Determination pays off; Gemma’s journey into tech

Gemma Baldock

Saffron Wildbore

~ 5min read

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~ 5min read

After discovering a love for tech whilst at university, Gemma Baldock struggled to break into the industry. However, that didn’t stop her determination. She landed her role through the  mthree Aspire Program, which focuses on helping more women get jobs in tech. 

She went to university and studied an integrated masters of Biological Sciences, which focused on Cancer Biology and Pharmacology. Gemma was first introduced to Python in her final year project, which sparked an immediate love for all things coding. “I was looking at how you can use coding to improve the lives of patients with a certain type of eye cancer. I thought it was really cool how coding can solve real world problems and felt that tech is the way forward.” 

Thanks to her hard work and the Aspire program, Gemma is now working as a Java Developer within market risk at a well-known bank. Read on to discover her story.

> Struggling to break into the industry

Gemma joined a coding bootcamp to focus on improving her coding skills, but it unfortunately didn’t end up in a job role for her. “Some of the friends I made on the course had much more experience than me. I was nowhere near their experience level… It just seemed incredibly hard to break into the industry considering I don’t come from the usual backgrounds. I just think that the odds were stacked against me.”

“I applied for a software engineering role at a big company and got immediately rejected. It’s funny now because after the Aspire program, I’m working at the exact same company just a few months after I was rejected.”

> Never losing hope

“I was very confident that if I were to wait long enough, my time would come. I had the desire and ability to succeed, I thought okay that's one rejection closer to getting an offer. Obviously, it’s quite demoralizing when it’s one rejection after the other in quick succession, but I was confident that I would one day be able to prove myself to a company and succeed.”

> Joining a women only program

Gemma was contacted by the talent team here at mthree to join our Aspire program, which focuses on getting women from non-traditional degree backgrounds into the tech workforce. 

“I was excited to join mainly because it was an all women cohort, with everyone being from different degree backgrounds. So I thought there’d be a lot of shared experiences there. 

I also think that there’s a certain comradery and a shared experience when it is all women, particularly women all trying to break into the tech industry. The fact that it was a 10 week course was a huge selling point too, I didn’t have a lot of experience in other coding languages. I had never looked at a line of Java, and now after the course I’m working as a Java Developer. It’s absolutely amazing. 

The cohort was only around 30 women, so I felt that we could all be a lot more honest with one another. Some of the women had come from very male-dominated industries and were able to share their unique perspectives on what it was like. I don’t think we would’ve been able to be so vulnerable with one another about working in and breaking into a male-dominated field if it were a mixed cohort. It was such a positive, powerful and affirming experience.”

> Landing the role

After completing the course with us, Gemma landed her role as a Java Developer at a global investment bank. “The feeling I had on my first day going to pick up my badge was a bit overwhelming, but definitely more surreal. I think because I’d been rejected from the same place just a few months beforehand. 

After I’d been rejected I thought I was going to have to reassess my goals and visions. It could be months or years before I break into tech. Then, going to the office in London and picking up my access card, it was quite surreal. I’m so grateful for the experience.

Some of the people who interviewed me actually came through mthree! I saw them, saw that they were doing well and progressing, and thought, well if they can do it then I can do it too. I thought I’ll just trust the process because this clearly works.”


> An essential part of the puzzle

We asked Gemma to describe her role to someone who had never worked in tech before. “I would say I help to solve business problems. So you’re working to optimize business performance. You’re a smaller part of a bigger puzzle to essentially prevent the bank from making monetary losses. I use problem solving skills to mitigate risks for the bank. “

Despite only being in her role for 7 weeks, Gemma already has a full on schedule. “I clock in at 9am and do some admin work until our daily stand up at 9:30, where we give our progress on any tasks and say if there are any blockers preventing us from completing. I’ve been paired up with a more senior member of the team, who actually came through mthree too, to check in with me and make sure I’m okay.

I’ve been focusing on smaller tasks, but now I’m about to touch the code base for the first time. Which is really exciting! We then typically log off between 5 and 6, it’s not set in stone. 

We typically go into the office Wednesdays and Thursdays, where we tend to be more social. The other day we had a 2 hour lunch and all went out for a meal together. It’s just been a really positive experience.”

> Discussing diversity in the workplace

“I think diversity in the workplace is incredibly important, not just in terms of gender, in every aspect. I tend to think of diversity as a superpower that needs to be harnessed by businesses. 

I do think some businesses are really starting to see the value of diversity in making a business stronger. I think if a business is monolithic, or has just one type of person, they’re doing a real disservice to themselves. 

I don’t think there are enough initiatives to get more diversity in tech. I know I come from a place of privilege, but I don’t think organizations are encouraging enough, for example, black women into tech. 

There are different challenges that people may need to navigate in the workplace, that we need to ensure are catered for. ” 

> Advice for others wanting to break into the industry

Despite the challenges she faced, Gemma is on her way to forging a hugely successful career for herself in the world of tech. 

When giving advice to others, Gemma said “I would say that you have to believe in yourself. You have to recognize your intrinsic value and also the value that you could bring to a business. Although we as women have different challenges that we have to navigate, I do think it’s possible to break into tech and thrive within the industry. 

You have to be diligent, you have to be hardworking and you just really have to believe in yourself. There are a lot of soft and hard skills you will have gained, especially if you’ve transitioned from another industry, that can be applied to working in tech. You’ll never know what could be possible if you don’t try.”

If you’re inspired by Gemma’s story, discover our current roles today.

Saffron Wildbore is a Senior Marketing Executive at mthree. She has worked in marketing, specialising in creating content for over 4 years. Saffron focuses on writing tips for graduates, Alumni interviews and more!


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