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Code First Girls: How to kickstart your career in tech



Grid of headshots

Ever wondered how our techies land a job at Starling? For the three women pictured above, the social enterprise Code First Girls (CFG) played a big role. CFG offers free coding courses to women and non-binary people, including a 12-week degree which Starling, among other companies, sponsor people to do.

“Across the world, there aren’t nearly as many women in tech as we’d like to see,” says Suze Murray, Senior People Partner at Starling. “By sponsoring places on the CFG degree and collaborating on events to inspire young girls to start coding, we’re looking to change that. The more diversity there is within tech, the better and stronger it will be.”

So far, CFG has helped more than 150,000 women and non-binary people learn to code. Here, CFG graduates Elle, Anna and Gemma share their stories and thoughts on how we can bring more women into tech.

Software engineer Elle, CFG graduate 2022

“Children and young women need to see people who look like them in tech roles to feel there is space for them,” says Elle. This is exactly what helped her, when she found herself doubting whether a career transition into tech was really possible.

Photo of Elle
Elle worked in PR and as a translator before moving into tech
“I saw some speakers at CodeFest. I can't overstate how much of a difference it made to my confidence. They gave me the energy to go back and complete the whole degree.”

Elle started at Starling in May 2023. Before pivoting her career, she worked for a financial PR agency and as a freelance translator. Like Gemma and Anna, she studied modern languages at university.

“Studying languages has definitely given me a good mindset for learning to code. Like tech, languages are constantly evolving and unless you’re using them, you’re likely to fall behind. In all languages, including coding languages, there will always be something you can learn.”

Data Analyst Anna, CFG graduate 2023

“One of the barriers for getting into tech is not knowing where to start, which is what I found so great about Code First Girls,” says Anna.

Before doing the CFG degree, Anna worked as a merchandiser at a retail company. Her role involved analysing sales and customer data to identify trends and actionable insights, a skill that she uses today in her role as a data analyst. “I wanted to learn how to analyse data without being so reliant on traditional Excel – so I signed up to a CFG kickstarter course.”

Photo of Anna Blesing
Anna learned to code to further develop her work with data
Anna had never done any coding before she signed up to the eight-week evening course. By the end, she’d made the decision to sign up for the three-month degree, which Starling sponsored her to do. “I recommend that anyone doing the degree has a base knowledge of coding, which can come from the kickstarter course – I did that before the degree. My application involved a tech test where you have three languages to choose from, and then if you’re successful, you’ll have an interview with your sponsor company.”

She chose Starling as her sponsor company because “it has tech as its heart.” Following her interview, Anna was offered a role at Starling, which was conditional on her successfully completing the CFG degree. Anna started at Starling in July 2023 as part of the data team.

“From day dot, I had the opportunity to learn. Within more traditional financial institutions, people can be very siloed, but at Starling there’s lots of integration so you can get to know a whole variety of teams and people. Coding at Starling is also a very collaborative process. Your work is reviewed by your peers, which helps you learn and grow.”

Software engineer Gemma, CFG graduate 2023

“At home, I’ve always been the person who would solve the tech issues,” says Gemma. “But I never thought about it as a career. I studied Spanish and Portuguese at university, then worked in marketing, initially in the film industry. When I went to a festival about women in tech a few years ago, it really opened my eyes. It was the first time I’d seen women speaking from those senior positions in tech.”

Photo of Gemma Allwright
Gemma worked in marketing before pivoting her career
It took a few more years (and a global pandemic) for Gemma to pursue her interest in tech. “During lockdown, I did some free courses on Codecademy and Freecodecamp in my new-found spare time. I then did a paid course called SheCodes, which was a commitment to really pursuing coding as a career. When I completed the course, I quit my marketing job.”

Not long afterwards, Gemma came across the CFG degree. On discovering that Starling was a sponsor, she submitted an application. “I’ve been a Starling customer for a while and from the website, it looked like a really good company to work for. I read about how much autonomy the engineers have and it seemed to be a very innovative environment, which has proved to be true.”

Gemma started her role as a software engineer in July 2023, after completing her CFG degree. “Starling is very open to hiring career changers - the more people I meet, the more I realise there’s no traditional route into tech.”

Starling’s partnership with Code First Girls is one of several we have to encourage more women to apply for available roles. We also have a partnership with Women Returners, an organisation that helps women feel confident to return to work, for example after raising children. Our women’s network, With Women, exists as a safe place for people to talk about gender equality and share their experiences. Starling is the first and only UK bank to be founded by a woman, Anne Boden.