What does your job role involve?
I’ve held a variety of roles from designing and building workflows, to automating manual processes using the latest technologies, to project managing the end-to-end delivery of customer communications for the payments system migration of a UK retail bank. Currently, I’m a solution architect consulting on a tier 1 retail bank’s digital transformation.
What made you choose a career in technology?
I think I fell into technology rather than consciously choosing it. In every aspect of life, I try to make things easier for myself, and technology is almost always the answer. For example, while I was doing my PhD, I learned Python so I could run simple scripts to analyse lab samples. I also learned how to write macros so that I could combine and re-format Excel documents in seconds. The same applied when I began to work as a consultant, except that I was able to experiment across a wider range of tools (e.g. Alteryx and Xceptor). Mentors encouraged me to keep using these skills, as they were an advantage to the team, and also brought me great satisfaction. As a result, I have transitioned from being a business consultant to a technology consultant, and those technology skills are now a core part of the my job. I love my work.
Did you study an IT or technology related subject at GCSE, A-Level or University?
No, my school didn’t offer any IT/Tech subjects for GCSE or A-level and even if they had, I’m not sure I would have taken them. I studied Chemistry, Physics, Maths and Further Maths at A-level and was the only girl in all four of my classes. I chose to study Chemistry at university, as I found my A-level teacher inspiring and I loved the hands-on aspects of the course. I then completed a PhD in Biomedical Science, using my knowledge of synthetic chemistry to tackle a medical problem.
Did you get any work experience in IT or technology before this role?
Yes and no. My work experience before university was in a brewery’s lab and then in an engineering team using CAD/CAM. The latter role wasn’t explicitly technology but it enabled me to use technology to tackle engineering problems.
Do you think there is a lack of females in the IT and tech sector?
Yes, although more and more women are entering technology there is still a lack of women, especially in senior positions.
Do you find there is a stereotype that a career in IT or technology is just for men?
Yes, unfortunately this stereotype is a hard one to shake. The guiding community has recently rolled out badges for coding which I think is a fantastic way to encourage young women to enter the world of technology. Initiatives like this one will help us tackle that problem.
What would entice women to study technology related courses?
From personal experience, it has often been allies that have encouraged me to follow what interests me. Role models and a cultural shift are important, but both will take time before they are fully established. Therefore, I feel that allyship for women across all stages of their career is critical to supporting change and to enticing women to study and then work in technology.
What advice would you give to young women at the start of their career?
Do what makes you happy – life is too short to do anything else.
Find your people – the ones that will be your cheerleaders when you succeed, and guide you when you lose your way.
Don’t plan too much – most people don’t know what they want at the start of their career and that’s OK. As you learn new things, the next step will become obvious.