Sync NI Interview with Founder Sheree Atcheson

Sync NI Interview with Founder Sheree Atcheson

Written by WWC Team


Emma Leahy from Sync NI gives an overview of her experience of attending Women Who Code Belfast Yesterday evening ( 7th January)

 “If we want more females in tech we need more female role models to show them they can do it” – Belinda Parmar, Guardian 

The 2012 E-Skills Technology Insights report revealed that of the 28,000 individuals in Northern Ireland working in the IT and Telecoms industry, only 4500 (25%) were female. Although higher than the UK average (18%) the need to level out the gender balance in Technology is greater than ever, not only because we are losing out on approximately 51% of the population that could contribute towards addressing the current skills gap in IT, to help support existing females in tech, or because of the potential of facilitating improved tech products/services for women. It is about choice, having it, and being given the best chance to make the right one for you, regardless of your gender.

2013 saw some developments in progress to get more women involved in Technology here in Northern Ireland. We attended an all-girl CoderDoJo and ‘Women in Digital’ as part of CultureTECH, and, E-skills hosted a ‘Leading Women in Tech launch’ to help inspire a new generation of IT Girls, amongst other initiatives. However what was really refreshing to see last year was an initiative that came from a young female working in IT. In November 2013, Sheree Atcheson, a software engineer at Kainos founded Women Who Code (WWC ) Belfast. WWC is a monthly group for female coders, designers, founders, developers and anyone who is interested in tech to meet and learn new skills and receive career advice, and it has already built up over 100 members!

Sheree says that she wanted to develop a group where females interested in tech could meet and learn from one another. Though, once she got talking with other women she realised that there was a need to create an environment for them to, not only learn new technical skills, but a place where they could get career advice as well and, importantly, feel comfortable no matter what level they are at:

We don't need to talk about Artificial Intelligence, or things we have already learned in University. We want to know where to get a job, how best to promote ourselves on social media and tips for our CV’s. That is one of the things that I realised when I began this process. It's bigger than me. I am putting in the hard work now so that other women can benefit from this”.

Consequently WWC encourages members with any level of experience to attend for, tech talks, career trainings and hack nights, as well as the technical study groups. Having recently joined the group I attended my first WWC Belfast yesterday evening. This first session was for anyone who wanted to learn the basics of Ruby, with the intention of continuing on to intermediate and higher level classes. The expertise in the room ranged from beginners, students and experienced professionals.  The idea is to start with the basics so that everyone is at the same level and can progress together. All you need is your laptop, and a list of software is posted on the WWC website before each meeting. Although I chose to be a spectator this time I am looking forward to attending next month’s session focused on CSS/HTML, a skill I want to develop further. Having attended yesterday I feel much more comfortable now knowing that there is a supportive environment that caters for beginners like me, with the mentoring assistance of superstars like Sheree! (The Pizza was a bonus!)

Speaking of superstars, special guest for the evening was Naomh McElhatton (MD of Digital Advertising NI, and founder of The DANI Awards & Digital Exchange NI), who gave her experience of being a woman in tech, and shared her journey so far. Naomh is a great role model for women in the tech and digital industry as she works extremely hard, has a real passion for the industry and loves her work. Importantly, having had Naomh as a lecturer before, the woman knows her stuff!

Naomh talked about her early beginnings in agencies where she was inspired to stop making money for other people and start making it for herself, about walking into a male dominated digital networking group 8 months pregnant and told us to never give up doing what we love:

‘I think that’s the difference .In digital and technology you can genuinely have a passion for it and you can become addicted to it, I know I have over the past 4 years alone, and I love what I do , so stick with it!’  

In addition to Naomh there are other great female role models in technology here, e.g. Mary McKenna from Learning Pool (soon to be Mary McKenna MBE), Mary McCall from TreatTicket (speaking at the next session) ,I’ve been lucky enough to work with some fantastic female software engineers at Asidua during my time as Marketing Assistant there, and we can certainly add Sheree to the list! Although only starting her career, Sheree took the initiative, is putting in the hours, and has an infectious determination to help her peers further themselves in this male dominated industry.

I am personally very excited about this group and look forward to learning new skills and meeting more great women in the coming months!


Want to Join WWC?

For all Belfast events, please join . You can follow the group on Twitter @WWCBelfast or use the hastag #WomenWhoCodeBelfast

If you're interested in being a speaker, please let Sheree Atcheson know or email