louder voice with my peers.
School Outreach Day: Our time with Parliament Hill
Now that you know my story, let me tell you about our day with the future tech superstars of Parliament Hill. The students started the day with an overview of what we do at AppNexus, followed by introductions to members from different teams such as engineering, marketing, sales, and so on.
The girls then joined us for one of our “Family Lunches,” a weekly tradition in which the whole office sits together and eats lunch in the cafeteria. We gave the students a chance to ask us some questions and learn how people from all different backgrounds have come to work at AppNexus. They wanted to know things like, “What did you study at school?” and, “As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?”
We then split the students into teams for a group project. Their task? Design an app for schools to find substitute teachers on short notice. We gave them wireframes for smart phones, plenty of Sharpie pens, and away they went!
They had a couple of hours to brainstorm ideas, with some help from lots of eager AppNexians (who enjoyed it as much as the students!)
We also gave the girls some tips on how to present. Our advice included:
Keep it simple
Maintain eye Contact
After this, they were ready to go. It only took a couple of hours watching the girls work on their apps to know that each team could deliver on the task we set them – this competition would surely come down to the wire. They pulled together some fantastic ideas, which they presented to our panel of Dragons in the Den, who then had the tough task of choosing a winner. It was a fun day, but more importantly, we were able to show these girls that a career in tech is attainable, and that offices like ours would always welcome their presence.
More work to be done
AppNexus Women’s Network works to empower women in tech. We host panels and networking events focused around discussion and encouragement, donate to programs like Smart Works, and push for greater Diversity and Inclusion in our industry.
AppNexus has an inclusive environment, but there’s still progress to be made. We need to keep showing people of all backgrounds that the doors to their dream careers exist - and that they are open.