To celebrate International Women’s Day 2021, Astley Media is shining a light on some of the fantastic women in tech across the South West.
Feyaza Khan is a consultant, journalist and communications professional whose career has spanned a variety of roles in the UK and overseas. With a degree in International Journalism, International Relations and Radio Broadcasting from Liverpool John Moores University, Feyaza began her career in print journalism before her love of radio took her into broadcasting. Feyaza moved to the UAE where she helped establish a social media presence for local radio stations, and simultaneously co-founded a stand-up comedy business “because I wasn’t busy enough!” In 2013 Feyaza went freelance to provide communications and strategy consultancy for tech startups. Feyaza is a speaker of five languages and co-hosts and edits the monthly Tech South West TribeTech podcast. Alongside all of that and raising two fantastic girls, Feyaza volunteers as a Listening Volunteer for Samaritans.
What inspired you to pursue a career in Tech?
I wasn’t really inspired to go into a tech career, I just sort of fell into it. I had been a broadcast journalist for many years and wanted to go freelance in about 2011. I decided to focus on helping companies with social media as I was working in Dubai, as I had started some of the company accounts for the network I was working for and most of the local companies I had come across were just doing it all wrong.
My first client was a tech company and I found that so many tech startups are so focused on doing the wonderful things they’re doing, they either didn’t know how to shout about themselves or they’re too busy to do it. And I suppose I was inspired by all these firms I’ve worked with over the years, as during lockdown, I founded my own health/wellbeing tech startup, which is exciting!
Name a woman in tech who inspires you and why?
Someone who inspires me would have to be Annie Easley, especially because she’d always advocated women and minorities going into STEM careers, which is something that really wasn’t promoted in the 60s and 70s – and not even now, certainly not as much as it could be, I don’t think. I’m sure she’d be shocked to think even in 2021, the pace of diversity in tech is pretty slow.
Have you faced any challenges while trying to establish yourself as a professional in a traditionally male dominant sector and how did you overcome this?
I don’t think there are any obvious outward challenges within the tech community, with regards to diversity, though if there are, perhaps I’ve been immune to it because of my being a consultant. However, I do feel that there are unconscious biases that can hamper women and other minorities furthering their careers in tech but I feel like organisations like Gapsquare are doing amazing work towards leveling the playing field.
What words of advice would you give to women looking to get into the Tech sector but are hesitant due to the lack of diversity?
For women who are looking to work in tech jobs but worried about the lack of diversity, I would say that is exactly the reason you should consider a career in tech! Diversity breeds creativity, because everyone is different with different ideas, it’s exactly the melting pot that is needed as new technology forges the way through to new achievements. Also, it’s quite a welcoming space, so there isn’t anything to be afraid of. There are issues of people working far too long hours, but I think like every sector that is changing, especially due to the way things have been in lockdown. It’s like workspaces have finally come to a dawning that agile, flexible and understanding work environments make better workers.
What is the best thing about working in Tech in the South West?
The best thing about working in tech in the south west is how close-knit the tech community is. It’s supportive and open and there are so many fabulous companies here, doing truly fabulous things, it’s inspiring.
What advice would you give your younger self about the journey ahead in the Tech industry?
The advice I’d give to a younger me about a journey into tech is to please not give up on coding! I started my coding journey at 13, enjoyed it but wasn’t really encouraged so didn’t really bother choosing it as a permanent subject, because it was seen as a mainly “boy subject”. I suppose that’s one of the things that’s made me a super determined mama for my girls, so I’m always encouraging my children into things that they want to do, especially if it’s what a “boy would usually do”.