Ally Watson is a software engineer who spent years working as a lone-female-developer and is recognised for her work in promoting diversity and opportunities for women in tech, her dedication to education and training for women and her advocacy for promoting coding and software development among women.
In 2015 she started her company called Code Like a Girl – inspired by her passion for education and training for women in the field of coding and software development. Ally wanted to close the gender gap within the tech industry and build a future where women didn’t feel like outsiders in STEM industries in Australia. Code Like A Girl began as a way for Ally to meet other women who code.
Having moved to Australia from Scotland, Ally wanted to form strong connections and female friendships so she decided to host her own event – one specifically for women in tech. She had no idea that one event would turn into many and become the humble beginnings of Code Like A Girl.
Ally Watson was awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) at the beginning of this year on Australia Day.
“Working in the gender-equality space can feel like a relentless marathon, many people tell you it can’t be achieved in your lifetime,” Ally said after being awarded the OAM.
“It takes a rare kind of optimism to keep pushing as hard as we do at Code Like a Girl and moments like this matter. When the country you call home, sees you and recognises your work. It serves as great motivation to keep pushing forward, knowing how much more needs to be done.”
We spoke with Ally about her achievements this year and her inspiring career journey:
Congratulations on your OAM investiture. What does it mean for you?
What’s important to me is what it might mean to others. As a girl who grew up in a council estate in a small town in Scotland, I am undeniably proud looking back at how far I have come. I know the journey I’ve been on will inspire others. My ambition has always been to drive conversations around gender equity in tech and positively influence other gender minorities to enter the field of coding. I know that becoming an OAM recipient will only further this ambition and that fills me with so much gratitude.
How has Code Like A Girl evolved since you first founded it, and how can people get involved?
My mantra has always been, “fall in love with the problem, not the solution” and so we have evolved over the years. With every initiative and every project, you learn something new about what’s possible and what works. We’re always striving for a solution that’s scalable, sustainable, and most importantly creates the change we want to see – a gender-balanced technology workforce that represents the richness of our society.
Today, we’re doing just that. We work with over 50+ companies in Australia to help all gender minorities (women/trans-women/non-binary etc) who are immediately looking to transition into technology roles but may face barriers such as not having coding skills or lack formal qualifications.
We connect our community with paid software engineer placements and for those who need more upskilling we take them through our online industry-led coding courses and tutorage that help them get there.
Recognition Matters focuses on messaging like ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. What does this statement mean to you?
Research tells us that girls are more likely to articulate their self-identity using adjectives, rather than verbs which boys tend to use. What this says to me, is that girls, they want to BE someone, not just DO something when they grow up.
Why do female role models in STEM make a difference?
The importance of real role models cannot be underestimated. Just look at the “Scully Effect” a phenomenon that saw the fictional FBI Agent inspire a spike in STEM enrolments from women during the time the show aired.
Who have been some of your mentors and how did they help shape your career?
As a first-time founder and manager, it’s been a steep learning curve. I have never ending gratitude for the countless people that have championed my vision and leadership from day-dot.
One of those people being Andrew Ritchie, founder of Estimate One. What started as a simple LinkedIn message back in 2017, today he is one of my most trusted advisors.
Every major pivot or irreversible decision I ever make I love to bounce off Ritchie. Despite heading up one of Australia’s largest tech platforms for construction procurement he always makes the time and headspace for our sessions.
An incredible and authentic ally for gender-equality, I knew right away that I’d met someone values-aligned and passionate about what I was trying to achieve. As a founder himself, he also understood the emotional toll of running a business and always imparts not just business advice and guidance but has been an anchor for my mental wellbeing.
My advice for seeking a good mentor is that they don’t need to just get your “vision” but it’s important that they get “you” too.
To learn more about Code Like A Girl, visit https://www.codelikeagirl.com/