Sigao in Birmingham: Why Our Move Mattered

Regions field in Birmingham

In 2017, as founders of a newly formed company, we made the strategic decision to move to Birmingham, AL. There are quite a few reasons why Sigao moved to Birmingham, but one primary reason stood out above the rest. A seed planted in the wrong soil isn’t going to grow, no matter how well you take care of it. For Sigao to grow, we needed a place where the community’s culture fit with the culture we wanted to build. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the reasons behind the move, how the city has positively affected the company, and what the future holds for Sigao in Birmingham.

We moved for the startup scene

When Sigao made the move to Birmingham we weren’t much of a company. Just four people in basement with a few minor contracts to keep us going. In fact, on paper it probably wasn’t even the right move. When we changed locations we increased our cost of living, increased our competition, and severed many of the connections we had in our previous city. However, we knew that something was happening in the Birmingham tech scene, and we knew we wanted to be a part of it.

What we found surprised us.

We quickly discovered a small yet passionate (and perhaps a bit disjointed) tech community. One that instantly opened its arms to outsiders. From the moment we arrived, we received support and encouragement from everyone we met. People we hardly knew would go out of their way to make high value introductions. It seemed their reasoning was simple: we’re a Birmingham business. That’s just what you do.

Another thing that stood out to us was the lack of harsh competition. Sigao never experienced the cutthroat, calculating environment that so many startups deal with. Instead, we saw companies passing work opportunities to other members of the community. We met business leaders promoting partnerships and collaboration over cold business strategy. Most importantly, we met a group of people stubborn enough to look at huge problems and think “I can fix that”.

We moved for the food

We have always believed that part of being successful at work is being happy outside of work. And to us, few things contribute to happiness and wellbeing like good cuisine.

Food provides a lot of things that other forms of entertainment do not. Its an opportunity to connect to people around you. A chance to expand your tastes. Its even a starting point for learning about new cultures and customs that you otherwise would not have experienced. Eating is a universal activity that brings people together and broadens their horizons.

In Birmingham, we found a vibrant food scene that still continues to surprise us years later. Fine restaurants serving dishes that rival those in major cities. Breweries with food so good they win awards. Hole in the wall shops serving the same meals for over 100 years. The city may be small, but it plays in the big leagues. Even in a post-COVID era, with our team’s rarely ending up in one place, we still make it a tradition to order the same local meals every time we’re together.
Employee wellbeing and happiness is a top priority for Sigao, and being in an area with a rich food culture has helped fulfill that mission. It may seem like a minor thing, but good food is the focal point for many things that aid wellbeing. Its allowed us to explore the city, support local businesses, meet new people, and form bonds with each other and the community.

We moved for the people

Before making the call to move, we had only a basic understanding of Birmingham’s culture. We knew about its history (both recent and distant), and knew that people were working hard to push the city’s image into the future. But, beyond that, we really didn’t didn’t have a strong understanding of the community we were about to join.

Still, we were drawn to the city’s spirit of change and forward-thinking attitude.

It didn’t take long for us to realize how deep that attitude runs. The city is practically overflowing with individuals and groups working to make the city better. From dedicated economic centers, to environmental organizationsLGBTQ community groups, and revitalization advocacies, the city has a culture of progress and civic engagement that we’ve never experienced anywhere else.

Having access to a community like that is not a trivial thing. Starting a business is a difficult, lonely endeavor with a high failure rate. Often the biggest challenge is simply maintaining optimism in the face of hopelessness. It makes a huge difference to know that the people around you truly believe in the future of your city.

In a way, the city its self is a startup, which is why it fits us so well.

Its a group of people using imperfect tools to achieve a common goal in the face of long odds and deep setbacks. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to a tech entrepreneur, a lawyer, a bartender, etc. People here have a shared connection and sense of purpose when discussing what the city could be. Its been inspiring and energizing to be a part of that, and we attribute a lot of our success to the people fighting to make the city better.

Environment matters

If there’s one thing we’ve learned on this journey, its that your environment is important. No matter how talented you are, and no matter how hard you work, you’ll always need support and collaboration from the people around you.
As Sigao enters its 7th year in business, we’re transitioning to a stage where we can be on the other side of that support. I recently witnessed someone refer to Sigao as an “established” Birmingham tech company, and I’ll admit it kind of floored me. Its difficult to think of yourself as “established” when the memories of working out of a cramped living room are still fresh on your mind.
Yet, after some reflection, I realized they were right. At some point in the last few years we stopped being the newcomers searching for a place to plant our flag, and became part of the community that drew us here.
That means we now have an obligation to those that come after us. Whatever the future holds for Sigao, one thing is clear. We’ll be here, along side the rest of the community, offering support and encouragement to anyone else who decides to join us. That’s just what you do.

Women in Tech: A Snapshot of Birmingham, AL

Times they are a-changin’ but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Setting aside the broader issues of workplace inequality, today we want to focus on a slice of the marketplace that we are more familiar with here at Sigao Studios – the tech world. As March is Women’s History Month we decided to take a quick snapshot of the state of women working (or attempting to work) within tech fields and their most common challenges.

In addition, we we want to take the opportunity to highlight our local Birmingham, AL tech community and some of the amazing women that are leading the way for change to happen.

Challenges that women face entering the tech industry

It’s no secret that women have had to deal with a myriad of work-related issues throughout modern history, including outright legal obstacles standing in the way of progress.

While the number of barriers has been dropping dramatically in recent years, the playing field is by no means level.

In fact, according to a 2018 report, women held only 25% of all of the jobs within the tech industry despite the fact that they made up nearly half of the total workforce. Alarmingly, this percentage is actually LOWER than it was back in the 1980s.

The reasons are complicated and varied but one thing we do know is that the disparity starts all the way back in grade school as only 64% of girls opt for STEM subjects when given the chance compared to 83% of boys. This gap holds true at the university level as well dropping to 30% and 52% for girls and boys, respectively.

A logical and often-cited answer is that young girls (and later women) simply aren’t as interested in STEM-related subjects but it masks the fact that there are many gender-related stereotypes and institutional traditions that work to erase that interest before it even appears.

Let’s take a look at the 4 most common issues facing women in tech, according to a recent report on the state of women in tech and see which are getting better and which are getting worse.

Being taken seriously due to outdated gender perceptions

According to the date in the survey, the most serious issue for women interested in entering a tech industry is that they aren’t taken seriously by their peers and supervisors.

In fact, 53.8% of women reported this challenge in 2019. Fortunately, this number is down from 63% in 2018 so this is a trend that appears to be getting better over time.

Gender-based pay gaps

Gaps in pay associated with gender-based discrimination or other concerns have been discussed within the workforce as a whole for many years.

In fact, 63.7% of women stated that ‘equal pay and benefits’ was the primary factor in their ideal job in tech.

Although the gap has been shrinking overall, there are many signs that the gap in certain tech-related fields is narrowing faster than average – Scrum Master being one of them! In fact, it was recently reported that although the number of women employed as a Scrum Master in 2019 was lower than men, a larger percentage of them fell in the higher-income bracket of $75,000-$149,999 USD.

If you are interested in learning more about what a Scrum Master is and whether or not it makes sense for you, head here!

The glass ceiling

While trends have looked better so far, one area that regressed within the last couple of years concerns the ‘glass ceiling’ phenomenon in which many women feel as though there is an invisible barrier preventing them from rising past a certain level within a company.

In fact, 27.1% more women felt as though the glass ceiling existed in 2019 compared to 2018.

Because the upper echelons of power within companies has traditionally been ruled by men, it is remarkably easy for a ‘boys club’ mentality to take root and stifle the aspirations of upwardly mobile women looking to make the jump into the C-suite.

Fortunately, it is easier now than ever for women to start their own companies to completely bypass this challenge and create their own possibilities.

Having no female role models

Given the male-dominated history of tech role models throughout history it should come as no surprise that young girls (and later women) have had a hard time finding a female role model in the tech world to aspire to.

In fact, only relatively recently has the number of high-profile women in positions of leadership in the tech community grown to include role models with which young women could identify with and attempt to walk in their footsteps.

In 2019 Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, was voted the most influential woman in tech accounting to a poll in The Times.

Since YouTube is the second most trafficked website in the world right now, at 4.06 billion visits per month, she should certainly be a big deal to young girls thinking about their future.

Birmingham, AL organizations making a difference in the community

Fortunately, we don’t have to look far in Birmingham to see signs of change and progress happening around us.

Really, there are too many examples to list in this article but we wanted to at least bring attention to a few organizations and individuals that Sigao has worked closely with over the past couple of years to celebrate their work!


One of our favorite people in Birmingham is Carmen Mays and while she is involved in many amazing organizations, she is perhaps best known for leading her own company – Elevators.

Elevators’ mission is simple: to work alongside communities to build equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems by focusing on Creatives of Color.

Check out what she is up to here!

Birmingham Black Techies

Fresh off of the amazing Black Tech Takeover community event, Niesha White has been making moves with her own organization – Birmingham Black Techies.

“Birmingham Black Techies is for every Black person who’s been to a tech event & felt out of place. We’re here to answer your questions, share job resources, and bring visibility to Black people in tech. This is a supportive community, a place for you to meet other techies, have fun, and learn something tech-related along the way.”

Check out news and upcoming events here!


Another amazing organization within Birmingham works specifically to match the “hidden” talent pool of women that would traditionally be forced out of the workforce due to less flexibility in scheduling to companies that can benefit from their expertise and experience on their terms – fast.

Lead by CEO and Founder Delphine Carter, Boulo has been extremely successful in their mission during their first few years in business.

Check out what they are up to here!

Black Girl Ventures

Black Girl Ventures knew that Birmingham was a special place when they opened their local chapter here. Positioned as the largest pitch competition globally for Black/Brown women founders, BGV represents an amazing opportunity for early-stage entrepreneurs to get funding to scale their business.

Two of the women involved with the Birmingham chapter are even Sigao Studios training alumni! Both Jaclynn Hudson and Carmen Mays (there she is again!) have gone through our dual-certification Scrum Master and Product Owner classes and we absolutely love them!

Check out what they are up to here!

A bright future

Although the past is dark and the present can seem dim we know that there is a bright future ahead for all women that choose to either pursue a career in tech or start their own tech-focused businesses.

At Sigao, we stand with the women of our community and across the globe and pledge to offer any support that we are able to provide.

One example of this support is our current partnership with NCWIT to provide full scholarships to our Dual-Certification Scrum Master and Product Owner bootcamps. These scholarships have already allowed many women to take the next step on their Agile journey at no cost!

Find out more information about this and other scholarships that you might be eligible for here.