Robotical's Helmi Fraser programmes Marty the Robot
Tech: it’s a man’s world, right? Far from it. It would be nothing without women adding truckloads of their expertise to the widening skills’ gap – and to a gender-imbalanced sector.
And when it comes to business, coding in particular is one of the areas most relevant to today’s gender and skills gap.
ICT jobs in Scotland have risen by nearly 13,000
Coding, in basic terms, is the process that makes it possible to create computer software, apps and websites. In our digital world, it’s one of the most important skills required to help drive the current and future economy.
According to figures from the European Commission, there are now more than 4 million information and communications technology (ICT) jobs in Europe. This is growing by more than 100,000 per year in Europe and by nearly 13,000 in Scotland.
The same research predicted that by 2020, there will be a shortfall of talent by almost one million people to fill these jobs in Europe. This information is compounded by a recent survey undertaken by Stack Overflow, an online community for coders. Of more than 26,000 programmers, it revealed that 92% of respondents from across 157 countries were identified as male.
Proving that it’s not just a man’s world, and to narrow the skills gap and achieve a stronger economy, these statistics place women as a central catalyst for change.
After hearing Duncan Logan, Scotland-born founder of RocketSpace, describe coding as “such a valuable thing, especially if you’re passionate about tech companies,” our entrepreneurial development project manager, Stephanie Anderson, was inspired to expand her existing skill set.
Marty the robot: innovation in education
Stephanie took a novel approach to start her on her coding journey and enlisted the help of Marty the Robot – a product of Edinburgh-based start-up Robotical.
The company, which began as a a project for founder Dr Alexander Enoch’s robotics PhD, now boasts an international presence and sells Martys to countries around the world.
At home, it has growing links with Scottish schools – and with the Scottish government forecasting 12,800 jobs to be created in the digital sector year on year, Marty could play a vital role in ensuring today’s youth become the backbone of tomorrow’s tech industry.
Marty is described by the company as “a customisable robot for kids, makers and educators.” While Stephanie admits she’s none of these things, she does however have a desire to address the coding and tech skills gap.
As well as upping your digital skills, Stephanie explains that learning how to code also helps future-proof you from a career perspective as well as a personal one.
“Marty is a fully programmable, customisable walking robot that can turn, dance, kick a ball and more”, Stephanie says. “Controllable from a smartphone, programmable over wi-fi out of the box and easily expanded with a Raspberry Pi or Ardunio, Marty can help you learn about programming, electronics, mechanical design, 3D printing and robotics.
“He can be as simple or sophisticated as you like, and you can start in Scratch (a simple programming language to get you started), then progress on up to heavyweight languages like Python or C++ as your programming knowledge improves.”
Little wonder then that Marty has been hailed as one of the UK's most exciting technological spin-outs, and has earned Dr Enoch the backing of the Royal Academy of Engineering, which helped him found Robotical.
“It’s a way to give anyone learning about this stuff a tangible product,” Dr Enoch explains, “So if you are doing coding, it makes the learning experience real. It’s about making learning fun and interesting.”
Future-proof your coding skills for the better
“Whether you create a website, achieve ninja coding master status or just become a bit more digital savvy, you’ll be future-proofing yourself for the better,” Stephanie says. “If nothing else, it’s fun!”
As well as getting to grips with Marty, Stephanie used Codeacademy, to assist her learning.
By learning coding and programming skills, women are not only addressing the skills gap, they are giving themselves a competitive advantage in a modern business world. This is where digital knowledge opens up new possibilities, shaping a vision for your business, yourself, and the next generation of working women.
Want to be part of the vision?
Follow Stephanie's journey on her blog
Find out more about Codeacademy
How Scotland is developing tech talent