Tag Archives: On being a Woman in Tech

Phallideth in front of the WES banner at the conference

Women’s Engineering Society Student Conference 2023

Phallideth Phen attended the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) Student Conference in Leeds on December 1, 2023:

As a first-time attendee, I was genuinely impressed by the overall organization and the invaluable insights gained throughout the event.

The conference’s agenda, featuring a diverse range of workshops, team-building activities, speaker events, Q&A sessions, and catering, provided a comprehensive look into the world of Women in STEM. The WES created a comfortable space for women professionals and students alike, fostering an environment conducive to learning and networking.

One of the highlights for me was attending two insightful workshops, namely “Continuous Professional Development” and “Identifying Your Strengths and Weaknesses in Presentation.” These sessions not only helped me understand my strengths and weaknesses but also guided how to develop and leverage them for personal and professional growth.

Participating in the team-building activity “Build the Bridge” was a fun and educational experience. This challenge required strategic planning, resource management, and effective collaboration with team members. The key takeaways included improved problem-solving skills, active listening, creative thinking, and a deeper understanding of cooperation and teamwork dynamics.

The speaker events were equally captivating, with presentations on “How to Get a Graduate Job in 6 Months” and “How to Build Confidence and Stop Apologizing.” The speakers’ engaging and humorous approach left me motivated and energized, offering valuable insights on job preparation and future planning.

Women attending the conference listening to a speaker
Women at the conference

Networking at the conference allowed me to connect with inspiring women from various STEM fields, facilitating the exchange of ideas on study subjects and future career plans. This networking experience has been powerful in motivating me to be more active and productive in my pursuits.

Additionally, the conference provided an opportunity to explore the city of Leeds, offering a glimpse into another part of the UK. However, my journey back to Edinburgh turned an otherwise fantastic day into a rather challenging experience, as train disruption meant I didn’t arrive home till 3:30 AM.

Attending the WES Student Conference was an incredible opportunity, fully funded by SCEBE, and I recommend that other students look out for similar opportunities. Such as the:

Contact Ella Taylor-Smith re funding etc.

Napier STEM Society

Napier STEM is our society for women and gender minorities in SCEBE. To get involved in a wide range of events, follow our socials and/or join our network:

Gemma Mackintosh

“…Building up new skills from scratch is hard, but that’s not a reason to avoid it – it’s a reason to give yourself time to make mistakes”

photo of Gemma MackintoshHow did you find your way into tech?

I started out studying undergraduate psychology at university, then followed up with a PhD in a related field, which was a very slow-drip introduction to data and statistics. I only really got into R coding during my PhD, and despite the challenges associated with being self-taught, I enjoyed the problem-solving. This is primarily what pushed me to pursue a career in data science, as opposed to continuing with academia.

I’d actually been interested in working with the emergency services from a really young age. However, I’d always been concerned about my capability when it comes to the operational side of things, and my strengths were always more suited to a support role. I joined the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) around 10 months ago as a Data Services Developer, which couldn’t have been a more exciting introduction to data science and business intelligence in the public service.

I work in a close-knit team focusing on data management, quality assurance, and delivery of high-quality products that make the data useful, both for others in the service and a wider audience. I’ve had some amazing opportunities to use and advance my skills in R, and I’ve even picked up some new skills in SQL and PowerBI. Recently I even had the opportunity to explore more complex data modelling, and I really look forward to adding this to my repertoire.

On being a Woman in Tech

It’s no secret that there are barriers for women when it comes to ‘making it’ in tech, however, my experience with SFRS has been incredibly positive in this regard. A lot of women, myself included, feel, or at some time have felt as though a higher level of drive and ambition is required, and that there is a real danger of being seen as ‘difficult’ when pushing boundaries that need to be pushed. I like to think that any truth in this is becoming a thing of the past, and I strongly believe that women are becoming more respected in the tech industry.

Something really special about working in tech is the speed at which it progresses – both globally and locally. I honestly couldn’t say for certain what I’ll be doing this time in 10 years, but I know it’ll be something exciting, perhaps even something that doesn’t exist yet. The ability to say “I contributed to this advancement” is something that draws a lot of people into this industry, and it’s certainly a huge perk of the job. Even your smallest achievement of the day could be something that’s never been done by anyone in the world before you. I’m grateful that this previously male-dominated industry now gives women like myself the opportunity to experience this.

What advice would you offer?

Building up new skills from scratch is hard, but that’s not a reason to avoid it – it’s a reason to give yourself time to make mistakes. It’s easy to compare your skills to others’ but take the opportunity to learn from them rather than criticising your own skills. Some of my best memories are solving complex code problems with my PhD cohort, many of whom picked up the joy of coding much earlier than I did. I’m glad I used their passion to build up my own.

And don’t be afraid of changing your path, because there’s lots of different avenues for tech roles, and if the one you’re on doesn’t feel right for whatever reason, another certainly will!

Kehinde Babaagba

”… one of the greatest  beauties of tech – one can create and innovate with tangible results to show for it. ”

photo of Kehinde BabaagbaHow did you find your way into tech?

I have always loved numbers and numeracy, and I recall being thrilled to solve maths problems from a very young age. Hence, I knew that any profession I would venture in had to be one that would hone my Maths skills. Being a person of many interests, I also loved public speaking, singing, and the arts and because of the subject selection process for university qualifying exams while I was growing up, I was faced with the choice between either an art or science subject focus. This was not particularly an easy task for me, however, my penchant for problem solving and numeracy surpassed all other passions and was in line with the science focus. After passing my university qualifying exams, I gained admission to study Computer Science at Bachelor’s level, followed by Computing Information Engineering for Master’s, after which I went on to do a PhD in Computing.

The choice to be an academic came naturally to me due to my love for problem solving, as earlier stated, which is at the heart of research – a crucial part of being an academic. Furthermore, since I thoroughly enjoy speaking to people and disseminating knowledge, teaching and presentations came with little difficulty to me. My career journey till this point hasn’t been marked with absolute clarity every step of the way, but God’s help, following passion, and picking up skills along the way have all contributed to where I am today.

On being a Woman in Tech

It is common knowledge that being a woman in tech comes with its unique challenges, even more so being a BAME woman. And while I believe progress has been made regarding embracing women in tech on a similar level as men, there is still a long way to go. There have been times I have felt compelled to push more or do more than my male colleagues to be heard, but I am pleased to acknowledge that those moments are becoming few and far between.

One thing I am certain of is that everyone celebrates results, and being a results-oriented person has made this journey very rewarding. This is perhaps one of the greatest  beauties of tech, that one can create and innovate with tangible results to show for it. I particularly appreciate my current workplace, Edinburgh Napier University, for their effort in easing the barriers that women encounter at work. I believe that regardless of the barriers that might still exist in the tech industry, an innovative tech woman is one that will thrive and be celebrated.

What advice would you offer?

Firstly, I would like to demystify the myth that suggests that women can’t thrive in tech, as several women, myself included, have proven that to be untrue. You can be the tech woman that you desire to be, through commitment to doing all that it takes, which includes acquiring and sharpening the necessary  skills. I have had to learn a multitude of things from scratch to upskill and thankfully, there are now many resources at one’s disposal.

I have female colleagues who have transitioned from a non-tech industry into the tech industry by registering for courses, tutorials, and self-study. The learning curve might be steep at times, but I am certain that it will be worth it. Don’t be afraid to push yourself, make mistakes, try something new on this journey, as the result is a world of endless possibilities!