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Johanna Waite: TechWomen100 Winner!

Meet Johanna Waite, our very own top woman in Tech – and nationally recognised as a TechWomen100 Winner by We Are Tech Women! 

On 6th December, Johanna formally received her award as one of the leading women in the tech sector, after the incredible work she does for the TechUP initiative was acknowledged by her fellow peers and industry leaders. Johanna joined the other winners for a glamourous awards ceremony in London, supported by members of the TechUP team, to collect her award. 

Find out more from Johanna about her role, passion and why Women in Tech is so important. 

Tell us about yourself… 

Hi! I’m Johanna Waite, Programme Manager for the TechUP initiative and champion of diversity, inclusivity and opportunity.  

I first joined Durham three and a half years ago as a project manager for the first ever TechUP programme (I’ll tell you more about it later), and am now proud to say that I am responsible for the delivery of all programmes in the TechUP portfolio. We currently run three separate programmes, TechUPWomen, TechUPOnline and TechUPTraining, but we’ve all got plenty of ambition to keep growing and supporting learners from all areas. 

Why TechUP? 

I’ve got a diverse work background, with experience in a range of sectors, most recently Heritage, and Engineering before that. Especially when working in the Engineering industry, I was aware of the very male dominated workforce, and the impact this could have on the design, delivery and use of many products we all use.  

Did you know that seat belt design is based on the average male body, shoes designed on the average male foot or that automatic dispenser technology didn’t register non white skin when it was first introduced?! I want to help change this! 

TechUP is a tech training initiative that focuses on training individuals from minority groups into tech careers. Working closely with industry, we create programmes tailored to industry needs whilst also ensuring every participant gets an amazing learning experience. 

We bridge the gap for women who can’t access tech roles. We partner with employers looking to increase diversity and take advantage of the wide range of skills our learners have. 

Through our programmes, we also build confidence, create a feeling of empowerment and deliver job negotiation skills – helping to prepare a workforce that is a tour de force!  

What do you love about your role?

I absolutely love what I do! It can be crazy during programme delivery, when we’re all supporting so many learners looking to reach their potential, while also balancing the needs of partner employers, but that’s what makes it such a unique role too. 

The personal interactions I have with learners are a real high point for me. I’ll never forget our first TechUPWomen programme, I had no idea what to expect and it had a huge impact on me and the team, as well as our learners. That first residential weekend – WOW! We had 100 women walking into a room for the first time, surrounded by others with the same dreams, goals, journeys and challenges.  

So many had experienced barriers to employment, they felt alone and many honestly thought they were the only ones feeling like this. And then they arrived to see 99 other women just like them! It was a feeling that I couldn’t, and still can’t, put into words. 

It’s immense, overpowering and so rewarding. Apart our learners struggled, but together they became an incredibly powerful network. It was a very special moment – take a look!  

Why is TechUP so important? 

Through our programmes, I watch women go from doubting themselves, to gaining wings and flying, complete with their TechUPWomen cape! 

Women go from feeling lost and unsure about what their futures hold, to further study and getting those jobs in tech that they only dreamed of. They become whole new versions of themselves, full of self-belief, passion and dreams. TechUP just needed to provide the right learning environment, support network and, often most importantly, flexibility. 

The flexibility to learn when it suits. Many balance family commitments, which mean ‘traditional’ learning can be close to impossible. With a mix of live, virtual and recorded learning, we provide a learning lifeline. 

TechUP is also helping to tap into a market that has been underutilised. The tech sector is crying out for a diverse workforce, it continues to grow, with recruitment challenges growing too. We help that, providing a new approach – championing flexibility. The tech sector is well suited to remote/flex working, so for me, linking supply and demand here is a no-brainer.  

We provide such an outlet – a route out to women ‘trapped’ in current roles or who see no room for development, or feel they exist for others rather than themselves. We get them into productive careers they’re passionate about, and ultimately transform lives!  

What’s new? 

So far, I have managed the training of 240 learners on Skills Bootcamps and through TechUPWomen, with another 8,000 people on digital skills courses

We’ve now created an alumnae network who help each other with job applications and ongoing support. We hold webinars for them – providing access to expert speakers, recruitment specialists and recruitment opportunities, and encourage our alumnae to share their experience with each other too. 

We’ve recently delivered our first TechUP reunion which was just incredible! With the pandemic, it’s the first time we’ve been back together since January 2020 and it meant our Skills Bootcampers could meet each other and our TechUPWomen for the first time too – the buzz and excitement was palpable! 

Tell us about the awards ceremony? 

I had such a great time, I got to meet many of the other awards winners, catch up with industry contacts, and make lots of new connections. Of course, there was amazing food, speeches and entertainment and most of all, we all just got to enjoy the moment, celebrate our own and each other’s successes, before we all go back to fighting for more women in tech. Check out the highlights here!

What’s next? 

Well, celebrations of course! I am so proud to have been recognised as one of the Top 100 Women in Tech – made even more special as it’s voted on by peers and others in the industry.  

I’ve been nominated for the Northern Power Women awards which take place in March 2023, so watch this space!  

We also have exciting plans for TechUP underway, but it’s all top secret right now, so you’ll have to wait a little longer to find out what we’re doing next!