Janice Rae - She/Her/Hers
CEO and Founder of TechTalent Academy
Janice Rae is the CEO and Founder of TechTalent academy, a leading provider of tech training and talent solutions. They close tech skill gaps with providing fully funded courses, helping to create more diverse and representative tech teams and bring more talented people into the tech sector. They also work with businesses to upskill, train and nurture their employees - recognising that businesses succeed when they have the right people in place.
Please tell us about your career
I learned to code at 17 and then landed my first role in data in an marketing agency. I then moved into the client services side of the business where all the action was and really enjoyed that. Later I decided to pivot back into tech as that was where my passion was – I used all of the skills I’d learned – technical, coaching, mentoring, recruitment and marketing – to create a new EdTech business which elevated the offering.
I set up TechTalent Academy as I love tech and innovation and wanted to be able to grow a company which was also able to help under-represented groups. Being neurodivergent, fairness and equality is one of my key drivers, so part of our day to day job is spending time supporting under represented groups such as neurodivergent people into tech. I also understand how important and valuable the right learning is – making learning accessible, engaging, and demystifying tech - learning is vital to all of us and so much of the way we are taught as children (particularly if you are ND is not fit for purpose). This unfortunately is carried forward into all types of training. We all learn differently. I wanted TechTalent to be able to evolve this and reflect this.
Setting up TechTalent Academy was huge for me, I feel authentic, in the space I was supposed to be in. I feel super happy to be carving out a path – a difficult path but one that is necessary for me and helping to show others that you can achieve what you set your mind to. My hopes are for the Academy to grow and thrive globally as I know that means we get to support and help thousands more people achieve their goals and find fulfilling careers in tech.
How has being Neurodivergent shaped the direction of your career?
Being neurodivergent has been incredible for my career. I’ve always been very hard working and focused but realised that I could solve issues and see solutions that weren’t always obvious. Being able to make a difference has been really rewarding. I became self employed over 20 years ago which was important to me and helped me retain some autonomy. I’ve had successes and some epic fails! I think the main thing is that neurodivergent people don’t give up, we’re driven, focused and determined and those are great traits in employees, self employed people and entrepreneurs.
Being driven is everything as a neurodivergent person. Being driven has given me the ability to succeed. I came from a low social economic background, had no degree and yet I’ve been able to build a highly successful EdTech business from scratch. I used my ability to learn and my drive to reach goals that were important to me. Now I use my experience to support others to learn and change their lives.
That’s not to say that there hasn’t been challenges in my life - mainly not realising I was neurodivergent until 2 years ago. Being ND I couldn’t speak until I was 11 but this wasn’t understood so I was labelled as shy and sent to elocution lessons to practice speaking to people. All of my school reports say I was doing well but speaking was less than satisfactory!
Overall not understanding who you are but understanding that you’re different means having to find your own way, creating your own path that works for you and finding ways of coping with all of the things that cause problems when you’re navigating a world not set up for neurodivergent people. In my case that’s always been noise and bright lights. I also have hyper empathy which can be a good thing but not always for you, as its emotionally exhausting – you can’t switch off. I manage to thrive with a positive attitude and a sense of humour though, you need to work at it but laughter and positivity keep me going.
Do you feel that your job/industry is a good fit for an ND woman?
I think tech is an amazing sector for ND women – tech is all about innovation, problem solving, critical thinking – all of the things ND women are brilliant at and love. I understand that tech isn’t for all ND women however for those that like to fix things, tech is a brilliant place to be.
What advice would you give to another Neurodivergent woman navigating their way through life?
Keep the faith, you will get there. Having mentors and coaches is incredibly powerful as it can get lonely. Practice and work on keeping a positive attitude to work and life, I find positivity is the driving force behind what I do everyday. I spent years of my life focused and disappointed about the one or two things I couldn’t do and that was such a waste of time. I’ve now reframed and stay focused on all of the great things I can do - that keeps me positive and focused. The things I can’t do, don’t worry me anymore, there’s far more important things in life to think about.